Top Posts of 2013

Top Posts of 2013

2013.  It’s almost over.  Can you believe it?  Why does it surprise me every year?

I’ve been reflecting back on my blog posts and wanted to re-share my top posts from each month. It’s actually a baker’s dozen….I have trouble deciding sometimes.

January: I shared about some trouble I was having with 2 of my boys not doing their chores and how we handled it.

February: I attended a conference where no one talked to me and I told y’all about how I cried in my room….so sad.  But it turned out to be a blessing because so many of you identified with it.  I was so glad I shared it here!

March: I got on my soapbox about moms calling themselves “mean.”  Be strong and firm, yes.  Be mean, no.

April: My recipe for my fabulous Energy Bars was by far my biggest post that month.  I am not kidding…these things are a-mazing!

May:  This is one of our most visited posts….the modesty swimsuit edition.  It’s pretty much like the Sports Illustrated version, but with much less skin showing.

June: Hands down the hottest post in June was my summer home tour.  Come back next summer when I do another one.  I change things a lot around here.

July: I started my fitness journey in July.  While it had yet to be proved then, my following success in losing weight and getting healthy made my post about that one of the most visited that month.

August:  My boy’s bathroom makeover was the big project in August and the most visited post.

September: I shared with you about my favorite supplements…these have changed my life and I have heard from so many of you that you love them too.  Really, if you’re still thinking about trying them….don’t wait!

October:  You’d think the top post would be the one where I announced that I had lost 50 pounds.  But no.  It was when I told you about how I took my shirt off in the middle of the street.  You all are a sad, sad bunch.

November: There were two top posts this month that I couldn’t choose between, so here they both are….My Christmas coffee table was a big hit!  I just took it apart yesterday and I miss it already.

And this one when I told you how we use all of the oils in the Young Living Premium kit.  It has been a huge blessing to us and I had to share it with you!

December: Another Christmas decoration that I made was this sign.  It was so easy to make and cost me nothing.  Yeehaw!

Ringing in the New Year

Ringing in the New Year

The past week is a bit of a blur.  I’d like to say it’s because Christmas was so magical that I can’t describe the joy.  But instead I must report a terrible bout of flu that has hit all 11 of us, starting on December 23 and still hanging on.

Yes, we spent Christmas with 4 of the kids lying on the couch opening presents like it was about the last thing they wanted to do.  One was so sick she could barely lift her head and Levi pulled things out of his stocking and without even looking at them would drop them on the floor and close his eyes….tortured by the whole, terrible gift opening requirement.  The 5 kids that were well enough to enjoy it were falling down sick by the evening.

No decking the halls around here.

I, myself, made it through Christmas and didn’t get sick until the weekend.  I don’t seem to be as bad as the rest of the bunch, which is a blessing since someone has to be making soup and washing sheets.

I am pretty sure I have washed more sheets than your average person washes over the holiday week, including hotel maids and hospital janitors.

But you know what?  It still been a sweet time and we are all together and I think it will go down in all of our memories as a very special Christmas.  It’s oddly relaxing.  To me it will always be known as the “Great Flu of 2013″.

While it will probably dampen our usual New Year’s Eve festivities of drinking sparkling cider and falling asleep by 10:00 even though we want to stay awake until midnight, we will carry on.  We may not see the ball drop, but the celebratory coughing will ring in the new year with gusto!

Who needs fireworks anyway?

Merry Christmas 2013!!!

Merry Christmas 2013!!!

It’s only 2 more days before Christmas and our family is closing our doors and celebrating with just us.  We will have more of a family party on Christmas Eve with lots of appetizers and games.  Then on Christmas day, as I shared with you already, we will be quieter and calm.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to stop and tell you all how much you mean to me.  It blesses me every day that you stop here and give me a bit of your precious time.  That is never lost on me….it touches my heart.

Here’s just simple message that I wanted to share before the holiday completely takes over.  Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas Traditions

I have gotten several questions about how we celebrate Christmas.  It’s pretty simple around here.  Just the 11 of us on Christmas morning (+ some years my parents join us).

We get up early and I set out treats on the coffee table.  Cookies and sausage balls and punch.  This year, since I’m off sugar, we will also have tea and fruit.  I got some nuts and gluten free treats too….we will graze on it all morning while we open gifts.

James will read the Christmas story from the Bible and we will talk about Christ being the focus of our time together.  That usually turns into a spontaneous conversation about gratitude or something sweet.

We don’t do Santa here.  Never have.  James and I always felt it was not best for the children’s character to have the focus be so much on their gifts or some mysterious stranger.  Our goal in parenting is to teach them to focus on others and love the Lord.  Christmas is no exception to that.  So we buy each child one gift and they each get a stocking with small things in it.  I go a little overboard on the stockings some tears, but I am working on it.  It’s getting to be too expensive now that I can’t just pour goldfish crackers and Target dollar spot toys in there.

Also, the kids draw names each year and keep it a secret.  We call it “Secret Buddies” and they spend $20-25 of their own money to buy this one gift.  Once I have all of the secret buddy gifts I wrap them and place them under the tree all at the same time so they won’t be able to guess who their buddy is (they know who has been shopping already so if I put them out as they were purchased they would be able to guess).

That means on Christmas morning each child has 2 gifts, one from Mom & Dad and the other from their secret buddy.  That is plenty for our family considering we don’t need a thing and we have so much already that it’s shameful.  James and I also give each other a gift and the kids usually chip in to get us something.  I know a lot of people skip Mom and Dad, but we believe that sends the wrong message to the kids.  Mom and Dad are just as special as the kids in God’s eyes and the gifts communicate that.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, but there needs to be something for everyone under the tree.

We unwrap gifts one at a time.  No chaotic, wild time of everyone ripping into their own presents.  We like to enjoy seeing what everyone else gets and it teaches us to all be interested in each other and not just ourselves.  Also, we expect all of the kids to pay attention to the others while they open.  It can be hard for the little ones since they’re so excited, so we may let them play a little with something new while they watch, but they can’t be distracting or completely self-focused.

Once the gifts under the tree are opened we take a little break.  I usually get lunch started and we clean up all of the trash then we gather together again and start emptying the stockings.  One at a time while we all watch and enjoy.

Once we finish, we eat and settle into playing with new toys and checking out our presents.  I love just mulling around watching the kids and being with them while they enjoy their things.  We eat a late lunch (this year I’m making roast) then just hang out together.

It’s a simple, love filled day.

How about you?  What’s your favorite family Christmas tradition?

Wrapping is Not My Gift

Wrapping is Not My Gift

Well, I did it.  I finished my Christmas shopping.

On Friday I locked my bedroom door and pulled all I had out of my closet.  I sorted through it, much like Santa does but without the elves to carry everything for me.  Then I made a list of the few things I still needed and set out Saturday morning to finish.  I know I was crazy to go out on a Saturday and believe you me I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t already driving an hour to the city to watch my nephew run in a cross country race.

I just forged ahead, waited in long lines, fought the crowds and gotter done.

10 full stockings – CHECK
10 gifts under the tree – CHECK
wrapping – NOPE

As much as I love the idea of beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree, I am so tired by the time I have everything purchased and carried home that I tend to just throw on some leftover wrapping paper from last year and call it finished.  They are so fragilly (it’s a word-kind of) wrapped that I wait until December 23 to put them under the tree.  “Don’t touch those presents kids! And I will be able to tell because touching them will rip the paper to shreds.”

It’s a landmine of paper and tape.

Sunday was a big day for our family.  My husband, who has been in law school for the past four and a half years, took his very last exam.  Yep.  He’s finished.  I am ready to have my husband back.  And I am sure he is ready to be a regular guy again.  One who isn’t in school full time AND running a business AND raising 9 children AND dealing with a somewhat spoiled wife.

This week I will be just hanging out with the family, wrapping presents and catching up on the latest Hallmark movies.  Of course, one doesn’t really have to catch up on all of them since they all have the same plot, “Boy and girl are forced together even though they can’t stand each other- boy and girl fall in love-the end.”

But I’m a sucker for a love story so I watch them anyway.

Have a great week!


How to Make a Christmas Sign

How to Make a Christmas Sign

Last week I showed y’all my cute kitchen shutters and sign I made for Christmas when I told you how much I love   So now I want to share how we made the sign.  You won’t believe how easy it was!

I got 3 fence pickets that are 6′ long.  I happened to have some already, but it would cost around $12 at the hardware store.


My son Jacob helped me so I could take pictures.  But I didn’t need help.  It’s SO easy to do and I’m not afraid of power tools.  We wanted both ends of the boards to be the same, so we held the cut end up and marked where to cut so the angles would match.

Make a sign with fence pickets

While we were at the saw we cut 3 pieces 9″ long from the third picket.

Make a sign with fence pickets

Then we simply used our handy dandy stapler to attach them all together.  Be sure to measure the same from each end so they are even.

That’s it…no sanding or heavy measuring.  Seriously.  10 minutes.

Next it was time to add the words.  Unfortunately, I lost all of the pictures I took while I was doing it, so I will just have to ‘splain.

I cut printed the letters out (see below for the printable) then cut them out.  Then I traced them onto the sign.  I couldn’t do it with carbon paper like I did when I made my address sign because the boards are so rough that it wouldn’t show.  So I just traced the cutout.  It was easy.

Be sure to use painter’s tape to get them all in a straight line.

Then….you won’t believe this…..I filled them all in with a red Sharpie.  Yes, that’s right.  SUPER easy!  I just did it one night while James and I watched “The Amazing Race”.  By the time the last team got eliminated I was finished.

Not bad for a quick, free project and after Christmas I will flip the sign around and show you what I put on the other side….hee hee.  I’m not telling you yet.  Nope, sorry.  You’re going to have to wait.

Here are the printables: PEACRTH

It’s just the letters I used and you will need to cut them out and line them up on your boards.

Now you can make your own sign!

4 Proches (and a giveway!)

4 Proches (and a giveway!)

I’ve got another great giveaway for you today!  This one is personal to me because it’s from a precious family that we have known for years and we love them!!!

Introducing 4 Proches!

Beautiful family band!

This is a sibling group that is so talented it kind of makes you sick, in a good way of course.  Their songs are part flashback to the old folksy songs from my childhood and part current family togetherness.  They even write some of their own songs, making it more special.

They have just released an album, “Wayfaring Stranger”.  If you like to listen to talented people and if your own kids need a little boost of inspiration AND if you are on the lookout for good, wholesome music….you want this CD!

I went to hear them play last weekend and they were wonderful!  I am giving their CD to some friends for Christmas (if you’re my friends forget you read that).  It would make a perfect gift, but you’ve got to order quick to get it in time!

I even have a discount code for you….yippee!  If you use the code ‘PENNSHIP’ you will get 15% off your order.  Not bad, huh?

And I get to give away a signed CD to two of you!  Whoop!  It’s like a party every day around here.

Sweet family band CD giveaway just in time for Christmas!

Just enter below and be sure to sign up for their newsletter, which is one of the entries.  You will be richly blessed by this family band.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kitchen Holiday Goodness (but not cooking)

Kitchen Holiday Goodness (but not cooking)

Remember my new shutters for my bedroom? Well I also added some in my kitchen and oh my goodness I love them so much!

No more dusty curtains and strings.  Happiness by shutters.

beautiful holiday kitchen! is my favorite new friend of 2013.  They have been so helpful and so caring, even checking on me about a week after my shutters arrived.  Who does that?!

They were super easy to install, even with my odd sizes and shapes.  Well, not my personal odd shape and size, but my kitchen window.

beautiful holiday kitchen!

To add some old house character to the window, I made a holiday sign to hang over it.  It is so much fun to have something Christmasy in the kitchen.

Make a Christmas sign for the kitchen!

Plus I can just flip the sign around after Christmas and have a whole new look.  And….you’ll love this….it cost me nothing!

Add some Christmas cheer to your kitchen!

Later this week I will show you how I made the sign, but for now I have something better.  The great folks at are letting me give one of you a $100 gift card to get your own new window coverings!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post. I only promote products and companies that I really love and believe in.

The Stockings Are Hung and the Singing is Sung

The Stockings Are Hung and the Singing is Sung

Yep.  It’s Monday.

After a long, cold weekend Monday is a beautiful thing.  I like normalcy….if you can call 11 people in one house all day normal.

This weekend we filled Shop 24 orders and went to church.  That’s pretty much it.  ‘Tis the season.  Our little etsy shop will be open for one more week before we take a holiday break.  I love making stockings for people, but I’m always glad to be finished and hunkered down with my family.

This week, in addition to a couple of holiday events, I am planning to finish my Christmas shopping.  I am about halfway done.  A couple of my kids are giving me trouble.  The things they asked for are either $2 or $200.  Isn’t there any $40-$50 present you can think of?!  Give mamma a break, will ya?

So I’m perusing Amazon and blogs and Pinterest looking for the perfect thing.  I may have to settle for next to perfect.  I am giving myself until Thursday.  After that I am heading to Target with my money and what will be will be.

My other challenge every year is filling 10 stockings.  I like a fully loaded stocking complete with little notes and special things that only Mom would know you like.  It’s a love note from me to them.  I usually shop for little things all year, making it easy on myself.  But this year I just didn’t do it and now I am left with hitting the city and going through every dollar bin I can find.  And with so many of us not eating sweets or gluten, the extra filling of candy and snacks is going to be an added challenge.

I may have to stuff a few with granola and walnuts.

The stockings

On Sunday my oldest son, Jacob, and I sang a song at his church.  He asked me on Friday if I would do it with him.  If you’re good at math you have already figured out that gave me less than 2 days to learn this song.  I guess I could have said no, but really what were the chances of that?  He asks me to do something with him about once every 2 years, so I jumped at the opportunity.  In other words, he had me over a barrel.

I don’t have any pictures or videos of us singing because the rest of my family went to a different church so there was no one to take a picture.  It’s complicated.

This is a gift of ours, making things complicated.  We are extraordinarily good at it.

But I did take a picture while we were practicing.  I needed some kind of proof that we did something together.  Plus he loves it when I say, “Hey Jacob!  Look over here so I can Instagram you!”

Despite my lack of practice, the song went OK except for one measure that we both forgot and stood there for 4 beats staring at each other.  Then we picked it up again….what are ya gonna do but smile and go forward?  Perfection is highly overrated.

Thanks for stopping by and if you have any good kid ideas for Christmas this year let me know.  I need it!

$500 Holiday Cash Giveaway!

$500 Holiday Cash Giveaway!

Hey guess what!  I have a whopper of a giveaway for y’all.

I’m joining together with some of my favorite gals to give someone $500 for Christmas.  That sure would make a dent in my holiday shopping expenses.

These gals have some awesome blogs you really should check out!

A Cowboy’s Wife, , A Family Feast, Barbara Bakes, Bless This Mess, Crumbs and Chaos, Eat at Home Cooks, Frugal Upstate, Hoosier Homemade, Let’s Dish, Kitchen Meets Girl, Mom Advice, Pocket Change Gourmet, Roxana’s Home Baking, Sophistishe, Sweet Sugarbelle, Sweet Treats and More, Unsophisticook, Wholesome Mommy , Your Homebased Mom

There are plenty of ways to enter, so jump on in and get your name in there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway