Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Lynn Austin's newest book, On This Foundation, in exchange for a review. I decided to branch out a little bit from my usual Regency period fiction to an Old Testament Biblical fiction piece. I loved reading Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion series, so I was hopeful that maybe I could make it through this.

I got busy with a few church responsibilities and required reading that went along with them, and the first time I picked On This Foundation up, it didn't seem like light reading. So I put it down. And then a week later, I picked it back up, determined to try again to make good on my promise of a review. I'm so glad I did, because I enjoyed it so much!

If you're familiar with the Bible, this book is a telling of Nehemiah's story--how he was called by God to go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It covers his appointment as Governor of Judah by King Artaxerxes, people who stood in his was, and his commitment to honoring God in his efforts to begin the work to restore the holy city.

Keep in mind that while the story of Nehemiah was true and well-tended in this work, it is indeed a piece of historical fiction. There are a few peripheral characters surrounding Nehemiah who are fictional. Their stories are interwoven with not only what the Jewish people were suffering during that time, but how Nehemiah's strategies impacted them as he came on the scene.

When I finished, I told my husband I thought he would enjoy it. It appeals to both men and women, especially followers of Jesus Christ and those who love to read God's Word. You probably already know the story, but this is an interesting telling of it. In particular, these people were living in a time where Queen Esther's "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) moment was so recent, and there were several reminders of that throughout the book. It was a great challenge for me personally. With world events as they are, Christ-followers the world over will be facing those moments for themselves.

If you're looking for a book to cuddle up with over the holidays, this would make a great one! This is the third in Lynn Austin's The Restoration Chronicles series. Now time to check out the others!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Meal Plan Monday: Cold & Rainy Edition

Like everyone else, I've spent the weekend Christmas shopping from the same spot I'm sitting in now, wearing stretchy pants, and otherwise not paying attention to most of the things I've eaten. But I just posted a photo on instagram about not missing a Monday working out, so today I guess I'll apply that to meal plans to eat. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so they say. So here we go!

The weather is gray, chilly, and seems to be begging for soup. That was my jumping off point this week.

Monday: Homemade Chicken and Noodles
I have chicken in the crockpot cooking as I type, just salt and peppered. After dance this afternoon, I will boil and drain some noodles, and dice the chicken, added together with the juices from the crockpot plus a little broth, carrots, and peas because we need veggies. And then I'll season it.

Tuesday: Taco Soup
I usually make this with hominy, but I have corn on hand this week, so I'll be substituting that instead. Recipe found here.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
I've been facilitating a ladies' group at church this year, and this is our last meeting for the fall. We decided to have our Christmas party catered, so I'll be putting that together. Thankfully, the rest of the fam will eat from the church kitchen!

Thursday: Leftovers
We've got company coming in for the weekend, so we'll either be eating leftovers from Monday and Tuesday or hot turkey and cheese sandwiches (think grilled cheese, with turkey) from the stove.

Friday: Fun Night
Out to eat, for sure!

I'd love to expand my soup recipes, but ingredient lists a mile long and things like "lentils" turn me off. Do you have any
recipes you would recommend?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Inexpensive Quality Disney Princess Costumes

Back last February/March, my little lady had some birthday money to spend, and I thought she would have fun traipsing around the house with a Disney princess dress. As I started searching (Disney Store first because that seemed like the spot), I couldn't believe the price tag of something made of such seemingly cheap and scratchy materials.

As I kept googling my way into different corners of the internet, I came across the Disney Collection for JCPenney concept. It's basically a pop-up Disney Store, with merchandise designed by the same group that designs for Disney theme parks and stores. And we have one in our local JCPenney! I grabbed the kids after naps one afternoon, and we headed for over for the ladybug to try on a few. After donning the entire Disney princess wardrobe, we both agreed on Cinderella. Most of them are regularly priced $38, but usually they're on sale for around $25. The quality is better than the big box stores, but about $35 less than THE Disney Store.

Disney Collection Princesses for JCPenney

Elsa | Anna | Snow White | Cinderella | Rapunzel

I was inspired to share this little find because I haven't heard anyone mention these. I popped in our newly reopened Disney Store this week, and another mom was looking through dresses for Halloween. I mentioned the JCPenney dresses. She had no idea! Currently, I think the Frozen costumes at JCP are the cutest outside of the actual Magic Kingdom.

As you're searching for Halloween costumes, or even starting your Christmas shopping, check Disney Collection for JCPenney out. I've washed and hung ours to dry a few times with success. It's even made it through a whole day at the Magic Kingdom and is still kicking. We found the dresses true to size.

This is not a paid ad, just a mom find I wanted to pass along. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Family Goes to Walt Disney World

Last week we took an incredible trip to Walt Disney World with our family. I could not believe the amount of planning that went into a Disney vacation. I've been working on it, along with a travel agent, for around 6 months. We squeezed nearly every bit of fun out of Disney that we could, while being mindful of two preschoolers who both still nap. It took planning, editing, and fantastic logistics, but I couldn't be more pleased with the way it unfolded.

We left out early Sunday morning, which was an adventure of its own. We flew Southwest (seamless as usual) and traveled by Mickey's Magical Express to our resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Recapping our trip would require multiple posts, and that seems like way more details than you probably want, so my quick summary is this: we visited all four parks, stayed in Magic Kingdom the most, and loved Peter Pan (the ride) and Rapunzel (the character) the best. I can't think of a princess or character that we wanted to see but didn't. We saw them all.

We had a Disney dining plan and ate everywhere we wanted, and one of them twice. Be Our Guest was my personal fave, and we ate there both lunch and dinner on different days. While I was checking in for lunch, two separate parties walked up to ask if they could get reservations, and the attendant told him that it was booked out for 6 months. That's bananas. The ambience is incredible - it's like you stepped into the animated movie. We even thought the food was good. Our dinner there was our best meal food-wise. Mr. G would say his favorite meal was Hoop De Do Review, which is a fun dinner theater musical review at Fort Wilderness. At the risk of sounding like I've been Disney-fied, everything truly was magical.

With my little guy on Dumbo
My ladybug on Prince Charming's Carousel

I have over a thousand pics to wade through, and those are just mine--they don't include Mr. G's! It was such a nice break to get away, even with such a busy trip, and I definitely saw God's hand on my little fam during the time we spent together. I came home re-energized and pumped to have had the opportunity to show my kids the magic of Disney.

If you're planning a Disney trip or have any questions about taking preschoolers (what works, what doesn't) then give me a shout!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

I'm dusting off the blog today to post our meal plan for the week. We've been gone on vacation, had sick kids, and overall busy, so I took some time yesterday to be intentional about what we'll put in our mouths this week. I also need to drink some more water after all the diet coke I drank at Disney World!

Monday: Green Beans with Bacon and Potatoes
This is a family favorite I posted a few years ago. It has something in it for everyone!

Tuesday: Domino's Pizza
Pizza is a tradition on soccer practice night, you see.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
I have no clue what's on the menu, but we're eating it. Besides the hot line, there's an awesome salad bar with different lettuces, fresh veggies and fruits, baked potatoes, and soup. My post-vacay self may need to check out the salad bar.

Thursday: Chicken and Rice Skillet
I'll have to post the recipe for this soon. Here's the closest I could find, but mine doesn't use as many ingredients. It's one of my husband's faves that I've been making since I was trying out my new pots and pans during our newlywed days. It's one skillet, delicious, and makes great leftovers.

Friday: Date Night
Fingers crossed this involves Mexican food.

Most of my meal plan Mondays include recipes that we go back to over and over. Familiarity and ease of prep is what I'm looking for always. What's your go-to weeknight meal?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Roseanna M. White's newest book, The Lost Heiress, in exchange for a review. I'm loving this review program, and--spoiler alert--so far I've only received books that I've enjoyed reading.

One thing to note of my Bethany House reviews: so far of their books I've read, they make mention of faith and faith in God, but they have not mentioned a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. These are works of fiction, not marketed as books to increase knowledge of the Bible or deepen a relationship with the Lord. (If you're looking for one of those, I have a bunch I could recommend.) They are clean and acknowledge God and His Sovereignty, and as such, they are definitely more edifying than other current mainstream fiction. That being said, here are my thoughts on The Lost Heiress!

A quick synopsis: Brook has always wondered who she truly was and where she originally came from. After her mother died in a carriage accident, she found herself raised among the royalty of Monaco. Now grown into a young lady who feels misplaced, she trusts her best friend and future Duke of Stafford, Justin, to find her true identity with the help of a mysterious packet of letters left to her. In the meantime, he's fallen in love with her, but will she ever see him as more than a friend? As Brook goes back to her original family as heiress to Eden and the Baroness of Berkeley with Justin by her side, she finds herself surrounded in web of intrigue and danger.

This is another piece of historical fiction that, similar to Downton Abbey, details the shifting social times and peels back the layer between the above stairs/below stairs relationships of the period.

I loved this storyline. However, what I thought was the primary conflict (the relationship between Brook and Justin) was not as developed as I would have liked. Justin's and Brook's insecurities around their relationship confused me. Based on how their characters and their relationship was portrayed early on, their miscommunications seemed out of place and immature. Regardless, you can't help but cheer for these two.

The big mystery surrounding Brook's disappearance and family conflict kept me guessing the entire time. This is part of the Ladies of the Manor series, so we were introduced to some characters that will make another appearance in the next novel, which I look forward to reading. I must know what happens next!

I really cheered for Brook the entire time. To find her family, to find her real identity, and to find true love, all while keeping her faith--what's not to love?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Meal Plan

I'm back this week with another Monday meal plan! Last week was the first week back at school. The week before that was one of the first with soccer practice. Tonight we start dance up again, so my great summer routine has been swept aside for convenience and just getting them fed something.

As much as I would love to braise meat all day or slow roast vegetables, I don't always have time for that because I'm running my kiddos to school, church, and extra-curriculars. That is absolutely not a complaint because I love that I have this time for this season. But it's a preface to the fact that we're having a freezer convenience meal tonight, because we had a great, fun, but tiring weekend, and I'm reclaiming the house today.

Monday: Birds Eye Garlic Chicken
My son told me last week that I am the best cook ever, and that this is his favorite meal I make. Maybe one day a daughter-in-law will appreciate how low I have set the bar for her in the kitchen. You can read a review I wrote on the freezer meal back in 2012 here. My little guy still loves it, although I have to buy a bigger family size bag than I did before. Relatively healthy with noodles that kiddos love.

Tuesday: Domino's Pizza
Batting a thousand so far this week. This is a soccer night, and we all go to practice together. Last season it became a tradition to pick up Domino's on the way home each Tuesday. I order on their app from the sideline while I'm (shocker) talking to other moms, and it's ready when we're done. Our standard order is a thin crust cheese, so it isn't quite as unhealthy as a regular pan pizza. Paired with fruit for kids, salad for adults.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
My oldest is big enough to have his own set of Wednesday night activities rather than just playing in the nursery. We have a relatively new dining/multi-purpose facility, with soaring ceilings and open space. I love the sound of our church family sharing a meal together. We'll eat whatever the kitchen is dishing up, and we'll be thankful.

Thursday: Chicken Tacos
I'm cooking up a big batch of chicken on Tuesday to take supper to a family that just had a baby. So, on our one night at home, this supper will be easy to reheat and serve. The chicken is cooked in the crockpot with a jar of salsa.

Friday: Date Night
We're meeting our Sunday school class for Mexican Food, my fave!

As you can see, my meal planning isn't quite so taxing these days, which is why I haven't posted the past couple of weeks. Mondays and Thursdays are all I mostly have going on since my family will riot if I don't order pizza on Tuesday. It's tradition, they say! Who am I to mess with tradition?!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Meal Plan

That's two weeks in a row I've planned our meals. This is definitely a homemaking record for me. I even managed to take our reusable grocery bags to the store two weeks in a row. Monday, I'm coming for you!

Monday: BLTs
I have all the ingredients on hand, and it's time to use them up. I'll toast the bread in the toaster and cook the bacon in the oven following these directions from the Kitchn. I can't stand to get my cooktop greasy. Add lettuce, tomato, and a little swipe of Duke's Mayonnaise, plated with chips and fruit.

Tuesday: Roasted Chicken
I'm using my fave Fort Worth Moms Blog recipe found here, but changing it up by putting it in the crockpot by following the cooking instructions found here. If all goes as hoped, I'll have leftover chicken for chicken salad sandwiches the rest of the week. One of my faves!

Wednesday: Veggie Frittata
I love taking the leftover veggies from yesterday's roasted chicken and baking them into a frittata. Here are instructions on how to take almost any vegetable and turn it into a frittata.

Thursday: Tacos in a Bag
We had chicken tacos last week, but this changes it up just a bit especially since I'm using beef this time. These are a hit with whoever I serve them: kids, adults, college students. You use single serve (like lunchbox size) bags of tortilla chips and make them into tacos. Super easy, and the kids think it's awesome because...chips!

Friday: Mama's OOO (out of office)
It's my birthday weekend, and we may eat our way through Cowtown. Kitchen's closed, family!

What's cooking at your house?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Red-Orange Lipstick: You Should Try It

I'm fairly conservative on fashion trends, so I tend to stick to neutral tones for makeup. However, a few years ago I came across this online article from Glamour regarding a shade of red lipstick that supposedly "looks good on everyone."

"A likely story," I thought. But go ahead and click out on that article! There's a picture with a bunch of interns, all looking different and wearing the lipstick. The blonde convinced me I should try it.

The color is Nars Heatwave. It's a semi-matte, but I find it creamy and not drying.

A very close drugstore match is Revlon Super Lustrous Fire and Ice. It's got more moisture to it, and it's a great, less expensive option.

I have both and like them equally. When I'm wearing an all black outfit, I tend to add this lip color to give it a little something extra, otherwise I feel a little dull. Who wants to feel like that? No one! I especially love it contrasted with a navy outfit.

Even though it'll continue to be summer for the next 3 months here in Texas, everyone's shifting into fall, so it's a great time to change it up a bit. Have some fun with red-orange lipstick!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Kate Breslin's newest release of historical fiction, Not by Sight, in exchange for a review.

A quick synopsis: a very wealthy, independent-minded, and patriotic young lady, Grace Mabry, is determined to support the war in any way possible. From shaming able-bodied men who conscientiously object to it, to getting her hands dirty to help feed war horses, she is bound and determined to do her part for the World War I effort in England.

After a series of falling flat on her face with each task she puts her hand to, she finds herself in a most unlikely part-time job to keep from admitting defeat to her father, who will probably make her marry a man she doesn't love if he finds out. Then, she finds herself in the midst of a tragic, unrequited love story!

Filled with espionage, patriotism, misunderstanding, longing, and love, this was an incredibly entertaining read to me. I read it twice the first week I had it. Every character has a little secret through which Breslin reveals God's love and grace to them (using "Grace" Mabry). I think Downton Abbey fans especially would like this as it takes place during that same period, with shifting socio-economics and women taking more prominent positions on the home front for war efforts, and also beginning to seek independence and equal rights.

As I mentioned, I've read it more than once now (it's an easy read), and the first time, I couldn't put it down, so this week I'm still digging myself out from under a neglected pile of laundry. I had to know how it ended, and I did pink puffy heart love the conclusion, although I wish Breslin had developed it more. I'm going to need a sequel!

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Monday Where I Have Our Meals Planned

I'm usually fairly reactionary for supper, rather than having everything planned throughout the week. I have any number of ingredients in the kitchen that could be used for whatever, but sometimes without a great plan, I get to 3:30 and just give up. That could mean anything from take out to a convenience meal.

This week though, I have quite a few things going on, several of them involving meal for others and appointments right before the supper hour, so it made sense to create a kitchen project plan.

Here I go.

Side note: A while back, Red Gold sent me a package of their tomatoes to try. I'm very brand loyal, so although I'd seen their products in the store, I stuck to my usual. The Red Gold had such sweet and rich tomato flavor! I've even used their tomatoes and green chilies (where that other product that rhymes with "hotel" is called for) with great success, most often in the Santa Fe Chicken below. This is not a paid ad--just hyped up on lycopene thanks to Red Gold's generosity.

Monday: Skinny Taste Santa Fe Chicken
This is my absolute favorite crock pot meal. Packed with flavor and protein and a great serving of veggies. We can eat on this for lunch throughout the week too, which is majorly preferred over a sandwich or Lean Cuisine.

Tuesday: Oh, Sweet Basil's Busy Day Casserole
I was looking for something different but easy this week when I came across this recipe. In the comments, most people remarked in one way or another that it was a hit at their dinner table. I like that it adds carrots since I'm always trying to get more veggies in to our meals.

Wednesday: Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
I'm having my now-college-freshman Sunday school class over for one last hurrah before they depart for freshman year. They're arriving after the dinner hour, hence the dessert. Dad is loading up the little crew and taking them somewhere fun to eat and play. This recipe says it's a copycat of Nothing Bundt Cakes, but church cookbook has the same one. It's a classic!

Thursday: Chicken Tacos
We're taking a meal to a family that just had a baby, as well as hosting some friends, so I thought I'd stick with something that's hard to mess up! It's just chicken breasts in the crockpot with a jar of salsa over the top. A friend told me recently you can add some sour cream to take it up a notch. If I think about it, I may do exactly that.

Friday: DAY OFF
TGIF, ladies!

What's your favorite busy week meal for your family that doesn't come from a drive-thru? No judgment there--you gotta do what you've gotta do, and I'm thankful for drive-thrus way more often than maybe I should!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

No Time to Blog, Too Busy Being Spoiled

In keeping with being about 2 years behind blogging trends, I created a little Facebook page for my blog. If you'd like to see my posts in your Facebook feed, feel free to "Like" it right here!

My mom was here the first part of this week, thus the blog silence. She came for one last hurrah before starting back to school next week. (Officially teachers start on the 17th, but she has something going on that requires her to start back earlier, because she is very good at her job.)

We spent the two days eating wherever the kids wanted, shopping, and hanging out in air conditioned spaces. It was nice to have an extra set of hands during the day, along with some adult conversation.

We spent most of the day today doing some church related things. I'm getting pumped about the semester ahead, for both the kids and me. We've had a great summer, but it's time--for everyone.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hey, Hey, We Went on Vacay

Last weekend, we packed up the kiddos and headed out of Cowtown for a quick late summer getaway to Galveston. Our oldest requested a trip to the beach sometime in June, and I--a beach girl, for sure--was happy to oblige.

We stayed in a tower room at the Hilton with a great view of the Gulf and the pool area. The kids were having so much fun that they even kindly shared elevator button-pushing privileges with one another. That was worth the trip right there. We spent part of the days at the pool and part building sandcastles on the beach. The little lady actually cried when we left the beach.

I hadn't been to Galveston since I was a teenager, and I was impressed! It has recovered well from Hurricane Ike. Family-friendly nightlife is abundant, from the Pleasure Pier to something as simple as the multiple ice cream shops and snow cone stands along the sea wall. You can't turn the corner without spotting great seafood, and we especially liked The Spot with our preschoolers. The Strand has quite a few fun shops (boutiques and souvenir stands), and we made a stop at la King Confectionery for a piece of fudge.

Maybe I have my Lone Star goggles on, but if it weren't for the muddy water, this beach town would rival any other in the Gulf region. Well done, Galveston.

All in all, we had a great first big Texas family road trip. We even convinced Jack to try shrimp, and he requested it a second meal. It has Mr. G and I excited about all the possibilities to show them the great state of Texas for the next 14-16 years we have them at home!

A little review about our lodging with info moms might like that I couldn't find online:

The Hilton Galveston Island Resort was a lot more hotel and lot less resort, but the location was perfect. Our room was in the tower, and it had a small refrigerator. The staff was friendly and helpful.

Sandwiched between our hotel and the San Luis was a Landry's, Rainforest Cafe, and IHOP, with the beach directly across Seawall Blvd. Even with our small kiddos, this was in wonderful walking distance, and there were great family-friendly activities outside the Rainforest Cafe. We utilized the beach across from the San Luis, which had chairs and umbrellas set up and available for rental for $30-40 a day.

If we planned a longer stay, we would likely opt for a condo and perhaps prepare some of our own meals, however, I was not interested in cooking this trip. This was perfect for the purpose of a short family trip, and we would probably stay there again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kendra Scott Mystic Bazaar Collection

My KS Mystic Bazaar Faves

clockwise from top left:
Everly Iridescent Peach | Rory Bracelet in Gold, Gunmetal, and Rose Gold | Everly in Gunmetal Iridescent Opalite | Fran earrings in Iridescent Peach | Adair earrings in Rose Gold

Kendra Scott released the Mystic Bazaar collection last week, and I'm loving the rose gold look. It's perfect for now and perfect for Fall/Winter. Specifically, the Everly Iridescent Peach and the Adair earrings are going to need to make their home with me, along with one of those bangles down the middle to add to my stack. I love the gunmetal finish, but I'm not sure what I would pair it with.

My birthday falls in August, and I'm already deciding how I'll spend my birthday discount from KS. They give 50% off one item during your birthday month. Such a deal!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Organized Summer Fun

I'm taking the opportunity to catch up some on our summer activities here, mostly for posterity's sake. That's one benefit of blogging about family life--you remember where you were when because it is published on the www for review!

The first couple of weeks this summer were spent in swim lessons. Last summer he took from Fort Worth Family Swim, but this year we chose to use TCU's Swim Camp. Children have to be age 4, I believe, to take part in this one. It's run by the TCU Head Swim Coach, and he uses TCU swimmers, grad assistants, and a few others that have come through his summer camp program to teach the lessons.

Lessons are taught at the TCU Rec Center indoor pool with 4-5 children assigned to an instructor in each lane. While there are quite a few more people in the pool during lesson time, I think that increased Jack's enjoyment of the water. By the end of the two weeks, Coach Sybesma knew which kid matched with what parent, and intermittently spoke with parents about their child's progress and the parent's expectations. I was impressed with the program and highly recommend it.

For the past 7 weeks, our little ladybug has been immersed in all things dance. One of my Pure Barre friends is the preschool coordinator at a local dance studio, and she reminded me that AB was old enough for classes this summer. She has had a blast. From the moment she tried on her tap shoes at the local dance shoppe, she was smitten.

Please pardon the grainy photo. I cropped it close for the privacy of the other girls. Most of what I have taken are really sweet videos of her twirling about the room with ballerina arms. Her excitement once we get to the studio is uncontainable, and she usually sprints to the door when the teacher opens the classroom, then again when she comes out to change from ballet to tap. Parents are allowed to watch from the lobby where there are windows into the classroom. It's one of the most precious things to see!

I'm glad we did swim lessons early in the summer and equally glad we've had something do each week taking AB to dance as the summer has begun to slow down. Who can believe August is almost here again?!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Our Ten Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe it, but somehow today is our ten year anniversary! If you had told the girl in the picture that 10 years would pass this quickly, she would've rolled her eyes. But yes, somehow I've blinked and have a decade long marriage, two children, and have lived in the same place for the longest I've ever been since childhood.

I'm not great with too much sentimentality, and since we've been married, it's been a running joke that, "That's why I buy the Hallmark card--to say it for me." But in all seriousness, I could not have a better companion for life. Not only is he a thoughtful, loving, and hard-working husband who leads me to be more like Jesus, he is also a wonderful, fun dad. I'm particularly smitten with him in the evenings when I hear him reading and teaching our kiddos at bedtime with great patience. He's great at it!

So Mr. G, if ever should you read this, I salute you for sticking to me through thick and thin, sickness and health, ugly and pretty, and all the ordinary days in between. I love you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: In Good Company by Jen Turano

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program, I received a complimentary electronic copy of Jen Turano's latest book, In Good Company in exchange for a review. I found the publisher Bethany House through Julie Klassen's affiliation with them, back when I mentioned her works.

Millie Longfellow is a quirky, yet competent nanny who can't seem to keep a job, and Everett Mulberry is a single, soon-to-be-engaged, society gentleman who's been named guardian of 3 children that can't seem to keep a nanny. Hilarity ensues and wrongs are righted as these two fall straight into a mystery and perhaps something else along the way.

Within the first 10 minutes Ms. Turano had Pride and Prejudice in the storyline, so I knew I was going to like it. I did have to suspend my disbelief that an employee would talk to her employer as matter of factly as Millie does to Everett (it's no wonder she can't keep a job!), however she has an unlikely benefactress named Abigail Hart that sponsors her, so I was willing to accept it. Millie's a cross between Mary Poppins and Amelia Bedelia, and you just can't keep from liking her.

If you're looking for a good summer read, this one's yours. This is apparently the second book in her A Class of Their Own series, so now I'm going back to read the first!

(ETA: I downloaded the first one, After a Fashion, yesterday afternoon and am loving it!)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wedding Weekending

This past weekend my cousin was married in Waco, so we headed south last Friday afternoon. They asked Jack to be their ring bearer a few months ago, so we have been practicing his "Ringmaster" skills ever since, for that is what he called his position. In case you're wondering, Ringmaster skills include walking (not running!) down the aisle at the church with the ring pillow and smiling a picture smile at all times.

Friday evening after the rehearsal at First Baptist, my aunt and uncle hosted the rehearsal dinner at Manny's on the River. It was a perfect July evening for patio dining, and our whole party was seated on the deck behind the restaurant, right over the Brazos river.

Photo compliments of my selfie stick!

That night we stayed at the Waco Hilton. If we'd had a babysitter, we probably would've explored the area on foot quite a bit. Don't tell any Baylor Bears this, but we thought the area was slightly cool. We were directly across the street from the river on one side with a row of food trucks and across from the Spice shopping center on the other, with Ninfa's and a bicycle shop with rentals and such. Our room overlooked the pool and had a great view of the river straight across to the new McLane Stadium.

The water was a little cold, and she wasn't having it.
"I NOT get in the water. I put on my pink coverup, and I GO HOME."

The next morning Mr. G made a Shipley's donut run (we don't have them here at home), then we dressed and went to the pool wear our kids out in time for early naps. It was a 6 PM wedding, and Mr. G - an usher - and Jack had pics at 4. A bit of our fam was down there, so we had a good visit with them and the groom before the day got super busy.

My brother and me!

I had some credits from Rent the Runway, so I used them toward this gorgeous Kate Spade party dress. Lipstick is MAC Ruby Woo, a bright but not too cheap looking matte red. By the time I had everyone else ready, I only had time for a side pony. #momlife

It was a sweet wedding, officiated by my grandfather. The reception was at Knox Hall, where they had BBQ and dancing. I think it was one of the best visits I've had with my whole family in a while. We saw the bride and groom off in a shower of bubbles, then put our little folks in their PJs before driving back home to our own beds. I can't wait to see the photographer's pics; she got a great one of our family of four! It was such a fun time, and we're so glad to welcome Cari to our family!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Babies and More Babies

I've launched a new look today, thanks to Anna at Designer Blogs, so if you're reading through Feedly or another RSS reader, I'd love for you to click on through and take a look!

My friend was such a champ earlier this week. After laboring for 30 something hours, she finally was delivered of her sweet little guy. (I'm leaving out a lot of details here--she is wonder mom.) Annabelle and I were able to meet him and fell in love with his precious little self. She loved it for a few minutes, and then she'd had enough of her mom holding another baby and was done with that.

At the hospital, the topic of baby fever and whether I will have more little sweeties came up. (Current answer: no.) While this was a perfectly normal conversation to have in that company, I find it interesting when folks who do not have a close relationship with my family or me ask it. It doesn't bother me, but I do think it's quite a personal thing to ask. I would go so far as to categorize it with asking a childless couple when they are starting a family, which is incredibly annoying. If they are having trouble conceiving, it's not just annoying, it's hurtful.

Do you agree, or am I totally off the mark?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Taking My Pure Barre Hobby to the Next Level

Back in April I attended Pure Barre Instructor Training in Denver and have been officially teaching at Pure Barre Fort Worth since mid-May. That's one little reason I've been sparse in this space lately.

My love for Pure Barre is well documented here and here. I especially mention it a lot on instagram, although I try not to be obnoxious about it.

This is the longest I've ever stuck with one workout. It has changed my body in ways that I didn't think possible. When paired with healthy eating, I notice results in my biggest problem areas. Then of course, something comes along like a birthday, an anniversary, spring, summer, fall, winter, or a day ending in 'y' that I fall off of the wagon and start over again on the good eating. But Pure Barre is always there, assisting my big, long work in progress.

Teaching has changed my class taking a little. I'm taking less classes because I teach during some of the times I normally would've have been working out. But it's made me more accountable to challenge myself when I am working out, and that's a great thing.

Last ๐Ÿ”ฅbefore the 4th! ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿ’

A photo posted by purebarreftw (@purebarreftworth) on

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My BFF is Having a Baby!

Today I had the hankering to fire up the ol' blog and write out a few thoughts on my best friend having a baby tomorrow. Because I've been missing from this space for a while, I had the hardest time coming up with a post title. With the picture posted below, I don't want anyone to misunderstand: my FRIEND is having a baby. Not me.

(That's another topic, another day. Ha!)

I'm sitting here tonight having all the feels about my best friend having her first baby, a boy, tomorrow. I would consider him to be the closest I've come to a nephew, so I'm terribly excited! I'm remembering the first time Jack was placed in my arms--I had no clue what I was supposed to do. All of a sudden, every bit of medical staff had cleared the room. It was just him and me (Mr. G was going to get our parents) and all I could think was, "Do these nurses not know I do not have a clue what to do here? What are they thinking leaving me alone with a minutes old baby!?"

Of course, there is no truer welcome to motherhood. It's fast and furious and half the time you're making it up because you don't know what to do, all the while praying to God that He will give you the wisdom and the strength to make it. And that He will fix it for His glory when you mess up. I'm so thankful for God's grace each day.

Baby Luke's shower cake made locally by Leah's Sweet Treats

No words can prepare you for holding your heart in your arms. There is no crazier revelation than in an instant realizing every cliche about having children is true. It's such a rush, a sweet new type of honeymoon, and the most beautiful feeling in the world.

Congratulations, my friend, and welcome sweet baby Luke!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Regency Reading: Author Julie Klassen

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. Sometimes I wish I hadn't read it just so I could read it anew, if that makes any sense. I even read Jane Austen fan fiction because I can't get enough. Here's what I love about it: the misunderstanding, witty dialogue, longing, love, a strong female main character, and a happy ending. That's probably my favorite formula for any story.

Last year, one of my Facebook friends mentioned that the Kindle version of author Julie Klassen's book The Girl in the Gatehouse was on sale at Amazon. She went on to say that if you like Pride & Prejudice, you would probably like this book. I downloaded it, then promptly forgot about it.

Image via Amazon

About a week ago, I read it and LOVED IT! If you love Regency novels, I think you would enjoy this. I've now read a second book of Ms. Klassen's called The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and I stayed up until 2 am finishing it. It has a mystery element about it that I had to solve!

Ms. Klassen is a Christian author, and there is a thread of redemption throughout both of these works--complementary to the storyline. For me, these were a great example of how we are in the world, but not of the world. I guess what I'm saying is: this is not cheesy Christian romance fiction. As a Christian reading it, the mentions of faith in Christ and walking in the ways of the Lord seemed a natural fit, i.e. "for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."

Amazon one-click may get me into trouble because I can't wait to start downloading more of her titles. Definitely add these to your summer reading list!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hi and Hello!

I can't believe it's been more than 2 months since I last posted! I'm not even sure where to start, so I thought today, while I have a few minutes to myself, I'll dive right in.

Since it snowed, it has now warmed up, and the heavens have opened up with rain and rain and more rain. The last time I remember it raining this much was June of 2008, when construction was finishing up on our house. It rained every single day that month. We needed it so badly!

We've settled into a good routine at home this spring, getting out to play some, "makin' projects" (my kids' description) at the kitchen table, and also going to school Tuesday/Thursday. Next week is the last week of school, so we'll be needing to find our groove again those days of the week. Swim lessons and the like all start up the following week!

In other news, I'm leading crafts at VBS. If you're Southern Baptist, you'll probably recognize Lifeway's theme Journey Off the Map for this year. I just turned my supply list in earlier this week, a few days early, so that was a big check off of my to do list. I'm also heading to camp with our middle and high school students. It's at the beach, so a swimsuit shopping post will probably follow this soon. Good times.

One of many things in our packed summer is my cousin Tyler marrying the lovely Cari. My little guy will be a ring bearer in the wedding, so I'm prepping him as much as possible to wrap his mind around walking down the aisle and standing up with the groomsmen. Occasionally I'll remind him of it, like one evening earlier this week our conversation went down like this:
Me: Do you remember what you are going to be at Cari and Tyler's wedding?
Him: Yes! I'm going to be the ringmaster!

Ringmaster, indeed. It was precious.

I hope you have a great rest of your week!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cold Days in North Texas

We've been a little stir-crazy with the up and down weather we're having here in North Texas lately. Last week it iced at the beginning of the week, thawed out, then snowed on Friday. By Saturday, that was ice too. We took advantage of the beautiful powder snow to get out and play a little after Friday naps.

It was so cold!

We have a great hill in our neighborhood, and people come out in droves during weather like this for sledding. So, we thought we'd join the fun. The kids were terrified when I tried to send them down the hill to where their dad was waiting to catch them. I mean, serious #momfail on that one. They cried, begging me to carry them (physically, in my arms) all the way home. Nevermind that I was pulling them in our red wagon. We were quite a sight. Next time we'll make sure they understand a little better before we start pushing them down a hill on a box lid.

Since we only see this kind of weather a few times a year, I don't really have the best clothes/equipment for them to be out in the weather. I've not been able to find good gloves for their tiny hands, and I think that would've made all the difference for them to enjoy playing in it. Or maybe they are just summer kids, like me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Ladybug Goes to School

I officially have two preschoolers in my house. Our little ladybug started school with everyone else two weeks ago! From her 6th day of life outside the womb, she has accompanied me to drop off and pick up her brother. Sometime back in fall, she began to cry to stay at school too. She was so ready to be there and had absolutely no fear.

Right before Christmas we started talking it up quite a bit and visited her new classroom the last school day before Christmas. She knew her teachers' names, and she was ready. When I came home with her school gear, she insisted on carrying around her "pink packpack."

Playing in her pink kitchen with her "pink packpack"

On her first day, she demanded to carry it in herself, just like her brother does. It was way too heavy, and immediately she fell backwards. But she still insisted! So I carried it by the handle at the neck with the straps over her shoulders. When she got to her classroom, she stood at the door until they let her in. I had asked her to come with me to Jack's room first (right around the corner), but no. She didn't cry or fuss about it--she just stood and looked at her teachers like "isn't this where I'm supposed to be?" After I signed her in, she walked right through the door, and that was that. I love her confidence.

Needless to say, she's having a great time. She told us all about it on her way home and even named her friends she played with. She's even sleeping on her nap mat like a champ. I can already tell she's learning and becoming even more social than she already was. She's growing up so fast!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sick Day

I'm sitting on the opposite end of the couch from an almost two-year-old, strawberry blonde who kept me up most of the night last night. She ran fever, and as much as she's fever free now, she still doesn't feel good. I can tell because she's actually sitting still. She's propped up on a pillow with her favorite blanket and baby watching "Let It Go" i.e. Frozen.

Photo by Hailey Erickson

That is definitely her hand on her hip.

As I crawled into her eventual big girl bed last night around 12:45 and tucked her in beside me, I ran through our schedule for today, noting who I needed to call, and what would need to change about the day. There are many benefits to being home with my kids during this season, but as a former working mom, this is the biggest burden that has been lifted. I can stay home with my little sick ones without my work obligations hanging over my head. The war between being present for my sick child, yet keeping my responsibilities at work on track was enormous. I didn't give myself any grace from my own high performance expectations.

All that to say: I don't take for granted one second that I'm here with this little lady without much more than a text to my Tuesday morning Bible study group to say I won't make it.

Wherever you are today in your journey of motherhood, I pray on this Tuesday you find much grace and peace from the Great Giver, our Lord Jesus. He is everything.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christmas Morning

This was the year of our little man's first bicycle (with helmet) and our little lady's pink kitchen.

We've had mostly windy, nasty, or way too cold weather since Christmas Day, so we can't wait until it clears up for some outdoor riding days, but until then, we'd love to high five Santa for the kitchen because it has proven to keep both kids busy for a long time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Christmas 2014 In Summary

Like everyone else, we had a full December. And the time I would normally spend blogging about it went to watching the Gilmore Girls while the kids napped. True confession right there.

Per my 4th year of parenting MO, I waited longer than I could have to take the kids to see Santa. I wrote a little about that here, but below I've included what I think is my favorite Santa picture of all time. If you've never taken the kids to see the NorthPark Center Santa, in 2012 I gave more details about the process of getting a number and standing in line. It hasn't changed since then.

Could they be having more opposite experiences?

My parents took us on a carriage ride through the Christmas lights out of Highland Park Village. It's really magical. My dad had to go out of town for work unexpectedly after our reservation was made, so that's why he's not there. Here was our experience last year. We had supper at Mi Cocina and bundled up under the blankets for almost an hour ride.

Jack was a shepherd in his school Christmas program. He sang and tried not to smile for my pictures the entire time.

This last pic was taken on Christmas Eve in our church Welcome Center before I had to carry Annabelle out of the service after screaming during O Holy Night, then again during the next soloist. This was also before we let Jack blow out the candle, which he did so well that he also sent all the melted wax flying onto his and Brad's pants and shoes. As I was googling "how do I get wax out of clothes" on the way home Christmas eve, I laughed it off/consoled myself thinking that this is probably the biggest night of the year for those search terms.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Welcome 2015

Well, 2015 is here. I've been so busy procrastinating finally getting the last bits of Christmas down in my house that I've kept from blogging too. As I speak, there are still at least two Santas up and one fabulous garland of holly still adorns the mantel. But my favorite ornaments are carefully wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away, and the tree is down, so at least there's that.

Above is the last picture we took in 2015, after eating IHOP at 5:30 PM with friends that we spent the past I can't remember how many NYEs with. We'd just gotten back from a trip sans kids, so it didn't seem right to spend another night away from them. It was low key, but that was great too after a too busy Christmas season.

I've made some mental notes of how I can keep the too busy-ness from happening next year. We'll see if I put them into practice. I'll be posting a few catch up posts from over Christmas because I love to look back each year and see how my kids have changed, and it's easy with them consolidated right in this space.

As for Being Mrs. Gentry, I'll still be here blogging about all kinds of random in 2015. If you have any suggestions of blog topics for me to dive into, I'd love to hear them!

Have a fabulous year!
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