Post Holiday Song Disorder (PHSD)

Okay, so 2013 starts tomorrow.  I have to admit, I'm not nearly as excited about the new year as I've been in the past.  Maybe it's because I'll be staying up until midnight to take care of babies as opposed to sipping some bubbly and wearing a sparkly dress, or maybe it's just because those kiddos aren't old enough yet to be excited about the holiday.  Or, maybe it's because I'm still in a Christmas sort of mood.  The decorations have yet to be put away, there's a few presents in their gift bags that haven't made it to their home yet, and I have a Christmas song stuck in my head.  The song is "It came upon the midnight clear," and until about 3 weeks ago, I had no idea that this song had 5 verses!  There's one verse that I wanted to share with you, and  it's the one I can't stop thinking about:

(Verse 1)

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the Earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

(Verse 3)

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song that they bring.
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

A few of you may have noticed that I like to share Fair Trade companies that I come across with you.  The fact is, we live in a country where more often than not, the product you buy has been produced by corporate greed, exploitation of workers, or even modern-day slavery.  Ethically based companies are not the norm, and I'm always so excited to hear about products where their construction is helping to better other people's lives.  It makes me even happier when I get a chance to share those companies with all of you!

That's why I wanted to publicly share my one New Year's resolution with you as well.  I've put myself on a full shopping ban until my birthday (three months from now), and I'm resolving that for the next year, I will prayerfully consider every clothing and accessory purchase I make, and consider the impact that my dollars will have.  I probably won't be able to buy exclusively Fair Trade, based on our family's budget right now, but that just means I'll have to research my purchases a little more, or rely on resale and thrift shops for the majority.  I want what little money my shopping sprees generate to be a part of those angels' "love-song" that sings of our Savior.

Now, friends, I don't want you to make this same resolution.  (Well, unless you really feel led to do so, of course!)  I feel that God wants every one of us to serve Him in different ways.  This resolution is not some, "I'm better than you, and you're not a good Christian unless you do it" kind of thing!  To be honest, I have a weakness for buying armloads of cheap stuff I don't need, or finding those really amazing deals, and doing it frequently, so this resolution of mine is partly to curb that behavior.  Because of that, I feel led to change my shopping habits.   Drastically.  God's plan for your life could, and probably does, have absolutely nothing to do with where you shop!  But, I still wanted to share, and I want you to keep me accountable!  Put your nose in my business!  If I post an outfit, feel free to ask me when and where I bought it.  If I whine about wanting to go shopping, remind me of my own words.  Please?  :)

I may not be jumping up and down about 2013, but I'm genuinely excited to see what God has for our future.

What are you excited about for this New Year?

Fair Trade Friday - Recommended Reading

You guys, I have a confession.  I am having a crazy day.  It's just been quite the morning, and I'm going to blame 'mommy brain' for all of it.  Let's just say I showed up for a doctor's appointment a month early this morning.    Yep, that's right.  I got the day right, but not the month, and then got to explain all of that to the sweet little receptionist at the pediatric clinic.  Yep.

SO, even though I promised you guys another gift guide this Friday, it just didn't happen, and I apologize.  Instead, I thought I'd pass along another little blog I found that "focuses on ethically sourced, fairly traded and life impacting purchases." (from their about page.)  It's called Let's Be Fair, and it's got a ton of amazing companies featured in their posts.  I would highly recommend checking them out!

Hope you enjoy your weekend!

Has all the Christmas cheer gotten you guys a little scatterbrained too?

Mango Clementine Green Tea

 You guys, I love free stuff.  I especially love free stuff that involves hot beverages in winter.  So, when my dad dropped off a box of this awesome tea, I was pretty excited to try it.

That, my friends, is St. Dalfour Organic Golden Mango Green Tea (available here if you'd like to get your hands on some too).  It's pretty awesome just on its own, but I wanted to fancy it up just a little more.   So, I assembled my ingredients:

We've got: six Cutie clementines, the tea (I used 5 bags for this), honey, and a cup for hot tea, a pitcher for iced tea, and a teapot full of water.

First, you want to boil your water.

While that sucker's heating up, you want to slice your clementines.  I sliced them pretty thick, about 3 slices per orange, and discarded the ends.

Then, I put two slices into my mug for the hot tea, along with one teabag.  I put the rest of the orange slices and four tea bags into the pitcher.

I then added the boiling water to the mug and pitcher, filling the pitcher about 2/3 full.  I let the mug for the hot tea brew about one and a half minutes, and the pitcher of tea brewed for around 4 minutes.  Little tip for the day: when your tea is done brewing, don't squeeze the teabag when you take it out.  That's how you can avoid that bitter taste some teas can get.

Now, you add the honey. I pretty much eyeballed the amount I put in, but I'd estimate about 1 Tablespoon for the hot tea, and 1/8 of a cup for the iced.

 I filled up the pitcher of iced tea up to the top with ice, stuck it in the fridge, then sat back and enjoyed my mug of fruity yummyness.  And, for the next couple days, I was able to enjoy the yummy iced tea whenever I  felt like it.  Just remember to stir up the pitcher first, to mix the clementine flavor throughout the whole thing!

Overall, I'm giving this drink four out of four sporks!  It was delicious!

What's your favorite cold weather drink?

OOTD - Naturally

It seems like lately I can't get enough of pairing grey and pink together, especially the blush/baby pink color on my vest.  I have a scarf and a sweater in this shade as well (well, had a sweater... it got stained, so I dyed it a pretty powder blue color... I'll show that off in a later post!), and they just go so well with grey.  It's just natural.

You know what's not natural?  The awkwardness that ensues when you try to pick up my dog.  I'll share an example, just because I luv ya:

Outfit Details:
Grey Shirt - Old Navy, $6
Black Tank - Target, $10
Vest - thrifted, $3.50
Jeans - Aeropostale, $11
Boots - Shoe Carnival, $15
Earrings - Icing by Claire's, $3 (old)
Blue Necklace - Icing by Claire's, $2 (old)
Cross Necklace, gifted
Guitar Necklace - Souvenir from the Roy Rogers Museum (old!)
Whistle Necklace - Falling Whistles 

Grand Total: $50.50

What other colors would you pair this pink with?

On Friday

I didn't know if I was going to post today.  It seems like every time I turn on my computer, I’m seeing someone else’s thoughts on the tragedy that occurred on Friday.  And then, I refuse to read them.  I won’t read another blog post about what happened, I skim over someone’s status update as quickly as possible, I will NOT look at the picture collage of the victim’s faces.

I can’t.

My brain absolutely cannot wrap itself around the utter senselessness of what happened.  My heart cannot handle the hatred that begins welling up when I consider the horrifying scope of what the shooter did.  My mind cannot handle the fact that I shouldn't be feeling that hatred, that I should be better, able to accept God’s will and extend His forgiveness.

I cried once on Friday, when I heard the news.  After that, I stopped myself, and contained those tears that threatened to well over so many times that my tear ducts began to hurt.  To be honest, I don’t deal well with pain.  My response to my first marriage dissolving was essentially to anesthetize myself with various legal (and some illegal) substances as often as possible.  And this hurts.  It hurts to think of how young these children were.  It hurts to realize that some of these teachers were my age.  It hurts to see the news repeated over and over again.

It hurts, it hurts, it HURTS.

And, selfishly, it hurts me to realize that I am not as strong as I sometimes think I am.  That I could never bring myself to even consider forgiving someone if they hurt my girls, and that I am amazed by any parent that could be that strong.  That maybe I’m not relying on God enough.  That I’m finding myself getting mad at some of my friends, people that I love, because they’re trying to turn this tragedy into a political debate.

I don’t have a nice, well thought-out conclusion to all this.  I don’t really even have a point beyond expressing some of the feelings I've been suppressing over the weekend.  I just know that I’ll be praying.  Praying that I can learn to rely on God in senseless times.  Praying for comfort for all the families involved.  Praying for parents all over the nation that have to help their children understand what happened.  Praying for our country in general.

Just praying…

Fair Trade Friday - My Best Friend

You guys?  My best friend is awesome!  She's funny, free-spirited, fun-loving, and on top of all that, a wonderful momma to her little girl.  Plus, on top of all that, she's pretty darn stylish too.  Do you have a friend like that?  She's one of the many people I wish I had an unlimited budget to shop for this Christmas, but unfortunately, that's not the case.   So instead, I thought I would share the items I would buy if I could, and maybe give ya'll some inspiration in your shopping endeavors this season!

Do What You Love Tee
You know those annoying little ads on the side of Facebook?  The ones that tell you that you can become an ultrasound tech in 30 seconds, or to "Like" if you love your husband? (I do, but I don't want to like your page. Sorry.)  Well every so often, something good pops up on that side of the page.  That's how I discovered this really cool little company called Holstee.  I'll let you explore their website to learn the whole story and what they do, but needless to say, there's a reason I'm sharing them with you.  Also, I like this tee-shirt.  Now, to go with the shirt, or really anything else:
Starburst Necklace
Okay, I'm not gonna lie, as much as I'd really love to give this necklace as a gift, I really kinda want it for myself too.   There is a billion different things I could wear this with.  Well, I don't own a billion articles of clothing, but you get the idea.  Let's rephrase: this shiny little accessory  is extremely versatile, making it a great gift that would be used very very frequently.  It's also made by the amazing artisans at the Association of Physically Disabled of Kenya's Bombolulu workshop, and sold through One Degree South.

Caramel Fringe Clutch
You've heard me talk about Sseko Sandals before (find those posts here and here).  Well guess what?  They now carry some beautiful handbags as well!  The one pictured above is one of my favorites, and it seems like a little touch of fringe is almost necessary in any girl's wardrobe these days.  Plus, right now Sseko is offering free shipping on orders of $75 or more through Christmas Eve.  just enter SSEKOSANTA at the checkout.

Lolita Hand Painted Jugs
Last up, these adorable little pitchers from Greenheart, that I just can't get enough of.  The hand painted birds are just precious, and I could definitely see one of these fitting in nicely in my friend's kitchen.  She could stick a bouquet of wildflowers in there, and have a sweet little centerpiece.

Well, that finishes up my "present wish-list" for this week.  Next week, some presents for "the man."

What items are on your shopping list this Christmas?

Baking Weather

You guys, it's cold outside.  That should be obvious, considering it's December, but since we ended up having a couple of lovely 70 degree days last week, this winter chill seems a little harsher than usual.  This weather, however, does have its advantages.  It has put me in the mood to bake.  A LOT.  I've been trying out quite a few of the recipes I've pinned on Pinterest (you can follow me on there if you want!), that have included some clean eating super chocolate-y muffins, some homemade graham crackers, and most recently, some pumpkin cream cheese muffins (little note, if you try this one, use sugar or splenda in the amounts listed, not stevia, or change your measurements.  That's WAY too much stevia for one batch of muffins!).

All of this baked deliciousness has been keeping my kitchen busy and warm, but there's one recipe that started this trend.  It was a recipe for a little something called Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler.  Yep.  Apples and Snickerdoodles got to have a hot date in the oven to create a little dish of yummy.  This was too good not to share.  I made a few tweaks to the original recipe that I'll share with you guys as well.

First up, and most importantly, I made myself a big cup of peppermint hot chocolate to accompany my baking escapade.  The ingredients?  Great Value hot chocolate mix, and two spoonfuls of powdered starlight mints.  That's it.  Seriously the best thing ever, but now I'm off on a chocolate-y tangent.

Then, I dove in to the recipe (ingredients written in blue were the ones I added):

Cookie ingredients:
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3C flour
1/4C unsalted butter, softened
1/3C sugar, plus 1/2C
1 egg
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Apple ingredients:
8C apples (roughly 6-8 apples depending on their size)
1/4C brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4C butter

1/4C gingerale

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine first four dry ingredients for the cookie dough. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar. Add egg followed by premixed dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are blended into the dough well. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine 3/4 teaspoon and 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.

Now, the original recipe calls for you to peel, core, and slice the apples, then toss them in a mix of 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a large bowl until coated.   

Instead, I placed the apples in an 8×8 baking dish, and melted the butter on the stove in a small saucepan.  Once the butter was melted, I stirred in the brown sugar and cinnamon, and then poured the sugary melted mixture over the apples.  Then, I poured the 1/4C of gingerale over the top of that.

Form 1 inch balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place coated dough balls on top of apples, press down lightly to slightly flatten.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until apples are tender and cookie topping is lightly golden.

Allow to cool slightly prior to serving. Serve with optional whipped cream or ice cream. May be stored chilled for several days.

When it goes into the oven, it kinda looks like chicken nuggets on top of apples, like this:

When it comes out and is half-eaten, because my family and I were too impatient not to dig in immediately, it looks like this:

I really enjoyed eating (and making!) this.  The added moisture from the butter and ginger-ale did make the top crust a little more cake-y than cookie-y, but all the crumbly cinnamon sugary-ness was definitely a lot of yummy.

On my recently created scale of recipes and their success, I'm going to give this one 3 out of 4 sporks.

So, what's your favorite thing to bake when the weather turns cold?

Fair Trade Friday - For the Kiddo's

Well, like I said last week, Christmas is coming.  That means a lot of things: too much food, good times with family, and last-minute shopping for presents.  So I thought, to make your last-minute shopping a little less stressful, I'd offer up some fair trade and ethically produced products I found that are on my wishlist over the next few weeks.  This week, I'd like to share some gifts for the kids.

First up are these adorable little monster dolls, hand knit by women in Peru for Global Goods Partners.

The site advertises these little critters as a "fair trade alternative to the popular 'Ugly Dolls,'" but there's nothing ugly about these guys!  They're soft and cuddly and so stinkin' cute!  

Now I may not be a good cook, but that doesn't keep me from trying, and lately Lexi has started showing some interest in what goes into making a meal.  This next gift would be perfect for a mother and daughter to use while dabbling together in the culinary arts.

Ok, seriously?  I want these.  These little mother-daughter matching aprons, from 12 Small Things, are so precious!  They're super stylish, and the colors and prints are just simply amazing.  I've never had such a desire for cute aprons until seeing these.

This last item isn't necessarily a fair trade item, but it does touch on another subject near and dear to myself and our family: adoption.  This Etsy shop, called Sewing for Adoptions, is run by a mother who sells these beautiful floor pillow covers to help defray the costs of both her son and niece's upcoming international adoptions.  What a great way to both help her family and change a child's life!

This pillow is my favorite, but there's a ton more patterns available as well!

Blue Polka Dot Floor Pillow Cover
A couple of those in a kiddo's room, and you'd have a great little pop of color and pattern for a reading nook or game corner.  Ugh, I want!

Hope these give you a few ideas for any little ones you may be shopping for.  Be sure to check back next week, where I'll be talking about some gifts for my 'bestie!'

It's Not a Competition

 I wish I got along better with other women.  It’s not like I start fights with people or anything, but it is hard for me to connect with other members of my gender.  It’s especially hard when I start comparing my life to the other mothers.

There’s the mom at the farmer’s market with her homemade canvas shopping bags bursting with beautiful organic green veggies you know her children will eat without any sign of pickiness.  Or, there’s the lovely family at church who are just too nice and patient to ever imagine them yelling at their kids in moments of frustration. Or, the tall blonde in her perfect clothes whose two blonde girls are always perfectly dressed as well, in matching outfits less.  There’s no way that I could be friends with them, not while my life is so incredibly different.  I submit the following confessions as evidence:

Big A watches a lot of Dora, more than I’d probably like to admit.  The plus side to that is she can now count to ten in Spanish, and knows that the verde stoplight means go, while rojo means stop.

There are times that I wish I had decided to bottle feed, just so I could claim my chest as my own again.  I have a beautiful, healthy baby girl, who happens to have a very healthy appetite, and putting food in a bottle just seems easier.  

On that same vein, some days I lament the fact that I really can’t wear dresses for the next year, since they don’t really allow easy access for feeding.  That kinda sucks, since some days my jeans just don’t fit right, and a dress would cover my new mommy lumps and bumps a little better.

I am a terrible cook.  I really, really love food, but I’m not very good at preparing it.  I’m hoping that practice makes perfect, but when you’re a person that can screw up ramen (yes, it’s happened), I need to keep the bar set pretty low. 

But the most important truth in my life?  I love my children.  While pregnant with both of my girls, I was riddled with doubts as to whether I would be able to handle motherhood.  I looked at the other “mommy moms” and knew that I could never measure up, and therefore I couldn’t ever be a good mother.  In the moment that my first daughter was born, all those comparisons didn’t matter.   I loved this little squirmy crying baby that I had known for less than a minute more than anything else in this world.  During the second pregnancy, I didn’t know if I had enough love (and energy!) left to lavish on another child, which, if you’re a mother you know, is a completely unfounded fear.  Both of my girls are loved, and I make so many decisions about our life based on my love for them.

You know what?  All these other moms that I compare myself to make most of their decisions based on that same love for their children.   I know it seems cliché to say that love is a great equalizer, but most cliché’s are based on truth.  There is no reason for me to distance myself from other women based on our differences, because the truth is, we love our children. 

The reason I say all this is because I don’t want to give a false impression of our life on this little blog of mine.  I don’t want to alienate anyone by giving a ‘perfect’ picture of our lives.  I want to share snippets of our lives, and usually what I’m inclined to share is the positives.  I’ll post recipes that I’ve tried and actually succeeded in making.  I’ll upload adorable pictures of my beautiful children.  I’ll talk about how much I love my husband, and how he loves me back.  I’ll be sharing from the highlight reel of our life, while it’s actually full of miss-takes and bloopers.  I want you to know that I am not a perfect mother or domestic diva, and can hope that by admitting that, I can realize that other mothers are the same.  I’m also vowing to begin building friendships with all of you, based on the simple fact that we’re all humans called to love each other in Christ.  In the words of Mister Rogers, “Won’t you be… my neighbor?”