Friday, March 29, 2013

A Birthday Times Two!

Today we're celebrating a major milestone in our family!

Our twin boys turn three years old! One of my favorite questions is: "Where did the time go?!?!"

Well, let me show you...

March 29, 2010

We're planning a special birthday party for the boys on Saturday! And next week I have some fun blogs planned in honor of twins.

What about you? Do you have any twins in your family? If you had one question for a mom of twins, what would it be?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Way Back When-sday: Victorian Easter Cards

The Victorians knew how to make pretty greeting cards and they took every opportunity to send them to friends and family. I've always been fascinated with the elaborate designs and whimsical themes. How can you not feel all warm and fuzzy when you look at them?

For fun I wanted to share some Easter greetings with you today. I hope they put a smile on your face.

Do you send greeting cards for Easter? What Easter tradition is your favorite?

*I found these free images on Sugar Moon and the Awake Blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chicken Salsa Recipe + a Great Tip


Today I wanted to share a new family-favorite recipe - and a great tip I came across to make it even easier!

The recipe is for Salsa Chicken. It's incredibly easy to make and every member of my family loves it (which is truly remarkable). You can serve it on tortilla skins, over rice or how we enjoy it most: as a dip with tortilla chips.

It requires shredding chicken - and that's where my tip comes in. I discovered the easiest way to shred chicken. Just take it out of the crock pot and put it in your stand up mixer! It was shredded in seconds. I slipped it back in the crock pot, stirred it around and voila! So much easier than shredding it with a fork.

As always, my favorite recipes are ones I can keep the ingredients on hand - and this is one of them. Enjoy!


1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (I used the cream of chicken)
1 cup salsa
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup sour cream
cilantro, for serving (optional)


Put chicken, soup, salsa and black beans in slow cooker. Sprinkle taco seasoning over everything. Cook on low for 6 hours. If shredding the chicken, pull the breasts out and shred; return back to slow cooker. Stir in sour cream and heat just until everything is combined.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Despite Your Best Intentions...

This has been a crazy week! I feel bad when I don't post on my regular schedule, but I have to allow myself grace and move on.

I usually don't plan my posts in advance, so on Sunday nights, Tuesday nights and Thursday nights I sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I mull a post over for a few days, hoping to get it just right. Occasionally, I write a bunch of posts in advance and schedule them to publish at the right time (if I know I'm going to be out of town, or something else will be taking place to distract me). But, usually, I write my posts the night before.

Then there are those days (and weeks) when, despite my best intentions, I just can't put up a blog post because of unforeseen circumstances.

This week I was able to post before and after pictures of our basement remodel on Monday, but Tuesday was crazy and I crashed on Tuesday night without thinking about my blog for Wednesday!

Last night, I was ready to go. I was going to write my blog post for today and be very clever. ;)

But then my husband came hobbling into the house after basketball...with a significantly sprained ankle...and all my plans for this blog went out the door.

I feel so bad for him. His ankle is swollen and he didn't sleep last night from the pain. This morning his dad is going to take a look at it to make sure it's not broken (his dad is an orthopedic surgeon).

The trouble is, today he and I had a big date planned. We had a babysitter all lined up and he was taking me shopping and out to dinner. I think we can still go eat, which I'm thankful for, but we probably won't get any shopping done.

But, there's always a silver lining - and it's the fact that at this time last year he was busy working. As a landscaper, you learn how to make hay when the sun is shining. It's a good thing we still have about three feet of snow out there - and it's not melting anytime soon. It's also a good thing that our basement remodel was finished last week! At least Dave can keep his ankle up and not have to worry about missing anything important.

What about you? What kind of a week have you had? Any fun plans for the weekend?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Basement Remodel - Before and After Pictures

Two years ago my husband and I were blessed to buy a semi-fixer-upper on the Mississippi River in a wonderful neighborhood. The house had been empty for six years, so we got an amazing deal, but it was in need of updating. We started with two upstairs rooms the first year and this year we decided to tackle the basement.

The house had two major additions in the 1970's and the 1990's so it's a large house full of character. The addition in the 1970's was a two story addition, on the back of the house. It was about ten feet wide by thirty feet long. The basement is a walk-out to the river, but the downstairs addition wasn't insulated, so it was unusable in the winter - plus, since the house was empty for six years, it was overrun with rodents. It needed to be gutted!

The original walkout to the backyard and the river.
 Here's what this room looks like now:

We opened up a wall separating two rooms to make one
large room, plus we added the far wall, so we could have a foyer
to enter the basement from outside.
This is the other side of the original addition.
It had a "pass-through" granite fireplace and four small windows

Here's the same room. We took out the four small windows
and put in three larger ones.
This was the room on the other side of the "pass-through"
fireplace - my future office!
Same room! I still need to decorate and bring in my furniture.
I have three large new windows to look out on the
river while I'm writing.

This was the window that separated the main heated family
room and the addition. We took out the window
and made a large archway. This is the only picture of the
indoor room - it was pretty dark! Think wood paneling
and checker board tiles. The room is about 12x30 feet.
These are the two rooms, now one! We've since added a
television where the cords are - and moved our living
room furniture downstairs. One of my boys was helping
vacuum and the other was running around in circles!
Here's the other end of the same room, with a peek into my office.
The only thing that remains from the original room are the cabinets.
I wish we had more pictures! There were only two dim lights and
so much paneling. It's an unbelievable transformation.
Another view of the one large room now.
I love the ceiling! We wallpapered the ceiling and painted it with
a high gloss paint, so it looks like an old-fashioned tin ceiling -
at about a tenth of the price. Around the fireplace my husband
did some custom trim work - he's so talented!

My husband and brother-in-law, Matt, did almost all the work on the basement. We started demolition just after the New Year and they were able to finish it in a little over two months. My dad also came in and helped a few times, and I did a lot of the painting. With a little imagination, and a lot of hard work, we have now added another 600 square feet of usable space to our home.

In the next two weeks we'll be hosting the third birthday party for our twins and a Final Four Game party! I love to entertain and I can't wait to use this space with family and friends. Not to mention how much fun we'll have here with our children.

As my husband and I were sitting together admiring the transformation in this space, he said to me: "Everything we own is not really ours. It's a gift from God, on loan to us for as long as He sees fit. He's calling us to use the gifts He's given us to minister to others. We need to use this space to bless as many people as possible." And that's exactly what we hope to do.

What about you? Have you ever remodeled a space in your home? If you could remodel a room, which would it be and what would you do?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ideas, Testing and Adjustments

© Lksstock | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
A little over a year ago I decided it was time to stop dreaming about writing a book and actually do it!

For over ten years I had my first story, Forgiveness Falls, rolling around in my mind. I knew the characters, I knew the plot and I knew my setting.

But I continued to let life get in the way. I didn't adjust my schedule to make time for writing - I didn't even know that I could. I told myself, over and over, that I'd get to it one day.

Last year I picked up The Colonel's Lady, by Laura Frantz. As I read her work, my writer's heart responded to her breathtaking prose, and I thought: "Why am I not writing?" Laura's wonderful story was the proverbial "Straw that broke the camel's back."

I decided "one day" needed to be "today," and I've been on the journey to publication since then.

I sat down and wrote the first draft of Forgiveness Falls in just a couple of months. It poured out of me like water over a waterfall. I couldn't dam it up, even if I wanted to! I edited it, polished it and pitched it at the ACFW Conference in September.

Then I laid it to rest. I don't know what will happen with Forgiveness Falls, but I truly hope it will be published one day.

I took November and December off from writing, but used that time to read through craft books and plot my second story, Redemption Falls, set in 1862. I planned to start working on it after January 1st.

The trouble was, right before I started writing Redemption Falls, an editor suggested I work on a different story idea, one set in 1898.

Since I hadn't started Redemption Falls, I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to set it aside and plot the 1898 book. So that's what I did - I plotted it in three weeks. And, with giddy anticipation, I started writing Enticing Julia Morgan at the end of January.

The first chapter rolled off the tips of my fingers with ease, and then I started chapter two and ..., ..., ..., where was the rest of it?!?!

The fast draft was not going as fast as I'd anticipated, based on how quickly I wrote Forgiveness Falls.

I was so frustrated.

I plugged away at the story, adding three more chapters in about a month, but it was like pulling teeth.

I started to question everything about my dream to write. I found I had no desire to write this story, because I had no idea what to write next. I had the main plot outlined, I knew the beginning, the end, and a few key scenes in the middle. I also knew the characters really well, but other than that, I was clueless!

How was I going to write 100,000 words, when I only had 15,000 in me? And, on top of that, where did my drive go? Where was the excitement I felt when I wrote Forgiveness Falls? Where was the energy and passion? Was this it? Had I hit the end of my writing journey? So soon?

Now you may be smarter than me, and you probably already figured out what I couldn't see. It took my husband to finally point out the obvious.

One day, when I was lamenting all these things, he said: "You had Forgiveness Falls in your head for over ten years when you sat down to write it. You've only had Enticing Julia Morgan in your head for three weeks. It's going to be a whole different process."

*Palm to forehead* Why hadn't I realized that? There was only one Forgiveness Falls in me - one story I had percolating for ten years...from here on out, all my stories are going to be written like Enticing Julia Morgan, as brand new ideas! I had to learn how to approach writing in a whole different way.

Once I realized this, I turned a corner. This is a whole new challenge, one I'm excited to tackle. Just like learning about POV, RUE and Black Moments, I had to learn how to brainstorm and write from a fresh idea.

I also needed to make some adjustments to keep me focused and on task. The most important thing I've done is set a realistic goal. I have decided to write one scene a day, five days a week. That's about 1,500 words a day - or 7,500 a week. It's given me a new drive to finish this book (which I'm getting so excited about)!! At this rate, I will have my fast draft written in about three months. And at this stage in my life, with a busy household, that is a perfect amount of time.

On this road to publication, I'm learning something new every day. It's a constant ebb and flow of ideas, testing and adjustments. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you? What have you learned about writing that second, third or fourth book?