Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year!

It is amazing to think we will soon be ringing in another new year tonight!
I hope your 2013 has been amazing and blessed!  It has felt like an incredibly fast year to me.  That is sad in a way, to think that another year is over already.  Yet, it is a beautiful thing at the same time because already I have the privilege of looking forward to what this new year could bring.  It's so neat to think of the endless possibilities for a new year and what God's plan entails for 2014.

New Year's Eve night feels like one of the coziest nights of the year.  Not only is it usually chilly outside and lovely inside- a fire in the fireplace and hot chocolate and old movies kind of night- but it has a certain nostalgia and euphoria as you look back on the year we have been through and look forward to the one just hours away!

Tonight, as I think about the past year, I reflect mostly on things I am thankful for... The two things I am most thankful for about this year are having my family to live it with and to have had a year of drawing close to God.  I am truly thankful for things I have been through, the people I am thankful to have spent my time with, the books I have read, the places I have been, the friendships I have made, the faith that has grown in me.  One distinct way I feel I have grown is learning more and more to be positive.  Positivity.  That was my "word of the year" for this year we are wrapping up.  It did my heart and my faith wonders to truly make the effort to be positive in all things.  I didn't always succeed, but I tried my best and I asked God to help me be positive and thankful and not ungrateful.  I feel like making that effort to have a good outlook on every day made life easier in many ways, and ultimately changed the way I saw my life and the world.  It gave me a deeper compassion for others and a greater sense of how grateful I should be just to wake up every day.  It helped me to see that when you live positively, you live more beautifully in everything.
As far as positivity goes, it was a lesson to me to look for only the good in things and stop thinking of the negative.  And I realized more than ever before that most of the time, there was no reason to not be positive.  I have my family, shelter, more food and clothing than I need, things that give me joy, loving friends, and God!  No matter what little seemingly negative things could happen in a new day, those things are a thousand times more than what I should need to smile and be positive every day.

I've been thinking a lot about my word for this coming year.  I have thought about how good it felt to live each day with the purpose to fulfill a word and live by it, and tried to think about which word would lead me through another year in the same way.  The one I chose is one I have been thinking of a lot, as it has built inside me and been laid on my heart...
I choose this word because more and more I find myself thinking about how days pass when I may say my prayers at night and thank God for the day, but I don't always stop to think about the beautiful little parts of that day.  I hope to savor and soak in each moment, each blessing, each joy, each chance to give or be kind, and each memory made.
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Also on my mind at the brink of the new year that is just a couple of hours away is how I've grown.  It is a beautiful and sweet thing to think about how we grow individually after another year has gone by. 
This year, I think I have grown most in...
my faith and love for the Lord, my heart for others, being a better daughter, being pure in heart, and getting better at the simple loveliness of things I enjoy, like baking, and even growing more passionate about my Southern heritage and my history.
I have had a year I am so thankful for.  I have had more blessings in my life than I could have asked for, and I have had the adventure of creating, in homemaking, traveling, loving, aspiring, and making friends like all of you sweet girls and ladies.  In blogging alone I have been blessed to find treasures such as you who I had the privilege to meet and get to know this year and last.
It has been a great year.  Even the challenges have been blessings because God got me through them... things I was afraid of, but have now lived through!  It's always exciting to realize that.
Firmly planted in my heart is the belief that God writes our story.  I know His plan will prevail, but the dreams He has put into my heart are fun to ponder.  For the new year, I hope to:
Travel more.  Get lost in more books.  Grow in my faith.  Deepen my heart for children.  Take more photos.  Write more.  Take time to sew.  See more of the South.  Explore new places.  Be strong, not fearful. 
What are your hopes for the new year??

I am SO excited for 2014.
May you all have the most WONDERFUL year, one full of BLESSINGS and JOY!
Happy 2014!
A few photos from the year I smile to look back on...



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Soft, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

From these photos, you can tell that these cookies are not chocolate chip cookies.
I used peanut butter chips instead because that was what I had (and they turned out delicious!),
but this recipe is really a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
The substance of each cookie and the way it tasted was amazing!
They stayed soft and chewy long after they had cooled off, which is something
that even some of the most wonderful tasting cookies do not always do.
So, for that reason and because they had such wonderful flavor, this is a keeper of a
recipe in my opinion.
Here is the recipe...
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (I used light)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt 3 cups semi-sweet choc. chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
*note: I added an extra tsp. of vanilla.
You can never have too much :)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream sugars and butter together. 
Add vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.
Combine dry ingredients together in a separate bowl
and gradually add to creamed mixture.
Stir in chips and nuts.
Bake in small drops on non-stick cookie sheets,
10-12 minutes.

I think I was a little more excited about getting in the kitchen the day I made these
cookies, because it was the first time I got to use my new poinsettia oven mitt♥
That really got me in the winter baking spirit.
This winter, it has been so exciting to have time to bake to my heart's
content because I have so much time to try different recipes.
I am so grateful to have this time to have fun and be in the kitchen a lot together.
I've been baking big batches of cookies every few days for fun.  That probably
doesn't sound healthy, haha, but I try to not eat too many
and it helps that we share them, too.
The two chocolate chip recipes I've tried this month have been the one I'm sharing
here and then the one on the back of the Nestle chocolate morsels package.
Honestly, I couldn't tell you which ones came out better.  It was hard to decide.
I would recommend either one, because they both had so much flavor and were WONDERFUL.
Happy baking!
Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter is Here!

Happy first day of Winter!

To me, it has felt like Winter long before now.  Not necessarily because of the weather (which in the South will play tricks on you and turn from Winter to Summer and back to Winter again in a matter of days), because it is back to being a bit warm here this weekend, but because of the joyful, cozy, and cheery spirit that defines this wonderful time of year.  I think I would be content if God decided that there would be Winter for a whole year.

What a nostalgic, wonderful, child-like feeling it brings.  I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I fall in love with it every year when it comes around and often look forward to it when it hasn't arrived yet. 
For many of us, this is "the most wonderful time of the year" because we have some of our sweetest memories branded in this season.  I know I do!  Time of joy and family and togetherness and wonderment.  When you have that, Winter becomes this feeling of being inside a Kinkade painting or the pages of Little House in the Big Woods, or any charming, cozy place that makes you feel warm and happy.

Each of these scenes paints the perfect picture of the love of Winter I feel each year, the way I see it in my mind.  A vintage, olden days kind of picture... and whether your Winter is warm or snowy, it doesn't seem to matter, for you feel the same type of wonder in your heart no matter where you are as long as you're with those you love...



I left this for last, because it is the coziest to me.
I first saw it a few weeks ago, and every time I look at it I feel comfy just thinking about
 being in this room with the sweetness of sleep, a fireplace, and snow falling just outside
 the window.
It may not be snowing here, but our Winters are still cozy.  I relish mostly in the chilly, rainy days.  It looks here much like the second painting from the bottom.  Wintery and nice, but no snow.  Snow is rare down here, but I still hope and pray it will come sometime during the season.  I'm thankful we get to bring the feeling of it being cold outside into our house at least through decorating with a Wintery feel!  Simple things, even like decorating my blog for the season brought that feeling to me, which I had a lot of fun doing yesterday.
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I think Winter makes everything come to life in a way unlike in any other season... and it makes people come to life, too, which is perhaps what makes it most special.

I am so thankful for the Winter season.  There is no place I'd rather be now than cozying up near the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate, reading while snuggled in a chair, bundling up in sweaters, baking up recipes, and spending time at home together.

What is your idea of Winter heaven?

Happy Winter to everyone!

I hope y'all have a BLESSED season!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Faithful Friday!

One of the greatest missions we have on this earth is to be giving and loving towards others.  Writing about having a giving spirit last week made me think about the fact that it is easy to give to those we like a lot and who we enjoy being around and to strangers or others who our hearts go out to.  But what about someone who feel has done us wrong in some way?  I think about this in terms of forgiveness.  We have all experienced a time or two where we felt wronged by someone and found it difficult to forgive.  Having a forgiving spirit about us, though, is so important because it is surely a form of giving. 
This may be harder at some times than others, but we can remember that even more than that, we can swallow our pride and forgive others for the bigger reason that God forgives us for our sins every single day!  If He so lovingly does that, we should be all the more moved to have a heart of forgiveness also.  Think about what it would be like to have a best friend who hurt your feelings every day.  Would we be able to forgive them after so many trespasses? 
In making a whole-hearted effort to be a person who freely forgives, think also on the beautiful way this will strengthen your faith!  If we harbor no ill feelings towards anyone we know, we have a less troubled and more pure heart in worship and faith altogether.
May you have a blessed weekend!
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Faithful Fridays are hosted by Joy at her blog, Doodlebug.  To read her wonderful posts and link up yourself, visit her here!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

One Year Later

I am sure I'm not alone when I say that I still feel stunned that the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy happened even if it has been a year since.  I get chills thinking about the horror of it and I want to cry when I see the precious faces of the children and all those that had their lives cut short on this day of December last year.

I just saw an interview of the sister of Noah Posner, one of the little boys who passed away.  Tears came to my eyes as I watched her talk about her memories of that day and what it was like on the day of college last year when her mom called and told her what had happened.  She was trying to hold it together as she spoke, and you could tell her heart crumbled just to think about it.  My heart breaks for her and the other many families of the children and teachers who were killed.  A year may have gone by, but I am sure the pain has not lessened any for those who lost their precious children and family members.

I look at all of those beautiful souls who passed away that day as heroes.  Victoria Soto is one of them.  She is a hero to me.  She was 27 years old and one of the teachers at Sandy Hook.  She protected and hid her class and sacrificed her life to save them.  Her courage and immense love for her students inspires and overwhelms me.

May all our prayers and blessings be with those who lost their loved ones on December 14th last year in Connecticut, as they deal with the grief and memories of one year ago today.

Hug your loved ones extra tight, remembering how much of a gift each moment with them is.

Have a blessed weekend!!

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit"
Psalms 34:18

Friday, December 13, 2013

Faithful Friday!

The Lord has really helped me to view my life in a way where I see it for what bigger purpose it has rather than just to satisfy me and doing what what I want to do.  The purpose of the life that has been given to me should not be to solely seek joys and excitement; instead, it should be to spend as many moments as possible with the goal to help others.

You can have faith and be close to God and go to church and other things that would seem to make you a godly person, but I feel like what does all of that matter if you don't have a heart that goes out to those who need you.  To give of yourself to anyone in need- an animal, a stranger, someone sick, someone with heartache- is perhaps the most godly act you could do as you go about each day.

So, when I think about these beautiful words in the sweet photograph above- the reason God gives us a new day of life each day- it makes me feel like I have so much to learn in selflessness.  Waking up to a new day tomorrow, I should not look at it as another day to have fun for or experience something joyful for myself.  It takes your heart and your faith to a beautiful place to think of each day as a gift to serve others!
If we wake up tomorrow, it is because we have a purpose to help someone who needs us!  Your purpose of today may even just be to lift someone up in prayer, or through a kind action, a loving word to a person we may come across, to make a bigger difference in the lives of others because of what we have to give- and even more than that, because we have been given another day to give it.

Have a blessed weekend!
Hope you stay warm and cozy inside♥

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Faithful Fridays are hosted by Joy on her blog, Doodlebug.  You can enjoy visiting her blog and read her amazing posts, here!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

The week of Thanksgiving was a joy, and a part of that was because I got to spend time baking!  I loved making one dessert from a delicious new recipe:  Pumpkin Chiffon Pie.

This is also the simplest and fastest pie recipe I have ever tried.  Although it's during this season when I especially enjoy long, lovely days of baking, sometimes it is nice to make something that tastes amazing, yet doesn't take a lot of time to make.


I saw this Paula Deen recipe and it looked simple and heavenly (you can even watch this video of her making it to see how easy it is)!

It was so delicious.  It had the perfect amount of rich, smooth pumpkin-spice taste!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
1 frozen deep dish 9-inch pie crust
32 jumbo marshmallows
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. container whipped topping
cinnamon for garnish
"Bake pie crust according to directions.
In the top of a double boiler over low heat, combine the
marshmallows and the pumpkin puree.  Stir constantly,
with a heatproof spatula, until the marshmallows are melted.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the spice and salt.
When the mixture is completely cool, stir in half of the whipped topping.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.  Top with the remaining whipped
topping and garnish with cinnamon."
I put ours in the freezer for about an hour to make it firmer after it was done,
so it would be easier to slice.  It was delicious served so cold.
Pumpkin flavors of spice and sweetness mix to make a great dessert.  And it makes it even more wonderful to add this whipped, wonderful texture to the mix.
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I hope you are having a blessed day!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

That's Home

Some things are truly beautiful in that they just make us feel at home because they are nostalgic or we connect them with sweet times and memories.... I think the idea of something that makes you feel "home" is so wonderful because it can be anything, from a stuffed animal that you've had all your life that reminds you of your childhood, to a person who makes you feel home, to a photograph.  Home is that cherished feeling you get when you are in a room surrounded by your family of many, where there is a warmth of joy in the air.

Recently, we took a trip a few hours away to go to the coast and stay with my Grandmother. 
It was a girls trip, which is always fun!  I savor spending time on these trips we make during Winter and Spring- when my Grandmother stays in the South before going back home- and being back there again was such a cozy feeling.  Everything about being there made me think about how there are certain parts of our lives that are home to us.  It made me think of how beautiful those things are and how much they mean.

We've been making trips to the coast like this for years, starting every winter when my Grandma comes down.  Driving the same roads, watching how things have changed each time we drive through the little towns, stopping at the same stops to eat, and spending time at her house when we arrive.  That's home.
I never get tired of passing the beautiful, old, historic buildings we've driven by all these years on
trips, like this courthouse.  Many were especially beautiful because of the lights decorating them.

There is so much more, though, about seeing her each year that brings on that feeling...

Driving up and seeing her for the first time.
Sitting down and catching up when we get there.
Looking through her old photo albums.
When we all get excited about making a cake together one of the nights we're there.
Hearing crazy and funny stories or her memories about growing up.
Seeing a pot of something wonderful she's made us for supper when we arrive.

Hot, delicious stew she made for us.
When she pulls out a box of crafts she's been working on to show us.
Going fishing in the creeks nearby.
Waking up in the mornings to the sunlight streaming in her cozy little house.
The smell of her pillow and blankets.  My whole childhood, it's never changed. (Don't all Grandmas have a signature smell to their house?)
Seeing her at the table stirring her tea every morning.
Seeing the light of her lamp before she goes to bed while she reads.
Walking up and down the beach, the three of us just walking and talking.

It was freezing and overcast- a gray blue sky- but walking by the water gives me a peace and joy,
a true feeling of loveliness, whether it's a sunny day or not.
Piling into her truck together to go into town.
Hearing the soft whirring sound of her heater, feeling so cozy as I fall asleep.
Having a feeling of sleepiness after a long day and sinking into all the warm blankets she has for us.
The way her breakfast nook looks at breakfast, bright light coming through the window.
The things that have always been on the table: her bible and the honey.

This year, she added this neat salt shaker to her table.
It's a Mason Jar salt shaker!  I still want to know where I can get one.

I may have written about this before, but something else I love about visiting my Grandmother is hearing her stories when she shares something with us about an event she is reminded of.  Most of the time, she's already told my Mama, so she'll tell me.  The treasure of memories passed down from mothers to daughters and grand-daughters.
One of the days we were down seeing her was the 22nd.  We turned on the news that morning, cozily sitting there just a few minutes after waking up, warm by the heater, and everything that came on was about the 50 year anniversary of John F. Kennedy in Dallas.  It was interesting to listen as my Grandma told me her memories of exactly where she was and what she was doing and what she thought when she heard that the president had been shot. 
This also reminded me of looking through her lovely old photo and momento trunk when we visited her two summers ago in Colorado.  I was amazed to find the newspaper she has kept all these years that was printed in her Louisiana town announcing JFK's death the day after it happened.

On this trip, with so much making me feel "home" the way I did, I think that I was most reminded of how sweet it is to come back to the things that are familiar to you.  That is a pure and genuine gift of life.

We have seen my Grandma a few times already since she has been here in the South for the cold months, between us visiting her and her coming up here.  I am happy to have her here with us again this weekend!  And what a cozy weekend it is, speaking of things that make me feel home.  We are having days with the coldest temperatures this year!  It is so wonderful!  Weather in the South sure is funny though.  To think it was 80 degrees on Monday, and now it's 30!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

What makes you feel home?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Faithful Friday!

Today is the first time I have read this quote.  It is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.  Prayer is such a vital part of our faith.  What a true thought of encouragement in these words, to use the privilege of prayer in the forefront of our lives, not just sometimes or in trying times!

Every once in a while you read something that makes you think, "wow".  This was the case for me and I hope it is for you, too.  What an incredibly huge part of our faith it is to pray always.

Happy Friday!

I hope y'all have a very blessed weekend♥

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Faithful Fridays are hosted by Joy at her blog, Doodlebug.  Click here to read her wonderful posts and her own Faithful Friday thoughts!
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