Tuesday, December 25, 2012


 Merry Christmas from our Family to Yours.

 It's been a busy, bustling, beautiful, bountiful, blissful Christmas season.

I honestly don't know what I would do, who I would be, how I would be living my life if it weren't for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for choosing me.

Merry Christmas friends and family.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's November: A time to remember what we are most thankful for, or at least it's the month we choose to ponder our blessings just a little more...
I love this image from The Graphics Fairy.

So in honor of that, here's my list not necessarily in this order:

1. Jesus... I can't bear to put Him anywhere else.
2. My man- he's the love of my life!
3. Austin - You
4. Braaten - guys
5. Melanie - are
6. Grant - the
7. Cooper - best!
8. My Church, Victory Life
9. Coffee in the morning, it's oh so good.
10. Running - it keeps me sane, I'm more fit than I was, and is hard, but fun.
11. My sisters and brother. I don't see them enough.
12. My girlfriends- you are each so very special and you know who you are.
13. Our home- it's warm, cozy, and inviting.
14. Being blessed to be a stay at home mama.
15. Christmas music
16. Books! I love to read a good book.
17. Cake - especially chocolate.
18. Clothes
19. My husband's job
20. Snuggling on the couch with Shawn.
21. Kisses from my children
22. Family laughter around the dinner table.
23. My kitty cats.
24. Charlie, our dog, though he is very naughty.
25. My pastors- such godly men.
26. Life-long friendships.
27. Great lunches with my girlfriends.
28. Homeschooling
29. Taking photos to capture everyday life.
30. Good health.

Wow! There is so much more I could add to this list. I guess it's a reminder to stay thankful daily and not just during one time of the year for 30 days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HodgePodge - the Christmasy Kind :)

Four hodgepodges til Christmas in case you were wondering.

1.  With that being said I think I need to dive right in to some Christmas related questions, don't you? Which do you prefer-pretty gift wrap with a bow or a pretty gift bag with/without a bow?  What percentage of your holiday gifts are currently (as in right this very minute) wrapped in some form or fashion?

     ** I love a beautifully wrapped gift, but I don't have the time to do every single one that way so I choose to do a hodgepodge, no pun intended, of various types of gift wrapping. I do love a nice gift bag for the sheer convenience of it. My friend, Ginger, wraps every gift with such beauty that I don't want to even open the gift. She has beautiful style and I have picked up a few tips from her. ;) **

2.  What is one item on your Christmas list this year?

     ** My hubby and I have decided to pick a few things out that we would like as a shared gift. He wanted to get a camera lens for me, but I didn't think that wasn't fair since I am not the only one who will use it. It seems more like a family gift or a necessity if you will. I suppose the lens will be a shared gift. He had an idea of getting a gift certificate to a B & B. Sounds dreamy. **

3.  What makes a home?

     ** I think what makes a home is the love that is shared within its walls. My family is my home; Shawn and our 5 blessings. Home is the place you long to be when you've been away from it for awhile, the place that feels safe and cozy and filled with love. **

4.  Motown founder Berry Gordy celebrates his birthday on Hodgepodge Day-November 28th. Are you a fan of the Motown sound?  If so, who's your favorite Motown artist and/or song? Here's a list in case you're stuck.

     ** I'm definitely a fan. I grew up in Hoboken, a melting pot of people of just about every kind. In that type of place you find different styles and tastes. I listened to all kinds of music, but Motown was one that was prevalent in our home. I would have to pick Mercy, Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye. I was surprised not see Luther Vandross who is one of my all time favorites. I remember hearing, "Never Too Much" and a whole host of other songs by him and 'til this day whenever I hear him I think of my brother, Bobby. He has gone to be with the Lord, and I can just see him dancing to Luther, Donna Summers, and the Jackson Five. He later got into hard rock and punk rock. Some of the albums and songs going through my head now are Aqualung by Jethro Tull and any song by the B-52's. But that wasn't a part of this question. :) **

5.  Red or green-which one is more prevalent in your closet?

     ** Probably red... I love the deep red, kind of a scarlet red, but I also love some of the lighter greens. **

6.  True or false-bacon makes it better? If you answered true, what's your favorite dish made with bacon?

     ** TRUE!! For Thanksgiving I felt the need to make Brussels sprouts, which my husband is not a big fan of. I insisted on making them because my mom always did and sometimes carrying on certain traditions is a must. I found this recipe that is to. die. for.! Shawn said, "As long as they taste like this, you can make them whenever you want."

7.  Share a favorite holiday memory.

     ** I can't help but think of my mom especially at this time of year and remember how much she loved Christmas.  My dad would go out and buy the tree from a street corner in a fenced lot or put together the white artificial one we had for a time. The album would be spinning on the record player we had of all the classic Christmas songs. I can just see her singing every word of "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt. I knew every lyric, but at the time, I didn't completely understand them. I do now. Ha! We all decorated the tree and there were a mountain of presents for us seven kids and then some. We didn't have a lot of money, but Christmas never felt like it. **

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

     ** Maybe someone can help me here... Yesterday when I was trying to put pictures up on the post before this one, I ran out of space on Picasa Web Albums to add anymore pictures. What in the world?!! I thought I could keep on adding and adding and now I see there is a monthly fee to add space. No thank you! I went back and deleted pictures that I've put on my blog in the past, and there are many, but they are also sitting in iPhoto. Any help would be appreciated. :-) **

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bountiful Blessings

 For the past 6 or 7 years, Shawn and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our home. Shawn's parents, my brother and sister-in-law (Tim & Jill), and their children, my brother-in-law, Scott, and his two kids, my cousin, Marcus, his daughter, Storm, and my nieces and nephew also come if they can make it.
This year we had 20 plus our 7. We had loads of food, fun, and family time that we look forward to every year.

I get nostalgic each year when it's time to make the candied yams, which was one of my dad's favorites to make, and my mom's yummy stuffing. Shawn brines the turkey the night before and takes full charge over the bird from start to finish. He and Braaten typically make the cranberry bread, but this year Bray did it solo because the Hubs was doing all kinds of other stuff in preparation for our gathering. Melanie made her whole cranberry sauce and the cheesecake. My girls have mad cooking skills! I made the mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, onion, and garlic, cauliflower with a cheese sauce, pumpkin rolls, chocolate cream pie, and a layered jello dessert. My MIL brought her famous pumpkin pie made with butternut squash in place of the pumpkin (mind you, it tastes almost exactly the same), and deviled eggs. Jill brought the green bean casserole, corn which I burned upon reheating, and lots of rolls. Scott brought M & M's and soda. He gets off easy every year because it's just, well, easier. :) People were eating M & M's like they were going out of style. 

A bit of a sour puss, wouldn't ya say? Well, it's understandable. This was the first year Austin wasn't able to be home for Thanksgiving. The restaurant needed all of their bussers with no exception aside from quitting, I guess. He actually had a great attitude about it all, but posed grumpily for me. 

Ah, yes, that's more like it! Smile for your mama. 

As has been customary for the past few years, Jill asked us to take family photos. 
There's Natalie, Bradley, Nicole, Will, Trent, and Anthony. 
They're quite a handsome crew.

Shawn, his mom, Jill, Taylor, Andrew, Marcus, and I all took a leisurely stroll trying to walk off a small portion of the gazillion calories we consumed. On our journey we picked up some road apples as Leona calls them for me to decorate my basement with. I've been tempted to do that before, but never have. Apparently they keep spiders at bay.

My mother-in-law wants a copy of this picture which is the view outside our kitchen window in the back of the house. We took a shot of it before taking pictures of Jill's family. Ask, and you shall receive, Leona. :)

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving like we did.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's the little things...

It doesn't take much to make the twins happy. They're fairly easy to please. I love that about them. There is so much that I love about these young fellows.

*They make me laugh- one day my girlfriend and I were shoe shopping. The boys each took one of those teeny tiny foot hose they provide and put them on their heads. They were calling themselves 'lunch ladies'. Now that's funny! I don't care who ya are.

*They kiss me good morning everyday without fail.

*They greet each day with extreme joyful, enthusiasm. I wish I always did that.

*They are incredibly helpful.

*They are very handsome and make their mama proud.

*They surprise me with breakfast or lunch on occasion. They might even concoct a smoothie that contains pudding in it and let you know the ingredients after you sucked it down.

*They create some mean Lego creations. I love their wild imaginations.

*They do some not-so-fun chores without complaining. Most times.

*They help take care of Jack, my friend's 4 year old boy. I love that little guy, too.

Grant and Cooper have been asking me for these "Zoo Pals" for awhile now. They are plates with animal faces on them. They were really excited after they saw them. I love how they appreciate the little things.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Panini Crazy!

A couple of years ago I found this giant George Foreman grill at Goodwill. 
It has been one of my favorite finds.
Actually the kids might love it more than me.

We have panini-fied just about everything! On this day, the sandwich du jour was ham and cheese on a mini hoagie roll from my local S*m's club. You don't need mayo on the inside or butter on the outside.  Those rolls are that good and they are the perfect size. We use them in our kids' school lunches almost daily.

And you sure can't beat the price of one of these paninis compared to one you 
buy at the restaurant that rhymes with "I dare ya". Ha! I'm so corny.

Can you believe I bought one of these grills in about half the size for my son for when he goes off to college in 2 years? He actually requested one. :) 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Sunday Love Letter

My Child,
You may not know me, but I know everything about you. (Psalm 139.1) I know when you sit and when you rise up. (Psalm 139.2) I am familiar with all of your ways. (Psalm 139.3) Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. (Matthew 10:29-31) For you were made in my image. (Genesis 1:27) In me you live and move and have your being. For you are my offspring. (Acts 17:28) I knew you even before you were conceived. (Jeremiah 1:4-5) I chose you when I planned creation. (Ephesians 1:11-12) You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. (Psalm 139:15-16) I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. (Acts 17:26) You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14) I knit you together in your mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13) And brought you forth on the day you were born. (Psalm 71:6) I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me. (John 8:41-44) I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love. (1John 4:16) And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. (1John 3:1) Simply because you are my child and I am your Father. (1John 3:1) I offer you more than your earthy father ever could. (Matthew 5:48) Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. (James 1:17) For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. (Matthew 6:31-33) My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) Because I love you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. (Psalms 139:17-18) And I rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17) I will never stop doing good to you. (Jeremiah 32:40) For you are my treasured possession. (Exodus 19:5) I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:41) And I want to show you great and marvelous things. (Jeremiah 33:3) If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me. (Deuteronomy 4:29) Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) For it is I who gave you those desires. (Phillipians 2:13) I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) For I am your greatest encourager. (2Thessalonians 2:16-17) I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) When you are broken-hearted, I am close to you. (Psalm 34:18) As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. (Isaiah 40:11) One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. (Revelation 21:3-4) I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus. (John 17:23) For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. (John 17:26) He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you. (Romans 8:31) Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. (2Corinthians 5:18-19) His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. (1John 4:10) I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. (Romans 8:31-32) If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. (1John 2:23) And nothing will ever separate you from my love again. (Romans 8:38-39) Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. (Luke 15:7) I have always been Father, and will always be Father. (Ephesians 3:14-15) My question is... Will you be my child? (John 1:12-13) I am waiting for you. (Luke 15:11-32)
Author Unknown

(My friend, Amy F., shared this letter with us in class one day a couple of years ago. I kept a copy of it knowing that one day I would share it with you. I think it's beautiful and it embodies the love of Christ in a poignant way and includes Bible verses as references. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.)

8 x 10 Psalm 37:4

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday's Photo File - Quilting

Hope at The Simple Life of Hope has started a weekly blog post titled, "Friday's Photo File" and I am joining in. She is encouraging us to post a photo, current or past, of our choosing and write about it. I love the idea!

Since my scanner is not working properly, most of my photos will be fairly recent.

 One of the kids draped my quilt over a bench we have in the corner of my living room recently. And as I passed by I looked at it and reminisced about when it was made, how I learned how to quilt, etc. 
I quickly ran to take a picture in case I wanted to ever write about it.

Quilting is not something that my mother did or her mother as far as I know. I have been fascinated by them for a long time, however, and when I worked in Pittsburgh in a chiropractic practice one of my coworkers was an avid quilter. Her name was Nora; she was not much older than me and she belonged to a quilting group. I can remember asking her question after question about quilting, how difficult it is to do, how she learned, and on and on it went. I think I talked about it as often as I could.

In the time I had worked with Nora, I was expecting my first baby. Before Austin was born Nora brought a gift into the office. It was in a fairly large, beautifully wrapped package and never once did I expect to receive such a lovely gift. It wasn't the quilt you see above, but it was the most beautiful quilt I had ever seen because it was made by her for my little boy. How generous! I felt honored that she would make a quilt and then be able to give away such a precious gift. 
Quilts take time. The one above took me about 9 years because of the amount of time it takes plus add 5 children into the mix and there is no time left at the end of the day to sit and quilt.

After Austin was born, I decided to take a quilting class near the town of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, where we lived for the first 3 years of our marriage. I think the shop was in Heidelberg. Austin was about 10 months old and the class was 6 weeks long every Saturday for about 3 hours. I brought him along with me because I was nursing at the time. The class being taught was for beginners and it was a sampler quilt. Making a sampler gives you practice on various types of patterns and squares. I learned how to do everything by hand because I didn't own a sewing machine and my thought was that hand-quilting was more authentic. I don't believe that to be the case anymore. I think quilts made on sewing machines are just as special.

After 6 weeks I knew how to quilt from start to finish. 
Unfortunately, I would put my project away for months at a time, buy new fabric, or start a new project, before I finally finished my first-ever quilt.
The finish date was September, 2005.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking a peek at Pinterest

Sometimes it takes a little while for me to get on the bandwagon. 
It might be due to a lack of time, a lack of knowledge, or simply a lack of interest.

I've had an account for awhile now, but lately when I have had some spare time, I chose to blog, read a magazine, catch up on F@cebo0k, or watch a TV show.

Not this time, people.
It was finally time to check out Pinterest:
Who in the world came up with this grand idea? :)
 Oh my! How fun, entertaining,  and... addictive!
I found countless ideas and that was just in the hour I spent looking around. 
I have my work cut out for me... project-wise and also to get back there to pin some more!

Is anyone else addicted to Pinterest? 
If you don't even know what it is, click on the link above and have a look around.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Sometimes I am stunned at how often I have to remind myself of how blessed I am.

Didn't I just mention that in my last post?
Did I not just say that I need to remember how blessed I am to even have another breath?

Today is Sunday and I'm not sure why, but I tend to be moody on this day more often than not. I think it's because I am thinking of the week ahead, how busy it will be, what I need to do or get done, etc, etc, etc. 

I get Sunday sickness.
Do you?
Am I alone in this? 

We go to church on Saturday nights which leaves Sundays free. 
There is no reason for Sunday sickness, moodiness, feeling a little gloomy. It is a day to be refreshed, renewed, and a day like any other to know and serve the Lord.

So on this particular Sunday, I am choosing JOY.

Psalm 5:11
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gone too soon.

My husband woke to two messages on his cell phone this morning that came in around or before 6 a.m. That's never a good feeling; especially when the phone numbers have the area code of where he's from. Calls like that turn your stomach, make you wonder things you don't want to think about.

A great friend of his from high school died yesterday. It happened while he was away in Mexico with his wife on vacation. I'm not sure of the details, but his wife found him in the water. How tragic. I suppose if Eric had his way in how he died, it would be during one of his many adventures.

It's the third death inside of a week and a half. I have been to two funerals already, and Eric's will most likely be next week..

News like this makes you realize once again that our days are numbered as the Bible tells us. It makes you not want to take those you love for granted, or to complain about the small stuff of life. How insignificant it is that I'm having a bad hair day, I burned the chowder, I'm tired, or my house is messy. I want to feel the joy of the Lord in my everyday life as I remember one that has passed.

Father God, thank you for all that you are and all that you did on the cross for me. Help me to always know that you are in control and that I am blessed to have one more breath. Help me to be the best wife, mother, friend, and sister to those around me. Make me aware of others' needs before my own. And, Jesus, help me to know your peace that passes all understanding.

It is in Your Holy, Mighty, Sovereign and Precious Name that I pray.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

HodgePodge Wednesday :)

1.  In what ways do you indulge yourself? 

     I would have to say buying clothes for myself. It feels indulgent, anyway, when I buy something I like without even thinking about a budget or anything. A couple of other ways would be when I take the time to work on a quilt project. I always have something else around home that I can be doing. 
2.  Have you ever taken a cooking class?  Any interest?  What type of class would you most like to try?
     I have never taken one and haven't really thought about doing it. If I did, I would want to learn more tricks of the trade in cooking finer cuisine. I think I'm fairly good at cooking, but my food isn't fancy.
3. What does it mean to be a good citizen? 
     I think it means having a love for your country, honoring those that serve and sacrifice their lives everyday for our freedoms, showing respect to others, following the laws, and just being a kind and decent person.
4.  'Tis the season of the political advert...do these ads influence your vote? 
     Absolutely not. I promptly take the ones I find in my mailbox and place them in the recycle bin, and change the channel if the remote is handy. 
5.  What's something you see today that makes you wish you were a kid again?
     Just watching my kids enjoy their sports lately makes me wish I had taken those opportunities myself. I especially love watching my girls play volleyball. I love the game, but my high school didn't have a volleyball team. I was a cheerleader and had fun doing that, however given the opportunity, I would have chosen volleyball. 
6.  What's your least favorite cliche?
    "I don't mean to be rude, but..." Uh, yes you do. 
7.  What percentage of your Christmas shopping has been completed?  How does that make you feel?
     Maybe 5%?? I'm not stressing about that, though. It'll get done in due time. 
8.  Insert your own random thought here.
     This morning I was all about getting dinner made by 9 am. Oh, I was proud of myself alright. I was feeling pretty great about my "Cheddar Chowder" when I left it on the stove on medium as I took care of a couple of patients down in my office. I was smelling how yummy it was until I realized I shouldn't be smelling it so well downstairs. As soon as my patient left, I bolted upstairs to find a bubbling pot with mushy vegetables swimming in a sea of burnt cheese. Awesome! Perhaps I do need a cooking class!