Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Comparison, Don't Let it Steal Your Joy

For a month or two, I've been convicted that I need to write a post about comparison. I've thought about this post so many times yet, I've put it off for so long because I never want to sound like I "have it all figured out". The truth is, I'm horrible at comparing myself to others and that is one of the main reasons I feel like I need to write about this joy-stealing thief called comparison. This post is taking me out of my comfort zone but, it's straight from my heart and for me, that's refreshing. 

I think we've all been there, haven't we? There's something in our life that we're feeling good about say, our garden and it's making us happy. Everything is growing just fine and we're content with the way that it looks. Then we go over to her house and see her garden. Well, we thought ours was doing well but, obviously we were wrong because look at her tomatoes and oh my, look at her spinach. Her's is gorgeous and now our's just pretty much sucks. 

Another example is how we compare our kids. This one really stings because nothing is more precious to a Momma than her babies and let's face it, we all want the best for our kids. We want them to be happy, to obey, to be everything that God intended them to be and we think that they are doing just awesome until we start comparing them to other kids. Let's say you've been working on a certain behavior with your child. It's been a long and difficult road but, you and your child have made huge progress. You're happy, proud and you know you're doing well until you get together with them. Silently your joy slips away as you see how well her kids behave. "She must not have these huge parenting challenges", you think to yourself and once again, you are discouraged-although you've come so far and your children are made in His perfect image.

We compare our marriages- we think that other people must not struggle. 
We compare our friendships-we're sure that other ladies have way more close friends than we do. 
We compare our finances-well, duh! They have more money. 
We compare our blogs-they have a larger readership. 
We compare our mothering-she is far more patient than I am. 
We compare our weight-She has a cuter figure!

All of this comparing divides us and tears us down. Instead of us drawing closer to each other and appreciating our unique differences and our God-given sets of skills, we compare and drift apart. 
Most of the time the person that we're comparing ourselves to is doing nothing wrong. Maybe her kids are better behaved sometimes, her house is cleaner or she does weigh less than you. However, we never know the full story and the truth is, YOU are pretty awesome as well

Here's the thing, we are all awesome in our own ways. God made us all different and He did it that way on purpose. You might want to be like someone else but, you were created to be you and YOU are already perfect. 

I wrote this post because I wanted to dare myself and dare you to not compare. It's true, there are a lot of amazing people out there but, instead of wanting to be like them, we should celebrate that they have their unique talents and that we have our unique talents as well. 

I don't know who reads this little blog of mine and as you read this, you might be thinking that I'm wrong and that there really isn't anything awesome about you. Well, I don't know who you are but, I guarantee that you are just as amazing as anyone that you're comparing yourself to. You might just not know it yet. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Fun & Promote What YOU Love Sunday Link Up!

This weekend has gone by fast but, I feel like we've lived it up, in the fullest way possible and I'm loving that.

Saturday morning was spent at our tiny, local fair. I love our town so much. It's the kind of town where it's big enough to have lots of espresso stands and other necessary stores but, it's small enough to have tractors driving down the street. While we were at the fair, we were bumping into friends left and right. I just love that.
For lunch, we ate your typical fair food....corn dogs and fries. After lunch, the boys danced their little hearts out.

Sunday morning was spent going for a family hike. Normally, we would be in church but, the kids weren't well enough for that yet.

Before we had kids, Jeremiah and I went for a lot of hikes. I miss it and I hope that this can become a family hobby of ours. Judah wanted to bring the binoculars with us and was super serious while he carried them and randomly stopped to look through them. Oh, he cracks me up. He said he was looking for bears and lions.....
Sunday afternoon was all about pedicures and Starbucks with girlfriends. Normally, I love having bright red toes but, this teal'ish color is kind of fun.
This morning, a kitty showed up on our front porch and the kids are pretty much head over heels in love with this little guy. I don't know where he came from or who he belongs to but, he sure was patient with all the "love" he was given.
Paisley was yelling "Kitty! Kitty! Meow! Meow!" And Judah kept on saying "Mommy, I think he loves me!".
Yes sweets, I think he does. It'll be interesting to see what happens with this front porch kitty.
Now, for Promote What YOU Love Sunday! I haven't done one of these in awhile but, a few posts caught my eyes this week and they were too good to not share.

•Over at The Terpblog, Katie wrote" On Saying NO: A Bloggy Confessional". I love how real and open she is about blogging and keeping her priorities straight. 

•This week my friend Jewel  wrote an inspiring post. that reminded me that my mission field can her right her at home. Go here to check it out!

The last thing that I feel like I need to share is this song that I heard on Pandora for the first time this week. WHY have I not heard this song before? Right now, it's a huge favorite of mine. Take a few moments to listen.

So, as I'm wrapping up this post, I'm going to do things a bit different this time. I've decided to leave a Link Up area, where YOU can link up anything that you're loving right now.

It can be a post that you've written about your weekend, a post for a favorite recipe or craft, a post that lists some of your favorite things that you've seen this week. 
All I ask is that it's uplifting and that it's what you're loving right now. 
I'm excited to read about what's making you happy so, link away! As I go through the posts this week, I'll be sure to spotlight some of my favorites! I hope you've had a great weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hitting the Reset Button and My Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

This week hasn't been one of our best. To be honest, it's pretty much stunk because we've all been stuck at home, with bad colds. My voice has been gone and if you've ever tried to parent without a voice, you know that it isn't easy. My kids do this thing where they repeat the same thing like 100 times or until I can answer them. So, I'll be in another room say, brushing my teeth and I hear one of them holler something from the living room. Since I'm not able to respond that second, they continue to repeat it over and over and over again until sometimes, I feel like my head is about to explode. So, long story short.....I'm looking forward to getting my voice back.

This morning I was desperate to leave the house and do something fun. We all needed fresh air, sunshine, exercise and a change of scenery. Raspberry picking came to mind and although I've never gone raspberry picking before, let alone taken my kids by myself, I thought it sounded like fun and a perfect way for us to hit the reset button on this crumby week.
The kids did really well and I think they had a great time. I confess.....they did eat WAY more than they put in our basket but, besides eating berries, they had fun playing with sticks, throwing rocks and covering my feet with dirt, while I picked.

So, in case YOU'RE in need of a great way to hit the reset button.....go find a local berry farm. Go with just your kids and let them be silly, dirty and exactly what they are.....just kids. 
Now, onto a totally different and much more serious subject. Cream Cheese Frosting. For my sister's party, I made a new recipe that I hadn't tried before. This Carrot Cake Recipe is a new favorite of mine and the frosting was so tasty that I thought I'd share the recipe.
Really, this is a very simple, classic, cream cheese frosting recipe. It's far from complicated because, it's extremely easy to make and easy to work with.  I found the recipe here  and now, I'll share it with you!

My Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

To decorate your cake like the one pictured above, first you make your cake and let it cool completely. Next, make your frosting. Obvious, right???
Next, you will need to frost the cake with a crumb coat. Basically, the crumb coat is the first layer of frosting that DOESN'T need to look pretty but, it shouldn't be too thick either. This first layer of frosting serves the purpose of sealing in any crumbs so, later when you frost your cake, no crumbs will be visible.

Also, see how there's frosting on the cake plate??? Don't worry, that will be wiped down after the cake is completely frosted. 
After the crumb coat is applied, your cake is ready for the final, and much more pretty coat of frosting. To frost my cake, I used a Wilton Tip #18. 
Put the frosting tip onto a frosting bag and then use a spoon to scoop the frosting into the bag. I started at the outside edge of my cake and did small circles with the frosting, until the cake was totally covered. 

At that point, my frosting was starting to get a little too soft so, I stuck it in the freezer for a few minutes to let it firm up a bit. I covered the sides of the cake with small circles as well and then looked over the cake, to make sure that there weren't any empty spots.
It's really hard to explain how to frost a cake, without being right there to show you. I hope this at least makes a tiny bit of sense and if anything, practice on a paper towel or a plate first! Have fun and if your cake turns out ugly, just go grab some graham crackers and scrap the frosting off onto those. No one will ever know. 
Linking up here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My New Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

While planning my sister's shower, I called my mom to get ideas from her for the dessert table. When she said that Sally had recently mentioned carrot cake, I was a bit surprised. Really, carrot cake??? That's kind of boring, right? After consulting my sister and finding out that indeed, she really had been craving carrot cake, I set on on a hunt to track down the most yummy looking carrot cake recipe that I could find. If the pregnant lady wants carrot cake, she'll get carrot cake and it better be darn good.

I found this recipe here, on allrecipes.com. The reviews for this cake were amazing and the cake was really easy to make. If you're like me and you don't get excited when you hear the words "carrot cake", maybe you should try this recipe sometime. It might just change your mind about this funny old veggie cake.

My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x12 inch pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well.
In a medium bowl, combine shredded carrots, coconut, walnuts, pineapple and raisins.
Using a large wooden spoon or a very heavy whisk, add carrot mixture to batter and fold in well.
Pour into prepared 8x12 inch pan, and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour, or use 2 circle cake pans and bake for 25 minutes-or until tooth pick comes out clean.
Cool completely before frosting.
Tomorrow I'll share my favorite homemade cream cheese frosting recipe and I'll {try} and explain how I frosted this cake. I'm totally NOT an expert when it comes to frosting cakes but, I can still share the {few} tips that I have. 

I hope you're having a great week. We've all been sick around here and really, this week has kind of stunk for us. When I sat down to write this post, I debated about writing a long, whiny post describing my cabin fever and how my sick kids have been driving me bonkers. Instead I decided to share a  yummy recipe with you and I'm glad I did. Plus, the cup of coffee I downed while writing this was delicious. 

Linking up here. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Navy Blue, Lime Green and Gray Baby Party

This weekend was extra fun. I had the privilege of hosting a baby party for my sister and I had such a blast, filling my home with mostly  family and a few close friends. Notice that I called it a "baby party" and not a "baby shower"? Well, that's because I wanted our time together to really feel like a party. I wanted the ladies to feel like they were at a ladies night out and that they could eat, visit and stay as long as they wanted.

My original plan was to have the party outside and have my yard all decorated in a garden party sort of theme. Part of the plan was to have a camp fire later in the evening and I prepared a s'mores bar-complete with Reeses Peanut Butter cups, sea salt, pretzels and of course, the usual toppings.

Well, the weather around here is totally unpredictable and it ended up raining so, we had the party inside. It was still really fun and now I have a s'mores bar set up for another time, when I'll randomly invite some friends over, if it's actually not raining!

To decorate for the shower, I used spray painted and stenciled jars, filled with flowers from my garden and also sunflowers from the store.
Is it just me or are sunflowers the most wonderful flower ever? I just can't get enough of them! 
The banner was sewn with the same fabric that my sister is going to be using to decorate her new baby's room. Sewing a pennant banner is super easy. Basically, you just cut out triangles of fabric with pinking sheers, sew the triangles onto a long, narrow strip of fabric and then trim any loose edges. YOU could totally do it. 
 The chicken wire frame held this bible verse that I love and a sweet picture of her baby-to-be.

 The silverware was kept in old terracotta pots that I found at the thrift store, for like 50 cents. The pots were spray painted and stenciled.
 Since it was a dinner time party and I wanted it to feel like a ladies night out, the food was potluck style. Oh wow, those ladies brought some yummy food!
 Dessert and drinks were provided by my mom and I. She made a peach pie and I made a carrot cake and brownie batter dip, that happens to be quite addictive when paired with pretzels.
This carrot cake recipe is a new favorite of mine so, I think I'll share it later this week. Really, it's just too good to not share. The cake is moist and full of yummy things like walnuts, fresh carrot and pineapple. 
The frosting was a homemade cream cheese frosting and I loved how easy it was to make and also, how easy it was to pipe the frosting on.
 I hope my sister had the perfect evening. For me, it sure was an honor to spend the evening celebrating her with all of these amazing ladies! Seriously, aren't they all so cute? I love them all! Now, I'm just so excited to meet her new baby!
I hope you had a great weekend as well! 
Linking up here

Friday, July 20, 2012

VBS | It's a Wrap!

Well, we made it through our busy week of VBS and we didn't just make it through......we loved it. When I signed Judah up for the pre-school class and signed myself up to be one of the snack ladies, I honestly didn't know what to expect.

Of course, I was super excited for Judah because as a child, I loved VBS and I desperately wanted him to love it also. However, I was also slightly nervous about the week because we never get up early all week long and have to leave the house at a certain time, 5 days in a row. I didn't know how Paisley would do being in the nursery for 3 hours each morning, all week and I didn't know if Judah would get overwhelmed with all of the activity.

Now that our busy week of VBS is over, I'm honestly a little bit sad! The kids did so amazing and hardly any tears were shed. Paisley loved being in the nursery and each day, she walked on in, like she belonged there.
Judah had the most amazing teachers in his class. Our house is decorated with all of his projects and it makes me smile. I feel so blessed that my kids have awesome people that speak truth into their lives and love on them.

Alongside of VBS, I've been busy with baby shower planning. I've been creating games, making treats, sewing banners and praying for sunny weather. Needless to say, there have been a lot of late nights lately but, I really don't mind. That's what coffee is for, right?

In addition to party planning, we'll have two extra kids with us all day tomorrow and then they'll be spending the night tomorrow night. We'll have 4 kids, 3 and under so, it's sure to be exciting around here! When I think about the party, I kind of laugh because I honestly don't really know when I'm going to be able to clean for it but, I know it's all going to work out.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Our Garden Grows (with a winner)

This year is the first year that I've had a real garden. My husband built us three 4x8 raised beds and I feel like I've been able to grow a good variety of veggies in that space. I'm loving a lot of things about our raised beds. One main thing is that I haven't had to weed hardly at all!

There are a few things that have surprised me about gardening. For one, I thought that it would be way easy. In my mind, I pictured it going something like this. #1. You get good seeds and you plant them. #2. The sun shines and you water your garden. #3. Your garden grows, you're happy, your family is happy and everyone eats what you've grown.

Alright, so a few of my expectations were correct but, there are many things that have also really surprised me. For one, I never in a million years expected that my two rows of peas would produce the insane amount of peas, that they have. I pick peas, I pick some more. I freeze peas and then I freeze some more. It's like they never stop and frankly, I'm getting a little bit sick of them! I never anticipated that!

Another thing that has surprised me about gardening is how little I know. Before I planted my first round of beets, carrots and onions, the dirt sat for too long and basically turned into a brick. Being the beginner gardener that I am, I never thought about how I needed to cultivate it well before planting. So, I planted and the seeds sprouted and then they didn't grow..... for like over a month. I finally had to dig up the whole bed and start over. Now my beets, carrots and onions are doing better than they were before but, they are still very small and I don't know if our growing season will be long enough for them to mature.
 Another thing that's strange to me is how the top two rows of beets are growing noticeably quicker than the two rows, directly below. They are all the same seeds, planted on the same day but, they're growing at such different speeds.
One thing that I've never grown before is zucchini. Today went I walked outside and saw the flowers on our zucchini plants, I was so excited! We all love zucchini and I would be thrilled to be one of those people who has zucchini coming out of her ears!

Along with the peas, beets, carrots, onions and zucchini, we also have tons of lettuce, rosemary, thyme, dill, a cilantro plant that isn't very happy, chives and a thriving rhubarb plant from my dear friend Angie. When it's almost dinner time and I step outside for lettuce and herbs, it makes me feel like such a country chick. In reality, I'm in a cul-de-sac but, I tell myself that I'm bringing the country into the cul-de-sac and then I smile.

My pepper plants from the store are doing better than I expected them to. We've had a wet and cold spring so, I'm happy that I even have one pepper!

 My gardening buddy. I must say, he's getting really good at using that hose.
 Chili peppers! Tonight we had taco salad with a few of these on the top. Yum.
So, before I announce the winner of the handmade clutch, I have a question.
Do any of you know what this plant is (pictured below)???? Is it a weed? I have a few of them popping up in my raised beds but, I don't want to yank them until I know what I'm removing. Any ideas?????
And lastly.....I want to shout out a big THANK YOU to all of you who entered the handmade clutch giveaway. I love supporting small businesses, especially the ones that are run by moms of young children. Congratulations to SARAH at http://www.dwellonjoy.com/
I'm sure you'll love your clutch!


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