{Favorite Handmade Shops}

With the holidays right around the corner my thoughts have been on gift ideas recently.  Gift-giving is totally my love language, so this is an important time of year for me!  More and more I seek personal and handmade items for my loved ones.

I find that handmade items are often more unique and special since there are so many specific categories of handmade goodies.  You can usually find something that is “perfect” for each person’s tastes and interests.

So, here is a list of some of my favorite online shops that are run by people I know or people I am obsessed with (that sounds stalkerish, doesn’t it?!

Hug a Willow Tree: Awesome felt costumes and bags for kids.


The Sign Cafe: Beautiful wood signs.


Holly Beals Art: Unique mixed media art.


Lil’ Bubba’s Bows: Adorable baby headbands (sold locally –  contact them for more information)

Nat’s Collection: Fair trade Ecuadorian jewelry

The Wheatfield by Katie Daisy  Gorgeous art!

Loved by Hannah and Eli: kid and adult clothes (My favorite sweatshirt of all time is from here)

Be Still Clothing Co.: women’s tees (I don’t actually own anything from here, but I wish I did!)


Freshly Picked Moccasins: Favorite baby shoes ever.

Shop Riff Raff: women’s clothing

Poppy Soap: The most amazing soap you will ever smell (with a great cause as well)!



There are a million more that I love, but these are some faves and most of these are actually run by women I know or have met which is great!  In those cases, supporting these shops will help support mamas who are working to make some extra money (or necessary) for their families!


I also am temporarily opening my shop with some fun wooden signs, crocheted goodies, and other new items!

Have fun shopping!


{Garden Themed Baby Shower}

I was blessed to be able to throw a baby shower for a sweet girl in my Bible study!

It was a collaborative effort that included a crafting day with friends and lots of the attendees bringing the food and beverages!

Since it was a smaller, or shall we say, intimate affair, we were able to go a bit fancier and more detailed than normal!

The garden theme also allowed a lot of freedom: any color and pattern was fine as long as it was girly and gardeny!

Fresh flowers in clear vases and potted herbs (which also served as the party favor) made for a lovely and simple centerpiece.

A white lace tablecloth and some vintage floral china. Glitter paper and washi tape for place cards. Gorgeous Napkins that I found at Home Goods.  Oh, and a plastic kiddie pool to contain my crazy 10 month old.

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A real teapot and tea.  We drank coffee with teacups and saucers (the way my grandma always did).  I felt so classy!

Floral scrapbook paper for an eclectic garland.

Paper straws because, hello, no one has a party without them these days! ha!

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Delicious beverages and a galvanized tub.

Some chalkboard art.

Some free printables hung on chicken wire in an old frame.

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We made flower headbands for the little baby girl who will be arriving in November.

We ate things that grow in gardens: fruit, veggies, nuts, and cupcakes. Oh, wait, those don’t grow in a garden.  But they should, they really should.

Also, I am going to pretend that the rake in the background was put there as part of my meticulously planned garden them.  ahem.

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I mean . . .

These girls helped me with all of the set up and the decorations . . . and food . . . and cleanup . . . wait, what did I do?

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And . . . there is the glowing mama in the middle.  She loves gardening and has a beautiful yard and I am so happy for her to be “Growing” a family now!

Also, I always awkwardly lean in to photos as if I won’t fit otherwise.  I do not know why.  I am 5′ 1″.  It’s not as bad as usual in this photo, thank goodness!  I’m improving.  There is hope!

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It was a lovely day and I can’t wait to plan my next party, although it is for my daughter who is turning one and I sorta want to postpone her growing up, so now I am feeling conflicted.

Hmmmm, I need to go sort out my feelings on this topic.


It has been a long time since I’ve done insta-friday, so be prepared for a million pics and realize that I gave up and left out a week or so because there were too many pics.  I have an instagram problem.

I blame it on my lifelong love of photography and my childhood dream of being a photojournalist.  Instagram allows me to be the photojournalist of my own life!

We’ve been spending a lot of time outside lately, since summer is apparently NEVER ENDING!  It’s been fun to see Ellery enjoy the outdoors and to watch the girls play together (even if it means splashing in muddy water).

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Apparently splashing in muddy water is a trend.  We went to the beach and Elle was beside herself with joy at all the mucky sand!  She is also beside herself with joy when we put to her sleep in the same room as her sister.  She is totally the troublemaker at bedtime!

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Addison has found a new love: horses.  I am so proud.  I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember.  I use to daydream about galloping across open meadows! Of course, I did not like the fact that her love of horses led her to clim into the horse pasture (thankfully my brother was there and grabbed her).  But, I did love watching her first pony ride at our church’s Fall Kickoff! I also love watching her friendships grow.

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Growth group and girls’ Bible Study are back at it.  Hosting is often a lot of work, but we love it.  Our group is amazing and these times are so refreshing for us!  Also, barely cracked open this book (we don’t officially start until next week), but I think I’m going to love it.

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Hubby and I had an anniversary the first week of October and we splurged on a fancy dinner that included a rooftop dining experience.  It was lovely.

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Here’s my little pumpkin!  She is pretty much always this happy.  Also, we picked out our pumpkins a few weeks ago.  Now I need to clean ‘em up and then we can carve them.  Or paint. Or bedazzle.  Or something.

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There is this awesome hidden park near us and we snuck out on a warm evening and had the place to ourselves. Our little wild one loved the tire swing.  She also loves TuTus and fireman hats, which she wore to the grocery store. She also likes to take her own shopping cart to the grocery store and it is super adorable and also an awesome way to keep her well behaved! How to keep her napping, however, I have no idea.  Last week she went to bed at 10 pm and was up at 5:30 the next morning and lo and behold she took a nap RIGHT NEXT TO ME . . . WHILE I TAUGHT ONLINE.  I was shocked!  I was also thrilled because not-napping is not cool.

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I’m a book lover, but more and more I find myself reading Bible study books instead of “just for fun” fiction.  So, I am excited to combine the two in “Stepping Heavenward”. Books are a big deal in this house and we are trying to make Ellery love them as much as Addie and I do.

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This day was a good day.  Adorable baby and a dancing daughter.  I made her some ribbon rings and she has been requesting to put on her tutu, turn on music and dance every day since!

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I hosted a fun garden-themed baby shower last weekend!  It was so fun!  I love planning parties.  Thankfully, a certain someone will be turning one soon.  That certain someone loves her Daddy as you can see.

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You wanna know the truth about this next one?  This was a dark day.  The youngest fell asleep way past her morning nap time, which meant she was up later and down again later and awake when I was trying to get the older one to nap, and woken up by the older one not-napping. Fun plans had to be cancelled and mama was at her wits end and was not very nice and not very in control of her emotions.  Some deep breaths, some prayers, and some macaroni necklace making came to the rescue.  I find that when I am struggling the most emotionally as a mama is when I need to do something.  Relaxing and giving up only make me more upset.  So, we did a craft and I wrote encouraging notes to other mamas.  Nothing like perspective to shake you out of your selfish pity party!


And, you know what?  Both of my kids are napping right now and this afternoon we are going to pick apples in an orchard, so all is well with the world again!

Any grand weekend plans?  We have a birthday celebration and I need to get to work on a fun project!  Whatever you do, enjoy it!

{Crockpot English Apple Cider}

In honor of the fact that yesterday was cloudy, windy, and cool (finally), I have a fall recipe for you!

For as long as I can remember my family has had Wassail (pronounced Wassle) during Thanksgiving celebrations.

Wassail is an English Apple Cider that was drunk to guarantee a good apple harvest the following year.

More importantly, it is delicious!  I drink way too many cups of the stuff during the holiday season.

We always made it on the stove, but LIFE, so I attempted it in the crockpot.

So easy and it tastes just as delicious! It also doesn’t hurt that it makes your house smell AMAZING!

I love it so much, I am sharing the family recipe (with a few slight changes) with all of you!


4 qts apple cider
1 heaping tsp whole allspice
1 heaping tsp whole nutmeg
1 heaping tsp whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 can orange juice concentrate (thawed)
1/3 cup brown sugar


Pour two quarts apple cider into crockpot.  

Add all the spices.

Let cook on high for 1 hour. Strain (or strain after second hour for a stronger, spicier taste).

Add two more quarts apple cider, orange juice concentrate, and brown sugar.  

Cook another hour.

Enjoy and toast to next year’s apple harvest!

{Pumpkin Pickin’ 2014}










Pumpkin Picking time.  There are a number of pumpkin patches around these parts.  We usually go to a few.  One for inexpensive pumpkins, one for free fun, and sometimes one that costs a little dough for some unique activities.

We started at the local University pumpkin patch!  Great prices and great views and no crowds.


I was super proud that she picked out this adorable, perfectly round, white pumpkin as her pumpkin this year.  Girl’s got style.



And here is a blurry shot of Daddy and his girl because mama can’t focus on focusing with a wiggly infant on her back.


Family pic at the cornfield.  It is hubby’s dream to have a row of corn growing in our yard someday.  I fully support that dream.


Then, on another day, we headed to a favorite barn.  This barn has lots of free activities (feeding animals, hay bale mazes, $1 hay rides) and much more.  Plus, it is a pretty place to hang out.

This little blondie.  She is obsessed with clapping so it was hard to get a pic of her without her hands all blurry.  Thankfully, she was obsessed with the pumpkins!

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Getting a picture of two kids looking at the camera is extremely difficult.  Throw in a bunch of other kids running around and a ton of people at the barn and it is pretty much impossible.

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The barn also has great roasted corn, produce, adorable kitchen decor, and a deli/ice cream shoppe.  I love seeing it all decked out for fall, but would have preferred it not be 90 degrees outside!





Daddy guided Addie through the little kids’ hay maze.  She was so proud!


We walked away from the crowds to the hidden patch.



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We’re ready for fall! Now if only the weather would cooperate!

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{It’s Not Too Late}

This is for you.


The mom who thinks she messed up.  The mom who feels guilty.  The mom who attributes her child’s difficulties to her own failings.

It’s not too late.

I posted last week about “my roots” and how I’ve been cleaning them up.  What I didn’t say is how it has been changing my toddler.

Oh, she still skips naps, points me square in the face and says “no”, and refuses to eat ANYTHING.  But.  There is something softer growing there.

There have been uninitiated “I Love You”‘s, requests for back scratches, requests to be rocked, more snuggles, more, “OK, Mom”‘s.  Enough that I noticed.

The other night I spilled out some fears to my husband.  Would I not have a strong bond with my daughters since i couldn’t really nurse past 9 months?  Would they not love me as much since I worked part-time during their infancy?

No.  He answered as he showered me with encouragement. (I love that man).

However, there have been other fears.  Fears about how my impatience has shaped our toddler.  Fears about how my busyness has made her not depend on me. Fears about our connection when I hear her say, “Mom, mom. Put your phone down.”

So, I made some changes and I see the fruit.

Know this.  It is not too late.  It is never too late.  That is what grace is.  It is given to the undeserving.  God gives grace.

I made mistakes.  I messed up.  I looked my failures in the eye and accepted them.  Then, I made a change and I prayed.  Oh, how I prayed.

Grace was given. It wasn’t too late.

What do you regret.  Where did you mess up – because, let’s be real , we all do-? Give it to God and replace it with grace.  It’s not too late.



** Check out this post to help you as you strive to make your home a haven. http://womenlivingwell.org/2014/10/making-home-haven-week-2-music/

{What’s at the Root?}

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.

Ok, more than sometimes.

Oh, what’s that?  You too?  I thought so.

Well, let me tell you a little something.

As I was driving home from lunch at the park with hubby and the girls, I was thinking about how we want more kids.  I was thinking about how it just seems natural to me that we will have more, although in reality I know it will be hard.  This led me to consider the times I have watched my own two girls along with my two nephews.  Why is it, I pondered, that I never feel stressed out at the thought of watching four children ages four and under.  Why is it, I wondered, that I never feel stressed out while watching them?

The answer, I realized, was the root of my feelings of being overwhelmed.

The answer was me.

I am the root.

When I know I will be babysitting my nephews, I have no expectations.  I do not plan on cleaning the kitchen or going anywhere or accomplishing anything for myself.  Rather, I plan on being with them, entertaining them, feeding them.  I dedicate all of my efforts and my mind to keeping them safe and happy and free from cousin disagreements. I am in the moment.  I am committed.

Often, while at home with my own children, I have my own agenda.  I treat them as an appendage to my life.  Therefore, when they are begging for my attention and I am desperately trying to finish putting the laundry away in my room I feel frustrated.  When my toddler hits her baby sister while I’m scrambling to finish the dishes, I get angry.  When we are playing outside and I desperately want to vacuum or lesson plan or anything other than what I am doing, I feel overwhelmed.

My own selfish desires (however honorable) are at the root.

If I were to throw myself into their playtime with reckless abandon, even for a mere thirty minutes, then they would be happier and I would be happier.  If I didn’t  view their needs and desires as messing up my needs and desires, I would be less overwhelmed.

If I treated my days with them the way I treat those occasional afternoons of babysitting my nephews, we would all be happier.

Motherhood is a whole new level of selflessness, filled with layers and layers.  The first layer is what I would want to do if I could – read a book, go to the beach, exercise. The next layer is what I’d like to do – finish some home projects, organize, read my Bible. The next layer is immediate and glaring needs – dishes, laundry, cooking. The final layer is the moment to moment needs of my children – diapers, bottles, snacks, potty training, hugs, kisses, playing duplos, painting.

First, I have to recognize that the root of my own overwhelming feelings is myself and my selfishness.  It may not seem selfish to want to wash the dishes, but if I am frustrated at my children because they want to do something while I want to wash the dishes, then it is selfishness.

I need to let go of those roots.  Or better yet, I need to plant them by streams of living water.  I need to let my root be Christ, not me.

Now, I can’t completely give up on all my tasks and my needs and my desires for the sake of playing play dough 24-7 with my children.  But, I can give them uninterrupted moments.  I can make their pleasure my purpose.  I can simply say, “I will wash those dishes in thirty minutes “and then LET. IT. GO. and focus on my children’s needs.

We all feel overwhelmed at times, whether due to motherhood or not.  The question is, what’s at the root?  Your own expectations?  Perhaps. So, dig up those roots, clean them off.

Then, transplant them, before they grow too deep.

My Joy-Filled Life