Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Book Room: Parents' Edition, Part 2

Mayim Bialik was the child star of the popular 1990s TV sitcom Blossom, but she definitely didn’t
follow the typical child-star trajectory. Instead, Mayim got her PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, married her college sweetheart, and had two kids. Mayim then did what many new moms do—she read a lot of books, talked with other parents, and she soon started questioning a lot of the conventional wisdom she heard about the “right” way to raise a child. That’s when she turned to attachment parenting, a philosophy and lifestyle popularized by well-known physicians like Dr. William Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon.

To Mayim, attachment parenting’s natural, child-led approach not only felt right emotionally, it made sense intellectually and instinctually. She found that when she followed her intuition and relaxed into her role as a mother instead of following some rigid parenting script, both she and her children thrived. Drawing on both her experience as a mother and her scientific background, Mayim presents the major tenets of attachment parenting, including:


How to avoid “sleep training” and get a great night’s sleep for the whole family.


Learn how to listen to your baby’s cues rather than sticking to a rigid schedule—and why people on airplanes love a nursing mother.


How to “wear” your baby in a sling or a wrap to develop a closer bond with your child—it’s possible even for mamas with bad backs (and with big babies)!

GENTLE DISCIPLINE How to get your child to behave without yelling, threats, or time-outs—it really can be done.

Mayim describes the beauty, simplicity, and purposefulness of attachment parenting, and how it has become the guiding principle for her family. Much more than a simple how-to parenting guide, Beyond the Sling shows us that the core principles underlying attachment parenting are universal and can be appreciated no matter how you decide to raise your child.

My thoughts: No matter what you think of Mayim and what you've heard or read, please give this book a go. This is a fantastic book on attachment parenting, and Mayim does a great job of encouraging her reader to do what's best for her and her child. There were a few things I disagreed with, one of which is not teaching your child anything before the age of 5 (like colors, shapes, numbers, etc.). Overall, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learned a lot that helped shape the way Jason and I are parenting our Bug.

Conventional wisdom tells parents that they should delay potty training to toddler age, and only after seeing signs of readiness. But is that really the best way?

In Diaper-Free Before 3, Dr. Jill Lekovic presents the new case that early training--beginning as early as nine months olds--is most natural, healthy, and beneficial for your child, based on medical evidence. By incorporating the potty into your child's routine early on, toilet training becomes far less stressful for both parent and child. Dr. Lekovic's method, which she has used successfully with her own kids and recommends to patients, helps children become better aware of their body's signals, boosts confidence, and decreases the risk of urinary health problems.

The guide includes informative chapters on bedwetting, accidents, and adapting the method for day care, special-needs children, and older toddlers. Offering a technique that really works and turns toilet training into a positive experience, Diaper-Free Before 3 is sure to become a new parenting classic.

My thoughts: This is, pants down (hahaha!), the best potty training book I have ever read. If you're struggling with potty training or dreading potty training, this book is for you. It doesn't matter what you think about potty training: just read this book and see if the advice given here helps your situation. This book helped solidify my potty training plans for Bug. It was a really great read backed with research and just plain common sense.

Featuring 400 signs, this is the most comprehensive, user-friendly handbook for parents who want to enhance communication with any child through American Sign Language.

Laura Berg is one of the world’s go-to experts on baby sign language. The Baby Signing Bible makes her extensive research and easy-to-follow instructions available to all parents.

As confirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, infant sign language is a boon for enhancing communication between parents and babies, helping to forge an important bond early in a child’s life. The Baby Signing Bible provides step-by-step instructions for parents and other caregivers, as well as insight into why baby sign language is useful for children of all ages. Kids with special needs can also benefit greatly from this program. Featuring 400 signs, the book covers essential nouns such as milk, verbs such as eat, and descriptors such as more. In addition, The Baby Signing Bible features real-life stories from parents who have successfully signed with their children, along with fun songs and games that help families learn to “sign and sing.” Confidence-building illustrations enhance the basics for mastering vocabulary words.

My thoughts: This is the best baby sign language book I've found. I loved it so much, I bought a copy. There are many signs in the back of the book, so you can teach your child signs relevant to his or her world. For instance, this book included signs for bear and monster. Bug has a teddy bear she is in love with, and she has a monster doll (and her room has a monster theme). If you're teaching your child sign language, I highly recommend this book as a resource you'll turn to time and time again.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homemade: Cat Treats

I'm so excited for this homemade recipe! Preston has so many allergies to food that it is often difficult to find treats for him that won't make him scratch himself until he is injured. He gobbled up these treats very quickly, and he never scratched himself maliciously. There's only one oddball ingredient - wheat germ. We found a big container of this at WalMart for a few dollars.

  • 1 can tuna fish, undrained
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

  1. Mix everything together with a fork. If needed, add a bit more flour until the mixture is no longer sticky and can be formed into a ball.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Place the ball on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and flatten the ball to about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into half inch wide strips, horizontally and vertically.
  6. Bake for about 12 minutes.
  7. Take the sheet from the oven and separate the pieces. Flip the pieces, then cook for another 5 minutes, or until pieces are crispy.
  8. Let the treats cool, then store them in the fridge.
A word of warning: I had to fight Preston continuously from not eating the raw batter and to not eat the hot treats while I was separating them. If you have an obnoxious (but adorable) kitty like mine, you may want to store him or her in a separate room while you are cooking up these treats.

I'm a very good helper in the kitchen!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Crafty Christmas: Peanut Butter Granola

Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 8 weeks away!

I'm a huge fan of food gifts for the holidays, but I think we can all agree that giving cookies is generic. So many of your gift recipients may be getting cookies that they may have to give them away so they don't go to waste! That's why I love unique food gifts. This peanut butter granola totally fits the bill, plus read through to the end to discover another alternative to using and gifting granola!

Here's what you need to make homemade peanut butter granola:

  • 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup oats
Here's how you make it:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray {I use olive oil in a spray mister thing}.
  3. Combine peanut butter and honey in bowl; microwave until peanut butter is melted which is about 30 seconds for me. Stir.
  4. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Then, stir in oats. Make sure oats are all covered in honey mixture.
  5. Spread oat mixture on cookie sheet; cook for 7 - 8 minutes.
  6. Let cool on wax paper.

Last Christmas season, I made several batches of granola. I made each batch separately but consecutively, using a clean bowl each time. Five batches makes enough for 4 half pint jars, 2 pint jars and some left over. One batch makes enough for 1 half pint jar filled plus some left over.

If the person you're making granola for isn't a huge fan of yogurt {or maybe you're making this for yourself and thinking, "What am I going to use this for?"}, have no fear! Here's a fantastic alternative for your granola - trail mix! Here's what you need:
  • 1 batch of peanut butter granola
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup raisins

Doesn't this look yummy? I can almost guarantee that no one else will be giving granola to those on your gift list. Happy crafting!

P.S. The original recipe can be found here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

This Book Room: Parents' Edition, Part 1

Most new parents think of diapers as a smelly, expensive, and unavoidable necessity. The good news is that it’s possible—even practical—to raise your kids without diapers. In Diaper Free!, Ingrid Bauer shows how you can:

* Save thousands of dollars * Reduce landfill waste (single-use disposable diapers are responsible for one third of the non- biodegradable waste in landfills) * Avoid diaper rash * Use the "Four Tools for Diaper Freedom” to enhance your relationship with your baby and deepen communication. 

Based on extensive research, case studies, and the author’s own experience, Diaper Free! is a warm and helpful companion at every stage, from the first magical days of your baby’s life, to complete toilet independence.

My thoughts: While we're not practicing elimination communication as it is outlined in this book, this book is truly a must-read for any parent. It changed the way I looked at potty training, which was already a kind of odd way compared to most parents. I believed in starting potty training at 1 year old. Based on this book and another book, I changed my mind to when Bug can sit up on her own. Whatever you think about diapers, this book will be eye opening for you. It definitely was for me.

"Baby-Led Weaning" explodes the myth that babies need to be spoon-fed and shows why self-
feeding from the start of the weaning process is the healthiest way for your child to develop. With baby-led weaning (BLW, for short), you can skip purees and make the transition to solid food by following your baby's cues.

At about six months, most babies are ready to join the family at the kitchen table and discover food for themselves. "Baby-Led Weaning" is the definitive guide to this crucial period in your child's development, and shows you how to help your baby:
Participate in family meals right from the start
Experiment with food at his or her own pace
Develop new abilities, including hand-eye coordination and chewing
Learn to love a variety of foods and to enjoy mealtimes

Baby-led weaning became a parenting phenomenon in the UK practically overnight, inspiring a fast-growing and now international online community of parents who practice baby-led weaning--with blogs and pictures to prove it! In "Baby-Led Weaning, " world-leading BLW authority Gill Rapley and early BLW practitioner and coauthor Tracey Murkett deliver everything you need to know about raising healthy, confident eaters.

My thoughts: I was planning to make Bug's baby food. Then I read this book. And it totally changed my mind on how babies should be fed. Baby-led weaning just makes sense: let the baby feed him/herself. Bug totally snatched a stalk of celery from Jason's plate at about 5 months old. We're easing into her eating real food. At the time of this writing, Bug is about 7 months old and is 99.9999% on breast milk. The other night, she noshed on a green bean. I don't think she swallowed anything. And this book covers everything you need to know: why it doesn't matter if Bug is actually digesting anything or not, why Bug can't really choke, why babies will choose the right foods for them. This was an incredibly fascinating read.

At a very young age, children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see and do, learning at an unprecedented rate. This ability to learn so quickly is what allows them to start speaking on an average between 10 months and 2 years old, and to pick up many grown-up mannerisms in infancy. American Sign Language (ASL) is the most recent discovery for infants, and is a very popular way of working their brains and teaching them not only an early form of communication, but the third-most spoken language in the United States. For those parents who teach their babies sign language at a young age and continue into childhood, it is possible for their child to learn quicker in school, and likely to be bilingual or even trilingual before reaching high school.

This book will guide every parent through the process of teaching an infant the necessary steps to understand beginning sign language. You will learn what you should expect from signing, from the basics of the program to the reactions you will get from your baby. You will learn how to get started by teaching yourself first, what the first signs you should focus on for your child, and when you should start teaching. You will learn how sign language can aid in the potty training process, and how it can help your child with his or her early learning and reading skills. You will be given a complete troubleshooting section with common problems you may encounter to help you when things do not go according to plan. You will also be given details about how to instruct and teach babysitters and nannies to use the same sign language while teaching your child.

Sign language experts, both for adults and children, have been interviewed and have provided their insight into how signing can change the interactions between you and your child. Learn how to develop signs as your child gets older and more cognitive, and how to combine signs into longer communications and even sentences well before he can speak. You will also learn how to start taming tantrums even before your child is 1 year old with sign language, and how to continue signing into older childhood, teaching your child full ASL and then branching out to additional options. For any new parents looking to get a jump-start on teaching babies sign language, this book is your complete guide. Sign language is not only a great way to boost a child's intellect; it can help make your life much easier.

Unlike other books on this subject, this book will explore "Deaf Culture" and tips for teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children sign language. It will also address how hearing children of deaf parents use sign language. The book also includes ways you can take use your new skill in signing and use it in different career opportunities. With this book, you'll share a different communication experience with your child and explore new possibilities.

My thoughts: Since the Duggars first had a reality television show and I saw their babies could sign, I knew I would teach sign language to my pre-verbal babies, should God ever bless us with one. And we are signing to Bug every day. I was so excited to read this book, but I would highly advise you skip this one. Unless you're looking to teach sign language so your baby will know a second language, and this is not the priority for me, this book isn't a great book for you. The author goes on and on about why a baby should know a second language, and that's not the angle I'm going for. I just want to communicate with my pre-verbal baby, and I'm totally okay with Bug not signing once she can talk. If she wants to keep learning ASL, fine. If not, that's great, too. I did enjoy the exercises outlined in the book and thought those were interesting. There are not very many signs at the back of the book, though, so this book isn't great for a signing resource, either. If you know nothing about why one would want to teach ASL to a baby, this book might be a good starting point for you.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Amish Sugar Cake

The best part about this recipe is that it makes two cakes. You can keep one for yourself and bless a family with the second one. Or, if you're having company over, you'll have a bunch of cake for everyone. But it's nice to give one away and save someone else the hassle of baking a treat for the week. We found the original recipe here.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease two round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, white sugar and baking powder.
  3. Mix in the egg, vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Stir until well combined.
  4. Poured into prepared cake pans. Sprinkle with brown sugar, then cinnamon. Drizzle 1/3 cup melted butter evenly over the two cakes.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes. The top will be firm and crackly looking.
Please enjoy!

Chef Jason

Monday, October 21, 2013

Purposeful Parenting: how much is this going to cost?

photo credit
The second I knew I was pregnant, dollar signs began flashing in my head. Not only did not my debt-free dream die in that moment (for the time being anyway), I knew this was going to cost big bucks.

First things first: familiarize yourself with your health insurance. Don't have health insurance? Now that you're pregnant, you qualify for Medicaid. Whatever you do, be sure you end up with some health insurance, either Medicaid or otherwise, as soon as possible.

My health insurance included a $1,000 deductible and copays and co-insurance. All told, we spent quite a few thousand just on healthcare costs throughout the pregnancy and after.

Once you have a general picture of your deductible, copays and co-insurance, decide on your birthing plan and how much the birth will cost. After I met my deductible, I would be required to pay a 20% co-insurance of the birth. I had a very good picture of what the bills would be, so the next step was easy:

Save, save, save

We picked a dollar amount we would need for our hospital bills and began saving. Once that goal was defined and in place, we started working on the next bit:

What do we need for the baby? How much will all of that cost?

Thankfully, we are frugal by nature. We spent time and money buying what we needed from and garage sales. The rest was filled in by relatives with hand-me-downs and Christmas gifts. If you opt for a baby shower, you can fill in the rest there. Our biggest expense was cloth diapers. It was a big expense in the beginning, but to date (as of this writing, Bug is just about 7 months old), we've spent less than $100 on diapers. We use paper at night and when we leave the house (most of the time anyway), and we use cloth the rest of the time.

After we accumulated everything we needed for Bug, there was just one more expense left to tackle:

Maternity and paternity leave

Decide how long you and your partner will take off work and know this may change. Jason actually chose to take off more time from work than I imagined - he took two weeks when I originally thought one week (at the time, he was working part-time). Two weeks was fantastic, though, and it was definitely the right decision! Go hubby!

I originally planned to take eight weeks off from work, and I only took seven. One huge factor that played a part in that was I originally thought my employer would keep paying the employer part of my health insurance. During my maternity leave, I found out that was not case and I would have to pay all of it. That motivated me to return to work that much faster as our maternity/paternity leave costs were much higher than I anticipated due to this.

The easiest way to determine your maternity/paternity leave costs is to figure out how much you spend in living expenses. Be sure to include the obvious items, like rent, water, cell phone bill and electricity. Be sure to include some budget line items you might not normally include, like a newborn photo session, items your baby might need/want that you hadn't thought of before the birth, extra money for gas to visit relatives with the new baby in tow and so on.

Planning, financially speaking, for our leaves from work really helped us bond with Bug all the better because finances weren't really a concern. We knew we had several thousand in the bank to cover our living expenses and medical bills. It felt so good to pay all the medical bills as they came in! We were able to maintain our sanity and our normal lifestyle due to our diligence of planning and saving. It wasn't easy, but I truly believe this made all the difference in bonding with Bug those first few weeks.

Lastly, I just have to mention that all those reports that indicate it costs $250,000 to raise a child from infancy are just crazy. I'm sure you could easily spend that much. But you really don't have to to raise a beautiful, intelligent, creative, God-loving little one. Bug wears hand-me-downs. She's also a very well dressed baby! People are shocked when they comment on her adorable outfit and I respond with, "Thanks! I got it at a garage sale." You can be frugal and have children. Your child will likely grow up a better person because of it. Your children really only desire your love. The greatest and best toy you could ever give them is yourself.

photo credit

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Book Room: Adventure Storybook Bible Set with Audio CDs

This storybook Bible for kids ages 4-7 will start them on a journey of discovering about the Bible and growing with God as they grow up with the Adventure Bible, at every age and stage, beginning with the Bible Storybook and continuing on through age 12 with the NIV edition. At every twist and turn, the Adventure Bible Storybook is filled with---what else---ADVENTURE! Parents and loved ones can be assured that children who read it will learn the main stories and themes from the Bible, but all within a fun, exciting theme of discovering, imagination, and suspense---everything you'd expect from a fantastic adventure. This storybook includes some lesser known stories that are particularly adventurous, such as Paul's shipwreck on the island of Malta, and when the Israelites went to spy on the people of Canaan.

My thoughts: First, can I just say that I love my job? The fact that I can get items like this for free for our Bug just blows my mind! This Bible set is just gorgeous. The pictures in this book are so vivid, so colorful. It is perfect for children! The stories are simple enough for children to grasp and ponder. I love that there is an equal mix of Old Testament and New Testament stories. The audio CDs are a huge bonus! Jason is an avid audio book listener. I never have been, but am considering it, and I think Bug will enjoy both reading and listening to stories. The audio CDs are perfect for listening to while you're working on something else - I can imagine her playing these while falling asleep in bed, helping make dinner or playing in the living room. I'm so excited for her to grow up with this set! If you're looking for a simple Bible set for your little, this would be absolutely perfect. You won't be disappointed!

Thanks to for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cheesy Zucchini Rice

We were gifted with zucchini from a couple of people this year, and we were able to make several yummy items with them. This rice dish is dirt simple and tasty. It's an easy way to get in an extra bit of veggie, too.

  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Heat the EVOO in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice and stir. Toast the rice for a few minutes.
  3. Pour in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover.
  4. Cook, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed into the rice.
  5. Remove from heat and add cheese, zucchini, butter, pepper and garlic powder.
  6. Stir until well mixed, then let sit for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve.
Please enjoy!
Chef Jason

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Book Room: Glittering Promises

America’s newest heiress must decide if her potential fortune is rationale enough to give up her freedom and all that God is leading her toward. And when her newly-discovered siblings are threatened with ruin, her quandary deepens. Then as Cora nears Rome, more journalists are track the news story of the decade—“Copper Cora,” the rags-to-riches girl—and want to know more about her family and the men vying for her attention. Meanwhile, a charming Italian countess decides that if Cora isn’t going to claim Will’s heart, she might just try...

Additional notes: This is the third book in the Grand Tour series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here.

My thoughts: This was an awesome conclusion to this series. But I have to say... I really wouldn't mind reading more about Cora's life! The story is so good that I wanted to know more, more, more. I love that this story has intrigue, mystery, romance {a smidgen which is just fine by me!} and history. Reading this series is like getting a history lesson.

I chuckled quite a bit at the parts where the "paparazzi" are chasing Cora down, as I imagined modern-day celebs fighting off the paparazzi. It was a really funny visual to imagine Cora in a full-on gown, hair coiffed and running from men with old-school cameras. The story is well written and provides quite the picture for the reader.

The story is, at its heart, quite innocent. I truly enjoyed about this series. I highly recommend this series and am really glad I discovered this author.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This Book Room

Having watched her life turn into a nor’easter, 34-year-old Leelee Satterfield is back home in the South, ready to pick back up where she left off. But that’s a task easier said then done…Leelee’s a single mom, still dreaming of the Vermonter who stole her heart, and accompanied by her three best friends who pepper her with advice, nudging and peach daiquiris, Leelee opens another restaurant and learns she has to prove herself yet again.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Dixie series. The third book was just released. You can read my review of the first book here.

My thoughts: The first book left readers with quite a cliff hanger, and I was so anxious to read this book! While still enjoyable, it was not as good as the first. I'm hoping the third book brings redemption to this series. The characters in the first book were so fun to read, and the author clearly tried to create lovable, fun characters in this book. The characters just fell flat for me. Honestly, it kind of felt like the author was trying too hard with the characters. They didn't feel authentic. I would probably skip this book unless you loved the first book and are one of those people who stick with a series no matter what (and I am not one of those people. I can't even tell you how many times I've not finished a series).

Joshua has come home. 

 But home is no more peaceful than it was during the "time long ago" remembered by Joshua. Violent, seemingly intractable disputes poison the very air. It falls to Joshua, retracing the path taken two millennia ago, to lead his followers to peace in this world as well as in the next. Joshua in the Holy Land will carry every reader back to where it all began.

 Back to Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Back to Capernaum and Bethany.
Back to Jerusalem.

 Full of resonances with the Gospels, Joshua in the Holy Land is a profoundly satisfying addition to the Joshua phenomenon.
Additional notes: This is the third book in the Joshua series. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here.

My thoughts: This was a good book, but it was not great. I couldn't really say why, but I just didn't connect with the plot as much as I have with the other books. I would still read this book, as there are nuggets in each book that have stuck with me long after I have finished them. But all told, this book is definitely my least favorite in the series.

Paw Prints in the Moonlight is the truly special tale of one kind man and the cat that changed his life. Set in the rural splendor of Northumberland, England, this heartwarming and classic book will be cherished by people of all ages.

When Denis O'Connor rescues a three-week-old kitten from certain death during a snowstorm, little does he know how this tiny creature will change his life forever. Against all odds the kitten—whom he names Toby Jug—survives and turns out to be a wondrous Maine Coon Cat extraordinaire. Life with Toby is never dull, and Denis and Toby embark on a series of sometimes comical, sometimes poignant adventures that bring them ever closer together. From the massive invasion of bees at Owl Cottage to the mysterious case of the disappearing tomatoes, Denis and Toby form an extraordinary bond, and the cat that no one thought would live through the night ends up altering the lives of everyone he meets.

My thoughts: This book was very... odd. The author seems to be an odd sort of fellow. His cat is highly entertaining, but this is a very different sort of book. I found it difficult to really get into. I think it was the author's voice - it was sort of hum drum and... kind of boring. I hate to give this kind of review, but in all honesty, I would probably skip this book if I knew then what I know now. I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you're just crazy about all cat stories (I am not, but I do love cats and all animals passionately).

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. It was just released in September. The second book is due out next year.

My thoughts: Run, don't walk, to your local library to check out this book. Jason and I both loved it. It's so funny and silly and just plain good. We both mentioned to each other that we may actually need to purchase this book for Bug later on - this is the first really good adventure book we've read with a female lead. Your kids will love this book. The target audience is 8 to 12 year olds, but really, anyone can read this book. It's fairly innocent and just really, really good. The gargoyle adds an extra dose of silliness to the book.

It’s 1863 and 10-year-old Emmy Blue Hatchett has been told by her father that soon their family will leave their farm, family, and friends in Illinois, and travel west to a new home in Colorado. It’s difficult leaving family and friends behind. They might not see one another ever again. When Emmy’s grandmother comes to say goodbye, she gives Emmy a special gift to keep her occupied on the trip. The journey by wagon train is long and full of hardships. But the Hatchetts persevere and reach their destination in Colorado, ready to start their new life.

My thoughts: If you're fan of Little House on the Prairie books or enjoyed playing Oregon Trail, you will love this book. There were really sad parts, though, which really are part of life on a trail like this. This story was gripping, entertaining and made me smile. I'm not always a fan of Sandra's books, but this one was a hit for me!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Celery Root Soup with Bacon

Well, we have been not trying as many new recipes as we had in the past since Bug was born. All you parents know how free time sort of vanishes when you have a kid. Then, we decided to purchase a weekly pail from a company called Veggie Pails. They showed up at our door with a bucket of fruits and vegetables, 1/2 of which Jess and I had never seen before. It also came with a recipe card that incorporated many of the fresh veggies (and one of the fruits as well) so of course we had to give it a try (also what the heck else is there to do with celery root?).

This recipe requires a food processor or something similar that can blend cooked veggies into creamy goodness so if you do not have anything of the sort, please do not attempt this recipe. You will only be disappointed.

It must be noted that in the past, Jess and I may have shown some disdain for bacon. This is because is seems that somehow it has become common practice to use bacon as a condiment instead of what it is: a very fattening meat product that you should enjoy infrequently.

Also I have to tell you: bacon ice cream scares me.

  • 3 strips bacon
  • 1 leek; cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks; cleaned and chopped
    • The fresh Michigan celery stalks provided in our VeggiePail were of the smaller persuasion so I used 3.
  • 2 Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • I cheated and just used 4 chicken bullion cubes and 4 cups water.
  • 2 celery roots; peeled and cubed
    • I needed assistance from YouTube just to know how to do this, as celery root is sort of intimidating when viewed for the first time.
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • In a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp.
  • Remove bacon from dutch oven but leave the yummy drippings.
  • Add the leek, celery. and apples and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring a lot.
  • Add celery root and stock (broth) to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium low.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Ladle the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
    • You will most likely need to work in batches.
  • In a clean pot, stir together the recently blended soup with the cream.
  • Cook this over low heat until heated through.
  • While cooking, chop up the bacon into small pieces.
  • Use the bacon as garnish.
  • This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.
We only needed to purchase the bacon and cream to make this recipe and the rest came from our Veggie Pail and pantry.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This Book Room: Women Living Well

Women desire to live well. However, living well in this modern world is a challenge. The pace of life, along with the new front porch of social media, has changed the landscape of our lives. Women have been told for far too long that being on the go and accumulating more things will make their lives full. As a result, we grasp for the wrong things in life and come up empty.

God created us to walk with him; to know him and to be loved by him. He is our living well and when we drink from the water he continually provides, it will change us. Our marriages, our parenting, and our homemaking will be transformed.

Mommy-blogger Courtney Joseph is a cheerful realist. She tackles the challenge of holding onto vintage values in a modern world, starting with the keys to protecting our walk with God. No subject is off-limits as she moves on to marriage, parenting, and household management.

My thoughts: It has earned a permanent spot on our bookshelf. Courtney is so down-to-earth and so awesome. She has a huge heart, and her heart is set on Jesus. If you're a mom, if you're a wife, if you're single, you can benefit from this book. She tackles real-life issues, like social media, which this mama and wife needed. She has fantastic ideas for all areas of one's life - homemaking, marriage, finding time to be alone with God, parenting. One quote I particularly loved was: "Will the world change your children, or will your children change the world? The answer to that is in your parenting."

The book is broken into four sections, and the section on marriage was really wonderful. Included is a 10-day challenge for wives to complete for their husbands. I plan to re-read this book and complete the challenge for Jason. If you completed the Love Dare, it's similar to that.

In short, I really can't recommend this book enough. I implore you to pick up a copy today. If you don't see it at your local library, ask your librarian to order a copy! If you have the means to, purchase a copy. You definitely won't regret it.

Thanks to for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Purposeful Parenting: Keeping your Infant Well Groomed

photo credit
We'll be the first ones to admit it: we're a little crazy about hygiene in our house. I really couldn't tell you why, except it just drives us nuts when we're not well groomed. And if we see a child who is not well groomed, that just puts our panties in a bunch.

Before we were married, before we had Bug, we knew we would be sticklers about hygiene for our future children. And I can tell you that definitely hasn't changed since Bug arrived.

If anything, we're even more crazy about it than I thought we would be.

With infants, though, you do have to be careful about over-grooming them. Some of you may be even thinking you didn't know you had to groom babies! Well, you do. Here are some good guidelines to follow:

Babies 0 - 3 months:
  • Bathe 2x a week
  • Clip fingernails 1x a week {or if you prefer, file 3 - 4x a week}
  • Brush hair 1x a day {this may not be an issue if your baby doesn't have curly, frizzy hair}
  • Wash face and neck 1x a day
  • Clip toenails once every two months {more often as needed}
Babies 3 - 12 months:
  • Bathe 3x a week
  • Clip fingernails 1x a week {or if you prefer, file daily}
  • Brush hair 1x a day {this may not be an issue if your baby doesn't have curly, frizzy hair}
  • Wash face and neck 2x a day
  • Clip toenails 1x a month {more often as needed}
As your baby grows into toddlerhood {Bug isn't there yet so I'm not sure what her grooming needs will be at that time}, you may need to bathe more often since your baby will be running around and getting into all sorts of dirty good things.

There are many reasons to keep your baby well groomed, and really, it's not so you have a well groomed baby because you just want a well groomed baby. Here are the issues we ran into if we didn't keep Bug well groomed all the time:
  1. Bug's hair developed snarls. At 8 weeks of age. I have no clue if this is normal, but I'm guessing not. I'm rather sure it's because she was blessed {ahem, CURSED} with my hair, which is curly and frizzy. If we don't brush her hair daily {and often times, we do it multiple times a day}, she gets snarls. Which are no fun for her and no fun for us to get out.
  2. Bug's nails would scratch her and us. One time, it looked like she got in a cat fight. When she's tired, she pulls at her eyes, her ears, her face. If her nails aren't kept short {which I prefer anyway as that's how I keep my nails}, she'll scratch up her face.
  3. Bug developed a rash on her neck. Unfortunately, keeping her neck washed didn't eliminate this, but I believe it helped contain the rash.
  4. Bug loves, loves, loves bath time. If we could, we would keep her in the bath all day {with one of us in there for supervision of course!}. She just loves it. So it's in the best interest for her and us for us to bathe her regularly.
I understand that keeping your kid well groomed can be work. I'm right there with you. But here's the thing: if you don't keep your kid well groomed now, you won't later. And if you don't later, they're going to fight you when you eventually realize your kid is a real, little person with grooming needs just like everyone else. I know a couple of kids who fight their parents on having their hair cut, their nails cut, just about everything one could do to a kid, grooming-wise. They didn't become used to it as a baby, then as a toddler, so they want nothing to do with it now. Set up good habits now, and you'll see the reward of that hard work later.

Grooming can be difficult with just one person. We tend to make sure both of us are home when we're grooming Bug, just in case the other person is needed. Here are some other tips that may help:
  • Clip fingernails when your baby is sleeping.
  • Give baths a little before bedtime. If your baby gets a little cranky at night {Bug was cranky a bit at night around 3 months}, do it before your baby has reached the peak of crankiness. A bath will also help calm and soothe your baby, and it always helped put Bug to bed that much quicker.
  • At the first diaper change of the day {not in the middle of the night, but the 6 AM or 9 AM diaper change}, have everything ready to do your daily grooming: wash face and neck, file nails, brush hair. This way, you won't forget to groom her daily and you're developing a routine for baby that morning is the time we get ready for the day. It'll be something she can expect each day.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Saving the Moola: September in review

If you haven't yet read our State of Our House Address and saw my big announcement, I am now a stay-at-home mama! This change may not permanent, but for the foreseeable future, I will be staying home with my Bug and managing our home.

This definitely means a drop in income, but I will have more time to manage our home even more effectively, which will help us save money. September was a great month in terms of our finances, and I'm so happy for that. Our car loan is now paid off more than 40%, and I'm hoping we can get it 50% done in October. That might be a long shot, but I'm hopeful!

If you haven't yet checked out our best ways to produce extra income post, you'll definitely want to check it out. I present my best ideas for producing extra income without taking on a traditional job. Whether you're a stay-at-home mama or cannot or will not leave your home for one reason or another, there are ways to produce income if you're in need of money.

The savings represented below take into account what we have to spend to save money. For instance, with our raspberry jam, I took into account how much we paid for the raspberries, pectin and sugar used to make the jam, then figured out how much we would have spent to see how much we truly saved. Some of the things we did to save money in September include:
  • I cut Jason's hair. Savings: $12
  • We busted out our drying racks and began line drying clothes. If we used our apartment complex's dryer, we would spend $1.50 per load to dry. We did not bring out our dryer racks until it was almost the end of the month, so our savings wasn't too high, but it'll be higher in October. Savings: $3
  • We made a batch of homemade laundry detergent. One batch lasts about one month. Savings: $3
  • We made glass cleaner. Savings: $1
  • We canned 4 pints of tomatoes from our garden. Savings: $2
  • We froze 2 half pints of cherry tomatoes from our garden and my parents' garden. Savings: $1
  • We canned two batches of raspberry jam. Savings: $24
  • Jason learned how to bake bread from scratch and began baking bread for our family each week. Each loaf is about 70 cents to make and we spend $1.70 on a comparable loaf at the store. Savings: $12
Total savings: $58

Then there are things that it's difficult to figure out the dollar savings for, but I'm rather certain they save us money. Like making breakfast, lunch and dinner at home each day. Using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Using cloth diapers rather than paper diapers. Feeding Bug breast milk instead of formula {actually, some of these might be easy to figure out, but still, you get the idea}. I just presented some of the things we did to save money this month above. I hope it encourages you to reach beyond your normal frugal activities and try new ones. A frugal lifestyle isn't always easy, and boy is it work, but it is very much worth it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Book Room

A stronger Joshua arrives in a deceptively ordinary village only to witness the doings of unscrupulous leaders and violent people. The children are the first to recognize that something is quite different about this stranger who has come seemingly from nowhere. It is through the villagers' children that Joshua is able to restore a sense of peacefulness and honesty.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Joshua series. You can read my review of the first book here. There are several books in this series, all of which have been released.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and enjoy this series thoroughly so far. I've read other reviews, which noted they thought it was an unrealistic story because who would allow their children to go off with a stranger. To address that in my own way (since this is my blog and I can say whatever I want here), I would just say in this day and age, maybe it's a bit unrealistic. But in the ideal world, which is Heaven, my Bug can go off with whomever she wants. I don't know if I would truly recognize Jesus if He walked Earth today. I would love to say I would. But hardly anyone recognized Him when He came and walked among us from infancy. I don't have a naturally trusting heart, but I know with Him, I've given my life. My Bug, my marriage, myself, my every day. This book encapsulates that we are to trust Him with everything and to love everyone. Whether or not this book is realistic, that message is relevant and true. It doesn't matter how you get that message. It just matters that you get it.

Americans from all walks of life are still feeling the roller-coaster effects of the Great Recession. For  many, home values are still too low and unemployment is still too high. Others have prospered despite the ups and downs. In Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul, the renowned broadcaster examines our new paradigm through the eyes of those whose financial portfolios have beaten the odds, and those whose economic situation has gone off course. Through these fascinating personal accounts, readers uncover amazing opportunities and smart decisions, finding advantages in bleak times for lasting payoffs in the long run.

My thoughts: You won't necessarily learn something new from this book. I did not (that I can recall at this time). However, I found the stories within incredibly interesting. If you want a snapshot of America today, read this book. I was not so much a fan of stories where Clark Howard claims Americans are still doing well, as in most of those stories, the people had started their businesses some 30 years ago, when as we all know, the business landscape was much different. This was an eye-opening read, all in all, and I definitely recommend it.

Leelee Satterfield seemed to have it all: a gorgeous husband, two adorable daughters, and roots in the sunny city of Memphis, Tennessee.  So when her husband gets the idea to uproot the family to run a quaint Vermont inn, Leelee is devastated…and her three best friends are outraged.  But she’s loved Baker Satterfield since the tenth grade, how can she not indulge his dream?  Plus, the glossy photos of bright autumn trees and smiling children in ski suits push her over the edge…after all, how much trouble can it really be?

But Leelee discovers pretty fast that there’s a truckload of things nobody tells you about Vermont until you live there: such as mud season, vampire flies, and the danger of ice sheets careening off roofs.  Not to mention when her beloved Yorkie decides to pick New Year’s Eve to go to doggie heaven-she encounters one more New England oddity: frozen ground means you can’t bury your dead in the winter.  And that Yankee idiosyncrasy just won’t do.

The inn they’ve bought also has its host of problems: an odor that no amount of potpourri can erase, tacky d├ęcor, and a staff of peculiar Vermonters whose personalities are as unique as the hippopotamus collection gracing the fireplace mantle.  The whole operation is managed by Helga, a stern German woman who takes special delight in bullying Leelee for her southern gentility.  Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for Leelee to start wondering when to drag out the moving boxes again.

But when an unexpected hardship takes Leelee by surprise, she finds herself left alone with an inn to run, a mortgage to pay, and two daughters to raise.  But this Southern belle won’t be run out of town so easily.  Drawing on the Southern grit and inner strength she didn’t know she had, Leelee decides to turn around the Inn, her attitude and her life.  In doing so, she makes friends with her neighbors, finds a little romance, and realizes there’s a lot more in common with Vermont than she first thought.

In this moving and comedic debut, Lisa Patton paints a hilarious portrait of life in Vermont as seen through the eyes of a southern belle readers won’t soon forget.  A charming fish-out-of-water tale of one woman who learns to stand up for herself-in sandals and snow boots-against the odds.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Dixie series. There are three books in this series, the latest of which is due to be released this year.

My thoughts: This was a fun read, overall. It's best read in the winter, while eating something decadent and in the tub with bubbles. The end of the book was a true cliff-hanger and left me wanting more immediately. The characters in the book were hilarious and fun. This book kind of reminded me of Gilmore girls, in terms of its crazy characters. I love small towns. If you do, too, check out this book.

It's the summer of 1979, and a dry, hot, northern California school vacation stretches ahead for

Left to their own devices, the inseparable sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the life of the mysterious neighbor who moves in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that rises up behind their house.

When young women start showing up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is charged with finding the man responsible, known as The Sunset Strangler. Seeing her father's life slowly unravel when he fails to stop the murders, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet: setting herself up as bait to catch the killer, with consequences that will destroy her father's career and alter the lives of everyone she loves.

It is not until thirty years later that Rachel, who has never given up hope of vindicating her father, finally smokes out the killer, bringing her back to the territory of her childhood, and uncovering a long-buried family secret.
Rachel and her younger sister Patty-the daughters a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome and chronically unfaithful detective father who loves to make women happy, and the mother whose heart he broke.

My thoughts: Unfortunately, if you just read that summary, which is provided by, you know the first 225 pages of the 300 page book. The good news is that the first 225 pages are riveting, even if you just read the summary. The bad news is that the last 75 pages don't really match with the  first 225. The ending was kind of anti-climatic. It just fell flat for me. I was so riveted by this story. I wanted to ignore everyone and read it. And the end was just boring for me. That was disappointing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

State of Our House Address: September in review

Fall arrived in September, and that made my heart very happy. Crisp air, fresh apples, cozy sweaters. Ahhh.

The month was fun, but before I give a full review on our month, I would be remiss if I didn't just skip to the end because that was very eventful. Business has been slow at my job, and due to that, I was laid off. I am sad, in that I loved my job and truly believed I was doing good work there and truly helped companies. I had worked there for more than six years, and as I am 28 years old, that's quite a long time for my age. During my time there, I was married, had a baby, began a true and wonderful relationship with God and really found myself.

But I will definitely enjoy getting to spend time with my Bug and managing our home. I'm entering the next phase of my life and am looking forward to new opportunities. I'm trusting in God to provide for our family {and for the sake of honesty, unemployment!} and trusting He has a great plan for us.

My job situation changed near the end of the month. But a lot happened before that! We visited the apple orchard and picked apples. That was crazy good fun. I had my camera, I think, but we had two other children with us and it was so busy I didn't have time to take pictures. We plan to go back in October to pick more apples with just Bug so I hope to get pictures then. Bug loves apples. My goodness, she is obsessed with them. They feel good on her teeth and are tasty. It's cute to watch her figure out how to eat one.

My Bug turned 6 months old in September. Can you believe it? I really can't. An incredible friend who we met at church is a fantastic photographer and graciously took Bug's newborn and 6-month pics. Here's my absolute favorite. My Bug looks like a little model!

We've been reading to Bug every day. Usually, we read a children's book, but if we don't read one of those, we read to her from our Bible, our devotional or from a book we're currently reading. Just reading anything to her helps her learn the cadence of language and engages her. She has become pretty obsessed with books. She enjoys teething on them and figuring out how to open the book and look at pictures.

Our car starting acting funny near the end of the month and the service engine soon light came on. We had a reading done on it, and my dad concluded we just needed a tune-up {new spark plugs, etc.}. We worked on that together, my dad, me and Jason, and that didn't totally solve the issue. We're still working on figuring it out, which is difficult because of our crazy schedules, but hopefully, we can get the issue resolved soon. Thankfully, the car drives fine, just a little vibration, so I'm praying everything works out okay. While we visited my parents to work on our car, I spent some time with my niece and nephew. My niece, Izzy, is pretty taken with my Bug, which is funny to see. Later in the day, we busted out watercolor paints and a book for them to color. My niece was very focused on her painting and did a great job!

We finished our garden in September and canned more tomatoes. We also froze cherry tomatoes for use in soups and stews. We canned raspberry jam. Near the end of the month, we were given zucchinis and a ton of green tomatoes. By the month's end, I made and froze two loaves of carrot zucchini bread, and I'll be spending the first week or so of October using up the rest. I plan to preserve some of it for use for later, like with more loaves of bread and possibly green tomato jam. Our pantry and freezer are very well stocked, and I'm so thankful for that.

I'm excited to make memories with my family in October and enjoy staying home for a bit.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life & Style: October goals + an update on September goals

Here's how I did on my September goals:

-Read my chosen devotional each day {this year, I'm reading 365 Meditations for Women by Women}
-Read my Amplified Bible each day
-Read 7 books
-Work on one fitness habit - for September, I'm working on eating the rainbow: green, purple/blue, orange, red and yellow in fruits and vegetables. I started this in August and did well each day, so I'm looking forward to upping my fruits and veggie counts each day in September now that I'm purposefully focusing on this.
-Work on one other habit per month - for September, I'm working on not losing my mind. Seriously. Which pretty much means saying only nice things. I'm sure I'll fail miserably, but I'm really going to try to be nice. Every moment. Someone please give me some chocolate.
-Craft weekly - for September, I'm baking homemade cat treats for Preston, making 1 toy for Bug, making 1 Christmas gift and canning two batches of raspberry jam. I also would like to start planning out busy bags for Bug. I've started compiling which ones I'm going to make, but I only have 3. I would like at least 2 more. And then I need to make a materials list of things I need to buy/find for them. I'm hoping to get that done by the end of the month, too.

-Pray for husband daily
-Have monthly date nights
-Have monthly movie nights
-Start reading Love and Respect and completing the accompanying workbook together

-Read to Bug each day
-Pray with and for Bug each day
-Continue signing to Bug each day - we're teaching num nums, mama, dada, Bug {the sign we made up for her}, sleep/night night/tired, book/read, all done, more, eat, drink, bunny, kitty/brother {we call Preston brother as well so this is just an all-inclusive sign for him}, bear, potty
-Start potty training. Yup, that's right. We're crazy. We're buying a potty this month and will be putting Bug on it at key moments of the day. I expect absolutely nothing. We're just getting her used to the potty, diaper free, and experiencing this part of life.
-Continue baby-led weaning. At around 5.5 months of age, we started giving Bug her own plate with baby appropriate food. We usually give her a piece of toasted bread with a dip {yogurt, pasta sauce, hummus, etc.} or whatever we're having. Her favorite meal so far was steak and raw red pepper.

-Send as much money as we can to our car loan holders {aka my parents}

Until Bug can sit up on her own really well, we've decided to hold off on potty training. Her potty is all set up now in her bathroom, though, so I'm super excited to start this soon. We also haven't been offering regular food often, also because she can't sit up really well on her own yet, but she is in love with apples. So she teeths regular food often, but is not swallowing anything yet, which is fine.

I don't think I did a good job with not losing my mind in September. But more on that with the State of Our House Address post coming soon! The big announcement I'll make with that post had a direct impact on my goals below. Here they are!

-Read my chosen devotional each day {this year, I'm reading 365 Meditations for Women by Women}
-Read my Amplified Bible each day
-Read 7 books
-Work on one fitness habit - for October, I'm purposing to take a walk each day with Bug.
-Work on one other habit per month - for October, I'm organizing several areas of our home, including the closet in Bug's room, end table and night stand drawers, coat closet, and pantry, and I also want to update our blog pages and Pinterest with blog posts.
-Craft weekly - for October, I'm putting together busy bags for Bug. I don't know if I'll do all the ones I have planned, but I want to at least get started on these. I have 10 planned out to make. I will be canning apple butter and sewing another fleece hat {in a larger size as her head grows often and a lot} for Bug. I am also going to start working on Bug's photo album and update it to her six-month birth date. And if time really allows, I'd love to start sewing puppets for her.

-Pray for husband daily
-Have monthly date nights {celebrate our third wedding anniversary!}
-Have monthly movie nights
-Start reading Love and Respect and completing the accompanying workbook together

-Read to Bug each day
-Pray with and for Bug each day
-Continue signing to Bug each day - we're teaching num nums, mama, dada, Bug {the sign we made up for her}, sleep/night night/tired, book/read, all done, more, eat, drink, bunny, kitty/brother {we call Preston brother as well so this is just an all-inclusive sign for him}, bear, potty

-Send as much money as we can to our car loan holders {aka my parents}

You can read my full goals for 2013 here.