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April 2016

Project Life 2016 | March


I am continuing with my monthly Project Life. It is working out really well completing pages monthly rather than weekly. The pages are filled to the brim with stories from the month as we always seem to have enough life stories, adding photos (which unfortunately we haven't taken many over the entire month), adding some journal cards, stamps and chipboard and, seriously, calling it good. I am loving this project this year. As I'm not a scrapbooking design star I am going with what works for me and not sweating over the lack of repetition, color coordination, symmetry, or any other design technique. This is it. 


This month:

1. Read a total of 7 new books, a mix of fiction and non-fiction to take my total this year to 18. I loved the Revenant and the English Assassin by my favorite was definitely Uniquely Human (on autism).

2. Jeff works hard from before sunup to after sundown with Choate Construction. He is an Assistant Superintendent on a half-billion dollar job in South Carolina and handles all of the logistics on the job. On any given day he walks an average of 15,000 steps, can be found working on any number of a piece of equipment, manages laborers and a gazillion other laborious task. He recently had his annual review with his boss (who he loves) and his boss likes what Jeff does because he gave Jeff a raise!

3. On 3/22/2016 I started my 1-mile walk a day challenge. The big challenge will be walking that 1-mile on weekends.

4. John and Jarrod met up with Kirsten, a girl they've known for a couple years from homeschool co-op, with like- interests. I think she's pretty cool too! I had her, along with John and Jarrod in my Meteorology class one year. Anyways, she picked the boys up and they hung out at the mall to play catch up and discuss drawing and have some fun!


5. Mom, Jeff and I voted on Super Tuesday. The boys' registration cards haven't arrived yet.

6. During Passion week, at church, Jeff and Jarrod were Roman Centurions who rolled the stone over Jesus' tomb.

7. Caught a photo of Ears bathing in the sun on the front porch. She was only home for about two days of the month. We think she's found an inside home in the neighborhood where she can come and go. Everyone pretty much misses her.

8. The Saturday before Easter, Jeff and I headed out to Tybee Island, GA early in the morning to get in line at The Breakfast Club which opens at 7am. We love this place and it's such a treat for us to make our way out there, sit at the breakfast counter in front of the short order cooks preparing the food, and dancing and singing to 70's rock music. Such a wonderful time and great food.

9. Jeff and I are still attending some marriage counseling as we are still dealing with the changes in our lives. All good - even though it's been tough and a strain on our marriage.

10. We attended the 1-year old birthday party of the children's pastor's twin boys, who I've been making an 8 x 8 album for. It was a fun time with good munchies and great cake. The twins were a hoot! A couple hours well spent.

11. Jeff is still plowing away at his 30-hour safety course which is taking way longer than 30 hours. Go figure!


Digital Products: Ali Edwards' Story kits.

april menu planning.

April 2016 Menu

After 5+ years taking a couple hours of time at the end of every month, sometimes over a couple days in 15-30 minute stretches, creating the next months menu has been a lifesaver. The menu solves the "What's for dinner? question that inevitably arises in the late afternoon after work when time has flown. The menu solves the "What needs to go on the grocery list?" question. Without a list shopping would be wasteful and costly. Meal-making would be frustrating and cumbersome. A monthly menu plan works!

The Color-coded key and how I prepare a monthly menu:

Color-coded key 

I've changed the colors over the years for aesthetic reasons but currently I have Date Night, Sunday Dessert, Special, NEW Recipe, Dinner, Elevate Breakfast, and NEW State Recipes:

Date Nights are just that, Jeff and I are on a date and Joan, John, and Jarrod fend for themselves. Date nights are imperative for our relational health. I put it on the 'menu' because, in the beginning when we first began date nights they were only once a month and it was the best way to put them in to our schedule. The boys have been pro-supporters of our date nights as it usually means for them frozen pizzas and binge television.

Sunday Dessert. Jeff and I host a small group at our home and I've been making Sunday dessert to share with our small group. If someone offers to bring a dessert I just ditch that Sunday's dessert, or make it the next week. I pull ideas from my wealth of dessert recipes, scour Pinterest for new dessert ideas, or consult recipe books as I have quite a few. While I have 'scheduled' Sunday dessert this month (April 2016) I am going to offer our group a sign-up sheet for bringing a snack or dessert. After reading Mark Ingmire's book, Small Groups that Work I realized I was doing our group a disservice by not 'allowing' them to participate in this.

Special. I probably should just call it what it is. Out to eat. Over the last couple months and beyond, we have been going out to eat after church on Sunday's. Here's why. Sometimes we get up early to fix breakfast for children's ministry volunteers, we attend church service, then we service with children's ministry the next service. Add to that we host a small group on Sunday. Then there is my pain levels which are sometimes non-existent, sometimes 1-4 pain level, and sometimes 5-8. I just don't know what I'm going to be facing. While I'm working full time, the cost sacrifice has been worth it. So we go out to eat if possible. If we aren't having small group that day for some reason or we're having a small group dinner then, of course, we don't go out to eat.

NEW Recipe. This is the fun part. I scour the internet, mostly Pinterest, which takes me to food bloggers who've created tons of fabulous recipes. Some of these new recipes have been "keepers" as my family calls them, and I incorporate them into our monthly, bi-monthly, or tri-monthly rotations. This month, an Angel Hair pasta with Shrimp recipe is sure to be a winner. I am looking forward to this Stir-Fry Chicken in a Chinese Garlic Sauce. Sometimes it is only one new recipe over the course of a month of great meals but other months it is one new recipe a week. After all, variety is they say.

Dinner. With year's worth of planning menu's, and a created recipe book that I continue to add to regularly, I fill each day with a dinner recipe. Favorites that we rotate each month, breakfasts for dinner, obscure meals we haven't had in months, sometimes years, our Family pizza night, our Homemade Taco night. Soups, pasta dishes, grill meats, crockpot meals, it's all up for grabs.

Elevate Breakfast. As I indicated above, Jeff and I prepare, twice a month breakfast for our church's children's ministry volunteers. Because everyone loves the food, and because some volunteers serve all morning at church, the children's ministry has recruited volunteers to cook for their - volunteers. Because we are also volunteers we reap the rewards of our service, too. I have found quite a few favorites and just rotate them the 2nd and 4th Sunday morning of each month unless we're out of town.

NEW State Recipes. The month of April 2016 begins a new blog series, 50 States 50 Recipes. I am researching those iconic recipes by state, those foods that states are known for: Key Lime Pie (Florida), Gumbo (Louisiana) and will incorporate those foods into our dinner recipes and dessert recipes over the course of the next year or so. I begin with Pennsylvania and Alabama.

How I prepare a monthly menu:

These are some of the questions I ask myself when planning a monthly menu: What activities are on the schedule that will impact dinners? Some of these might include Boy Scout campouts, Weekend getaways, appointments that will require the boys to cook dinner, etc. Knowing what's in the next months schedule is imperative for preparing the menu.

What recipes go on each month? Or, what recipes haven't we eaten in a long time? As I mentioned previously there are a few recipes we repeat each month, such as homemade pizza for Family Pizza night, homemade Tacos (with Jalapeno Poppers and without), breakfast for dinner (such as Omelets and Hashbrowns, or Biscuits and Gravy with Scrambled Eggs, or Pancakes/Waffles with Sausage). I might pull a smoked Boston Butt out of the freezer (we normally have a couple stashed from the bi-annual Boy Scout Troop 7 Boston Butt cooks) every couple of months which provides us with three very different meals plus lunches. Then, I scour previous menus, my recipe book, and begin filling in days. Basic plug and chugging. 

I don't duplicate recipes over the course of the month. I used to. When we were eating tacos once a week I would fill in tacos every Tuesday, but that was a long time ago. Now, it's a different recipe every day of the month.

It is from this monthly menu plan that I prepare my weekly grocery shopping list... 

4 reasons why I'm reading more in 2016.


At the end of March I have read a total of 18 fiction and non-fiction books; two memoir's, a couple counterintelligence spy novels, a couple Christian books on spiritual growth, a thriller based on a real life man, an historical fiction novel based on a real life Indian queen, a couple White Collar-meets-the-Leverage comedy-drama's, and my favorite In Death series. A couple of them were exceptional and they will long touch me, touch my heart, in some way, like Uniquely Human, which I will read again and again, and the beautiful memoir, When Breath Becomes Air and of course J.D. Robb's latest Brotherhood in Death.

With three months of 2016 almost over I thought I'd assess why it is that I've read far more books this year than the same time last year, or the year before. I've come to the conclusion it is for four reasons that I am reading more in 2016:


1. Keep a running list of books to read. I have a list notebook and within the notebook is a running list of books I'd like to read. As I hear about a new, or old, book from reviews, or what someone has been reading on blogs or from friends, I visit Amazon and Good Reads and checkout the book by reading reviews, and deciding whether to add it to my running list of books to read. Sometimes, I delete a book from my list because I've heard some negative reviews from people who I trust but normally I just leave it on there. It's a running list because I'm continuing to add to the list and check books off as I read them.

2. Purchase most of the books via Amazon. While I value the library immensely, these past three months have been busy and the opportunity to go to the library has been extremely difficult to make happen. Added to that they are doing major construction near my community and with three lanes of traffic from the library back home going down to one lane, needless to say traffic has been a bear. The upside is I've been putting books into my Amazon cart as I find a good one and regularly making purchases. They come right to my door and they are much cheaper than bookstore shopping, along with free shipping and -  bam! More books. It has been exhilarating putting new books waiting to be read on my bookshelf. The blessing from this: the library will reap the benefit when I donate the books I choose not to keep.

3. Always have at least one book with me wherever I go. I say at least one but often it is two or three. Thankfully, I work at a job that affords me the opportunity to read on breaks. I make full opportunity of this time by reading one of those books. Plus, if I finish a book I always have another one on hand to begin reading. If I'm waiting in the car for someone, I can spend the time reading. If I'm in the middle of cooking dinner I can read between stirs, or between meal preparations. One thing I have refused to do that might be a hindrance but has not been; I won't stay up late to finish reading a book. 

4. Document, record the books I read. I'm a memory keeper. Reading is a part of my life. It is part of who I am. Documenting the books I read is a natural part of memory keeping. In addition, I found setting a goal, such as - read 52 new books in 2016 - is inspiring. This year I am documenting the books I read by creating a 4 x 4 mini album of the books I read. One 4 x 4 page for each book. I'm having a blast putting these pages together. The above two photos are the collection of 4 x 4 pages of the 18 books I have read thus far, in 2016.

Would any of these ideas assist you in your book reading endeavors?

52 New Books in 2016 | 18


The Chase by Janet Evanovich

Here's the thing. I'm not in love with this Fox and O'Hare series by Janet Evanovich but I think I am in like. There is enough humor and silliness, think smart-alek, slapstick funny, along with really good short story plots, plus, they are really fast, loose, and relaxing reads. Simply, I'll continue to read them for the reasons preceding. I cannot, however, in all fairness give this 5 stars, but a bit over 3 stars works for this fast-paced, fun, but unrealized writing potential that if executed, would make this a competitive 5 star book. 

The Chase is lacking emotional connection. Sometimes Kate O'Hare is too stoic, her emotions seem dispassionate and quite honestly don't seem to come across as real. Evanovich has added some sexual tension between the two characters, the staunch FBI agent and the sleek white collar criminal, but I'm not feeling that either. But, to finish on a good note, I'll continue reading the series in hopes for some improvement, as I'm not giving up yet.

stories 2016 | the story of friends


Do you know how you hope your kids are best friends? Ashley's boys, my grandsons, Ian and Wyatt are best friends. As the older of the two, Ian is very protective of his much smaller, though just a bit younger, brother Wyatt. Ian will defend Wyatt. You hope and pray that they will always remain close, best friends, defenders, protectors. But, as is normally the case, best friends can hurt as only best friends can do. Because hearts are involved. Ashley shared about two incidents when Wyatt was certainly not defending his older brother. He was not part of the solution but part of the problem. I believe, after my wise, discerning Ashley read Wyatt the leader of the law, he'll think twice about allowing bad to rule over good. I didn't share that story on the page but I'm sure when I reminisce over this page I'll remember that one time... and it will be just a very distant memory. Or maybe when I reflect on this photo of Ian and Wyatt years from now their friendship will have only remained strong, or in fact grew.

For this page I used digital products by One Little Bird.


52 New Books in 2016 | 17


Small Groups that Work by Mark Ingmire

As I am intimately familiar with the concept of small groups, Jeff and I host a small group in our home every Sunday night for the past 7 years or so, I flew through this book by Mark Ingmire, who I also know personally. He used to be a pastor at our church over small groups. He knows the subject matter - Small Groups. The writing is simplistic, conversational, but very helpful. I walked away with quite a few take-aways that I'll be sharing with Jeff.

Small Groups are just that a small, intimate group of people who do life together through fellowship, prayer, bible study, serving, and serving each other. We have found them to be a necessary part of our life. Necessary! It is truly a need we have for our life. Could we do life without a small group? Honestly, we've been in a small group for over 15 years and as we've faced some of the life-impacting challenges we have within a small group, I'm not sure we are supposed to face life's challenges without small groups.

The current makeup of our group is mostly with people very near our ages, although we do have a couple single folks (near our age). Most have kids between teens to grown (and one with a bit younger). We all love the Word of God and quite honestly I think studying the Word is our primary focus within this group. But, we do love to fellowship, too. 

stories 2016 | us together


What I see? Ella mimicking Noah. Noah loving his big sister. Tremendous fun and playfulness. Silliness. Perfection. 

Did I say perfection?

These two together are just the cutest. Reminiscent of Elizabeth when she'd hang with her own baby brothers. I sure do hope Elizabeth can make it down here for John and Jarrod's high school graduation and bring these two with her. Oh what fun!

Let's see. I would have all my kids together in one place. I would have all my grandkids together in one place. Oh, please Lord, let it be so.

Digital product: Paislee Press

stories 2016 | hopelessly devoted


It's killin' me here. This photo of these two - Big sister Ella and little brother Noah - probably my favorite thus far. Seriously in love with the bond I see with each photograph Elizabeth sends of Ella with Noah. Thankful Elizabeth is sending at least monthly photos with occasional 'event' photos and thankful that Ella is being an awesome big sister. And then there is that cutie, Noah. Makes me swoon.

For this page I did a complete scraplift of Janine Langer from One Little Bird's Creative Team using, of course, One Little Bird digital products. PSE and digitally speaking I can't believe how much I am enjoying re-coloring products. Digital products, while can be used again and again, were often limiting because of the color choices of the designer. Beautiful, yes. But, not always suited for my photos or pages. When I found a PSE tutorial on re-coloring I've become a maniac and love the potential scrapbooking pages I'll be able to create. For this page I only re-colored two digital products: the heart balloons and the 'always' chipboard.

52 New Books in 2016 | 16


Uniquely Human by Dr. Barry Prizant

My grandson has autism. I love this book. Uniquely human is inspiring and insightful. And 'human' is the important part in the title (although unique is right up there too). Those, like my grandson, with autism are not sick or diseased, or mentally challenged, or have behavior problems (with a negative connotation). This book confronts the status-quo of looking at the deficits of someone with autism, or extinguishing behaviors but rather sees that those behaviors are because they are unique - not broke.  This book is a different way of seeing autism, but more precise is a different way of seeing yourself and your loved one with autism. I'm buying a book for my daughter and I know I will re-read this book over many times.

Without realizing it Dr. Prizant shows that those with autism were created by God, just as those without autism were. And God does not make mistakes. I, for one, know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Ian (with autism) has positively impacted my daughter, and me. My compassion is greater because of Ian. He does my heart good. This book reinforces that over and over, again.

Digital Products: One Little Bird