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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Warming By The Fire

We purchased this firepit almost 2 years ago. With great intentions to use it during the cold months but it just sat on our deck. I decided we needed to break it in a couple nights ago and hubby agreed.

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We invited our neighbor friends over to cook up some yummy s'mores and enjoy the warm of a roaring fire...

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Hubby working on adding just enough to get the perfect temperature!

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Cuddling up with my teenager.. Can you tell he's thrilled.. ha ha ha!!

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Roaring fire and my honey.. Two things to keep you warm when it's cold.. It was a perfect evening to share some desserts, heat and fellowship!! I look forward to using this more often this winter..
Do you have firepit at your home? How often do you sit and enjoy it's warmth? Would love to hear from you!! Happy New Year!

Christmas 2013

I can't believe Christmas is already passed us and we are now sitting on the last day of 2013. When they say, when you get older, time flies.. Well.. it's so true. I thought I'd add some photos of our Christmas Day at our house...

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Our little Christmas Tree. A couple years ago, we traded in our old artificial tree and decided to get something that was smaller and didn't take up much space during the season and especially when it's stored for the other 11 months each year. It's perfect in our newly remodeled dining room with all our family ornaments..

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My son wanted to take a picture of me in front of the tree...

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Hubby decided to make a gingerbread house this year. He never wants to do this so I HAD to take a picture of the finished product.. Looks yummy!

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Stockings full of goodies. Each year they get three things. A book, a movie and something Christian based. I got them each a Christian Music CD and also some chocolates and Cold Stone Creamery Gift Cards for the New Year...

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Kids awaiting Christmas morning...

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DD19's gifts from us, brothers and her friend...

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DS14's gifts from us and her sister, and brother

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DS12's gifts from us, his brother, sister and Royal Rangers group

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My wonderful friend Amelia handmade this awesome Apron for me. Has my initials on it up by the collar and on the pocket along with really cute ladybug buttons.. I can't wait to make something... LOVE IT!

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To finish off the evening we had our traditional dinner together with our annual family photo...
Hope you all had a wonderful and truly blessed Christmas....

Son's 12th Birthday Celebration

My youngest just turned 12 on December 22nd. Time sure is flying. All my babies are all growing up, and in turn, making me feel old.. It was a low key year for birthday parties. Mama here needed a year off from party planning and it sure was nice. DS12 wanted a friend over for a sleepover and I thought "that won't hurt". We had the neighbors over for cake, he had two friends over for a bit and then one slept over. Simple, easy and he had a blast!!

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Every year I have a picture taken with the birthday child. Here I am with my new 12 yr old son! WOW!

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Made my son a lego cake. After I prepared the cake I realized I made his brother a lego cake on his 12th birthday as well. Pretty funny... I guess the age of 12 is THE year to love legos.. hee hee!!

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Having a birthday just 3 days before Christmas, it's hard to HIDE the decorations. Each year I've done really well in making my son feel special on his birthday. We keep all the lights off and just focus on his special day.. This year I wanted to take it up a notch and give him the "birthday tree".. Decorating the Christmas tree with birthday balloons. His favorite color is light blue so I added blue/white balloons to our Christmas tree...

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He thought it was awesome!

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For my daughter's 19th birthday back in October I decorated her door with balloons and streamers. I decided to do that again for my son's birthday... He loved walking through it everytime he went into his room....

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Having his two friends over (in the background), my two boys decided to be silly before singing Happy Birthday and having cake.. "Boys Will Be Boys"....
Happy 12th Birthday Little Man... We love You!!!

Raising Boys by Design Book Review

Raising Boys by Design
Raising Boys by Design
What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs to Thrive
by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD and Michael Gurian
About This Book:
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:

• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

 This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design.
My Thoughts on This Book:
No matter how old your son is, this is an excellent book to help you understand the 'boy' in your son. Having two growing boys in my house, I love reading books that will help me understand the males that live under my roof. They handle emotion, tension, stress, much differently than females. With this Christ centered book, you will begin to understand the dynamics of your son's brain, and help your son become the best man he can be.. Great book!

To learn more about this book you can check out the website HERE
You can read the first chapter HERE
About the Author:
Dr. Gregory L. Jantz
Gregory Jantz, Ph.D., is a popular speaker, author, nationally certified psychologist, certified chemical dependency professional, and certified eating disorder specialist. He is the founder and executive director of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc., a leading mental health and chemical dependency treatment facility with three clinics in the Seattle area.
Dr. Jantz’s “whole person” approach to mental health addresses the emotional, physical, intellectual, relational, and spiritual dimensions of human beings. His compassionate, solutions-oriented viewpoints on timely topics, plus a natural gift for storytelling, make him a sought-after guest on local and national radio and TV. He has authored numerous books, including Turning the Tables on Gambling and Too Close to the Flame.

Author's Website HERE
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given.

The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren

The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life

The Daniel Plan- 40 Days to a Healthier Life

By Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman

About This Book:
Revolutionize Your Health ...

Once and for All

During an afternoon of baptizing over 800 people, Pastor Rick Warren realized it was time for change. He told his congregation he needed to lose weight and asked if anyone wanted to join him. He thought maybe 200 people would sign up, instead he witnessed a movement unfold as 15,000 people lost over 260,000 pounds in the first year. With assistance from medical and fitness experts, Pastor Rick and thousands of people began a journey to transform their lives.

Welcome to The Daniel Plan.

Here's the secret sauce: The Daniel Plan is designed to be done in a supportive community relying on God's instruction for living.

When it comes to getting healthy, two are always better than one. Our research has revealed that people getting healthy together lose twice as much weight as those who do it alone. God never meant for you to go through life alone and that includes the journey to health.

Unlike the thousands of other books on the market, this book is not about a new diet, guilt-driven gym sessions, or shame-driven fasts. The Daniel Plan shows you how the powerful combination of faith, fitness, food, focus, and friends will change your health forever, transforming you in the most head-turning way imaginably---from the inside out.

My Thoughts on This Book:
Looking to change your lifestyle? Desiring a healthier life but don't know where to start? Look no further. In 40 days you will be equipped with the necessary tools to achieve in these five areas of your life- Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus and Friends.
I've spent years in changing my eating habits, exercising on a regular basis and being a better person, inside and out. This book will help you in all areas of your life. Not just a short term fix, but a lifestyle change.
The book is broken down into the five main categories discussed above. Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus and Friends. Each chapter will bring you closer to meet your health goals. The book recommends working alongside others as you maximize your potential when you have someone else's encouragement. There is also a companion cookbook. I haven't had the opportunity to see this but what I've read of it, I believe would be a wonderful asset to your weight loss goals.
Check out this website HERE to get more info about the Daniel Plan and then pick up a copy at your local bookstore..
About the Author:
Rick Warren
Dr. Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, leader of a 30,000 member congregation in Lake Forest, California and local California campuses and in major cities around the world. As a theologian, he has lectured at many universities and seminaries including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and University of Judaism.
As a global strategist, he speaks to world leaders and organizations including United Nations, US Congress, Davos Economic Forum, TED and Aspen Institute. Rick has also founded the global P.E.A.C.E. plan, which plants churches of reconciliation, Equips leaders, Assists the poor, Cares for the sick, and Educates the next generation in 196 countries and is the author of the international best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of this book. No other compensation was given.

One Word 2014

Word for 2014
It's that time of year again. Picking my Word for 2014. I've participated in the ONE WORD for the year since 2011. This year I'm excited about participating alongside my crew members at the Schoolhouse Review Crew Round Up. You can check out others who are participating and see their words for 2014 HERE.
One Word 2011
2011- I so desperately needed to simplify my home by organizing everything, simplifying my schedule because I was overwhelmed, and simplifying my homeschooling because I kept switching curriculum at the drop of a hat. This was a wonderful year for me and 365 days of changing my life by thinking of this word daily.
One Word 2012
2012- I branched off the Simplify word and chose this word to balance all my hard work from 2011. I needed to balance my committments, homeschooling, and clutter.
One Word 2013
2013- My goal was to work on renewing my Faith, and friendships. I wrote a post about this one so you can read in more detail HERE 
That brings me to my Word for 2014.. Drum roll please...........
One Word 2014
Like the other words I've chosen in years past this one hits home for me deeply.
My goal to FOCUS on....
To read the Bible in Chronological Order in one year
Individual time with each child and my husband
Real frienships and to let go of those that were seasonal in my life. I've had some friends that have come into my life for just a season and I've been holding on to hope that they will grow closer and I'm realizing that it's time to focus on the ones that matter..
Focus on my youngest son's homeschool curriculum. Focus on enjoying the homeschool crew and all that it will bless our family with. Also to focus on my oldest son if he will continue w/ public school. To be there for him through all that it entails for him.
To continue on with all that I've done to create a home that is inviting, not only for friends but for the entire family that live here. To keep it clean, organized and welcome for all that enter.
Do you have a One Word for 2014? I'd love to hear what yours is for this year? Leave a comment with your word. If you've made a blog post please include the direct link. I'd love to read it.. Thanks for stopping by.. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

For Love or Loyalty by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

For Love or Loyalty, MacGregor Quest Series #1   -     By: Jennifer Hudson Taylor
For Love or Loyalty
MacGregor Legacy- Book One
by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
About this Book:
To atone for her father's evil, Lauren Campbell agrees to help Malcolm MacGregor. By the time she realizes she's the bargaining price to free Malcolm's mother from indentured servitude, it's too late.

Malcolm MacGregor only wants to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. As the pride and joy of Duncan's life, his daughter Lauren is the perfect answer, but during the voyage to America, her faith continues to witness to Malcolm. He becomes enraptured with her, and upon their arrival, discovers he's sold her into a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma: free his family or rescue Lauren? Time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle.
My Thoughts on This Book:
Malcolm finds that his sister and mother have been taken by the Campbell's, the rival clan from their homeland of Scotland. Selling them both into indenture service in America, Malcolm must think fast. Seeing Lauren, the Campbell's daughter, he takes her on a ship to the Carolina's to trade her for his mother, placing Lauren in indenture. As the ship sails across the waters, Malcolm begins to rethink his decisions about enslaving Lauren but can't find any other way to help save his family.
Full of drama, twists, and possible love? A great read.. I look forward to the next book in this series. I'm not one to read books that are centered in other countries but found this one intriguing and it captured my attention after the first couple chapters. I did have a little trouble getting use to the Scottish dialect, but that is mainly because I'm not familiar with how they speak. Other than that, loved it!!!
Jennifer Hudson Taylor Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe and the Carolinas. She's a speaker on writing, publishing and social media marketing. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in communications/Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, visiting historical sites, parasailing, cycling, horseback riding, genealogy, and reading.
I've received this book from the author as a complimentary copy. No review was necessary to receive free copy. My thoughts are my own and do not reflect the publisher or author.

Christmas Cookie Basket

Every year since 2008, I've made a gift basket for my neighbors. As the years went on, I added more  neighbors and I'm now up to 9 houses.. Pretty much everyone that surrounds my house. Many are close friends and the others neighbors I look forward to getting to know better.
This year I thought I'd spice it up a little and put it in a basket and add a homemade ornament as a centerpiece. In years past I just placed the cookies/goodies on a plate and wrapped them.

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This year I also added a jar of homemade apple butter I made along with a variety of cookies and two mini loaves of chocolate bread wrapped in pretty waxed Christmas paper.. I then included a homemade Christmas card with a personal sentiment..
I had fun making these this year. Mainly because I help. My friend came over daily to help me bake, chat and enjoy each others company. Made the time pass quickly and in the end she didn't realize she was helping me make a basket for herself since she lives across the street.. hee hee!!
As a little added bonus this year, I also made a basket of goodies for our regular mailman. He works hard, especially from me as I don't ship my items from the Post Office.. I add postage here at the house and he picks it up for me.. He just spoke to my hubby today when dropping off a package and told hubby that his family LOVED the goodies.. So it looks like he'll be on my list for next year too.. wink!
Do you treat your neighbors with goodies for the Christmas Season? Would love to hear from you.. Leave a comment, if you post on your blog, share your link.. Look forward to hearing from you!

Christmas Party w/ Ideas

I've always wanted to host a Christmas Party. With my youngest son's birthday just 3 days before Christmas, It always seemed adding another 'party' to the month would send me over the edge. This year though, I stepped out of my comfort zone and with the help of two great friends, I was able to host a dinner party for 37 people.

I had fun prepping and planning for the event.

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Made a festive cupcake tower

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Here it is with the yummy cupcakes

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Made North Pole cupcakes

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Dessert and Sides Table

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Some fun snowman donuts

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And to drink, you can't miss out on some Melted Snowman to quench your thirst

It was a bring a main dish and an ornament exchange event. I planned for three other games as well.

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The stocking game had one item in each. They had to feel what was inside and make a guess

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Guess how many ornaments were in the container game..

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They also played a family game where they had to wrap a box using only one hand and their family had to work as a team to get it wrapped completely.

With the ornament they brought we played a left/right game

I also had a table of homemade sugar cookies for the kids to decorate along with another table with snowflake ornaments to make and take home

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The evening wouldn't be complete without something entertaining.. The Photo Booth....

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Table of props.. oh what fun!!

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My friend, Deb and I. Between the two of us, we decided to throw a party. She helped with the guest list, and setting everything up on the day of the event!

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My beautiful daughter and I.. Goofy glasses/hats and all!!

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"The Candy Cane Army"

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My friend and I. She helped me in so many ways with getting everything together for the event. Hubby was in Arizona while throwing the party so she was a lifesaver..

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This is one of those pictures, if we were all family, that would go into the 'Awkward Family Photos' book. The three on the left are family, and then there is me.. ha ha ha!!

Each family member walked home with a nice gift from me. A wrapped Christmas Candle

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I'm so glad I decided to have this, this year and look forward to having another one next year.. This time I pray my hubby will be home and not out in another state for work.. It was wonderful fellowship and a great time to enjoy friends and family..

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Did you throw a Christmas party or plan to throw a New Year party for friends/family? Would love to hear your ideas.. Please leave a comment below to share or if you've shared your ideas on Pinterest or your own personal blog, please leave a link.