Challenge Wednesday #10: Question time

Hey friends!  So, with the busyness of the holidays upon us, Tracey and I decided to take it "easy" on the challenges.  So, instead...we are going to use the next several Wednesday's to interview each other.  We jumped right into challenges, but thought it would be great for you all to learn more about us.  And not just the easy stuff, like our hair color {although that might be a hard question for me to answer} and favorite colors, but questions that will hopefully help you to really get to know us. 

Tracey got to start.  So, here we go... {and who knew this could even be MORE of a challenge than some of our other ones?}

Jen, what is the #1 priority for you to succeed in living an intentional life and why? 

Click on over to Tracey's blog, Control the Chaos to see my answer.

Come on.  Do it.  You know you want to.  :-) 


Tuesday Top 10: I am...

Nicole over at Miss Mommy took a little different spin on the Tuesday Top 10 this week.  And I love it.  So I am copying her...although she sort of asked us to.  ;-) So, I don't feel guilty. 

I am _____ right now:

I am - content.  I love being in Minnesota and seeing scenes like this: 

J#4 with her cousin E, after  my niece and nephews' band concert last night.  just love it.

I wonder - what the next two years will bring.

I see - my two little babies growing up WAY to fast. 

J#4, with NO practice at home, has taken to climbing stairs...everywhere!

I want - some new clothes.  I know...shallow.  But true.  ;-) 

I pretend - that I know what I want in life.  When really? I have NO idea. 

I worry - That I am not a good enough mom.

I cry - because I broke the glass screen on my iPhone.  

I hope - that I can REALLY make 2012 my year of "becoming healthy"

I dream - of a day when I have it "all together"

I feel - hopeful.  {Most of the time.}

Linking up with Miss Mommy, check her out! 


Bucket List Update: Write a book? Check!

So...I am pulling myself away from The Hunger Games to give you a bucket list update.  You're welcome.  {wink}

I have been sucked into the series, and am just starting the third book.  Have you read these books?  Awesome, I tell you.  Simply awesome.

There is a movie coming out next year.  The trailer gets me even more excited about the books, and now I have real life people that I can imagine as the characters.

So tell me,  does it happen to you?  Do you get sucked into characters to a point where you can't pull yourself away from the book?

Maybe someday it will be my book that pulls you in, and won't let you move on with your day until you finish it.  Cause, peeps?  Its true!  I wrote a book.
Looks like my "winner's certificate" doesn't have my name on it, but I really did write more than 50,000 words.  It is about 140 pages (8 1/2 x 11 paper).

A brief synopsis:  Betsy is at a crossroads in life. She feels like something has to happen in her fourteen year old marriage, or they are headed for disaster. Little did they know, they were headed for disaster, but in more of literal sense than she was expecting.

So, now on to proofreading, checking dates and such, and essentially just making the book a whole bunch better.  Then...who knows?  

Maybe someday I'll be helping producers and casting directors find just the right actor to play Betsy.   

A girl can dream, right? 


Where am I today?

Well, in Minnesota for an extended visit.  Enjoying trips to Target, the best pizza that I have missed so much, and being with family and friends.

Oh, and I have so much to tell you about.  TWO, count 'em--TWO, things that I have been able to check off of my bucket list in the last week.  Here is a hint to one of them...

But that's not the point of this post.  You're going to have to wait to hear more about those things.  Oh, and plus!  Remember this post, where I asked you how I should get my hair styled???

Well,  "I got my hair did" last Wednesday, so I'll show you the results!

So stay tuned this week...but for now, I am guest posting over at Miss Mommy.  She is the wonderful Canadian who is now living in Australia.  Australia?!??!  Lucky woman.  Plus, she has two adorable little girls and is a talented and honest writer.  Love her.  So stop over.

THERE IS EVEN A GIVEAWAY!!  My VERY first.  So please check it out.  Who wouldn't want a giftcard to Etsy?

Alright friends, enjoy your Saturday!  We'll talk more soon, 'kay?

And if you are new, visiting me from Miss Mommy?  Welcome, glad to have you!! Please take a look around, and say hello.  I'd love to say hello at your bloggie homes too!


I'm a dreamer...

Hello everyone!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family.  I sure did...plus, I was able to check something off of my bucket list!  But more on that soon...

First, today I am guest posting at Heather Boersma's site.  Talking about my big dream to be a writer.  Have I been successful?  More on that soon too.

So stop over at Heather's place to see what I have to say!



J#4's birth day

J#3 turns 2

amsterdam, and the keukenhof

Source: etsy.com via Jenny on Pinterest

Easter, family photo success

playing with photo booth


nephew #1.  godson. 
nephew #2 and niece

friends.  old and new.  forever.


and even more family.


"sweets" standing & smiling.
I hope you all enjoy relaxing and a few fun days with those who you care about the most and make you happy. Be it just your honey, or a huge extended family...either way, I hope you appreciate their presence.

I am spending the day doing a 5K {my first!}, and having probably TWO huge meals with all the fixens'.

Lucky I'm starting the day with run, right?  {wink}


Challenge Wednesday #9: The Why of Gratefulness

Last week, Tracey and I decided that this week, instead of a true challenge {because what we are doing here today is pretty darn easy} we would trade blogs to tell each other and our friends {that'd be you} why we think it is important to be grateful. 

So, without further adieu, here's Tracey of Control the Chaos... 

~  ~  ~

The Why of Gratefulness

Every year at this time Facebook, blogs, and emails are flooded with stories of what we are grateful for(our families, of course), how we plan to celebrate our gratefulness (with food, of course), and any special traditions go along with all this gratefulness (sharing at the table, notes, gifts).

Why do we do it, year after year?  Well, duh, it's important.  But why?  I mean, surely our friends and families know how thankful we feel.  Right?  Right?

Is it coincidental that at the time of year when we feel most grateful (or at least the time of year when we best express it), we often feel most pressured, stressed, and out of time?

There are just so many places we need to be, so many things we need to do, and so many people we need to please.  Maybe...maybe they don't know realize where and for whom our gratefulness extends.  Or maybe our actions are speaking too loud for our words to be heard.
Source: etsy.com via Lori on Pinterest

Maybe it's time we make our actions match our words.  Because we have today, but we're not guaranteed tomorrow.  Maybe in so doing we will not just say it, but we. will. know. it.

So, why is it so important to be grateful?  For them.

And then, for us.


Getting to know me: our many homes {via a top 10}

Perhaps it is sad that I am able to right about our homes in a top 10 list?  Because, people, we have only been married 10 years.  Sigh.

Oh twell, here we go:

1.  Our first home: Birch Street.  We bought it from my Mom.  A cute little rambler, a bit too far from the cities {think 3rd ring suburb}.  We lived there for two years.
then we went to stay at my Mom's house for two weeks until our next place was ready (but not counting that as one of the 10 homes, although it is considered a move to me)

2.  Next there was County Rd. F.  We lived there for five months.  It was literally a quarter mile from my office, but I never walked.  All kinds of failing there.  The place just wasn't for us.  It was a split-entry {just didn't work for us}, there were bats, it was on a busy road.  So, we moved after five months.  Five MONTHS people.

3.  Our first apartment.  We decided we were going to build, so we moved into an apartment.  Had a plan {created by my father-in-law}, a lot, but couldn't come to a final agreement.  So, we moved on {after 6 months}.  But the builder didn't.  Used our plan for the house he eventually built on the lot {grrr}.

4.  Owasso Street.   This is my favorite.  And the house we lived in the longest {4 years!}.
We put blood, sweat, and tears into this place.  Literally. 

And then we moved to... 

5.  New Jersey, Belle Mead.  A cute little townhome, perfect for the two of us.  And then we found out we were pregant with J#3.   So {after a year} we moved to... 

6.  Bridgewater, New Jersey.   Then we had J#3 and decided we wanted to be closer to family back in... 

7.  Minnesota.  First up, an apartment, while we find JUST the right place.  

8.  Then, our split level home with the most charming porch and on a great cul-de-sac.  We are renting it out, so it is likely what we will move back into when we are back in Minnesota.  

Our second kitchen remodel.  You should see the before {maybe some time I'll show you}.

9.  The Netherlands.  An entirely new experience {we were in different country}, being close to the centrum {downtown}, in what I would call a "row home".

10.  Scotland.  Where we are now.  Thankfully, a lot more like what we are used to in the United States.  Can't wait to show you more!

So, there you have it. Do you have a home that you wish you still lived in?

This week, I'm linking up {that is, if I can get internet once their posts are up- wink}, once again with:

Nicole@Miss Mommy {and make sure to check out her sidebar, I'm a sponsor!  yay!}

Amanda@Oh Amanda

Top Ten {Tuesday}


Getting to know me: a love story {part 2}

At the end of part 1, J#1 had just tracked down my # at college and called me there.  {Remember, before there was Facebook?}  So, we chatted on the phone a few times, and then I was headed back to the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving break.  So we decided to head out for dinner.

For the Minnesota folks, we went to the Rock Bottom Brewery in Minneapolis the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.  According to J#1, this was just "two friends going out to dinner".   To this day, I still consider it our first date.   Our other first date would have been that Saturday.  J#1 made me dinner {knew that day he was a keeper!} and we went to a pool hall.

From there on out, we have been together.  Although for those first seven months, he was in St. Paul and I was in Marshall, MN.  We would see each other every other weekend, and talk just about every other night.  That June?  We were engaged.

Not an overly romantic setting, but it was romantic enough for me.  And we were headed to a Minnesota Twins game that night.   Between my Mom, who had them put a message on the big screen saying congratulations, and a college friend who was an usher there that got them to play our song (Alison Kraus, "When You Say Nothing At All"), it was a pretty special night.

Fast forward 10 months later, April of 2001 and we were married.  Beautiful ceremony at my childhood Church (where I had been baptized, attended grade school, been part of youth group, buried my father, and more).  Fun and relaxing reception.  Our first song? That Alison Kraus song.

Funny story about our first dance song.  My mom had asked us if we had a song we knew we wanted for our first dance, and we told her the name.  She sort of gave us this skeptical look.  Then we played it for her.  By the end?  Tears in her eyes.  True story.

Very close 2nd place for first song?  "My Best Friend" by Tim McGraw.

A Caribbean cruise for a honeymoon and settling in at our first home.  The first of many...


What's new? A Facebook page...oh, and a hike too!

Hi friends,  hope you have fun and exciting plans for your weekend.

Me? I'm doing fun stuff like getting a page set up for the blog on Facebook! If you have second, would you drop over & like my Facebook page? Thankyouverymuch.

Oh, and I'm doing one other thing too...

Going for impromptu hikes {it was supposed to just be a walk; and then we went down a less traveled path} just blocks from our home...
J#1 and J#3 getting some running in
perhaps J#4 wasn't excited to be on the hike? 
the steepest hill EVAH!  not really, but pushing a stroller up it? it sure felt like it. 
J#3 off-roading


Challenge Wednesday #8

Good morning {or afternoon.  or evening.  Guess it just depends on when you are reading. {wink}}

Tracey and I are taking it up a notch this week.  We both did challenges.  Check out her bloggie home for my report on to-do lists {which is not as easy as it sounds, it turns out}, and keep reading here to hear about Tracey's adventures making her young 'ens some sweet treats AND a bonus!  {There is a recipe!  Score!}

#   #   #

Ooh, double challenge week!  This week I was challenged to make a special treat for my kids.  A fun one, I think.  I would like to say I make them special treats all the time, but the reality is that I easily get caught up in keeping everything whole, real, and slow cooked and sometimes forget to make something simply because it would make my kids happy.  Not to mention the fact that I manage to fill my time with "regular" food and consequently the fun stuff falls by the wayside.

The thing I have to remember is how happy the kids get when I do something special for them, and it's really not much effort to make a treat.  Even better, many of the treats they love can substitute flours and sweeteners for healthy alternatives.  I admit, though, that the only substitution I made was using raw sugar instead of refined.  Baby steps.

One thing I am really trying to do is ask their opinion whenever possible.  And so, even though I was sure their choice would be to make banana muffins with me, I asked them what they wanted.  

They chose lemon bars.  And they didn't want to help.

Ok.  Start over.  As it so happens, lemon bars are one of my favorite treats too.  So I quickly got over myself and pulled out my grandmother's recipe.  

Yummy lemon goodness.  Would you like to make it too?  Here you go:

1/2 cup butter 
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
grated rind of lemon
Combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter until a soft dough is formed.  Pat into 8" or 9" square pan.  Press sides up about an inch.  Bake 20 minutes @ 350 degrees. 
In the meantime, beat eggs with sugar (don't overbeat).  Add flour, lemon juice, and rind.  Pour mixture into baked crust and bake (another) 20 minutes @ 350 degrees.
Cool.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into squares. 

This was sooo worth the effort for the expressions on their faces as they tasted their treats.

Another lesson learned for Mama.  Thanks, Jen.

I think Jen had a fabulous idea for next week.  She suggested our challenge be the same:  

Take the week off from challenges.  But lets trade blogs next week, and tell each other {and all of our friends} why we find it is so important to be grateful. 

Excellent idea, Jen.  I am up for the challenge.

Be sure to visit Control the Chaos and see how Jen fared with her organization challenge.  It's a great post, and I can definitely relate to "life happening."  See you soon, friends.


Working with what you've got...

Hey all!

I am the throws of writing a 50,000 word novel and in my last week of training for the Turkey Day 5K (on Thanksgiving, of course!).

But,  I got ultra-motivated yesterday and got our utility room (a.k.a. laundry room, freezer location, bulk food item storage, random, miscelleaous junk location) to a point where I think it might ALMOST look pretty...well, as much as a room like that CAN look pretty.  And I had a brainstorm that I couldn't wait to share.
And, as it is "my way", it already looks different than this... but the photo above has better lighting.

Okay,okay. Since you are so curious (stick with me here)...here is what looks like now:
See...this way I can actually use the dry erase board. Quite the concept, huh?  More about that tomorrow on Challenge Wednesday though.  Make sure you come back for that.  Mkay?  

But that was just a little intro.  

This is what I really wanted to tell you about.  I didn't buy anything to organize this room...I have bin after box after bag in my possession, so I worked with what I had.  

And I am almost embarrassed I had never thought about this idea before. 



Check it.  Two FULL shelves, down to one full shelf, and one EMPTY shelf!  

See, we live in what used to be a furnished rental, so when we moved in, they had forgotten to take some stuff out.  Like light bulbs.  And they were just tossed in this shelf. 

You see that maroon bag? It's a wine bag.  You know, the one you get at the liquor store so you can reuse them, and buy like six bottles of wine at a time?  'Cause, yeah, I am always doing that.  Especially with all of the entertaining I am doing in this foreign country that we moved to less than three weeks ago.  {Please note extreme sarcasm.}

From reusable bag to... well, reusable bag.  But not for its intended purpose.  Love it.  

Linking up with the lovely ladies over at J&M's Eye Candy, for their Help a Mama Out Link-Up: 

And, with Tip Junkie, for her Tip Me Tuesday, since this is... a tip.  Right?  {wink}

 Tip Junkie handmade projects


Getting to know me: a love story {part 1}

Now this is when I wish that I:  #1) had a scanner.  #2) had my scrapbooks in the same country as me.  #3) had some way of transporting my memories into photos on the computer.

So, this will be a somewhat photoless post about the history of J#1 and me.

#   #   #

I LOVE to tell people that J#1 was the first man to ever buy me flowers.  And he will be the last (hopefully).

We met back in my sophomore year of high school (he is a year older), in journalism class.  I was intent on being on the school paper, and you could take "zero hour" to add an hour to class schedule which would allow for an elective course like that.  Wow.  I was determined, huh?

So anyways...J#1 asked me out.  Well, I think that was what he was doing.  And I said no.  Yup, it's true. See, my Mom wouldn't let me date until I was 16, so I knew asking her if I could go to dinner with J#1 wouldn't fly.  But, we remained pretty close friends that year.  At one point, in true high school fashion, I asked him, "Are you mad at me?"

That Saturday, a flower delivery guy comes to the door.   A dozen roses, with a note that says, "I'm sorry you thought I was mad at you."  Swoon.  And my Mom said, "Oh, he must have a very good mother, teaching him to do polite things like that."

But, alas, I introduced him to one of my best high school friends, and they dated for quite a while.  I ended up dating some other guy{at the age of 15...shame, Mom!  wink}, and life went on.

Fast forward four years post high school for J#1.  He was at a seminar for an audit group {fun, fun} that was at the office I was working at during the summer.  I saw him at lunch, and was flabbergasted.  Why, oh why, was he at our office {we didn't end high school on the best of terms}?  But,  a day later or so, one of my co-workers encouraged me to reach out to him.  And so we chatted.  That was August.

In November, a week or so before our American Thanskgiving, J#1 called my mom.  Asked for my number at college.  {WOW!} And people,  I had literally just been telling someone in my apartment about running into this dude from high school.  And the phone rings.  It was him...



Getting to know me: my heart

So I mentioned in this post that I was born with a heart defect.

It's called Aortic Stenosis, and is actually fairly (I believe 1 in 100) common.  But, I think my defect was a bit more dramatic as most people live with a heart murmur or this condition throughout their whole lives with no issues.

My mom tells me that when I was born, she had to ask to see me after an hour or two, because they were still checking me out.  Which means she found out immediately that there was something "special" about my heart.

See how the aortic valve (almost right in the center of the heart) is sort of like a Mercedes logo?  Instead of having three "flaps", my valve only had two.

So, when I was six, just before Christmas, I headed into the hospital for open heart surgery to have the valve repaired.  My most clear memories from the experience:

  • my dad giving me a "fake" cabbage patch doll before we went to the hospital.  I totally didn't understand that because it was his birthday. Shouldn't I have been giving him a gift?
  • that night, a doctor or nurse showing me what was going to happen, and I think they used that doll (or a bear, that I still have to this day--and has also had open heart surgery {wink, what young kids do} ) to show me.  
  • having to miss our 1st grade Christmas pageant because I was recovering at home.  They sang "The Little Drummer Boy".  That song still holds a special place in my heart.

When I was young {think pre-teen years} the doctors told me I would eventually have to get my Aortic valve replaced.  At that time, they told me {and this is what I remember, might not be exact}: "you'll probably be about 35 when it needs to be replaced, you'll have a choice between mechanical or a cow's valve, you'll have to take a blood thinner for the rest of your live, so you will want to try and have kids before that."

Wow, how things change. 

When I was 25, I started getting short of breath with not a ton of physical exertion{if you are from Minnesota, I couldn't walk around the Metrodome without stopping}.  I remember a specific time when we were pulling bushes out of our front yard that I actually got dizzy as I was doing it and had to stop.

During my yearly visit to the cardiologist, I learned that very soon I would have to get a replacement.  {Hmm, guess I should have brought J#1 with me to that appointment.}  I went straight out to my car, called him and my mom, and frankly, was in tears.  

But at least medical advancements were on my side.  I had more choices as to what to have as a replacement, and decided to have a cadaver's valve so that I wouldn't need to take blood thinners and would still be able to have children without the use of blood thinners.   

I have a few photos from when I was in the hospital.  Not gonna show the one from RIGHT after the surgery.  That one is dreadful. This one is from the day I headed home. 
I still wasn't exactly looking my best. 

I went home, spent six weeks at home, and then another six working part time before being back at work full-time. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.   I successfully gave birth to two {beautiful & precious} children via planned c-sections.

Will I have to have it replaced again?  Likely, yes.  

But, hopefully, not anytime soon. 

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