Thursday, March 31, 2016

No More Plastic Junk!

Tomorrow is April 1st. No, this isn't some kind of April Fools joke, what it means is we've survived "birthday month" and Easter, as well as the plague that visited our house and left me down for the count for 10 days right in the middle of it all!

So today with the sun shining and the windows open I'm doing a good spring cleaning and there are in my house!  We had the girl's birthday party at McDonald's (because they love it and you're only 4 once) and every kid came home with a little plastic bag full of McDonald's branded junk.  I have four kids, which means I had 4 bags full of junk.

And after church last Sunday they all got some more plastic junk.  Bracelets in plastic Easter eggs and giant cheap plastic sunglasses.  I feel like every time I turn around there is more plastic junk in my house and when I throw it away I feel bad because I'm just filling up the landfill.  Also, my kids apparently are mini hoarders.  Oy!

I've seen a lot of my friends posting about spring break for the past month, but ours actually isn't until next week and I'm super excited that it's supposed to hit 70 degrees this weekend and we will be OUTSIDE!  Those of you who had spring break while it was still snowing, I'm so sorry!

I love sending my kids outside (and being outside with them), but sometimes you need a bit of down time inside too.  And while my kids love video games, I don't love letting them play for hours on end.

The alternative?  Quality toys that will stand the test of time. 

Most of you know what we have a giant pile of Lego's that provides hours of entertainment.  The kids can all play nicely together (for the most part) and these are the antithesis of cheap plastic junk.  Now they do manage to get spread around the house, but at least when I pick them up they aren't going into the trash!

Each of my boys got a new Lego kit for his birthday, but honestly, they don't need many more.  Just a few specialized pieces here and there (the new Minecraft sets are pretty awesome!).  But they absolutely love getting new kits to put together.

So, when you don't need more Lego's and you don't want to contribute to the landfills, consider a subscription to Pley*.  They have all the latest Lego sets plus tons more options including robotic toys and quality preschool toys.

For about the price of one small Lego set a month you can rent as many toys as you want.  You're only limited by shipping times.  Consider it an investment in your sanity, especially if you have Spring Break still coming up!

"The Fine Print"
You are not charged if a few pieces get lost out of a Lego set. Each set is sanitized between subscribers. There are toy options for all ages, boys and girls, including babies.  New toys are constantly being added so check back often!

*This is a sponsored post and there are affiliate links where I will make a small percentage if you sign up.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book: The Hearts We Mend

Planning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie's life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie's firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie's heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.

Tattooed, rough-around-the-edges Jack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie's life is stream-lined, Jack's approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack's world---a world that isn't as safe or predictable as the one she's worked so hard to create---he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn't make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn't felt since Max passed away---or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn't anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.


This book is the second in a series, you can read my review of the first one from last year.  Some books can be stand alones even in a series, but I really don't recommend that with this one, you would be jumping in without a lot of the back story about Evie and most of the other main characters.

That being said... I thoroughly enjoy Kathryn's books.  Do you get first impressions of people that are hard to change, only to find out later, sometimes much later, that maybe you were way off?  I've had that happen to me a few times in my life and it makes me realize that I need to be more careful.  Everyone deserves a second chance, especially if maybe they were having an off day when you met them!

Evie is a character that seems prone to up front judgements, but her long tidy world is about to be changed with the arrival of Jack.  Added to the fact that her only son has just gotten married and moved out and Evie isn't quite sure what to do with herself, or God.

Seeing characters change so dramatically through the course of a story with this short timeline sometimes gives me pause, but maybe that's because I don't change quickly.  At any rate, it's a fun story that isn't all happy endings and butterflies, which I also appreciate.

And as a side note, the characters are much older than the cover models allow.


Read other reviews, purchase your own copy, or win one below!

hearts we mend-400

Kathryn Springer is a USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent many hours sitting at her mother's typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books --- which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Kathryn has written nineteen books with close to two million copies sold. She lives with her husband and three children in Marinette, Wisconsin.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Favorite Skincare: Moody Sisters!

I have known the lovely ladies (and their husbands) behind Moody Sisters Skincare since high school.  That's what happens when you're from a small town/valley!  In the last few years they got fed up with all the chemical laden skin care products available on the open market and started creating their own, right in their kitchen.

Once I found out I could get these awesome non-toxic, high quality products locally I quit buying anything else.  They've had a few quirks along the way, but they've been in business long enough now that you will not get an inferior product in any way when you buy from them!

Check out the haul I picked up last night!

Now that I'm on the downward slide to 40 (eek!) I've realized that my skin looks and feels better when I take care of it.  I know the wrinkles and other issues are not going away no matter how many fancy creams I use so I'm not putting something toxic on my face just in the hopes of looking younger than I am.  But taking care of my skin means that my makeup goes on better too!  Have you ever put makeup on dry skin? It's not pretty.

Speaking of makeup, Moody Sisters contracts with a Midwest company (because makeup is still complicated, yo!) for high quality makeup that also does not have any toxins in it.  ALL the ingredients are listed right on the label.

I'm kind of late to the makeup game and I'm horrible at guessing at colors, so lucky for me Whitney loaned me all her samples for the weekend so I can find the right products for me.  But I've already been using their mascara for years and some eye shadows in fun shades.

I hope you'll check out my friends' shop and see what interests you!   It's not drugstore prices, but these are not drugstore products and they are still totally affordable and last a long time.  Plus, you'll feel better about putting safe products on your skin.

For new customers you can use my special code MARRIEDLIFE for 10% off your first order of any size.  And, if you join their newsletter they are always having sales and specials.  Or follow them on Facebook as well.

Come this Monday actually, the first 300 newsletter subscribers to order will get a free sugar scrub just for the price of shipping ($15 value and they are the best sugar scrubs I've ever tried, not so oily that they leave a slick sheen in the bottom of your tub and actually lather a bit). You can see the new one I picked up in my photo up top, it's the short squatty bottle.

There are so many other great products the Moody Sisters make and sell, some seasonal items, and some great bundles.  Your skin will thank you for trying them!

*I was not compensated in any way for this post, these are my friends and I truly love their stuff!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sweden: Walking History

Exploring Skara.  But first, a proper Swedish bakery breakfast! We ate here two mornings. I would be in so much trouble if this was in my town.

Om nom nom.

I had the little cornered pastries on the top row of the photo below one morning.  Sooo good.  But I really don't think you could go wrong with any of it!

Now I know why my mom likes bakeries so much and I don't care for them... these are truly a world apart!


The cathedral by morning light.  It truly was spectacular and amazing to be in such a relatively small town.

Look, we were here! (and my phone takes really distorted pictures with it's rear facing camera)

Actually the photo of us was taken from the ruins of this other church that's even older than the cathedral.

Then we walked over to the Vastergotlands Museum.


Clara found a helmet in the gift shop!

This is in the basement of the building above, a little history of the area during medieval times.

You can see the cathedral in the middle obviously, the ruins of the church we were standing in are in front of it, the red building across the water to the left is the museum building this is in.  And off to the right is a hill with a moat around it, Clara's mom's house is now just to the right of that!  The amazing part is that Skara really isn't that much bigger than this map.  Fill in the green areas and maybe make it slightly bigger than the whole board and that's it.

The hotel I was staying at was roughly on that main road in the center and towards the bottom of the picture.  This view is looking east at the town.

After wandering through the few rooms we went out back to the area called Fornbyn which was like a recreation of the area.  Or possibly some of the buildings were original.  I don't know, most of the signs here were only in Swedish and Clara had a cold so I didn't need her to translate everything!

They had some short people back then! Or else they just had small doorways to keep things out!

Just a pretty picture of the windmill.  Not sure what the building actually was.

We wandered back through town and stopped at a cafe for lunch.  Clara got the smorgastorte so I could try some, but she said it wasn't very good.  And soooo much mayonaise.  Gross.  I think if I'd had a better one I might have liked it okay.  It's interesting, but very common.
The cake above is traditional for birthdays.  It looked yummy!

Then we walked to Clara's mom's house (so you can see the town really isn't that big when we walked across the whole thing just casually!) and borrowed her car to drive out into the country looking for this church...

Where my great grandparents got married!  It wasn't open, but we peeked in one window we could reach.  VERY thick walls and once again, very short doorways!  This place is still in use on Sundays and some of the tombstones in the churchyard have recent dates on them.

Really cool to think about my great grandparents (who I never met) having walked in the same place.


This was the name of the area, Lindarva, just a very small area with a few houses, mostly farming area.  Back across from this sign was Hilltorp where my great grandfather was born, but we couldn't figure out which house it might have been.


We were dodging rain clouds all day, but mostly stayed dry and saw this lovely rainbow.  You can't tell very well, but this was the countryside there.  Mostly just flat and ALL the houses have red roofs!

Next we skirted back around Skara and went east to visit this old church called Varnhem which has the ruins of the abbey that used to be connected to it.

Unfortunately the church was closed as well so we couldn't go inside, but we did wander around in the ruins and there were little signs telling what each room was used for and they had English translations!

This church really was huge, I had a hard time backing up far enough to get it all in one frame!  There is a cow pasture behind it and I didn't really want to see if the cows were friendly or not!

While we were there it turned 6 o'clock and the doors at the top of the steeple opened and beautiful bells chimed for about 2 minutes.

Still fighting the rain, but at least you can see the grounds better when it's not completely sunny for pictures!

Walking the pathways where monks once walked (in what was also once a fully covered building) is almost surreal.  It's like you can feel the history!

Then back to Skara and a takeout pizza place for dinner.  I know I didn't have pizza, but it's been too long, can't remember what!  Anyway, nothing is very far from the cathedral so I had to get one more picture by twilight.

And then across from my hotel was the grocery store.  Their big chain is called IKA (pronounced ick-a) and this one is IKA Munken and has these monks on the outside that are practically life size!  As a reference to the monks from the abbey we had just visited.  Such cool history!

And that was all in one day... tired yet?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Happy Birthday Mama!

We had dinner with my parents on Sunday.  I'm pretty sure my mom doesn't mind sharing her birthday month with all her grandkids!

So she invited the girls to "share" her cake.  Because every time it's someone's birthday they want to know if they can have some "birthday" too.  Which to them means cake.  When you're 3, that's important!

They helped blow them ALL out...

But in my rush to just put all the pink candles in I forgot that some of them were the re-lighting kind!

They kept blowing them out as soon as they re-lit, but it was still funny!

And for a present we are going to see the Piano Guys live in Spokane in May when we have our annual girls weekend.  So fun!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

On Christianity and Politics

Let's not be monsters!
I said on Facebook a few weeks ago that I wasn't going to post about politics anymore.  I just made a plea for people to look beyond the sound bites and actually research where each candidate stood on the issues.  And it's okay if you don't agree with me on the issues.  We don't have to agree, but we can still respect each other as people, and even be friends!  As long as you can respect me and my opinions as well.

But this election is different than any other I've ever seen.  And yes, it has to do with that one front runner candidate who I won't mention by name.  Whatever his stance on the issues, he's making a mockery of our country and our political system.  Perhaps it was already a mockery and he's just bringing it to light.  But he's not basing anything he does on respect for other people and I have a big problem with that.

See, because I'm a Christian.  I believe that every person has a right to dignity and human worth simply because they were born.  And when you start denigrating someone just because they are other than you, you fail to see their basic humanity.  You have lost the right to be called a leader.  Yes, you have become a bully.

So I did post something rather controversial on Facebook this weekend.  People disagreed with me.  And they did so politely.  And part of what was shared I didn't even agree with because it was calling someone names.  I shared it to make a point, but I do wish there was a way to have left out the name calling part.  The subject hit a nerve with me and I didn't think too carefully about how it was shared.

But after I shared it, I took a nap.  And I started thinking about some of the loved ones I've lost recently.  And I started thinking about how some of them I know I will see again, because they are Christians, and others I'm not sure about.  I hope that they decided to follow Jesus, but I don't know.  And I'm not here to say that I know about anyone other than myself for certain.  But it occurred to me, that even more than how I care about politics (which some days isn't very much) I really do care about people.  Which is more and more related to my politics.
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  James 2:15-16 (but really, read the whole chapter
I care if people know Jesus, and I care if we are showing them Jesus' love here on earth so they might know him.  So that their lives might be made a little bit easier, a little bit brighter, by his love shining through me.  My Jesus didn't really make a whole lot of rules, he just said "love people".  He calls us as individuals to repent and be saved, but towards our fellow man he commands love. Even toward those who hate you.  That's a pretty tall order, but it includes a lot of people that "we" love to hate on, especially with our politics and policies.

So maybe you can see how my Jesus and my politics get a little bit mixed up.  When politics is telling me to hate, and be mean, and denigrate others, then I can't get on board with that.  And I don't want that for a leader of our country.

We can disagree on policies and how best to govern our nation, I'm okay with that.  But what I hope is that we can stop looking at people who don't agree with us, making them other, and then hating them.  Look what it's gotten us. 

You might wonder why I'm even bothering to write this if I said I wasn't going to post about politics anymore.  But sometimes there are thoughts in my head that need to come out and they don't come out in words, they come out on paper.  And sometimes when they come out they look a little differently than they did in my head, and that's okay too.  But really this is my stream of consciousness.  I hope it makes some sense and that maybe we can have a respectful conversation about it.

One resource I have found highly useful is the website I Side With. It asks you questions about where you stand on the issues and then lines you up with the candidate you seem to match best (which seems like a fairly unbiased way to go about it actually). It's then helpful to read through the differences and see if you could really live with those. It also gives you a progression of how you match up with all the candidates.  It takes awhile, but I highly recommend it.