Living with less can actually help you enjoy your home more. Today, I’m providing the ultimate declutter checklist, a free printable to help you tackle clutter.
The Secret to A Clean House
Do you want to know the secret to a clean house? It isn’t having a maid that stops by every week. Nor is it spending all your free time cleaning. No, the secret lies in the amount of things you have. The more things you have, the more there is to put away. The more picking up you have to do, the more there is to make a mess.
The key to a tidy house is having a place for everything. If everything has it’s place, then there is order. It is impossible to be neat if you have clutter taking over every surface, every closet, every nook, every shelf, and every cupboard. You can’t put things away if there is no place to put it. We are always acquiring new things. Birthdays, anniversaries, well meaning family, trickle items one by one into our home and before you know it, closets are full. The less you have the more spacious and clean your house looks.
Decluttering your home is a something that needs to be done on a regular basis. Clutter is one of those things that makes your house look dirty when its not. What’s worse is that we kind of get used to our clutter but people who visit our home, notice it instantly. I try to do some amount of declutter every month.
Tips for Taming Clutter
There are lots of ways that you can tame the clutter that you decide to keep. One way is to contain small groups of objects in containers or in baskets. Decorative baskets mask the clutter making shelves or cupboards appear neat and tidy to the eyes.
I’ve also found that if you have a hard time taming items in drawers, draw organizers are a great help to guide you. Personally, I’ve grown really fond of folding towels and clothes up differently in order to maximize space. For instance, in my children’s drawers, I store clothes vertically in the drawers. You get far more clothes in the drawer and I find that we rotate all the clothes because they are all visible at once. It even helps my little pick out his clothes easier.
I’ve also found that even spending fifteen minutes a day decluttering makes a huge difference when it comes to staying on top of clutter before it gets overwhelming. Focus on hot spots that attract clutter. Then if you have time pick a drawer or area to toss out things. Setting a timer and doing as much decluttering in that time can help you tackle clutter a little everyday.
The printable I’ve created for you below is focused on zone decluttering. If you don’t have time to do a whole room, just pick one line item and work on that, working your way eventually around the house.
Some people swear by the trash bag method. Grab a trash bag and declutter until you fill it up. Once it is filled you are done. Some people do this once a week, every other week or even once a month. Other people have a 1 in 10 out rule, meaning for every new thing they buy, they throw ten things out. I tried this but don’t consistently remember to do this. So I do better with regular decluttering in other ways.
I always ask a series of questions that help me say goodbye to unnecessary things. I think many times we hold on to things because we have good intentions of using them and I think we also feel guilty that we spent good money on it. Having spent money on it makes us feel obligated to keep it until we use it. However, chances are if you haven’t used it in a year or six months, you probably won’t ever use it. Sad but true.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself when I am purging:
Is it broken, damaged or missing pieces?
Is it very worn?
Do I have something else that serves the same purpose?
Am I holding on to it out of guilt?
If I saw it in a store today, would I buy it again?
Does it fit?
Is it still in style?
Do I really love it?
Have I used it in the six months?
Do I really want to keep handling this item again?
Is keeping it worth the space it takes up?
The Ultimate Declutter Checklist
Be sure to download your free ultimate declutter checklist and get started today. I have organized your checklist by room and I’ve included a list of questions at the bottom of the page to help you make decisions. If you are really on the fence about giving something away, you can do a little trick I sometimes I do. I pack it in a box and label it, “throw out in six months” and I put the six month date. Anything I am uncertain about goes in that box. If six months pass and I have not gone into the box, I put it in the trunk of my car and take it to the nearest donation place without ever opening it up. If you open it up, you’ll be tempted to keep it. If you don’t open it up, you probably would never miss it.
Your decluttering checklist includes 7 pages. You can print out multiple copies of the bedroom and bathroom page for however many bedrooms and bathrooms you have. I’ve included some extra spaces for you to add your own items as well.
This post is going to focus on a variety of scripture verses. Read them, pray over them, then answer the questions below. You can also expound on your own interpretation of the verse or how you feel God’s conviction. I hope that you enjoy these 30 bible study journal prompts. If you prefer this style of journaling, please let me know in the comments and I will create more of these types of posts.
Enjoy studying The Word while also reflecting on your own spiritual life, actions and attitudes. Remember, if you have fallen short or sinned in these areas, God is faithful to forgive us. Confess, repent, walk in grace.
30 Bible Study Journal Prompts
1 Kings 18:20-21: Elijah, standing before the false prophets of Baal tells them to make up their minds about who to worship. A false God or the true one. We too must decide between our idols (the world) and God. Describe any internal conflict you have between the things of the world and full devotion to God. Where do you stand?
1 Kings 18:22: Continue reading the next verse. Elijah stood up for the one true God against idolaters all alone as everyone was worshipping the false God. He was only faithful prophet at the time. Describe how you feel about standing up for God even if it means standing alone. What scares you the most about doing so?
Matthew 6:31-32: Here Jesus promises to fulfill our needs. How do you feel about trusting God’s provision? Where are areas in which you need help trusting?
2 Timothy 3:2:-5 Here Paul describes the nature of people in the last days. How do you see these attributes in today’s culture and society? What steps can you personally take to combat this worldly mentality?
Proverbs 3:11-12: Why does God discipline us? What should be our attitude?
Luke 12:51 The Greek word Luke uses for division is diamerismon which means hostility, discord and to break up. How has choosing Jesus created division in your life? The stronger we stand for Christ, the more division we will face. How far are you willing to stand for Christ?
Revelation 3:14-16 John is writing to the church Laodicia. This apostate church is also lukewarm. Read what God is going to do with them if they don’t repent. Examine your own life for areas you are lukewarm. Where is your own church lukewarm and what can you do to change it?
Titus 3:1-2: Examine the behaviors in this verse. How well do you feel you have been obeying the command in this verse?
Luke 12:4-5 This is a strong message about persecution and that we shouldn’t fear the rejection of other sinners, rather God. Examine your own life. Where do you see yourself acting sheepishly for fear of offending people with the gospel?
Matthew 6:19-21 Here Jesus warns us about getting caught up in materialism. Write an honest assessment about your attachment to things (possessions), money, and worldly materialism. Then write a prayer of repentance.
Acts 5:27-41 Here we are given the example about how we are to respond to persecution. We have our own persecution today which includes cancel culture. Write a note to yourself, using the apostles’ examples found in these passages on how we should respond to persecution for the gospel.
John 21:18-22 Here Jesus predicts Peter’s eventual crucifixion. When Peter asks Jesus about John’s death, what is Jesus’ harsh response? What does that say about questioning God’s plan? What does this say about comparing our lives to others?
Proverbs 18:17: What does this say about the world’s narrative, the media, and even in our own relationships?
1 Corinthians 18-25: Explain what these verses mean. What does the message of the cross look like to the world?
Psalm 11: 3-4: When the bottom is pulled out from beneath us, what do the righteous do? What does the Bible say next? How does this encourage you?
1 Corinthians 1:26-29: What does this say about the kind of person God choses? Why does He choose the people the world would discard?
Matthew 7:1-5: Here Jesus reminds us that before we judge someone to first look to see if we too are committing that sin. We have a tendency to see the sin of others while justifying or ignoring our own. Write down the sins of others that have bothered you this week as well as your ownsins. Mix them together. When finished, write out a letter of repentance. Do these sins bother you? If not, ask for God to give you a contrite heart/
Philippians 2:3-5: In a culture that likes to elevate the self, Paul tells us to imitate Christ’s humility. What does following Christ look like when it comes to dealing with others?
Philiipians 2:12-16: Complaining is a serious problem. What does Paul saying about grumbling and why should we avoid it?
Proverbs 28:13: What does this verse say about secret sins? Do you harbor secret sins for which you need to repent?
1 John 4:20: Does this verse exclude people who are of a different political party than you? Does it exclude those with whom you disagree? Write about the things you find personally hard in following this verse. Then ask God to help you with that.
Matthew 15:10-16 Explain the meaning of these verses. How are our hearts and words connected?
Galatians 3:27-29 The world tells us our identity is in our race, gender, financial status, career, ethnicity, political party, etc, but those things are temporal and passing away. What does this verse say about our identity in Christ? What happens when we are baptized? How does this line up with your world view?
Romans 12:12 The world (society & culture) will always be trying to get us to think like him. What does Paul say we need to do combat this? What will you commit to doing?
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 How should we view trials? What is God’s purpose?
Luke 9:27-27: The world would tell you to “love yourself “and to focus on you, your comfort, etc. What is the call for the Christian instead? Where are you falling short?
Colossians 3:12: Paul discusses the attributes of a Christian. How have your actions lately lined up with this. Repent to God if needed.
Ephesians 1:5: What does this say about the plan for our life? How does this change your view about the events in your life?
2 Timothy 2:9 What does this say about working or earning salvation?
2 Corinthians 10:5 What is this verse saying about conforming our will to His?
More Journaling Prompts
Be sure to PIN this post for laterand share it with a friend who will love it. Below are some of my other journal prompt posts.
Where have I been for the last week? Surviving our Texas snowpocalypse, that’s what! It was a crazy week but we survived.
Last week has been one for the books. You may wonder where I have been this past week. Well, I’ve been buried under snow and ice. Well, not literally, but for all intents and purposes it is true. Now this will sound so silly to people who live in Northern areas. Texas is such a warm state. Even our December days are often around 70 degrees. We have days that hit freezing, but we rarely get the precipitation that produces snow and even when we get some flakes it doesn’t always accumulate.
This Monday we had a severe winter storm blow through South Texas. Texas sees it’s share of severe weather but for us it is often hurricanes towards the end of summer and early Fall or it is in tornados around March and April. We are not prepared for Winter storms.
When the storm came in on Sunday night many of us were so excited. We almost never see snow here and when we do it is normally just a dusting that is gone by midday. This was quite different. We had icy precipitation first then 4-6” of snow depending on where you live.
The kids woke up to something they have never really seen here. White rooftops. Snowy trees, the street, and yard covered in a glistening white blanket of snow. It was gorgeous. Snow is always gorgeous before we drive through it and muddy it up, before it turns into a grey slushy.
We bundled the kids up like Ralphie out of Christmas story and let them have fun playing in the snow. My two year old was quite hesitant at first, but he had an absolute fit when we told them it was time to come inside. They had a blast throwing snowballs and throwing the snow up in the air. It was great. We made sure they got into a hot bath immediately.
Boom Goes the Power
Not long after our eventful play in the snow did we lose power. It is shocking how quickly a warm house cools. We have a gas range, so we were at least able to cook. But we weren’t able to get groceries before the storm as stores were over run. That night, temperatures dipped down to about 9º. We slept the kids with us in the room and we made sure we pulled out their 30º sleeping bags but it was frigid.
We were stuck with whatever charge we had on our phones and devices. Thank goodness I have a ton of candles and we had plenty of batteries for flashlights. We finished out Monday night by the fireplace.
Tuesday morning we ran out of wood for the fireplace. The cold was biting. Not all of our taps were working despite leaving them all dripping. We pulled out our water bob and filled it up, If you don’t have one of these, you should get one, They only cost around $30. It is a bladder that you put in your bath tub and fill it up for potable water in case you lose it. It holds about 100 gallons. Boy am I glad we did that! By the end of the day, we had lost all water.
That evening we couldn’t take the cold anymore. By 3 o’clock on Tuesday we had been without power for 24 hours and temperatures never rose above freezing. My hands were numb as I tried to fix lunch for us. We decided to venture out and see if we could get any supplies. Lots of roads and stretches of the highway were still closed. We found had to drive out of town to find a store with power. They were cleaned out of most essentials and had no firewood or anything like it. My brother gave us a few pieces that we had and we stopped to check in on my elderly parents who had also been trapped without electricity. In fact, all my family members had been without electricity.
There were rolling outages, but it was very odd. Some people never lost power. Some people appear to have regular power with small breaks, while other people like us, had no power at all for days at a time. It was very upsetting to see tons of businesses lit up with no one in them while homes were without power. USAA one of our largest businesses with a huge campus was fully energized with even their multistory parking lot blazing with lights while are house was 40º inside. Empty car dealerships all over the city were blaring with high-powered halogen lights over their parking lots when my elderly parents had no way to cook, no water, and had no heat source. We were told, our utilities were picking and choosing areas and places to energize.
I am so grateful we had things like powdered milk and dry eggs to cook. I’m grateful we have a gas range. I’ll tell you that we will be investing in a propane heater after this! A generator also sounds amazing. We got some power overnight and it was wonderful but it was gone before we woke up and by noon it was painfully frigid again. Once the house gets that cold, it just takes a long time to get it back up to temperature.
My 91 year old grandfather and mentally challenged uncle were without heat all week as well. It is sad to see this kind of thing happen unnecessarily. Our losses were fairly small. It was bitterly cold in our house, but we all survived. We lost everything in our fridge including medications. We managed to keep the freezer fairly cold by packing ziplock bags of snow inside it to keep things frozen, but our fridge just didn’t stay cold enough.
Last night temperatures dropped again. We had another bout of freezing rain and sleet, icing over everything that had started to defrost. Temperatures won’t get above freezing today. I wonder how long it will take for us to get power and water again. How much longer for us to get food and groceries again, I don’t know. I imagine it will be a madhouse and then of course, COVID hasn’t stopped.
It’s been hard to be cut off from the world. We have only been turning on our devices here and there to touch base with family. Then we turn them off again. Roads are too icy to try and venture out. Even our steep driveway is covered with ice. This has been really hard for the kids. The numbing cold, the lack of light, no food or electronics. My youngest is too little to understand what has happened. But I am still incredibly proud of how well they have tried to adapt.
Power has been restored. Water is slowly coming through the taps but we are under a boil water notice for the next few days it seems. I’m just grateful to have heat again. It is slowly warming in the house.
It has been an interesting experience to say the least. It has certainly caused me to be grateful for things that I take for granted. Light, water, heat. Perhaps these things are necessary so we can appreciate the things we overlook everyday. I am especially grateful for people who reached out to me. People who offered their supplies, even their home to us if conditions worsened. Thank you so much! The most marvelous thing was that people I know who had the least were the ones who offered us the most.
Lots of restaurants and grocery stores appear to have lost food and so it will be a couple of weeks until things return to normal. Can I say that in 2021? Is there such a thing as normal anymore? If you were affected by the winter storm, I’d love to know how you are doing. This is one of my few posts that will read like a diary, I promise!
I asked various married Christian couples to share their marital secrets. I’ve summed up their responses into 12 habits of happy couples.
Valentine’s is almost here and I’ve spent eight wonderful years with my amazing Valentine. This year, as we approach that special love day, I approached ten Christian couples for the secrets to their life-long marriages. Two of the couples have been married for more than fifty years while others are in the twenty and thirty year range.
It would seem that as simple as some of these notions are, it’s hard to live them out everyday. So in honor of love day, I thought it would really great to share some pearls of wisdom from the couples I admire. A special thanks to all of them who participated! I’ve left out actual quotes and names because several insisted that God only was to receive the glory for their long marriages. I loved that. According to them here are 12 habits of happy couples.
1. They Put God First
You’ve heard it said many times that putting God at the center of your marriage, but I have found it to be a profound and nurturing command in marriage. When God’s will is above your own, when you are in pursuit of holiness, you will do things that would otherwise be impossible. Your choices look very different when you are looking to please God over man or even yourself. Forgiveness even in the midst of betrayal becomes possible. Couples who are grounded in the covenant they made with God don’t give themselves an out every time there is a roadblock or speed bump. They will attempt to work it out at all costs.
2. They Have Boundaries
In the past, I’ve written about setting healthy boundaries in your marriage. Boundaries are so important when you are dealing with families who do things differently and even with friends who might persuade either spouse. So I wasn’t surprised when several couples listed setting boundaries as one of the most effective ways to guard a marriage.
There are all kinds of boundaries that you can set in your marriage, but I think some of the most important on how you will worship, how you will interact with members of the opposite sex, what is permissible in the bedroom and rules for fighting fairly. Boundaries are not away to control or manipulate your spouse. Nor should they be a way to play “gotcha.” Rather, they should create an understanding between you and your spouse about what is permissible and what is not.
3. They Effectively Communicate Their Feelings
Many people think that discussing things that bother us will create even more tension. The truth is, in the short term, it may, but bottling up unforgiveness or anger normally only leads to deep resentment. Nevertheless, we should bring up grivences and perceived slights quickly, but constructively. Constructive conversations normally involves several things:
Avoid using accusatory language
Avoid name-calling, curse words, and other degrading language
Resist the urge to assign motives. (We have a tendency to believe the best of ourselves, but the worst of others.)
Be specific and avoid generalizations and sweeping, blanket statements
Attack the problem and not the person
Avoid passing blame or justifying
If things get too heated, agree to take a time out and revisit later
4. They Listen
This might sound super basic, but one of the women I talked to said something interesting. “During an argument, most people aren’t really listening. They are just waiting for their turn to speak,” this mom of four explained. The comment actually caused me to look at my own behavior. During emotional discussions we so often want to be heard but don’t always give our spouse the same consideration. Rather, we are just waiting for them to finish so we can hammer our point a little more. If we truly want peace in our marriage, if we really want to resolve some of the arguments that are robbing our marriage of joy, we first must be come better listeners.
Our spouse’s points are just as valid as our own. I’d also add that listening doesn’t just have to be during arguments. Sometimes, it is in the everyday. Here are just a few helpful hints on how to become a better listener. I know that I’ve noticed if someone feels like they weren’t heard, the issue will often get brought back up again.
Turn off or put down devices when your spouse speaks to you
Resist the urge to argue in your head while they speak
Recognize changes in tone and body language
Ask questions when something is unclear (reserve questions for when they are done speaking)
Confirm with, “if I’m hearing you correctly…”
Keep eye contact
5. They Give Up The Right to Be Right All the Time
Did you know that the most common reason for divorces aside from infidelity is arguing. Irreconcilable differences. Marriages, even good ones, have very real conflict. You will often hear people say ” we weren’t compatible.” Newsflash: no two people are totally compatible. Even though we may share things in common, we will always still have stark differences and those differences prompt arguments.
Our ego and pride often gets in the way of our resolving conflict. There are very serious problems in marriage, but many times we can get into a habit of being disagreeable. Annoyances can build up and we can find ourselves in petty squabbles over the manutia of life.
6. They Are Willing
Willingness is often understated and yet it is so important in a marriage. In my own marriage, my husband is one of the most willing people I’ve ever met. He was always willing to get up with the kids in the middle of the night. When my parents were stranded, he was willing to go across town to get them. He was willing to wait up all night for my niece until she got home safely. He is willing to work long hours, to make sacrifices, to do whatever is needed or asked of him. Be willing just means living with the attitude of a servant.
Our own Lord was quite willing. I think of all the times he could have chosen not to. He was willing to become man for our sake. Willing to eat with tax collectors, talk to Samaritans and sinners when no one else would. We know he was willing to be interrupted in the middle of teaching (Matthew 9:18-26) and we know that when the children interrupted him the disciples rebuked them, but Jesus was willing to stop and visit with them. (Matthew 19:13-15). Jesus was willing to be tortured, humiliated and crucified for the sake of sinners.
Being willing means we are willing to be inconvenienced, willing to serve, willing to sacrifice. It means that we are flexible (not stubborn), agreeable, and gracious. We have a tremendous opportunity for our spouse to come to know the love of Christ when we model this attribute.
7. They Are Kind and Gentle
Kindness is often underrated, but kindness is one of the pillars of love, the other being patience. When you are kind, you are choosing to be agreeable. Kindness causes us to look for ways to serve and meet the needs of our spouse. Additionally, kindness causes us to be gentle. Even if you have to rebuke your spouse, kindness chooses to say the words of correction with love and gentleness. Kindness chooses to offer mercy and forgiveness along with any form of correction. Both gentleness and kindness are fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and therefore available to us for the asking. It should be a daily request of ours in prayer that the Holy Spirit transform and conform our hearts with these attributes of the Holy Ghost. In 2 Timothy, we are reminded that we should be actively pursuing kindness alongside holiness (2 Timothy 6:11-12).
8. They Invest In Their Spouse
When we invest our time, effort, money, and energy into something, it naturally becomes more important to us. It is harder to give up on something in which we are deeply invested. In fact, the more we have invested, the harder it is to walk away. This is why it is important to invest in your marriage and in your spouse. Sometimes investing in your marriage is the giving or devoting of yourself such as your time. For example, investing may at times require you to put aside TV time in order to spend quality time with your spouse. It can mean listening when you’d rather zonk out for the night or it can even mean working with your partner to follow their dreams or deepest pursuits.
When you invest in your spouse, you are choosing to be a participating partner in their growth and wellbeing. So long as it aligns with our Christian world view, invest in the dreams, ambitions, interests and most importantly, their spiritual life.
9. They Forgive
Oh, friend, this is such a biggie. If there is one thing I have learned in marriage and one thing that was said by these awesome couples, it’s that forgiveness needs to take center stage in your marriage. Your spouse will repeatedly fail you, disappoint you, and even betray you. It is not a matter of if your spouse will hurt you, but rather, when. Why would someone who loves you, hurt you? As Christians, we know the answer to this. Sin nature. Scripture reminds us that we are all conceived in iniquity (Psalm 51:5).
Forgiveness is hard. There is a feeling that by forgiving someone (and not staying mad) you are sending the message it isn’t a big deal or that you are letting someone off the hook. Let’s be clear. Forgiveness is actually between you and God. Unforgiveness drives a wedge between us and the Lord and we become the unforgiving servant that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 18:21-35. As much as your spouse has wronged you, you have still wrong God more. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we can forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
Forgiveness isn’t a single act. It’s an attitude.
10. They Seek Godly Counsel
Fighting and disagreements are inevitable and sometimes there is so much hurt and unforgiveness that our marriage feels stymied. I have learned that going to families often causes more conflict. Our families are likely to take the side of their blood relatives and may even be blinded by loyalty. I’m actually in favor of leaving families out of marital problems almost entirely for another reason. As loving spouses, we should strive to protect our spouse’s reputation. I believe that Christ-like love should work to cover faults (not expose them) in the same way that the blood of Christ covers ours (Romans 4:7). When we go to family members with catastrophic trials, it may cause our family’s opinion of our spouse to be damaged beyond repair. For that reason, I suggest seeking Godly counsel elsewhere.
There will be times where Godly counsel is needed and I can’t tell you how priceless it is to have someone rich in the love of Christ, who can shepherd the two of you through the storms that arise in marriage. Godly counsel will also lovingly rebuke you if correction is needed. Many churches offer pastoral counseling, but even if yours doesn’t, a pastor, church elder, spiritual mentor, or someone else in your church community may be a good source of advice.
11. They Make Time for Sex and Physical Affection
We live in an age where many things are bidding for our attention. We are busy and tired and devices have really made it difficult. Kids, jobs, errands, responsibilities are all clamoring for our attention. Additionally, today’s modern family faces an even bigger problem. Around the dinner table, it’s common to find members of the family engaged with a device rather than each other. Did you know there is actually a word for it? Psychologists call it “phubbing,” – subbing your phone for another human being.
Now devices have even affected marital relations. Take a look at this image below from photographer Eric Pickersgill. he took a series of images showing people engaged in everyday actions except he removed the devices from the hand’s of the subjects. we look like mindless zombies. Worse, we look disconnected from each other relationally. Research has shown that sex gets cut in half when phones are in the bedroom. I’m guessing TVs also increase that statistic.
My mother used to have a saying, “the devil will do everything in his power to get you into bed before you are married and everything to keep you out of it once you’re married.” God created an amazing bonding experience for a married couple when he created sex. A husband and wife can never be more physically close than the act of sex and sexual intimacy is the catalyst for all kinds of other emotional intimacy. They go hand in hand. Wives, we must make ourselves available to our husbands. Husbands, sex is a wonderful way to make your spouse feel beautiful and treasured. In order to have a good marriage, we must treat sex as a priority. Do it and do it often! French kiss. Cuddle. Tease. Flirt. Do it all, but be mindful and deliberate about it! Sometimes we will even have to do it when we don’t really feel like it.
12. They Pray Together
When things happen in life, when there is cause for celebration or grief, prayer should be our first response. In my own marriage, we’ve gone through all kinds of ups and downs. Miscarriage, job losses, mental illness, financial woes, spiritual depression. Praying together, inviting God into your marriage, is life-changing. If you are going to be married for a lifetime, you’ll go through everything under the sun. Now this may look like the first topic we covered – putting God first and you are right. We are making a circle. Beginning and ending with God and our relationship with him.
it’s not enough to have the same beliefs or even the same convictions, although that is important. We must also pray together and pray for one another. Pray for your spouse to become more like Christ and pray for yourself to become more like Christ. Ask God to bless your spouse, reveal himself to your spouse, and guide your spouse. Then pray together. Read the Word together. Go to church together. Fellowship with other believers together, but grow in Christ with each other. Not just when times are rough, but continually. Always.
I’m not sharing anything you don’t know. These 12 Habits of happy couples, are just good reminders. Sometimes we need to stop and recalibrate. It’s my sincerest hope that today, you will think about what you can do to nature your marriage. In the comments below, let me know how I can pray for you and don’t forget to share this post on Facebook!
Love is in the air! Today, I’m sharing some cute printable school valentines to share with schoolmates.
We are getting close to February and you know what that means, our little ones will start coming home with some cute Valentines school crafts and lots of sweet treats. Valentine’s Day is always a fun time for kids and I always make sure to do something really special with the kids. This year, I think we will be making some super cute Valentine’s cupcakes. We’ve made some cookies in the past and that was fun, but I recently found this great list of Valentine’s cupcakes, so we have to try some of them!
As you know if you are a reader, we homeschool, but in years prior I had my boys in a mom’s day out program for a few hours a week. It was just a nice way for me to get a break and the boys to get out with some friends. Because of COVID, we are home full time now which is one reason why my writing on the blog has slowed down a tad. (Thanks for bearing with me while I find my sea legs!)
How to Make Valentine’s Day Special At Home
Bake Some Goodies
If you are doing virtual schooling, there are still plenty of ways to make Valentine’s Day special for your little ones. After all, I just shared a few baking ideas. Kids always love to get busy in the kitchen. And of course, you can always do Valentine’s cut out sugar cookies! One of these days I have to share my recipe for no spread cut out sugar cookies!
Printable Valentine’s Bingo Game
Last year I made a super cute printable Valentine’s Bingo game that you can play with the kids. Just print it out on your home computer. We love to use those cute conversation hearts as our bingo markers. If you want, you can also laminate them so that they are more durable, Just make sure to print them out on white cardstock regardless.
We love to do Valentine’s Day crafts. I found some really cute crafts that are great for young children. Most are pretty simple to do.
That leads me to today’s free printable. I’ve created some really cute printable Valentine’s for your little ones. I’ve used an adorable color scheme of pinks, grey, and mint. You can print them out and attach a candy or treat to them. You can put them in a treat bag or staple them to a bag. Whatever you like. But the great thing is that you can use these without having to purchase some from the store or you can save these in case you need them for last-minute treats. You’ll want to print them on white cardstock and it’s in pdf format so you will need a pdf viewing software like Adobe Reader.
There are four sheets of printable school valentines. Each page has 4 cards on it and there are four designs in total. Obviously, because it is printable, you print off as many as you need. Be sure to PIN this post for later, it to your Facebook page, or share it with a friend who can use them.
I’m writing letters to friends and family and it has had an amazing effect. Learn more all about the letter revival project.
It all started with seeing the Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen that, I highly recommend watching it. The interview-style documentary, details how BIG TECH (Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, What’s App, and Twitter), are all data mining us, literally tracking our every move and every personal detail of our life. To make matters worse, their surveillance suppresses any opposing views, manipulates what you see in your feeds and is actually designed to create divisiveness. Why? So you can stay on their platforms longer, arguing with friends and family, and so they can present more ads to you and then sell your data to other companies.
Not long after watching The Social Dilemma, I actually watched numerous hours of the hearings on Capitol hill. It is really shocking to hear social media employees testify about the weaponizing of social media. It doesn’t matter if you are on the right or the left, one fact remains: social media giants are invading our privacy and pitting us against each other so they can sell our data and sell ads.
Because of that, I took an extended break from social media. Even though I had to use social media to promote this blog, I automated a lot of things so that I wouldn’t have to actually be on it. Then in November, I decided to pick up a pen and write some letters. What happened was something really wonderful. And now, I want to share it with you. Join me in The Letter Revival Project.
The Lost Art of Writing
Getting Reacquainted With the Art of Writing
While on my break from social media, I thumbed through some old books in my personal library. I have a book on the Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Aside from some of his speeches, the book contains much of his personal correspondence which I found to be very intriguing. Then I read the entirety of the book Our Sacred Honor. This is an amazing book of correspondence from the founding fathers of America.
One of the most fascinating things in this book is their language. Their prose is so polished even for formally uneducated men like Washington. Their vocabulary and articulation are not only beautiful, but expressive, poignant, and dignified. Honestly, it was this book that really encouraged me to pick up a pen and revolutionize how I communicate with friends. I also read through my book on Jane Austen’s letters.
Jane, was so ahead of her time and her letters to friends and family are absolutely divine. Her language is as beautiful as her writing in her books. How awesome would it have been to have these amazing people as pen pals?
Starting to Write
I opened up my dusty address book and decided to pick a handful of people at random. People I had not talked to in some time. I took some time to share the most recent happenings with our family and expressed interest in the things going on in their life. First, I noticed that I had been out of practice with writing for a long period of time. I found that writing actually forced me to rebuild dexterity and strength in my hands. It is amazing that you use different muscle groups to type or text. I also found that my handwriting had become sloppy and careless, something that writing letters has improved in just a few short months.
Secondly, I found it incredibly relaxing. I put on some non-distracting music, like classical music. Lit some warm candles and sat by our roaring fireplace and began to pen letters. Just yesterday, I sat beside the window while it was raining and wrote by candlelight. It was so wonderful and soothing. It was actually a stress reliever and I found that I am far more intimate in a letter than I am in a text message. I found my “voice” is more eloquent and my vocabulary seems to broaden when I write.
Something that can not be overstated is that a personal letter these days is so rare that it is a gift in and of itself. Sure, I could have opted for the loose-leaf paper that I have stacked in our schoolroom. However, I decided that I would make correspondence exceedingly special with some vintage stationery. It is interesting to note that letter writing sets are becoming harder to find. Still, I bought a few and I dusted my box of sealing wax that has gone mostly unused these past few years.
I lovingly wrote out five letters on beautiful paper and for some, I sealed the letters with sealing wax. You should note that sealing wax requires extra postage because it cannot go through the machines and needs to be hand canceled. The U.S. post office sells stamps for non-machinable envelopes. Do not let the need for stamps discourage you from mailing letters. You don’t even need to go to the post office. The U.S. post office offers stamps for online ordering. You can have them shipped directly to your house.
The Letter Revival Project
I was very surprised to hear the reactions of the recipients. For starters, each one of them was deeply touched. In a day and age, where people can’t even bother to call (don’t we all just text now?) There is something fabulously special about the idea of someone taking the time to buy stamps, sit down, painstakingly write a letter, and mail it. Each person mentioned how thoughtful it was but perhaps more to the point, refreshing.
It was exciting to receive something in the mail that wasn’t a bill. It was personal, thoughtful, and intimate – something we are grossly lacking in today’s society. Many asked if we could continue writing letters. Still, others heard that I was writing and sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind writing them as well. It has become contagious and sadly, I don’t think we realize how much we need this. That’s why I’m starting the letter revival project. I want to inspire others to step away from social media and write to each other the way we used to.
As it turns out, it has been incredibly fulfilling and stress relieving for me while at the same time, a blessing to those who have received it. That got me thinking. Why aren’t more of us doing this? Social media has done the exact opposite of its original intention. It has divided us, made us into voyeurs instead of participants. I dare say it has even incited feelings of inadequacy when we see only the highlights of someone’s life. Because of it, we have grown unintentionally lazy in all our relationships and we’ve surrounded ourselves with hundreds of acquaintances instead of building and investing in life-long friendships. Friend, reconsider your relationship with social media.
Join Me In Writing
Friend, I hope you consider, taking some time away from social media. Take some time for yourself to recalibrate and unwind. Why not start with just a thirty-day break. If you want some help, take a look at my post, 30- Day Social Media Detox. In that post, I give you some ideas that you can do when you aren’t on social media. Or perhaps, you limit social media, while taking time to reconnect with friends via letter. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised how many people enjoy your letter. They will never say that about a like or comment you give them on social media. Please join me for the letter revival project. Let’s revive writing letters! Comment below and tell me if you are joining me. Commit to writing to five unsuspecting friends or family members this month.
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Do you have a life verse? Today I am sharing how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life and how I’ve grown as a Christian with it.
All of us have a particular scripture that has spoken to us at a particular time. Today I am going to share how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life. When I was much younger, I was much younger in my Christian walk. I felt like life wasn’t going the way I had envisioned it. I will be totally honest. At that time, I had just started to really read the Bible. It’s embarrassing that I was a Christian all my life and yet had never really read The Word on my own at that point. So when I found the verse, naturally I simply applied it to my life at the time.
I assumed God was promising me that all my dreams would come true. (Insert facepalm here). To make a long story short, I was praying for a Godly husband and children but could not find a suitable mate. That verse gave me hope for the next three years as I pursued a deeper relationship with God. In the end, God was indeed faithful and gave me a man whose goodness surprises me to this day. But is that the meaning of the verse?
As comforting as the verse was to me, I misunderstood it. It actually has nothing to do with you or me. The verse is not about what God can do for you. The promise isn’t for us, it was for Judah, yet many people mishandle this verse.
Today the verse has taken on a very different meaning. Perhaps a more correct meaning. In fact. I dare say it changed my life and how I view God’s plan for my life.
The Book of Jeremiah
First, let’s take a look at what is happening in Scripture. Jeremiah was a priest and prophet who served for more than 40 years. He had a difficult life and his message of repentance was not well received. Jeremiah first became a prophet during the reign of Josiah, the last faithful king of Judah. The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s grief over Josiah. In the two decades following Josiah’s death, Judah would collapse into moral, social, financial, political, and spiritual decay. (Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah were also prophets during this time in scripture.) The country would also change hands through various kings.
In chapters eleven through twenty-eight, Jeremiah warns the people of God’s holy wrath. He warns that if they do not repent, they will suffer and God will not hear their cries for help. Instead, God will let them endure the full consequence of their sin. Jerusalem is overthrown by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and they are put into slavery. This suffering in slavery would eventually remind them of their need for God.
As you can imagine this message did not go over well. People, by nature, cling to their sin. Jeremiah suffered terrible persecution, was beaten, mocked, and even imprisoned. But I digress. Chapter 29 begins with a letter to his people from Jerusalem who are now exiled in Babylon. The letter opens with Jeremiah quoting what God has told him. In verse five, God says to build houses, make families, have children, and multiply. God is essentially telling them to settle in and to plan for a long stay in Babylon. In verse seven, God tells them to make the best of their stay and to work for the welfare of the city. Then He tells them that they will spend seventy years there and once completed, He promises to send them home. Then God leaves them with this hope:
Like any loving father, discipline is done out of love. God is teaching His people a lesson. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.” (v. 12-13). In these verses, God promises to eventually answer their prayers for restoration. But even more amazing is that God promises when they seek Him with all of their hearts, they will find them.
The Main Takeaway
This verse is often misunderstood and even misused. I admit that in my young Christianity, I misunderstood it too. So now that we know what is going on in scripture, there are some takeaways to consider. The very first thing to consider is this is not a promise to us! This promise was to a very specific people, at a very specific time and for a very specific reason. This is a lesson for us.
It is a lesson about God’s holy hatred for idolatry.
Secondly, it tells us that God will not tolerate sinful rebellion indefinitely.
Lastly is shows us that God’s punishments are just and righteous and that often is done in order to bring about repentance.
It’s Not About Fleshly Things
I sometimes see this verse used to insinuate that God’s plan (or following God) means we will never have trouble or that God will ALWAYS give us the outcome we want. Even though this verse is not a promise to us, let’s take a look at this kind of self-seeking doctrine.
The world of faith movement for example, loves to uses verses like this when we read it out of context without knowing what’s happening in scripture.
As we see in the book of Jeremiah and other parts of scripture, God often permits trouble and struggle in our life so that we rely on Him alone. He also allows it in order to refine the faithful. It is not God’s promise for wealth, perfect health, or other fleshly things. Rather it is God’s promise that He has planned your life. He is in full control of it! Every problem, every storm is completely planned and in His capable hands. This should give us a lot of comfort and peace. The kind of peace that no matter what happens to us, God has permitted it, God is with us, and that it will ultimately be for our good. (See also Romans 8:28)
What are God’s Plans for Our Life
So what exactly is “our good?” There are many times when God will work circumstances out in our desired outcome. There are many times he intervenes and works out our problems after a season of trial. However, that is not the promise here. We should remember that God is most concerned with our salvation and holiness. Simply put, God is in the business of saving souls. Romans 8:28 isn’t speaking about circumstances working for our good. Rather he is saying that God will use it for our sanctification. He will use it to conform us to the image of Christ.
A Look at Paul
That means that God’s plans can look very different from ours. Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at the book of Romans. In the Epistle, Paul is in Corinth and he is writing to coverts in Rome. Paul opens the letter explaining that he has tried many times to come to Rome but that he has been prevented from going (Rom 1:13). You can read about those circumstances to which he is referring in the book of Acts. This is where it gets interesting!
God has created circumstances that had actually prevented Paul from going to teach Christians in Rome. It is possible that Paul was perplexed about why God prevented him? After all, he was intending to do God’s work there. Why prevent him? Yet, God’s plan is often so much greater than we can imagine. By preventing Paul from going, Paul would write a letter to the Romans. 2,000 years later, we are reading the letter. Paul intended to save hundreds maybe even thousands in Rome. God saved millions over two millennia around the globe. God’s ways are much higher than ours. It’s important to note God did eventually permit Paul to go to Rome, but when he did, it was as a prisoner, and after being bitten by a poisonous snake, and being shipwrecked!
God’s Great Plan For Us
And it is that very thing that has really opened my eyes. God had a good plan for Paul’s life. God’s good plan for Paul included being lost at sea, being robbed, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, and eventually being beheaded all for the glory of God. God’s plan for Peter’s life included being crucified upside down. God’s plan for John’s life spared him martyrdom but included being exiled and dying as an enemy of the state for not participating in emperor worship. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace. Daniel was a prisoner in chains. And Joseph… thrown in a pit and sold into slavery.
God’s good plan for our life is all about glorifying Him and furthering His kingdom and even in the worst-case scenario – martyrdom – He will make something good out of it. Coming to the realization that God’s plan for my life can include everything up to and including martyrdom, changed my life and it changed how I viewed my everyday struggles.
Make the Best of Your Season
I think it’s also important to note that in the book of Jeremiah in chapter 29, God tells his people to stay busy, build a life, and raise a family while they are waiting to be returned home. God even tells them to invest in the welfare of the city where they are enslaved! Now in this particular instance, God tells them exactly how long they will be exiled. We, unfortunately, don’t know how long our seasons of trial will last. But the example we can take from this is that even when we are in limbo or a season of trial or hardship, we should still try to live a fruitful life that honors God.
How Jeremiah 29:11 Changed My Life
I have grown as a Christian with this beautiful verse, but it should not be our “life verse.” It is important to remember that this isn’t a promise to us, it is a lesson.
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Hosting on a budget or short on time? These 10 super quick appetizers are perfect for your next no-fuss gathering.
I love entertaining and I love having people over, but now that I have kids, I am often short on time. Before kids anyone could come over with a moment’s notice. Now, I need at least a day or two to pick up the clothes, the toys and all the goldfish crumbs. I always find myself short on time and no matter how early I start, I feel like I am running behind. So today, I thought I’d share 10 super quick appetizers. These appetizers are quick to make and generally don’t take a ton of ingredients.
Boursin on Baguette
If you’ve never had Boursin cheese, you’re missing out. Boursin is a French spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese. Although garlic and herb is the classic version, it comes in a variety of flavors like:
Fig & Walnut
Cranberry & Spice (seasonal)
Red Chili Pepper
Shallot & Chive
Basil & Chive
No recipe needed. Buy your cheese and let it come to room temperature. Cut your baguette and brush a little bit of olive oil on each side and toast on a grill pan. Spread your cheese once the toast is cooled and serve!
Baked Brie and Chutney
Baked brie is one of my favorite appetizers. This mild cheese can be found in the “nice cheese” part of your grocery store and typically comes in a wheel. It isn’t the cheapest, but it’s always a crowd-pleaser and has always been considered an upscale appetizer. I love to wrap the Brie in puff pastry or phyllo dough but if you want to keep it simple, you can bake it naked for about 7 to 10 minutes at 350. If you don’t have time to get all fancy with chutney, consider just spreading with preserves or thick jam. Even cranberry sauce or honey pairs well with it.
Cheese and Grapes or Cheese and Olives Skewers
This is definitely an easy appetizer. In fact, many grocery stores will even cube the cheese for you at the deli so you don’t have to do all the cutting. Anthos or Kalamata olives pair nicely with cheese, just make certain that grapes are seedless and olives are pitted. All you need is cubed cheese, seedless grapes and pitted olives. The skewer them using cocktail picks and place them out. You can help keep cheese cool by serving on a marble pastry or cheeseboard.
Cheeseboard (Charcuterie Board)
For this, you can leave cheese whole in wedges and serve with cheese knives for easy cutting. Pair with a cracker variety and/or grapes. Three or four wedges should be plenty. A great cheeseboard has a variety of hard and soft cheeses. Stick to classic cheeseboard cheeses like:
Blue Cheese (Roquefort, Blue Stilton, Gorgonzola, Maytag, Danish Blue)
Cheddar (Farmhouse, Longhorn, Extra Sharp, Aged)
Other Cheeses (Havarti, Swiss, Provolone, Parmesan-Reggiano, Gouda, Gruyere)
Of course I love turning this into a charcuterie board full of fruits, nuts, and salami (see pic below). But if you need to keep it simple and don’t want to spend a lot of time putting it together, a few wedges of cheese and crackers does the trick! Be sure to read my post How to Make the Ultimate Charcuterie Board for a large scale version of a cheese board.
Brushetta is a simple salad that uses Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, Parmesan, and olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. You may need to add a little salt to it. But it doesn’t take much to whip up this five-ingredient appetizer up. You will need to help cut up a baguette to serve it on. You can even let guests spread it themselves if you are worried about the bread going soggy. To prevent this, toast your baguette with a little brushed olive oil and grill it until golden brown.
Caprese Salad Skewers
Caprese Salad is a three-ingredient salad – tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. A simple dressing of balsamic vinaigrette and extra-virgin olive oil is drizzled on top. For parties, I love putting it on skewers or toothpicks or putting it in small cups. If preparing in advance for a party, don’t drizzle the dressing until you are ready to serve or keep it on the side. To serve on the side you can put the dressing in a small bowl for dipping. Or if you are offering the appetizer on small plates you can keep the dressing in a small creamer pitcher for guests to drizzle.
About fifteen years ago, I found a fabulous recipe for pimento cheese. I was not a pimento cheese fan. Of course, I had only ever had it in a processed variety that you get in a jar from the grocery store. No wonder I didn’t like it. Try my recipe for a fresh version of pimento cheese. I know you will love it. The recipe uses Monterrey Jack cheese. I really recommend you use that instead of cheddar which can be overpowering. It then combines fresh dill, minced garlic, mayonnaise, and of course pimentos.
You can serve it with crackers and a spreader or you can purchase some nice artisan bread from your local supermarket and spread it on finger sandwiches. Either way, it’s an easy appetizer that whipped up quickly for guests.
Monterrey Jack Pimento Cheese
This homemade Pimento Cheese is to die for. Monterrey Jack. Is blended with mayo, Pimento, garlic and dill.
I first tried this hot goat cheese fondue at a local farm-to-market style restaurant here in San Antonio where I live. Once I got home, I was determined to make it myself. If you are a goat cheese fan, this Mediterranean-inspired dish is delicious and it is super quick to make. You will need a log of goat cheese (at least four ounces), cherry tomatoes, pitted kalamata olives, fresh rosemary, and extra-virgin olive oil. Baked together, it is bubbly, cheesy, goodness. You can serve it with warmed or grilled pita bread or baguette. This recipe is easy with only a handful of ingredients and is done in less than half an hour.
Goat Cheese Fondue
This delicious new take on fondue fuses Mediterranean flavors like Goat Cheese, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Rosemary, Olive Oil and Sweet Tomatoes
In a small dish, place goat cheese and place in the over for 5-10 mins until softened.
While in the oven, pit olives (if not pre-pitted) and separate rosemary from stem.
Once goat cheese is semi soft take out of oven and spread the cheese to fully cover the bottom of the dish.
Sprinkle fresh rosemary. Add 3-4 tomatoes and add olives
Turn broiler on low and place cheese in oven
Melt under broiler for approximately 5 mins. Pay close attention to the cheese as things can burn quickly under the broiler.
Once melted, remove from oven. Drizzle olive oil on the top. Best served with warm bread.
Fried Ravioli with Marinara
Can we just agree that most things taste better fried? Okay, well maybe not everything. I definitely enjoy things fresh, but for an appetizer, fried ravioli is really good and it is a little more refined than say that fried cheese sticks that grace every sports bar in America. You will need fresh ravioli. It does not matter if it is cheese or meat filled. Heat up some vegetable oil to 365º F and fry your ravioli for 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle salt and a small amount of grated parmesan on it. Plate a small bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. Easy peasy!
Maybe it’s because I’m Hispanic, but quesadillas are so good! Sure you can always do chips and salsa if you want to really make it easy, but if you are looking for something a little more filling for your guests, you can always warm up some quesadillas. You can do a wide variety of different kinds. You can keep it simple and just do cheese (The best Mexican cheeses for quesadillas are Oaxaca, Asadero, Chihuahua, and Manchengo) or you can add meat or pico de gallo. You can keep them warm in a tortilla warmer until guests arrive. Then serve with guacamole, sour cream and salsa for dipping.
I hope you enjoyed this 10 super easy appetizers. Don’t forget to pin this post for later (you may need it). What is your favorite appetizer? Do you have a go-to dish? Tell me in the comments.
Although I didn’t read nearly as much as I have in the past, these are the books I read in 2020. Here is my 2020 book list.
I do love reading. When quarantine started in March I honestly thought that I would have a ton of time to devote towards reading. Unfortunately, that is not how this all turned out. I spent a great deal of time engaging with my children and bonding as a family. Of course, I absolutely don’t regret that at all!
This year was also spent homeschooling. This was the first year where I taught both boys. My youngest is in kindergarten and I also taught my two-year-old in tot school which is actually just purposeful playing but it requires me to be present because I teach as we play. ( You can see my Kindergarten reading list here.) After a few bumpy months, we found our groove. We’ve gone a little slower than anticipated, but that’s okay. In my spare time, I spent lots of time working on my Etsy shop which had great success this holiday season. With all that happened, I admit, my reading fell by the wayside once November came. I still have some unfinished books as well as books I meant to read this year.
In this list, I am only going to mention the books I actually read. There are several books I started and did not complete. I will include those in a separate post for the books I intend to read for 2021. Let’s get started. Here is my 2020 book list.
Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring
Washington’s Spies was by far, my favorite book I read this year. Alexander Rose, is a masterful storyteller and he begins his book with an introduction to Nathan Hale and his friendship with Benjamin Tallmadge. Tallmadge, who while serving in the Continental Army, would go on to lead America’s first spy ring for General George Washington, the Culper Spy Ring.
In the book, we learn of the heroic contributions of those who would become our first spymasters within the ring. The ring itself was a hodgepodge of talent and disciplines – Benjamin Tallmadge, a cavalry soldier, Abraham Woodhull a cabbage farmer, Anna Strong (America’s first female spy), Robert Townsend a Quaker torn between politics and family, Caleb Brewster a blacksmith, and Austin Roe, a tavern owner among others. Their shadowy missions, which primarily take place throughout Setauket, Long Island, and other parts of New York, combine the use of double agents, double-crossing, dead drops, disappearing ink, codes, and ciphers, and signals on laundry lines. The book painstakingly recreates the precarious missions of the ring which ultimately, also smokes out the infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold.
The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers
After reading Washington’s Spies, I was eager to read more on some of its major players, one of which is Robert Rogers. Rogers was a frontiersman who served in both the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution with the Queen’s Rangers on behalf of the British. This particular book written by Timothy Todish is actually partially autobiographical. A large portion of this book, The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers, is written from the narrative of Roger’s own journals. Missing historical gaps and additional context are supplemented by Todish which makes for a thorough retelling of Roger’s life and military career.
Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge
Again, after reading Washington’s Spies, I wanted to read further about Benjamin Tallmadge. I absolutely fell in love with this heroic man who contributed so much to the revolutionary war. I found the Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, written by Tallmadge himself. This autobiography covers Tallmadge’s friendship with Nathan Hale along with his emotions over his execution. Tallmadge records his experiences as a cavalryman in the Continental Army as well as his relationship with Washington.
One thing that is lacking in this book is a telling of Tallamadge’s movements as spymaster of the Culper spy ring. This memoir, originally written for his children, is surprisingly tight-lipped about his spy days. This is a little disappointing because most readers gravitate towards this memoir to learn exactly that. He does write about it some, but don’t expect sensational details about his spy tactics. Still, this book is a gem for those of us who love American Revolution history.
You’ll Get Through This
I typically enjoy Max Lucado’s books. After receiving some disturbing news this year, I decided that I wanted a book to aid me through my emotional response. You’ll Get Through This frankly did not give me the substance or comfort I have found in other Lucado books. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but I felt more connected and comforted by other Lucado books. I think it is a worthwhile book that you will enjoy if you need hope in your current situation.
This book uses the story of Joseph and his betrayal of his brothers and his being sold into slavery. The book continues to teach through Joseph’s struggles, which God uses for His glory and for the good of Joseph. If I am being honest, this book, seemed to regurgitate much of Lucado’s prior works. If you are looking for other good Lucado books, I highly recommend He Chose the Nails, It’s Not About Me, and For the Tough Times. The general message in this book is something that really needs to be impressed upon the modern-day Christian. God may not remove the circumstances but we can be assured that he will use it for our inevitable good.
The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: As Reflected in His Letters and Speeches
This book, The Original Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, is a compilation of various speeches and personal correspondence. The most apparent quality of Lincoln’s writing is that he was a masterful composer of sympathy and compassion. Some of his most provocative compositions are letters of condolences to grieving families. Here we get a more intimate look at the man who ended slavery as he writes to military subordinates as commander in chief during the Civil War. We also get to discover the more private Lincoln from his correspondence with friends and family.
The Haunting of Hill House
After watching the original Netflix series, Haunting of Hill House I was eager to read the original source material knowing full well the Netflix series varies greatly from Jackson’s artful story. Still, I had started reading this book years ago but never finished. I never went back to it, so naturally, I decided to remedy that. Shirley Jackson crafts a classic haunted house story.The gothic horror story centers around Eleanor, a fragile, lonely recluse who after caring for her ailing mother agrees to be a part of a psychological study conducted in a stately home. Theodora, a Bohemian artist and the heir to the home Luke Sanderson also join her for the study conducted by Dr. Montague. Once there, supernatural happenings and poltergeist activity begin to sinisterly torment the inhabitants and their psyche.
Happiness is a Serious Problem
Dennis Prager, know as a conservative talk show host discusses happiness at its core. Although religious himself (he is an Orthodox Jew), Prager explores happiness as a human condition, but not necessarily from a religious viewpoint. How we respond to circumstances in our life, our attitude, and everyday choices are components of a pragmatic approach to happiness. Prager manages to break down these components into chewable portions that one can apply to his or her life.
This was an interesting book but one that should be read slowly and with sips. Like philosophy, I found that there is lots of food for thought nestled in the pages. Also as a side note, I purchased this book as an audiobook. The audiobook is not narrated by Prager who has a very distinctive voice. Instead, a drab narrator has been supplanted for Prager. Stick to the printed version if you can.
12 Rules for Life
12 Rules for Life, written by world-renowned Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, is not an easy read. In fact, this actually took as much concentration from me as other complex writings like Freud, Dostoyevsky, and Chaucer because there is so much to consider in a single sentence. Love him or hate him, Peterson himself has become a controversial figure for his outspoken political statements. He strikes me as a classic liberal but in recent years has become outspoken about certain progressive political policies.
As the title suggests, Peterson cites twelve profound rules for life that are built upon a number of influences such as mythology, biblical archetypes, historical context, and social constructs among other things. One should note, Peterson does not consider the bible to be divinely-inspired rather a tool of moral relativism. Like Peterson himself, many of his conclusions may be controversial and in today’s political climate, often waffles from left to right at times. I enjoyed reading his book even though I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I certainly have respect for him as one of the finest minds alive.
What Are You Reading?
The volume of my reading this past year was a little pathetic by past standards. I’m hoping I can do a lot more reading this year. In the comments below, I’d love to hear about the books you read this past year.
Hot cranberry orange cider is a delicious hot punch that is perfect for holiday parties in the Fall and Winter.
I love cranberries. I get so excited when I see them finally appear in our grocery store. Once Fall hits, I make a wide variety of cranberry foods. From cranberry-orange muffins to white chocolate and cranberry cookies, I love making things with cranberry. I’ve had this recipe for a few years and I’ve grown to love it. This recipe actually calls for cranberry juice which you can get year-round. However, I love to add a few whole cranberries to the punch when I serve it. We’ll get into all that later, but for now, let me tell you about this easy punch recipe.
We love entertaining around Christmas time. In fact, for the last seven years, I’ve been hosting Christmas for our family. I always set up an awesome hot chocolate bar that family and friends rave about! You can see my post on how to set up your own hot chocolate bar. I even have the best slow cooker hot chocolate recipe that you’ll ever try! Be sure to check those out before you leave.
How to Make Hot Cranberry Orange Cider
When I found this recipe years ago, it came with specific instructions to make over the stove. That is how I am going to share the recipe today, However, you can make the entire recipe in the slow cooker (e.g. crockpot) if you like. This recipe calls for several things, frozen concentrate and cinnamon imperials. Don’t know what those are? Cinnamon hard candy. Kind of like starlight mints except they are cinnamon flavored. You can find them at your local grocery store in the candy section.
This recipe calls for no actual sugar or cinnamon. Instead, it uses the sugar in the candies to sweeten the tart drink. The recipe instructions direct you to melt down the cinnamon candy by boiling it with the cranberry fruit cocktail which essentially turns the candies into a cinnamon syrup. Yes, the candies will still melt if done in the crockpot, but it will take a while. Until they are fully melted they can be a choking hazard, if someone doesn’t realize they are in there and they go for a cup before they are dissolved. Trust me, this can happen, even with adults. So I’d still recommend that you dissolve them on the stove. Then if desired you can transfer over to a crockpot afterward. I normally do just that, so the punch can stay warm as guests serve themselves. The recipe also calls for whole cloves, so you want to make sure you strain those out before serving. The stovetop method ensures your punch is ready in 30 minutes.
Serving Hot Cranberry Cider
When you serve it, you can serve it directly in your crockpot. I recommend providing a ladle and spoon rest so avoid your countertop or surface from getting sticky from the ladle. If you don’t want to serve it in a crockpot and want a more classy look, they sell chafing punch bowls on Amazon. They are way more sophisticated than crockpots for your holiday parties.
By the way, if you are using a crockpot, allow me to introduce you to my best friend. A couple of years ago I discovered the slow cooker liners and they are awesome. I don’t typically buy disposable stuff, but these are awesome especially around the holidays. During the holidays my crockpots are used almost on a daily basis. The only thing I hate about using them is all the soaking and scrubbing in between uses. This totally eliminates the need for both. Just take and toss when you are done and then wash your crockpot without the elbow grease.
When I serve it, I often serve it in my old depression glass punch bowl or in cute Santa mugs. These Santa mugs (below) are from Pottery Barn. They are exactly like my mother’s vintage ones in her kitchen. You can also put it in Mason jar mugs. Another favorite of mine. I serve the punch with whole cranberries which I put in the punch while being warmed and I garnish with a cinnamon stick.