Thank you notes

I’m not even going to apologize. This week has been crazy and blogging just didn’t happen. We’re hosting a Christmas Open House at the parsonage for all the church members this weekend and argh… I have no idea how I’m going to get the house cleaned, the food cooked, etc. So, of course I’m procrastinating. More Info

Tis the time of year for thank you notes, right?


Thank you,




Share Button

December Goals, and November Goals in Review

Monthly Goals // Beauty School Dropout

Photo Credit: caljuggler via Compfight cc

We’re a few days into December but it’s never too late to set goals and try to plan out what I would like to get accomplished for the month.  But first, I am so excited to show you how I did on my November goal of unpacking a box a day!
Awesome, right?  20 boxes.  I am so proud of myself!  And our basement floors have been refinished so now we can start using that part of our house.  Don’t they look great?
wpid-IMG_4283.jpg wpid5734-IMG_4284.jpg
December’s theme for the Choose Your Own Adventure link-up is Simplify.
I love this theme.  Everything about the Christmas season seems to compel me to do more, more, more.  Thus, I am forever trying to keep it simple.  A few simple gifts for family members, a few simple holiday activities with the kids, and spending time preparing for Jesus’ birthday and spending time with people who are truly important to me.  I could set a million goals related to this theme … isn’t that ironic? … but for me the key is just continually reminding myself that what I am doing is enough.  My kids will have a wonderful Christmas even if I don’t make them that handmade Advent calendar I keep thinking about.  The store-bought gingerbread house kit is fine.  The fact that my house isn’t decorated the way I want it to be really doesn’t matter.
Since this goal is kind of squishy and hard to measure, I’m going to try to stay on track by spending at least 5 minutes a day in meditation/prayer on this subject.  I have a severe case of monkey mind, so this will be quite a challenge for me.
Do you ever spend time meditating? How do you stay focused and not start making lists in your head or humming some annoying pop song?  (Maybe that last part is just me?)
More fun stuff:  I was featured in Kathleen’s “Working Mama Files” series here, and don’t forget to enter my Favorite Things giveaway here.
Life According to Steph



Share Button

Favorite Things Giveaway (blog hop)


Today I have an amazing giveaway to share with you. Some of my blogger-friends have teamed up to offer great giveaways to nine (!) different winners this holiday season.  Each of us is giving away some of our “favorite things” to make your holiday season a little sweeter.  Find all the other great giveaways (and meet some of my favorite mom/craft/lifestyle bloggers) here:

1. Ellie: Ellie Petrov / 2. That’s me! / 3. Shelly: DIY Mama / 4. Karen: Book Delight / 5. Lisa: Expandng / 6. Dean: Mrs. AOK / 7. Jana: Jana Says / 8. NJ: A Cookie Before Dinner / 9. Kathleen: Kapachino


You’ve all heard me yammer on about how much I love the simplicity of Project Life scrapbooking.  The gift I’m giving away is a Project Life kit with a teal mini-album and your choice of a Maggie Holmes (pictured) or Amy Tangerine 100-card kit (which is probably enough cards for 2 mini albums!)  The mini-album is great way to try out Project Life without committing to scrapbooking for a whole year – it would make a great vacation album or even a baby book.  The PL cards also make great gift tags or card-making supplies.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Share Button

Fitness in the Fall

Fitness in the Fall

It’s officially COLD outside here in Missouri and the holidays are right around the corner. For me, that means food! I’m not just talking about the pumpkin pie, stuffing, and Christmas cookies… don’t forget about all those other yummy treats that make an appearance during the holidays: tins of Topsy’s popcorn, homemade Chex mix with bacon, and perhaps a few extra glasses of wine.I don’t mind treating myself to a few extra goodies during the holidays, but I try to balance it out with some extra exercise, I even decided to assist to the Filipino Martial Arts School. I love practicing Scramble Gi on my free time too, it helps me stay in shape. During most of the year, I love to get outdoors and walk, hike, and bike in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks where I live. But the temperatures hit 10° this week so I’m having to get creative with some indoor workouts. I don’t belong to a gym so I truly do have to get creative.

Join me at Missouri Women Bloggers where I share how I stay active through the winter months.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Share Button

6 ways to wear a patterned top

patterned top collage

Today I’m teaming up with two other bloggers for a fun post about how to get the most out of your clothes by using coupons like these –  Patterned tops are fun to buy and very flattering, but for the longest time I didn’t wear them very often because I felt like they were so unique that everyone would notice I was wearing the same shirt over and over again.  I’ve come to two conclusions about this line of thinking:

(1) No one is paying THAT much attention to what I wear, except me.

(2) Mix it up!  You can wear the same small number of clothes in so many different combinations.  (Hello, capsule wardrobe!)  In fact, I think limiting the number of clothes in my closet actually forces me to be more creative about what I wear.

My two “ways to wear it” were an office look and a more casual date night look.


For the office look, I paired my patterned blouse with my workhorse Little Black Dress (this thing is at least 10 years old).  I think the trick to making this look work is a thin blouse (mine is polyester) and a fully lined dress, so the crinkles of the shirt underneath don’t show through.

Shirt: Pixley via Stitch Fix

Dress: Liz Claiborne

Shoes: Born (I always get tons of compliments on these)

Jewelry: Banana Republic (always check for jewelry on sale at Banana.  You can find really great deals sometimes.)



For the date-night look, I did a patterned shirt + black skinny jeans combo, and added a bit of color with a red belt and red peep-toe shoes.  A red statement necklace, scarf, or hair accessory would go great with this, too, you could even use one of the San Diego wigs ( to mix it up a little bit.

Shirt: Pixley via Stitch Fix

Jeans: Ann Taylor LOFT

Shoes: Banana Republic

What’s your favorite way to wear a patterned top?  Do you have something in your wardrobe that’s truly stood the test of time (like my little black dress?) 

Don’t forget to visit Jacquelyn and Carrie for more ways to style a patterned top!  And if you liked this post, I would love it if you pinned it!  You can click the Pinterest button at the bottom of the post or repin from my Style board.  Thank you & have a great Thanksgiving!

Share Button

Preschool Journal: Babies, sharks, and crayons on the beach

More entries from the unusual mind of a 4 year old boy (also known as my son’s preschool journal — titles transcribed by the teacher).  Can you tell he has a baby brother at home?

A super funny baby that doesn't even have a mouth.

A super funny baby that doesn’t even have a mouth.


A big baby. And it's an unhappy baby.

A big baby. And it’s an unhappy baby.


A big fat baby with super long hair.

A big fat baby with super long hair.


I was trying to draw a shark.

I was trying to draw a shark.


Crayons are flooding into the ocean. Kids are playing with them at the beach.

Crayons are flooding into the ocean. Kids are playing with them at the beach.

There you have it — proof that my son can draw something other than really squirmy snakes.  He may not be an artist, but I love the creativity behind it.

Do you miss art class, say good riddance to it, or do you still get your crafty on?

Share Button


thankful pumpkins

Happy early Thanksgiving!  This post is a little bit silly and a little bit serious.  I’m thankful for…

  • Two little boys who are full of energy
  • Antibiotics.
  • Coffee.  (Coffee coffee coffee)
  • A warm, dry place to live.
  • A husband who’s recently rediscovered his love of cooking.
  • Nights that both kids go to sleep on time.
  • Somehow getting used to waking up at 5:20am.
  • Tea time in the afternoon.
  • Boot camp at work (Relax… NEVER!)
  • Hot cocoa on cold days.
  • Handknit wool socks.
  • The Zen of knitting
  • Gas prices dropping.
  • My boss and co-workers.
  • Hugs from my boys
  • Being a government employee so I get days off that no one else in the family does, and I can nerd out at home by reorganizing, knitting, reading, watching girly TV shows, and cooking up a storm.
  • Great friends in real life and online (like you!)

What are you thankful for this year?

Share Button

Reading while Driving #bookchat


Reading while driving is the best!  No, not like that guy!  Listening to audiobooks, of course.  I love to read, but it’s hard to find the time with little kids always demanding your attention, so a wonderful side-effect of my long commute time has been a re-immersion into the world of books.  I’ve been listening to quite a few books on CD to pass the time during my new commute.  Here is a brief description of each one from my library’s website, and my thoughts.

unknown americans

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panama fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American.

In one way, this story so mundane, just the everyday lives of people and their normal struggles with school, work, relationships. But if you’ve never thought about what it’s like to be an immigrant in the US, this book will give you a very intimate look into that world. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, and I loved that the recording used an ensemble cast to represent all the different voices of the story.  Read it and expand your world.


night circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, narrated by Jim Dale

Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love with each other and share a fantastical romance that manifests in fateful ways.

My thoughts — All the narrators I’ve heard so far have been excellent, but Jim Dale is in a category all his own.  How can I describe his voice?  I think listening to him say “chocolate” might actually be better than eating chocolate.  Amazing.

This book was so fun to listen to. The author created an amazing magical world that I became totally immersed in while reading. I was disappointed in the ending though — it was as if the author got so focused on writing about the setting that she forgot to come up with a resolution for the main plot line that was as well done as the rest of the book. Worth the read – I think Harry Potter fans would especially enjoy it.



Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways.

My thoughts — I abandoned about halfway through — listening to the main character die over and over again was just too depressing. I also found it really predictable — I correctly guessed twice how she would die next, and I am really not good at that sort of thing. Two thumbs down.



Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

At the age of twelve, under the Wind moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into the Indian Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home. In a card game with a white Indian named Featherstone, Will wins a mysterious girl named Claire. As Will’s destiny intertwines with the fate of the Cherokee Indians, including a Cherokee Chief named Bear, he learns how to fight and survive in the face of both nature and men, and eventually, under the Corn Tassel Moon, Will begins the fight against Washington City to preserve the Cherokee’s homeland and culture. And he will come to know the truth behind his belief that only desire trumps time.

This book is the perfect antidote to too many British novels and narrators in a row! I love historical fiction and Charles Frazier does it very well (remember Cold Mountain?). Highly recommend, especially if you’re interested in Native Americans, the Trail of Tears, or the Civil War time period.

Linking up with Jana, Steph and Anne.


Share Button

Preschool Journal: Snakes

At parent-teacher conferences recently, we learned that each of the students at my son’s preschool spends some time each day working on their “journal.” They do a drawing and the teacher writes down whatever the student says about it.

By far the most prevalent subject in my son’s journal was snakes. I’d just like to point out that I don’t think he’s ever seen a snake in real life, except from behind glass, so I guess that free magazine from the Missouri Department of Conservation really made an impression on him.







They're squirmy snakes.

They’re squirmy snakes.


A really big snake.

A really big snake.


A snake barn.

A snake barn.


Snakes squirming around a farmer.

Snakes squirming around a farmer.


Snakes are squirming all over the leaves.

Snakes are squirming all over the leaves.

Stay tuned for more exciting entries from the Preschool Journal.  What do you think — Is he obsessed with snakes or does he just like to scribble?

Share Button

November goals, and October goals in review

Monthly Goals // Beauty School Dropout

Photo Credit: caljuggler via Compfight cc

It’s monthly goals time again! I have to tell you, I’m loving just having ONE goal to focus on at a time. I think it’s really helped me make a habit out of some things that I’ve been trying to do regularly for years.  I’ve been following along with Steph’s monthly goal setting challenge, and the theme for October was food.  I set one main goal, don’t eat after 8pm, and a side goal to blog more about food.  I give myself an A on both!

I used the Lift app to track my goal of not eating past 8.  Check these stats out:  (green dots mean I did it!)


Woo hoo!  I’ve gotten to where I’m not craving sugar every night at 9pm anymore, which I consider a major accomplishment.  I eat plenty for dinner, so I know it was just an emotional eating thing — looking for a “reward” for surviving the nightly marathon that is my kids’ bedtime routine.  (Yes, I know that it’s ridiculous, but I don’t know how to make it any faster.)

I did pretty well with food-blogging, too!  One new Cooking School post (Back-Pocket Recipes) and two recipe posts (pumpkin spice steel-cut oats & choose-your-own-adventure enchiladas).  I think I’m going to try to get back in the habit of doing at least one Cooking School a month for a while.

And for November, the theme is getting organized. There are so many things that need organizing in my life.  How to choose…?

After a lot of thought, I finally decided that I should deal with the boxes.  We moved in August, so of course we still have tons of unpacked boxes in the garage and basement.  My goal is to unpack 30 boxes — or one box a day.  I don’t think I’ll run out!


(This barely scratches the surface of all the boxes in various places in our house.  I’m hoping to have lots of good before & after pics to show you next month!)

Just like last month, I also have a little blogging side goal.  I’d like to get a bit more organized so I can write posts in advance and respond to comments in a timely manner.  (Sorry about that, by the way!  I read all my comments and I love hearing from you.  Sometimes I just get distracted before I respond, then a week goes by, then I feel like I’ve missed the chance to respond.  Argh.)

So yay — it’s November!  Let’s get organized.

Do you try to get organized in November so you can relax and enjoy the holidays?  Or do you love the hustle-bustle of last-minute preparations?  

Life According to Steph
Share Button