Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Sunshine Award


I was given the Sunshine Award from the lovely Gwendolyn Gage. Gwen has a wonderful blog where I've enjoyed getting to know her.

The Rules Are:

1. Answer the eight questions asked by the person who gave you the award.
2. Nominate eight new people (no tag-backs) and notify them on their blog.
3. Ask eight new questions (or re-use the ones you were asked) for your nominees to answer.

Gwen's Questions:

1. What is your favorite TV show?

I don't watch a lot of television, especially since having children. When I get a spare minute I prefer to write. But - I do have a DVR and when I can sit down to watch a show I almost always choose The Cosby Show! I know, I know...but it's just plain old good TV and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :)

2. Have you ever read a book based on a friend's recommendation alone? If so, what was it and did you like it?

I'm not much of a pop culture kind of person, so I've never been a big fan of popular fiction, but two years ago my friend Beka recommended The Help. Four of us read the book and then went to see the movie. I really enjoyed it and I'm happy she recommended it.

3. What is your favorite Bible verse?

This is a hard one! I have so many that mean a lot to me. One of the very first that comes to mind is Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." I love scriptures that give me a clear call to action, because I know God would not command me to do something I'm incapable of doing. If he says to trust Him, then I know I can.

4. What is your least favorite food?

The older I get, the more I'm enjoying foods I didn't like as a child - like onions and sauerkraut! But, there is one food I've never liked, and don't imagine I ever will: green peppers!

5. Who is your favorite professional sports team?
I have to admit, I'm a big fan of Minnesota sports teams. I love watching Kevin Love & Ricky Rubio shoots some hoops for the Timberwolves and Adrian Peterson make a touchdown for the Vikings - but one of my very favorites is watching Joe Mauer catch a mean fast pitch for the Twins!

6. What is your favorite part about blogging?

I love meeting new people and having a place to share my heart three times a week. I love the comments and discussion on my blog. But more than that, I love when someone comes up to me, or emails me, to let me know how one of my blog posts impacted them. There's really nothing better than that.

7. What is your favorite song(s) and why?

I love On the Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady. When my husband was in high school he sang that song for his Senior Independent Study in music. Whenever he came to my house, on Third Street, he would sing it for me. Four years later, when we bought our first house, it was on the same street I had live on in high school, Third Street. The day we moved in, David sang the song for me again. It was like coming home.

8. What are five of your all-time favorite books?

A Voice in the Wind and Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers, Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace, The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz, and A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin.

The Eight People I Nominate:

I know this is terrible, but I'm not going to tag anyone - everyone who reads my blog is tagged! All of you deserve the Sunshine Award. You each bring sunshine into my life every time you visit. :)
What about you? Choose one of these questions and let me know how you'd answer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


At the start of the winter season, I saw an article in a health magazine about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. The article gave the common symptoms: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, "flu-like" symptoms and recommended having Carbon Monoxide detectors in your home, because Carbon Monoxide can cause brain damage and death.

I checked the article off in my brain, because we had two Carbon Monoxide detectors upstairs, near where we sleep. Good, no worries.

As the winter months wore on, I noticed that my girls were complaining of headaches - one more than usual. I also noticed I was having more headaches and I was extremely fatigued, easily forgetting what I was thinking or doing, and a general malaise about writing and house work. But I chalked all those things up to viruses or winter blues.

About three weeks ago we started to remodel our basement. One night our Carbon Monoxide detector went off. I thought it was strange, and maybe had something to do with remodeling. My hubby told me to set it outside for a while, turn it back on and see if it did it again. That night I sat up until 3 a.m., but it didn't go off a second time.

A few days passed, and the same thing happened - just at night. I went through the whole process again.

It did it a third time - in the exact same manner - about a week later. We couldn't figure out what was wrong, but since it only went off once at night, we thought it was just a malfunctioning unit.

Last night, around midnight, the detector went off again, and this time the second detector also went off on the other side of the house. I knew something wasn't right because my headaches had been constant for three days and my muscles ached so bad I felt like crying. I also could have laid down and taken a nap at any given time, which is unlike me. So at midnight we wrapped the kids up in blankets, pulled them out of their beds, and went to my parents' house.

This morning my husband had the gas service company come in immediately. We discovered the hot water heater had a significant leak - significant enough that he turned the heater off and gave us instructions for airing out the house and what long term symptoms to look for.

The repair man came in and took care of the problem and we left the windows open on the house all afternoon (thankfully it was about 34 degrees here today - and not minus 10!).

After spending the day away from the house, my muscle aches and headache have gotten better. The doctor told us the symptoms could remain for up to 4 days, but hopefully after that, we'll all start to feel better. I'm pretty sure we've been suffering from low level toxins for quite a while - months, even - but it escalated to the point of making us very sick in the past few weeks.

I'm so thankful we had the Carbon Monoxide detectors! I've learned that approximately 400 people die a year from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in America. What surprised me the most was that I thought only furnaces could produce Carbon Monoxide, but this was our water heater! Which means that everyone is at risk.

If you don't have a Carbon Monoxide detector, please get one today. Besides having them near the bedrooms, I now have one near our utility room (which I should have had before). I fully believe it saved our lives.

What about you? Do you know anyone who has ever had a Carbon Monoxide leak? Do you have detectors in your home?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Fun Idea & Menu Monday

I had so much fun sharing my menu plan last week, I thought it would be fun to make Menu Monday a semi-regular part of my blog! You can expect to get a Minnesota Monday or a Menu Monday here (and sometimes both!) at the beginning of each week.

Today is one of those days when I'll be sharing a little of both. I've included links to the recipes I made from last week's menu at the bottom of this post.

I also wanted to share a fun idea to keep those (Minnesota) winter blues away. My twins are almost three years old and they both love trains. As the temperature plummeted here last week, and I knew we wouldn't get outside as much as we'd like, I came up with an idea to keep those little bodies busy inside.

They played for hours and wore off so much energy!
I made a train track around our living room! The boys spent hours, over the course of five days, playing on that track. Sometimes they were the train, sometimes they brought out their big cars and pushed them around the room, and once or twice they had my kitchen stools lined up as the train. They would call "all aboard" and we'd sit on their stool-train and pretend we were going to far away places.

It was a lot of fun and just cost a few dollars for a roll of masking tape.

My two pieces of advice: first, try to use the thicker masking tape (I couldn't find it at our local Wal-Mart, so I used the thinner stuff, which I had to use more of) and second, don't leave it on for more than five or six days. I wasn't sure how hard it would be to get off the carpet - I'm thinking if it stayed down longer, it might get sticky and harder to take off (just guessing - I didn't have a problem with it getting sticky).

The piano bench was a "tunnel"
A tip for removing the tape: I used a butter knife to get under the tape - it was a little hard to get under with my fingers - but easy to get up with the butter knife.

Next time we'll experiment with other track formations!

What about you? What ideas do you have to keep the little ones busy during the cold winter months? If you don't have kiddos, or you don't live in a cold climate, what are your best memories of "homemade" fun from childhood?

~ ~ ~ ~
Here are the links to my recipes from last week's menu:

Lemon Garlic Chicken (Slow Cooker)
Easy Stir Fry
Nana's BBQ Sauce (over ribs in slow cooker)
Wild Rice Confetti Style Soup
Chicken Corn Chowder

Lemon Garlic Chicken - Slow Cooker

Lemon Garlic Chicken - Slow Cooker
Original recipe makes 6 servings       
1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1. In a bowl, mix the oregano, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture into chicken. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken in butter for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a slow cooker.
  2. In the same skillet, mix the water, lemon juice, garlic, and bouillon. Bring the mixture to boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow cooker.
  3. Cover, and cook on High for 3 hours, or Low for 6 hours. Add the parsley to the slow cooker 15 to 30 minutes before the end of the cook time

Easy Stir Fry

Easy Stir-Fry
1 lb. Round Steak (cut up into think pieces)
1-2 T. Soy Sauce
2 c. Beef Broth
2-3 T. Corn starch
3 T. cold water
Vegetables of your choice (broccoli, onions, green or red peppers, green beans, pea pods, mushrooms, sprouts, squash, etc.) In the winter, I often buy two bags of frozen stir fry veggies.

1. Cut up meat and marinate in soy sauce for at least half an hour.
2. Cut up vegetables and set aside. Precook broccoli or any frozen vegetables slightly in microwave.
3. In about half of a tablespoon of hot oil, stir fry vegetables, usually one group at a time, in a wok or large non-stick fry pan on High to seal in the juice. Set veggies aside as they are done (cover with tin foil to keep in heat). Don't overcook the veggies, just until they are crisp.
4. Stir fry meat in the same manner until a little browned (about a third of the meat at a time).
5. Add in veggies.
6. Cover with hot beef broth. Bring to a boil.
7. Combine corn starch and water, then add to the boiling broth to thicken. Cook until mix is thick.
Serve over warm rice. *Can also use chicken - just use chicken broth instead of beef broth*

Super delicious! A family favorite.

Nana's BBQ Sauce

Nana's BBQ Sauce
1/4 c. Ketchup
2 T. Chili Sauce
1 T. Brown Sugar
1 T. Butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
dash of garlic salt

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Great over Country Style Ribs in a crock-pot.

Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder
3-4 Chicken Breasts
Bay leaf or basil
1/2 lb. bacon
1 yellow onion
1 pkg. fresh mushrooms, sliced
5-6 medium potatoes, cubed
1 c. carrot pennies
1 T. chicken base
3-4 c. creamed corn
3-4 c. milk or Half & Half
Fresh minced parsley (optional)

To make chicken stock, place chicken breast and bay leaf (or basil) in 2-3 inches of water. Bring to boil. Simmer approximately 30 minutes, until cooked. Meanwhile, cut up bacon into small pieces. Brown bacon. When nearly crisp, drain half of the grease off. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken breasts from stock and add potatoes, carrot pennies and chicken base to stock. Simmer on low heat. When nearly cooked, add bacon mixture to stock. Meanwhile, debone chicken and return to soup pot. Reduce heat to low and add creamed corn and milk (or half & half). Garnish with parsley.

Wild Rice Confetti Style Soup

Wild Rice Confetti Style Soup

4 c. water
3/4 c. wild rice
1 lb. bacon
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cans evaporated milk
1 to 2 cups regular milk
1 c. finely chopped peppers (your choice: green, red, yellow, etc.)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 medium potato, chopped
1 cup chopped celery (we omit)
3 cups cubed cooked, cubed chicken

Boil chicken, cube & set aside.

Combine wild rice and water. Simmer 1 hour. Drain.

Cut and fry bacon until crisp. Drain & add to wild rice, along with chicken.

Add cr. of celery, cr. of mushroom, condensed milk and regular milk.

In bacon drippings sauté peppers, onion, potato & celery. When tender add to soup and simmer in a covered pot 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hope - My One Word for 2013

I'm a little late joining the bandwagon with my "One Word" for 2013 - but I'm here nonetheless!

The word I chose for 2013 is Hope and I find this word most profound in Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I love contemplating God's plans for my life. According to this scripture, when I'm confused, or I've lost my way, I can look to the One who knows which way I'm supposed to turn and I can trust Him to guide me.

I don't have to fret about where I'm going to be a year from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now. God created me with a purpose and plan in mind. He's never going to leave me out in the cold. He tells me very clearly what the future holds - and it's good.

The other thing I love about this verse is it helps me to know when I'm walking in His plans for my life - and when I'm not.

If I'm walking down a path of poverty (in my mind, in my health, in my finances, in my friendships, etc.), then I know I'm not on the right path - because poverty is the opposite of prosperity - and His plans are to prosper me. If I'm being harmed in any way, I know it's not what He intended - because He doesn't plan to harm me.

Jeremiah 29:11 goes on to tell me that He plans to give me hope. There have been times, too numerous to count, when I've felt hopeless in one area or another. But this verse reminds me that God's wants me to have hope. There is a way out of the darkness, there is a path away from the pain, there are roads of freedom I have yet to walk upon. God always has hope in store for me, in all situations.

And I have a future. No matter where I'm at in life, the future is full of God's blessings. Right now I may not have all the answers, but God does. I just need to be patient and trust Him to fulfill his promises.

There is hope in knowing God has everything under control.

What about you? What's your "One Word" for 2013? In what area of your life has His hope sustained you?

~ ~ ~ ~

Fellow blogger, Melanie Moore, created the "One Word" badge for my site. You can check out her blog here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Way Back When-sday: Victorian Dinner Party

I'm in the midst of writing a Victorian novel, set in 1898. I've had so much fun researching the customs and etiquette of this highly formal era. But even more than that, I've had fun informing my husband on numerous occasions that his behavior is a sign of "ill" or "low" breeding! :)

For instance, tapping one's fingers in the company of others is a sign of "low" breeding. Placing an arm on the back of a lady's chair is a sign of "low" breeding. And one must never take more than two spoonfuls of sugar, unless one wants to appear greedy.

For today's Way Back When-sday, I've decided to share some dinner party etiquette - in case you're ever invited to a Victorian Dinner Party.

Dressing for the Dinner Party:
For the Ladies
  • Do not dress above your station; it is a grievous mistake, and leads to great evils, besides being the proof of a complete lack of taste.
  • Do not expose the neck and arms at a dinner party.
For the Gentlemen
  • The unvarying uniform is black pants, waistcoat and jacket, with white tie, shirt and gloves. 
Seating Arrangements:
  • It is customary for the host and hostess to be seated opposite each other, at the side of the table, in the center.
  • Husbands and wives should sit as far as possible from each other. Society is the enlargement, the absorption, and, for the time being, the breaking up of all private and exclusive engagements.
The Before Dinner Interval:
  • At some point before dinner is announced, the hostess will discreetly point out to each gentleman the lady he will escort to dinner. He shall serve her throughout the meal.
Upon Sitting:
  • The guests find their places by the names on the place cards and every one sits down in a gay flutter of talk and laughter.
 The Delicate Art of Dinner-Table Conversation:
  • The conversation should be easy, playful and mirthful.
  • The rules of politeness are never at variance with the principles of morality. Whatever is really impolite is really immoral. 
  • Do not mention at the table anything that might not properly be placed upon it.
The Etiquette of the Dinner Table:
  • Eat slowly; it will contribute to your good health as well as your good manners. Thorough mastication of you food is necessary to digestion.
  • Be moderate in the quantity you eat. You impair your health by overloading the stomach, and render yourself dull and stupid for hours after the meal.
 The After-Dinner Interval:
  • Contrary to the custom of low society, civilized gentlemen do not remain at the table after the ladies have retired, to indulge in wine, coarse conversation, and obscene jokes. The more enlightened practice is for the ladies and gentlemen to retire together from the dining table.
  • It is expected that guests will linger for two or three hours after the dinner. In any event, no one may politely depart until at least one hour has passed.
After the Dinner:
  • Within one week, pay a brief "dinner call" to express thanks to your host and hostess, and to briefly reminisce over the delights of the evening. Do not stay for less than ten minutes or more than twenty.
Simple, right? I didn't mention all the rules listed. And I didn't get into the obligations of the host and hostess, the proper table settings, the proper behavior of servants, and on and on. It's giving me great fodder for my book.

What about you? What surprised you most about a Victorian Dinner Party? Is there anything you'd like to resurrect?

These rules are from "The Essential Handbook of Victorian Entertaining" adapted by Autumn Stephens, A Bluewood Book

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside - And Meal Plan for the Week

Brrrrr... It's cold in Minnesota today!

Here's the forecast for my Minnesota Monday:
Bitterly cold. Sunshine and clouds mixed. Dangerous wind chills may approach -35F. High -7F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.

So this is where my family will be cuddled up:

The one time I need to leave the house today is to do my weekly shopping.

I try to create a menu plan each Sunday night (with my grocery store insert in hand). As I looked online for meal ideas today, I didn't have good luck finding ones my family will eat. So after I made my menu plan for the week, I thought I'd share it, in case it inspires you!

If you're interested in the recipes for any of these dishes, let me know and I'll share them on my blog.

I usually plan five meals a week. It allows us to be flexible two nights a week for leftovers, eating out, throwing a frozen pizza in the oven or eating at someone else's house.

Without further ado, here's my menu for the week:

Monday: Beef Stir-fry & brown rice (a recipe from a good friend who learned it right from LeeAnn Chin!)

Tuesday: Chicken Corn Chowder (my mother-in-law's recipe and one of my hubby's favorites!)

Wednesday: Lemon Garlic Chicken for the Crock-Pot (new recipe I've never tried from I'll serve this over egg noodles with glazed carrots.

Thursday: Fiesta Wild Rice Soup (I received this recipe from an old co-worker at one of my bridal showers - another favorite of my husband's)

Friday: BBQ Ribs in Crock Pot (SUPER easy recipe my mom used to make) I'll serve it with mashed potatoes and green beans.

What about you? Do you make a weekly menu plan? What's on your menu for the week? If you don't have a plan for the week, what's for dinner tonight?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Test of True Love

My daughter and I - two weeks before the twins were born

Three years ago I was living through one of the most unusual experiences of my life. I was pregnant with twins.

To say the pregnancy with my twins was different than with my "singleton" pregnancies would be an understatement. Few things were similar.

For starters, I didn't have morning sickness with my single pregnancies, but I did with my twins. I grew much larger, much faster and I had the most unusual cravings.

It was during one of these cravings that I put my husband through a test of true love. Okay, going through a twins pregnancy is a test of true love in itself, but dealing with a pregnant lady's cravings was pretty intense!

I was about seven months pregnant when I began to crave jalapeño nacho cheese dip. Knowing the dip isn't a favorite of my family's, I fully intended to eat the can I bought all by myself.

As always, I'm the last person to go to bed, and it's usually late. That night it was after 1 a.m. and I was hungry for my cheese dip. When I went to the cupboard, however, it was gone!

Without thinking twice, I knew exactly who ate it. The only other adult in the house - my husband. So I marched upstairs and I woke that poor man up.

"Did you eat my nacho cheese dip?"

He came out of a groggy sleep to a large belly standing over him. "Yes."

I huffed a bit and then got into bed.

"Sorry," he said with a sleepy voice.

I laid there for at least twenty minutes, trying to sleep, but I couldn't. Once a craving entered my brain, there was nothing else to think about.

Finally I tugged on his pajamas. "I can't sleep until I have some cheese dip."

He turned to me. "Seriously?"

I groaned. "I'm serious."

"Do you want me to go to the store and get some more?"



"Seriously." I'd never been more serious in my life.

"I didn't think you'd say yes."

"Please. I need my sleep and I won't be able to get it unless I have some nacho dip."

He sighed. "Okay." Then he stood up and began pulling on his jeans. "Do you see what I'm doing? I'm putting my pants on at 2 in the morning to go to the store."

"I see."

"Now I'm putting on my 2 in the morning."

"I know."

He grinned at me. "Anything else you want me to get while I'm out?"

Suddenly, the thought of pomegranate juice sounded heavenly, so I asked for some.

"You're serious? Jalapeño cheese dip and pomegranate juice?"


He just shook his head, pulled on his winter parka and left the house.

When he came back at 2:30 in the morning, I was still awake, ready to devour the dip and juice.

"You're probably going to get sick from that stuff," he said as he handed me the bag.

I just smiled. I knew I wouldn't. And I didn't.

When I opened the bag, I found FIVE cans of Jalapeño cheese dip! The next morning I teased him and said: "Once the craving is met, I can't stand the stuff! You've got a lot of cheese dip to eat now."

He didn't care, he just wanted to make sure he didn't have to go back to the store at 2 in the morning.

What about you? Did you have a strange craving while pregnant? If you've never been pregnant, what's the strangest combination of food you've ever eaten?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Way Back When-sday: Record-Breaking Weather in Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota Weather Station - 1890
In Minnesota our climate is extreme. For almost two centuries, since 1819, the state has kept nearly continuous meteorological records.

For my Way Back Whens-day post, I thought it would be fun to share some of the extreme records in Minnesota weather over the past 130 years! You may be surprised.

Highest Temperature was July 29, 1917 (and July 6, 1936) at 117 °F.

Highest heat index was July 19, 2011 at 130 °F degrees.

Lowest Temperature was Feb. 1996 (I remember!) at -60 °F

Lowest Wind Chill was January 9th, 1982 at -71 °F.

Largest single-day change was a 71 °F drop on April 3, 1982.

Most snow in one snowstorm was Jan. 6-8th, 1994 with 47 inches.

Earliest recorded snow was on August 31, 1949

Latest recorded snow was on June 4, 1935

In 2010 we broke many state-wide records for the number of tornados in one day (48), in one month (71) and in one year (113). That summer (the year my twins were born) I had to bring my children down into our basement six times, which surprised me, because in the eight years we lived in that house, I had never had to bring them down there before.

I didn't mention the record rain, hail, flooding or droughts we've had. More proof that you never know what to expect in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Needless to say, Minnesota is a state of extreme weather. It's one of the reasons we live here (I think).

What about you? Do you have extreme weather where you live? Have you ever had to take shelter in a basement for a tornado? Ever weathered a blizzard? Had school canceled because of cold weather?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Minnesota Monday - Ice Skating

I will concede that winters in Minnesota are not always pleasant...or better yet, rarely pleasant. But, they do have a few redeeming qualities and ice skating is one of them!

My sister and I took ice skating lessons when we were teenagers. Though I was never destined to be a skating star, it did improve my balance on those shiny blades.

Two weeks ago Dave and I took our children out to the skating rink. It's been at least nine years, if not more, since I've been on skates, so I was a little shaky, to say the least.

It didn't take long to get the feel again. Kind of like riding a bike. Pretty soon I was skating backward, doing spins and even trying a few hops.

I'll never forget the look on my eight-year-old's face when I finished that first spin. She wrinkled her nose, frowned at me and said: "Where did you learn to do that?" Like I had been keeping a great secret from her!

It's fun to still pull a few surprises out of my mommy bag. :)

On skates after nine years!
My kiddos thought it would be fun to throw snowballs...


My husband pulled my oldest around the rink -
she thought it was pretty funny.

The boys don't own skate, yet, so they had fun running
around in their boots.

My girls spent so much time on the ice, I thought I'd join them. :)

My oldest, perfecting her skills.
What about you? Have you ever been ice skating? Would you like to try?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

5 Things That Made Our Getaway Special

After we first arrived!
Last weekend my husband and I enjoyed a little getaway to Las Vegas. It was our first extended vacation (alone) in seven years.

Ahhh... Just thinking about it makes me feel all warm and happy inside. Here are the top five things that made our vacation extra special:

1. The trip was FREE! What a great way to relax and enjoy each other's company. Even if you can't go somewhere for free, I highly recommend finding a destination that costs less. It might be going somewhere closer to home. It might mean watching prices online and being flexible with dates. Or it might mean having a Stay-cation. Whatever it takes, it's worth keeping the cost down. There were no worries about finances and that enabled us to really relax and have fun.

2. We had trustworthy (free) childcare. My parents agreed to watch all four of our children. Again, it might not be possible for everyone to have free childcare, but if you can find it, use it. You'll be able to leave your cares behind. If relatives aren't available, offer to swap childcare with another couple. It might mean a date night, an overnight, or a long weekend.

The show we attended
3. We compromised. Okay, this one was a bit hard for me - at the beginning. I'm a planner, especially when we travel, and I usually have a packed itinerary. But I know how much my husband dislikes having his entire vacation planned. So we compromised and I had a couple of things on my "to-do" list, but we kept the schedule free and enjoyed my activities when it seemed appropriate. I wanted to see a show, go on a city tour and learn a little about the history of Vegas. We did all three of those things, but we did them when we felt like it. Win, win!

4. We left our troubles at home. We made an agreement that we wouldn't discuss all those pesky day-to-day problems we face at home. You know the kind. The house related issues, the work related issues, the family related issues. Instead, we talked about our goals for our family in 2013. The things we want to work on as parents, as a couple and as friends. It was so much fun to be proactive, instead of reactive. Without the kiddos around to distract us, we were able to have great conversations.
Watching the Vikings - outside the Mirage
5. We laughed, a lot. We held hands, kissed under the Vegas lights, relaxed and slept in. The best part was just being a couple. It was so much fun to sit back and really look at my husband again. Life is busy. Children are consuming. Owning a business is overwhelming. Taking time to reconnect, and only think about each other for four days, was priceless.

What about you? What do you enjoy about getting away with your significant other? If you're not in a relationship, what do you like about having time to yourself, away from all the responsibilities of life?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Home Sweet Home

I just returned from a fun getaway with my husband to Las Vegas. I'm so thankful to be home - and I'm even more thankful that I live in a city that goes to sleep at night.

With the holidays, and then the trip just a few days after New Year's, I didn't plan for my blog post, so I don't have a Way Back When-sday to share today.

I'll be back on Friday with my regular blog - some faith-filled reflections on getting away with my hubby.

But I'd love to know: Have you been to Las Vegas before? What did you think? Do you want to go back, or stay far, far away?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Trust in the Lord

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will bring health to your body and healing to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-7

Eight years ago my mom was admitted into the hospital because she was in agonizing pain and slowly losing the use of her hands and feet.

And the doctors couldn't figure out why.

For two weeks her body deteriorated, until she could no longer walk or use her left hand.

At the time, my oldest daughter was only three weeks old. Every day of my maternity leave I took my baby to the hospital, where we sat with my mom and watched her body stop working. It was one of the scariest times of my life.

My mom is one of my best friends. To be a brand new mommy myself, with an infant in my arms, the last thing I wanted was to lose my mom. She was only forty-nine years old.

Two weeks after she entered the hospital, they were able to diagnose her disease. Vasculitis. Looking back, it should have been an obvious diagnosis, but for whatever reason, it took them two weeks to figure out.

She left the hospital in a wheelchair. For six months I spent every spare moment I could with her. I was a chauffeur, a chef, a housekeeper and a companion. And all the while, I was scared and I doubted God.

I was relying on my own understandings and I was miserable. There was no peace in my life. Instead of my mom helping me, I was helping her. Instead of my mom pushing my daughter's stroller, I was pushing her wheelchair. Instead of making meals for me, I was making meals for her.

I didn't resent helping her, on the contrary, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. I was so afraid I would lose her, so I held on to her as tight as I could. I begged God to spare my mom and restore her health.

Then, ever so slowly and surely, I watched as God performed a miracle right before my eyes.

One year after my mom was in the hospital - six months after she left the wheelchair - my mom was with us in the Black Hills of South Dakota, on a bike ride, making memories with my daughter.

Her body has healed miraculously. It's been a long process, and she still has residual pain and some numbing in her feet, but she is active, healthy and strong.

Three years after she came out of the wheelchair, my mom was elected the mayor of our town. She's now in her second term as mayor.

My mom, as the Mayor, officially welcoming
soldiers back home from Iraq

And today, eight years after she was hospitalized, my mom has welcomed five more grandchildren into our growing extended family. They love having sleepovers at Nana's house. They love baking cookies, having tea parties, going camping and playing games with her. They are making memories every day.

Christmas Tea at Nana's House with nine of her
eleven grandbabies, my two sister-in-laws and me
My oldest daughter with her Nana
I thank God for answering my prayers.

I look back at those days in the hospital and I'm reminded of the fear I felt. Yes, it was scary, and I had every reason to be concerned - but in the end, God taught me the most important lesson in my life - one that I'm still learning: He is in control and I will never have a reason to doubt His plan. Even if He would have chosen to take my mom eight years ago, He would have done it for a purpose - one that I could trust.

While my mom was in the hospital, I relied on my own understandings and I was afraid, which brought on stress and sickness in my own body. But now, when I choose to trust God, there is a peace that fills my heart and transcends all earthly understanding. I'm left with assurance that He's in control - He has a plan and a purpose for everything - and I have nothing to fear.

God did more than just heal my mom. He taught my entire family, and a community, the importance of trusting Him.

What about you? Do you have trouble trusting Him and relying on your own understanding?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Way Back When-sday

Happy New Year, 2013!

January 1st is always one of my favorite days of the year. There's a sense of newness and promise for the year to come. It's a wonderful time to look back over the past year and analyze the things we've done.

I've had some time to think about my blog and what I want to do with it in 2013. As a new feature this year, I'm going to share my favorite Way Back When-sday discoveries on Wednesdays. I love history and I spend a great deal of my time researching it for my stories, so I thought it would be interesting to share some fun facts I come across. We have a lot to learn from our predecessors - in what to do and what not to do.

I also want to continue sharing my Minnesota Life. Instead of Fridays, I'm going to share Minnesota Mondays. There will be pictures and information about life in Minnesota - whether through the activities my family enjoys, the places we visit, or the people who make Minnesota one of the best places to live - now and in days gone by.

Fridays will be reserved for my thoughts on faith, the writer's life, parenting and marriage. Often my thoughts on writing, parenting and marriage are tied to my faith, so I've decided to call my posts Faith-Filled Fridays.

As always, I reserve the right to deviate from my plans, especially when I host guests bloggers or when something else presents itself to me that I'd like to share. It's my hope that having a schedule for my posts will help me stay focused, and will help you know what to expect when you visit me here.

I want to offer a heartfelt thank you for reading my blog and commenting below. Your friendship and support encourage me to keep pushing toward my dream of publication. May God richly bless you in the coming year.

Waiting for callers New Year's Day
I'll leave you with a fun Victorian New Year Tradition. Before 1890, it was the custom for men to go calling on New Year's Day. From noon to six o'clock, the Victorian women would be in their drawing rooms, with tables laden with food and drink, and would eagerly await the gentlemen who would come calling. Often, the women would receive up to 100 or more callers in one day.

Gentlemen would go from home to home, trying to visit as many acquaintances as possible, wishing them a Happy New Year. They would strategically plan out their six hour trek, staying for just a few minutes at each home, and would leave their calling cards, as a reminder of their visit. It was advised to not wear brand new shoes for this tradition, as their feet would protest the next day.

The homes of young, unmarried women were especially popular on New Year's Day. It was a great honor to be among the women who received the most callers, and had the most calling cards, at the end of the day.

Alexander Ramsey, the first Territorial Governor of Minnesota, wrote in his journal, on Jan. 1, 1875: "Day was pleasant and wife had about 100 callers."

What about you? Do you have a New Year Tradition?

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I am honored to be a guest on my friend Melissa Tagg's Welcome Mat Wednesday Blog today! I'm talking about making - and keeping - a New Year's Resolution in 2012 that changed my life. Please come and visit me there!