It is sweater weather! Today on My Beautiful Mess, I’m sharing a family favorite. Authentic Mexican Champurrado is a thick, earthy, Mexican hot chocolate, perfect for those crisp, Autumn nights.
Fall is my favorite season. I love all things Fall. The bonfires and chilly nights, pumpkins and falling leaves. It’s heaven. I am definitely a pumpkin spice girl and if you haven’t checked out my Pumpkin latte recipe, you don’t know what you are missing! It’s the best ever and uses fresh pumpkin instead of artificial flavors. But I don’t just enjoy pumpkin lattes in the fall. I also love hot apple cider and hot chocolate. Since I’m Latina, I also love Mexican versions of this chocolatey drink.
Mexican hot chocolates have a unique flavor to them. Instead of strait chocolate, sugar and milk, they are made with aromatic spices. Like many Mexican desserts, they are also less sweet than American varieties. Traditional Mexican hot chocolate has bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne pepper and/or chili powder. The pepper and chili powder added is only a small amount. In fact, you’d probably never know those spices are in there. Today, I’m sharing another special hot chocolate variety. Authentic Mexican Champurrado.
A Quick History Trip
Hot chocolate actually originated in Mexico, and Central and South America. Cocoa beans are indigenous to this area. The Aztecs and Mayans made hot chocolate before the European old world. The Spanish explorers would eventually bring it back to Europe. Because sugarcane was native to Asia, the original versions of this drink were very bitter and an acquired taste as the chocolate was drunk in its pure form.
When Spanish colonists began drinking it they added sugar, sweetening it to the yummy drink we know today. But back then in the sixteenth century, cocoa beans were such a commodity that only the rich and aristocrats could afford it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a life without chocolate!
Making Authentic Mexican Champurrado
Mexican Champurrado is a warm hot chocolate drink, but it has a slightly different spice palette than traditional Mexican hot chocolate. Instead of chili powders, the drink is made with vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, and piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar). But the biggest difference is that corn masa is added to thicken the drink. This changes the texture quite a bit from traditional hot chocolate drinks. First, it is fairly thick and the texture will be different because of the grain that is in it. When I was a child it reminded me of a chocolate cream of wheat. If it is too thick, you can add some more milk to thin the consistency. As you bring it to a boil, the starches in the masa will break down and act as a thickener. You will need to stir and whisk constantly with a molinillo to avoid any lumps. It should not be grainy or gritty. If it is, you haven’t boiled it long enough.
For the chocolate, you can use Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate tablets. Incidentally, if you want to make traditional Mexican hot chocolate, just use these tablets with milk as I find they are the perfect blend of cocoa, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon which gives it that authentic flavor.
Also, you will see that the recipe calls for simmering whole spices in water and then using that fragrant water to add to your chocolate mixture. I highly recommend using this method over ground spices. You will know your water is reading when the water is brown and fragrant. Strain the cinnamon, cloves and star anise out and add the spiced water to your Champurrado mix.
If you plan on making this often, I recommend buying a molinillo. A molinillo is a wooden Mexican whisk. It helps to froth the milk manually and breakdown the chocolate while blending the spices. The one in my kitchen is well-loved as it has been passed down to me. To use the molinillo, place the whisk head in the hot chocolate pan and roll the handle in the palms of your hands. Other than that all you really need is a large saucepan and of course your favorite mugs for serving. If you don’t have a molinillo you can use a regular whisk, it just won’t froth the milk as well as the molinillo. I find using a whisk doesn’t really alter the taste in any noticeable way.
Hot Chocolate Bar Printable – Red Buffalo Plaid
Every year I set up a hot chocolate bar for the Holidays. Its a great way to get your guests to serve themselves and be happy about it! A hot chocolate bar is fun for kids and adults alike. It’s a great addition to playdates, parties and get togethers. This is a hit at all my parties! I put the toppings in mason jars for easy storage when not in use. Here is a hot chocolate bar printable you ca…
Champuraddo is very popular on Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) which is the same week as our American Halloween and during Las Posadas during December. We often enjoy it fireside. I love serving authentic Mexican Champurrado with some Mexican desserts like homemade churros or conchas (pan dulce).
Just like American hot chocolate, you can serve it with whipped cream or marshmallows and a cinnamon stick, but it isn’t necessary. I personally think everything is better with whipped cream. If you want, you can also add alcohol or liqueur to it and turn it into an adult hot chocolate. Champurrado does not store well, so drink it up while it is fresh and piping hot.
Authentic Mexican Champurrado
This Mexican style hot chocolate is thick and earthy with aromatic spices like cinnamon, vanilla, star anise, cloves, and piloncillo
In a small saucepan, add water and cinnamon stick, clove, and star anise. If you are using a vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract, add it to the water with the other spices. Boil the water and spices until the water is fragrant (about 10 mins). Then allow it to steep for an additional 2-3 minutes. Strain and reserve spiced water.
In another saucepan over medium heat add milk. Add the Mexican chocolate drink tablets and the pinole. Using a molinillo, roll the handle in the palms of your hand to froth the milk and dissolve the pinole and chocolate tablets. If you don't have a molinillo, you can use a whisk. Continue until fully dissolved and chocolate mixture is thickened (about 10 minutes).
Remove from heat. Add piloncillo. Let rest until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes)
Add the fragrant water. Stir well and serve.
Keyword atole, champurrado, chocolate, hot chocolate, mexican hot chocolate, milk
Thanks for reading, Before you go, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for future posts and free goodies. Happy November!
Coronavirus has changed the way holidays look. So today I’m sharing a fun Halloween activity that you can do and still socially distance. Download your free printable family Halloween scavenger hunt.
Happy Halloween friends! We have had our first serious cold front here in Texas where I live and it is awesome! I love sweater weather so much. Most of the time our Halloween in Texas is pretty warm still so I’m excited about this cold weather. Lots of people are altering how they do holidays this year. COVID has just totally turned our world upside down. Since we live one of the largest cities in the U.S. , we are seeing some escalation again.
If you want to do something fun that doesn’t require you to be exposed to a bunch of strangers, I think scavenger hunts are really fun. If you have a neighborhood that goes out all for Halloween, then take things outside for more fun. Otherwise, you can do this in your own yard or house. I’ve created a fun family Halloween scavenger hunt that you can print out and do at home. But first, let’s talk about some fun things you can do this Halloween (or should we call it Corona-ween) and still maintain distance from others.
Social Distancing Halloween Activities
Close But Apart Trick-or-Treating
Originally, I heard some people talking on social media about just leaving a bowl of candy on the porch for people to help themselves. This sounds like a great idea, but I know lots of people who have done this before pre-Corona for one reason or another and had horrible experiences. Some people, when left to their own devices, pour the whole bowl into their Halloween sacks. You see this kind of footage taped by RING cameras all the time. I’ve even seen parents doing it! Ugh! It’s sad that people do this, but people do!
So instead, set up a small table, bench or some other surface on your driveway or lawn. Then you can stand on your porch or near your door and monitor and great people like you normally would but at a safe distance. You can even put the candy in Ziplocks or treat baggies so everyone gets their fair share.
Also before you leave, don’t forget to download my fun Halloween I Spy game. You can do this cute activity inside while they eat their candy. Happy Halloween friends! Be safe. Before you leave, don’t forget to subscribe for future posts and subscriber-only goodies.
Candy Egg Hunt
If you’ve got some extra Easter eggs kicking around a closet, pull them out and fill them with candy just like you would do at Easter. Scatter them in your yard and let your kids find them. You could also have a glow in the dark version by covering the eggs in glow-in-the-dark paint. Additionally, you could also just put lots of glowsticks near the hidden egg areas.
Halloween Photo Backdrop
You can create a Halloween photo backdrop on your garage or the side of your house and allow others to come and take pictures against it. This way you can join in with all the Halloween fun, but you aren’t having to hand out anything. No contact! Of course, you can always leave a bowl of treats out next to it if you want.
Halloween Car Parade
You can organize it with your neighborhood, but everyone can give their cars a spooky makeover. Then a designated driver from each family can join in the caravan while the rest of the family gathers on the driveway or lawn to watch the haunted motorcade go by.
Skeleton Scavenger Hunt
This is a slightly different take on the printable scavenger hunt idea. This would probably be more fun with older kids or adults. Buy several of the full skeleton decorations found in stores. Disassemble the bones if needed. Scatter them over your house and or yard. Either individually or in teams, have participants find all the bones to complete their skeleton.
Halloween Watercolor Wall Art – Set of 4
It’s time to start decorating for Halloween and My Beautiful Mess Blog has a fun Halloween Watercolor Wall Art set to help get you started. This fun digital download set contains four individual 8×10 printable prints you can print and frame.
That brings us to my fun family Halloween scavenger hunt. Now, if you have a fun neighborhood that goes all out for Halloween, I say, take the scavenger outside and see what you can find. Additionally, you could always do a car version of the scavenger where you drive around neighborhood streets and try to spot these things.
But I think the easiest thing is to do the scavenger hunt in your house or at least around your property. One fun way to do it is to print out a scavenger hunt and give a copy to every participant. Select a place to be the finish line. To make it fun, have the participants start in different areas. First one to the finish line with all the items found, wins.
I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween. I’d love it if we became friends and you subscribed to my blog. I promise I don’t email too often and I send fun free stuff once a month. Thanks for reading!
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We’ve all been there. You are learning the craft and art of blogging. On my second anniversary as a blogger, I’m sharing 10 mistakes you’re making as a new blogger. These are some of my own lessons that I’ve had to learn along the way.
I can’t believe that this October marks two years of writing on this blog. There are lots of reasons to celebrate this year. This is the first year that I am not just in the black but made a nice profit. My subscribers tripled from last year and I feel like I’ve found my groove. It has taken immense commitment, hours of writing, editing, promoting, and some 173,499 words, but I finally feel like my blog is successful. Today, in honor of my blog-aversary, I’ve decided to share 10 mistakes you are making as a new blogger.
10 Mistakes You Are Making as a New Blogger
You Are Relying on Friends and Family to Help Drive Traffic
I get it. I did the same thing. You are so excited to launch your new blog. You may even have friends and family who have encouraged you to start it. In the beginning, those friends may even give you a couple of shares. But I can tell you that your friends and family will not drive your traffic or your sales. My friends and family rarely share my posts. Only a handful actually subscribe to my blog and I can only think of two friends who have purchased something through my blog. Many friends and family read my blog when I post links, but few actually commit and subscribe. If you go into blogging expecting that you’re friends and family will share every post and buy every product, you’ll be disappointed maybe even resentful. I have thousands of subscribers and nearly all are strangers.
Your friends and family will likely not be your audience. I will also tell you, don’t take this personally. It doesn’t mean they don’t love your work or support you. It’s just the way it is. You will need to increase your traffic organically through hardcore sharing on social media platforms. It will come with lots of content creation, potentially paid ads on platforms, building your email list, and scheduling your promotions at peak times.
Not Building Your E-mail List From Day One
When I first became a blogger, I really underestimated how important it was to build your email list. With all the writing and behind-the-scenes work you do, building an email list often gets put on the back burner by beginner bloggers. Think of your email subscribers as repeat customers! They are your captive audience. Your fans. Treat them like it. These are readers who want to hear from you so reach out to them regularly but don’t flood their inbox with emails. I’ve unsubscribed to people who send me emails every couple of days. It’s spammy and it’s a turn-off. You need to find a balance between reminding them you are still here and not annoying them with spammy correspondence. You also want to entice them with reasons to return to your site.
Some bloggers avoid email lists in the beginning because it can cost money. I know money is tight with all budding bloggers, but investing in your email list is something that is necessary if you want to grow and succeed. These days, there are FREE options to get started like Mail Chimp.
Make sure you offer your loyal readers something other readers don’t get and remind them they are only receiving it because they are loyal subscribers. It can be anything. Printables, advice, ebooks, special blog posts, resources, anything at all, but make them feel valued. You need to ask your readers to subscribe every chance you have. Which leads me to my next topic.
You Assume Your Readers Know What to Do
This was by far my biggest mistake in the beginning. I’m going to be honest with you. I feel totally awkward asking for things. I feel weird and self-conscious asking people to buy things. So in the beginning, I didn’t want to come off needy and desperate. In the beginning I got almost no shares, no comments, and no subscribers and it really boiled down to one simple thing. I assumed that my readers knew I wanted them to do those things. They don’t!
That is where a “call to action” comes in. A call to action is a prompt for your readers to take action. You need to tell your readers to subscribe to your blog at some point within every blog post. You also need to encourage them to pin the post for later and encourage them to share it on social media. If you have a shop linked to your blog, make sure you promote your products in every relevant blog post. Also, guide them to past blog posts for more information. Keep them on your site for as long as possible.
You can’t be modest or shy. You need to directly ask your readers to engage, stay, subscribe, and buy. The same goes for your posts on social media. At the end of every post, invite your readers to engage. You can do this by asking a question, ask for their opinion, advice, or ask them to share or like the post. You can ask them to follow a link but always request that they take action after reading.
Not Offering Quality Content
Okay, let’s talk about content. I have seen lots of beginner blogs and one thing that I see often in young writers is the lack of quality in content. Many new bloggers treat their blog like a diary. Now don’t be offended by this. Hear me out. Your blog posts should offer readers something in exchange for reading. You need to solve a problem, teach them something, give them a resource and you need to do it better than your competition. Ask yourself what your readers will gain from your post. Why should they read your post and why should they read it when there are other posts like yours out there? What makes yours different?
“But shouldn’t I be making a personal connection with my readers?”
Absolutely! You can absolutely give updates on your life, anecdotes, funny stories, relatable moments, etc. You absolutely need to be personal, candid, and vulnerable. But these should be nestled into your posts. Diaries and journals are for you. Blogs are for your readers. Entertain them. Educate them. But offer them something they didn’t have before reading your post. Additionally, you need to present quality photos (original when you can) and incentives and teasers for returning.
You’re Not Monetizing Every Post
Blogs make money with passive income. Passive income just means it’s money you earn with little effort. Affiliates are a form of passive income. As soon as you launch your blog you need to have multiple affiliate networks that will monetize links. Every time people purchase something through a link, you earn cents on the dollar. Even as a relatively new blogger, there are affiliate networks that will accept you. Amazon, Share a Sale and Viglink will accept fairly new bloggers. With Amazon, you will need to make some sales within the first six months or so of starting your affiliate account or you will be dropped. You need to sign up for as many as you can and then you need to monetize every post you create.
You can also monetize your posts by creating printables, ebooks, courses, and other digital products. These are awesome money makers because you create them once and then sell them over and over again. You also never need to worry about carrying physical stock and maintaining an inventory. You can also promote them in countless ways in your posts. But you always need to monetize to fully maximize your income potential.
You’re Not Scheduling Your Posts
This was another big mistake of mine. The first few months I blogged, I didn’t want to spend any money on a scheduler like Tailwind. With all the startup costs of a new blog, I totally understand the need to be choosy about expenditures. I’ll be the first one to tell that you need to be picky about expenses and premium services, premium plug-ins, etc. Let me tell you, it is absolutely worth it to invest in a scheduler like Tailwind.
Let me be honest. Writing is not going to be your main time burglar. The majority of your time will not be spent writing and editing. It will be promoting your posts! In fact, many six-figure bloggers will advise you should spend 20% of your time creating your post and 80% of your time promoting it. Pinterest is going to be your main driver of traffic and scheduling pins at peak times is going to maximize your exposure. Trying to do this manually is such a big headache.
With Tailwind you can also set your posts to pin regularly in a perpetual loop, thus saving you tons of time. You can set it to pin certain posts during a time period or your evergreen posts all year long. With Tailwind, in about a year, I went from 10,000 monthly viewers to 389,000.
Seasonal posts are so fun to write and it is easy to get inspired into writing them, but the problem with seasonal posts is that they typically only drive traffic at a certain time of year. That’s why your main focus needs to be on evergreen content. Evergreen content is, simply put, non-seasonal posts. These posts can drive consistent traffic all year round.
I love seasonal posts, but it’s important to know that they probably won’t drive much traffic during most of the year. My Christmas posts, although super fun to put together, literally drive no traffic except for at Christmastime. You’re also going to have to promote again them every season. Obviously, this doesn’t mean can’t write them. It just means that your focus should be on things that bring traffic all year round.
Not Taking Time to Learn
Many blogs fail in the first few years. There are lots of reasons for this, but one overlooked reason is that some bloggers don’t invest enough into learning about the profession and industry. Blogging is a serious business. You don’t have to invest in an expensive blog course, although I think they do save you a lot of time and foot work. I think lots of new fledgling bloggers, cram with all the basics of starting a blog and then sit back and focus on content creation. I will tell you, you need to dedicate yourself to constant learning.
You will also find that like in any industry, the blogging world constantly evolves. Just about the time you have algorithms figured out, social media platforms will change them. For example, I finally felt like I had learned Pinterest algorithms. Then Pinterest announced, it would prioritize fresh pins and stale pins may not drive as much traffic. It is their way of keeping Pinterest feeds fresh for users. However, for bloggers like me, this means that I had to recreate fresh pins for all my old content. We are talking about 200 pins! Then Google also refreshed their search engine optimization (SEO). It’s not the first time this has happened in my two years of blogging. Both Facebook and Instagram have also changed their algorithms as well. There is a constant learning curve and you need to be willing to invest regular time into learning, improving, and evolving.
I dedicate about an hour a week for continuing education. Back when I was an insurance adjuster, I had to have CE to keep my state license. But the truth is, if you want to be good at what you do, if you want growth and improvement, you will have to invest time to learning continually. This isn’t something you learn once in the beginning and just stop. Prioritize time for goal-making, learning, and reading up on the blogging industry every week. It doesn’t have to be hours, but you do need to prioritize it, so it becomes a consistent habit.
You Don’t Refresh Old Posts
It is amazing to me how much I have evolved since I first began this blog over two years ago. I look at some of my early posts and they are almost embarrassing. The photography, the writing, the editing. Yikes. Those early posts weren’t monetized. The SEO was really poor. What’s the old saying? “You don’t know what you don’t know.” After two years of blogging, I can look back at those early posts and see all my mistakes and shortcomings. It happens to everyone. The key is to go back and refresh old posts.
Update the SEO. Play around with better blog post titles. Update photos and graphics. Create fresh pins for Pinterest. Add new information. Link to other, newer related posts. Add freebies like printables and digital downloads. Check for dead or missing links. Link to or promote products in your shop. Updating these things will help broaden your exposure, audience, and revenue. My advice is to try to set aside an hour or so a week to refreshing old posts.
You May Not Be Protecting Yourself
When I think that I had a blog for six months before putting in a privacy statement and disclosures, I could kick myself. These days people will sue over anything and everything. When something bad happens, they look for someone to blame. When someone’s identity is stolen, people will blame companies with access to their credit card information. If a product injures someone, people will look to blame the manufacture, the company that sold it, and the one who recommended or endorsed it. Liabilities are everywhere and the blogging world is no exception to it.
Even seemingly harmless posts, like where I shared about my son’s speech delay, need a disclosure that I’m not a medical doctor and that my advice in my post shouldn’t replace medical advice or treatment from a medical professional. I swear you’ve got to put a lot of disclosures in your blog and on your posts. If you’ve received a free product to review, you need to disclose it. The same goes for any links for which you may earn a commission.
Your Blog Is a Work in Progress
In case I didn’t mention it, I’m super excited for you. Blogging is hard work, but it’s also a very fun, rewarding job. Like any career, it takes a while to learn the ropes and it’s a never-ending journey. So don’t be hard on yourself if you have been making any of these mistakes. I’ve made every single one them, which is why I decided to share this with you today.
I know the pain of miscarriage, but the holy scriptures offer us comfort in our time of grief, confusion, and disappointment. Here are 15 comforting scriptures for miscarriage.
Nothing prepares you for losing a baby. I was totally unprepared for miscarriage when my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby. I spent so much time daydreaming of tiny toes and tender moments. I never considered that my pregnancy could end tragically. Pregnancy is, after all, such a natural process for a woman.
I did have my own fears though. You see, years before in my twenties, I had an ovarian tumor. The tumor caused me to have emergency surgery and I ended up losing one of my ovaries. As I aged into my middle thirties, I prepared myself for what I thought was inevitable. I anticipated that it would be very hard to get pregnant. I anticipated months of trying without any luck.
So when I got pregnant during the first month of trying, my husband and I were overjoyed. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so excited in my life. We started making plans immediately. I was in such disbelief, that I went to urgent care to confirm my pregnancy because my OBGYN couldn’t see me until week ten. The pregnancy bolted my faith. I felt so close to the Lord who was creating life inside me. It was the first time I really saw the ministry and God’s glory in motherhood.
Tragedy and Grief
I was so excited when we finally went to the doctor. I was going to hear my child’s heartbeat and see them in a sonogram. My husband stood by my side as the doctor searched across my belly. She pointed out the amniotic sac then grew quiet. My heart sank as I realized that something was wrong. There was no sound. No flutter.
She told me she thought maybe I had my period date wrong. The fetus is harder for the sonogram to detect when it’s younger than eight weeks. In fact, many times it can’t be detected until eight weeks. So she made us wait and come back in two weeks. Those two weeks were unimaginably hard. I sobbed into my husband’s chest as he awkwardly tried to comfort me. We both knew what this meant. At some point, our baby had stopped growing. Stopped living. I had to watch my pregnancy symptoms slowly fade. My breasts no longer hurt. The nausea went away completely.
We went back in two weeks and the doctor was able to confirm the heartbeat was gone. I held it together as the doctor explained that I could either have a D&C or miscarry naturally. I opted to miscarry naturally, It took an entire month before the cramping and bleeding started. I wept bitterly on my bed when I realized what was happening. After two days of contractions, the miscarriage was over, but my grief was just beginning.
Deeper In Grief
My husband and I decided to immediately get back on the horse and to our surprise, we got pregnant again the first month we started trying. Except for this time I experienced no joy. Only fear. My parents and husband assured me another miscarriage wasn’t likely and that I should enjoy the pregnancy. But several weeks into my first trimester I miscarried again.
Oh, friend. Those were dark days. The grief. The disappointment. Fear. It was the perfect opportunity for the enemy to attack me and that is exactly what he did. I heard some horrible thoughts in those moments. I was tempted to believe it was my fault. That something was inherently wrong with me. Even that I was unworthy of being a mother. Satan is, after all, the accuser (Rev 12:10), and he will absolutely try to kick you when you are down. He will lie to you. It is in his nature (John 8:44).
When I began to sink into deep depression, grief, and confusion, I turned to God’s holy word and it comforted me. So today, I’m sharing those verses with you today. Not long after my second miscarriage, I got pregnant with my oldest son, my rainbow baby. I’ll save that experience for another time. I still think of my two babies Gabriel and Daphne and I always will. Even though they are not with us, they are a part of my family and a part of my heart. If you are struggling with grief from miscarriage, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to my prayer list. You aren’t alone, mama. I know how you feel. Half of my children are in heaven. I hope these 15 comforting scriptures for miscarriage being help assuage your grief.
15 Comforting Scriptures for Miscarriage
Before, I close, let me say that I understand your pain. Your baby will not be forgotten. As with all grief, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor is there any appropriate time frame to grieve. Regardless of what week you lost your baby, give yourself full permission to grieve. Also, don’t let anyone minimize your pain if you lost your child in early pregnancy. Let your sorrow wash over you while allowing the scriptures to comfort you. Meaningful grieving is the path to acceptance and healing.
Until then my thoughts and prayers are with you. If you’d like me to pray for you, you can leave a prayer request in the comments or you can message me privately if you prefer.
Are your kids bored this week? Download my free Halloween I Spy Printable for a for spooky Halloween activity that’s fun for all ages.
Hey Friends! We are in October and here in my house we are wondering how things will be different in 2020. This year, lots of things have looked differently. This year, we did all of our birthday parties on Zoom and we even had drive by parties. My husband and I have had to get pretty creative on how we can keep the kids entertained.
Personally, I’ve been creating lots of printables to keep my kids busy. Things that are low cost and certainly things that kill their boredom while social distancing. You see, I know many people have returned to relatively normal lives, but since we help my elderly parents, we are still strictly quarantining. I keep telling myself one day this will be all over!
So, I decided to create a fun Halloween I spy printable to add to our homeschooling activities. My kids love I spy games and they are so fun to do. But they are more than just fun, they are actually educational. So why are I spy games good for kids, you ask.
The Benefits of I Spy Games
It Builds Memory Skills
Memory games and I Spy games help your child fine-tune their photographic memory. When children search for the image in the maze of other pictures, they must use their visual memory to find the picture. Using I Spy activities really strengthens your child’s memory. This is essential for growing children. It can be really frustrating when children disobey us. But as a mom of two, I’ve learned that many times my kids don’t mean to disobey, they simply forget. Little ones still have budding brains and it has become really apparent to me as I’ve homeschooled that children really need memory training.
It Improves Focus
Children have to focus when they do an I spy game. Nearly all young children struggle with concentration and focus. That’s why training their minds to focus through games is so helpful. To them it is just play or a fun activity, but ultimately you are trying to get them used to focusing so it can carry over into school work and other life skills.
They Can Improve Counting Skills
Some I spy games, like the Halloween I Spy printable I’ve created for you, asks children to find the picture multiple times. This forces children to keep count. When you complete the I spy printable, have your child make tally marks as they find the picture.
Halloween Watercolor Wall Art – Set of 4
It’s time to start decorating for Halloween and My Beautiful Mess Blog has a fun Halloween Watercolor Wall Art set to help get you started. This fun digital download set contains four individual 8×10 printable prints you can print and frame.
I can recall when I started to teach my children colors. We did lots of color sorts. I’d give my child math counters of different colors and they would have to sort it into the coordinating colored bowl. Why? Because sorting helps your child not only decide what color it is, it helps them figure out what color it is not. The same is true for I spy. As your child sorts through the jumbled pictures, your child will have to hone in on the discrepancies, differences, and similarities between the pictures and ultimately decide if the picture is the same they are searching for or not. Your child will have to use visual discrimination to determine the differences.
How to Use The Halloween I Spy Printable
The printable is a US letter-sized document. I’ve made it into a PDF document you can download. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or some other PDF viewing software. You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free here.
I’ve purposely made the pictures black and white. First, so that the images are harder to find. Secondly, so that your child can color them in when they find them. He or she can also put an “x” over the image if they’d rather not color. If it’s easier for your child they can also put little tally marks in the answer key if they want.
The Holidays don’t have to be chaotic. Do yourself a favor. Here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.
The holidays can immediately bring to mind cozy thoughts of flickering candles, the glow of Christmas trees and time with family. But for many the thought of the holidays can also bring thoughts of stress, anxiety, and busyness. It can be very stressful for lots of reasons. For some, seeing family is stressful because of family conflicts. For others, money woes and the pressure of gift-giving is overwhelming when you are struggling to make ends meet. Lots of people struggle with the feeling that there is so much to do in such a little time. Whatever the reason, here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.
Make a Budget
Money is always tight around the holidays. Once I started working as a teenager, I started to buy my own Christmas gifts for family and friends. To this very day, I make a budget and I can’t tell you how much it helps. Deciding upfront how much I am willing to spend sets the tone for how and where I will shop. On my Etsy shop and in my blog shop here, I have a printable Christmas Planner that contains a budget worksheet and covers all holiday expenses – travel, decorations, food, entertainment, gift-giving, Christmas portraits, postage, etc. Sometimes we only think about the gift-giving expenses and we fail to account for other expenses. Doing that means that our overspending creeps up and puts a lot of unnecessary financial pressure on us.
Seeing the numbers on paper, helps you to visualize where your money is going and where you can cut. For example, in tough years, I cut back on extra gifts to neighbors, teachers, and hostess gifts. I began to also see that money was trickling out of our pockets for food and entertainment. So we came up with cheaper alternatives to still enjoy festive events.
The other purpose for creating a budget is so that you will see how much money you will need. Very few of us have the cash flow to drop thousands of dollars all at once at Christmas time. It is far less stressful if you begin saving now a little out of every paycheck now. Even if it is only a small amount, it will add up over the next three months. There are lots of things you can buy now, so you have less expenses in December. As a special gift for you today, I’ve created this gift-giving budget printable. Just list out all the people you are giving gifts to and budget an amount. Then update it with your actual expenditures.
I have a confession. I love gift wrap. Like actual gift wrap. I hate using gift bags. I love wrapping presents in beautiful wrapping paper with big bows and gifts tags and tie-on-ornaments. That said, it means I have quite a big collection of wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon, and other things. I also have a closet where I keep it all organized. I know most people aren’t as neurotic as me. Normal people have three or four rolls of scotch tape kicking around various drawers, a few half-used rolls of wrapping paper laying in closets, and several sheets of gift labels with only three stickers left. I get it. However, I think lots of people underestimate how expensive wrapping materials are. I’m always shocked that wrapping paper can be around $5-7. A three-pack of Scotch tape is $4-5. Gift bags can be $3-6 each. It all adds up. Because many of us have these things tucked away in closets or scattered around the house, it’s easy to forget what we already have. We may also get ready to wrap at Christmastime and realize that the wrapping paper roll we had is crumpled and mostly unusable. That’s why one of the first things I do, is pull out all my gift wrap supplies and do an inventory. This way I use what I have and don’t overbuy. How many times have you bought something because you were unsure if you had it at home and didn’t want to make a trip back for it? Yup! I’ve done it too. In our uncertainty, we buy it out of convenience, but overspending is never convenient!
By the way, I made some FREE fun printable gift tags last year. You can print them out on your printer, hole punch and run some ribbon through them. You can use them year after year. I also have some FREE printable gift tags for teachers that you can attach to soaps and lotions. If you don’t have a gift wrap organizer, consider investing in one. They keep your wrapping supplies in good condition and make sure everything is in one place.
Create Your Christmas Card List
One thing you can do right now is update your address book for Christmas cards. Start reaching out to friends and family to see if addresses are still correct. Personally, I send handmade Christmas cards. In fact, this year marks twenty years of sending out homemade cards. It is a labor of love when you consider I send out about a hundred, plus I make some to sell in my Etsy shop. I start making them in September!
Perhaps you are lucky to just get ones from the store addressed and mailed. That’s okay! No matter what you send in the mail, it is special. That said, gathering addresses now makes things easier later. That way your ready to pop them in the mail as soon as you have them. If you want until December, you will find you will be waiting to hear back from people because they are busy too! Now is a great time to start gathering those things to make card-sending seamless later. You can also buy your postage now too. You don’t even have to run to the post office. USPS allows you to purchase your stamps online and they will send them to you in your mail. Sam’s Club also offers bulk USA forever stamps.
If you really want to get a head start on Christmas cards and you don’t plan on sending out a family photo card, you can even purchase digital Christmas cards. You download them, print them out either at home on your printer or send them to a print shop like FedEx, Staples, Office Max, etc and have them printed. I have several of them in my Etsy shop and they are completely editable. You can buy some envelopes and address them now so they are ready to go!
Gather Shipping Supplies
If you will be mailing packages out, now is a great time to get set up for easy shipping. If you have the space, consider saving boxes over the next few months so you don’t have to purchase them. I start saving small Amazon boxes in September for Christmas packages. This is also a good time to get tape, save paper or bubble wrap and other shipping supplies you may need.
Also, just so you know, you can also print out your own shipping labels from USPS. I invested in a small scale years ago. I plug in my package measurements and weight and print out shipping labels online without ever having to go to the post office. You can even schedule a porch pick-up so you aren’t running packages to the post office. Easy peasy!
Set Up a Christmas Planner
If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love planners! Sorry, not sorry, friends. I used to be a very unorganized person, but during my twenties, I had an appointment based job. This really forced me to use a planner and organize my time better. Now, I couldn’t live without one! I created a Christmas Planner to help me stay organized during the holidays. I offer it here on the blog and on my Etsy shop. It comes with 34 printables to track gifts, inventory supplies and decorations, and menu planning. It also contains a party planning worksheet, budget worksheet, expense tracker, online order tracker, Black Friday wishlist, undated calendars, travel itinerary, and more!
Best of all, I’ve included a seven-week Christmas countdown that tells you exactly what you need to do that week to stay on task and keep things running smoothly. I know you’ll love it. I personally use it to plan everything for the holidays. All the printables are undated so you can buy once and use it year after year.
I also recommend creating an envelope, pocket or folder to save all your receipts for both expense tracking and for returns. I do this every year and it makes it so much easier to have everything in one place.
Buffalo Plaid Christmas Planner
Holiday stress got you down? Get organized this holiday with this beautiful buffalo plaid Christmas planner. This printable planner has thirty-four pages to help you manage your expenses, keep track of gifts, plan your parties and holiday menus and so much more. Inventory your decorations and create a Black Friday wish list. Use the undated monthly calendars to schedule activities and events. Best of all, use the countdown sheets to have a task list on everything you need to get done, week by week!
In Christmas of 2015, I was totally stressed out, One thing I had overlooked in preparing for Christmas was the space we would need. That year my oldest son was born and his birth brought in mountains of baby toys, books, clothes, and other things. It was his first Christmas so friends and family showered us with presents. Something I was very grateful for, but was overwhelmed by. It stressed me out to put things away only to find cramped closets and toy bins. Now I make decluttering part of my Christmas preparation. In September, I declutter closets and bedrooms. In October, I clean out the freezer and pantry to make room for all the holiday foods. Doing this ahead of time allows me to keep the house cleaner during the holidays because I have a place for everything. It also ensures I’m not overwhelmed after Christmas with all the new gifts.
The holidays always usher in busy evenings. There are school holiday programs, events and activities, get-togethers, and potlucks. That’s why one thing I do is prepare some freezer meals. Freezer meals are meals that you make ahead of time and pop in the oven when you are ready for it. It’s a much cheaper alternative to eating out when you are pressed for time. Casseroles are a great thing that typically warm up really well.
These are so easy to warm up even a husband can do it!
Take a look at some of these great posts for ideas:
If you don’t want to prep full meals another alternative it to chop and prep veggies and pre-marinate meats for cooking later.
Freeze Cookie Dough
Speaking of freezing, if you want you can also make various cookie doughs to freeze ahead of time. Sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies are just a few cookie doughs that can be frozen for months ahead of time. I normally make a few batches of cookie dough in October or early November and freeze it to make holiday baking easier in December. It is a big time-saver at Christmastime. Here is one of my favorite lists of make-ahead, freezable cookie doughs.
Shop for Holiday Outfits
Once, we near October, most stores begin to bring out holiday and stylish semi-formal attire. It doesn’t hurt to begin planning out the outfits you will need. Consider if you will be needing new clothes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Will you be buying the kids or family matching pajamas? Consider if you will need outfits for holiday parties or for a holiday family photo shoot. Start browsing online for ideas, set a budget and if possible, go ahead and purchase the clothes to scratch this big time burglar ahead of time.
Book a Photographer
Now is also the time to start searching for a family photographer if you are doing family portraits this years. You may not be ready to book yet, and that’s okay, but it doesn’t hurt to start viewing portfolios and getting quotes. Some photographers get booked quickly, so it’s best to start looking into it early if you want to have the opportunity to pick a specific date. At the very least, even if you aren’t ready to firm up a date, you can get a quote so you can budget accordingly, but getting the leg work done early is a big help when the holidays hit.
Get a Head Start on Homemade Gifts
Homemade gifts are really nice to way a personal touch to the holidays. Even simple inexpensive items can become special when they become part of a fun gift basket. There are all kinds of things you can make and give for Christmas. In the past, I’ve made soaps, bath bombs, lemon and vanilla extract, coasters, and all kinds of other things. Homemade isn’t always cheaper. So make sure you you figure out how much gifts will cost before you commit to doing them. Here are a few fabulous lists of homemade gifts.
It may surprise some people to learn that I start shopping as soon as October starts. It is so much easier on both your pocket book and stress levels if you spread out your Christmas buying over a few months. That’s why I start shopping for things now. As soon as October hits I take my Christmas list and divide into fifths, then I get started buying for everyone.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. I think the most important thing is to pace yourself and start early so you give yourself plenty of time to complete all the necessary things.
Thanks so much for reading. In the comments below, I’d love to hear what you do to get organized for the holidays. I give away lots of things around the holidays and so before you leave, be sure to subscribe below.
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Looking for a strong, spirited name for your little guy? I’ve compiled a list of strong baby boy names that have toughness written all over them complete with meanings and a printable list.
Oh the joy of naming your little one. I can recall when we named our boys. We had such an array of different names. From biblical to family names, it’s hard to narrow down the perfect name. After all, the name your give your child will follow them forever. When it came to naming our second son, I was really undecided. Even names that were still on our list from our first son, didn’t totally appeal to me this time. It was strange. I definitely kept leaning towards stronger names.
My oldest son is so gentle and meek. He’s very obedient and tenderhearted. It seems only natural that his name is a diminutive form of John. But what to name my youngest. As it happens, my youngest son ended up being true to his namesake. He is very bold, loud and willful. His own grandmother calls him “a storm” and my husband and I tend to measure our days in hurricane categories. “How was Tristan today, honey,” my husband will ask. “He was a CAT 4! Part of the roof is missing. Our sofa is down two blocks away on the street and water and debris are everywhere.” Ha!
Seriously, I love my little guy but parenting a strong-willed child is harder than I ever imagined. I am, however, really glad we named him Tristan. It fits him perfectly. So if you are looking for a strong name for your little man, I’ve got a good list for you. Some are straight-up bad boy names, others are strong names of prophets. Yet, others have strong meanings like war, battle, and defender.
How to Choose the Perfect Name
Some names are currently trendy, but in a few years they may seem very dated. On the other hand, consider that very popular names may result in having your child share the name with multiple classmates. There is nothing wrong with picking a popular name, but those issues may be problematic to you. So make sure you talk it over with your partner.
Consider It as a Middle Name
Sometimes if you and your partner disagree on a name, consider perhaps using it as a middle name instead. Sometimes names have a better ring when paired with another name
Consider Cultural and Spiritual Origins
If it is important to you, you may consider whether or not the name has spiritual or religious origins. Many names found in the Bible mean some sort of blessing from God, for example. Also, names and derivatives can be found across different cultures with different spellings and pronunciations. Take my name, Mary which is Hebrew. In Spanish it is Maria and in French, Marie. But there are also derives like Mariam, Marian and Marilyn.
Will It Be A Family Name
Sometimes it’s nice to include a name as a tribute to a family member, living or deceased. Johnny is a common family name for my family, but since my sister-in-law had also married a John, I didn’t want to trample on her ability to name her child John too. So we chose a derivative of John, Jackson.
Say The Child’s Full Name Out Loud
Say the name out loud. I had a friend who had the name Harrison picked out for her son only to realize later that the name was going to be Harry Carey which is also a name for an act of suicide! There are lots of unfortunate incidents where someone’s name also has a double meaning. Take a look at these ill-fated mishaps if you want a good laugh. Then double-check your child’s name!
Will It Be Shortened
Some names have a shortened version or nickname attached to it. My brother Matthew really disliked when people called him Matt. He always corrected people and told them it was Matthew. My poor brother has been correcting people ever since he was little. When you choose a name you may decide against it because of nicknames or shortened versions of it, so maybe be mindful about that.
Strong Baby Boy Names
Abraham (father of nations)
Anders (manly, virile)
Alexander(defender of the people)
Arne (pronounced Arn-uh) (eagle)
Asger(spear of God)
Axel (father of peace)
Cash (maker of chests)
Dash(from the ash)
Diesel (people, race)
Dustin (Thor’s stone)
Gunner (bold warrior)
Gustav(staff of the God’s)
Hunter (one who hunts)
Indiana (land of the Indians)
Isaiah(to save, salvation)
Ivan(God is gracious)
Jeremiah(God will uplift)
Joshua(God is my salvation)
Justice(Doing right by the law)
Magnus (big, great)
Montana(from a hilly land)
Osmond (divine protection)
Phoenix (dark red)
Ranger (forest guardian)
Thor(god of thunder)
Tristan(sad, bold, loud)
Wilder (to cause to lose one’s way)
Zane(gift from God)
I’ve also provided a printable version of this list to help you. You can download it below.
I hope you enjoyed my list of strong baby, boy names. Before you go, take a look at my other post, Biblical Baby Boy Names and Biblical Baby Girl Names. Thanks so much for reading and congratulations on your pregnancy. In the comments, I’d love to hear about your own name. Do you love it or hate it? Do you go buy a nickname? Let me know!
They are little rounds of heaven. You’ll be surprised to know how easy it is to whip up a batch of simple homemade flour tortillas tonight for dinner. Today, I’m sharing my authentic recipe straight from our Tex-Mex kitchen.
Homemade flour tortillas are one of the best things on the planet. Growing up in my Hispanic family, I loved it when my mom had a steaming hot, fluffy stack of homemade tortillas waiting for us. I loved smearing butter all over freshly warmed tortillas. They were so good.
Lately, I’ve been making them often. First, they are great for lunches for the kids. I grill them up with cheese and make quesadillas for their lunch. Sometimes I have some leftover meat, but not quite enough for a meal, that’s when I shred it up for tacos or quesadillas. I’m a little embarrassed to say that it doesn’t matter how many tortillas I make, we always seem to eat them all!
So today I’m going to show you how easy it is to make simple homemade flour tortillas right in your kitchen. They are far superior to store-bought ones and once you get familiar with making them, you won’t want the rubbery, chewy mass-produced ones.
Tortillas are a wonderfully easy bread because they require few ingredients. In fact, you may already have what you need. First, all you need is all-purpose flour. There is no need to use any kind of special flour. As I mentioned before, tortillas are unleavened bread, so you don’t need leavening agents like baking powder or yeast. However, you can add baking powder to make them fluffier if you desire. Really, all you need is flour, lard, water and a pinch of salt.
Traditionally tortillas are made with lard. I think lard makes the best version of tortillas. The tortillas seem to have a fluffier, smoother texture with lard. I highly recommend using lard above any other fat. However, if you don’t have lard on hand you can substitute other fats. You can also make them with butter, shortening and even vegetable oil in a pinch.
You can buy lard at the store in the butter section. It costs around the same price as butter and it stores in your fridge for months. You can even make lard at home (see video below). That’s right, don’t throw those drippings away!
Many people are discouraged from making tortillas for one simple reason – rolling out circles, I know I underestimated how hard it is to roll out a perfect circle. Like really hard! Personally, I don’t mind if mine aren’t perfect, but others do. I will say that it takes lots of practice to roll them out, so don’t get discouraged if they aren’t perfect. I guarantee you regardless of their shape, they will still taste amazing! So you can use two different methods to make them. You can roll them out using a rolling pin or you can use a tortilla press.
Tortilla presses are great because you put your ball of dough in, clamp down and it presses out your tortilla to the perfect thickness and size. It definitely makes them more uniform looking. Using a tortilla press also seriously cuts down on time. It takes far less time to press them as it does to roll them out. So if you are making them for a weeknight dinner, this really speeds it up. I highly recommend using a cast-iron one. I love mine.
Frankly, you don’t need any special tools to make tortillas, but I’ve used my stand mixer to speed things up as well as using a pastry blender if I am doing it by hand.
Also, if you make tortillas often, you may want to invest in a tortilla warmer. They really do keep them warm for a long while. They are fairly cheap too. If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, place a clean dishcloth inside a covered dish and slip them into the dishcloth to keep them warm.
Cooking the Tortillas
To make tortillas you’ll combine your ingredients – flour, salt, hot water and your lard. If you want them to be fluffier you can also add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. If you are substituting a different fat for lard such as vegetable oil or shortening you will use the same measurements as lard which is ⅓ cup. Mix the dough with a dough hook attachment on your stand mixer or you can use a pastry cutter to cut in the lard.
You can divide your dough into sixteen portions. That will make about 16 small 6″ tortillas or you divide into twelve pieces and it will yield about a dozen 8″ tortillas. I typically make 8″ ones.
Tortillas need to be cooked one at a time unless you have a long griddle, in which case you can do two at a time. Place the tortillas down on a griddle with medium heat. Cook for about 2 mins on each side. You will likely see the tortilla puff as it cooks. That is totally normal. Flip it over. The cooked side should have some light brown spots That’s how you know it is cooked! Then repeat on the other side.
How to Store Them
So you can choose to warm your tortillas all at once or you can choose to warm them up over a period of a couple of days. Store the ready-made tortillas in your fridge in a zip lock bag. You can separate them with wax paper so they don’t stick together. I recommend taking them out of the fridge about ten to fifteen minutes before you are ready to warm them up so they cook quickly and evenly on your griddle. I think they cook better that way than when they are a stone-cold temperature.
Whisk salt and baking powder (optional) to the flour. Baking powder is optional but will give you a fluffier tortilla. Alternatively, instead of mixing by hand, you may use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
Add lard to flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender (or if using a stand mixer mix on low. You can also you use your hands if you don't have tools. You do not need to need the dough, only mix.
Slowly add water until a tacky dough forms
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface. Divide dough into twelve pieces. Roll each piece into a ball about the size of a golf ball.
Heat a griddle on your stove at medium-high heat.
Begin by flouring your rolling pin to prevent dough from sticking. Take a ball of dough and roll it evenly into a 7-8" circle.
Place a tortilla on the hot griddle. The tortilla will puff as it cooks. Cook on each side for about 30 seconds. Flip regularly until you see light brown spots on the heated side.
Let’s get cozy! Curl up with your journal and use these 30 reflective fall journaling prompts to explore your feelings.
Fall is such a lovely season. After the scorching days of summer, who isn’t ready for crunchy leaves, bonfires, football and pumpkin spice everything? Fall is always an emotional month for me. I start craving family time and the fresh outdoors. Here in South Central Texas, we don’t have a lot of changing of leaves. We end up driving to Marble Falls or Lost Maples, TX to see the red and gold foliage that other states get so easily.
But Autumn also brings some other deeper feelings. For instance, as we enter the Fall and head towards holidays, it also conjures up other feelings that are just beneath the surface. It’s the time of year I experience grief. The holidays usher in the thoughts of the people who are gone and are no longer here with us. It always seems to catch me off guard even though it happens every year. I miss my grandmothers, particularly in the months of September and November. Also, if I am being really honest, it makes me contemplate the time I have left with my parents and those around me. I told you it was deep stuff!
Fall is a great time to reflect on change, the necessity of family and friends and for Americans in particular, it’s a time to reflect on gratitude. So today I decided to come up with some Fall journaling prompts. Hopefully, they help you explore your feelings privately and give you some perspective.
Will 2020 Be Different
You know, it always seemed to me like more people died in the Fall and Winter than any other time. My mom used to say it was God’s harvest season. That may sound silly, but apparently it’s true. Deaths slightly escalate during the Fall and Winter months mostly because of the sicknesses that are prominent in colder months like Influenza and inclement weather which can cause more accidents.
2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for the world. When I heard about the virus in Wuhan, China back in January, I never would have guessed it would sweep the globe and cause all the hardship it has. So far, I have buried two people from it. I wonder how the colder months will affect the transmission of the virus. I anticipate spikes in cases again.
If I start thinking about it too long, I can become anxious. It has been hard to be apart from the majority of my family this year. The hardest part is my children. They are too young to really understand why we don’t see much family and friends anymore. This year I plan on coming up with lots of activities we can do at home. By the way, if you’d like some ideas on things to do in the Fall as a family, be sure to read my post, The Best Fall Bucket List. Also, one thing I love to when I’m journaling in the Fall is to make a pot of my Slowcooker Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s so good and uses pumpkin puree instead of artificial flavors.
In the comments below, tell me what you love most about Fall. Thanks for reading.
30 Reflective Fall Journal Prompts
What is worrying you right now? Don’t censor yourself.
As a relaxing exercise, doodle things that remind you of Fall.
Give yourself permission to look forward to things. Write a list and don’t worry about whether or not they will actually happen.
Write a letter to your anxious thoughts.
Of what do you need to let go? What would happen if you stopped holding onto it?
Describe a favorite Fall memory.
What do you do when you are feeling lost?
Write a letter to someone who has passed away.
How do your Autumn traditions differ now from when you were a child?
How can you be closer to friends and family this Fall in spite of the Coronavirus pandemic?
Write out a playlist of songs that remind you of Fall then give yourself to listen to it.
Create a happy list. Write out a list of activities or places that lift your mood.
Write a letter to someone who has made your life better.
How is your life different from one year ago today?
How does Fall inspire you?
If you could travel anywhere to experience Fall where would you go and why?
Describe a perfect Fall evening.
Where do you see yourself this time next year?
Will your Fall traditions change because or Coronavirus? Why or why not?
What can you do to reconnect with nature this Fall?
What has been the worst part of this year?
Be your own best friend. Write an encouraging letter to yourself.
If today was your last day, what would you do?
What do you need more of in life? Less of?
What are the silver linings about this year so far?
Think back to your favorite Thanksgiving. Describe the scene.
Hosting family and friends for Thanksgiving can be a stressful task, but I am offering the same awesome printable I use to plan ahead and keep me organized. This printable planner can be printed and used over and over, year after year!
Here is what you get:
(1) Give Thanks Cover
(1) Gather Cover
(1) Dinner Party Planner (with guest list and menu plan)
(1) Music Playlist
(1) Undated November Calendar
(1) Decoration Inventory
(1) Recipe Page
Today, I’m sharing what has happened with us since Coronavirus and a major announcement. Oh 2020, you’ve been a turbulent year!
Can we all just agree that 2020 sucks? Oh, my Lord, 2020 has been a crazy year. I remember when my naive little self swore up and down that 2020 would be my year. This would be the year I reinvented myself. This would be the year I lost weight, had a successful blog, and made a new circle of friends.
Little did I know that I’d basically not leave my house from March until…what month is it? In March I traveled six hours to see a friend of mine. God, I miss that girl! It was a hard trek with two kids and in tow, but it was all worth it to see her. Unfortunately, that was pretty much my last outing. When I came back the Coronavirus was on an upward swing and my hometown was the haven for many of the newly infected patients that were coming off cruise ships.
Throughout the rest of March and April we really just did like everyone else and stayed home. My hubby was able to work from home and I decided to have a good attitude about being shut-in. We dug in and enjoyed our home. We dined outside, played in the back yard, and had cozy family movie nights. Also, we ate about nine loaves of homemade bread. You can find my simple bread recipe on the blog.
In May my oldest turned five. We are so lucky to have a beach just three hours away. Port Aransas is such a fun weekend getaway and my youngest loves the ocean. We were able to socially distance the entire time we were there. The nearest people were a couple hundred yards away and the boys had a blast! It was totally good for the soul. After almost two months of being cooped it, it filled my cup.
We spent lots of time helping my parents prepare their house for sale. There was so much to coordinate and since they are both high risk, we took on a lot of the things that needed to be done.
In June, we did more of the same. We stayed home and really only saw my parents. The strange thing is that I had become perfectly content. I was not missing any of my old activities anymore. However, I did make one big change. I got off Facebook. Can I just be honest? I needed a real break. I was really tired of everyone’s opinions. Everyone was suddenly a doctor with Corona opinions. The political discussions were getting nasty and vulgar. My newsfeed was filled with post after post of negative, hateful comments. It was exhausting seeing that every day so I decided it was time for a break.
I’m not purposing that we stick our head in the sand and ignore current events or be uninformed about vital issues. But there is lots of misinformation and biased information around Facebook. Not only that but people are just nasty to each other about differences of opinion and when my newsfeed became flooded with that kind of stuff, well…it felt like I was watching a twenty-four hour news cycle. And who wants to do that? I want to see pictures of your cute kids and what you did this weekend.
It also dawned on me that the reason why it is so soul-sucking is because we aren’t meant to digest that amount of negativity. Years ago, before the media invaded every area of your life, you were largely unaffected and removed from the awful things happening in the world. Sure, you’d hear about big events, but you weren’t bombarded with it 24/7. These days, there is almost no escape. Everything is politicized.
I just needed to step away and regroup. Regain composure. Renew my mind. Seek some peace and balance. I really felt like God was nudging me to step away. I really struggled with it because I get a great deal of my blog traffic is from Facebook. How would my blog survive? I obeyed God and totally trusted him and his leading. It really helped. My joy came back! I spent the majority of the time loving on my kids and husband and dipping in my parent’s pool. We spent nearly every weekend with my mom and dad. It really filled my cup. It’s September now and I don’t miss Facebook at all. And my blog is more successful than ever. In fact, this year, I paid for all my blog expenses and made a profit.
June also found us in the hospital. Instead of celebrating Father’s Day with my dad, my poor pop spent it in the hospital due to pulmonary edema. COVID was starting to escalate in San Antonio and so it was rather scary to have my dad in there. It was also pretty frustrating that they didn’t really resolve his problem, they just did more of what he was already doing. Please keep my dad in prayer for healing as he is still dealing with it.
In July, my mom’s condition worsened and she had a heart procedure done. It was really scary but COVID was at an all-time high here in San Antonio. They sent her home from the hospital pretty quickly to reduce the chance of infection. My mom’s procedure didn’t solve my mother’s ailment. Another battery of tests would be needed to get to the root of her condition.
My grandfather also took a turn for the worse. He had stopped eating and was very sick. They hospitalized him in early July and I drove to Houston to be with him. All these hospitalizations during COVID have been so stressful. You can’t be with your loved one in the hospital which really compounds the stress. My grandfather’s health is still waning.
As for us, we continued preparing my parent’s house for selling and we spent a lot of time in our garden. We had a great harvest. My oldest son enjoyed collecting vegetables. It was such a novelty to him.
We also learned that because of COVID, my husband’s company would be doing layoffs. We weren’t worried about my husband’s job because we felt like he and his position are highly valued. Little did we know this situation would take a turn (keep reading).
We also started homeschooling earlier than expected. My oldest son was begging to start homeschooling already. You can read all about our Kindergarten curriculum. This is also the first year that I am teaching both kids.
My mother’s health continues to decline. This month she’ll have a biopsy and multiple tests done. They are looking to rule out cancer so we are asking for prayers.
We also finally found our grove with homeschooling. I am managing well with teaching tot school, kindergarten and my household responsibilities.
Oh, August. You were the month that changed everything. This month we were informed that my husband’s company is closing their local office. They will be laying off 20% of their staff and relocating those who remain to Houston. Y’all, this was a gut punch to us. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know we just went through this a year ago! It was so stressful to job hunt for six months and here we are again!
With the combining of offices, we may not be as secure as we originally thought because of the potential duplication of roles. Also, with my parent’s health declining, parting from them is the very last thing I want to do. The week we found out I was really upset. Like had-a-complete-meltdown-with-God kind of upset. There were lots of ugly tears and complaining. I couldn’t sleep worrying about all the possible undesirable scenarios. I think my breakdown was also a build-up of the stressors we have been dealing with for months. The stresses of all my loved ones who are ill, the stress of selling my parent’s house (and knowing we may have to go through it again for us), the fact that life is so different post-Corona.
I decided to be obedient to the Lord and accept whatever His will is. I’ve made up my mind not to worry about this and laid it at the cross for God to sort out. Y’all, I don’t know how all of this will turn out. I don’t know what will happen or how we’ll get through this. Instead of obsessing over what I don’t know, I will dwell on what I do know. What I do know is the Lord is insanely good. His plan and His will are perfect and flawless. He radically loves us and is always working for my ultimate good (salvation and sanctification). And He never ever leaves us!
I’ll be posting more about this situation as we know more. In the meantime, please drop your prayer requests in the comments. I’d love to pray for you if you are struggling.