A shower made for a storybook

A shower made for a storybook

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

You know… that one you can recite from memory because you’ve read it so many times?

On Saturday morning, I hopped out of bed early with storybooks on my mind. I sorted through our shelves of books, pulling out all of the ones that were classics. I had teamed up with two of my friends, Jami and Sarah, to host a baby shower for our friend, Lindsay.


We had found tons of ideas for a storybook themed shower on Pinterest. Jami had planned out all of our themed foods, like a Hungry Caterpillar fruit salad, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs meatballs and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie cookie tray.

I designed and cut out banners with characters from classic children’s stories. And Sarah planned out some cute decorating touches…


But we needed just one thing more for our decor… books!

I set up children’s books all around the living room, entry and kitchen. When my kids saw them, they immediately sat down and started reading them to each other. I was amazed at what a flood of memories washed over me just looking through those books and hearing them read the words again.

Now that they are 17, 15, 13 and 8, and can read on their own, we don’t spend much time reading books together. But the words came right back, and I could recite many of them by heart.

My favorites:

  • Dinosaur Roar
  • Are You My Mother?
  • The Bear Snored On
  • Put Me in the Zoo

Oh, how I cherish those days of little kids snuggled up in my lap reading books together!

Anyway… Here are a few other details from the shower, which was SO fun to put together. I had been working super hard the month before to get ready for Easter at our church. (When you work for a church, Easter is pretty much the biggest day of the year!)

My husband saw me cutting and pasting together the banners and other decorations, and remarked at how happy I looked. There’s nothing like doing something creative to help me relax after a long few weeks! Somewhere in my secret dreamworld life, I imagine myself spending my days as a professional birthday party planner. (Is there such a thing?!?) I wonder if I would get bored designing and cutting out decorations for parties all day long.


I was in charge of creating the invitation for the shower. After searching the Internet for ideas, I came up with this one… an invitation designed to fold out like a little book. I Photoshopped characters from classic stories to create this simple, but cute invitation.

Jami did an amazing job planning out our spread of children’s book-themed food!

I used my Silhouette to print and cut the banners and signs for the food. Since I had already found a lot of storybook characters to create the invitations, it was easy to put together the other signs. I used the “registration” feature on my Silhouette to first print the characters on shiny cardstock, then cut out the circles on my Silhouette.


Sarah created this adorable wreath, using small books and stuffed animals she found in the $1 aisle at Target.

She added lots of other tassels and finishing touches…

We simply printed out one more themed cover for these little clipboard notebooks that we gave as party favors…

And then we added more books and quotes to finish off the decorating…

For our party games, we created a sheet with lines from classic children’s books and the guests had to guess which book they were from.

And then, we played the game, “Guess what’s in the diaper?” I loaded diapers with an assortment of candy, fruit and other foods, like melted cheese, mashed up Fig Newtons and my favorite, guacamole! I think this photo says it all!

As always, planning the party was almost as much fun as the party itself. But I especially loved my little stroll down memory lane through the pages of all of those books.


So what about you? What’s your favorite children’s book?

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Ten years of making movies at the age of 17

Ten years of making movies at the age of 17

Our oldest son was 7 years old when he was infected with the film-making bug.

He recruited his younger brother and sister as actors, and asked me to shoot them making a movie. I’m sure it’s something that kids in lots of homes have done at that age.  I showed him some basic editing skills in iMovie, added sound effects and some special effects, and he had his first movie, “Dr. Cortex’s Magic Plan.”

It was a crazy screen play that involved inspiration from Narnia, a plan to destroy the world and lots of random costumes.

For the next few years, I served as my son’s video editor and producer as he came up with script ideas, recruited actors and begged me to point the camera in his direction.

By the time he was in fifth grade, his grandparents had given him a flip camera so he could shoot his movies without having to wait for his mom to fit it into her schedule. Any kid that has been a friend of Andrew’s over the last decade has been recruited at some point to become an actor in one of his films.

At age 10, he filmed his first series, “Old Grandpa.” Then, he and his brother created the characters, “CJ Watermelon and Bub Franklin.” Many of his projects have involved some kind of music video element, starting with “Turkey in the Straw”, our first attempt at using a green screen when he was about 9, and my all-time favorite, “Thanks, Mom.”

Over the years, my role has diminished from movie editor to editing consultant to the person who asks my son for editing advice. We both started with iMovie, then graduated to Final Cut Pro. The summer after fifth grade, he invited groups of friends to come over, assigned them roles, filmed their movies and then conducted a class to show them how to use iMovie. A few summers ago, he mowed lawns weekly, then spent all of his savings on special effects packages.

In the past ten years, this kid has created 76 movie projects of his own. Not bad for someone who is 17.

These are the kinds of things I think about when I sit and watch his latest short film being played on a screen at the local high school as part of the annual Film Fest. These moments are the compilations of years of investing in a child’s interests, offering advice and supporting every new idea and endeavor. I think about all of the times he’s come running in the door, exclaiming, “Mom! I have an idea for a movie!” It’s been amazing to see a kid so passionate about something, and then invest so much time and energy into pursuing what he loves.

Sometimes, he has irritated people with his style of using cinematography to create a film that looks deadly serious, only to find out he was being sarcastic the whole time, as in the short film devoted to a man’s obsession with “Pudding” or the guy who wouldn’t die in his western “Bulletproof.” There’s no hiding the humor in his series devoted to making fun of his crazy younger brother in the series, “Day in the Life of Matt” or his take on “The Office,” played out in his own series, “Picnic.”

He doesn’t shy away from talking about his faith in projects like this one. He has created public service announcements for his school and event advertisements for his church youth group.

He was so blessed his sophomore year of high school to get to take two broadcast journalism classes with a teacher who really invested in his interest. This teacher started a Film Fest at the school to give students a format to display their creative work. He learned a lot from his entry last year, which ended up taking second place.

This year, Andrew asked two friends he met from participating in school plays to be the actors in his short film. His actors are hilarious, and he had so much fun working with them on his entry, which had to fall into the theme of “friendship.”

Both years of the film fest, another student has walked away with first place. Although the students are heavily judged by professionals in the industry on the writing of their screen play and plot development, the other student has taken her script from the Internet both years. The organizers of the event have given her permission to submit a film that isn’t an original work, but we are hoping that at some point, they will consider creating a separate category for films that weren’t actually written by the students.

Anyway, that disparity has taken some of the joy out of the Film Fest competition. It’s probably hard to imagine how much time and energy go into creating a story, filming it, working with actors and then all of the editing and production. We can rest in the way Andrew handles himself with so much dignity and humility. We’ve encouraged our son to learn from the judge’s comments and enjoy the reaction of a room full of people, laughing along with his original work.

These days, I often find myself in a bit of a role reversal from back in the days of Dr. Cortex, Old Grandpa and CJ Watermelon. I’m always in need of video producers to help me create content at my job, and often end up begging my son to work one of my projects into his schedule.

As he wraps up his junior year of high school and we visit colleges this spring, we are starting to really figure out what it could look like to help our child turn a lifelong passion into a college major or a career. I think I just needed to take a few moments to look back at how far he’s come over the last 10 years. The Film Fest wrapped up a stressful week that also included four days of high school baseball tryouts for our other son, who is a freshman. (Hopefully, I’ll write about that soon, too!… He made it!!!)

Thank you to everyone who has shared in this journey with us, and thanks for reading! Leave me a comment to say, “hello!”

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Getting ready for Valentine’s Day… minus all the red

Getting ready for Valentine’s Day… minus all the red

I subscribe to lots of blogs on fashion, lifestyle and home decor in my Bloglovin’ news feed, and everyone has been writing lately about Valentine’s Day. Of course, all of the posts about this heart-filled holiday are loaded with red. Red boots. Red sweaters. Red pillows. Red flowers.

I’m all for filling the world with love. But every year, I have to figure out how to do it without surrounding myself with the color red.


I guess you could say I have some strong feelings about color. I’m slightly obsessed with color, in general. I love, love, love organizing things in rainbow order and bringing as much color as possible into my world.

Just not red. I have a terrible relationship with red.


I think my bad feelings toward red started in college. I had a favorite sweater that was red. It fit me perfectly. I loved the length of the sweater, and it was super warm and cozy. But every time I wore it, people would say things to me like, “Are you feeling OK?” “You don’t look well.” “Are you getting sick?”

Inevitably, by late afternoon, I would come home and change clothes. After a day of wearing red, I actually WAS starting to feel a little ill.

Since then, my negative feelings about red have only increased.

My closet is arranged in order by color, but I don’t have one scrap of clothing from the red, orange and yellow end of the spectrum. I have discovered that I need to stick to the G BIV side of ROY G BIV to look my best. And, boy, do I LOVE green, blue, indigo and violet!

I think other people look GREAT in warm colors. In fact, I totally admire people who can wear red (or orange or yellow or pink for that matter). I, on the other hand, avoid even standing next to people wearing red. You couldn’t pay me enough money to take my photo in front of a red wall. Red scarves and boots are out.

Red clothing has become the gluten of my wardrobe.

When it comes to decorating, even at Valentine’s Day, you will find as little red as possible in my home.

The only red I have in my Valentine’s Day decor are these little hanging hearts. Even the Grinch of Valentine’s Day colors has to make at least one concession.


I do enjoy little hanging hearts enough that I can deal with their scarlet hue.


(It’s kind of hard to find hanging hearts in any color BUT red, so I cope.)

My Valentine’s decor has a very short lifespan in my home, so it’s mainly a transition from all of the winter white.


I like to bring in a little color before I get to go ALL SPRING. The hearts and LOVE letters are a sign that spring is coming, which makes me so, so happy!



In fact, I just noticed that the time will change in one month! Four more weeks until the darkness starts to recede, and we get our lives back!


For now, Valentine’s Day around here is mostly maroon and white, mixed with a little pink. It’s more of a subtle take on the love decor, but at least these colors don’t give me a headache like their evil sister on the color spectrum… RED!


So, how about you? Do you have strong feelings about color? Do you have a color that your can’t go near? Do you like to decorate for Valentine’s Day?

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What really mattered in January

What really mattered in January

Here’s a little January 2018 fun fact for you. Did you know that we started the month AND ended the month with a full moon?

The full moon setting on the morning of Jan. 2

This doesn’t happen often, which is why it’s called a “blue moon.” The moon wasn’t blue at all this morning. But it’s only “once in a blue moon” that we have two full moons in one month.

Instead of being blue in color, this month’s full moon actually appeared more red in color than usual, which is why it was also a “blood moon.” (Here’s a photo of the last time we had a blue moon, blood moon back in 2015 .)

I ran out quickly this morning to snap a photo, and realized that not only was it a blue moon and a blood moon, I was actually looking at a lunar eclipse. So, there you go. It was a blue moon, blood moon, super moon, lunar eclipse, and I only took this one barely focused photo.

What really mattered in January

That kind of feels like a description of my entire month, now that I think about it.

I began my month with my resolution of LESS doing and MORE being, but I still couldn’t help myself when it came to creating a habit tracker to work on a few things in the month of January.

The only good habit I created was listening to the Bible on audio book (almost) everyday. I even gave up on coloring in the little squares to track my habit. I missed a few days on the weekend, and had to catch up the following day. But I’m officially up to date on my plan to read — I mean listen — through the Bible in a year.

My other main goal for the month of January was to stop eating sweeteners. It’s funny that even though I’m still on a strict version of the Paleo diet, I can find ways to overindulge. I don’t eat any refined sugars, but that doesn’t stop me from baking up grain free, dairy free, sugar free breads and puddings made with maple syrup. And I’m completely addicted to my Matcha Green Tea Latte, packed with raw honey and full fat coconut milk.

I gained three pounds over the holidays, which I really wanted to eliminate. I made it back to my goal weight for about 25 seconds, and then I gained FOUR pounds. I think my goal for February will be to stop weighing myself.

Honestly, January was a heartbreaking month. A friend’s husband died unexpectedly, and it really rocked me. At times like this, it seems we should be able to hit a pause button for a few days and just put everything on hold. It feels unkind to go about the daily business of life when someone is in so much pain.

In the whole scheme of life, I realized it didn’t matter if I lost three pounds, made my bed everyday or drank eight glasses of water. I’m thankful for some moments of introspection when I was knocked out of daily task mode and into a realization of how short life really is and what actually matters.

As I sat at my friend’s husband’s funeral, I was amazed at her strength and courage, even though I know how her heart has been shattered. Inevitably, I thought about how I might react in her position. And then I confronted the fact that every single one of us WILL be in that position at some point. We are all going to stand beside someone we love who is no longer living. And at some point, we all will be the person who has gone on to the next life.

I’ve been thinking about a few things I want to do better.

  1. I want to know people and be known at a deeper level. Let’s not wait until a funeral to share the stories of our lives.
  2. I want to let people know how loved they are while they are alive.
  3. I want to take care of the things that matter, even when they are hard. And I want to stop focusing on the things that don’t matter. I know for sure that at the end of my life, I won’t wish I had watched one more show on Netflix or owned one more pair of cute jeans. I want to invest more in people and less in stuff.
  4. I want to trust that even in the darkest moments of life that God is good. He has a plan and a purpose.

It seemed fitting to watch that lunar eclipse this morning. Sometimes life feels so heavy and difficult to bear. Then, you look out in the sky at something as unusual as a “blue moon” that’s also a blood moon and a super moon and at the same time, you see a lunar eclipse. And in that moment, you realize that if the God of the universe can create something that amazing with such perfect timing and accuracy, that you also can trust Him in the daily moments of life.


How did your January go? What did you learn this month? What were the things that really mattered?

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Paleo dinners, lunches and desserts this month

Paleo dinners, lunches and desserts this month

One year ago, I radically changed my diet over night. But the transition of how to feed my family has taken much longer to figure out.

It’s one thing to change my own eating habits. It’s quite another to change someone else’s diet, especially when they are teenagers and might not want to make a switch. I’ve finally come to terms with the idea that most of our family dinners will be Paleo. In other words, I serve the whole family the same dinner I am making for myself about 80 percent of the time.

The kids can eat what they want for breakfast. (I still buy cereal and cow’s milk, but they have the option to use almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk and eat a grain free breakfast.) They often purchase hot lunch at school, or I will pack them a lunch that’s either Paleo or Standard American Diet (whichever they prefer).

They’ve come a long way in adjusting to eating dinners that are grain free, dairy free, soy free, legume free, sugar free and free of processed foods. But it’s still entertaining to watch their reactions when they come to the dinner table. The 8-year-old usually announces right away that she doesn’t like what’s being served. Our 13-year-old daughter often laughs while she’s scooping food onto her plate.

Our 15-year-old son is the most hilarious. He typically looks at the food and shakes his head with a look of “What happened to my life?!” I imagine him doing the Kramer surprise reaction on the inside. Ironically, he almost always goes back for a big plate of seconds. He’s a hungry boy.

Last week, however, our oldest son took one bite of dinner and exclaimed, “Wow! This is good! I could eat this everyday!”

He was eating a made-up recipe that I created after being inspired by the crustless pizza available at Lou Malnati’s.

I’m sorry about the photo that is to follow. I am discovering that food bloggers have a special process for making food photos look amazing.

Basically, I added some oregano, garlic powder, basil and salt to two pounds of ground pork. I pressed that into the bottom of a large dish and baked it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. I topped it with pizza sauce, mushrooms, onions and sliced olives, and then baked the whole thing for another 15 minutes or so. The result was something that reminded us of pizza!

Here are a few of my other new favorite Paleo recipes that I tried in January:


(That’s a real food blogger photo!)

This Curried Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash was amazing. I would have never thought to put curry in a shepherd’s pie. (I only used 1 teaspoon, instead of 1 tablespoon.) I cooked my sweet potatoes in an electric pressure cooker and then mashed them for the topping. (I also left out the peas, since they are not Paleo.) So good.

OK, so I didn’t actually even attempt to feed this one to my kids. I knew the combination of Crispy Chicken with Artichokes, Beets, Lemons and Olives would be too much for them. But I LOVED it! I really enjoy combining a variety of unusual flavors and this one had them all!

If you haven’t made Kahlua Pig in the electric pressure cooker yet, give it a try! Just a head’s up that it does take a WHILE too cook. Give yourself at least two hours, since it takes 90 minutes just to cook the pork. My kids have discovered they love cooked cabbage! We never have enough. I served this with baked sweet potatoes, which I made in my second electric pressure cooker.

I actually made my kids a real gluteny, dairy filled lasagna to eat, while I ate this amazing Puerto Rican Plantain Lasagna. I don’t eat peppers, so I substituted mushrooms and olives in the filling.

When I find a recipe that I want to try I pin it on my “Meal Planning” board on Pinterest. You can follow this board for other ideas (including lots of recipes from before I went Paleo).


My boys are always starving when they get home from high school at 2:30, so I like to have some filling, healthy snacks for them to grab when they get home. These also made some easy lunches for me to grab on my way to work on those days I don’t want to eat soup!

I substituted canned salmon for the tuna, and omitted the peppers in these (not so) Spicy Tuna Cakes.

My family thought these Curry Turkey Bites had too much of a kick, but I really enjoyed them, especially with the apricot ginger sauce.

My kids gobbled up the Egg Foo Youngish. (That’s a real food blogger photo!) They are kind of like a pancake, but really easy to grab and go on the way out the door.



My husband’s birthday is in January, and I typically make him a cherry pie. He prefers not to eaten gluten these days, so I tried this recipe for Cherry Cobbler. For the filling, I simply used frozen cherries that you can buy in a bag at Costco. This was aMaZiNg and so easy to make!

Since our oldest son can’t have nuts and the cobbler uses almond flour, I also made a Paleo Pumpkin Pie. I  make this all of the time without the crust. You just bake the filling at 350 degrees for 65 minutes. It’s so simple, and we all love it! (Sorry again for the bad photo!)


I also can’t believe that I finally found a Paleo Banana Bread recipe that is so easy to make and tastes amazing. I have made this a few times now, without the chocolate chips. It’s SUCH a treat to eat something that tastes like bread.


So, what about you? Have you tried any awesome new recipes lately? Have you made any changes to your diet this year? How’s it going?


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