Friday, January 30, 2015

Five on Friday

ONE
Due to my love for The Mac + Cheese cookbook, we are giving away two of them!  Today is the last day to enter, so be sure click here to put your name in the pot for the opportunity to win one!  Winners will be announced tomorrow.

TWO
On the list of personal goals for January was to complete my first embroidery project.  Last Easter {yipe! Was it really that long ago?!} Benjamin gave me the kit and it sat dormant in a drawer until this fall.  I started during nap times, working on it a little here and here in the evenings.  It brought back memories of being in home ec classes in elementary school.  I re-learned how to do a french knot and the chain stitch {God bless YouTube!}.  I am happy with the way it turned out and now need to figure out how to frame it!  {Kit was purchased from Betty Crafter.}

THREE
I am in a little state of shock at how fast January went and cannot believe that Valentine's Day is a smidge over two weeks away!!  Benjamin brought the Valentine's tub out of storage and am planning on decorating and even making a few new things to spruce up the mantel this weekend.  I have been pinning fun Valentine's Day ideas and can't wait to sit down to get inspired!  

FOUR
Super Bowl is on Sunday.  And to be honest, I have no skin in this game.  So that means I am only looking forward to the Super Bowl for two reasons:  {one} The halftime show and {two}...
Is anyone else hooked on this show?!  We started watching The Blacklist through Netflix, Amazon and Hulu from the very beginning shortly after Christmas.  And we were caught up by New Years!  It is that addicting.  The character development and the story lines are mesmerizing!  This Sunday after the Super Bowl it returns with new episodes on NBC and I cannot wait to see what Red has in store for us!  Do you watch The Blacklist?

FIVE
Our week was a good one, I am happy to say!  I am thankful for the beautiful weather we had in the middle of the week.  It allowed for us to visit the zoo and spend some time outside with Luli.   I have to remind myself that we are still in the middle of winter!  I am ready for Spring to get here.  I have been doing the She Reads Truth Hymns II study.  Do you use She Reads Truth?  As well as having studies, they also have a Bible in a Year reading schedule.  Check them out!  They also have beautiful graphics to accompany each study.  This week one of the hymns was His Eye Is On The Sparrow.  I just love the words and the melody so. 

May you have a wonderful weekend!!  What are you getting up to?  Anything crazy or just low key?  We will be fairly low key and with the rainy weather that we are supposed to have, I am okay with that!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January Zoo Day

As you may already know our family has a Houston zoo membership.  We first got it for our sixth anniversary and have kept it up ever since.  One of my goals for this year is to take Winston to the zoo at least once a month.  He really enjoys seeing the animals and every time you go its a new adventure!  

On Monday of this week when I saw that forecast for the weather was low 70's and sun shiny, I decided that this would be our January visit.  I asked my Mom to come along and she joined us for a beautiful morning out.

Normally we skip right by the meerkats but today we walked by on our way to the elephants.  They really are cute little things.  I kinda wanted to take one home with me!  I'm not sure that Lulu would be too happy about that...
We saw the sweet little elephant babies and the bears!  The larger two bears were having a snoozefest in the shade and then we happened upon this little guy.  Just napping in the sun using a stump as a pillow.
Continuing on our walk on the fabulous day, we saw Jonathan the Lion.  On this visit we learned that the lionesses with him are triplets, that they are going to be seven this year and they came from Fort Worth!
A trip to the zoo always involves us bringing our wagon.  Winston's legs are now long enough that, with a little help, he can pop in and out to see the animals when we come to a stop.  He gets a kick out of having his water and snacks with him!
Even though the weather was amazing, the zoo wasn't overly full making it easy to get right up close to the habitats.
These guys were our lunch buddies as we sat outside to eat.  We bought our lunch from the zoo today and it was tasty.  We had kids chicken fingers and kids hot dogs.  Both came with fries and the portions were generous!
Today I shot all of the photos in aperture mode.  I decided that I would break out of using the manual mode all of the time {even though its just so easy!} and challenge myself from time to time.  And I'm glad I did!

Winston had a wonderful time, as per usual, and was sound asleep before we even left the parking lot!  When he woke up from his nap he asked for the elephants again.  Yes son, we will go back... I promise!

You can read about our other adventures to the zoo: here,  here, and here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DIY Penny Cornice Board Window Treatment

I like to decorate with unique and different things.  Thankfully I have a husband who doesn't mind indulging my out of the ordinary requests.  When we started putting together ideas for our new house one of them was to make something using pennies.  We've all seen the Pinterest pin with the people gluing pennies onto a floor...
I looked at that and thought, "Well, gluing pennies to a floor seems crazy...  but I could probably glue pennies to something else!"  So I did a broader search and found loads of ideas for using our one cent friends.   Everything from bird houses, to vases, to countertops and tables.  Since we didn't need a bird house and we liked our countertops, Benjamin and I put the idea on the back burner.  Until one evening when I was thinking about our master bathroom.  Then it hit me, a cornice board covered in pennies could be cool!  The tile in our bathroom would match nicely to the copper tones of the penny and I wanted to redo the window treatment we had in there.  I pitched the idea to Benjamin and he agreed we could make it possible.

After several nap times of work, 8 tubes of E6000 glue, and $30 in pennies, our window treatment was complete!
Here's how we did it
After determining how big the cornice board needed to be we picked a design that would complement shape of the penny.  The scalloped edge was just the right amount of elegance {are pennies elegant?!} that I wanted to have.   Using a 1/2" MDF board, Benjamin cut out our design with a jig saw.  He freehanded the scallops but you could also use a bowl or a lid to create an outline of the size you want.  We used the MDF instead of plywood since this was going in our bathroom and MDF tends resist humidity better.  
Then we spray painted the MDF copper so that the gaps between the pennies wouldn't be that horrible beige color.  Once it was dry, we brought it inside for me to start gluing.
We decided to do two layers of pennies to add dimension and character to the window treatment.  It also allowed for me to cover up the gaps between the pennies when they laid side by side.  We used E6000 as our adhesive of choice.  
We started out with $20 in pennies and ended up using $30 worth when it was all said and done.  I put the pennies in a small bowl so that I could sort the nice ones from the super nasty ones.  I used both the fronts and backs of pennies, new and old.  I liked using the ones that were smashed and dented, the ones that had oxidized and had colorful markings on them.  A reminder that even though we may have a few dents ourselves, we still have value.  {Deep for a penny diy, huh? :)} 
As I said previously, it took 8 tubes of E6000 to complete this project.  And I glued every one of the 3,000 pennies myself.  Benjamin tried to help but then decided it was just a one person job!  He was my go to guy for woodwork and hanging the window treatment.   After all of the pennies were glued on, the board was hella-heavy!  
I love the way that the cornice board turned out!  The colors and tones match splendidly with our tile and I even found some soap dispensers from Home Goods that compliment every thing really well.  It's definitely something unique. 

Things I learned with this project
  • There is such a thing as black E6000... did you know know this?  We used the clear E6000, which is found in the jewelry making department.
  • The strange hand cramp you have a few hours later is indeed from squeezing the tube of glue...not from over texting!  
  • That there are wheat pennies from 1932 still in circulation!  I found 8 wheat pennies ranging from 1932 to 1957.  We saved those ones for Benjamin's coin collection.  Gluing them to a board just didn't seem right. 
  • Did you know that some of the backsides of the penny have pictures of Abe Lincoln chopping wood or his home on them?  It was news to me! 

Items used in this DIY Project
1/2" MDF  (more resistant to humidity than standard ply wood)
Jigsaw
Nail gun
Copper spray paint
Pennies.  Lots and lots of pennies!
Clear E6000
Brackets + screws to hang the completed cornice board
Total cost of the project was about $80 {including the rolls of pennies}

If you should feel so inspired to Penny Everything, here are 25 other cool ideas!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meal Planning in Reverse.3

Monday
Pei Wei Chicken Fried Rice
{Winston and I visited Benjamin at work and headed to grab fried rice at WAC's request!}

Tuesday
Shepherd's Mac & Cheese with rolls
{Y'all.  I got The Mac + Cheese Cookbook for Christmas and it's awesome!  I highly recommend it!  In fact, I like it so much I'm giving two copies away!  Click here for the deets!}

Wednesday
Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Pot Pies, broccoli and rolls
{If you have a TJ's nearby, you have to try these delicious morsels!  There are 12 in a box and they are great for a lighter dinner or as appetizers for a party.}

Thursday
The Boys: Pancakes
Me: Tamales

Friday
The Golden Arches

Saturday
Chicken Alfredo Ravioli Bake, broccoli, garlic bread
{This meal got thumbs up by both Benjamin and my Mom as being a tasty dish!  I did cut the amount of alfredo sauce used by 1 cup as I prefer a ton of sauce.  I'd think it was the perfect amount even if you did like sauce.  Also, I sprinkled some mozzarella cheese on the top before putting it in the oven.}

Sunday
Leftovers

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An ordinary weekend in January

I don't know about you but I love a weekend when we don't have anything scheduled.  An ordinary weekend.  Don't get me wrong.  We enjoy the weekends with adventures and fun to be had but there is something refreshing and good for the soul when we get to be at home together.

Friday Winston was under the weather so we were low key all day.  Our normal evening involves us all eating together at the table.  We are teaching Winston how to answer questions when he is asked and then in turn, ask the person about their day.  It's fun to see what Winston tells Benjamin about his day.  Sometimes it is what he ate that day and sometimes it is about the crafts he made.  Growing up my parents made it a priority for all of us to eat dinner together at the table.  It still is one of my favorite things - to gather everyone around the table to talk about just whatever.  Eating at the table has been something that Benjamin and I have done since we dated.  It's good to be able to look at each other and talk about the day.  When we were first married he had loads of studying to do so eating together guaranteed we would have uninterrupted time with just the two of us.  It has been such an important part of our routine, Winston fit into it with no problems.  It is sweet to see and hear him bless our food and as his vocabulary grows, participate in the conversations!  
Winston tried for the first time {and LOVED} Sour Gummy Hearts.  Kid after my own heart!  I enjoyed lounging around the house in my new favorite comfy pants from J. Crew!

Benjamin finished up the window treatments for the play room upstairs.  Winston was a big helper passing him the tape measure.  It is amazing to me how window treatments always add that finishing touch that rooms need to make them feel homey.  

We normally try to eat at home a few times during the weekend.  We almost always have donuts on Saturday mornings.  Winston "wakes up" Benjamin and promptly tells him to "Get dressed for donuts, Daddy!"  On Saturday for dinner I tried a new recipe and Mom came over to eat with us since Dad was out of town.  The dish was quite yummy!!  

This Sunday Benjamin and I volunteered in the Children's ministry.  He was with the 4 year olds and I was with the threes.  We joined them in their Elevate church and were able to Winston participate in worship and listening to the Bible story.  
After church we grubbed down on Wing Stop.  Our family of three can split the 10 piece chicken strips.  It's right at $20 and is a good option to break up the normal routine of places we eat!  Once home, Winston crashed for a good nap allowing Benjamin and I some time to piddle around on this and that.  Him outside in the garage enjoying the beautiful day, me with open windows in our bedroom.  

When Winston woke up, we started playing with trains and blocks.  Then a break to eat some gummies and finish up our jellyfish craft!  
He got a kick out of smashing up the tissue paper to stuff the jellyfish.  We used a paper bag, Crayola paints, glitter pens, googly eyes, tissue paper and string.  We both think he turned out pretty cute!    
The rest of the evening will be normal routine for us as we prepare for the new week.  I am thankful for this weekend and the time we have had together.  It was an ordinary weekend.  Nothing special.  Nothing outrageous or crazy.  ...Well, maybe a dash of crazy.  :)  A weekend that I am sure we will have more like in the future.  And I am happy about that!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Mac + Cheese Cookbook {Give-a-way!}

HOORAY TO JESS & KENNA!!  THANK YOU TO ALL WHO ENTERED!  

On a whim, I put The Mac + Cheese Cookbook on my wish list for Christmas.  Benjamin and Winston both like a good macaroni and cheese.  Well, really who am I kidding?  I love a really good macaroni and cheese!  It was one of the gifts I opened on Christmas morning and as I read through the recipes got really excited about trying to make {almost} all of them! 
All of the recipes call for making the cheese sauces from scratch.  I hardly ever cook anything from scratch so this was a new adventure for me.  And I had a lot of fun doing it!  The book teaches you how to make b├ęchamel sauce, or Mac sauce as the authors call it.  I will promise you this - you will use lots of pans, it will be an arm workout and it will be awesome!
The first recipe I made was as a side for our New Year's Day meal.  The Trailer Mac.  It was macaroni and cheese with hotdogs and smashed up potato chips.  I mean.  It was delicious!  And it warmed up well, which is always a bonus!

The second recipe I made was the Shepherd Mac.  Now, I really like Shepherd's Pie.  My mom made it quite a bit when I was younger.  The idea of using macaroni instead of potatoes just made sense to me!  Stepping out of my norm again, I purchased Aged English Sharp Cheddar because that's what the book told me to do.  Who knew Kroger carried that kind of stuff?!  I served it as a main dish and it was a delight to the tastebuds!  Even though it took a while, it is a repeater for sure!

The book has other gems I am looking forward to try such as Chili Mac, Smoky Bacon Mac, Breakfast Mac, Mexican Mac, Mac and Blue, Mac-Cakes.  The book also contains recipes to side dishes and desserts.  

So, why did I just go on about this cook book and how yummy the recipes are?  Because I'd like to give you, friends, the opportunity to win one of your very own!  We will be giving away two cookbooks to two lucky readers!  Follow the instructions below on how to enter to win.  Be sure to use the Rafflecopter to let me know you have participated.  Good luck!  Winner will be announced on January 31st!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meal Planning in Reverse.2

Last week was a different week for our family.  It started out on track and then little Bug got sick foiling our plans to travel to Dallas.  While we were super bummed to have to cancel our fun plans, it was the best thing to do for Little.  Nothing too adventurous last week, although I am making something on Tuesday of this week that I am pretty pumped about!

Monday
Dinner out with friends at Grimaldi's
{We love their pizza and if you sign up on their mailing list, they send you a coupon for a free pizza during your birthday week!}

Tuesday
Beef Stroganoff with noodles, cracker crumbed green beans and garlic bread
{A favorite of mine from growing up and a hearty cold weather meal.}

Wednesday
Sunday School Social

Thursday
{The Day of The Sick}
McDonald's!

Friday
Baked Chicken, egg noodles, mashed potatoes, broccoli

Sunday
Pork chops, cous cous, baked zucchini and rolls

Do you ever make cous cous as a side dish?  A few months back I picked up a box and both Winston and Benjamin really enjoyed it.  It has become one of our go to side dishes!  I have found four or five different flavors.  I can say all of them are tasty sans the pine nut one... we have never tried it.  It is super quick to make {once the water boils, 5-10 mins for fluffing} and adds variety to our meals.  What side dishes are regulars in your  family?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Easy Valentine's Crafts for Toddlers

One of my goals for 2015 is to have at least two intentional crafts a week for Winston and I to make together since he loved having bags to open with crafts inside during December.  And because the kid loves to be in the craft room!  

When I was shopping for supplies at JoAnn Fabrics, I came across these foam cut-out hearts already listed at 40% off.  
The package in the bottom of the picture has hearts that pop out of the middle of them too.  I knew that they would be perfect for making a Valentine's wreath!
Winston helped layout which heart he wanted to go where and was great at helping me push them together while I used the glue gun.  I had also purchased some candy heart stickers that he used to decorate the wreath.  
Then using some ribbon, I made a hanger and it looks precious hanging on our craft room door!

We have an unusually large collection of googly eyes in our craft room, from teensy weeny to BIG!  They are perfect for making Googly-Eyed Heart Monsters!  Using Elmer's glue and his own creative genius, Winston enjoyed crafting these little guys.  It was also his idea to use the pipe cleaners as arms, legs and antenna!  And who doesn't love a few pom-poms for added flair!

We took ones of the open hearts, glued it onto a canvas, picked out Valentine's colors and voila! A piece of art to display in the kitchen!  I love Crayola paints!  They come in a plethora of colors, glitter and metallic too!  They wash right off of little {and big} hands as well as clothes!  

Another item that we can never get enough of are the sparklies!  We have a jumbo tub of rhinestones and we pretty much glue them on everything.  It's a fun, simple craft that allows Winston to use creativity while working on those fine motor skills to pick up tiny sparkles.  It also helps with his ability to work a glue bottle!  

What fun crafts have you been doing with your littles lately?  I'd love to know, February is just around the corner and I need to start planning!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Meal Planning in Reverse.1

I made a meal plan for our family last week and stuck to it fairly well - minus the evening that McDonald's was calling our name!  Benjamin and I agreed that taking the time to make a plan helps us to eat better and gives leftovers for him to eat during the week for lunch.  

I'm going to try something new this week and see how it goes!  Instead of sharing what we are going to eat for the week ahead, I am going to share the meals we made for the previous week and let you know what we thought about any new dishes we tried!  I like to use Pinterest as a resource for new recipes but I also like to know a) if people actually make this stuff and 2) how it really turned out!  

Monday
Pei Wei
{Winston loves him some fried rice!}

Tuesday
Seasoned chicken, fettuccine alfredo {from Trader Joe's}, and broccoli
{If you have a Trader Joe's nearby and you like fettuccine, I highly recommend theirs!  It is quick and scrumptious!}

Wednesday
Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, baked potatoes, corn and rolls
{This was the first time to make this Pinterest recipe and to be honest, I'd give it about a 2 out of 5 stars.  As I expected the flavor was on the sweeter side, but it wasn't outstandingly fabulous.  We ate ours on King Hawaiian rolls with swiss cheese and pickles.  I'm glad I tried it but it won't be a repeat meal.}

Thursday
McDonald's!

Friday
Benjamin: Taquitos and Cheese Dip
Sara: Boss Burger at Zelko Bistro

Saturday
Homemade Quesadillas and Yellow Rice

Sunday
Cereal and toast

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015: Intentional Gratitude

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, as you sing psalms, humans and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  
Colossians 3:11

As we look to a new year, I can't help but look back at 2014 with a heart of gratitude.  It was a good year for our family.  I was able to "retire" from my job to be a full time stay at home mom, Benjamin continued to enjoy his job while being able to teach, Winston grew into a terrific two year old and Luli remained in good health.  Our families are all doing well and we even gained a niece!  We joined a church and are leading the newlywed class.  Winston is enjoying school two days a week and I have had fun being room mom!  

It's amazing how fast a year goes by.  Three hundred and sixty five days.  You'd think it takes a little longer than it actually does.  This was Winston last year.  And this is him now.
Winston is energetic, vibrant, a character, lovable, and full of joy.  I have never met a kid who enjoys life as much as this little guy.  He loves adventures, trains, the zoo, playing make believe and crafts.  Man, oh man can this kid craft!  He is sensitive.  He loves to give hugs and encourage others.  He is a high-five, fist bumping, "good job!" giving little guy.  Winston enjoys McDonald's, broccoli, green beans, and goldfish.  Also those squeezie packs.  Those are fantastic!  Favorite animal these days are giraffes and when you ask him what they eat his promptly replies, "Salad."  Winston continues to be an all around great eater and sleeper.   My hope for this year is that he will continue to be sensitive to the Bible stories that we read, that as his little personality continues to develop I can find ways to nurture his curiosity and equip him to love others well.  

Instead of creating a list of goals for the year, which to be honest is always frightening to me, I have decided to do things a little differently.  Before the beginning of each new month I want to take some time to write out a wish list of activities or projects that I would like to get accomplished during that month.  I have set up a few categories: Social, Winston, Family, Dating, Personal.  Social includes attending Sunday School outings, being intentional on doing lunch with other moms or dinner with friends.  Winston's category are crafts that would be fun, outings for us to take or books that I'd like to start reading.  Family would include zoo day, monster truck rally, bike ride and picnic (when it is warmer!).  Dating would be to make sure that Benjamin and I have one evening that we do something together.  Personal - well that's for me.  It's where I want to stretch myself to complete projects I need to finish, clean out closets, learn something new.  I think this new way will be more manageable for me and both Benjamin and Winston can participate in contributing ideas!
But more than any of that, my hope this year is that we would continue to savor each moment together.  That we would be mindful of the wonderful word of God, that it will fill our home and our hearts.  I pray that this year I would be more intentional and brave in loving others.  And above all, that thankfulness to the Lord would cover everything.  

Benjamin continues to work as a real orthodontist.  I am proud to say that he does a wonderful job each day providing for our family.  He not only straightens people's teeth, he encourages the staff, takes on all responsibilities that are asked of him at work and comes home full of love for Winston and me.  My heart swells each evening that Winston runs to the door, Lulu at his heels, welcoming Benjamin home.  I love that Winston asks each night to go to the garage so that he can help Daddy with projects.  Benjamin is patient to teach Winston about tools and being safe.  Benjamin continues to teach at the school and he enjoys every moment of it.  This year we will continue to do projects around the house which means opportunities for Benjamin to be out in his garage creating!

Lulu continues to do well.  She loves that we are home more during the day and is never far away from us.  We take her once a month for laser treatments to keep any inflammation in her back a bay.  She gets lots of pets and hugs from Winston and is really looking forward to pool weather!

And as for me, I love being at home with Winston.  There are days when it is exhausting but always rewarding.  I know that there are books to read, meals to cook, new fads to try but mostly this year I just want to be more intentional in everything - in Bible study, in being present when I play with Winston, in loving and encouraging Benjamin, in connecting with others - and to do it with gratitude to the One to has given so much.  

From the bottom of my heart, may you be able to find gratitude in the minute to minute and day to day.  And when you do, rejoice!  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Monster Jam 2015

Two years ago we went to Monster Jam for the first time and brought a baby Winston with us!  As I wrote out things that I wanted to accomplish in January "look up dates and purchase tickets to Monster Jam" was one of the items!  I spoke to Benjamin about it and he was on board!  The first set of dates worked the best for our January schedule and we decided that this would be our Valentine's adventure.  I was most excited about Winston coming with us again!
The last time we went to Monster Jam we used our Ergo Baby carrier and WAC did splendidly in it.  We also used the carrier when we went overseas for the exploring terrain that wasn't stroller friendly. The morning of our Adventure, I remembered that the carrier held a child up to 45 pounds, so we gave it a test run.  That night Benjamin hooked Winston to his back and we were able to walk from the parking lot to our seats at NRG Stadium without any problem!  Winston was happy for the ride and we were happy that we weren't wrangling a very excited toddler!  I foresee more use of the Ergo Baby in our future! 
We sat in the Club Level seats again.  It's just a good place to sit with little people because of the couches and tables if they get a little restless.  Plus they have bathrooms close by, food and souvenirs available!  We used the same hearing protection as last time for Winston and he did a great job at leaving them on to protect his little ears.

Winston shared an icecream cone with Benjamin although I'm not really sure how much of it Benjamin got to eat!  He enjoyed watching the big trucks race around the track, do tricks and crash!  This age is truly a great age!
As we were leaving the arena to head home, Winston kept chanting, "Monster truck, again!  Monster truck, again!"  We are even a few days past and he is still talking about the big, loud Monster Trucks. I can say without a doubt that we will be going again!  
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