Friday, September 30, 2011


Note: I know I'm supposed to be hosting the Bible Study today, but in dealing with Lizzy cutting her molars, I can't think clearly enough over the whining and screaming to write much of anything that's coherent. So instead, I leave you with some eye candy.


Southern Oregon is like a small wine mecca--there are TONS of vineyards, and lots of local wine. That said, Justin doesn't like wine, so I can count on one hand the number of times I've been out to a local winery to taste. Even though I like wine in general, I often feel like I'm picking blindly when I'm at the grocery store, unsure what I'll really like and what I won't.

One of my friends works in the wine industry here in Southern Oregon, and she asked me if I'd like to go out to one of the vineyards (Agate Ridge) to take some photos before the harvest this weekend. Of course, I jumped at the chance. And guys, it was breathtaking.




The proprietor, Kim, first took us through a tasting of the wine, which was such a treat in and of itself. Then, she gave us a glass of our favorite, and we hopped on the back of the tractor for a tour of the grounds.




It was incredible to hear Kim talk about all the different varieties of grapes, and to see how different the clusters look. I also loved getting to ask all the nerdy questions that I've always wondered about, like how many bottles of wine can be made out of one wooden barrel (35 cases).




Overall, it was just such a blessing, and absolutely breathtaking!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Lunch Wars

Image Credit: This is an actual school lunch from the USA submitted to | Link Here

I think many of us know that there's a problem with school food in the US. We've watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. We've seen the menus at our local elementary schools and winced. Maybe it has affirmed for you why your child will always take a lunch from home (that was my first thought too). But here's the thing: the USDA says that in 2009, they provided free hot lunch to 31 million children per day through the free and reduced lunch program. Should those kids, who depend on the school's hot lunch, have to eat like that every day? Especially when we could do better without raising the cost? For me personally, the idea of my nation's kiddos (even kiddos that aren't my own) receiving the above meal for lunch most days gets me fired up. But, I felt like I didn't fully understand the politics and policies that got us where we are today...let alone how to exert change. 

Amy Kalafa's new book Lunch Wars- How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children's Health does just that--explains the policies behind school food. For example, Kalafa explains, "[F]rom 1995 to 2005, our Farm Bill allotted 74 percent of government agricultural subsidies to meat and dairy outfits, 13 percent for grains, 10 percent for sugar, oil, startch, and alcohol, 1.9 percent for nuts and legumes, and .37 percent to subsidize fruits and vegetables," (p. 127). 

Kalafa (quoting food policy professor Marion Nestle) also explains, "When the pressure started coming on the USDA to provide healthy meals, the USDA went into a conflict of interest. It can't really be an agency that is meant to promote the consumption of American sugars and American beef and be in a situation where it's providing menus that cut down on high fat meats and cut down on sugars. So it's stuck between a rock and a hard place. So this is politics. And it's the ugliest kind of politics being fought over our kids' health," (p. 126).

Happily, there are also case studies of many schools who are now working outside the box to create healthier lunches for their kiddos. Many of them just seemed like such no-brainers to me, that I couldn't help but ask, "Why aren't we doing this everywhere?" For example, you may or may not be familiar with the idea that all across the nation, many farmers are being paid by the government not to grow on their land. One forward thinking state decided that instead of paying the farmers not to grow, they'd pay them the same amount to grow produce specifically for school lunches. I mean, DUH. That just makes sense--it provides the kids with healthier meals, and it also ensures that a portion of the billions of dollars the state spends on school lunches each year remains in the local economy, and because the farmers were being paid that amount anyway, it reduces the state's overall budget. Everybody why aren't we doing it everywhere?! 

Our family had already been making some shifts in the way that we approach food, but I think that this book may have sent us over the edge. We've been asking questions (happily, the school that Lizzy will attend when she's older has already broken away from the USDA's food provision and makes their own meals from scratch on-site). We've been thinking and talking about changing the way that we buy meat. I'm more convicted than ever about the importance of our backyard garden, not just because it cuts down on our grocery bill, but also because it is so important for Lizzy to see where food comes from and how it's grown. 


What do you think? Do school lunches concern you? Have you done anything about it? Join the conversation about school lunches over on BlogHer Book Club!

Disclosure Statement: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but as always, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Snippets + BHG Giveaway Winner!

- Lizzy appears to be cutting her 2 year molars. Whoo Boy. We're talking fever, serious fussiness, etc. And yesterday? I changed like eight poopy diapers before noon. One day last week, I literally held her for her entire nap simply because she had been such a bear that day that I thought we could both use the snuggles. Also, all of a sudden she looks so much older to me.


-We watch Lizzy's cousin Logan on Monday and Wednesdays before he goes to afternoon Pre-K. On Wednesdays, all the kids wear a specific blue shirt for chapel, and Lizzy has definitely picked up on this, and noticed that she doesn't have a blue shirt like her older cousins and everyone else. The only problem? Right now, her rendition of "shirt" is "shit". So, almost every Wednesday when we get to church to drop Logan off, she runs through the church yelling, "I want blue shit!" at the top of her lungs. Awesome.

-The last two Saturdays, Justin's band has had practice on Friday night, and then a concert on Saturday, which is AWESOME for them, but has also definitely made it feel like we haven't had a weekend. I'm excited to have a weekend with nothing on the schedule this coming weekend!

-I'm almost three weeks into TurboFire now, and I do like it, even if I feel like an uncoordinated idiot most of the time trying to do the choreography.

-Let's just get right down to what you all are REALLY interested in, shall we? The WINNER of the Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book courtesy of Wiley Books is:

Congrats! Please shoot an email to labuenavidablog [at] gmail [dot] com with your shipping info (please include your phone number for the shipping label)!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Books.

What do Twilight, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, and The Grapes of Wrath have in common? All three books were banned and/or challenged from school or public libraries. Just for the record, all three have been challenged within the past 10 years.  For example, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was removed from the Menifee, Calif. School District in 2010 after a child found the term "oral sex". The district is considering a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary.

This week is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week. About Banned Books Week, the ALA says:
"Sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries. Frequently, challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children. While the intent is commendable, this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the “evil” against which it is leveled. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, said, 'If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.' Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material."

Requests to ban books from school and public libraries still abound. From 2009-2011, here are some of the books that were attempted to be removed from the shelves:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Challenged in Republic, Mo. schools in 2010 because it "glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut was also challenged in the same district for the same reasons last year.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Glen Burnie, Md. in 2010 at the high school level because of concerns about sexually explicit content. It was also challenged (but retained) in 2011 at a Seattle Wash. high school because a parent complained that it lacked "literary value which is relevant in today's multicultural society."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon: Removed from the Lake Fenton, Mich. summer reading program in 2010 after parents complained that it contained foul language.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Challenged at the William S. Hart Union School District in Saugus, Calif. in 2009 from the required summer reading for the honors program. The challenge specified concerns about profanity, criticisms of Christianity, and recounts of sexual abuse as some of the reasons.

As you probably know by now, I'm a huge bookworm, and I totally agree with the statement made by the ALA about banned books--that we may restrict what we read or what our children read, but we may not attempt to leverage our concerns to prevent others from reading that book that we're concerned about. When we ask the government to censor and edit what we and our children are allowed to read, it's a slippery slope, a la Fahrenheit 451 (which coincidentally is often on the Banned Books List). Further, I'd suggest that as parents, there are often better ways to approach our concerns about the content of a particular book than by just saying, 'You can't read that.' Heck, my parents never restricted what I read growing up, but I can tell you that I read most of the books on the "Most Frequently Challenged" list as a teenager simply because they were challenged and/or banned at the request of other people's parents.

Anyway, this week, I'm celebrating some of the amazing literature that has been challenged and/or banned from public and school libraries over the years. I'm thankful to have the ability and the freedom to choose which books I wish to read and which I don't.

Here's a list of the Top 100 Banned and Challenged books from 2000-2009. Do any of your favorites make the list? Do any of these surprise you?

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Funny

Last night after our softball game, J and I came home and popped in a movie while he stuck a load of his work clothes in the laundry. Towards the beginning of the movie, Justin was trying to rewind to see something again.

"ARG! I don't know why it keeps going forward when I am trying to rewind. I'm definitely pushing the BACK button and not the forward button. This new DVD player is so weird," Justin exclaimed.

I looked at the remote for a minute, and watched as Justin did push the back button, but the movie would continue to skip on to the next scene. Then, I burst into giggles.

"Babe, you're holding the remote backwards."

Sometimes, it just feels good to laugh hysterically.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall '11 Blog Bible Study: Week 2

If you're new today, the Fall '11 Blog Bible study is a blog-based Bible-Study/Devotional designed for those of us who would like to take the amazing community of women bloggers online, and extend it to encouraging each other in faith. Right now, we'll be working through Paul: 90 Days on His Journey of Faith by Beth Moore. Each day has a short 1-2 page reading and a few reflection questions. Then, at the end of the week, I'll post some of my own thoughts/reflections, as well as a link-up. If you feel so inclined, I'd love for you to link up with your thoughts as well! If you'd like to join, but are just coming across this post now, it's not too late--just start whenever. And if you fall behind, no worries, and no guilt...we're all just doing the best we can, and none of us are perfect :) 

This week, we saw and studied a bit of the transformation of how Saul became Paul. I think I'd always known that they were one and the same, but I don't think I really realized what that meant. I don't think I really realized the implications that came along with it. I mean, Saul had once actively persecuted followers of Christ in Damascus. Only a short time later, he returned to Dasmascus, but then he was called Paul, and he was a follower of Christ himself. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Returning to that city, knowing how people would mock and ridicule you? How they'd question your motives? Would you wonder if they'd actually hear anything you were saying at all? Would you feel like your reputation was impossible to overcome?

In the Reflection Questions on Day 11, Beth Moore asks, "Are there elements of your reputation that make it hard for you (especially at work or within your family) to relinquish visible control of your lift to Christ? What patterns of expected behavior present the toughest obstacles to overcome?"

For me personally, sometimes I feel like our reputations as Christians as a whole precede us. There have been (and still are) a lot of really awful things that are done in the name of Christ, even though I don't believe they come from him. There's a lot of judgment. A lot of hate. A lot of pot calling the kettle black. Sometimes, when people ask about my religion and I tell them that I'm Christian, I get the distinct impression that they think I'm an extremist who hates gays and lesbians, and judges everyone...and that bothers me. Not even because that's what they think of me, but because of what they must think of Christ.

Source: via Lacie on Pinterest

Know what the caption is for this last image over on Pinterest?  
"I think if more people believed in John Cusak's Jesus, I wouldn't hate 'Christians' so much."

Lord, help me to be the best steward I can of your love. Help me to treat others the way that you would have treated them. Help me not to judge, and not to get so wrapped up in debates about theology and dogma that I miss sharing the most important part--your never-ending, unfailing love.

What about you guys? Anything strike you this past week?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book Giveaway!


When I was contacted recently about reviewing the Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book, I could hardly say yes fast enough. Since we bought our house in 2008, I've come to love Better Homes & Gardens magazine--I think their decorating suggestions often feel really do-able, whereas sometimes in other publications, I find myself thinking "Yeah, that looks pretty nice there, but could never translate into MY home."

The book arrived on our doorstep yesterday afternoon, and you can bet your booty I spent a block of time checking it out right then and there!

The book is split up into three sections. The first, "Room Views" is just like it sounds--lots of beautiful full-color photos of specific types of rooms in a variety of different styles. Each type of room (i.e. entry way, kitchen, living room) begins with "10 Design Basics" specific to that room. I love how they are real and practical suggestions, such as "direct traffic around and behind TV viewers" for the family room. I mean, how many times have we all seen decorating books and magazines that seem to pretend that no one has a TV in their home at all? Most of us do, so it's refreshing to see suggestions with how to handle it in our decor. I don't want to give it all away, but I do want to give a couple of glances at some of the great ideas this book contains. I especially love this feature, which shows the same vanity styled three different ways: 


The second section, "House Tours" showcases entire homes in a variety of styles--Modern Cottage, Open Plan, Classic Bungalow, Savvy Remodel, Today's Farmhouse, Small Space, Fresh Traditional, Personal Mix, Artistic Cottage, and Scandinavian Modern. Again, there are lots of beautiful full color photos that really allow you to understand how the family carried their style through their entire home. This section is my favorite, and I really wish that we had this book before we moved into our home, because I think it would have helped us identify a style that we both love more quickly. Sometimes men are more visual, and need to see a reference photo when we tell them that we'd like our house to be "comfy cottage with pops of color", and this section would be very helpful with that.

The third section, "Workroom" offers tons (and I mean TONS) of practical advice. From sample floor plans, to all types of gallery wall suggestions, this section really allows us to take what we see on the pages and implement it in our own homes.



The "Workroom" also includes lighting diagrams, diagrams of different sofa and chair styles, a grid of different types of flooring and their advantages/disadvantages, and suggested closet configurations. And that's just the beginning. There's seriously a wealth of information in this book, and I feel like it's the type of book that I could look at every week for a year, and find something new that I love each and every time.

And guess what? I'm blessed to be able to give away a copy of this incredible 300+ page book to one of you!

Did I mention that the book comes with a card you can tear out and drop in the mail for a year subscription to Better Homes & Gardens?! Seriously you guys, I am so excited about this, especially since I originally "met" many of you on the Decorating & Renovating board on The Nest. Shout out to my D&R nesties! Anyway, I hope you're as excited about this giveaway as I am! Here's what you need to do to be entered: 

1. Leave a comment on this post. Just for fun, tell me what the next decorating/renovation project you'd take on if money were no object. No, you aren't required to "follow" me to enter, though if you'd like to, I wouldn't object ;) Just please make sure that you have an email address linked to your account or that I have some way to contact you if you are the winner!

For additional entries (and please leave a separate comment for each additional entry): 

3. Follow @WileyCraft on Twitter. Wiley is the publishing company that publishes the Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book, but they also have lots of other decorating and craft books on the market, as well as an awesome website (click on the image below to go there) that offers tutorials from many of their different books. Following WileyCraft on Twitter is a great way to keep up to date on all they have to offer!

Have a great Thursday everyone!

The small print: The giveaway will close on Tuesday, September 27th at 5pm PST. A winner will be chosen through, and notified shortly thereafter. I was provided with a copy of Better Homes & Gardens New Decorating Book for review (and one to giveaway), but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All comments are my own, as always.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toddler Toys: Our Top 5

**First of all, be sure to check back tomorrow--I'm blessed to be running an awesome giveaway that both mamas and non-mamas alike will both LOVE. Seriously, I'm so excited, I can hardly wait until tomorrow!

Like many families of toddlers, we probably have more toys than we need. Although I try to rotate toys through the toy box, there are a handful of things that Lizzy plays with most often, and will even ask for by name if they happen to be out of the toy box that week. I thought I might make a little list in case you guys are looking for birthday and/or holiday ideas for a little guy or gal in your life. Obviously, every kid is different, but here's what Lizzy is most into right now:

1. Play Food

Lizzy has the set pictured above, which her Great-Grandma got for her at Target (ours is Circo brand and 90 pieces rather than 76 though). Right now, this is undoubtedly Lizzy's favorite thing to play with, even though we don't have a play kitchen or anything of the sort. I'm not sure whether she actually loves the food itself all that much, or just dumping the entire 90 pieces over her head repeatedly. Honestly, this "toy" is kind of a pain for me because of all the small pieces, but it's one of those things that Lizzy asks for by name even when I've tried to hide it away so that the living room will stay clean for more than 15 minutes.
2. Toobaloo
I know, what the heck is a Toobaloo? To be honest, I wouldn't have had any idea either, except that I inherited two from my Aunt, who is a teacher and was switching grades. Apparently, kids hold these up to their ears as they're reading books, which helps them to better hear what they sound like. The two that we have look distinctly more like an actual telephone, and this is another toy that ALL the kids, even Lizzy's 5 and 6 year old cousins, love. They love pretending to call each other, and they love getting to hear whatever they say echo back to them. So far, none of them have actually used it for its intended purpose, but at less than $5, who cares?
3. Ring Sorter/Stacker

This was a gift from Samantha (and her husband John) from Christmas this past year, and Lizzy still plays with it often. I love that right now, it helps Lizzy work on motor skills with trying to get the rings on the posts. She's also just starting to like to count to five with me, so it's a great toy for that as well. In the future, she'll still use it, but for learning and sorting by colors. It's a great, simple toy.
4. Animal Toys
We have both the Little People Farm and Noah's Ark along with the "bonus" set of animals that were gifts from Lizzy's Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Mike (and I think the bonus set of animals may have been from Samantha and John as well?) Lizzy has recently been really into singing "Old McDonald", and so this is a fun toy to do that will, as well as to teach her the corresponding animal sounds. It's also just now occurring to me that Lizzy knows the "Who Built The Ark?" song, and so I should do the same thing with Noah's Ark, but I haven't yet. Either way, I've really been pleased with the Little People toys!
5. Zany Zoo
Holy cow, it's little Lizzy--this picture was back from her first birthday. I just realized that in 4 more months, she's going to be TWO. That is crazy talk people, CRAZY. Anyway, this particular toy has been put away for a couple of weeks because I noticed that Lizzy hadn't been playing with it as much recently, and since we have such a small house, I try to only keep one or two "big" toys in the living room at a time. Still, it's another one of those toys that Lizzy has gotten a ton of use out of all throughout her "toddler-hood", and one that the older friends and cousins seem to love as well. I think now that it's been put away for awhile, she's really going to like trying to match the correct animals and such! And, it's from Target, just in case you're wondering.

Runner Up: Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Set
This little gadget was an awesome present from Lizzy's Aunt Renee and Uncle Ryan, also for her birthday. She hasn't used it as much recently (maybe because we were constantly telling her that the kitchen was off-limits while we were painting the cabinets), but LOVED it just up until the last month or so, and it's a really fun gender neutral toy, and I do think it's helped Lizzy learn the alphabet song. Now, any time she sees letters of any kind (i.e. on a t-shirt), she excitedly points and says "A-B-C's!" Bless her little heart!

Note: All of the items featured in the post were either purchased by us or were gifts to Lizzy by our friends and family. None were provided by the companies for review. Additionally, this post was not a paid review of any sort.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BQOTD: How Much Would You Spend On Jeans

What's the most expensive pair of jeans you've ever purchased? Was it worth the extra expense? How much would you be willing to spend on a pair of jeans?

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I woke up, I thought today was shaping up to be one of those days where every little thing goes wrong. I hate those days, especially when I feel like there's nothing that I can do to make them better. It's so easy to wallow.

As I posted earlier, our DVD player broke right as I was going to work out, and the Beachbody videos don't work on game consoles or Xboxes. I was dreading trying to have to shuffle things around in our budget or take money out of savings for a stinking DVD player. A friend saw me post on Facebook that my broken DVD player interrupted my workout, and she said she had one in her garage sale pile and I could have it for $10. Sold. I picked it up this afternoon, put Lizzy down for a nap, and then got my TurboFire on. I feel better already.

Source: via Lisa on Pinterest


I've been doing TurboFire since Friday. We don't have a gym membership, so the only way I'm usually able to work out is through DVDs at home. TurboFire is a lot of fun, and I got up early this AM to start my day with it.

And our DVD player is apparently broken. It took me 35 minutes of cleaning, blowing on things, etc. to even get it to recognize the disc. The same disc and workout played on Friday night just fine, so I know it isn't the disc, but the player. Once I got it to (finally) recognize the disc, the player just skipped nonstop. So, that's awesome.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall '11 Blog Bible Study: Week 1

If you're new today, the Fall '11 Blog Bible study is a blog-based Bible-Study/Devotional designed for those of us who would like to take the amazing community of women bloggers online, and extend it to encouraging each other in faith. Right now, we'll be working through Paul: 90 Days on His Journey of Faith by Beth Moore. Each day has a short 1-2 page reading and a few reflection questions. Then, at the end of the week, I'll post some of my own thoughts/reflections, as well as a link-up. If you feel so inclined, I'd love for you to link up with your thoughts as well! If you'd like to join, but are just coming across this post now, it's not too late--just start whenever. And if you fall behind, no worries, and no guilt...we're all just doing the best we can, and none of us are perfect :)

In college, I took several Old Testament Studies classes. The Bible Studies that I've participated in thus far have similarly tended to focus on Old Testament books and people (David, Esther, etc). Despite going to church for as long as I can remember, I don't always feel like I have a good grasp on the New Testament--at least not the contextual information that always gives so much more insight into the words on the page.

And then, if I'm speaking honestly, sometimes a part of me feels like I need to do the whole Bible Study thing in order to win God's favor. Both of those factors (wanting to have a better understanding of the New Testament and also sort of thinking that having a better understanding of the New Testament would make God love me more) were two of the many reasons that underscored my desire to do this study of Paul. Not exactly my finest moment, but I'm just being honest here.

That said, Ms. Moore promptly brought that second "hidden" desire to the forefront during this first week on more than one occasion. First, during the Day 4 homework, at one point she said, "May I not just study Your Word to learn things and accumulate insights, but rather to know You and increase my love for You," (p. 20). Later, on an entirely different day, Moore said, "Without love for God and His Word, we're just trying to be good. Nothing will wear you out faster," (p. 27).

Oh my. That's exactly right--so often I find myself trying to be good, thinking that if I'm good enough/involved enough/tithe enough/if I study the Bible often enough, I'll be able to "earn" God's love. Instead, all it does is make me exhausted. In the last few weeks, I've been blessed to hear from a variety of different sources that the beauty of my faith is that God loves me not because of what I do, but in spite of what I do. What a relief. Yes, I should strive to do my best to glorify Him, but he loves me regardless. Even when I'm not perfect. in fact, there is never anything that I could do that would be too bad for God to love me. And that's a promise that I'm trying to claim daily.

What about you guys? Anything from this first week strike you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sample Shopping Trip (Pics & Recipes)

After yesterday's post about cost of groceries, I thought I'd post details about our grocery shopping trip last night. I've done this a couple of times in the past, and loved when Leah did it recently as well. Anyway, remember that we do our "big" shopping trip at the beginning of the month for meat, cheese, and pantry staples, and then re-stock dairy and produce as needed, shooting for $50 a week or less for the remaining weeks. This was one of our "re-stock" trips, at our local grocery store (we don't have Kroger/Aldi or anything like that here):


We got: Ice cream, two packs of strawberries, pineapple, whole milk (for J and Lizzy), chocolate cereal, sour cream, a large can of diced tomatoes, two cans of kidney beans, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a thing of BBQ sauce, head of lettuce, green onions, yellow cherry tomatoes, large package of red/yellow/orange peppers, wheat bread, bananas, 6 nectarines, 6 kiwi, pack of veggie noodles, two packs of chili seasoning, and a pack of Ranch seasoning mix.

PS- Justin tossed both the ice cream and chocolate cereal in the cart after he saw that we were WAY under budget. Those are both "luxury" items for us and only go in if we are dramatically under budget due to our beloved "temporary reductions" that the store offers--these are non-advertised, no coupon necessary sales, and they are awesome. (i.e. the ice cream is usually $4.98, but was on temporary reduction for $2.98). Anyway, even with the ice cream and cereal, our grand total was:

I know, I need to repaint my nails!

So, the meals that I plan to make with this are:

Taco Soup
Homemade Pizza {PS- This is the best pizza dough recipe ever.}
Caribbean Jerk Chicken Shishkabobs & Brown Rice
Lighthouse Lasagna
Homemade BBQ Meatballs & Brown Rice
Grilled Chicken and Green Salads

This should get us through next Thursday at the very least, and the following week's food are mostly things I've already frozen, so hopefully next week's shopping trip will be very small like this one as well.

So for those of you who asked, there you go!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BQOTD: How Much Do You Spend on Groceries?

Lately, we spend about $250 a month on food-- about $100 the first week of the month and then $40-$50 a week thereafter. Justin gets paid once a month, and lately due to working prevailing wage jobs, his checks have been a bit larger than normal. So, we've been spending a bit more on our first trip of the month to make sure we're re-stocking our freezer with meat and our pantry with staples. Usually we shop strictly on the perimeter of the store with a few detours in for pasta, beans, and rice...which has saved us TONS of money. We also shop with a calculator in hand, which is a BIG deterrent from tossing that extra box of cookies in the cart.

That said, because Justin's checks have been a bit larger, we've recently had the luxury of being able to "splurge" a bit. For me, that was some fancy cheese and a TON of fruit. For Justin that was buying more snacky type foods for lunches--chips, fruit snacks, cookies, etc. But when money is tight for us (as it often is), those are the first things to go. I usually do meal plan for at least the first two weeks when we go grocery shopping, because it definitely helps me spend less!

What about you guys?

BQOTD: How much does your family spend on groceries each week? Do you have a set budget, or do you just fly by the seat of your pants? Do you meal plan in advance? Does your grocery bill comprise most of your food budget for the month, or do you eat out too?

Monday, September 12, 2011

No, I'm Not Pregnant, But Thanks Anyway.

On Sunday after church, a friend of our family came over to Justin and I and said, "I hear congratulations are in order!"

Justin and I looked at each other puzzled and said, "For what?"

"Well, 'cause you're having another baby!!"

"Um, no."



"Oh, Joe (an elderly man at church) told me you were pregnant!"


Justin then added, "Oh, maybe that's why my dad called last week to ask if you were pregnant."

So, that's awesome. We go to a very small church and to my knowledge, there isn't anyone who attends right now who *is* pregnant, though I just now realized that the daughter of another member who is also tall and blonde is pregnant, but she doesn't really attend regularly. I'm still not sure whether Joe (whose named has been changed, FYI) was genuinely confused, or whether he thought he was being funny because he is a bit of a prankster. Either way, it totally caught be by surprise.

And of course, my mind went right to "If someone is spreading rumors that I'm pregnant, it's because I look pregnant," and no amount of supportive comments from Justin or friends and family could quell those stinking thoughts. Why does my mind go there? Why can't I just assume that there was some sort of misunderstanding rather than that the impetus for this whole scenario is that I must still look fat and pregnant?

I came home and took a nap. I'm convinced that most of the problems in my world can be solved with a nap. I think I'm okay now....or maybe not, 'cause I still felt the need to blog about it. But seriously? Suck.

That said, I'm hoping that TurboFire (which I had already ordered prior to all this) arrives in the mail today. I could use a good workout, and its too smoky outside to run, being that pretty much all of Oregon is on fire. Anyway...happy Monday everyone!

Friday, September 9, 2011


-It's been a busy week. Honestly, I'm exhausted! And lately I've been spoiled with Justin having Fridays off, but he's working today. Boo. I just might have to hit up Starbucks for a Salted Caramel Whatever to get me through the day...then again, it's still in the 100's here, so maybe I'll wait on it a bit.

-On Wednesday, I shot my first solo wedding. I've been asked once or twice in the past, but I'm just not really set-up to do anything other than outdoor, and so I've always referred them elsewhere. This time, I knew the couple, knew their personalities, and knew the venue, so I went ahead.


It was fun--a great experience. I'm not sure that I'll ever be strictly a wedding photographer (it's really the seniors, families, and newborns that are my true loves), but it's a fun treat every once in awhile to be able to capture someone's big day. Also, I feel like there are so many ways to learn and grow when it comes to wedding's just a good reminder that there's always more to try and learn.

-Speaking of weddings and photography, I also recently did my first senior portrait session of the year for some friends of the family. Dillon and his mom Vickie play on our co-ed softball team, and Dillon is actually the younger brother of my brother-in-law Justin (aka Stump).

Dillon (25)

Dillon (17)


As I was editing the pics, I realized that Dillon was actually the ring bearer/ junior groomsman in our wedding...and now he's a senior in high school. Way to make a girl feel old! Seriously though, I just love being able to take photos, and pray that doors will continue to open in order for me to keep on doing it!

-Thank you all for your prayers for Justin's Aunt Gina--I've wanted to update, but have just wanted to wait until I had some more information. Gina was actually released from the hospital, which is AMAZING, but may still need to have surgery? I'm not sure of anything other than the doctors are continuing to monitor her daily.

-Did you guys see the announcement over at {(in)courage} for the blog conference? We can never afford the cost associated with blog conferences, so it's kind of an exciting idea to me to be able to participate without the travel expenses. I just hope that even in a small town like mine, we'll have a group of women who want to meet!

-Lastly, if you're thinking about participating in the blog based devotional/Bible Study on Paul (see the button on the right sidebar for info), you should hopefully have your books by now and begin. If you don't have it yet, don't stress--the daily "homework" is literally only a short 1-2 page reading/devotion, and wouldn't be too difficult to catch up if you'd like to participate. It's different than any study I've done before, but I'm enjoying learning about Paul--Paul wrote my favorite book in the Bible (Philippians), but I also often struggle with his stance towards women, so it's interesting to study him on a more in-depth level and learn about him.

-I hope y'all have a marvelous weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BlogHer Book Club Review: Slow Love by Dominique Browning

When I heard that the next selection for Blog Her Book Club was Dominique Browning’s Slow Love, I was excited. The tagline, “How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness”, had me prepared for a book about slowing down to appreciate the little blessings in life, and indeed, there is some of that—joy found in baking muffins and planting mint wherever the author wants. There were many such moments in Slow Love that I found sweet and inspiring.
However, there were also a number of moments in which the author’s prose just rubbed me the wrong way. I found myself, at times, wanting to reach through the pages and shake the author, reminding her of her blessings—she had to sell her home, but she had a smaller second home that she had just renovated. She’d managed her money well enough while she was working to be able to spend several months lounging in her Brooks Brothers pajamas, baking muffins, gardening, and swimming in the ocean...and still, there seemed to be so much to complain about for Browning. At other times, Browning’s style left me feeling patronized—referring to warehouse stores such as Costco, Browning says, “Those places are temples to the marketing gods, who have tricked an entire population of otherwise rational people into thinking they are saving money when they buy in bulk.” It just simply doesn’t feel good to have an author make digs at things you do and enjoy.

Disclosure Statement: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club and Penguin books. Still, being paid to write the review has no bearing on whether or not the book receives a favorable review by me. Just so ya know!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lifting Up Gina--Urgent Prayer Request

Justin's Aunt Gina has been in the hospital for a couple of days now--she has a blood clot in her brain, and was being given blood thinners to help dissolve the clot. Only, the clot has not responded to the blood thinners as expected, and the clot has actually grown bigger (and there may be more than one). My understanding is that the clot now starts behind her eye and wraps all the way around her brain. Justin's mom told us that the clot is actually causing part of her brain to shut down.

It's also my understanding that she has been transferred to a different hospital with a specialist--but this specialist has only performed the operation to remove the clot six times, and none of the outcomes of the past surgeries were particularly good (all ended in death or serious brain injury). Overall, what we've been hearing consistently is that the doctors aren't really sure how to treat her or how to proceed, and I can only imagine how terrifying that must be.

Gina and her family have requested prayers, and I just want to get this request out to as many people as possible who could lift up Gina and her family in prayer today. Our family would SO appreciate your prayers for the doctors, her family, and her healing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

House Updates--Kitchen, Living Room, OH MY!

We have been BUSY this weekend with house projects. First of all, I should probably tell y'all that we re-arranged the living room. This actually happened several weeks ago in order to make room for a desk so that we can extend the life of the laptop that started to shut off anytime it was moved. You can see what the living room looked like before {here}. And here's what it looks like now:


Obviously, I still need a chair for the desk!


You may have noticed that there are no longer any throw pillows. Well, after making the throw pillows, I discovered that my husband apparently has a deep seeded hatred for throw pillows and likes to throw them across the room with all his might any time they happen to occupy the same couch (not even seat) that he is. He also likes to initiate pillow fights with toddlers. Needless to say, the heat-bond slipcovers were toast in about three days. I thought about sewing them, but I actually think I'd like something a little different and have been keeping my eye out at Ross and TJ Maxx--I just have such a hard time shelling out $8-$12 on a single stinking throw pillow! Sigh.

You know what I *did* do though? I took the advice that {Amanda} and {Nessa} gave in that previously linked post and put some scrapbook paper in the back of the hutch. For those of you just tuning in, the story with the hutch is that I have always wanted to paint it, but Justin thinks painting wood is practically a mortal sin and would rather give it away to a "good home" than paint it. He really likes it and the matching buffet, and so I have tried to incorporate it into our decor, because it's his home too. I thought that the scrapbook paper was a great idea that might make it feel more contemporary without doing any damage to the wood. Also, I wanted to display some of the blue/turquoise Pyrex that I'm now the proud owner of instead of just wine glasses, and I thought it just needed a re-do. I found a packet of scrapbook paper on sale for $2.50 and thought I'd give it a go. Anyway, here it is:


I also took a cue from {Katie} and made a yarn wreath for fall:


Wreath forms were more than $10 at Michael's, so I just used some plumbing foam insulation that I duct taped together instead. In retrospect, I definitely should have used thicker foam, but oh well. Live and learn. Our door is metal, so I just hot-glued some magnets to the back to attach it to the door.


Justin has also been hard at work this weekend building shelving and a work bench in the garage. I cannot wait until we can (a) actually walk in the garage and (b) actually find the things in the garage that we're looking for:


Yes, all that bolding and caps was totally necessary. 

First, here's a "before" pic--actually from the MLS listing before we bought it:


And now:

Yep, it was totally worth all the work. Totally. I have no idea whether improvements like the kitchen and building shelves into the garage are things that we'd recoup if we ever go to sell, but they were all such small investments that really give a lot of bang for their buck in terms of us loving the house and using it to its full it's worth it to me!
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