Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review - Living Life Undaunted by Christine Caine

Author Christine Caine has been through enough in her life to warrant this title "Living Life Undaunted."   In her "Readings and Reflections" book, she shares scripture, stories, and little pearls of wisdom, to those looking for a daily guide through life and scripture.

This devotional is full of practical wisdom and incredible encouragement, for all seasons of life, and is broken into months and days,with four major headings:

Broken - Loved - Empowered - Commissioned

The daily readings will inspire you to step out, take risks, trust God and be healed from life's wounds, as you walk with the Lord.    Christine also encourages the reader to reach out to the hurting and wounded that are in the world, who may not even know what they are missing.

I have been using this book daily as a guide for reading through the Bible and I look forward to each new page and the practical wisdom the author shares.

If you're looking for a new devotional tool, this would make a great choice!

*This book was provided to me by BookLook (see side bar for link) in exchange for my honest review.  For free books you can read and review, click on the link to BookLook on my blog.*

The View From My Front Porch

 Our driveway

I think I'm going to make Sundays my official picture taking day!  Don't you agree there is something peaceful about Sundays?

After not feeling great Friday night and Saturday, I finally felt human again on Sunday and decided to venture outside to see if I could capture some pretty shots.   I invited Collin and Banjo along, but didn't grab any shots of them and instead, tried to just capture some of the scenes we saw as we were walking along the road and around the house.

 DAVID's junk jeeps! (Notice I said HIS, not mine :)

As I came across these on my walk, they reminded me of being a kid and seeing a pile of old cars on my grandparent's land.   Out from the old house, into the pasture, there was a pile of old junk cars among the weeds and stickers that wanted to kill you (hey, South Texas, it's a fact!) and cactus.   It was basically a car graveyard created by 7 boys!  My poor grandmother.   Oh, how I don't envy her :)

I've already warned David that this pile needs to get smaller and not bigger!

This is one of those things that we bought to hang, and so far it's still sitting there doing nothing but holding up the paint on this old door.

But, I kind of like it.......

To think.....people actually try and create this chippy paint look these days.  

I had to show a picture of my plants, simply because......they aren't dead!  Yay me!

And, what's a walk around the old farmhouse without a shot of the front porch!

This is the time of year that my porch becomes one of my favorite places ever!   Here's why:

*Coffee with my honey on Saturday mornings
*Decorated for Fall
*Singings on the porch with friends
*Afternoon coffee and a good magazine, on the swing
* there any better place?

And, the last shot of the day......

Lady, waiting patiently by the feed bucket for her evening meal.    The evening sun was casting one last glow on this side of the yard and it fell perfectly across her middle.

Who would have thought, all those years ago, that these two horses would be so much a part of this land and our family?

What a great walk around the farm today! 

I hope you enjoyed it too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A SPA Themed Gift Basket

One of my favorite types of gifts to give is a GIFT BASKET.   You can't go wrong with a cute container, filled with all types of fun things!

So, when it came time to decide on a gift for my new daughter in law, Alex, I knew I wanted to put together something special.

The first step in creating a great gift basket is deciding on a THEME.   Choose something that you know reflects the person's likes and just start buying things that go within that theme.

This Pomegranate Body Scrub helped me decide on the SPA theme, and from there, I added other elements that would go along with a personal SPA day.

The scrub was easy to make and the recipe came with the jar labels (printable), so I had everything I needed for this cute gift.   I added some miniature craft sticks as applicators and placed them in a brown lunch sack to add to the character of the basket.

Thinking of other things a girl would want to pamper herself with, I added chocolate (of course) and a candle.

Then I included a framed picture of Ted and Alex on their wedding day.   I love this picture of them!

I put in a white, fluffy towel, wash cloth, comfy slippers, a back brush, soap from Beau-tanicals, and one of my favorite magazines - Life:Beautiful.

For the finishing touch, I made this cute tag to go on front.   I tied it to the basket with twine, which leads me to the basket....I love this basket, but then, I'm kind of a basket freak.

I bought it at Hobby Lobby and thought it was perfect to use for the gift, but would also be perfect in the bathroom with rolled up towels or extra supplies.

To finish it off, I cut a piece of fabric I had on hand and made a big bow to stick on top of everything.

I had so much fun putting this together and I hope she enjoys being pampered for a bit.

Happy Birthday Alex!  Hope you enjoy your basket of goodies!  We love you!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Songwriter's Night - Year 2

Rebecca Lynn Howard and her husband Eli

Recently, David, Collin and I, had the privilege of attending the 2nd Annual Just Outside The Spotlight songwriter's night, right here in our town.

Our friend, Robby Lynn, from Sunday's Kind of Country, created this event as a fundraiser for needy kids (see side bar for link to his sight) and it is one of the best musical events around.

Robby Lynn and Jack Fitch (photographer)

So, early Saturday morning, we headed to Houston to pick up Rebecca and Eli from the airport.  David had met them last year, so they were familiar with him and we all just fell into a comfortable friendship over the ride home and over lunch.

Rebecca is a down-home Kentucky girl and has the accent to prove it!   She's an amazing song writer and as a bonus, has a voice to go along with her writing talent.   She and Eli (who is beyond talented too and has an entire music career of his own), have recently joined Steven Tyler (yes, THE Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) in a band and also have another project going in the group Loving Mary (you can find them on Facebook).

Needless to say......they are super BUSY!

Here's Eli playing Collin's mandolin
that Collin let him borrow

The songwriter's night was just beyond great!  Last year was amazing and this year surpassed last year, so you can only imagine how good it was.

Rebecca has written songs for singers such as Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry many times.     Her voice is strong and pretty and you can't help but just love her personality.

Eli was absolutely a great guy and equally talented musician.   He was so appreciative of us and really fell into a great conversation with Collin about music and computers, so they hit it off perfectly.

On Sunday we drove them back to Houston and really enjoyed just talking about real life things.

They are truly great people!

Aaron Barker, Mike McQuerry, Mark Nesler

The rest of the night the stage was occupied with a team of super songwriters who have penned some of the best songs on the radio.

This is the element I love about songwriter's nights!

You are listening to these men, who look like everyday guys, and then they start telling their stories and revealing their songs and you're blown away at the hits that have come from them!    In fact, there are too many to count and remember, so you'll have to do the research yourself, but to just throw out a name for you - George Strait - might get you excited!

If you've never been to a songwriter's night, you should!   If music means something to you, then these stories will too, because they reveal the heart of the song and how it came to be.    Some songs come about through collaboration with other writers and some of the songs come straight from the writer, living life or observing others.    Either way, the stories take the songs to another level.

All in all, it was a huge success (and a sold out show) and hopefully, Robby made some good money for the Giving House Foundation, which he will use to feed hungry kids in our area.

Oh, and it's pretty cool that Collin's mandolin (pictured here) made it's debut on the stage of the, now famous, Just Outside the Spotlight songwriter's night, don't you think?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tying Heart Strings

Years ago I read a book about raising kids.   Actually, I read many books about raising kids and yet, every day, even with all of that book knowledge, it was challenging.

I got a lot of great advice, even put a lot of it into practice, but through different stages of my kid's lives, I've pulled one piece of advice out of my memory bank and thought about how to use it now and then.

Tying heart strings.

If we aren't careful with our mom/child relationship, we can find ourselves doing nothing but barking orders at our kids.    I mean, between school and work and household duties, outside activities and all other things on our never-ending list, we sometimes find ourselves with just enough time to harshly tell our kids what the next thing is on the agenda.

Our relationship becomes a cycle of them trying to talk to us, while we pretend to listen and nod our heads; throwing out an "uh huh" now and then.   Then, we give them a list of to-do's and send them on their way.   Eventually, the only communication we have is the run down of what they need to do next.

I'm sure not all relationships fall into this pattern, but I would guess that many do.

That's why the book said to tie heart strings with your child on a regular basis.

When we find ourselves doing nothing more than barking orders, shooing them away, dragging them from place to place and then sending them to bed, we aren't tying heart strings.

In fact, kids aren't dumb, and clothing and feeding them isn't all they need.

They need your attention, your touch, your love, your playfulness, your heart.   And, when you're too busy to give those things, they notice.

I cringe when I hear people say that "kids are resilient" because I think it's a poor excuse for being "ok" with putting kids through things they shouldn't have to go through.

Kids take in more than we give them credit for and depending on their personalities and circumstances, it will either affect them now or in their adult life - no doubt.

They may be "resilient" now, but somewhere deep inside, they are storing everything away and will have to deal with it all, later on in life.

Tying heart strings is a way to filter through some of those things now and to keep your relationship going and on a good note with your kids.

How Do You Tie Heart Strings?

Tying heart strings is nothing more than investing genuine time and effort into their world or inviting them into yours.

Whether you take the time to join them in something they enjoy doing for fun or whether you invite them to join you to do something fun, as long as it gives you a chance to just talk and listen and invest in them, you will tie those strings.  You may also heal wounds.

I think the key is to do something together and just let them be a kid.   Don't tell them how to do it better or make it complicated; just do something fun together.

For an older child, tying heart strings might mean actually giving them freedom to talk, without being corrected or told they should or shouldn't feel a certain way.   Listening is a great gift.

For a younger child, it might be as simple as sitting on the floor, playing that game they always ask you to play.

Every child is different and they each have their own language when it comes to what's important and  what makes them feel loved.

Find out what that is and do it with them.

The investment will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This Makes Me Giddy...

When your eyes turn mid-40's - ok....who am I kidding?   LATE 40's - this is what you find on your desk!

Is this really necessary?    Yes, apparently it is!

To all of the people that I made fun of for having so many glasses - I now sincerely apologize.

Let's move on....

I may be "older" than the average student, but let me tell you......

nothing says "happy" like a new bunch of school/office/just because supplies!

All my life - these are the things that make me giddy......

This is what happens when I go to Office Depot for printer ink.....

Apparently, I can't be trusted!

Oh, the simple things in life :)

What simple things make you giddy?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Life Gets That Way Sometimes!

Sometimes you don't know where you're going, you just know you want to take a different path. You make decisions, you make changes, you walk a little ways and then you get "there" and realize it's not all you were hoping it would be.

Welcome to the past few weeks of my life!

Too much confusion.   Too many changes.  Too much explaining.

So, here I am.   Back where I think people want me and where life just feels like it's supposed to.


I decided that I wanted to work on some other writing projects that I have going on and I didn't think I would have time to do both.   What I discovered is that there are different pockets of time for different types of projects and that I could do both, if I was wise with my time.

I will admit.....I was also a little burned out on blogging - in the way of always feeling like I needed to produce something on this page, or people would become bored and walk away.

Then I discovered that writing needs to be more for ME than anyone else.

That's what my heart has been missing.

You see, blogging has become about teaching something.   Everyone wants to teach someone else something - how to eat better, how to budget better, how, how, how!  And, I'm just tired of reading and writing those types of blogs.

I mean, if I'm looking to improve, I have my go-to-blogs that I love and respect.  

But, for the most part, I want to just read what's going on in people's hearts and lives and I think that's what they want to see in mine, as well.


I have actually been off working on a new website, only for the reason of having a place to refer people, if I needed to (other writing projects need Bio info.).

That turned in to a page on FB, deleting my old FB (too many people I didn't really know), going back to my original FB account because people kept messaging David, asking if I was upset and why did I defriend them, and life just became altogether too darn confusing!

So, here I am.

There are a lot of thoughts that go into blogging, believe it or not.

One of the most imposing questions is -How transparent do you want to be?  How vulnerable? How real?  All the time?  Some of the time?  Never?

Writers are deep thinkers, I hate to tell you.

That's what gets complicated sometimes and why I had to go off and really think about what I want to share on this blog and what I want to share elsewhere.


I decided to undo everything I tried to change over the past few weeks because this is just so much a part of who I am and it feels wrong to give it up.

Life has enough changes, without me creating unnecessary ones for myself, right?

Plus, I missed you guys.

So, here I am, back to share my life, once again.

Sorry for all the confusion.

Life gets that way sometimes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where Has the Time Gone?

In just a few years, we've gone from this guy........

to this guy..........

From learning that a verb is an "action" word, to discovering velocity, force and acceleration.   Quite a long ways we've come together!

Collin is now in the 10th grade and I'm pretty sure this is going to be a pivotal year in his academic career.    He seems motivated.

And, I have to admit, I feel a little more energetic about the year, as well.

Some years you just get caught up in that thing called LIFE and you trudge through the academics, just so you can get to the good stuff.

And then other years, school is the good stuff and you can't wait to get there.

If you homeschool for any length of time, you will eventually experience all of these emotions - excitement, burn out, revelation and determination.     Sometimes.....all in the same year.

But, the good thing is, each new year is like a fresh new morning - it has all the promises of a great experience waiting to happen!

It just depends on the effort  you put in and what you want to get out of it.

So, this year we started off with a new thing called Mom Time.   I got this concept from another homeschooling mom, who calls it Morning Time, but nevertheless, it's basically the same thing.

We start off each morning (except co-op day) with about 30-45 minutes of time with mom.

I read a chapter or two from a chosen book - this year we are reading out of Hero Tales - a book about Christian Heroes.    Next, we discuss any spiritual application about the story and then we move on to praying for our day.    

After prayer, we do Teen Talk.   This is a time where I give Collin the floor and let him talk about whatever he wants, such as concerns, struggles, prayer requests or problems he needs help with.

After Teen Talk, I inform him of any expectations I have for that day, so that we are both on the same page, as far as how the day is ordered.   This eliminates the guess work, which I have found, makes kids feel like school lasts forever.

If they have a general sense of how long, how many assignments, breaks, etc., they actually feel more in control of the events of the day.    This is also the time when I would tell him what chores are expected of him that day, if they differ from the normal routine.

When Mom Time is over, he grabs his books and gets started with his subjects for the day.

Of course, with homeschooling, there is always something that grabs his attention and he needs to come tell me about it.  Or, his dad may be working from home and stops to talk to us, which can lead to a little bit of veering off schedule.  But, that's the beauty of what we do.

Collin is really excited to get back to school, co-op and seeing all his friends on a weekly basis.

He's already looking forward to the Sock Hop scheduled for the winter party and being part of the new praise band at co-op. 

He's also got his mind totally wrapped around getting his driving permit (oh joy!).

I have a feeling it's going to be an exciting year!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Having Some Fun With Budgeting


I know I've said this before, but there is something that feels good about having to get creative with money.  

No, it's not fun when you can't pay for necessities, but that's just it.......we have so many things that AREN'T necessities!  

I think it's good to get back to basics every now and then, and really evaluate where your money is going and how much you waste.    Having to budget and get creative can open your eyes to the abundance you've been given, yet squander, at times. 

So, in light of David and I having to watch our budget this month, we thought we'd have a little bit of fun with it and test out our skills in the EATING OUT arena.

We decided we would take the next four weeks and see what kind of meal we could have on a twenty dollar bill. 

Our first stop was New York Pizza and Pasta.....

We love this place!  You can get great food, good prices, and if you're there on the right night - live music!

Now, normally, David and I don't share food, unless it's fajitas at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  When we eat elsewhere, we rarely have the same tastes and therefore, we each end up getting our own plate of food, and it's normally way too much for either of us to finish.   Such is the way with American cuisine these days!

But, for this challenge, we agreed to be open as we scanned the menu for our options.


So, we read over the menu and discussed different dishes and decided that an entrée that came with salad and a side of pasta would be our best bet.

After going back and forth on the different descriptions of each entrée, we finally decided on:

Chicken Parmesan with a side of Angel Hair pasta

Two salads (one included with the entrée and one was an extra $1.99)

The bread came with the meal, as well.

We split the chicken and the pasta, each had bread and a salad, and needless to say....we were stuffed when it was all said and done!

It's a sobering thought when you think of how much money you would save if you always shared, instead of everyone getting something different and wasting half of what's on your plate.

Our final bill was even less than I expected!

We got out of there for $12.88 plus a $3.00 tip, for a grand total of $15.88!

We were so excited that we passed our first challenge with flying colors and we were stuffed too!

Next time we might even include Collin and see how far that TWENTY will stretch!

So.......the moral of the story is.....even if you're on a budget, you can still eat out if you choose carefully and compromise.  

And, thankfully, it doesn't have to have golden arches to be affordable!

Stay tuned for more fun ways to save (or spend), as we continue our Money Challenge Month.

If you have any great tips, please leave a comment!

Some of my go-to sites for money advice are:

Fun, Cheap or Free

Gail Vaz Oxlade

Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living

Crystal Paine's Money Saving Mom

All of these ladies offer great money advice, with different methods, but they also offer tips on anything and everything, from how to buy make up (cheap), to dates on a budget, to laundry detergent recipes.   You can literally get just about any kind of advice, concerning saving or spending money, on any one of these sites. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Fall Reading List

I'm a book lover.  Or a bookaholic.  Or a bookworm.  Even though I'd rather be a lover or a "holic", than a worm.   But, no matter what you call it.......I love books!

So, I thought I'd share my Fall Reading List and maybe inspire someone to pick up the habit, if you haven't already.

And, being that Collin has been "bored" and "ready for school" lately, I gave him the job of photographing my stack of books, so I would have some pictures to share.

I think he did a great job, don't you?

As he so quickly reminded me...."Mom, I've won awards for my photography, remember?"

Oh yes son, how could I forget?

So, here is my great stack of books for the next several months.   My goal is to read one book, every 3 weeks or so.   This means I'll have to spend more time reading than being on FB or playing Candy Crush or watching TV, but you seriously can't compare any of those to picking up a good book.

These are all books I've had on my shelves for a while.   As I said before, this is kind of an addiction, so I have this tendency of buying and then buying more, so sometimes I get a little backlogged.

I've already got my eye on a new one that just hit the stands, but I guess I'd better work my way through this pile first.   Unless the new one goes on sale......then I would have to grab it at the sale price, right?

What's in your stack this time around?  

Feel free to share your titles in the comments.

Happy Reading!