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I spent the weekend moving my blog over to its own domain. Things are still a little buggy over there, but come check it out!

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Bite-Sized: Quick Reviews of My Recent Reads

I’m happy to participate in a new monthly link-up hosted by Anne Bogel:

twitterature monthly reading link up short reviews

If you are looking for some great books to read, but you don’t want to read super long book reviews, this link up is a great place. We are all providing short and quick Twitter-style book reviews from our most recent reads.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott: Expect the best of Anne, unfiltered, funny, quirky, profound. Not necessarily organized.

Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans: One of the best books I’ve read in awhile, and one of the most important. Eschet Chayil!

Reached by Ally Condie: My favorite of this YA trilogy. We get to hear from Xander. Questions answered. Mystery still present. Creativity seen as vital in society.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Egenides: Eugenides intended to revive the marriage plot with a modern spin. I liked his premise but felt no emotional investment in his characters.

Check out Anne’s post here and find links to the other participants before heading out to the library today!


Literary Missteps: Also Go See Les Miserables

Do you ever stick your foot in your mouth regarding literature? Do you know what I mean? Like, you always assumed Evelyn Waugh was some old lady or you mistakingly thought the title of that novel was Tequila Mockingbird? Maybe you tried to pronounce Fyodor Dostoevsky in conversation and your tongue crashed and burned in complete betrayal.

In honor of Les Miserables showing in a theatre near you, I decided to confess one of my biggest literary missteps. Back in 2000, I toured England for six weeks through a program sponsored by the campus ministry at my university. Our group could spend two free days in London, and one of the “must do” items on my list was to see a performance of Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre because anyone who heard about my free time in London insisted I go. They could barely speak of the show without crying, adding how my life wouldn’t be complete until I had seen it.

I actually knew very little about the musical. I thought it was something about the French Revolution (Literary Misstep #1). I had only heard one song from the entire show, “On My Own,” because I had a roommate obsessed with Dawson’s Creek, and she made me watch a scene where Joey (Katie Holmes) sings it for a beauty pageant, finally getting Dawson to look at her as a girl. You can find it on YouTube. I won’t provide the link because it’s painful.*

So, anyway, my friends and I are up at the very top of the Palace Theatre, super excited about the idea of seeing Les Miserables IN LONDON. (Something about saying IN LONDON after everything makes it that much cooler. Bag Pipes IN LONDON. McDonald’s IN LONDON. Pigeons IN LONDON. Wearing pants IN LONDON) The music starts, and I’m instantly enchanted. The rotating stage. The gorgeous score. Everything. However, before we even hit intermission, I’m suddenly lost in the plot. Based on very little context, I had convinced myself that at some point two men, who look exactly alike though are not twins, switch places to save one from returning to jail, awaiting eventual execution. Right? Was I missing something?

I kept expecting a man to come out, looking exactly like Jean Valjean. You might also consider: 1) we sat at the very top of the theatre, 2) all of the actors sang every line of the entire show, and 3) all of them had British accents, so understanding the nuance of the plot was difficult.

Not until several days later did I realize why I was so confused. I mixed up the plots of Tale of Two Cities and Les Miserables. Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton switched places to save one from the guillotine and save the other man’s soul through ultimate sacrifice during the best of times and the worst of times. Not Jean Valjean and, you know, some other guy in France with a British accent. Jean Valjean offered grace to his most hated enemy as he heard the people sing, singing the songs of angry men. In my defense, Valjean hid his identity to keep from going back to prison, plus the France thing, and the battle thing with French uniforms. It’s all very understandable. Right?

I’m the weirdest and dumbest person ever.

Moving on, we saw Les Miserables over the holidays with my husband’s family. We loved it, except for the hot mess performance of Russell Crowe. Anne Hathaway was amazing, and Hugh Jackman could sing to me any day of the week. Lovely man. I still recommend one of the Broadway recordings for your listening pleasure, but the movie pulls out emotion and depth you can’t really see from the nosebleeds at the Palace. So, spill it.

When have you been most embarrassed in literary circles?

*Okay, okay. Here’s the link to the “Someone-sings-a-song-from-Les Miserables-worse-than-Russell-Crowe” video. Watch at your own risk.

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Facing My Fears in 2013



I’m in the middle of reading, The Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, one of my favorite bloggers. In the book, she tackles the idea of biblical womanhood by taking a full year to examine what the Bible actually says about being a woman and what we in a modern culture should do about it. She wears a head covering, grows out her hair, dresses as modestly as possible, learns to sew and cook, praises her husband at the city gates, and even spends a few nights in a tent during her period.

Rachel Held Evans challenges my thinking. She calls people out on the carpet, and she handles tough subjects (and the backlash) with grace. Plus, she loves Tina Fey almost as much as I do, which always puts people on my team.

I just finished reading her chapter “May: Fertility, Quivers Full of Arrows and Sippy Cups.” Not a mother herself, Evans spends much of the month reading about motherhood, searching for the answers about why her maternal instincts hadn’t kicked in, and then she finally decides to post about her fears of becoming a mom on her blog. After posting about all of her fears, she says this:

“As always, I felt a strange sense of relief upon giving all those amorphous fears a shape and parading them before the public like wild animals on a circus train. Blogging is an inexpensive form of therapy if you do it right, if you use it to tell the truth about something other than what you had for dinner that night.”

I grew up in an “if you don’t talk about it, it will go away” household. Bills are behind? “Hmm…I’ll watch television.” The fridge is empty? “Let’s go out to eat!” Laundry needs to be done? “You can wear those jeans again.”

Add to that, I was a baby sister; my brothers were eight and almost ten when I was born. Naturally, I hated to get caught not knowing the answer to something. Doing so meant facing flailing arms, sighs, and eye rolls with an exasperated, “NO! BONE HEAD!” thrown in for good measure.

Obviously, ignoring fears and hiding my ignorance throughout childhood impacted how I dealt with fears as an adult. Speaking fears into the air caused them to become normal, every day things, rather than crises.

Once in a while, I take a moment in my Evernote, and I just type out all the things that scare me. Somehow this dislodges the words I need. Getting the fears out of my head, naming them, really beats most of it down. I take my anxieties and put words to them, even number the fears in a list. Suddenly, those fears become, at most, a to-do list. By calling them out, I deflate their power from crippling inaction. I harness those fears into a task at hand, something I can easily cross off.

Starting this blog last year came, in many ways, as a method for tackling my fears. I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve known for a long time that I should be writing, but for years I would use excuses or feigned modesty not to pursue it (I can “aw shucks” my way out of a lot of courageous steps).

More than anything, my goals for 2013 address those fears:

Fear says, “You’ll never become a respected writer. Who would pay you anything for your words?”

My goal, “Find my loyal audience. Speak to them.”

Fear says, “Why don’t you just go back to teaching? You could double your income!”

My goal, “Choose the life you want. Don’t let circumstances choose you.”

Fear says, “Why are you trying to lose weight again? Haven’t you failed at that before?”

My goal, “Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Feel good about your body and what’s going in it.”

And ultimately, because this is my greatest fear…

Fear says, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll look stupid?”

I say, “These are just goals. I’m setting the bar high. Let’s see how far I can go.”

So, a couple of questions for you, friends:

Are you tackling fears, facing them, speaking them into to-do lists? Or are you hiding from them, ignoring them, letting them control you? 

*Some links in this post are affiliate links. That means, if you click on the link and then buy something at, I get a little kick back.

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The Key to Making New Year’s Resolutions Last

“A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning

Keeping with New Year’s traditions, I’ve been thinking about goals this past week, assessing and dreaming. Planning and organizing. My lists have lists these days. With a New Year comes the hope of a clean slate. However, as the year progresses, most resolutions fall flat, so much so they become the butt of every January joke. Most people no longer even try to make resolutions because they’ve had little success with them.

Call me the cock-eyed optimist if you want, but I keep making plans. I have learned over the years how much I benefit from having specific goals in mind. Do I meet every goal and challenge I set out to accomplish? Of course not.

Challenging myself with tangible goals, breaking those goals into smaller bites, and focusing on the goals a few at a time adds significant growth over the course of a year. 

When I make my list of goals for the New Year, I know I have an entire year to make my goals happen. For instance, I haven’t started my food journal or keeping track of my water consumption. Does that mean I’m not following my New Year’s goals? No. I’m just not focusing on all of my goals all at once. I’ve spent the past few days working on the vision for my blog, planning posts, writing, reading books I need to read. I’ve put together a general plan for school. I’ve started thinking about ways my husband and I can bring in some extra cash. All of these are goals I’m pursuing this year. I will start keeping track of how much water I drink and keeping a food journal soon, once our normal routine starts again.

I want my days to be intentional, but I also need them to be realistic. Making a list of goals can be a worthy pursuit, but I also need to remember that I have an entire year to reach them.


Reading Goals for 2013

Something About The Way It's Written
Yesterday, I outlined most of my goals for the year for my different roles in life. I have also made some reading goals for the year to inform you, Dear Reader, about quality books and to keep track of my progress throughout the year. And, as always, “to improve my mind with extensive reading” (anything for you, Mr. Darcy). So, here we go. Reading Goals for the Year:

1. I have joined Jessica from Quirky Bookworm with her quest to read some classics in her “Classics Catch-Up Challenge.”

2. I want to be more accountable with my reading, so I am going to track the books I read through GoodReads and Pinterest. I will also add a tab on the blog of my reading for the year and give you guys a quick way to access my reviews.

3. As far as number of books, I don’t even know where to start. I’ve never been good at keeping up with what I have read, so this year is going to be more of a benchmark year – just to keep track of my progress and then set the bar higher or lower from there.

4. As a general rule, I want to incorporate more reading aloud time with my children. I tend to get lazy about this, so reading aloud is going to be the focus of our homeschool this semester.

Here’s a List of Books in my “To Read Pile” for now:

Classics for the “Classics Catch-Up Challenge” for January-February:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Spiritual Non-fiction Reads

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Love Does by Bob Goff

General Fiction

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Children’s Fiction

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

On Writing

How to Become an Online Writer by Ruth Pound

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper

31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo by Bryan Allain

Other Non-Fiction

One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

*photo credit


My Goals for 2013

The new year's resolutions
For the past few years, my husband and I have been more specific with our New Year’s Resolutions, and like most people, we don’t quite reach all of the goals lined out for us. However, we enjoy looking back over the years and seeing how far we have come.

This past year, I planned some big goals, and we reached several of them, even though life got in the way. These are the goals we accomplished:

1. We paid off our car early.

2. I started a blog.

3. I posted regularly (for the most part. Life sometimes got in the way.).

4. I stopped drinking sodas.

5. We built up our emergency fund again.

6. We paid off some significant medical bills.

7. My husband and I went on a date at least once a month.

8. I scheduled every day on purpose (for the most part).

9. I set up an allowance system for my boys.

10. We started homeschooling officially.

There are several goals on my list from last year that I left uncrossed, but I’ve been happy with the changes I’ve made in my life as well as in the life of our family.

My husband and I are hitting 2013 with some new gusto, and I hope God blesses our endeavors. Here are a few of my goals for this year:

Professional Goals:

1. Move content over to

2. Consistently write 3 posts a week or more.

3. Make money as a writer.

4. Build my reading audience through social media and guest posting.

5. Track my reading progress in GoodReads, Pinterest, and the blog.

Financial Goals:

1. Save a chunk of cash for a new (to us) car and for some upcoming medical procedures (shooting for $7500).

2. Save money for a small family vacation (most likely camping).

3. Save up more money for Christmas (even when we budget and economize, December seems to slam us. We are determined for it not to happen again.)

4. Make some extra income (to help pay for the above goals).

Marriage Goals:

1. Continue once a month dates.

Family Goals:

1. Take a family vacation.

2. Play Games, Spend Time Outdoors, or Read after dinner.

3. Schedule one-on-one reading time with each child as well as one-on-one recreational time with each child.


1. Schedule each day on purpose.

2. Set up a new cleaning schedule for this house.

3. Organize photos: printed and digital

4. Decorate the living room (It’s pathetically bare.)

5. Display more family pictures.

6. Set up shelving in the kitchen.

7. Streamline how we pack and travel on trips.

8. Paperwork: Get it all organized.


1. Continue with Math, Reading, Writing, and Nature Exploration.

2. Start Journaling. Add more read aloud time, and add more science experiments.

2. Cultural Literacy: Study a composer a month, take more field trips to art galleries and/or concerts.

3. Start piano or violin lessons with my oldest.

4. Add structured Spelling, Grammar, and History Curriculum in the fall.


1. Drink a gallon of water a day.

2. Increase fruits and vegetables.

3. Decrease sugars and flours.

4. Keep a food journal.

5. Be active: walking, running with the kids, bike riding, exercise videos, etc.

Throughout the next few posts, I hope to outline some of my action steps to accomplish these goals, and I plan to keep track of my progress throughout the year. I’m also working on some reading goals for the year, but I haven’t outlined them. I will get back to you on those as well. Here’s wishing you a great 2013!


“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

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Stocking Stuffers: Our Breakfast of Champions

Stocking Stuffer Snacks

A few years ago, I started stuffing my children’s stockings with breakfast. My boys, as a general rule, were early morning risers, and I knew Christmas morning would be no exception. I also knew that on normal mornings, my boys were already “starving” and begging for food before I could even get the light on in the kitchen.

So, I stuffed the boys’ stockings with breakfast instead of candy and junk toys. Back then, I still bought packaged snacks and treats, so I stuffed the stocking with raisin boxes, juice boxes, some packaged granola bars, and fruit snacks, along with new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other fun surprises. You know what? They loved it. They happily snacked away while we opened presents and played, and they weren’t begging for food as I prepared our Christmas brunch.

Since that first Christmas, I have become much more conscious about avoiding pre-packaged foods. So, I started making a few breakfast items in advance and storing them in the freezer to pull out Christmas Eve. I am going to make an assortment of snacks next week, and I thought I would give you guys some ideas, too.

Some ideas for Breakfast Stocking Stuffers:

  • mini muffins
  • juice or milk boxes
  • fresh fruit (Clementines are my favorite.)
  • sausage balls
  • raisins or dried cranberries
  • nuts
  • granola trail mix or granola bars
  • breakfast cookies
  • fruit leather
  • scones (We like pumpkin and chocolate chip ones.)
  • cheddar crackers (like Cheez-Its but with a kick.)

Check out my Pinterest board for all of these snack-y, breakfast-y ideas and the links to all of the recipes!

(Even if you do not have a Pinterest account, you can still access the links.)


How to Have Christmas Traditions without Losing Your Christmas Spirit

Two years ago, my family decided to spend an evening looking at Christmas lights. We were new to the area, so we didn’t know exactly where to go. After driving aimlessly for about an hour, my husband turned down another side street, heading back to the highway. Suddenly, my oldest pipes up, “Dad! It’s a Braums. We should stop and get some ice cream!” Tired of dealing with light hunting, we decided some ice cream would do us all some good. After our treat, we trekked back out for one more try at light gazing, and we stumbled upon the County Light Festival, a huge display of lights with accompanying Christmas music via radio. It was awesome! Last year, we drove straight to the County Light Festival without even bothering hunting for house lights. On our way through the exit, my then five year old said, “Mom, after this we should go look for that Braums again and get some ice cream!” Thus, our accidental holiday detour became a holiday tradition.

I like to make Christmas a magical time for my kids, but it could easily become overwhelming and expensive and a little stressful. A few years ago, I took a tip from one of my friends for a simple advent activity.

2012-12-08 08.46.20

I wrap all of our Christmas movies and books. I come up with a few fun crafts and events we want to attend. Then, I number everything 1 to 25. The kids open a present everyday leading up to Christmas. Over the past few years, I’ve added a book or movie to our collection, but I rarely have to spend much money to come up with 25 things. I like doing this method because I don’t get overburdened with crafts. We aren’t traveling to a new Christmas adventure every day, and we aren’t spending a ton of money (I also take full advantage of the library books, too. I wrap them up along with our own books.)

So, here’s a list of the books we are using this year:

For crafts, I found easy and fun activities from Pinterest (check out my Christmas Board here)

We are watching three holiday movies:

I also added some fun activities to our list, too. We usually call family members to sing “Jingle Bells.” We are going to have a dinner by candlelight one night, and spend an evening looking at Christmas lights (with a stop at Braums, I’m sure, before the night is over). I’m super excited for this year’s tour because this house is in our town.

We will also attend a Merry Tuba Christmas concert. Have you guys ever heard about Tuba Christmas? Volunteer tuba players from a surrounding area get together and rehearse for about an hour, and then they put on a free concert, usually outdoors, playing Christmas music. It’s quirky, fun and, best of all, absolutely free. You can take camping chairs and a thermos of hot chocolate and spend a morning with the family. Check out the website to find a Merry Tuba Christmas near you.

I hope you all enjoy this great holiday season!

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