Wednesday, December 28, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 25

Christmas #25 - 2011.

It may be cloudy....and perhaps a tad bit windy.....but considering the average temperature on December 28 (where I live, anyway) is 34-degrees, this looks mighty nice on the weather report:


I ain't complaining!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sound of Music

"The Sound of Music" just happened to be on TV tonight. I'm still not quite sure how "My Favorite Things" became a Christmas song or why they are showing the movie for Christmas, since I'm pretty sure that Christmas is not mentioned once in the movie, but I just gotta say that I think "The Sound of Music" is quite possibly the best movie ever made......Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer? Amazing actress/actor. And those children? Excellent. And the music and singing? My favorite. Yep, I love the movie (and have most of it memorized). :)

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

25 Years of Christmas - Part 24

Christmas #24 - 2010.

Friday, December 23, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 23

Christmas #23 - 2009. 
Christmas and good friends go hand in hand.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 22

Christmas #22 - 2008.
Not an "official" Christmas picture, but it counts as it was taken a few days before Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 21

Christmas #21 - 2007.


Unfortunately while I have pictures from this Christmas, none of them have me in them. That is one of the problems of being behind the camera. Hehe. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Love Lifted Me (Sara Evans)


Max loves Jade, and Jade loves Max, but he’s going to have to prove himself to regain her trust. In Love Lifted Me, the third book in the “Songbird” series, Born to Fly artist Sara Evans tells the story of how Jade learns to forgive and trust again. For those of us who came into the series with this book, there was plenty of background information to explain why the characters felt the way they did towards life and towards each other.

Max and Jade learn to lean on each other and on the Lord when Max decides to take a job coaching football in Texas. Though others attempt to sabotage Max’s career, Jade and Max hold fast and persevere, realizing that this is where God wants them.

This book features a Reading Group Guide at the end with some discussion questions for those who want to perhaps read the book and discuss it with others….or just for the reader to ponder upon finishing the novel.

I enjoyed this book….in fact, I received the book and read it in its entirety in the same day (all 288 pages!)! I would like to read it again after reading the first two books in the series so I could get the true flow of the story. I had no idea that multi-platinum country recording artist Sara Evans could write, but she has written an enjoyable book  with delightfully endearing characters that you are sad to say goodbye to at the end of the story.

*I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program in exchange for an honest review.*

This song is for a dear friend of mine who has been through a lor of unexpected changes in her life this year, and yet has used each of the experiences to grow and has definitely become "a little bit stronger" through the whole thing.

25 Years of Christmas - Part 20

Christmas #20 - 2006.
I worked at a local bakery this Christmas (I actually worked there for about 4 Christmases) and we took this picture of some of the girls during our Christmas party. We were given matching shirts for Christmas so it was fun for all of us to wear them for the picture! 
These are dear girls who I don't see very often anymore, and I miss them all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 19

Not sure where Christmas pictures from 2005 (Christmas #19) ended up, either. Too bad. I remember being very excited about my last Christmas as a high schooler. I don't remember why I was so excited, I guess I just felt like Christmas might be different after that and I wanted to enjoy it. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas, Brother!

This is the first time since I was 2 years old where it is just going to be me and my parents for the holidays, and I just gotta say, I'm sure missing my brother right about now!!!

25 Years of Christmas - Part 18

Christmas #18 - 2004.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Favorite Christmas Songs, Pt. 4

This song is one of my favorites off of Josh Groban's "Noel" album. I love the choir in the background. :)

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - Josh Groban


25 Years of Christmas - Parts 13 - 16

Unfortunately after digging through our external hard drive, I couldn't find any pictures from the next several Christmases. I am sure we took pictures, just not sure where they have ended up.

Stay tuned....more pictures to come in a few days.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Favorite Christmas Songs, Pt. 3

You probably should've guessed that something from Michael Buble was going to make it onto my list of favorite Christmas songs this year. Especially with the release of his new Christmas album that I absolutely love!

Here's one of the songs that is kind of fun to listen to:

Christmas by Michael Buble


25 Years of Christmas - Part 12

Christmas #12 - 1998.
Yes, we put a bow tie on our cat.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Favorite Christmas Songs, Pt. 2

Here's another favorite Christmas song to add to your Christmas playlist.

Mary, Did You Know? as sung by Kenny Rogers  & Wynonna Judd


25 Years of Christmas - Part 11

Christmas #11 - 1997.
This was clearly my awkward stage. I refrained from posting the picture with the really embarrassing outfit choice, and chose to go with the St. Lucia picture instead. :)


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Favorite Christmas Songs, Pt. 1

I love Christmas music! I start listening to it in October or November, but I'm pretty sure I could mix it into my playlists all year long and be just fine with that.

As usual, I thought I'd share some favorite Christmas songs with you. If you're trying to find some songs to add to your Christmas playlist, keep checking back for some of my favorites.

To kick it off, here's one of my favorite "fun" Christmas songs:

Snoopy's Christmas by The Royal Guardsmen


25 Years of Christmas - Part 10

Christmas #10 - 1996.

Unfortunately this is one year that I know we do not have any pictures from. :(

Friday, December 9, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 9

Christmas #9 - 1995. AKA, The Year Laura Got Glasses. 
I never did like those big frames, and yes, I still have them in a drawer somewhere.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 Years of Christmas - Part 1

This is my 25th Christmas. There are also 25 days in December leading up to and including Christmas. So I thought it could be fun to share a picture from each year I have been around for Christmas. I'm actually not sure if I have pictures from every Christmas - at least not easily accessible - but I will share pictures for the years I have. :)

To start it off, here is Christmas #1: 1987.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bokeh!

I experimented with bokeh! It's kind of a popular photography style at the moment - at least I see it in all sorts of photos - so I wanted to try it. I need to work on it some more but thought I'd share my first attempt at bokeh, with our Christmas tree!!



Christmas Kick-Off

All photos taken on my new Canon PowerShot 310 HS point-and-shoot camera. Not too bad for a point-and-shoot! And not too bad for a Black Friday purchase, either!





Journey to the North Pole

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a "Journey to the North Pole" cruise. And believe it or not, it only took about 20 minutes to get to the North Pole. Now that must be some pretty special boat we were on. I took my camera and got some pictures of the Christmas lights on the lake from a perspective I don't normally get to enjoy. I'm still learning how to take good pictures in the dark, but I'm actually pretty excited with how well these turned out.

At the "North Pole" is the world's tallest living Christmas tree. Apparently they lit it at the very end, and I missed it. I'm a little bummed about that. But it was still a very fun time spent with my amazing co-workers and some of their kids....





Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: An Amish Wedding (Long, Fuller & Wiseman)


Priscilla King, Naomi King and Rose Bender are three friends growing up together in the same Amish community. Through three novellas, An Amish Wedding follows their stories of finding love in their community.
 
A Perfect Secret by Kelly Long focuses on Rose’s story and how she fell in love with and truly learned to trust her fiancé-turned-husband, Luke, when she feels he is hiding things from her.

A Perfect Match by Kathleen Fuller is Naomi’s story and shares about how she has great plans to match up newcomer Zeke with her friend Margaret…will she find love in the process?

And lastly….

A Perfect Plan by Beth Wiseman shares the story of Priscilla, who has a perfect plan in place for her wedding and learns that not everything goes perfectly and according to plan. As her mind is flooded with doubt, she, too, learns how to truly trust and as she learns that God has the perfect plan.

I have enjoyed the collaborations between these three authors in the past, and this book was no exception. The three novellas intertwined perfectly, creating one larger story that kept my attention throughout. In fact, I was so engrossed in the story that I read the entire 354-page book in one day – practically in one sitting! If you enjoy Amish fiction, you will enjoy this book!

**I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I received no compensation other than a free book.**

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Dug Down Deep (Joshua Harris)


Joni Eareckson Tada lists three “Inspirational Books” on her list of favorite things: Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett…and Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. To those in the homeschool world, Josh Harris is a fairly recognizable name. His relationship books I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl (neither of which I have read, by the way) took both the homeschool and Christian worlds by storm several years ago.

Dug Down Deep also focuses on a relationship, but not the same relationship he talked about in his two aforementioned books. Dug Down Deep instead focuses on our relationship with Christ and, as the subtitle says, Building Your Life on Truths That Last.  In the book, Josh spends 11 chapters digging into why our beliefs about the God matter and the practicality of right beliefs. He takes a rather candid approach and explains his own spiritual journey in a way that is both frank and real, with some humor mixed in.

The book was very down to earth. And very encouraging and challenging. As Josh points out, in the end nobody will be right on every single issue of the Christian life: “One day in heaven there will be only one right person. I’m sorry, but it won’t be you. Or me. It will be God. Everyone else in heaven will be wrong in a million different ways about a million different things” (p 227). But it is important to be right about the things that really matter, and that is what Josh tackles in this book.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a complimentary review copy of this book, which I have wanted to read for awhile.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Acorn Cookies!


Acorn Cookies
as seen on Pinterest

Melt chocolate chips and use them to stick Hershey's Kisses to Nutter Butter cookies. Use more chocolate to stick mini chocolate chips to the top. Presto - acorns!

These are super easy to make, were super cute and were a huge success at my Bible Study and also with my co-workers. Make sure you buy the round Nutter Butters, not the ones that are shaped like peanuts. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake



Pumpkin Cheesecake
a la Paula Deen
(Source)


Crust
1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 13 graham crackers)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick melted butter (I used 3/4 of a stick)

Filling
3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (15 ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
1/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.

For Crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For Filling:
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, and spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place in oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours. **

Serve with Cinnamon Whipped Cream on top.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 cup whipped cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients in food processor, and blend for about 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and whipped to your desired consistency.

**Notes:

- I baked the cheesecake in a water bath. I wrapped the bottom and sides of the springform pan in heavy-duty foil. I then poured in the cheesecake filling, and placed the pan in a larger pan with about 2-3 inches of very hot water, in the oven. I baked the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until it was just barely jiggly in the center. I then turned the oven off, ran a knife around the edge of the cheesecake pan, and then propped the door open with a wooden spoon handle for about an hour, then removed the cheesecake from the oven until it was room temperature, and then put it in the refrigerator for about 4 hours. The cheesecake is the first one I've made that did not crack. Success!

This was one of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted. So light and fluffy and delicious!

There's So Much To Be Thankful For...

Somedays we forget
To look around us
Somedays we can't see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see.
It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for.
- Josh Groban, "Thankful"

I'm thankful for...
...my family - who love me unconditionally
...my friends - who are always there for me, and are just as crazy as me!
...my job - income is a beautiful thing
...my co-workers (past and present) - who have taught me so many things and who have become wonderful friends
...my church - and all of the wonderful people there who have encouraged me and helped me to grow.
...my dogs - who are, in my case, a girl's best friend!
...and so much more!

There's so much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Charise Wilson Designs

My cousin and her husband are in the process of adopting, and in an effort to raise a little money for the adoption, Charise started making absolutely adorable cards.
 

My mom recently purchased a few of these cards, and I can tell you that they really are great! Not only are they good quality, but the designs are absolutely adorable. I'm seeing a few new designs on Charise's site since the last time I visited, and boy are they cute!

With Christmas coming up, maybe some notecards would make the perfect little gift.

Charise is now also making Christmas cards! If you are planning to send out Christmas cards this year, check out some of Charise's designs on her facebook page.

For more information, visit Charise's website!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Are YOU Thankful For?

Happy November!

I love November. It houses one of my favorite holidays, and kicks off my other favorite holiday.

November screams fall! It screams pumpkin! and crunchy leaves! and turkey! But most of all, it screams thankfulness as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for a lot of things. I plan to share some of those things with you this month.

But I want to know.....What are YOU thankful for?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pinterest

I've got a new addiction.



Seriously. I thought the concept was kind of pointless when I read about it on blogs several months ago. I didn't "get" it. So I didn't sign up.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I heard some girls talking about all the cool stuff they found on Pinterest. I immediately decided I needed to see what this was all about. I requested an invitation, signed up, and the rest is history.

I've now found all sorts of great ideas for snacks, main dishes, desserts, hairstyles, decorating, etc. I could sit and browse the various categories for hours.

Are you on Pinterest? If you are not and want an invitation, leave your email address in a comment. I'll send you an invite, and then remove your comment. :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: The Mercy (Beverly Lewis)


I am a fan of Beverly Lewis novels, and Amish fiction in general. I have enjoyed the previous two books in Lewis’s The Rose trilogy and was quite excited for the release of The Mercy, the third and final book in the trilogy.

The first two books have followed the stories of sisters Rose Ann and Hannah (who goes by the nickname of Hen). Rose Ann is a single young woman who is fully engrained in the traditional ways of the Amish. Hen, on the other hand, has gone the way of the world, even going so far as to marry an “Englischer.” In the earlier books we learn about Hen’s struggle as she realizes that she really is Amish through and through. The Mercy opens after Hen’s husband, Brandon, has been in a tragic accident that has temporarily removed his sight. To make things easier, Hen, Brandon and their daughter Mattie Sue have moved to Amish country next door to Hen’s family. Brandon has always been opposed to the Amish but resigns himself to temporary life near Hen’s family. However, due to his blindness and reliance on others, Brandon’s heart begins to change. And by the end of the book I went from hating him in the first two books, to loving him in this one.

In the first two books we have also been introduced to Nick Franco, neighbor of Rose Ann and her family. He was adopted by the local bishop at a young age but never could adapt to the ways of the Amish and eventually after a tragic incident, he left the Amish and most were sure he would never look back. Of course, not surprisingly, Nick does come back on the scene in this book.

I enjoyed this book because it nicely tied up the story of Hen and Rose Ann. However, I found the book to be extremely predictable. I don’t know if I have just read enough similar books to know how they typically end, but I pretty much knew exactly how this book would end long before I got to the last page.

However, I still enjoyed the book and if you are looking for a relaxing read on a chilly fall day, I can recommend The Rose trilogy by Beverly Lewis.

Note: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation (other than a free copy of the book!) for my review.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: The Wonder Of Your Love (Beth Wiseman)


I recently had the opportunity to read and review The Wonder Of Your Love  by Beth Wiseman.

Katie Ann Stoltzfus is forty years old, widowed, and raising her first child, baby Jonas, in the small Amish community of Caanan, Colorado. Although some of her family is in the area and she has friendly neighbors, she feels at times like she is all alone. She is not looking forward to spending the rest of her life as a single parent.

Meanwhile, Katie Ann’s nephew, David, is marrying his sweetheart, Emily, and Emily’s uncle Eli Detweiler is has come to Canaan for the wedding. After raising six children and losing his wife at a young age, Eli is ready for a long vacation! He is enjoying being done raising his children and is ready for time to himself!

When Katie Ann and Eli meet, it does not take long for them to realize that there is a mutual attraction. However, with Eli finished raising his children with no desire to raise more, and Katie Ann just starting out life as a parent, they know they need to tread lightly so that nobody’s heart is broken. Will love overcome the obstacles? Are Katie Ann & Eli’s plans for their lives in line with God’s plans for their lives?

I have enjoyed each of the books I have read by Beth Wiseman over the past few years. Her Daughters of the Promise series and its follow-up, the Land of Canaan series (of which this book is part), are enjoyable stories about interesting characters. Beth Wiseman does a great job of creating characters you will want to learn more about long after the story ends.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation (other than a copy of the book) for my review.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Five Things I'm Loving Right Now....

Five Things I'm Loving Right Now......
(in no particular order)

1. Chopped
We don't have cable, and quite frankly, if we did there are probably only a few stations I would watch: Food Network (for the awesome food-related shows), TLC (for Say Yes to the Dress and similar shows), CMT (so I could watch country music videos in the morning) and the Hallmark channel (for the movies). While most of the shows I would enjoy can't be found online (so far as I've seen), I've been lucky enough to find a few, including Chopped on Hulu. Which is nice because then I can watch one of my favorite Food Network shows without having to have Food Network. Score!

2. Plaid Shirts
Somehow I have developed a love of plaid shirts. Maybe I am embracing my inner cowgirl (ha!). Maybe I just think they are cute. I tend to think it is the latter, because to be perfectly honest with you, I don't think I'd make a very good cowgirl. Anyway, I keep my eye out for cute plaid shirts and am now up to 5 (one for each day of the week!). My most recent one is the green flannel shirt in the picture. And with fall weather moving in, a plaid flannel shirt sounds like the perfect thing to wear!

3. Pumpkin!
What can be better than pumpkin in fall? Pumpkin muffins....pumpkin coffee....pumpkin donuts....the list goes on, and it is all so good!!!!


4. "All Your Life" by The Band Perry
I was introduced to The Band Perry a year or so ago. And I liked what I heard but didn't listen to them too much. Well....recently I discovered this song and I think it is one of the cutest songs. The music video is just okay....the song is so cute. Of course, I'm a sucker for cute, sappy songs, so I guess it makes sense I'd like this one. Probably why I like country music so much....most of it drips with sappy.

5. The Pioneer Woman
Have you visited The Pioneer Woman's website? If you haven't, you need to. She has everything from recipes (with amazing food photography!!!) to photography tips, to home & garden tips, to, well, everything in between. Have fun exploring her extensive website!!!