Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter Remedy Wednesday: Lips


It's winter here in Minnesota which brings a drier environment both indoors and out.

I have found myself the last several winters with extremely dry lips. I think my lips have always been dry, but somehow as I age (or become more maternal and hormones or something changes) they keep getting worse. I'm not talking just dry, chapped lips. They are extremely dry layers of skin that peel off no matter how well I lube them up.

I've done sugar scrubs and other exfoliating lip products to peel that dryness off and it always works. The bad part though is that the dry flakiness always returns no matter how much I slather on moisturizers and balms. 


Would you like to know what sort of things I've tried? Inquiring minds wanna know, right? 


These are some of the latest over the past two winters:


 
     
           


None of them worked. In fact, some of them even dried my lips more and unless I constantly slathered that stuff on, my lips were horrible. C'mon, I've got more important things to do than apply lip therapy all day long. 


Recently I went on a quest to research the dickens out of this lip care topic. I spent more time searching Pinterest, online boards and forums, product reviews and the like than I did when buying our last vehicle. 


Somewhere in the midst of all that data I found many suggestions 
to try this:




I hit up Target last week and dug deep to spend the $3+ for this tube.

But you know what? I'm so glad I did!

Within a day the results were in and my lips were smooth again. They have now stayed that way for over a week and that's only with applying the Aquaphor a couple times a day. 


That makes this Minnesota gal happy and ready to embrace the rest of winter. 

I'll be purchasing another tube (or several) to keep handy around home and in my purse. You know how it is, when you find a good thing, stick with it. 

Until the company inevitable discontinues the product without so much as asking you. 




*This is a simple product suggestion to my dear readers. I have not been compensated to review or promote this product. I just really like it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Around Home {January Daybook}

Outside My Window... many mornings begin like this with morning's start subdued. Some warmer temperatures have allowed for more time outdoors, but not much snow left for the kids to play in.




Thinking About... how the sunshine will feel in the spring and how beautiful the flowers around my yard are going to be come summer. While it hasn't been too awful of a winter, I'm longing for the beauty and color. The change of season will also bring even more growth and new season for my kids too. Please Lord, let a certain someone be potty trained by then.


I Am Hearing... the sounds of Curious George fading behind the scenes of my Elsa and Anna dress up girls. Like all.day.long.every.day.


Praying For... a special intention; a couple moms I know who have recently lost babies through miscarriage; those who mourn; Paul's family and friendsSally's continued recovery.


What I'm Reading... I finished up two books I received for Christmas gifts from my favorite author, Richard Paul Evans, in the last two weeks. As always, he did not disappoint. Love his writing!

                               


Now I'm hopping back in with the Howard sisters at Grace Chapel Inn. My, how I'm enjoying these reads as well. They are a great way to relax while putting my feet up every.single.day.



From The Kitchen... I'm back to meal planning for a couple weeks at a time now that the irregular holiday meals are over. This week we have on the menu Crockpot Cheesy Harvest Potato Chowder, Beef with Cornbread Blanket and Creamy Spaghetti Casserole (minus scallions).

Last week I made Apple Fritter Bread which was a nice breakfast treat, but not quite like actual apple fritters.




Around The House... the Christmas decor is down and we're back in ordinary time. Just in time when I pulled down the beautiful Christmas cards, I found a great project via Instagram. I made a prayer book out of them so we can remember those special people in our lives during the year.



I have found that printables for my kitchen windowsill are my new favorite thing. They are cheery, cute, inexpensive, and easy. They make me feel creative, even if I am just printing someone else's wonderful creations. I pinned a bunch via Pinterest for the coming months, but the January one I printed I guess I didn't pin. Wouldn't you know it, now I can't find it to give you the link.




Coming Up... lots of planning in the works. February will be busy with Margaret and Gianna's birthdays, a Valentine's Day sledding party with the homeschool group and our parish's annual Winter Carnival.


Photo To Share... January days inside allow for more messy creative play days. Last week silence in the living room revealed these three huddled together in a chair/blanket fort watching cartoons. Priceless.








Monday, January 19, 2015

Moist Chocolate Bundt Cake


Now that we've put the holidays behind us and the cookies are nearly gone from the freezer, I was ready to bake again. 

A quick look on the almighty recipe box, Pinterest, had me drooling over a chocolate bundt cake.

When one also has chickens that have begun to actually LAY EGGS, a celebratory cake is in order!



With simple ingredients and just enough time, I whipped this cake up with the help of a couple sets of little hands. 

The vote was unanimous that this was one of heck of a delicious chocolate cake. 



Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Cake:

1 cup unsalted Butter (I used 1/2 cup salted butter & 1/2 cup Crisco)
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Water
2 cups Flour
1 3/4 cups Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Sour Cream (or Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon Vanilla


Glaze:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar



Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour bundt pan.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water. Place in the microwave and cook just until melted and combined. Remove from microwave and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add half of the melted butter mixture and whisk until blended. Add the remaining butter mixture and whisk together. Mixture will be thick. Add the eggs and whisk until combined. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes before inverting on to rack. Allow to completely cool before glazing.

Put the chocolate and corn syrup for glaze in a bowl and set aside. In microwave safe bowl, combine heavy cream and sugar. Heat in microwave just until cream is hot and sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot cream into the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake letting it drip down the sides. This makes a generous amount of glaze that contributes to the super yumminess of the chocolate cake.




Never did a cake taste so good as when our hard work was hidden inside. 



*Note: If you aren't a microwave user and prefer directions involving the stove, check out the original recipe over here

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Making It A Happy January

January is that month here that often gets a bad name.

C'mon, you mix frigid temperatures plus blustery winds with trying to be a mega genius homeschooling mom and even the most saintly person is going to fail.

I speak from experience, we've been doing this gig for eight years now.

Years past have taught me that new material, even in the form of a brightly illustrated workbook, needs to be brought out in January. I hold in reserve just a few minor tricks up my sleeve because let's face it, by January even I'm tired of the monotony.

While making plans back in December and consulting our lesson plans, I also felt that the toddlers needed a shift as well. I had done great for a couple of months with printing off projects, giving them oodles of paper, glue, and other supplies to keep them busy. With Gianna turning four next month and Margaret just one year behind, I also saw that they may be ready for more structure. My current plan needed to change in order to find the balance.




That also meant that while I knew what they needed, I didn't quite know how I'd find the time planning required. In a bit of a lightbulb moment, I remembered a program my bigger kids enjoyed when they were around that age. It would serve as a great addition to other workbooks, printouts, and worksheets the girls were already doing during the week. Secretly I hoped it still existed, but the budget conscious side of me cringed knowing it would be a sacrifice.

I clicked on over to Carol's and found that she did still put together monthly packets of simple lessons and all the crafting supplies necessary to do all of them. They still have a break down of two different age groups (18 mo-3 years/ 2-5 years), as well as a regular curriculum or Christian based one. After debating it in my mind for a few days and also enduring a few days of endless "I want to do a project" from one of the girls, I jumped. I bought a set for each of the girls for the month of January.




Since we've returned to our regular school days, I haven't been disappointed in that decision. And you know what? Neither have my girls. They ask every morning if they get to do school and what kind of project they'll be doing.

Would you like another tip? I found that by moving back my big kids' school time start just by 30 minutes, I give the girls their time first in the morning. I cannot tell you how much they love that attention, the songs, the short lesson, time with mom, and the projects.

They are excited to tell daddy what they learned about that day at school. They are eager to show off their projects to him and the big kids as well. I had no idea just a slight adjustment and addition to our day would be such a great thing. I also didn't realize what a treasure that time was with them and that it would lead to less disruptions during school time for the big kids.


It's given me a new outlook for the rest of the school year and brightened our January. Now I need to find a way to keep fitting it in the budget at least for the remainder of this school year.


As a bonus, do you know what else also helps in January? A Happy Light.

I highly recommend it for my struggling, less than chipper friends who join me in this tundra.


Do you have any tips for surviving a rather bleak month? 

Monday, January 12, 2015

That Moment That Got Me Off My Feet

With a new year usually brings the hope of new things on the horizons, new ideas, new YOU, all those fun things.

I've never been one for resolutions or lofty goals to fall short on. The last few years I have maintained to seek out a word for the year and keep it in mind while seeing how God would best use it that year.

This year I am still searching for that word, but I did sit down near the beginning of the year to jot down some ideas. Short and sweet, so as to be attainable. Perhaps some are too general, but I consider them a working list to be tweaked along the way.


Many of the items are for personal growth or to cultivate better family relationships, making more time for others, better prayer time and the like. A few of the other things on my list for the new year are to be more intentional, but also being present to those around me. I also strive to be content and more laid back. (Well, at least a little bit more)

Let the things that can BE, just BE. Everything on my list cannot be done today. Everyone's demands optional needs (above and beyond food, clothing, water, shelter, butt wiping, etc) cannot be met by only me at every moment they exactly want them. I realize that I am an on-my-feet-keeping-busy-be-everything-to-everyone gal. You know how I finally saw the light? My Christmas break. Day one of the break was me declaring that nothing above and beyond would be tackled. There would be more time for reading, relaxing, putting my feet up, napping, and watching Christmas movies.

But then came the things. The stuff. The needs of others and of my home.

I couldn't let the whole house go to heck in a hand basket. The thing was, cleaning still needed to happen, laundry done, and meals prepared. I tried to settle my brain and I did keep to some of the things on my list, but I still found that even without schooling in our days I was still on my feet and busy.


Late in the afternoon on New Year's Eve, I finally sat down for 10 minutes because I was so gosh darn tired. My toddlers' radar instantly beamed in that something was terribly wrong. In almost unison, both said "mommy, what are you doing?" When I replied that I was just sitting down for a few minutes to rest they looked at me with question marks in their eyes. And then proceeded to jump on me and snuggle in as close as possible.

In that moment something broke through. Something said that I needed a change, even the slightest.

I have felt weary for probably the length of my girls' lives. Irish twins do that to you. That season took me to my knees in fits of desperate, crying out prayer as much as it took me to my feet in wearing daily the much more busy mantle of motherhood.

But in that moment nearly two weeks ago, I realized that the season is different now. I suddenly saw that taking a step back, changing my intentions and approach, would lead me to better places spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It has meant setting aside more to-do's that my perfectionist heart desires to accomplish and instead enjoying the feeling of furniture beneath my body. It allowed me to listen to my heart on more than one occasion and engage my children enough to let them voice their feelings. While I still take care of what needs to be handled daily, I'm trying to manage my time better. I'm finding simple ways to bond with my children and husband, while also making progress in the things I'd like to be doing. I sit down and read a book to engage my brain at least once a day.




These things are bringing me more peace and happiness.

These things are filling my cup.

These things are making the resistant potty trainee a bit more understood.

These things are helping me to just "Let it Go."


Never underestimate the power of a moment or the simple truths spoken from the mouths of our children.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 12 (Or So) Photos Of 2014 {link up}





I decided to hop on the bandwagon of top photos from the past year with House Unseen. It's always fun to look back at the year and remember certain things or be reminded of those forgotten moments.
2014 was a year of growth, sadness, trust, and blessing. Clicking through the photos of the year reminded me once again of the growth of my children in the span of a year. It also showed the beauty of family, the tenderness of loss, and the joy of friends of the heart.

Let's get started.


January:   Winter days, hazy days, nothing but inside days. This is when we rely on the craziness of toddlerhood to keep us laughing and grace to keep us going.




February:  When baby turns two, but still has a paci and it's the cutest thing ever. We got out a bit more, but winter threatened to rob us of our sanity.




March:  The hope of spring was in the air and the journey through lent kept us looking on toward a new season. Our parish held the annual Winter Carnival and the Olaf pinata is still one of my favorite memories from the year. 




April:  Easter arrived and the air was fresh and crisp. I remember it vividly, as if it were my first spring. It felt glorious! When my heart kept nudging me to visit my grandma on her birthday, I followed its command. It was the last time my kids saw great grandma and I saw her happy. It was a good day and I'll treasure that visit in my heart always.







May:  We continued on with our steady school days. It also began a season of field trips and family day trips enjoying the great outdoors. So too began the days of short sleeves, flip flops, and silly girls.  








June:  One event that clouded the year was the loss of grandma, just six months after grandpa. This photo is most of my memory of that day. As in life, so in death, she was surrounded by people and it was beautiful. 





July: The kids were making their final preparations for the County Fair while we were taking in our summer days. We again hosted Vocations Camp, enjoyed some time with grandpa and grandma, and decided to begin the adventure of raising chickens. 






August:  The days were warm and the garden continued to be bountiful. A visit with friends proved to be just what I needed. Many days were spent out and about as a family enjoying life and I finished a 5K walk/run with my big kids. 






September:  School was in full swing and the weekends were for adventure. Lily celebrated her birthday by getting her ears pierced, we took in the fall colors, and enjoyed a few days away








October:  I took my first solo airplane ride and lived to tell the tale. On the other side I met up with two amazing friends and had one of the most memorable trips ever. That weekend was one of my favorite memories from 2014. 







November:  Winter began with a big snow dump when I was least prepared. The snow gear was pulled out and we began settling in to another season. More days at home, but with holidays on the horizon we had the fun to look forward to.  





December:  My favorite season (Advent) was upon us and the days were marked with prayer, baking, memories, and traditions. A laid back, peaceful Christmas was just as it should be and our bellies were full and hearts content. 





Here's to looking ahead to 2015 and the days that will shape the new year.














Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


Wishes for a blessed Christmas season for you and your family, 

From our family...





And the angelic children at 1:20 AM....





Plus the crazy couple who raises these beauties...





I'll be back with more once the celebrating and eating is all wrapped up. 





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