Saturday, December 31, 2011


This has been a good year. I've done some fun stuff but am soooo excited for next year. I've just finished my Finish Year list and will share that next week. I'm excited at being able to accomplish some really cool things and have just an overall excitement for 2012. I'm believing for God to do some amazing things and am pumped about it!

Some things that I did this year:
- saw Jonny Lang in concert for the first time
- jumped off a boulder into the water really far below - I felt this was a "now I can say I've done this" moment
- went to the beach - it was our first serious family vacation in a long time!
- had the privilege of hearing Aquila Nash speak
- was able to meet Ryan Stevenson at a concert he was part of at my church

Next year is going to be crazy awesome! By focusing on smaller goals instead of really great sounding how-can-I-possibly-make-this-happen goals, it's going to be very cool to see how God works things out. Next year is going to be different than any other year because whereas I've always made resolutions for each year, this time I'll be actually able to achieve them. A whole lot of smaller steps eventually add up :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

by hand

I've recently started knitting and am excited to show what I've been up to! I was able to make two scarves for Christmas gifts and one for me as well. I've also learned how to use a loom and am LOVING it! It's tons faster than needles though I do enjoy using those as well. I'll go into details about the size loom and needles, number of stitches and kind of yarn I used later but I'm so excited at how these turned out! If you knit as well, I'd love any advice or tips you may have :) I just love being able to make things by hand - it's something I want to do more of next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

finish year

I subscribe to a lot of blogs - it's actually probably something I need to work on purging because I just don't have the time to read them all but one that I enjoy reading is Jon Acuff. His posts are honest and thought-provoking. A few days ago he introduced the idea of Finish Year and I'm all for it. I always write out goals for the coming year but my problem is that I think too big. I write down these goals that I have no idea how to achieve instead of working on the stepping stones that would lead to those dreams. For instance, I want to be a published author. Last year I wrote down "to be published" and yet I've done nothing this year to work towards that. Jon gave the example of a friend who wants to get married. Instead of that being a goal, he's going to focus on asking at least three girls out. It's all about making it do-able instead of overwhelming. Finish Year is about focusing on attainable goals that will eventually add up to bigger ones and that's exactly what I need for 2012. This isn't a complete list of my Finish Year goals but a starting point:

- write at least two posts for (in)courage (I'm excited because I already have the idea for one of these!)

- edit my current query letter and submit to at least five literary agents

- comment on at least one other blog a week (I have a theory that if I want people to read and comment on my blog, I need to return the favor)

This is nowhere near my whole list but what I could think of off the top of my head. These three are all writing related so I haven't even listed personal and spiritual goals. I'll be sure to post my complete list once I'm finished. I can't begin working on these goals if I don't have them written down :) What about you? What would you like to accomplish next year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

daily readings 2012

I was going to spend this week's posts reviewing this year by sharing book reviews and recipes, etc. But I've decided to go in a different direction. I'll share my thoughts from this year later this week but today's post I want to share the books I'll be reading for daily devotionals next year. Maybe one will stick out to you and you'll read along with me. I like devotionals because they're short reads and it's always cool for me when I'm reading similar thoughts in each one or the reading will coincide with something my pastor has said recently or be relevant in some other way.

- Love Out Loud by Joyce Meyer
- Hearing From God Each Morning by Joyce Meyer
- The Confident Woman by Joyce Meyer (I'm already reading this but continuing with it into next year)
- A Year with C.S. Lewis
- Experiencing God Day-By-Day by Henry and Richard Blackaby

I'm excited about all of these books for different reasons. The last one I wasn't planning on reading. I've read it three times, the last time 2007. I came across the book today and was reading my thoughts on some of the daily readings. I thought it would be good for me to go through it once more and see where I was at those other points in my life compared to now. I think all of these will be great books to encourage me and grow me. I'll probably share things on here that jump out at me so be ready :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

don't leave!

So I've been having issues with my home internet, making it hard for me to post. I had all of my ideas ready to share with you but technology had other plans :( I'm working on getting it fixed - thank you for sticking with me - and super excited about 2012! It's going to be a great year and an awesome journey! Thanks for coming along with me :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

saturday spotlight: alison with "ingredients, inc."

Alison has some great recipes. Some really great recipes :) I first became a fan when she introduced me to her cookie dough truffles. She has some amazing recipes out right now that I'm very excited to try. Like her molten cake in a mug or her peppermint dark hot chocolate mix. Take a look at her yummy blog for yourself!

Friday, December 16, 2011

unto others

A few weeks ago I went with our youth ministry to help serve food to the homeless. We partnered with a local non profit organization. We knew it would be cold so we bundled up, loaded a bus and headed out. It's so cool to see the teens step out of their comfort zones (and leaders too :) to serve others. We helped distribute clothes and blankets as well as food. This is the second time we've done this and it's just a great way to forget about ourselves for a few hours and think about other people. These teens are seeing people their own age living on the streets and I hope they walk away realizing how blessed they are to have a warm bed and a home to go to. I want to always be thankful for what I have and never take it for granted.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I just finished a group book study of Beth Moore's So Long Insecurity. The time together was just as good for me as reading the book itself. I'm still working on finishing the book but I've been thinking about it lately. The study guide is great to do along with the book because it just helps you get more from the reading. One chapter talked about women in our own lives we look up to and why. The study guide asked the question about the kind of legacy we want to leave and what knowledge we would want to pass on to younger women. I think about the girls I work with in the youth ministry at my church. And I think about what I would want to say to them. I would want them to know that they're enough. That they don't have to be anything more than who they already are in order to get a guy's attention. That there's nothing wrong with them and how God made them. They don't need to be taller or thinner or have a super cool accent in order to be loved more. They're beautiful just the way they are. I would want them to stop looking for fulfillment and purpose in a guy and instead find it in God. I would want them to stop feeling as though they have to try so hard to be accepted. I would want them to know they're not a disappointment or a failure - not a mistake or an accident. I would want them to know how much God loves them and that He has a beautiful plan for them. He's not forgotten them or too busy to care. They're enough.

Monday, December 12, 2011

recipe: brownie banana bread cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting

I made these last month and oh. my. Not only is the picture amazing but they tasted pretty good too :) I had a little trouble with the frosting setting - mine was more of a "pour on and then lick your fingers after" as opposed to "frost like a cupcake and look pretty" consistency. I got the recipe from How Sweet It Is (that's her picture too) - great food blog (as well as her other random thoughts). There are several steps involved but well worth the effort :)

Brownie Layer
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, lightly tossed in flour

"Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy – about 3-4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping down the bowl a few times. With the mixer on medium speed, add in flour, salt and cocoa powder, mixing until just combined. Line a cupcake tin with liners, then spoon about 1/2-3/4 of a tablespoon of brownie batter in each cup. Press down with the back of a spoon coated in non-stick spray."

Cupcake Layer
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup butter, melted

"Combine dry flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg and set aside. In a bowl, whisk egg and add brown sugar, mixing until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Add sour cream and melted butter and mix. Stir in dry ingredients, then add mashed bananas and mix until batter comes together. The batter will be thicker than normal cupcakes. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter in liners over top of brownie batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, then let cool completely before frosting."

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting- 3/4 cups of butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
- 8 ounces (1 brick) of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

"Beat butter and cream cheese in the bowl of your electric mixer until completely combined and creamy, scraping down the sides a few times. Add in brown sugar and powdered sugar, beating on low speed and gradually increasing to medium speed. Add in vanilla extract. Beat frosting for 4-5 minutes on medium-high speed until really creamy and combined. This frosting is not very thick or study, so make sure to either frost immediately before eating, or keep in the refrigerator for up until 30 minutes before serving."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

saturday spotlight: glenna with "knitting to stay sane"

I've just recently started knitting. It's something I've always thought would be pretty cool to learn but never had the motivation to research what kind of yarn I would need or what size needles. But finally, finally someone gave me the push I needed and helped me get started with the basics. I'm working on my first scarf and super excited to be able to show it off once it's finished :)

I'm also looking at connecting with those who have vastly more knowledge on the subject than I do which brings me to Glenna and her blog. I haven't explored her site a whole lot yet but she's definitely got my attention with this hat she recently made:

Since I'm still working on the basics, just the idea of using two colors amazes me. Glenna has some great ideas - go have a look!

Friday, December 9, 2011

tweet of the week

"Shout out to the guy who waves a hanky during your sermon...he's just trying to get a rally going." - Matthew Barnett

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

book review: "to win her heart" by karen witemeyer

About the book: "Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father's knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets...

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet as the mysteries of the town's new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.

Levi's renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she's finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian's affections?"

My review: I really liked this book! It's the first I've read by Witemeyer even though I'm familiar with her other titles. The cover is what initially got my attention - I think it's super cute. The story took a few unexpected turns but had the kind of ending leaving me smiling. I enjoyed the character of Levi - I thought he was sweet and liked how Witemeyer made him seem believable. She showed his struggle to move beyond his past and start a new life. I immediately connected with Eden since she and I both share a love of books. I also smiled at when Levi said he would simply come back each day to read until he could check them out. Just watching their relationship develop was very sweet. This was a great, light read!

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. You can learn more about the book from Karen Witemeyer's website.

Monday, December 5, 2011

recipe: mini chocolate cheesecakes

I made these last week and while I wasn't prepared for the total time involved, I thought they turned out well. As usual, I learned from the experience of what to do differently next time but they were definite crowd pleasers for the party I took them to. I found this recipe from the Betty Crocker website. One of the things I like about the site is being able to print out just the ingredients needed (super handy when making a trip to the store). I've not made cheesecake before so I had to really keep an eye on the these so I wouldn't bake them too long. I think I ended up leaving them in for close to thirty minutes and they turned out fine. Tackling the whipped cream was another matter. I stuck the bowl in the freezer so it would firm up and ended up leaving it in too long. In my attempt to unthaw it, it became too thin. I had to buy a can of spray whip cream and then added mini chocolate chips on top instead of an Oreo. Hopefully you can take something away from my experience and have a better result :)

I'm thinking about making mini bite-size versions of this and using mini oreos with it.

9 creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies or 18 vanilla wafer cookies
2 packages (8 ounces each) plus 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

Whipped Cream3/4 cup whipping (heavy) cream
2 tablespoons granulated or powdered sugar

"Heat oven to 350ºF. Line 18 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2x1 1/4 inches, with paper baking cups. Split sandwich cookies in half. Place 1 cookie half, middle side up, in each cup. Or place 1 wafer cookie, flat side down, in each cup.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar and the cocoa until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Divide evenly among cups (cups will be almost full).
Bake cheesecakes 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are firm. Cool 15 minutes (cheesecake centers will sink while cooling). Refrigerate in muffin cups at least 1 hour; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour longer before serving.

In chilled small bowl, beat all Whipped Cream ingredients with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Spoon Whipped Cream on chilled cheesecakes. Cover and refrigerate any remaining cheesecakes."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

saturday spotlight: alison sweet

"Alison Sweet, your place to find up-cycled, eco-conscious accessories. All items are made with donated and found cotton/jersey materials. Super soft and light weight. Perfect to keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Designs and fabrics will change regularly. If you like it, buy it because it's not guaranteed to be here tomorrow. But, sometimes I have enough material for one more. Want to up- cycle your own t-shirt into a new favorite accessory? I love custom orders! I've turned in some of my softest tshirts into the softest scarves."

From now until December 22, you can get 15% off your entire purchase from Alison by using the code FALL15. Perfect for any Christmas shopping you might have!

This is her super cute Ivory Flower Infinity Scarf - love it!

You can learn more about Alison at her Etsy shop and her blog. You can follow her on Twitter and also find her on Facebook.

Friday, December 2, 2011

book giveaway: "the strange man" by greg mitchell

Congratulations to Jessica for winning Never Let You Go by Erin Healy!

This month I'm giving away a copy of The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell. Contest will end on Friday, December 30 at 8:00 p.m.

For bonus entries:
- tell me how you heard about my giveaway
- become a follower of my blog

*Giveaways with the above logo are books that aren't new but still in really good condition.