Lovely little things

Enough of the serious stuff, I'm ready for something lighthearted. How about you? 

The high holy days of autumn are nigh upon us, which makes me feel like we need to have a favorite things list.  Also, my 8-year-old just informed me that when I am old he's going to shove me into the back of his Corvette and drive it to the nursing home. I need a distraction right about now.

Let's start with something scrumptious, shall we?

Maple Granola

A favorite around here. This stuff is so good, you'll find half of it gone in the first hour! 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine:
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. flaked coconut
1 c. pecans
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sesame seeds (I leave these out if I don't already have them around)
1 tsp. coarse salt
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I use more)

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1/2 c. golden raisins (or Craisins) (also optional)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

Optional: Zest of one Orange

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add maple syrup and olive oil.  Place on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool. Try not to burn your mouth by eating it straight from the pan. Also, your house now smells amazing. You're welcome.

 

Stacy Iest Hsu's Fabric

Fairy tales spun into gorgeous fabric? Yes, please.  I made Little Edelweiss a quilt out of the Lil' Red line, and her dolly is from the accompanying fabric panel. I just love everything this designer has created, and the extra bonus is that her fabric is available in layer cakes, which is my very favorite kind of precut.

 Photo from stacyiesthsu.com

Photo from stacyiesthsu.com

 

American Girl Series

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  I lurrrved the American girl doll series when I was in elementary school, so it is the thrill of my heart that our Firefly is digging into these books right now. I saved all of my books and dolls from childhood, and the deal is, once she finishes the Samantha series, the doll comes down from the closet as her very own. We are also studying American history in school this year, so this is a major win for this lazy homeschool mom.

 

N.D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

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I picked up this book a few years ago and tried to read it then, but the timing just wasn't right for me. This book is  chock full of philosophy and poetry and lots of great wonderings and meanderings of thought. If you liked Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz, this is that on steroids. It has provided a wonderful rest at the end of the day, and has re-awakened a sense of wonder and excitement in my soul. 

 

Scare tape

We live in a pretty wooded area, so our property is host to a lot of critters, from foxes to raccoons, possums, rabbits, owls, and most unwelcome, woodpeckers.  This one little twerp was absolutely tearing up the side of our house, which especially infuriated my husband after spending way too much having our entire home repainted. Since my aim with the Nerf gun wasn't quite what I was hoping, and since I was afraid I'd get caught if I shot it with a BB gun, we had to get creative. Enter Scare Tape. We have 4 foot streamers of this tape all around the periphery of our roof, and it has been extremely effective. Bonus: our house looks like a disco party in the wind. Our neighbors must think we're so classy.

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Here and Heaven

Nothing gets me so excited as good artistic collaboration, and this is as great as it gets. Four of the very best living musicians plus one of the purest voices in the world makes for a great piece of music. Plus they have a lot of fun in the process!

 

 

Baby curls. That is all. 

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Have a great weekend! 

Favorite things

Here are a few things that have captured my heart (or at least my attention) as of late.

1. Hamilton

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If you are not yet aware of this latest Broadway smash, then I am thrilled to introduce you.  Sophie Hudson over at BooMama has already catalogued her obsession with this musical, but let me just say, the hype is worth it.  I know, I know, you're skeptical.  A musical about the founding fathers written in modern language including rap battles over political events?  Sounds unlikely.

But. it. works.  Between the brilliant lyrics, humanity of the characters, and flawless execution by the cast, this is one you won't want to miss.  There's some language, so be warned that this is not for little (or sensitive) ears. 

2. La Croix

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I first started drinking this during my pregnancy with Edelweiss.  Carbonation was the only thing that settled my stomach, yet I didn't want the real or fake sugars that come with other sodas.  This one took some getting used to, but I'm hooked.  Besides, Pamplemousse (French for "grapefruit") is just too much fun to say.

(If you're wondering how to pronounce this particular beverage, I already entered a fierce debate on your behalf while vacationing at the beach with family.  According to the website, "La Croy" is the right pronunciation, although I stand by my French Diction classes and assert that although "La Croy" may be right, "La Craw" (the "cr" is almost a "q") is correct.  I will die on this hill.)

3. Maya Angelou

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I recently finished her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and I am absolutely captivated by this woman's life and legacy.  The degree to which she overcame some tragic events with such grace and eloquence is remarkable.  I've watched every performance and interview I can find on YouTube, and I only wish I had met her in real life before she passed into Glory.  If you want your heart opened and your soul stretched in the most wonderful way, grab a copy of one of her many books.

4. LuLaRoe Leggings

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So, Facebook sales really aren't my thing.  I'm extremely skeptical of anything I cannot buy off a shelf by myself.  But with my brother and sister-in-law starting their own LuLaRoe business, I had some skin in the game.  Krista was kind enough to send me pictures to give me first pick of her new inventory, and I snatched these right up.  Ya'll.  I already love the whole long tunic + leggings look, and these things are heaven.  They were touted as being "butter soft," and good people of the internet, I think I wore them for 48 hours straight. (Yes, I even slept in them.  Don't judge me).  Since we homeschool, pajamas are our uniform anyways, so these babies are able to multitask like a boss. 

(However, I do ask that we abide by the Jen Hatmaker policy regarding leggings as highlighted in this video. Please and thank you. )

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This book has been a sweet haven as I've struggled to survive the rest of the summer and enter the school year with some degree of sanity.  It's full of great reminders of precious truth and comes with a deep assurance that you're not alone.  I love the solidarity it provides, yet instead of wallowing in the "this motherhood stuff is hard, ya'll" vibe, this book constantly points you back to Christ, his finished work, and your hope and rest in that.

6. First Graders

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I have a first grader.  I can't believe I just typed that.  The last few years of so many littles in this house had me truly thinking this day would never come.  But alas, we've entered a new era.  The benefits of having a reading, cognitively independent, tall, able to reach-high-things helper are amazing.  The fact that I can now put the baby down for a nap and take a shower while the other three watch a movie (knowing someone will come let me know if something is amiss) is a luxury I never imagined in the early years.  This of course comes with its own unique challenges, but let me just say that when he kindly offered to make lunch for his sisters while I fed the baby a bottle, I almost jumped up and down and yelled "Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!" There's a light ahead, baby mamas.  The fact that the lunch he made was a "peanut butter and M&M honey sandwich"?  I didn't even care.  Buddy the elf would be so proud.

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7. Storm trooper Elsa.

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I think this one speaks for itself.

 

That's it for now.  What have you run across lately that's brought a little happy to your world?

Life-giving books about death

Death. It's a topic few want to talk about, but one that nobody can avoid. Especially with children.  

I know I've often shied away from the harsh reality of it with my own little ones. "No, sweetness. The bee isn't dead, he's just sleeping." But this approach is dishonest and leaves our children unprepared for when reality undeniable and unescapably hits close to home.  

Last year, when my children were 5,4, and nearly two, my cousin passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She was a fixture in our home, often at our table for dinner, and never missing a single birthday or event. She was at our home one day and discovered in her apartment 2 days later. It was like having the wind knocked out of us and our children, particularly our oldest, who had no tools to cope. We were in crisis mode for several months, but thankfully through the wisdom of our family and church family, the guidance of the Spirit, and the healing passage of time, our children, and we as their parents, have walked away with a deeper hope in the Gospel and a less frantic view of loss. 

The sweetest gift we received in those early days was the gift of vocabulary. We decided immediately to use the word "broken" to describe how death happens. We told the children that Syndee's body broke, and that she went to Heaven where Jesus made her whole again, but that she had to stay there. We were careful to avoid words like "sick" and sleeping" as these would lead to greater anxiety for our children later. "I'm sick...am I going to die?" "If I go to sleep...will I not wake up?"  Later, as we have prepared the children to say good-bye to several of their great-grandparents, we've avoided the use of the word "old" as that's a very relative term to children. We've told them that as time goes on, your body breaks from the inside to where it doesn't work anymore. Your body can break from the inside (illness or age) or the outside (injury). 

Another disservice we do to our children is telling them that death is a natural part of life. It's anything but. It was never meant to be this way.  We were created for eternity and the curse of sin wrecked that. Telling children that death is supposed to happen is more bewildering than it is comforting, and it robs us of our need for hope and denies our yearning for redemption. Sit with them in their sorrow and acknowledge that this was not how it was meant to be- that death was never part of God's original plan, and then point them to the hope of the Gospel. 

We had the recent privilege of celebrating the life of a dear Saint in her final days.  Mrs. Barbara was a radiant source of light and life in our church. Her bright wardrobe, cackling laugh, and sparkling countenance brightened up the room. A broken collarbone led to the discovery of stage four cancer, and the time left was short. In true Babara fashion, she asked for a homecoming party, and boy did the church show up. What a gift it was, for us and for our children, to hug this sweet sister one last time and watch as she looked forward to heaven with hope. Reunion with her husband and loved ones.  Freedom from sin and sickness. Meeting her Jesus face to face. It was one of the sweetest celebrations I've ever been to, and a gift for our children to witness the peace and bravery that comes with hope. 

 photo courtesy of Amy Henry Photography

photo courtesy of Amy Henry Photography

 

Broken things are meant to be mended. Hallelujah that they are.  

With these things in mind, there are two resources I would highly recommend having on hand for when (not if) your children encounter the reality of death, whether it be a grandparent, church member, friend, or family.   (Both books are available on Amazon.)

Someone I love died 

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In the wake of our loss last year, I polled Facebook for suggestions on books that dealt with death, appropriate for preschool age. Our children's minister suggested this one, which I immediately bought. I checked the other suggestions out from the library, and although helpful, this one was the best in addressing death in terms of the Fall and in light of the Gospel. There are excellent spaces for children to write and process their own thoughts, as well as prose and Scripture. 

 

Voyage to the Star Kingdom 

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Ya'll, I ugly-cried my way through this book the first time I read it. (And still can't get through it without choking up at least twice. Or three times.) Written for a family facing grim diagnoses for two of their daughters, this gorgeously illustrated book drips with hope.  First of all, it reminds us that we are not alone- that the Lord will send his people to surround and uphold us, and that he gives his Spirit to comfort us. It is a beautiful reminder of his love and care even in dark providence, and gives a beautiful picture of the hope that is ours in Jesus. 

 

Remember, dear friends, that in light of this topic, we have not been given a spirit of fear. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but we have been given life abundantly. Go and live and don't let fear steal your joy. Remember you are not alone (and neither are your children!) and that after the last tear falls, there is love. 

Favorite things

 

I love making these lists because they're a curation of beautiful and enjoyable moments.  Life has so much ugliness, from within us and around us, so I find it important to recognize and name the good things that cross our path.  Here's my most recent gathering of silly, simple, and soul-nurturing gifts. 

Cookie Butter

Let's come out of the gate swinging.  This is good, good stuff.  If you like gingersnaps, then this is for you.  We love it on apples, but you can spread it on toast, bake with it, or just eat it right off the spoon.  If you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, you can find the Biscoff brand in most grocery stores.  Your skinny jeans may not thank you, but your taste buds certainly will. 

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Yarn Bee Whimsy Line

My über-talented cousin, Heather, recently got me back into knitting. She's a crochet wizard, but has momentarily exchanged the crochet hook for knitting needles.  After nerding out with her about yarn on her last visit, I ran to Hobby Lobby and found this line of yarns. They're super soft, vibrant, and work up wonderfully.  One skein (how do you pronounce this? "Skeen?" "Skane?" "Skine?") is just the right amount for a child-sized scarf.  

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Yellow Table Cookbook

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My sweet mother-in-law gifted me with this a while back, and it's my new favorite. The recipes are artful and beautifully crafted while still being very accessible in terms of ingredients and skill. My February birthday soirée was crafted from this book.  

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Avon Bug Guard

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I loathe the smell of typical bug spray. It makes me sick and gives me a dementor-like headache. But we live in Alabama, and near water, so unless I want the children to become a buffet for "them pesky skeeters," bug spray is not optional. Enter Avon to the rescue. This stuff works well, smells pleasant, AND includes SPF 30 sunscreen, making one less step to getting my kids outside to spray each other in the face with a sprinkler while I drink my coffee on the porch. Win.  (And ya'll, it's currently on SALE). 

 The Lifegiving Home

This book, written by a mother-daughter team, has been so encouraging and affirming in the calling to cultivate a place of safety and beauty in the home. I'm only a few chapters in, but it's been a breath of fresh air and has given me a new energy behind my work.  

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And finally, this video. My face hurts from smiling so much when watching it. These guys are just having the best time on stage, and even the audience looks like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning.  

 

Summer is almost upon us with fireflies, watermelon, homemade ice cream, and fireworks. We can't wait! 

 

 3/4 children were crying by the end of this photo. Welcome to my chaos.  

3/4 children were crying by the end of this photo. Welcome to my chaos.  

Now that I'm a real grownup and all...

So, as you know, I just hit a new decade milestone- the big 3-0. To say that I was excited would be an understatement. For some reason, having a husband, 4 kids, a dog, and a house didn't make me feel like a Real Adult, but being 30 did. Go figure. Couple this excitement with fact that I tend to have the most depressing birthdays ever (no, really), and this was a recipe for a year of change. I took matters into my own hands and decided to throw the most lavish, beautiful dinner party I could muster.  Several of my most treasured friends and relatives sat around the table and laughed, drank wine, wore makeup, and ate and chatted to our hearts content. It was magical, ya'll. 

 

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I was hoping to get more photos of the actual event, but since our children WOULD NOT SLEEP, my dear sweet husband was unable to break away to photograph the festivities.  Just know that it was a beautiful evening, and it was such a blessing to do something I love so much with and for my people that I hold so dear. 

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Also of note lately, remember how I said I'm a hippie wannabe? Well apparently 30 was the year predestined for me to jump over the line because in the past few weeks I have 1. Eaten kale every day (and LIKED it) 2. Gone gluten free (thanks to a case of thrush for me and sweet baby Edelweiss) 3. Rented a YURT for our family to "glamp" in next weekend. (Please say "yurt" out loud in a Swedish accent, resting on the "r" as long as possible.) 

I don't even know who I am anymore. 

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And finally, a few of my favorite things from the interwebses.  

1. This song from Andrew Peterson's latest album. I have a thing for sad songs. They're usually my favorite and I spend hours with them on repeat. I think that since my personality stays more "up" than "down", I need a little nudge to enter and explore any sadness I have rippling under the surface. My Love will often find me holed up in our room, tackling a load of laundry with some deep, reflective song on full blast and tears just pouring down my face. This one is a new favorite. Raw, honest, achingly beautiful, and dripping with hope.

 

 

2. This video makes me smile so much my face hurts. Adele is just fabulous as usual and James Corden is beyond adorable. 

 

3. I just learned that my beverage of choice, a vanilla earl grey latté, actually exists outside of my mind and has the best name. Dear ones, I give you the London Fog. It tastes like beauty in a mug. 

http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/london-fog-tea-latte-london-fog-drink/

 

 

 

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Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

I sing that as a lullaby to my Firefly every night (she's my second born and the eldest girl.  more about my children in a later post.)  I have running lists in my head all the time of my favorite things, or "thing of the day," so I figured I should share here.

It kind of makes me feel like Oprah though, to have a public favorite things list.  Before you get too excited, nobody is getting a free car. Sorry.  You can come and ride around with me in my Swagger Wagon if you want, but given that it has the blissful essence of Chick-fil-a, dirty diaper, and Febreze, that offer may not be very enticing.

Anyways.  Here are some of the things that have my current attention/undying devotion. 

1.  Anna Maria Horner's Fabrics

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  I was first introduced to Anna (pronounced Ahh-na, like in Frozen) by my sister in law, Allie, who used to work for Anna in Nashville.   I was a newlywed at the time, trying so hard to Adult, and part of that included, or so I thought, embracing a neutral color palette for everything.  All of my new Adult Friends had very tasteful homes full of beige, gray, white, and grain colors.  Throw in some dark brown for interest.  If that's your style, that's great, but it just wasn't for me, and I felt squashed by trying so hard to fit that mold.  Enter Anna. 

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  When I started reading her blog and saw all the amazingly beautiful things she made, she made me fall in love with color, and showed me how to use it in a sophisticated way.  She also had a few sewing books out, which I quickly bought and tore through.  She spoke my language.  Instead of having the designed-by-an-engineer-super-complicated patterns like you would buy at the local craft store, her instructions were more like a conversation.  The cuts were simple and the words were like having a friend sitting next to you. I was hooked and have been sewing ever since.  I'm currently working on this quilt pattern in her Folk Song line.  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. (all images are from Anna's blog)

2.  Scrapbook Paper.

     So, I just had a baby.  A precious, sweet little spoonful of sugar that I could just hold all day long.  With the addition of a baby has been the presence of many sweet friends in our home, visiting, helping, and bringing us meals.  As I've walked people through our house and they've commented on the different decorations I have up, I've become increasingly aware that I may have an unhealthy thing with scrapbook paper.  I'm starting to admit that this is becoming as bad as my love of fabric.  (I come by it honestly.  You should see my mother's wrapping paper collection.  I think Hobby Lobby calls her when they're running low on inventory.)  With a little tape, Modge Podge, or contact paper, I'll convert just about any blank space into a paper fiesta.

   Here's the wall next to the kids' art table. This paper has great texture and each page is a European country.  

  Here's the wall next to the kids' art table. This paper has great texture and each page is a European country.  

                    Use with contact paper to hide scrapes and rust marks on appliances.  

                   Use with contact paper to hide scrapes and rust marks on appliances.  

                          Our family tree in progress. My artist husband free-handed the tree...

                         Our family tree in progress. My artist husband free-handed the tree...

                     ...then I used a paper punch for the leaves and painted them on with glue.  

                    ...then I used a paper punch for the leaves and painted them on with glue.  

     This now serves as decoration only, but this window pane used to act as a dry erase board.  

    This now serves as decoration only, but this window pane used to act as a dry erase board.  

                                       Line drawers with it. It's thick and won't roll up. 

                                      Line drawers with it. It's thick and won't roll up. 

                  Cover plain photo frames with it (I have too many of these to share here!) 

                 Cover plain photo frames with it (I have too many of these to share here!) 

                 Create bunting for a border. This is our playroom/schoolroom/teaching studio.  

                Create bunting for a border. This is our playroom/schoolroom/teaching studio.  

I'm also working on coat racks, made from 1x4's, covered with textured paper, and finished with hardware. More on those later. See? Obsessed. 

 

3. Tazo Brambleberry Tea

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"Marionberries, apples and cinnamon eschew the comforts of their respective pies for a taste of the chilled life, with leaves of calming peppermint and lemongrass as their expert guides."

First of all, this tastes gorgeous.  As in, "I want to let my hair toss in a gentle breeze while prancing through an enchanted Autumn forest with friendly rabbits and squirrels" good.

Second, let us not neglect the use of the word "eschew" (bless you.)  If you want a drink to make you feel beautiful AND eloquent, this is it.

(Do things make you feel beautiful, or is that just me?  Certain tastes, smells, colors, and textures will make me feel absolutely lovely, even when sporting unwashed hair, spit-up stains, and breakouts.)

4. Sophie Hudson

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   This girl's books and blog have me cracking up right now.  I read her late at night when nursing, only to chortle and snort with laughter, waking the baby up in the process.  She writes and speaks with a warm, gracious, honest voice that makes me miss a world I never knew.  She's so personable that I feel like I know her and her whole extended family now.  I'll try really hard not to be awkward if I ever run into her at the grocery store.

5.  Brookside Chocolate

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       When I'm pregnant, I tend to lose my taste for sweet things.  I'll eat a dessert if it's offered, but it's not something I need or even really enjoy all that much.  Then baby arrives, and chocolate and I are reunited like star-crossed lovers in a romance movie.  I spy it across the room, and string-filled music fills the air while I passionately rush headlong into its sweet, dark embrace (all of this plays out in slow motion with lots of closeups).  With my third, Nutella and I developed quite the bond (Helloooooooooo nursing calories!), but this time, it's these little jewels of dark chocolatey goodness.  I have a stash and cannot, will not pick a favorite variety.  And look at all those healthy words!  Fruit!  Antioxidants!  Natural! It's clearly an investment in my health.

6. Mrs. Meyer's Cleaning Products

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   I've been in love with the Geranium line for a long time (I use the spray to clean countertops and the dryer sheets to make my laundry smell like heaven), but recently discovered this new "limited time" fragrance on the "clearance" (and I do use that term loosely) shelf at Target.  Since I love all of the things that have to do with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom, clearly this needed to come home with me.  It's been a lovely product to use to tackle the war-zone that is my house right now (remember- new baby!), creating something like a fragrant oasis in the midst of an active petri dish.

 

So there you have it- a few of my favorite things at the moment.  What's on your list right now?