Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord.
Luke 2:9-11

Monday, November 30, 2015

Awaiting the Savior-Christmas Countdown

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
-Luke 2:14

This time of year it is very easy to be distracted by the to-do lists and the quest for the Pinterest worthy Christmas. We race around filling up physical and digital shopping carts. Our hearts and minds stray from the the true meaning of the season.

One of my favorite traditions that we've had for over six years is our Christmas Bags. The bags are our way to spend time together as a couple reading God's word. In addition we are able to pause and enjoy participating in fun seasonal activities.

Each bag contains a scripture reading.

In some of the bags I include an activity card. Sometimes I might slip in some candy and other small treats. 

I take care to schedule the activities on days that will add fun and not stress to our lives.  

 We have included the scripture flags and activity cards as free printables! Just click on the pictures to download your our copy! I mounted mine onto Christmas themed scrapbook paper to add a festive touch. 

Check out this recipe for Hot Vanilla.

For our Red, White, and Green Dinner, I serve Lasagna and a green salad.

The $5 Christmas Challenge was a tradition we started early in our marriage. Money is often tight, but we still wanted to get each other a gift. We managed to spare $10 out of our budget. We each take $5 and purchase something useful, fun, or thoughtful for the other person. It's always fun to sneak around the store looking for the perfect gift. Gift giving doesn't have to be expensive!

We hope this season brings you peace, joy, and love!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Menu Plan Monday: November 29th-December 5th

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday:  Pancakes, Fruit and Turkey Sausage

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday

Wednesday: Pasta Salad and Bread Sticks

Thursday: Sweet and Sour Chicken (We didn't get to make it last week) 

Friday: Trisha's Crock Pot Mac & Cheese and salad

Saturday: Leftovers

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all are enjoying a wonderful holiday full of family, friends, and thankfulness! I am so thankful for my amazing family!

Here is a throwback to Thanksgiving 2005.  Michael's sister and her then boyfriend came to visit us in Cincinnati.  We cooked an excellent meal and had a wonderful weekend together!

Michael's sister and her husband look exactly the same!

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: November 22nd-November 28th

This week is my refrigerator and freezer clean out week. I try to use up items that have been long forgotten about in the fridge, pantry, and freezer.

Sunday: California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Pizza

Monday: Scrambled Eggs and Toast

We'll add whatever topping we have leftover in the fridge. I think we have some deli ham, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos.  Picked up a loaf of rye bread today, so that will make amazing toast.

Tuesday: Chili Mac

 I brown a package of ground beef and add a package of spicy chili seasoning. Cook an entire box of elbow macaroni. When the ground beef is cooked, add a can of red kidney beans, two cans of diced tomatoes, and 1 and 1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce. Drain the macaroni and put back into the pan where you cooked the pasta. Pour the hamburger and bean mix over the macaroni. Cook on the stove top on medium heat for 10 minutes. This is so easy, hearty, and tasty. This makes a lot! Great leftovers. When re-heating for leftovers, add a little leftover spaghetti sauce

Wednesday: Meatball Subs

When it's just the two of us home for Thanksgiving we don't do the whole turkey thing. We do lasagna. This year instead of the traditional lasagna I am making White Chicken Lasagna. I love the creamy sauce and broccoli! 

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Sweet and Sour Chicken

Bake two chicken breasts using your favorite method. Chop and add to a skillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Cook on medium heat for five minutes. Chop one green pepper into slices. Lightly drain a can of pineapple chunks (keep a little bit of juice with the pineapple). Add the pepper slices and pineapple to the chicken. Cook for five more minutes. Add one jar of store bought sweet and sour sauce over the chicken, pineapple chunks, and peppers. Cook for five minutes. Serve on rice

Breakfast on most days will be oatmeal. On Thanksgiving morning I will be making "Hootin Andies." 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

5 Family Vloggers You Should Watch

The way we consume media is different from when I was growing up.  I had  the television, magazines, and newspapers. There was no e-mail or internet until I was in High School. We can now instantly download a movie. No heading to Blockbuster in hopes that the newest release is available. It is possible to watch a whole season's worth of  your favorite show in a weekend.

YouTube brings a whole new dynamic to the world of media. Quality content is produced by regular people and not just large television and movie corporations. One of my favorite YouTube trends is "Family Vlogging." Families sharing their lives, the happy moments and the difficult ones, on video for the world to see. It may seem almost creepy to watch videos of people's normal lives. I find vlogging (video blogging) to be more entertaining than "reality" TV.  Vlogging provides a connection to your entertainment. Most Vloggers interact with their viewers through YouTube comments, Facebook and other social media. It is fun having on-going conversations new friends that you have made through this form of media and to connect with other people who may have the same struggles as you do.

I watch several vlog's weekly and catch up on watching while I make dinner or wash the dishes. There are many, many family channels out there. Here is a list of my top five favorite family Vloggers. I wish they lived in my area, I could see myself hanging out with each of these wonderful families.  I have included links to a few of my favorite vlogs from each family. Be sure to check them out.

8 Passengers


Emotional Reaction to a Gift
Celebrity Sighting
I Kissed My COUSIN

Six children and two parents makes for a delightful vlog full of family and faith. They don't shy away from showing the real moments of life. Ruby, the Mom gives us a  glimpse into the struggles and wonderful blessing of having a large family. I love seeing the strong bonds with the extended family. You can tell that family is very important to them.

Most weeks there is a "Flashback Friday" video of home videos from Ruby's family when she was young. She makes connections between her younger self and her children.  She also points out  how her siblings, all adults now, still do many of the same things they did as children. Seeing these old videos has inspired me to look through old videos from my teen years.


Why Family Matters [Family Team Training]

Learning the States where our Subscribers Live!
Adventure Day at the Library
Parenting Advice from Politician, Matt Bevin

This channel was originally of interest because the Schmoyer family live in the same town that we were living in. It was interesting to see the family go to the same places that we would go to. I continue to watch how this family shares their faith and how it impacts their everyday lives.

The Schmoyers have four children with two more on the way. Dana, the Mom has a channel of her own where she puts up pregnancy updates, recipes, and what she is learning in her spiritual walk.

The Vloginsons

Halloween Q and A Tag
Come For Dinner, Stay For the Boogies

  Canadians! Gingers! What's not to like? I found this family through Twitter and have only been watching them for a few weeks.  The Dad reminds me of someone that I use to work with. He is animated with a quick whit and a mildly sarcastic sense of humor. The kids are adorable, the youngest has a smile that could melt your heart. Honestly, they are just a cool family and I would love to hang out with them. 

 J House Vlogs      
Rough Night at the J House
IT CAME OUT MY NOSE! Smoothie Challenge 
Blessing Bags!
J House is another vlogging channel with four children. This family just exudes positivity and grace even when they are sharing their struggles. The Mom, Kendra is candid about her battle with depression and anxiety. So often people only share their best selves online. This family's honesty and openness are refreshing. They remind me of my sister-in-law and her family. 

 They home school their children, and include creative activities and field trips. Recently, they have been learning about the Mayflower. The Mom discussed what they would take with them, if they were on the Mayflower. They children went around the house collecting items that they would take with them. What an excellent illustration for the children of the small amount of possessions the families on the Mayflower had with them. I'm not sure what Kendra studied in college, but she is a natural teacher. 

Another thing I admire about this family is their dedication to service. It can be very difficult with small children to find service projects. Along with some friends, they started a service club which provides opportunities for the families to serve others. The families created blessing bags to give to people who are homeless. The families also cooked and served lunch at the Ronald McDonald house on Christmas Eve. Serving together is a great way to show the kids how they can help people in need. 



GIVING WITH CARSON | Operation Christmas Child
High School Sweetheart Tag

Well, this isn't your traditional Family Vlog. Kathryn has the amazing talent of being able to organize and decorate her home on a budget. She shares videos on how she uses her Goodwill and Dollar Tree finds in her home. She also, on occasion shares "Day In The Life" type videos. Her style is down to earth. She has a very warm personality. When I watch her videos I feel like she's an old friend just giving advice.

*BONUS* | A Few More Vloggers to Check Out!

Family Of  Six

All Boys But 9
The Crousse House Vlogs
Matt and Em Vlog
While They Were Napping

Do you watch YouTube videos? Who tops your list?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dear Church...Visitors

Dear Church,

This is not a letter to debate the intricacies of doctrine. I'm not going to make a case for which version of the Bible is the most accurate. I don't wish to discuss predestination and free will. This isn't even a diatribe about Starbucks and red coffee cups. This is much more simple. This letter is about a subject that  all churches from the small country church to the mega-church needs to pay attention to,visitors.

 On any given week most churches will have at least one person visit for the first time. Those visitors could be people who are coming to check out this whole "church thing." They may not know anything about the Gospel. A visitor may be a person looking to connect to a body of believers, a church home. Every visitor has a different story.

My husband and I have been visitors at many churches over the years. Michael was a pastor's kid, so he has visited plenty of churches throughout his life. Since getting married we have struggled to find a home-church. We desperately desire to be part of a church. We don't want to just attend. We want a place to be a part of. A place to serve and strengthen our relationship with God. 

Here are four tips to help your church become more welcoming! 

1. Make a digital connection before Sunday morning
 People are online. I am willing to bet that a huge percentage of people looking to attend a church do some kind of online research before they even arrive at your door.  Having an online presence is important.  It doesn't need to be an elaborate website. A public Facebook is acceptable. Basic information such as location and service times are the most important. Please, Please, Please keep the information updated. It can be frustrating to show up at 10:30, when the service times were changed to 9:30 and 11:45 over a year ago and the website doesn't reflect the change. That Women's Ministry calendar from 2008 can come down too!

 Before visiting a new church I  wonder what to wear.Is it a dress and suit place? Do people wear jeans? Come as you are? Being totally honest here, I would feel uncomfortable sporting jeans in a room full of people wearing suits  and dresses.We shouldn't worry about what we are wearing, but we do it anyway. Be honest, just give people a heads up before they arrive.

2. Where am I going? I have questions!
From the moment people arrive in the parking lot people want to know where to go. If your church offers guest parking,make sure people can find it. Are the locations of the service and children's ministry obvious? I have gotten lost in a large church looking for the service. Laugh with me, it really happened!  Let people know where to go!

Another particularly important part of navigating a new church is knowing where to go if you have a question and who to talk to. At a church we recently visited, the guest service volunteers wore clever t-shirt with a question mark and the simple phrase, "Got Questions?"  That same church had a huge question mark hanging over their information desk. They made it very clear where to go if you had questions.

Another church we checked out recently  had a great bulletin. They listed the upcoming events and service opportunities in the church. There is lots going on, which is excellent. At the end of the blurb about the Operation Christmas Child program it mentioned to contact, Betty Jones for more information. Who is Betty Jones?  How do I contact her? Double check that an e-mail or phone number is given for any person listed as someone to contact.

3. Making a room inviting

The first time I attended my church in Vermont, I received the star treatment. The associate pastor's wife saw me looking around nervously. She came over introduced herself and she chatted with me for a while. She warmly asked me if I would like to sit with her during the service. She wasn't pushy or over bearing. Just friendly. After the service she introduced me to some people in the church, including others around my age.

The church I worked at in California was home to one of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met. He greeted everyone with a warm small. Most weeks he would pass out mini-loaves of banana bread to new faces. The way he did it was almost magical. He had the gift of reading people. He could instantly pick out the people he could joke around with a little bit. Others he could sense were more comfortable with a quiet hello and a smile.

At another church that I worked at was very strategic about placing welcoming people around the sanctuary. Volunteers were stationed in sections for six week rotations. The volunteers didn't wear a special badge or t-shirt. This group wasn't publicized. The goal of this group was to keep an eye out for new faces. They would talk to people  to get to know them better.  A friendly face in the crowd. They connected people and helped them get involved. It was all very natural. Volunteers were trained and given ideas, but each person put their own special twist on things. One wonderful lady invited two families, couples, or individuals each week to join her and her husband the following Sunday for lunch after church.  I really want to do this.

Everyone wants to connect and wants to belong. Even introverts want to connect. Find the friendly and welcoming people in your church. Challenge them to help you create an environment that is naturally friendly.  Remember that extroverts aren't the only people who are friendly. Invite introverts to help you better understand ways to connect other introverts.

4. Follow Up
Every church that I have ever been to has had some way to collect information about people who are attending. The real issue is not how you collect that information, but what you do with that information afterwards. If it's possible, try to make some kind of connection within five days. Send an e-mail or letter. Some people may feel comfortable receiving a text message.  After one visit, I received a lovely hand-made card with a personal message. Another church sent me a fun letter with a $5 gift card to a local gas station.  Don't just collect the names. Follow up increases the likelihood of a return visit.

Church leaders, what do you do to create a welcoming environment?

Church visitors, what do you want churches to know about how to become a welcoming place? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Family Recipe Revealed: Apple Pie Bars

My Mother-in-Law and Sister-in-law are quite possibly the best cooks that I have ever met. My sister-in-law makes the world's best apple pie. The crust is flaky and the apples are sweet. I have no idea how she does it. She has the magic touch. 

When my husband and I got married, I had quite the learning curve in terms of cooking. The bar was set very high.  Pasta dishes were about the only thing I could make, well and chocolate chip cookies. My husband grew up in Wisconsin, with a large extended family of cooks. Cooking was a competition. At family reunions everyone would bring their best food. There wouldn't be just one or two salads to choose from, there would be fifteen. Twenty different kinds of bar cookies. Giant vats of cheesy potato casserole and pulled pork. Food was how they showed love.

One of my husband's favorite desserts made by his mother was Apple Bars. Basically, apple pie cooked on a cookie sheet. These bars are perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee or milk. They are wonderful as dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Most heavenly right out of the oven. They never last long in our house.

Here is how you make them!

         Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
     Measure flour, shortening, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Combine ingredients using a pastry blender.

Separate yokes from egg whites. Add just the yokes to the combined crust mixture. 

Add milk and stir until dough forms a ball and flour is entirely incorporated.

 Grease a 9 x 13 cookie sheet 

Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the side. Set aside the remaining dough.

Peel, core, and chop 7 ½ cups of apples (about 7 medium apples) and place into a medium size bowl.

Cut butter until small cubes. Add small butter cubes to the apples and stir.

 Add flour, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to the apples and stir.

Pour apple mixture on top of the dough. Spread the apples out evenly.

  Roll out the remaining dough to create a top crust. To make the rolled dough easier to maneuver, I rolled ½ the remaining dough out and then placed it over the apples. Then I rolled the other ½ of the dough and then placed it over the uncovered apples. 

1   Place the bars in the oven and cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

While the bars are baking, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to create a thin glaze. You want the consistency to be very thin.

1 When the bars are finished, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes. 

Drizzle the glaze over the bars. Allow to cool for 5 minutes longer.  Bars are served best warm

Apple Pie Bars
Yields 1 pan of bars

4 ½ Cups Flour
1 ½ cups vegetable shortening
2 ¼ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 small egg yokes
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of milk

7 ½ cups apples
¼ cup flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 Tbsp. butter (cut into small pieces)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup powdered sugar
Splash of Milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.        Measure flour, shortening, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Combine ingredients using a pastry blender.
3.       Separate yokes from egg whites. Add just the yokes to the combined crust mixture. Add milk and stir until dough forms a ball and flour is entirely incorporated.
4.       Grease a 9 x 13 cookie sheet and press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the side. Set aside the remaining dough.
5.       Peel, core, and chop 7 ½ cups of apples (about 7 medium apples) and place into a medium size bowl.
6.       Add flour, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to the apples and stir.
7.       Cut butter until small cubes. Add small butter cubes to the apple mixture and stir.
8.       Pour apple mixture on top of the dough. Spread the apples out evenly.
9.       Roll out the remaining dough to create a top crust. To make the rolled dough easier to maneuver, I rolled ½ the remaining dough out and then placed it over the apples. Then I rolled the other ½ of the dough and then placed it over the uncovered apples.
10.   Place the bars in the oven and cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
11.   While the bars are baking combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to create a thin glaze. You want the consistency to be very thin.
12.   When the bars are finished, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes.

13.   Drizzle the glaze over the bars. Allow to cool for 5 minutes longer.  Bars are served best warm.

Friday, November 6, 2015

His Favorites: November 2015

2015 is almost over and it may be one of the years I wish I could have zapped through faster.   School has been numbing, and work has just been busy.  However it is always important to find things that you like to do. My favorite things help to be both a monotony buster and a energy inducer.

Green Bay is the smallest city to host an NFL franchise, even more important it is owned by normal people, not just millionaires and billionaires.  Even more important is that it is near where I grew up and became a touchstone for my family a connection point that lets me be home with Dad especially now that he is gone.  The fact that they are winning is good too.

Salvage Dawgs is on Netflix and it has become a favorite as well.  It is great to see guys using historic furnishings and how they get them out of some of those places is pretty interesting too.

The Destroyermen Series by Taylor Anderson, has become my new voracious read.  Science fiction and alternate history join together to create a readable tale.  I think it is probably one of the few series I have gotten into this year that has really let me imagine living in a different world.

This month is getting away from me very fast.  Work is not slowing down especially with holiday parades and work on the Library.  Hiring a custodian will free up time for me to do some of the things I have wanted to do but haven't had the time to do.  School is also nearing the climax, and all the fun has dwindled away into grind of the end of the semester.  It is probably worse that after all this time going to work in libraries I have the enjoyment of working on Library school at night too.

So if school is a grind for me what kinds of things are a grind for you?

Her Favorites: November 2015

This morning I was paging through my 2015 scrapbook album. Seriously, where has this year gone? It seems as if I was just on summer break last week.  This fall has flown by. Christmas will be here before we know it. Why is it when I was a child, it felt like an eternity until Christmas break rolled around? Why did summers stretch on forever? November!?? How can you be here already?

Some of my favorite YouTube videos to watch are "Favorites" videos. I love seeing what other people are into.  Some bloggers and YouTubers focus on specific items such as beauty products or foods. I want to share a broader selection of my currents favorites. So here is a small round-up of what I am liking right now. 

Sweater Weather Candle by Bath and Body Works

I am a newbie in the world of Bath and Body Works candles. This is only the second one I have every purchased. This candle reminds me of Vermont on a cool crisp autumn day. They really captured the scent of a Vermont autumn day, in a jar. It has a fire undertone, almost like a campfire. Slight hints of cranberry,maple, and  evergreen trees round out the scent. It is delightful. I burn this candle when I feel homesick.

Philadelphia Spicy Jalapeno Cream Cheese Spread

I have the suspicious feeling that this cream cheese was created for cooking.Oh well! Amazing on a nice whole wheat bagel. It has a kick to it. I love the burn of spicy food.  Finally a way to incorporate spiciness into my breakfast rotation.

Dear Philadelphia, please don't discontinue this flavor, EVER!

This has been on my favorites list for quite some time. Absolutely refreshing! Perfect for any time of day. I especially enjoy a glass of this over ice after work.  I think I will stop typing for a minute to have a glass...So good! They also make a diet version of this tea. It is good, but not quite as amazing as the regular. 

My only complaint is that Kroger has stopped selling it in the large jugs. It is a bit of a pain to have to go to another store to purchase it. 

My name is Emily and I am a goal setting junkie. This book goes beyond goal setting. Goal setting has a beginning and an end point. What happens after you reach your goal?  Forming habits is a way to bring about more permanent changes in your life. I personally connected with her point that forming habits is not a one-size fits all endeavor. This book provides a framework to customize habits to better your life. 

The personal antidotes dispersed throughout the book made it very enjoyable to read. I always love reading personal stories. It gives me a connection point to the author. 

I highly recommend this book if you are a goal setting and habit forming junkie, like myself. It would also be a great read if you enjoy learning about why people do what they do. The paperback version has just recently been released! 

J House Vlogs are my newest favorite family vloggers. They vlog about their daily life including the fun moments and struggles. This family is very refreshing and genuine. Their children are adorable. The  two youngest children are partners-in-crime and get into hilarious mischief. Any parent will instantly relate to their shenanigans.

In the Eat It or Wear It Challenge, the two oldest children are challenged to eat a variety of different foods. If they eat the food, they are allowed to pour some on their sibling's head. If they don't, the sibling gets to pour some on the other child's head. This video will leave you with a huge smile!  

The Squatty Potty Unicorn Commercial by Squatty Potty

The Squatty Potty is a real product. You may have seen it introduced on Shark Tank. This commercial  is total potty humor. It brings out the inner 3-year old. The topic of poop and colon health is introduced in a pleasant and comical way.

The style of commercial is very similar  to the other poop themed product, Poo Pourri. In fact, both commercials were created by the same production team. I am completely convinced that I need this product. If this company would have shied away from comedy, the product would have been overlooked by a majority of people. Now, thanks to this video being shared on social media, there is quite the buzz. The comedy brings out and makes colon health  much more interesting.

Last week while browsing in Goodwill, we spied this toy unicorn. Michael and I burst out in uncontrollable laughter. I will never look at unicorns in the same way and I don't think I could ever eat rainbow ice cream ever again.
What are you reading, eating, and watching in November?