What I Learned Over the Winter

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

December 19, 2014
My blogging habits have been all over the place this year.  I haven't done a "What I Learned" post in a while. I didn't stop keeping track of what I learned, I just stopped posting about it. Here's a list of SOME of them. Over the winter I learned that:

* As far as I can tell, Levi's have quit making Ladies 518s. These happen to be my FAVORITE jeans ever.

* Trivia Crack is a ton of fun. Thanks to Luke who got me hooked, to Garrett for showing me how it worked, and to my Mom for saying, "GAME ON!"

* When weird facts come up, take note! They will be very useful in Trivia Crack.

* H.O.M.E.S. is an acronym for The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan,  Erie, Superior. And that I can never remember what lake the "E" stands for.

December 18, 2014
* I-85 is still my favorite road to travel on.

* How to eat and make corn souflee. Both are super easy and this dish is pretty much the best thing to serve with ham or chicken divan or just because you want it.

* Sprite and peanuts are EXCELLENT together.

* How to make all the changes I wanted to make to my blog! Thanks to all of you who answered e-mails, did Google searches, and shared your codes with me!

December 21, 2014
* Distance and years melt away when you're with the ones you love.

* Netflix is different in different countries. Shout out to Jayda for NOT laughing at me! :)

* My friend Jay knew Mr. Rogers' REAL neighbors!

* Time with God in His Word is never a waste of time.

What did you learn this winter? 

Bible in 2015 Update

Monday, March 30, 2015

This morning, I finished the Bible reading plan I've been working on!!!! I spent most of the month of March in the New Testament and I really meant to write an update sooner, but I never got around to it.

My time in the Old Testament was some of the richest time I've had in God's Word in a long time. It stirred up a fire and a thirst for more of God and built a greater understanding of who He is. I want everyone I know to read through the Old Testament an hour or so at a time (good luck stopping when the hour is up) until they've read it all! Seriously. Do it.

I'm pretty sure it was March 7 when I moved into the New Testament. The Gospels pretty much accomplished the same thing in my soul that the Old Testament got started. Reading about the coming of the Messiah directly after having steeped myself in the REASON for His coming and the PROMISE of it, was the best move I could have made. I tasted the joy that God was delivering to the world in  a new way. Watching the Old Testament be quoted again and again really stood out to me.

Apart from the Psalms, the book of Ruth, and sections of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the Epistles are the part of the Bible that I am most familiar with. I didn't know what to expect from my time there...It turned out, that I became aware of the urgency with which these letters were written. I never realized just how much Paul went through and I didn't have a timeline set up in my head as to the occasion of each letter. Once again, the time that I had spent in the Word made these days that much more profitable. I felt involved in the unfolding of Scripture. I had a grasp as to what the times were like and why each letter needed to be received.

This morning, I read the epistles that were written by other men and then finished up with the very first book of the Bible I ever read as a Christian (Revelation). Holy Week is here and I'm not sure where I'll be in God's Word tomorrow morning, but I know that I'm so glad that I made this commitment to myself.

What are you reading in God's Word this week? 

Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover according to a specific plan?

PS - I completely forgot to tell you 
that I was over at Faith's blog on Wednesday.
Please go visit the post that I wrote for her Overcoming Insecurities series! 

On Palm Sunday

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's Palm Sunday, but I didn't wake up with that on my mind. I found out while I was scrolling through Facebook. I knew it was coming, I just forgot that it was THIS Sunday. I don't go to church, in fact, I haven't gone regularly in nearly four years. I'm ashamed to admit that, but it's the way things are.

It's Palm Sunday and I don't have a large group of Christians to celebrate with. I won't be waving a palm leaf. I won't be singing any favorite hymns. I'm missing out on one of the happiest times of the year that Christians get to take part in. To say that I "miss" being part of a body of believers would be a complete understatement. I long for a church the way that most of my single friends long for marriage.

I long for the day when I live in a community that has at least a small body of strong believers who gather together to hear God's Word and who labor together to live by that Word throughout the rest of the week. I've experienced friendships with people whose Christianity is genuine. Being with them means hearing truth and sharing truth and enjoying God together. It can't be helped. It comes naturally and it doesn't ever stop.

For now, God has me in a place where these people are few and far between. The churches distort God's Word either blatantly or by the conduct they allow among their members. The Gospel is not good news here. God said it would be like that. For whatever reason, I'm still here. This same place where I've grown in God is the place where being a Christian produced an especially deep hope in Him.

Praise God for your churches. Praise God for men who are faithful to His Word. Praise God for the brothers and sisters in Christ who are eager to share this season of celebration with you! Above all, praise God for making Himself known by way of the long awaited Messiah! Though it is difficult at times, praise God for the trials you face, for they are building you up in Him.

It's Palm Sunday and I'm longing for heaven. And you know, I'm confident that that's exactly what Jesus Christ intended!

I believe that it is essential 
for Christians to be a part of a body of believers! 
Feel free to e-mail me and we can chat about your concerns. 

Catching Up

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 24, 2015

It's Friday and Jenna is hosting a coffee date, so let's join her!

I can't share too much yet, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes in my day to day life. It's probably all going to turn out really good, but the unknowns can get the best of me. I'm struggling to keep my eyes on God and my heart quiet in Him. He is God and He does as He pleases. We can and must trust Him!

Let's reflect on some of the most recent good times! 

* Last week my brother and sister's time in another play came to an end. It was so great to go to rehearsals, work in makeup, and then watch as each performance came off as a great success! This year, it was my brother's second solo that brought me to tears. My sister's solo made me smile so big. She ALWAYS gets the floozy and she knows just how to pull it off even though that's the exact opposite of her own personality!

* After patiently waiting, my bulb bed came to life! The hyacinths were first and then the yellow tulips followed. I'm eager to keep watching it fill up over the next month or so.

* I've got a "Bible Reading in 2015" update coming your way soon. Let's just say I'm making progress and the times there continue to exceed my expectations. This familiar book is a ALIVE and I'm so glad!

* We picked up sidewalk chalk yesterday and I can't wait to use it sometime soon when Heidi's kids come to visit!

* After sitting on the sidelines long enough, I'm looking for essential oil combos to diffuse this spring. When it was warm, I had the windows open. We've had to keep them closed up again because the cold returned. The air just needs freshening up.

There are two combos that appeal to me. The first is lemon, orange, and peppermint. The second is eucalyptus and spearmint. What are your favorites for spring (or any season)?

What has been happening in your life?

Lens Revolution: Understanding Aperture

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My photography hobby started very young. My parents got me my first "real" camera for my 11th birthday. I still have that camera and several albums full of pictures that I took with it. When I turned 16, they got me my first digital camera. I've had a few cameras since then and I am the resident photographer for all the happenings around our house. It wasn't until I bought my first DSLR from a friend a few years ago that I decided a class might be nice. 

Ever since that class, I always jump at the chance to challenge myself and to learn more about what makes for a great photo. When Samantha announced that she would be hosting a 10 week photography challenge, I knew I needed to join in! 

This week, our assignment was to learn more about aperture and shutter speed. I set up this little scene in my living room and then used my Canon Rebel XTi with a 50mm lens and my brother's tripod to take a hand full of shots using the apertures that Samantha assigned.


F-Stop: 1.8  Shutter Speed: 1/6  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 5.6  Shutter Speed: 1.3  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 7.1  Shutter Speed: 2  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 11  Shutter Speed: 5  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 16  Shutter Speed: 10  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 20  Shutter Speed: 10  ISO: 200


F-Stop: 22 Shutter Speed: 15  ISO:200

This week's homework taught me that the higher the aperture, the more crisp and clear every detail is in the shot. It makes perfect sense when I stop to think about it! Just look at the wood on each camel's neck. Since I was using a tripod (I almost NEVER use a tripod when I take pictures), I also played around with the focus points too!

What's YOUR photography story?

Are you going to take part in Samantha's Lens Revolution? 

Do tripods make you want to pull out your hair?

Be sure to check out Samantha's blog for the next assignment!

Around the Table: Classic Lemon Bars

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Today I'm excited to team up with The Quiet Place to bring you this month's Around the Table link up! Around the Table is a monthly link up dedicated to recipe swapping. Each month there is some kind of theme to give everyone some help in decided what they might choose to share!

Our theme this time around is Desserts. You've got until next Thursday to link up with us. Bonus points if your recipe includes LEMON. 

So...I'm sharing my recipe for Lemon Bars which happens to be one of the desserts that is most popular at my house! It's super simple, fun to make with kids, and perfect for spring

Ingredient gathering. If that's not a sign of the ease that's in store, I don't know what is!

The first step involves making a lovely shortbread to serve as the base of your bars. You'll begin by creaming your butter and powdered sugar.

Here's a tip...I almost never remember to give my butter time to come to room temperature. If you're making cookies or a frosting or a shortbread (or something else that calls for soft butter), unwrap the butter and pop into the microwave on a plate for roughly 15 to 20 seconds.

Next you'll beat in the flour and salt just until the shortbread dough comes together.

Now it's time for my favorite part. Use your fingers to gently work this airy dough all around the bottom of a greased 8x8 inch baking pan. Make sure it's in a pretty even layer.

Pop into your oven and bake it for 18-20 minutes until the edges are just golden brown. Let it cool on a wire rack while you work on the filling.

Your filling begins with one cup of regular sugar and two eggs. Beat them until smooth. After this, you'll be swapping the beaters with a spatula, so make sure it's nice and smooth!

Stir in your lemon juice.

Another tip - I love using fresh lemons, but I also love the short cut that ReaLemon lemon juice provides! Sometimes I go to the store and buy the lemons, but usually, I reach for the big green bottle that's already in my fridge!

Very gently fold in your flour. It might clump up a bit, but work quickly and stay gentle. The texture of the filling is going to blow you away! It's like you're mixing up a cloud in your kitchen.

Pour your filling over your slightly cooled shortbread and pop it back into the oven for 17 to 20 more minutes. This time around, the filling is going to cook and set up.

You can remove it from the oven as soon as the filling doesn't really jiggle when you give the pan a slight shake.

This is the ugliest batch of lemon bars that I've ever removed from the oven. I'm convinced it knew it was going to be on here and was throwing a fit about it. Okay...Maybe not. BUT, I wanted you to see that dark spots and all, this dessert is super forgiving.

If yours comes out of the oven looking like mine did, don't even sweat it. There's powdered sugar going on top and it will take care of it ALL. Trust me.

This is the hardest and most important step. Once the bars have COMPLETELY cooled, cut them into squares (I do 9, because if I'm going to eat dessert, I want dessert. You can do more, or less, if you want!) and remove them from the pan. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Prepare to watch them disappear off of the cooling rack or be ready to swat the hands trying to get at them. They're really that good!

See how easy that was?

Classic Lemon Bars
slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup ReaLemon juice
2 Tbsp all purpose flour

extra powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place oven rack into the middle of the oven, and grease an 8x8 in glass baking pan.

To prepare shortbread crust: Beat butter and powdered sugar in a bowl until creamy and smooth. Add flour and salt and beat just until combined.

Press into bottom of pan in an even layer and bake for 18-20 minutes, or just until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling.

To prepare filling: Beat eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and stir to combine. Fold in flour.

Pour filing over shortbread and bake for 17-20 minutes, or just until filling has set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Cool completely, cut into squares, and dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

If you have any bars leftover they keep for several days covered in the refrigerator. (We store ours on the counter, but the original recipe says to put them in the refrigerator...I don't want to make anyone sick, so we'll go with that. We've never had a problem, but I'll let you make the call!)

The Quiet Place Blog
    http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=507411" title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up

ps - It's already been a month since our last round of Ask & Answer! I'm taking questions for this month's post, so please be sure to leave some in the comments. Remember, questions can be serious or silly. This series is a fun way for us to learn more about each other better! 

What To Expect In A Julep Mystery Box

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When I hear about subscription services, I'm always curious about what kinds of products are included. I never tire about seeing what people have received and how satisfied they are with the company that sent the box!

Today I'm giving you another little peek into Julep! For the month of March they had a box available for each of their style profiles as well as a couple of mystery options. If you've ever wondered what a Julep Mystery Box looks like, this post is for you!

When I opened this box, I was amazed at what they included!!! Five of the six polishes came with the box and the sixth polish was an add on that I chose before the box was shipped. 

From left to right you see: Sharma from the It Girl Collection, Beth from the Bombgirl Collection, Ilga from the Classic With A Twist Collection, Candace from the It Girl Collection, Dawn from the It Girl Collection, and Lulu from the Classic With A Twist Collection. 

I wore Lulu on my nails all last week! It has a matte finish, so I chose to put Julep's Freedom Polymer Top Coat over it. It looks lavender in the bottle, but it's the perfect soft pink!

With the exception of Dawn, I'm super excited to try out all of the other polishes! Candace and Beth both caught my eye first, but the more I looked at the box I realized that this is my favorite Julep box so far! 

I don't know if mystery boxes are always this awesome, but now you know what you can expect! 

Julep always sends a few extras with their boxes. This month came with a 30% off coupon, a flyer, a quote card, and a couple of packages of Smarties (which were promptly eaten by my brother and sister)!

Take their style quiz and sign up for a free box today! You preview every box and have the option to opt in or out each month.

Julep's polishes are 5 free which means they don't contain the toxins that most other polishes contain!

Are you signed up for any subscription services?

Would you ever sign up for a mystery box? 

*While this post does contain affiliate links, this review is simply me telling you what I love about Julep. I was not compensated for this post in any way.

The Best Christmas Vacation EVER pt. 3

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'll warn you now...I'm writing all of this down so that I can remember it. (And so that my SWEET sister, will be happy!!! :) )  Read it or skip it, I won't be offended!

From Asheville, we headed back to South Carolina for a huge family get together. It's the first time this many of us have been together in one place at one time since 2001. The get together was Sunday, so let's back up a bit!

We pulled into my uncle's house late Friday night. We spent too much time at the Biltmore and then got to deal with heavy traffic and an accident on the freeway. BUT, they were awesome and held dinner for us. I had no idea how much happiness was waiting for me. The minute we pulled into the driveway, I was soooo excited. I practically ran to the door and when my foot touched the porch, I started crying. I hadn't stood on my uncle's porch in 13 years. When he opened the door, with my 10 year old cousin (whom I'd never met) standing beside him, I hardly gave my uncle a chance to say hello before I hugged him.

My aunt was holding back the dogs and she started crying....We just stood there hugging and crying and staring at each other! The years melted away and yet all of a sudden, I felt robbed. I had missed out on so very much. My family left SC in 1995 and then they moved to MA a year or two later. I have only seen all of them twice since then (the last time being in 2001). Before we left SC, they were some of the people I was closest to. When I came back for visits before they went to MA, they continued to play a big role in my life.

Their older boys came downstairs and it's a good thing there is FB otherwise I would have completely lost it when young MEN walked in...I said, "Well, I guess I can't squeeze your cheeks anymore!!!!" And Josh said, "We were just talking earlier about how it would be weird that you would be shorter than us this time. We never thought we'd be taller than you!" I laughed, but my chin was quivering!

We ate burgers, Grandma's macaroni and cheese, beans, and chips. We played Pictionary. We swapped stories of our favorite memories. And I think we all (at least the adults) marveled that we were finally together again.

I didn't take a single picture that night...I regret that. I don't know who won the game. In the middle of it, my cousins Zach and Quinn came over with one of their friends....And I realized, all these boys (they range from 18-20) get to do THIS all the time. Once again...I sat there in SHEER happiness.

We all stayed up as late as we possibly could. Then we headed over to my aunt's house where we were going to be sleeping.

We had more teary hellos to say over there. My aunt and uncle had been at a Christmas party with their youngest sons (who are 18). We stayed up even later chatting with each of them, before finally saying goodnight.

The next few days passed in a blur of sleeping in, hanging out, playing a million rounds of Pictionary until WAY too late (hence the sleeping in), and getting to know each other all over again.

I have soooo much I could say about all of this and about the way that some things don't change. The cousins who were babies and little boys the last time I saw them, may be men now, but we hit it off just like old times.
For now, let's chat about Sunday and the big Syrian Feast!

I had stayed at my uncle and aunt's the night before. My aunt and I got up and shared coffee. This was the first we'd ever shared.  It was Christmas time, so she taught me about the magic that is putting eggnog into your coffee! We talked and talked and talked and her youngest son listened and put his two cents in every now and then. I think my uncle had already left for his sister's house (where the feast was held) because they were doing attifs for breakfast over there. We eventually got ourselves together and joined them!

If you're not confused already....My Mom has four sisters and one brother. There are 21 cousins. The oldest two cousins have gotten married and have five children between them. Like I said earlier, we were only missing 4 of the "original" group. So....After attifs and the rest of the crew getting there, we started a grape leaf assembly line. 

My uncle snapped this one while we were waiting for the scoopers to get ahead of the rollers. 


Some of us were in it for the long haul. We rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled until we ran out of leaves.

I love this picture....It describes the organized chaos of that many people under one roof perfectly!

When we finished up in the kitchen, I wandered around to talk pictures of the rest of us! My uncles, two of my cousins, and Jordan (who is like a brother to the my cousin in the purple) were playing Ticket to Ride.


We did A LOT of this!!!!

Right before the food was ready, we headed out to the deck to get a picture of the cousins. We are lined up from oldest (my cousin in the scarf) to youngest. In the 1950's a young woman and a man met at an Esso station on Long Island. Despite his parents' wishes, they married. Through many ups and downs, they raised 6 kids. 60 years later, their legacy lives on!  It may be difficult to get that many people with their eyes open at the same time, but I think we did it!!!!

My Mom took pictures throughout the whole thing and I'm so glad she did!!!! I'm only including one of the goofs. Notice my cousin with the phone in his hand? Well...He was sooo embarrassed that he was still in his pj pants for this picture. When a picture was announced he looked down and then said, "Oh wait! I'm tall! I'll be in the back!" Then he realized that as one of the youngest, he'd be right in the front! (lol!!!!) (Confession, I never did make it out of my comfy clothes or into the shower before we got going that day....)

Oh, and yes...Out of 21 cousins, there really are only 6 girls. I've never minded being outnumbered one bit!


My oldest cousin's Dad along with her youngest! 

I love this shot....I never thought Josh would be one of the tallest!

After dinner, we got introduced to Concept(s?)!!!! Some of us caught right on and others of us needed a bit of help! It was fun! In fact....We enjoyed it so much, that we almost made a midnight run to buy it the very next night!

Some of us settled in for tv, crocheting, and relaxing. 

She found this little dancing/singing dog toy and was totally entranced by it! She didn't even realize I was taking her picture!

Before the night was over, my uncle taught my sister (and brother) how to make halawad'ijibon!!! It was my Ghiddu's specialty and my uncle has taken it over.

Meanwhile, we paired up for another game of Pictionary which got broken up and new pairs were made when some of us had to leave.

I think my Aunt Claudia snapped this one of her son playing with my oldest cousin's middle son!

Oldest to youngest, minus one! (My Mom is the youngest.)

My cousin Mary and I right before she had to leave. I only ended up being able to see her for this day during our trip. I was sorry that it worked out that way, but it was really great to be together when we were!!!! 

Back to the grindstone...

Zach joined my sister for round two (she taught him this time). It takes a lot of dessert for that many people!!!! They were dancing and singing and we all found ourselves popping in there to find out what all the fun in the kitchen was about! 

These two are just 5 days apart in age!!! This picture was taken on our last night together and even though they'd only met once when they were 3 years old, you'd never know it to watch them together!

So...That's how you make up for way too many years of not seeing each other. The Syrian Feast was a big hit and I'm so very glad that it pulled us back for a visit!!!!

Next time, I'll be sharing more pictures from this leg of a trip. I don't know how to make this more enjoyable for all of you! This is the kind of thing that I want to leave for US, so please excuse me for it if it's bugging you. :)

Hope, Home, and What's Fair

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Back in February, I read a book that everyone is talking about and I found out what the big deal was. Anthony Doerr's book, "All The Light We Cannot See" is a book that will stick with you. I read it in about a week, but it still hasn't left me. Every book that I picked up after it had to compete with it. No book could. A review copy of another book came in the mail and I knew I needed to get to it...I felt bad because I was pretty confident the book wasn't going to get a fair review.

"By Your Side" by Candace Calvert caught me by surprise. It is different from Doerr's book in every way, but I have to tell you that it is the first book that I was able to really enjoy after it! Calvert was an ER nurse and she brings her experiences there into her writing. "By Your Side" follows Macy Wynn (an ER nurse) as she finds herself in the middle of something completely unimaginable. I loved getting to know Macy. I've never been one to watch shows that center around hospitals or read books that I call "medical dramas", but Calvert changed my mind!

She gave enough detail to make the urgency of each crisis clear without overwhelming me with goriness. She wove a thread of questions that so many of us struggle with into the story in a way that shows she really cares for her readers. While Macy struggles with what's fair and tries to come to grips with an idea of "home", we meet other characters who are also trying to continue hoping during times that are very confusing.

This book with a nurse and a cop bulging his muscles on the cover was the last thing I expected to make me so eager to read again! Calvert writes a story that is easy to invest yourself in. She reminded me that with God there is always hope and that home is a blessing from Him. "By Your Side" also brought another familiar truth to my mind which is that life isn't always fair, but it's really not up to us to decide what is fair in the first place.

Pick up your copy here.

*I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.