WFMW: The Perfect Neighbor Gift

These quick, easy and delicious Rolo Pretzel Turtle Cookies are the perfect last minute gift.

Three ingredients: pretzels, Rolos, pecan halves:

We made over 100 of these in less than a half an hour for five amazing neighbors…

1. preheat oven to 250 degrees and unwrap the Rolos (you can only eat one)

2. spread out the pretzels on a cookie sheet and add one Rolo to each pretzel:

3. bake at 250 just until chocolate gets soft (less than 5 minutes) and press pecan half into melted Rolo. Let cool.

4. share on a fun plate (these awesome silver trays are only $3.74!):

5. to give away!

These are seriously good.

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* Jesus Is The Gift – Metal Tray

Family Art: Create a Snowflake Star

Our family loves art and I’m so excited to start a new series that brings families together to create meaningful moments and beautiful art.

And our first project is easy and requires only paper and scissors, and tape (or glue)!

This giant snowflake star  is quick and so much easier than it looks.

Step 1: Cut six pieces of paper (we used a lightweight card stock) into 21 x21 cm squares.

Step 2: Fold over each square into a triangle and cut 3 lines with your scissors, each about 1. 5 cm wide (1/2 inch), paralllel to the short side of the triangle. The cuts should not meet at the end; there is about a 1/2 inch wide strip going down from the point of the triangle to the long side. (first picture)

Step 3: Open the square and bend the cut-out strips over and tape or glue the tips together. Alternate bending them over to both sides. (Still not sure? Here are some more detailed pictures).

Step 4: Once you have the 6 pieces of your star, place them in a line and tape or staple together.

Step 5: Punch a hole and hang to enjoy:

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Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like a Dead Tree

  1. Our Christmas tree died on Dec. 6. It was a sad day for me to hear ornaments dropping like flies. I’ve never seen anything die quite as fast. This was our first real tree in about 8 years. Now I remember why we go fake.
  2. My hubby got on a “What do you want for Christmas” ask-fest. I finally answered: for all the kitchen cabinets, drawers, shelves, to be organized and cleaned.
  3. Christmas came early for me.
  4. Related: What is it about a man tossing out old batteries, wiping down sticky shelves, cutting new contact paper that is just plain old sexy?
  5. My local Chick Fil A considers me a regular customer. At the drive-up the other day,  they handed me a large plastic up like they’d been waiting for me. And now I’m allowed unlimited sweet tea for .75. I wept.
  6. I’m done Christmas shopping. I’m a terrible wrapper.
  7. We celebrated my youngest’s birthday early. For the first time, we tried tricking her since it falls so close to Christmas and our anniversary, etc. Turns out she’s smarter than we thought and her birthday lasted a full week this year.
  8. My neck pain has been much more manageable  thanks to a new little pill.
  9. Related: don’t mix said pill with your first ever margarita at your husband’s Christmas dinner.
  10. Unrelated: I am not a druggie.
  11. Today is my 39th birthday (for the first time, really)
  12. When Maureen and I Skype, we use a lot of emoticons. And lately, we’ve been planning her wedding. It’s going to be lovely, we just need a groom.
  13. There’s a small colony of fruit flies living in my kitchen. They are multiplying as I type. Halp.
  14. Our 4th Mercy House baby was born just a few days ago! We now have 3 boys, 1 girl all under the age of 4 months! Another on the way….
  15. I mailed the last of the Mercy House Shop orders on Friday. A host of volunteers helped get the hundreds of packages ready. I was in a hurry and took the last box to the post office. I was taping with one hand and talking to my mom with the other. About an hour later, it dawned on me that I taped up all our family Christmas cards inside a strangers’ order. Oh, and a rented Redbox movie.
  16. I need a break.
  17. I have a couple of posts scheduled this week and reruns for next week. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked more forward to time with my kids and family.
  18. I don’t plan on being on the computer much the next couple of weeks. I do plan to make some cookies for neighbors, put some puzzles together, create some family art and a lot of new memories.
  19. My youngest had her last Christmas Preschool Christmas program ever. She was an angel. Again, like last year. I thought she might take Mary down. #bitterangel 
  20. Yesterday at church, our family read Scripture on the stage. It was beautiful. Only people didn’t know that my son was so nervous, he whispered he might throw up about 2 seconds before we started reading or that my youngest thought her puffy Christmas dress was stupendous (her way of saying stupid). 
  21. Just keeping it real.
  22. My hubby got our son a Daisy BB Gun for Christmas with a scope. I’m pretty sure he’s waited his whole life for this. #redneckChristmas
  23. I woke up the other morning and discovered my hubby had gotten up at 5 am to drag down and decorate our old fake tree. It was such a sweet surprise. I married up.
  24. Our neighbor’s little boy asked me how old I was turning. When I said 39, he did some quick figuring and said, “Wow. You are 10 years older than my Dad.” Even I was surprised.
  25. The dead tree is just outside Bake at 350’s kitchen window. (Sorry, Bridget, we will dispose of it). My 5 year old asked me if it died of old age.
  26. Yes, I think it was 39.

Meant to Be

We lay tangled under a heap of quilts, enjoying the deep contentment of comfortable love.

I can hear his even-breathing, feel the weight of his protective arm. But I’m not sleeping. I keep thinking about the comment he left on a blog, a comment about me. And I think of the love letter that is hidden in the Mr & Mrs Journal I’m giving him. It’s  for his eyes only.

It’s hard not to adore this man who lives counter-cultural to make our dreams come true. Even when the dreams are God-sized and terrifying.

He knows me well enough to figure out the one Christmas gift I’m giving him. He senses when the stress builds and is the first to suggest I step away. He eases my mom guilt, helping in every area.  He is the lover of my soul. A friend like no other. This man.

My husband.

Seventeen Christmas seasons ago I wore white. I walked the aisle towards twinkling Christmas lights in our December wedding, towards my future.

He surprised me with a song on my wedding day. He crooned “Meant to Be” and tears dripped off my chin.

We were so young. We have grown together and I don’t know where he ends and I begin anymore.

Nothing about our marriage is perfect. We have good days and not-so-good days. Yesterday we argued over a computer cord. Today we made up. Ooo la la.

But the 17 years of ups and downs have given us this: today. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I smile-wide in the moonlight. He must sense the contentment. Joy.

He pulls me close, hot breath on my neck. I snuggle in deeper and relax against him. I can’t wait for him to read my anniversary love letter. We have a lot to celebrate.

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In honor of 17 years (!) Dayspring is offering my readers 50% off any item in their Mr. & Mrs. – Love Collection Set with the code: love50. Nothing screams hot monogamy like a journal you pass back and forth or awesome coupons or cute romantic mugs!

The House That Mercy Built {My Snapfish Photo Book}

I did it.

I made my first Snapfish photo book! Your suggestions were amazing and I took your overwhelming advice and made a book about Mercy House.

I love the way it turned out and I can’t believe I was so intimidated to try it. It was easy and took just a couple of hours from start to finish.

I was simply amazed at how user-friendly the tools are.  Snapfish’s new photo book enhancements make it easy so you don’t need to worry about a long process. They also have a new feature that designs the book for you. I decided to try it on my own since I wanted the book to be chronological.

It starts with my first trip to Africa, the day Maureen and I met. And ends with a picture of all our rescued Mercy House girls and their three (so far) babies!

I cannot wait to send a copy of the photo book to Maureen in January with some bags we have going over to Kenya. I’m also going to keep a copy for our Mercy House table at events and I loved the idea of using the book as fundraiser… Y’all are so smart.

Here’s a peek (these are screenshots from my book that’s being printed right now):

The day we met in Kenya, Africa: March 10, 20110:

Less than a year later, our dream becomes a reality (with fundraising in America and a full staff, beautiful home and vehicle in Kenya):

Summer 2011: We spent life-changing time in Africa with our staff there:

The best part of the story: our five pregnant girls who needed to be rescued:

The story is just beginning….

Whether or not this book wins the Snapfish contest, this social media love story in pictures is priceless.

Disclosure: I am being compensated by Snapfish for my participation in the  “Your Creative Lens on Life” Holiday Campaign.

WFMW: Last Minute Online Shopping Tip

Just a quick tip! (Thanks to a reader for letting me know) Friday, December 16th is known as “free shipping day” for thousands of online stores…It’s the last chance to get many items mailed in time for Christmas. You can check out ALL the many participating retail stores here in case you aren’t done.

Are you finished Christmas shopping?? I am. Wrapping– that’s another story.



A Girl’s Work is Never Done {Amazing Giveaway}

UPDATED:  Bethany, comment #366, has been chosen as the winner.  Congrats!

I sort of have this thing about clean floors.

And when the days of my life (and work) get chaotic and feel out of control, I take it out on my floors.

Yes, I’m a compulsive sweeper slash vacuum cleaner user.

I may have Mount St. Laundry in the background and 429 things on my to do list, but I always start with my floors. It makes me feel better.

You’d think with this compulsion gift, I’d have a really top dollar vacuum cleaner. No. We usually just replace our cheap, worn-out one with a mediocre one every year or two.

Y’all: my floor cleaning dreams have come true. When Oreck asked if they could send me their newly released Magnesium (top of the line vacuum) to try and keep, I might have cried a little. I might have also spread dirt on the floor in eager anticipation. Oh wait, I have a hubby, three kids, a dog, cat, two half-alive hamsters and a fruit fly infestation, I don’t have to add “make house dirty” to my list.

I was grocery shopping when the Oreck Magnesium arrived. My hubby took it out of the box, assembled it in a few seconds and put it next to the Christmas tree. I think that’s called Brownie Points.

!!!!!! I call it love.

I might never stop vacuuming.

Here are my favorite things about the Oreck Magnesium Vacuum:

  • It’s incredibly light-weight (a very good thing for my neck).
  • It’s feels like it’s self-propelled. Seriously.
  • It sweeps up floors and carpet with two speeds.
  • It’s small, sleek and sexy. (Yes, I used the “s” word).
  • The swivel head reaches the small village of dust bunnies that live behind furniture.
  • The cord is really long and I only have to unplug once on both floors of my house.
  • And probably my favorite part?? It’s so easy to use, even a child can do it. And does [insert evil laugh here].

Example:

And the best part? Oreck is giving their amazing Magnesium Vacuum to one lucky reader today! Value: $499.99

Introducing the lightest, full-powered upright in America. With its extremely strong, durable magnesium frame, the Magnesium™ packs all the power you expect from an Oreck vacuum — so much power it feels like it’s self-propelled on most surfaces. The two speed Quickswitch™ on the back of the vacuum enables you to move smoothly across all floor types using appropriate power levels: high for carpets and low for hardwoods and tile. It’s even gentle enough for fine Oriental and Persian rugs. Additionally, the large high-performance rear wheels with cylindrical wheel bearings give the Magnesium maneuverability, making it easy to push through high-pile carpet. Best of all, it lays virtually flat for easy cleaning under furniture.

To enter: Please visit Oreck.com and come back here to tell me one thing you learned about the Magnesium vacuum.

For an additional entry, you can  tweet that you’d like to win the @oreck vacuum that @wearethatfamily is giving away.

The giveaway winner must be a resident of the U.S. 48 contiguous states.

Please note: Oreck Corporation provided the prize for the sweepstakes but is not the sponsor of the sweepstakes.