Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jesus Loves Charity and So Do We

You gotta love any and every opportunity that arises for a candid, posed family pic. Especially in front of big brown doors. Today was one of those occassions because those brown doors lead to our church's worship center....
where we celebrated Charity Lynn's Dedication
Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Justin and I are committed to raising this precious little girl
In a way that points her to Jesus.
We promise to pray for her.
To teach her God's Word.
And love her unconditionally.
So that one day she will comprehend that her parents deepest desire for her,
Above all else, that she will love Jesus, too.
Grasping His incredible love for her that lead Him to die on the cross.
And she will embrace a relationship with Jesus.
Living for Him all her days.
happy dedication day, Char!  we love you!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hot Dog Friday

My kids love traditions.

We have lots of James family traditions as the holidays approach, but that's not what this post is about. This is about Hot. Dog. Friday.

It's simple: we have hot dogs on fridays for dinner. Our kids know this, look forward to it, and always wonder what new topping for their hot dog is going to be on the table.

These are the staples, the non-negotiables, for Hot Dog Friday:

These are some of the random toppings that we've added to the Hot Dog table in the past:

On fancy Hot Dog Fridays we've been known to go out for hot dogs. That's always a treat because:
  • I'm not making the hot dogs and fixings

  • I don't have to order a hot dog if I don't want to

  • Somebody else cleans up any ketchup that missed a mouth a time or two

  • Dessert is usually involved

  • Did I mention that I'm not the one making the hot dogs?

So that's it. You should try it sometime...super fun and super easy, too. You could even do it on a Wednesday and call it Weiner Wednesday. I'm all about alliterations.

I'm sure this little girl can't wait to take part in our Hot Dog Friday. But for now she's pretty stoked to have added oatmeal and pureed carrots to her diet......and this fun new toy. How can my baby be in exo-saucer stage already?!

Well, Happy (Hot Dog) Friday all!

Note to wives: make sure your husband understands the precise meaning of Hot Dog Friday before you implement this in your household. Otherwise when the kids go to bed this title could take on a whole new meaning which was not intended by the author of this post. Or her husband (?!) Ahem.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm Bad At Thinking of Titles

Yesterday was the boys' Halloween Party and Costume Parade at school:

Does that look say, MO-OM or what?! Well, I am the mo-om.
The one taking flash photography that lights up the dark gym,
waving (semi-obnoxiously) so Jon will see me and look,
and mouthing the words, "I love you" before I leave.
I can't help myself. I'm just so proud. Don't you see?

My son is a black belt in karate.

Hey--it was better than this get up:

Caleb was a little unsure about this whole "wearing a costume to school" thing. He pretty much tried to get out of it all morning. He's pictured here wearing an Elmo fuzzy-thing that is meant for an 18 month old... which I'm sure he put on to wear me down into not making him dress-up at all for the party. 4 year olds can be crafty like that, you know.

This picture makes me laugh because I actually photographed Caleb in the middle of asking me, "Mommy, do you know where Matthias is?" I just assumed a game of "Hide n' Seek" had broken out and I was a step behind.
What he meant was, "do you know Matthias is under this tote I'm sitting on?"
And if you know my younger two boys at all, you know that Caleb was probably just returning the favor of Matthias' earlier idea. Considering when I "rescued" Matthias he was less than enthusiastic about getting out from under the tote....I'm pretty sure he was all about this "brother sitting on top of me in a tote" game.
So anyways, I eventually talked Caleb into being the hero Spideyman for the party. Although I'm pretty sure I should get some hero points for cutting a hole in the mask bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until he was (finally) comfortable with the idea of having clingy material on his head to complete "the look."
Yesterday's party and parade=success

Today is NO SCHOOL. Enjoy your day--we plan to!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hospitality House

I love having people in my home. When I see the "Friends" episode where Monica works to exhaustion to get her apartment ready for everyone to come over and enjoy it....yeah. I totally get it.
Hospitality is something Justin and I both enjoy and because we have people over often, our kids almost expect guests in our home. If it's been more than a couple of nights where we don't have someone over it's like, "um, is someone coming over tonight, Mom?" haha. I love that!

I also love to keep it simple. If it's simple, I know I'll do it more often.
It certainly didn't start out that way...just ask Justin about my need to have the shower scrubbed when we'd have our newlywed friends over for dinner!

Ways we've kept hospitality simple:
  • We have some family friends we share a dining rule with: whoever is hosting gets Papa Murphy's cooking. How low-stress is that?!
  • Our "3rd Monday of the Month" Supper Club (sniff, sniff....miss you guys!) took turns bringing dinner and dessert to the host home.
  • Or inviting a guy over on a weekly basis who often brought the meal or dessert. Dominoes, KFC, Dairy Queen..... Caution: beware of the "Bachelor Casserole" that weighs more than your preschooler (just speaking from experience, that's all!)
When it comes to making my home set for visitors
there are 2 must-haves:

a candle and a candy dish

(when my guests need chocolate, they need chocolate, you know? How rude would it be of me to make them wait until I offer?!)

And that's how our family does hospitality. A super-long word meaning to share our home and lives with others. But here's my question to you: How do YOU do hospitality?
What is your "must-have" to make guests feel welcome?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TT Light Sabers & J-O-Y Wall

Today I bring you 2 tutorials: BONUS!

Neither of them food (chocolate) related: BUMMER!

The first tutorial is inspired by
a broken window,
a plastic light saber
....and the fly that got away.

(NOTE:All plastic light sabers have now been banned from the James household and are designated for outdoor light saber duals only)

Tutorial #1 Foam Light Sabers

  • pool noodle (buy them now....clearance section at Wal-mart!)
  • serrated knife
  • black electrical tape

Step 1: cut pool noodle in half
Step 2: wrap black tape around one end for a "handle"

Variation: don't chop the noodle in half and wrap black tape around the middle for a double-ended saber. Way cool-- at least at this house!

I'm thinking I just need to sit down one of these days and (finally) watch a Star Wars Episode from start to finish. Maybe then I will get why my boys shove the light sabers down the back of their shirts and run around the house.
But then again, maybe I will never understand. That happens sometimes when you're a mom of boys.

Tutorial #2 Who couldn't use a little more JOY in their world--so let's put some on the wall...

I wish I had one of those cool cameras that would make this picture look better. But do you get the idea?

  • 3 matted frames to hold 8x10 pictures
  • JOY cardboard letters--(2 sizes--medium for the wall, large for pictures)
  • black paint
  • fun appliques for JOY letters
  • your camera
  • your happy, cooperative family
Step 1: Grab your large letters and go take some pictures. This is the fun part! Take tons and tons of pics so you have plenty to choose from. That's the glory of a digital camera, right?

A note about the J-O-Y letters: the cashier at the craft store told me I was "so smart" (why thank you!) for buying my letters now, in the fall. Apparantly everyone wants JOY at Christmastime and they sell out like crazy. So if you're thinking this might be fun...act now!

Step 2: Have your pictures developed in 8x10. Make sure they are all going the same way...vertical or horizontal (duh, right?)

Step 3: Paint your medium-sized letters for the wall and put your appliques on. I used "me and my Big ideas" chipboard embellishments (32 piece)
Step 4: Put it up! Poster putty is a wonder in and of itself and holds up the letters just fine.
Step 5: Stand back and feel the JOY filling your heart. Ahhhhh

I love the daily reminder to be filled with joy. It's not some "happy happy joy joy" giddy smile on your face at all moments even when life stinks. NO-- Joy is so much deeper than that. We're just beginning to explain to our kiddos what joy is all about. For now, we're keeping it simple...
Caleb, with his 4 year old enthusiasm, will tell anyone and everyone who enters our living room and sees our JOY wall that it's about
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last

Who knew such a teachable moment could come from wall decor?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Post of Random

Do you see this? This is me, watching Packer football last night, in a room sans guys.
All by myself, hubby at work, boys tucked in bed, TLC totally available to me, and yet here I am watching Packers V. Vikings.
It's Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.
It's the guy you see on the screen with the long hair who plays for the Pack and totally rocks.
(but I don't know his name--I'm not that into football)
Anyways, I didn't watch the whole game so I went to after to see the final score.
28-24. Go Green and Gold!

Enough of that.

Jon, my 7 yr old, made this arrangement and asked me if I'd take a pic and put on it my blog.
Now doesn't that just make you smile? He cracks me up.

I'm sitting here after just having a much-needed date with this: I had this idea that I, a personal trainer who's never personal trained (YET...yeah....don't ask), should maybe throw out a tip for all you exercise fanatics out there. And those of you who aren't might just be inspired by this random fact:

it's about your EPOC. And you, after you exercise, have it.
EPOC stands for excess postexercise oxygen consumption but that's not important.... (NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training p189)

Basically, what you want to know is that your body's metabolism is elevated after exercise and continues to be elevated for some long the metabolism is running quicker for is the question EPOC answers.
Research shows that higher intensity training and splitting your work-out into multiple sessions have the greatest effect on EPOC (so you keep burning those calories faster for longer. Elevated metabolism, people! Can I get an amen?!)

SOOOO if what you're looking for is greater calorie burn, go for "giving it your all" as much as you can during the workout session and divide your workout into multiple sessions instead of one longer, moderate bout of exercise (think 30 minute jog--great for your heart but not as effective for increasing your metabolism)
The Plan? Do a 15-20 minute session in the morning (or just 10 min if you're a's a start!) and then repeat at lunchtime or later in the evening. Crank up that treadmill to go a speed that is really challenging and throw in some high speed spurts for as long as you can go.
And mix it up. When your body gets used to your same ol'/same ol' training, it will stop giving you the results you're looking for. Tricky, huh? So change it up and try circuit training moves or something.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
Really, it's about being able to consume more chocolate more times while your metabolism keeps melting it away. At least that's how I define EPOC.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Psalm 13:5-6

Psalm 13:5-6
But I trust in Your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for He has been good to me

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zumba = Sweaty Fun

Have you ever tried Zumba? Pretty wild name for a crazy-cool exercise that is a lot of sweaty fun. Seriously.

(not to gross you out...but maybe...the towel pictured is my designated sweat catcher for Zumba time. I figured I should just label it permanently so it didn't get mixed in with the other hand towels that look just like it. Ewww)

So for 45ish minutes you do these shake-your-hips moves to jivy music and you start to think you could be on "So You Think You Can Dance" or something....

And then you get rehydrated in between songs and realize you're just an uncoordinated white girl who mostly forgets to shake her hips because you're concentrating so hard on the beat and keeping up with the girl two rows in front of you, who you are pretty sure is spot-on every time and maybe she should just lead the class already she's so brilliant, and you kinda (but not really) wish a mirror was nearby so you could gauge just exactly how ridiculous you look in this room of totally synchronized people moving to the right and left and backward and forward and around at the same time and did you perhaps miss the memo everyone else got about yesterday's rehearsal to learn the exact choreographed version of the day?

Oh. Sorry about that. Anyways, Zumba is fun. I go on Saturday mornings to a church nearby and I rock out with about 40 other women. Cool way for a church to get people to grace it's doors for the first time, if you ask me (but maybe you're glad you didn't). We use the song "I Know My Redeemer Lives" (Nicole C. Mullen) as our cool-down--a perfect ending to a perfect way to start the day!
Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. But did you really expect me to break out my camera in the middle of Zumba? It's not like I don't already stick out enough already, people.
ZUMBA. You should give it a try!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sugar-Free JuJu

I'm beginning to think there is a connection between my weekly trip to Aldi to get groceries and-A. DAY. By the time I left Aldi this morning I wasn't quite sure that all 4 of us (me and the 3 youngers) were going to make it home. Sane, at least.

So I stopped and got some sanity. For only $3.04.
So worth every penny. So worth taking the long way home.

Introducing my form of a good, hard drink: iced latte, sugar-free vanilla syrup to be easy on the hips (and thighs) and from McDonald's to be easy on the wallet. I even put my feet up for a moment on the pillows (a James family no-no)....then I got convicted by my inner-momself and put my feet back down where they belong. And this happened:
Hi son. (And that was the end of my moment)
Today I leave you with a more visual list of 10: 10 pictures to show you why I can't get enough of my kids. Even though they tend to make my trips to Aldi a tad, um, taxing.
Excited to go to a Brewers game, "GO BREWERS!"
Sweetly sleeping in Daddy's arms
Getting ahold of the camera to capture a self portrait
Climbing the apple tree
Pretty stoked about holding this little fuzzy guy
Ahh.....2 dolls
Exploring books by themselves...

Can you tell they are brother and sister or what?!

Sour apple!

4 (very huge) reasons to thank and praise the Lord today

Enjoy the day. Hope the sun is shining where you are, too!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

                                                     Chocolate chip pancakes=good,
Chocolate covered strawberries=better,
Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins =great way to start the day
Whoever thought of adding chocolate chips to an already chocolate treat=genius
So why not add chocolate to pumpkin bread? That's what I asked myself last year when I brought out my mom's pumpkin bread recipe to make. I didn't have a good answer, and so I present you with...
                                          Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
                 (as pictured in yesterday's post. And it's not even a tutorial tuesday. Act surprised)
This bread is what I refer to as a "one bowl wonder" and is a must-have in your recipe collection of a quick make and even quicker clean-up

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

These are the ingredients you need--plus sugar. I forgot to put my sugar in the picture.
Side note: Let me tell you that assembling all the ingredients before you start baking is really handy!

So, in no particular order, put the following stuff in your mixing bowl--and mix:

1 can pumpkin (reg-size, not the big one)

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup oil

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

When it's all mixed, add about 1/2 bag chocolate chips (mix by hand) and eat the other half of the bag.

Disclaimer: this recipe does not come with a cute little boy to mix in your chocolate chips for you

Oh-- Did you preheat your oven? If not, set it for 350 degrees and when it's preheated put your filled bread pans in for about 50 minutes to an hour. Just keep checking the center with a toothpick and you'll know it's done when all that comes off is the melted chocolate from the chips.

Aren't you glad your adventure in pumpkin bread making didn't start here? In the pumpkin patch? I always smile when I open up a can of pumpkin because it reminds me of my newlywed days. I was sitting with a group of other new wives and we were talking about all the treats we were making for our new hubbys to celebrate our first Thanksgiving together. One of them said, "Pumpkin pie, though, that's the worst. It took me all day and I'm never making one again!"

Um... awkward moment of silence until one of us asked what was so hard about making pumpkin pie.

"Well, first it was all about picking the right pumpkin, and then cooking it for, like, hours, and then scraping out the nasty stuff......." First we congratulated her on a job well done and then sheepishly informed her of the modern-day shortcut known as "canned pumpkin." Too funny. You have to wonder where she       even found that recipe?!
When you make this bread for your family (and maybe even some to give away?) you don't need to make an impressive meal. Just do what I did and open up 4 cans of soup, pour them into a pot, heat it up, and call it dinner. Who cares about what's for dinner when you've got yummy bread with chocolate chips in it for dessert?


Some of you have been asking me, "Why a blog?"

Answer: I don't really know...except it seems like fun, it gives me an outlet for creativity, and I want to share about my family's everyday for Jesus.

The real question is: Why on earth would you want to read my blog?!

Maybe it will encourage you sometimes?

Maybe it will make you smile or even laugh out loud.

Maybe you can just read it and go...." I can TOTALLY RELATE."

Maybe you'll just get a good recipe out of it!

Whatever reason you're taking a look at my blog, I'm glad you stopped by and THANK YOU! You are making it so much fun for me. Really.

SOOO......yesterday's giveaway. Thanks to everyone who took part both on the blog and on facebook. I'm going to include both sets of answers this time for a total of 11 people!!

I was hoping for 5, thinking 10 would be great-- so I'm really excited to enter 11 people in the drawing for a yummy caramel apple covered in chocolate...which I may or may not pick up two as long as I'm going back to get another one today!

Caleb was my photographer for these two pictures. Aren't you glad you can watch this step by step? Are you just really wondering who won the caramel apple already?! Well, my photographer agreed to get in the next picture to show you the name I picked out of the coffee cup.

oh, the suspense!


Yay Jenn with 2 n's! You are the winner of the giveaway! I'm so excited to send you your caramel looking for it in the mail, k?
Have a super Thursday, everyone! Don't forget to encourage your pastor this month!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Little Appreciation

Taking the time to appreciate someone in our busy lives is not always easy,
but don't you agree it's a cool thing? Especially because we're all so busy.
I'm wondering how you show the love?

I've found there's no greater love than homemade chocolate chip pumpkin bread in the fall. My fam sees me get out my stoneware bread pan and instantly knows:

*sweet bread is in their future

*some of it will disappear to other good homes

My friend, Lori, makes mini loaves of banana bread to give away. When I lived nearby, I always seemed to "stop by" when she was making her bread (funny how that would happen) and she'd ask me if I wanted male or female bread. With or without nuts. Ahem.

Caleb took this to his teacher today. Yesterday she took both morning and afternoon classes together to the pumpkin farm. 32 kids. Lots of head counts. The woman deserves this caramel apple I found at the grocery store. This absolutely fabulous-looking caramel apple covered in tons of colorful chocolately M&Ms that I wasn't (was) tempted to keep for myself.

Also pictured are the pumpkins we picked at the farm--Caleb managed to find one that was half green because that's his favorite color. Hey--other kids were picking the biggest pumpkins they could find and guess who had to carry said pumpkins? I love being a field trip chaperone!
So there you have it. Thankfulness and it's not even the month of November.
***But does anyone know what month it is? (don't answer October.....think deeper than who you could appreciate this month!) If you guess right, I'll pick one right answer by random # selection, and I'll send you one of these yummy caramel apples in the mail. Because if you know...that probably means you are taking part and I'm super proud of you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TT Creamy Crockpot Chicken

Today's tutorial is a dinner recipe I got from my sister, a newlywed for just 3 months now but with already very impressive kitchen skills!
The first time I made it I went from memory of what I thought she said was in it. Well--it turned out kinda scary when I tripled the amount of water needed and substituted sour cream for cream of chicken.
But seriously, if you just stick to the recipe, it's super easy, and has only 4 ingredients (not including the I supposed to include that when I count the # of ingredients? It's not like you have to go out and buy it to make this recipe!)

Creamy Crockpot Chicken

Chicken-- enough for "your people" (boneless/skinless)

3/4 cup water

1 packet dry italian dressing

1 cream cheese rectangle

1 can cream of chicken

BONUS: all ingredients can be found at Aldi. Add "cheap" to the list of things that make this recipe fantastic

Okay, here you go: (plan on 4 hours start to finish)

Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix 3/4 c water with italian dressing packet and pour on top of chicken. Cook on low 3 hours.

After 3 hours, mix cream cheese with cream of chicken and pour on top of cooked chicken. Cook an additional 1 hour and you're done. Really.

I served this with quick cook brown rice and microwave veggies for a full meal.

See the veggie pic? You can tell my family ate around 6:23. No matter how hard I try to get dinner on the table sooner--it just never happens. Anyone else feel like the 5pm hour goes by way too quickly? What's up with that?!

Well, it wasn't pizza and it wasn't hot dogs so my kids didn't love it....
but they did eat it.
Maybe it had something to do with wanting a piece of Aunt Mindy's fudge for dessert.
My children will do a lot for a piece of chocolate...I wonder where they get that from?!
Happy Tutorial Tuesday!