Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday thoughts...

I think having kids learn how to work and do service is soooooo very important--especially in this day and age where (most) kids have so much and really don't do much.  Last week we started volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  My kids were honestly not very excited about it.  Keeping it real--they were whining about it--mostly my 10 year old boy.  I reminded him to Rise and Shine not Rise and Whine--lesson from last week.  We got there, and helped for a few hours, and after they were all happy.  Happy they helped, happy to work, and happy to go back the next week.  I think it is so important to remind kids (and ourselves) it is not about you.  How many times do I tell my kids that?  I hear. . . "I don't want to . . ." and then I say, "This is not about you or what you want.  This is what you have to do."  I think that is a really important lesson to learn--and we have to keep re-learning and re-learning it no matter what age we are.  This life isn't all about us and what we want.  It is about serving, working, learning, and growing, and those are not always fun things, but so very, very important.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What's up Wednesday--crock pot chocolate cake

No, this is not a picture of what the cake looks like out of the crock pot :)  This is a picture of what this recipe looks like if you bake it in the oven.  I didn't get a picture of it in the crock pot because my family devoured it in about 10 minutes flat--the whole thing, it was that good.  So, if you want to, you can bake this recipe in a bundt pan in the oven at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and dust with powdered sugar, but we LOVED how it tasted in the crock pot---so moist, and yum.  It is really yummy baked also, so 2 great options for this recipe.
Amazing Crock Pot Chocolate Cake

1 box chocolate cake--any kind, milk, devil's food, whatever flavor of chocolate you like
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup water
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (4 serving size) box of instant chocolate pudding--again any chocolate flavor you like

Coat the inside of your crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix all above ingredients in a big bowl until well mixed.  Pour into crock pot.  Cover, Cook on LOW 3-4 hours or HIGH 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.  Serve with vanilla ice cream if you want--we didn't have any and just devoured it with large glasses of milk but it would be extra good with ice cream. Yum!

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Blue Jeans Week 3

We had a quieter, relaxing week with some extra sleep because of winter weather this past week.  One day school didn't start until 10 because of an ice storm.  That was nice to sleep in!  It was a nice calm week so take a look. . .
The sophomore basketball girls all dressed up.  Miss O on the end.  They are a good group of girls!

Had Mr J's DARE graduation this week.  Talked about it on my Friday post last week.  An amazing guest speaker with lots of good life lessons.  Way to go Mr J!

Miss O found this mustache somewhere and said it helped her clean better :)  Whatever, as long as she cleans I am good with it :)

Miss O driving me around for some errands in her car that she loves!

Miss A had her first forensics meet this week.  She is doing poetry--a dramatized reading, and impromptu speaking.  She ended up getting first in poetry and 3rd in impromptu.  Pretty good for a first meet!  The first place qualifies her for state competition in April.  Way to go!

And speaking of qualifying for state, Miss O on her French horn made it as alternate for state band.  She was both disappointed and excited.  If any of the top 8 in the state can't go, she gets to as #9.  This picture is from the front page of the paper--woohoo!

And this picture is also from the front page of the paper--can you tell we live in a small town??? :) This article covered the DARE graduation and Mr J up there dancing the DARE dance with some of his classmates.

It was a good week.  Hope you had a great one!  Come back soon!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday thoughts

This week my son has his DARE graduation.  I was my 4th and last DARE graduation over these many years.  I think DARE is a great program, and it has been a good thing for all of my kids.  The interesting thing about this week's program was the guest speaker.  This man told of his journey as he nearly lost his life about 2 years ago in a horrible accident.  He shared 3 great lessons he took from the accident and the amazing journey of recovery he has gone through--and continues to go through.   I wanted to share them with you.

Lesson 1:  Live every day with Purpose, Character, and Passion.  You are only given this one day once, and what you choose to do with this day better be important because you are trading one whole day of your life for it.

Lesson 2:  Stuff doesn't matter.  As he was laying on his hospital bed in immense pain and barely alive he didn't care about his car, iphone, TV, clothes, computer etc.  Stuff didn't matter.  What did and still does truly matter???  Faith--his faith in and his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, Family--his wife and kids, parents, extended family, and Friends--good, supportive friends that called, brought dinner by, visited, cared enough to be there in the tough times.  Those are the things that really matter in this life, so arrange your priorities to match those things that matter--faith, family, friends.

Lesson 3:  Each day when you get up you have the choice to "Rise and SHINE" or "Rise and WHINE."  No matter what your circumstances, you have that choice.  You can choose to be grateful or choose to be bitter and negative.  He said he could have been bitter he had seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a shattered tail bone, but he chose to be grateful he had 17 other ribs that weren't broken, one lung that was still whole and working, and he could still walk even with a shattered tailbone.  He was not paralyzed.  He chose to Rise and Shine and not Rise and Whine.  Love that.

Wow.  What great lessons we all need to remember.  I was grateful for this man who shared his story and his continued journey and was willing to let these kids (and adults) hear it and learn from it.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's up Wednesday--banana chocolate chip mini muffins

 Going with a muffin theme this month so far, but that is good.  On cold mornings I don't think you could have a better breakfast than a yummy muffin and some hot chocolate, and we have had some cold mornings!  Today school didn't start until 10 a.m. because of ice everywhere.  The kids and I didn't complain.  How nice to sleep in on a Wednesday!!!  Sweet!  I have shared these before, but they are seriously one of our family's favorite muffins.  Banana chocolate chip--yum!  They freeze well if you have leftovers to take out and warm up for another cold morning breakfast.  Enjoy!

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 large or 3 medium)
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, melted or coconut oil melted
1/4 cup sour cream, can use fat free or low fat
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 and either line a mini muffin tin with baking cups or spray with pam.  In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix well.

In a mixing bowl combine the mashed bananas, egg, melted butter/coconut oil, sour cream, vanilla and milk.  Mix well.  Mix in the dry ingredients until barely mixed in.  Do not overmix.  Fold in chocolate chips and fill each muffin tin.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until top are golden and spring back when touched.  


Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 Blue Jeans Week 2

A cold January week here, but an exciting one!  Miss E got her braces off!  Oh happy day!  She was so excited.  I had been running errands before I picked her up from school to go to the dentist.  I had stuck an apple in the car as a snack for me, but hadn't eaten it yet. After we got out of the dentist's office I asked her, "What do you want for a treat?"  She said, "An apple!"  She was so excited I had one there in the car for her to bite into right that second!  Then when we got home she was also very excited to eat carrots :)  So that is our exciting news this week.  Take a look at our week. . .
I try to get a picture of our Art wall every once in a while.  Had some new pieces on there, so needed an updated picture.

And look at that happy braces free smile :)  She does have to wear a clear retainer 24/7 for six months, but that is easy after a year and 5 months of braces.

Ben and Mr J have been doing old Lego sets lately in the evenings.  It has been a fun activity for them to do.

Our first fire of the year because it was cold, cold, cold!  The kids enjoyed relaxing by the fire this evening and keeping extra warm!

And just have to give a huge shout out to my amazing DeeDee (my grandma) who turned 90 this week!  We live 1150 miles away and couldn't be there for the party, but we sure love her.  What an amazing Christ-like person she is!  We love you DeeDee!!  Happy Birthday!!!

Mr J shows off what he and Ben have been busy doing this past week.  We love Legos at our house!

And keeping up with life--that includes making lunches every night.  Miss O having fun getting hers ready this past week.

Thanks for visiting.  Hope you are having a great January--keeping warm wherever you are!  Come back soon!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday thoughts...2015 reading list

For years I have had the goal that I need to read as many books for the year as I will have candles on my birthday cake.  I cannot remember the last time I didn't make that goal, but life happens and this past year I didn't make it.  I just did not have enough time to read all the books I needed to, but I did get quite a few read.  I also had the goal of reading 10 non-fiction books last year and only read 6, but I think an important part of setting goals is when you don't reach them, look at why, evaluate and then move forward.  Don't get down on yourself--learn from the experience and move on to get better.  Anyway, wanted to share my list with you from last year.  I liked all the books I read.  I don't finish a book if I don't like it because of content, language, or whatever.  So, I would recommend any of these.  My favorite?  My 3 teenage girls and I have really like the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer this past year.  I am currently reading Winter which is the last book in the series.  We would all highly recommend them.  These are in no particular order, just the order of how I read them.  Enjoy!

1.  Ruins by Orson Scott Card, book 2 in the Pathfinder series
2.  Human Game:  The True Story of the Great Escape Murders by Simon Read--non-fiction
3.  The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill--non-fiction about an amazing WWII escape, watch the movie if you haven't seen it yet with Steve McQueen
4.  Visitors by Orson Scott Card, book 3 in Pathfinder series
5.  Atlantia by Ally Condie
6.  Gifted Hands:  The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson--non-fiction and just an amazing and inspiring book
7.  Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen
8.  Letter in the Red Dragon Box by Gale Spears
9.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer, book 1 in Lunar Chronicles series
10.  Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, book 2 in Lunar Chronicles series
11.  Cress by Marissa Meyer, book 3 in Lunar Chronicles series
12.  The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling
13.  Fairest by Marissa Meyer, book 4 in Lunar Chronicles series
14.  The Big Picture by Ben Carson, non-fiction
15.  The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews--this one was really good
16.  Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain, book #5 in Green Rider series, which she takes way too long in between books for my taste, but I still love her books.
17.  Blackmoore by Julia Donaldson, a Regency Romance
18.  Fire and Steel:  A Generation Rising by Gerald Lund, book 1 in series
19.  Supersonic Saints by John Bytheway, nonfiction
20.  The Book of Mormon, non-fiction
21.  Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
22.  Longing for Home:  Hope Springs by Sarah M. Eden
23.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, a WWII historical fiction
24.  Fearless by Elvira Woodruff
25.  Home and Away  by Dean Huges, a WWII Christmas story
26.  Miss Barton Unmasks a Prince by Jennifer Moore, a Regency Romance
27.  A Heart Revealed by Josi Kilpack
28.  Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi Kilpack
29.  Becoming Lady Lockwood by Jennifer Moore
30.  Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore
31.  Gideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury, a Christmas Story
32.  Maggie's Miracle by Karen Kingsbury, a Christmas Story

My girls and I also got into Jane Austen Regency romance books this year, the ones by Jennifer Moore and Julia Donaldson are some of those.  They were fun, clean, entertaining Regency era romances.  Sooooo many good books to read!  Looking forward to filling up 2016!  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What's up Wednesday--Best Ever pumpkin muffins

I know, you are probably thinking, "Pumpkin muffins, in January?  Really Jen?"  Yes, really, and they are seriously the best!  You need them all year round not just in the Fall, and now is the perfect time to stock up on pumpkin because they are on clearance.  I got a pack of 6 (15 oz each) cans of pumpkin for $2 at Costco recently.  Stock up!  $.33 a can!  You cannot beat that.  So we are going to be having lots of these yummy things.  My mother-in-law made these for us in October when we went out to visit, and I sadly did not have time to make them for my family until now, but man were they a hit!  So good!  They freeze really well if there are any left to freeze, but at our house we ate them all up very, very quickly.  Next time I will have to double them so we have extra to freeze for a quick breakfast on busy mornings.  It calls for coconut oil, and it needs to be melted when you add it, so just microwave it for a few seconds to make it liquid before you add it.  I got about 18 muffins from this recipe.  Enjoy!

Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins
 1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
 1 15 oz can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 and line your muffin tin with paper liners.  
Measure out the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and whisk together.  Set aside.
In another bowl whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, coconut oil and vanilla.
Mix the wet ingredients with the dry and stir together, but don't over mix.  Stir until everything is just barely all mixed in.
Use a large scoop to measure dough--which is pretty stiff--into paper cups so they are almost full.  I use a large cookie scoop.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Blue Jeans Week 1

Hello 2016!  It is going to be a big year, a big year of changes for us as Miss A will start college in the fall--ugh.  Crazy.  Lots to happen before then, though.  The year has started out great.  We did some fun things and then started into school, basketball, and "normal" life--whatever that means.  This time of the year is generally slower, though.  The calm before the spring storm, so we are going to enjoy it!  Take a look at our first week of this new 2016!  Thanks for joining us on our journey!
We had some great friends visit after New Year's.  These kids have know each other since they were babies.  It is fun to reconnect and play and visit!  A great way to start the new year!

No school Monday, they didn't start until Tuesday, so we went out for a yummy lunch to celebrate the last day of winter break!

Per tradition the first Monday night of the new year we make our goals for the next year.  Goals are a big deal at our house.  2016 here we come!

And we got some snow!  Not a lot, but it was wet snow, perfect snowman snow!  Mr J shows off his creation.

And this is evidence that I have 3 teenage girls that get ready in here each morning.  Of course this was after they left and didn't pick up anything or shut anything.  Life right now--keeping it real, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday night basketball here we go!  Miss O shooting a free throw.  

And with Friday night home basketball games we get the pep band, and they are really good and very, very loud.  Miss A in there on the mellophone.  She enjoys playing and has lots of fun.

Thanks for visiting!  I have a great new muffin recipe to share Wednesday, so come back to get it.  Soooo yum!  Have a great week!

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Blue Jeans wrap-up

Wrapping up a great year.  We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  Crazy!  20 years sounds like a long time, but it sure has flown past.  Looking forward to 20 more great years!  Here are a few wrap-up pictures for our 2015.  Thanks for spending this past year with us, and we hope you will join us for 2016!
We got rain and some snow on this dreary winter day after Christmas.  Miss E enjoys her book at the kitchen table and reads from the light of the window.  

To celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary we got a very nice hotel on the Plaza in the city and enjoyed the lights around there.  It was great to be together, and we had a lot of fun without kids for a few days!

We finally all had time to get to see the new Star Wars movie as a family!  All of us went, but just Mr J and I got in the picture.  We sure all enjoyed it a lot!

These are our cute neighbors that we love so much!  We usually get together with them on Christmas Eve day, but they were out of town, so we got together after Christmas.  They are like extra grandparents to my kids.  They are the best!

Bringing in the New Year's right--with great friends and sparkling cider :)  Lots of fun tonight and ready for a great new year!

Thanks for visiting and come back soon!