Merry Christmas

I don't do Christmas cards, but I do love receiving them. Feels a bit hypocritical.

So in lieu of of a real card in the mail...MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all! My heart overflows with gratitude for another year of God's goodness to us. HE gives us what we need, but so often HE gives us what we want, too. And that is just sweet.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3

Thank you, blog readers, for sticking with me another year. I have so much fun with this little internet corner - I want to get to it more - and have every intention to. 

I have yet to hit my stride as a mother of four. But I'm cautiously optimistic that 2017 will allow me a little more time to do the things I love to do.... as everyone will be just a teeny bit older. 

Well, we are off to get our tree and do all the Christmas-y things that you do. 



Small Business Saturday Gift Guide

I had no idea it was small business Saturday when I started putting this post together this morning. What a grand coincidence!

Last week I shared my favorite, classic toys toys that span several ages and stages of the little years.
This week I want to give a nod to my (real life) friends who have awesome small businesses. I think any of this stuff would make wonderful Christmas gifts, especially for that hard to buy for person in your life.

All these folks have online shops. You don't even have to leave your chair. Three cheers for these modern times.

Fix yourself a cup of cocoa and browse some of my friends' shops!

McCain started American Revival, a t-shirt company with a mission to provide a conversation piece for young people to share the gospel. These t-shirts would make a perfect stocking stuffers for your tween, teen, or collage aged kiddo.

Mary Cam has a beautiful watercolor stationary shop - Lotes Love Notes. I literally love everything she does. These gift tags are just perfect.


Olivia Terrell Jewelry is my cousin in-law, and she makes incredible jewelry. I recently got myself this necklace and I love it. Her stuff is just gorgeous!

Jana, owner of Little Langs, makes the most darling custom children's t-shirts.



James Farmer has this fantastic cookbook and a number of other fabulous coffee table books.

And let's not forget about Susan's children's book, 'Twas the Night Before Gameday.' My kids adore this book and ask me to read it on repeat. If you have any little SEC football fans, this book would make the perfect gift.

Happy shopping!

Amazon links are affiliate links.


Classic Toys for Girls and Boys, Ages 3-6

Today I'm sharing my all time favorite toys. These are tried and true, all things my kids actually play with, well, except for the baby doll.

But I'm hopeful that my one year old daughter will eventually fill the void that my oldest girl left in my heart. (She has never played with babies!) Even though our dolls have been neglected, baby still deserves to be on the list.

These toys are great for lots of ages, specifically ages 3-6. These are toys that don't annoy me because they actually get the love they deserve. I have a girls' list and boys' list, but many of the toys are gender neutral.

I always ask my kids what they want for Christmas, and I try to get them at least 1 or 2 things they ask for (within reason). I also like to be up front about what they are not getting. I try to soften the blow so we don't have any major melt downs on Christmas day. No, you will not be getting an iPad or a cat!

All the links are Amazon affiliate links.

1 balance bike

2 helmet

3 soccer ball

4 baby doll

5 tea set

6 toy kitchen

7 ballet costume

8 Magna-tiles

9 Beatrix Potter books


1 dump truck

2 Duplos

3 capes

4 scooter

5 sandbox

6 ball

7 dinosaurs

8 train tracks

9 trains


Election Day Cookies

The last presidential election, in 2012, I was 8 months pregnant with George (but we did not know it was George - I never want to go back to pre-George).

It was a seriously cold day. Two year old Laurie wore a navy and white striped dressed with red leggings and new little boots. I remember because I have pictures that regularly flash on my screen saver. She was so darn cute! I could have eaten her up.

That day, I voted and then came home to make Ann Romney cookies.

In keeping with tradition, we made more Ann Romney cookies after casting our votes this morning. These cookies, they comfort me. In good times and bad. I love them because they have tons of oats and crunchy peanut butter and chocolate. It's a win-win-win.

Recipe adapted from Plain Chicken

1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp honey
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup mini M&M's

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Scoop onto an ungreased cookie sheet with a large ice cream scoop. Bake at 325 degrees until they are light golden brown. In my oven that's about 15 minutes.

Also, what I'm wearing today and every day.

You can buy one here.


Our Week + Links

I am so happy it's Friday! We really packed it in this week. There was Halloween, a sick day, a field trip, and a school performance all alongside regular life. I am beat.

Funny I mention the field trip because I didn't even go. But, it threw me off.

On Wednesday when I was feeling particularly out of control, I declared that I was going to have a personal heyday which for me looks like giving my house lots of love and attention.

One of Gretchen Rubin's secrets of adulthood is..."Outer order contributes to inner calm." This is abundantly true for me. So in a very therapeutic sort of way, I busted out my trash bags and started tossing out all the things! The junk. I took 2 trash bags full of clothes to Goodwill.

I can live again. I can breathe! I can parent.

Captain Edward Smith not smiling is intentional. You wouldn't smile either if your ship was going down. 

For your weekend...make some tea and enjoy some linkage! 

Monday morning, I had the greatest experience picking up my first grocery delivery at Walmart Grocery. This is a game changer! You order your groceries online, schedule a time, and simply show up, and they will bring your order to the car! Use this link to get $10 off your first order.

Yesterday, I had a fun conversation with a friend about Myers-Briggs personality types. I'm an ISFJ. Do you know what you are? If you don't, you can find out here.

Put spinach in your chicken noodle soup. I tried it! Loved it.

After reading Unfancy's post about sneakers, I ordered these almost immediately. I wore them for the first time yesterday and I love em.

I appreciated this Beauty Uniform post because Stella shares so many affordable drugstore products. Two of which I already use....Suave Shampoo and Conditioner and Maybelline Falsies Mascara.

Have a great weekend!


Baby Trick - Use Your Pack 'n Play

Ever since Caroline could crawl, I have had our pack 'n play set up in the living room or master bedroom.

I let her crawl and roam the house for hours, but if I need to...

transfer a pot of boiling water to the sink to drain noodles,
run outside to check on older siblings,
empty the dishwasher with two hands,

then in the pack 'n play she goes.

I think I underutilized this option with the other babies. But I wish I hadn't because it's so nice to put the baby down and know they are safe! Especially with multiple small children!

Also, this time around I have made pack 'n play time a part of our routine. Usually I put her in there before nap time for about 10 - 15 minutes. I think it calms her down. Also, it gives me a break!

At first, she fussed a little. But she grew to like it and occasionally an older sibling will jump in there with her.

I wanted to keep the crib exclusive for sleeping. Pack 'n play is for playing, know what I mean?

What do you think? Do you do this with your babies? It's been a life saver for me.


Also, remember these piggy cupcakes?! This week I have the privilege of making another batch for another kindergarten program.

The links are Amazon affiliate links.


Monday Links

When a child wakes you up complaining of their ear hurting at 3 and then your dog vomits at 4....you don't go back to bed. You get up and blog.

Good Monday morning to you.

To kick off our week, here are some links I collected over the weekend.

Stephen and I watched Hamilton's America on Friday night. Absolutely amazing!

This book - Hillbilly Elegy - sounds so interesting, and I really enjoyed this book review of it.

Park Avenue Apartment and Interview with the owner - so cool.

I've never owned a cashmere sweater. These from Everlane look really nice and what a good price!

I bought this coat for my 5 year old daughter in plum tonic. It is so so cute.

Don't like wearing bright colors?...great tip from from Unfancy...wear a highly saturated neutral. Love this.

Homework is hard for parents. So funny.

25 Frugal Pantry Staples 

21 Crock Pot Dinners -  yum! Several of these look wonderful.

Inspiration to use your cookbooks again

A few recent baby picks sprinkled in at the end for good measure...

Have a great week!


Write It Down

This week I'm writing things down. I'm working on quitting afternoon coffee. I'm trying to read to George everyday. I want to sort through my e-mail daily instead of letting it pile up and get out of control. 

Yoga/Pilates - 4X this week. 3 blog posts. Stop looking at screens after dinner (keeps me awake).

With the kids, I'm working on manners and nightly routines.

I finally ordered some new shoes for 2 kids and a few new clothes for the other 2. Gah! Why is it so hard to make those buying decisions? Am I the only one?

I wrote it all down.

What needs to be penned is a little elusive. I write down read to George, but reading to the other kids is built in to our routine. So no need to write it down.

I write down quit afternoon coffee and deal with e-mail. But I don't need to write make the bed or prepare for dinner. Because I just do those things. They are habits.

I get much more done when I write things down. Writing it (whatever it is) gives it validity. I have a list to answer to, and I'm not run by my emotions. It's embarrassingly simple, but something I forget all the time.

Are you a list maker? Do you write things down? Do you forget like me to write things down?


Dressing for Fall When It's 80 Degrees

By mid October, I think I can speak for most of us living in the Deep South when I say we are so darn ready for some cool (and cold) weather, a fire, a reason to sip on a hot drink! For crying out loud we want to make soup! And we. are. dying. to put on our boots and sweaters and put away our shorts and sandals.

While October is cooler than September, that just means the highs are in the 80s instead of the 90s. It's not enough to warrant a legitimate wardrobe change.

I'm struggling, y'all. But I'm dealing. One way is I came up with a fall-ish go-to outfit that satisfies my need to dress for fall even though it's still 80 degrees most days.

It goes like this.

short sleeve or sleeveless t-shirt

girlfriend jeans or straight jeans as opposed to tight, skinny jeans that do not breathe and can feel  suffocating

neutral colored open cardigan for when it's slightly chilly in the morning or if you have to walk in the cold room at Costco

clogs instead of boots or booties.
Clogs are cooler. Boots or booties require socks. Clogs are easy to slip off and let your foot catch some fresh air.

fall colored accessories and jewelry
I'm talking browns, mustard yellows, deep plum colors.

1 tee-Madewell
2 necklace - The Jones Market
3 neutral color open cardigan -Gap
4 deconstructed girlfriend jeans - Gap
5 TOMS Elisa clogs

I have the actual jeans, necklace, and clogs in the picture. Love them all.

I bought the clogs several months ago. The brown color is out of stock in pretty much every size but 9.5 that I can find online. There are a lot of similar options out there.

One tip when buying girlfriend or boyfriend jeans...size down! I think they are more flattering this way, not so baggy.

This picture I'm wearing (old) Gap straight legged jeans. They give the same slim silhouette of skinny jeans, but don't smother my calves.

Tah-dah! It's fall, y'all!

What do you wear when it's fall, but not?


Our Week + Some Links + A Question

It's been a hard week for no reason other than it's just hard being a person sometimes, specifically an adult person. I've had a lot of nagging tasks hanging over my head and the house spiraled out of control and it felt like responsibilities outweighed the fun. And too many carbs and not enough exercise did not help my situation. My own fault.

But here's to Friday!

George picked some flowers for me (my mums). So sweet.

I'm loving that it's FINALLY feeling a little cooler and we can bust out our fall outfits. I'm still doing the capsule wardrobe thing even though I failed to document summer's capsule.

Caroline is a pure delight, the light of our lives, the apple of the family's eye. Her siblings are always laughing or playing with her or saving her from perceived danger. She's quite agile, and I'm so laid back about it (but of course not too laid back). She is very much the 4th child.

Like most babies she adores being outside.

I had a quick run to Publix today to get us through the weekend. This all felt very fallish to me.

Publix apple pie is divine. Perfection with Breyers vanilla ice cream.

Got some noodles because new traditions! Friday night spaghetti night! I always do angel hair.

Children's Zertec.

Boxed wine.

Nail polish. Revlon, color is Vixen.

And bananas because always.

 A few links for your enjoyment...

This is the red beans and rice recipe I use. It's seriously one of our favorites.

Yes and yes to this salad dressing trick. The secret is to use Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. I tried it  right after I found this post, and it immediately upped my salad dressing game.

I love this denim skirt + striped shirt - the whole look of the first outfit.

The necklace pictured in my fall outfit photo is from The Jones Market. I love it. It's so comfortable to wear if that makes sense.

My father-in-law introduced me to The World and Everything In It podcast a few months ago, and ever since it's how I get my news. I usually listen after the kids are off to school while I make a decent breakfast for myself and unload the dishwasher. Funny how we pick up routines and rituals that are unplanned but such an anchor in the day. This is definitely one of those for me.


So lastly, a question...what would you like me to blog about? I'm working on coming up with a list of posts and I would love to know what interest you. Kids? Food? Please tell me.

Happy weekend!


A Few Beach Pictures

School starting was sort of a shock to our systems. So my parent's early September beach trip was perfectly timed! We got to take a week off of school and just take a load off for an entire 6 days. It was glorious, well, as glorious as the beach can be with 6 kids.

my sister's beach pictures

I love rash guards.

I like this simple beach packing list, almost exactly what I packed for the beach.


I wish you could have tea with me

Hello, hello! 

Let's catch up! Over tea....

If you could come to my house and sit on my sofa I would make you a ginormous cup of this Bigelow vanilla chai tea. It is so delicious with a little milk and honey, seriously what all our tea dreams are made of.

I would then tell you that we all have colds (uggh!) and we haven't slept great and we had frozen pizza for dinner last night and that things are changing in the pizza department around here. After a 7-year-long stent of having homemade pizza every Friday night, we are switching to spaghetti and meatballs.

I'm tired of pizza, specifically my homemade pizza. Plus, this allows me to embrace frozen pizza more often, which is so wonderful because I can totally use another easy easy meal in my repertoire.

Switching gears...books. What are you reading? 

I've been reading too many things. I'm the kind of person that likes to have only one book going at a time. But lately, I've had four going at once. I'm now down to three. I just finished The Curated Closet: A simple system for discovering your personal style and building your dream wardrobe by Anuschka Rees. I thought it was fabulous.... F A B U L O U S! It's very technical and prescriptive, and it has totally changed my perspective on clothes and shopping and style. After the roller coaster of body changes from pregnancy and going from my 20's to my 30's, this book was the giant style therapy session that I needed. The author addressed the issue of budget throughout the book, and I found all her advice on that topic extremely helpful. Go read it!

The Thorn Birds is the next book I'm about to finish. I got this recommendation from one of the What Should I Read Next podcast episodes. I have really enjoyed this book. It sucked me in from the beginning, and I have found the setting in Australia to be so fascinating. Though it's a long one, and I'm ready to finish!

I'm listening to The Firm. And I'm reading this parenting book with my Kindle app. Both good.

When I finish all these I have Before We Visit The Goddess up next.

Yesterday, I got a little color put on my hair which I haven't had done in at least 5 years. I showed my girl what I wanted and she said "oh, you want a balayage." After she explained it more, I was like heck yes, I want a balayage. Why has no one ever told me about this before? It's a much more natural and subtle look than highlights. Also, it's way less maintenance. Here is my finished hair. If you need a hair person, go see Page at Amplify and tell her I sent you. 

We have a four day weekend, and I'm seriously so grateful because we need time to get over our illnesses.

I have a huge pot of red beans and rice going in the slow cooker for tonight.

Right now the kids are watching a movie, and I am for real about to go put on my comfy clothes and take it easy for the rest of the day.

So what's up with you? What would you tell me over tea?


Some Links

Laurie colored this tiny rainbow...and I love it.

I'm SO excited about a long weekend. We are packing for a beach trip (whoop whoop) and just chilling out. Tonight we are making pizzas and maybe watching a few episodes of Stranger Things. I don't know if I can continue or not.

Anyhow, for your weekend....some links! 

I need to do better... 6 Things We Need to Do if We Love Blogs and Podcast

I made this Chicken Enchilada Casserole Recipe for dinner last night...so good (and easy)! Definitely a keeper.

I went to college with Jama, and I love everything she does. Check out this $25 thrift store sofa + kids art.

the best wine $15.99 at our Costco right now. More than what I pay on average, but worth the splurge for a special occasion.

This is my most favorite (quick) workout. For days when I'm short on time or don't want to exercise. Who doesn't have 12 minutes?! No excuses.

I love watching people put on make up and I love Jennifer's blog! ...get ready with me Coldplay concert

This is a great t-shirt. 50% off through Labor Day. I have it in grey, but that color is sold out. I like the navy.

Stephen and I have been listening to The Firm through Audible before we go to bed. What a great throwback to the 90's. Oldie but goodie.

This outfit.....inspiration for my early fall "uniform."

Have a great weekend!


Back to School....Two Things Making Me Not Crazy

Summer is a memory. We've moved on. Back to school! It's good, but hard. School life can be intense. Mostly, I'm just not used to it (yet)!

Clean clothes, back packs, packed lunches, early bed times, homework, getting there on time, decent meals...lots of details that fall under my umbrella of responsibility. Whew, I'm exhausted.

So the two things that are making me not crazy...

1. I keep all the uniforms, hair stuff, socks, shoes, everything we need to get ready for school in a laundry basket.

School wear lives in the basket.

This way, I'm not running to the 4 corners of the house to round up school clothes or sending my kids looking (because who are we kidding they can never find anything). This deal was inspired by my always keeping our swim bag packed this summer.

It's really working for me.

2. Convenience foods. For so many years I avoided prepackaged snacks. 

But for everything there is a season! 

Now is my season to embrace some convenience foods. Feeding a family of six is a huge operation. These grab and go foods help me catch my breath and save my energy to prepare meals.

I'm relying on these things for lunches and afternoon snacks. 

So what's making you not crazy? How's back to school? Are you surviving or thriving?

I hope thriving!


FIFO on Steroids - How to Not Waste Your Food

For a while now, I have not been proud of how much food we waste. I do FIFO all the time, but still  end up throwing out soggy cucumbers or giving the dog Tuesday night's sweet potatoes or forgetting about a pork chop wrapped in foil. I waste food.

Food is money. Cold hard cash. When we throw our food away we are putting our hard earned dollars in the trash! It pains me.

I recently read The Nightingale, a novel, historical fiction, set in WWII. The main characters are French women living under Nazi oppression. My favorite parts of the book were about how they used up all the little bits of food, letting nothing go to waste. Their food rations were painfully modest, so naturally they used everything.

I so admire the ability to be frugal, creative, and not wasteful in the kitchen. I've been working to improve but still missing the mark so many weeks as I throw away more food in the trash.

So the other day when I found this post by Kendra the Lazy Genius, I had an a-ha moment, a revelation. I was totally blown away and inspired.

Kendra says...

"Before you plan and before you shop, prep. "

FIFO on steroids style.

What? Why have I never ever thought to do this before? In one big session. The idea is before you plan your next week's meals and before you make a grocery list and before you shop, you prep - everything that's lingering on its final days in your fridge, get it out, chop, roast, eat. And then make a list so you know what you've got.

Last week, I gave this concept a try. I washed, chopped, cooked, grated, froze, labeled, and reconfigured our meals so we could eat up all this perfectly good food. Once I got started I was amazed at all the food we had. Amazed!


Here's what I ended up with...

spinach - from the farmers market, too fibrous and bitter for salads - I cooked it and froze it for soups.

zucchini - grated and froze to later make zucchini bread

squash - chopped and roasted - side for dinner

leftover baked sweet potatoes - removed peels and diced for a side dish or to give to Caroline

leftover red potatoes - roasted, side dish or perfect with scrambled eggs

pineapple, strawberries, peaches - cut up and put in containers for easy snacks

chocolate chip cookie dough to keep in fridge

I have never done this large and serious of a food round up before planning and shopping for my next week of meals. 

I can't wait to make this a regular thing. I seriously think this will solve some of my grocery budget woes.

Do you do this? Do you waste food?


A List + Links

1- Not long after my last post, I came down with strep throat. I do not recommend getting strep as an adult. I was out of commission for a full 5 days. Since recovering, I see the world in a new light. So thankful for my health and ability to do all the daily things that seem so boring!

2 - Tomato pie! Oh my stars. I made this recipe using this crust for dinner last night. It was out of this world good. Where has it been all my life?

3 - Now is the time to shop rock bottom summer sales. For the past few years, I have bought a few kid's clothing items in July for next summer. Things are definitely picked over in stores and online, but if you can find a few things you like in the right sizes, the prices are really great.

4 - Yoga. I do yoga now, and I love it. I like to mix it in with Pilates, barre workouts, and walks. Mostly, I've been using Yoga with Adrienne videos on YouTube. It is truly therapeutic, and it feels so good stretch and move.

5 - I took Stephen out for a date on Saturday night. It was my idea, and I called our wonderful neighbor-babysitter to come over and keep our kids. We went to dinner, and then I talked him in to getting some decaf cafe au laits on the way home. It was so nice.

6 - I'm swooning over this Madewell dress. And it has nearly all 5 star reviews which is super rare.

7 - I don't have an official capsule wardrobe right now. But I'm basically wearing a smaller, edited version of my spring capsule. I'm paying close attention to what is working, what's lacking, and I recently filled out Unfancy's new wardrobe planner. What a great tool!

8 - I know it's cliche, but I'm taking a Facebook and Instagram break for a little while. A week? I'm not sure how long yet. I have to do this to reset my habits every now and then. Social media is just there and endless and so easy. Tired me + a little bored me + constantly interrupted by kids me can all too easily default all my free time FB and Insta.

9 - This bracelet made by The Jones Market, just got it in the mail yesterday. I love it! I wanted something to give a little pop of color to some very plain outfits. The thing I noticed most of all was how comfortable it is to wear. Caroline loves it too! This company specializes in jewelry that is  mom/baby friendly.

10 - I want to start using my real camera more. The pictures are so much better than phone photos! This book looks inspiring.

What are you up to? What are you in to? How is your summer coming along?


Most Basic Vinaigrette That Will Transform Your Salads

I'm a huge fan of big salads - had one for dinner last night and lunch today. Salads are a great way to practice FIFO and use up all your odds and ends of ingredients...a little chicken, a little cheese, part of a tomato, whatever! Don't let it go to waste. That's money.

Here's my most basic vinaigrette that is so delicious and easy and goes with most any salad.

This is enough for one big salad...

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar (but you can substitute balsamic or red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
generous salt and pepper to taste

Make in a mason jar and shake with lid on, of course.

A little goes a very long way. In the picture above is a tripled recipe to use for several salads during the week.

My favorite thing to do is dice up the vegetables and let them sit and marinate in the dressing in the bottom of the bowl for a few minutes. They absorb so much flavor.

Then pile on the lettuce and "toss" the salad.

Top with meat (chicken, fish, shrimp), olives, avocado, cheese, boiled egg. The possibilities are endless.

I've made this dressing so much, I never measure the ingredients now. In fact, I usually make the dressing in the salad bowl and whisk with a fork. The ingredients do not have to be exact and you can totally play around with them and make the vinaigrette to your taste.

Salads are my life...

just kidding...

not. I love salads.

When serving as a family meal I often do deconstructed salads for the kids.
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