Gingerbread Cookies

Will and I talked about doing a gingerbread house with the boys this year, but then thought back to how hard those are to build if you make them from scratch, and how bad they taste if you buy the premade ones that you just decorate. So we decided to do gingerbread cookies instead. I cheated a bit and bought the pouch of cookie mix (just add butter and eggs), and Will picked up a pouch of royal icing and some red and green candies (like M&Ms, except Hershey brand). We also used some gummy bears that we had on hand already, and everyone had a really fun time decorating the cookies.

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Small Fry got help with the frosting, but added the candies all by himself.

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I decorated Dragonfly’s for him, and it was about all he could handle to not eat it before I took a picture!

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Blessings,

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Recipe: Artichoke Pasta

Will was recently at a restaurant by himself, and he ordered something he normally wouldn’t – a pasta dish from a burger place. But he really liked it and decided to have us try to replicate it on our own. Here’s what we came up; he says it’s pretty close, and even if it wasn’t, it’s totally delicious. And the best part is that it works two ways: as a hot dish on its own (it’s a fantastic lunch), and as chilled leftovers in a pasta-salad type of way. The quantities I give will make a huge batch – enough for lunch one day and a side dish the next.

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Artichoke Pasta

2 pounds rotini pasta (or your favorite bite-size)
Approximately 3 cups pesto-Alfredo sauce (we use 2 jars of Classico basil Alfredo)
1 bunch kale
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped (but not too finely)
3-4 diced Roma tomatoes, or equivalent grape or cherry tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you’re waiting, get the kale ready by removing the leaves from the stems and chopping it roughly.

Add the pasta and kale to the pot together. Cook according to pasta box directions. Drain. (Don’t do what I did on picture day and forget the kale. It’s really much better if you cook it long enough.)

To the same pot, add the sauce, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes to heat the sauce and gently cook the vegetables.

Add the pasta-kale mixture to the sauce mixture and stir well to combine. Serve hot or chill and serve cold later.

Blessings,

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New Magic Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

IMG_1041We have been blessed to work with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on many occasions, and we love all of their products. Today, I’m here to tell you about something new in their arsenal: Magic Stix markers. My kids (particularly the two younger ones) have had the pleasure of drawing all sorts of different things over the past week or so using these markers, and they love them! They’ve definitely become the medium of choice for the kids in their neverending quest to create more artwork.

Magic Stix aren’t so different from other markers. They come in a variety of colors (packs of 12 or 24). They’re odorless. They’re washable.

But where they really shine is in their endurance. See, they’re guaranteed not to dry out for up to 7 days – with the cap off. That’s remarkable, and something I had a hard time bringing myself to test prior to writing up this post. Finally, I knew that my deadline was approaching and I had to test out that claim. Due to my hesitation, I didn’t let the markers sit for 7 days without their caps, but I did let one of the sit out with no cap for 3 days (well, more like 36 hours over the course of 3 calendar days). And guess what? It worked just as well at the end of that time as it did at the beginning. Check it out:

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I won’t exactly say I was shocked, because I know that The Pencil Grip wouldn’t make the claim if it wasn’t true, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there wasn’t even any difference in the quality of the line. A normal marker would have to have been tossed in the garbage by the time I wrote the first “Day 2” on my test paper. I’m definitely impressed by these!

IMG_1042My only issue with them is that they bleed quite a bit. When your children use them, make sure to have plenty of extra paper underneath the one they’re writing on to save your tables.

You can buy Magic Stix for $9.95 (for the 12 pack) or $19.95 (for the 24 pack) on Amazon – and the 12-pack is on Prime, so if you hurry, you can get them in time for Christmas!

Blessings,

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Puppets

For Seahawk’s birthday, we wanted to get him a “gift that would inspire” rather than just something else to clutter up the kids’ room (since they’re all 4 in one bedroom at the moment). So we found a puppet from a toy store, and we got some books on puppeteering from the library. He had loads of fun with that, and has continued to have fun for the 5 weeks since his birthday. So much fun, in fact, that the other kids wanted in on the fun. Exactly what we’d hoped to accomplish!

After that, Will went online and found a “make your own puppet” pattern, so he downloaded and printed it it, and the boys have been making these puppets for themselves quite a lot since then. It’s really neat to see their creativity flow and how many different puppets they can make from the same pattern. Even Dragonfly is getting in on the action – not of making puppets (since he’s only 2), but of playing with them. He just loves all of the puppets! Will even watched an episode of Sesame Street with him once since then, and he immediately recognized the characters as puppets. That’s something Will readily admits he didn’t understand until he was much older.

So today, I wanted to share a picture of Seahawk with one of the puppets he’s created. The nose is entirely his creation – the pattern didn’t include that.

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Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Flash!

As you may know, Dragonfly isn’t much of a baby anymore. He turned 2 last month, and now when asked the question, “Are you a baby?” the answer is (almost) always, “No baby. Little boy.” Super cute.

Occasionally the answer changes a bit though. You see, the big kids have been watching the TV show Flash lately, and the little kids are sometimes caught up in the episodes with them. So sometimes, instead of saying, “No baby. Little boy,” Dragonfly will tell me, “No baby. Flash.” And then he runs away. 🙂

To aid in his love of all things Flash, Munchkin made him this little costume that he can wear over the top of his clothes, and then he really is the Flash. He absolutely loves it.

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Blessings,

 

Recipe: Angel Chicken Pasta

One of our favorite things to eat is pasta. It’s easy, cheap, and can feed a lot of people with not too much effort. Finding a good sauce to make is even better. I found this one from AllRecipes a while ago, but I’ve modified it to make it even easier (and quicker!) for my family. The first time I made it for my in-laws, they both raved about how good it was, so I decided I wanted to share my version of the recipe here. I hope you like it too.

These quantities are for my family of 8. Adjust accordingly for your family size.

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Angel Chicken Pasta

Ingredients:

3-4 chicken breasts, diced

1/2 stick butter

2 packets dry Italian dressing mix

1 cup white wine (I use cooking wine since we don’t drink)

2 cans condensed Golden Mushroom soup (Campbell’s brand)

1 brick cream cheese (8 oz)

1 1/2 pounds angel hair pasta

Instructions:

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook the chicken in a touch of oil until no longer pink. Add the Italian dressing mix and white wine and stir to dissolve the dressing. Cook for a minute or two to evaporate the alcohol in the wine. Stir in the soup and butter; heat through. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted and heated all the way through.

Combine the pasta and sauce. Serve with your choice of sides (salad and bread).

Blessings,

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Book Club: Unbroken


Book Club with Lori

Lori offered me a list of books for book club this month, and I picked Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the true story of Louis Zamperelli, an Olympic runner in the 1930s who then was drafted to fight in WWII.

I’d heard a bit about Zamperelli, but didn’t actually know anything about besides there was a YWAM book about his life. So I was interested in this book. The other thing it had going for it was that the audio book was available from Overdrive, so I didn’t have to wait to get my (virtual) hands on it. Also, the audio book was read by the late Edward Hermann, famous for his role as Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls (among other things). All of these things were wins in my book (pardon the pun), and I was not disappointed.

In the first several chapters, I was far from impressed of Mr. Zamperelli. In fact, as I listened (while knitting) I remember thinking on more than one occasion that he was a complete and total punk, someone who just made the “mom” in me really mad. His own mother must have been a saint to have put up with all of his shenanigans. But then his brother got him into running, and his entire life changed. He finally had something to put his focus into, and within just a few years of diving into that hobby, he was Olympics bound in the long-distance running events, handily beating out more experienced runners in his categories. In fact, his own category (the one mile) was full, so he trained hard to run the 5000-meter race – nearly 3 miles. I found all of these chapters to be fascinating.

Then WWII started. The 1940 Olympics were canceled (did you know that? I didn’t), and Zamperelli joined up as an air force bombadier. He’d been a pilot in the military previously, but left the service because he hated flying. What he didn’t know was that his contract upon leaving was that by re-enlisting to avoid being drafted, he was automatically enlisted as an air force soldier. Ironic, eh?

His time in the war was nothing short of amazing, and I don’t want to spoil the story here, as much as I’d love to talk more about it. Suffice it to say that his story is amazing enough that I’ve re-borrowed the audiobook and it’s going on the list of things the kids and I are going to do for homeschool this month. It was that good. Also, parts of the story reminded me a lot of the Jacob de Shazer book we read earlier this year (a YWAM book), and I think it will be good for them to make some comparisons between the two men.

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog to read her thoughts as well.

Next time, we’ll be reading Waiting for Rachel, a lighthearted Christian romance novel. I read it earlier this month and really enjoyed it, and when I mentioned it to Lori she was amenable to reading it too. You can get he Kindle version for free on Amazon if you want to join us.

Blessings,

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Review and Giveaway: ESV Illuminated Bible #FlyBy #ESVIlluminatedBible

Happy Thanksgiving! In celebration today, I have a review and giveaway for one of the things we as Christians should be the most thankful for today: the Bible.

Bible reading is a super important part of the life of a Christian, and a lot of us feel like we “need” more than just text on a page to keep us going on that each day. If that’s you, then I have just the right Bible to tell you about today: the ESV Illuminated Bible.

94AA25A3-FCA5-4AFD-A3F4-9A91C049CE1CThis Bible is a super nice hardcover edition that comes in a box. The cover is dark blue with gold embossing all over. The cover itself is gorgeous, and once you open it up, it just gets better. The Bible (as you can tell from the title) is the English Standard Version, which is the one my family prefers. There’s a single column of text on each page (instead of the standard two columns most bibles have), plus lots of room for you to make your own notes and drawings. Some of the pages have specific verses written in decorated text in those margins, and many of the books (64 of them) have their own illuminated (fancy illustrated) opening page.

The Bible is printed in 9-point Lexicon black ink, and the illuminations are printed in gold, matching the cover. The two color printing is really nice together. In addition to the 64 Bible book opening pages, there are another 50 full page memory verse illustrations and over 250 small, in the margin, illustrations. All of the drawings are by American artist Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by companies such as the USPS and Target. 

BF411EF0-6F5E-49C1-88A5-30707F586EA6If you’re into the new craze of decorating your Bible with your own thoughts and colors, then this is absolutely the Bible for you. The wide margins give ample room for those notes and drawings that I’ve seen all over Instagram. The only downside I can think of to this Bible is that it’s quite big and heavy. It’s probably not the one you want to carry around with you every day for basic reading. But for studying and taking notes in your own home, it’s a great option. You can purchase a copy of the Bible on Amazon.

If you want to win a copy of this Bible for your very own, just fill out the Giveaway Tools widget below. The giveaway will run through Thursday, November 30 at 11:00 p.m. PST. Winner will be contacted via email and announced here on December 1st, 2017. Good luck!

Blessings,

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.