Sunday, February 26, 2012

{ baby, i'm coming home }

For the last three years, I have been traveling to Costa Rica in January or February.
After the craziness of the holidays in December, I spend the first days of the year getting ready for being away for a week or two or almost three.
Although I still get caught up in the commotion of New Year’s resolution trends
my personal new year really starts when my annual trip to CR ends.

Right now, as I sit in my dad’s living room,
putting off packing so I can rest for a few minutes,
I feel a void in my stomach.
I’m nervous because tomorrow’s new beginning scares me.

I feel the pressure that perhaps normal people feel on January 1
to be a better person when I get home
to change my ways
to be more organized
to be a better mom
to be a better wife
to pray more
to eat better
to sleep more
to use the computer less
to do laundry more regularly
to read more
to be nicer

In truth, I’m always trying to do those things, but this time away allows me 
to take a step out of my reality so I can analyze just how much I can improve.

Perhaps that’s the reason I feel so much pressure. 
This time has shown me that there is a lot of room for improvement and that realization scares me.

I’m SO looking forward to being in my home.
On my territory.
Where I know what my responsibilities are and I have a daily routine to depend on.

Yet I really love the escape from real life.

Here in Costa Rica all I have to do is meet the most basic of tasks.
Showering, eating, sleeping, and making sure we have clean clothes.
While it is difficult to travel with a toddler, it’s not nearly as difficult as having to fulfill basic tasks and also work, clean a house, run errands, etc.

I’m scared of getting home to facing real life.
Because real life is hard, kids.
Vacation rocks… but, unfortunately, it’s not made for permanency.

As I write this I know my subconscious is trying to figure out a way to avoid real life
while at the same time returning to the life I truly love so much.

But that’s a tiny bit impossible, isn’t it?

I know all I can do is get on that plane headed for America and pick up where I left off:
Trying to be a better mom. A better wife. Pray more. Eat better. Etc. You know the deal.

I guess all I can do is accept the challenge. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

{ book review : the rules of inheritance }

hi guys! i'm just popping in to tell you about a great book. i hope you don't mind.
there's more on the whole "traveling with a toddler" topic coming!
( i'm not yet done traveling )

| unrelated picture of a gorgeous sunset we caught on mal pais beach|

the blogher book club was so nice to provide me with reading material for my vacation.
on a side note, i just have to say,
you may love your nook and what not but i personally love me some good old paper pages
there's nothing like sitting in a hammock and reading the afternoon away

any whooo, while it's not exactly a carefree beach read
i couldn't get my hands off the rules of inheritance by clare bidwell smith last week.

the book is a work of non-fiction with names having been changed to protect real life people.
it's a sort of auto-biography based around the author's struggles, challenges, and grieving
after her parents were both diagnosed with cancer within a month of each other
... when she was 14

"i realized i would be parentless by 30,"  claire writes.

it's tragic, really. i wanted to bring this girl out of the book and hug her.
mother her. tell her it's ok. advise her. lead her away from self-destruction.
i wanted to bring her parents back.

well, really, i wanted to whole story to not be real and not to happen to anyone... ever. 

let's just say that it's raw and intense.
to say the least.

what touched me most was claire's realization that 
she couldn't change her life
she had no choice but to play the cards she'd been dealt.
in that moment, i felt as though she mustered up some courage that she didn't know she had.

and as silly as it may seem, i also felt as though i also drew some courage from her realization too.

we have one life to live 

no way to run away from it
no choice but to be brave

ain't that right, guys?

if you're considering reading this book 
don't worry
it's not one of those boring, chronological autobiographies

actually, claire sets it up to follow the five stages of the grieving process 
and within those five sections of the book
she tells stories, moments even, 
that relate to that stage in different points in her life.
she may be 14 at one point, 19 another, and 25 on the next page.

definitely keeps the reader interested.
well, at least that's what it did to me.

Disclosure: This is a paid review from the BlogHer Publishing Network,
however all the opinions I share are my own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

{ ash wednesday }

while i'm away on vacation, i've asked a few of my favorite people to write some guests posts.
carina from a punk a pumpkin and a peanut is writing today about ash wednesday.
i first started following her blog because i was so inspired by bakin' it to the streets,
carina's personal effort to feed some local homeless with her family.
i've since gone on to relate to this girl on so many other levels. 
thanks for guesting for me, carina! i'm so happy to have you!

ps; are you making a lenten promise? what is it?


Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Lenten season.
For me, this is the most meaningful time of the year.
A time in the 40 days before Easter to prepare ourselves
through denying ourselves, charity and prayer.

To unite ourselves with Jesus in His suffering.
It's a heavy call. Self-denial is the hardest, I think.
But God promises that when it's hardest, He's the closest.
I never even knew about Lent until I was in high school.
I started going to church regularly on my own and one of my youth leaders told me about it.
Back then it was all about what I gave up. And believe me, it was nothing major.
(Like soda and candy. Big time when you're 16.)
Giving something up still a big part of Lent for my family and me. 
But it's become about so much more.
The heart of it is asking the question: what will draw me closer to Christ?
How can I be transformed?
It isn't just about self denial, but also about charity and prayer.
Over the last year God has done a work in my heart for the homeless.
Our city is teeming with men and women who fear there is no hope,
who don't have a place to rest their head,
don't know where there next meal will come from,
don't know the next time they'll glimpse a friendly face.
And really, I can't do much about it.
But God isn't calling me to do much, He's just calling me to do something.
Awhile back I started taking my kids out a couple times a month to share a meal or treats or coffee with some of the people on the streets in our city.
Our outings have become sporadic, but the need is always there.
That is my hope for Lent this year... that my boys and I can be intentional about giving in real ways.
Meeting people's needs as best we can.

Getting back out on the streets and sharing what we do have with those that need it.
And more than just a sandwich or a muffin, sharing our love.

The heart of Lent is transformation: turning from our own ways back to God's.
Through letting go of something we hold too tightly, giving of ourselves to others, 
and in quiet conversation with our Creator.
My hope and prayer for us all is that we can draw near to Him in this lovely season!

Monday, February 20, 2012

{ guest post : hannah on color }

while i'm away on vacation, i've asked a few of my favorite people to write some guests posts.
hannah is visiting today. 
her blog, happy days, is one of my go-to's when i'm in need of uplifting.
she's cheerful, honest, faithful, and joyful.
her personality is totally reflected in her home 
so i asked her to share a little bit about that.
soak her in, friends, she's a gem!


hello, sweet friends of esther!
it's a joy to be stopping by today! isn't esther's blog a treat?

i have a little winter survival tip for you.
or a life survival tip, if you're like me.
god designed this world we live in with an incredibly colorful palette.
and i adore it all!
i am so grateful for the gift of sight, aren't you?

color in the wardrobe, even color in meals i prepare-very important to me.
the main place i let the colors flow is in my home decor.
we live in north dakota, winters are l o n g and crazy cold. this means a lot of time indoors.
i've found that incorporating color in my home really helps keep the winter insanity at bay.
so far, we've lived only in rented homes. this gives me limited reign in the decorating process.
since we are unable to choose paint colors, i do what i can to cheer up our off-white walls.
most of our furniture is second-hand, and not what i would pick out if shopping for it myself.
thankfully, most of our things are in fine condition 
and we are pleased as punched with anything at all!
of course, like you, i have dreams for future decorating.
many of those dreams live on pinterest for now.

so, back to color. i've learned that some folks are shy with it. especially in their homes.
i say, go for it! maybe begin in small doses.
paint one wall. a side table. add colorful linens. baby steps if you need to!
create and collect things you love.
decide which colors make you the happiest, and start there.

one of my favorite sites for color inspiration is design seeds. check it out!
may want to set a timer for yourself. otherwise you'll be there all night. i've heard that anyway.
they've got the tools to help you find your color favorites.

while i appreciate tones of nature quite a bit, i am more often drawn to brights:

i have very eclectic taste. typically i choose a piece on color rather than style.
vintage, modern, handmade, big retailer...
anything goes in my home. as long as it's colorful and useful.
whether it's bedding, dishes, or wall decor, i try to mix in as much happy color as possible.
on my blog i shared a peek into my kitchen.
i spend a lot of time there, so i try to keep it cheerful and inspiring.

i snapped a few other examples with my phone camera:

one thing i know. it really doesn't matter what things you have.
anything that is a reflection of you and your taste will be beautiful.
and that will make your home a lovely, happy place to be any season of the year.
even something small, like a few colorful coffee mugs or bright shower curtain can really bring the smiles.
and sunny up you. certainly your surroundings ought not to determine your mood. but.
living in an environment that is cheerful and pleasing to the eye
can really help you focus on what is important!

does your home need more color?
try choosing something bright next time your bath towels need to be replaced.
go for the red toaster when your plain white one bites the dust.
spray paint a few of those brown picture frames.
take a look around your home, i bet you've already got some color hiding. rearrange and let it shine!

Friday, February 17, 2012

{ lovely things } in costa rica !

hello from central america! 
we arrived in costa rica last saturday
and have gradually started enjoying our time here. 
it didn't start out so well. that's a tale for another time, i promise.

just a few hours ago we returned from our trip to cabuya village.
it's located on the tip of the nicoya peninsula right above cabo blanco reserve
facing the gulf of nicoya. 
can you find it on this map?

this is the house we stayed at. the website DOES NOT do it justice. i swear.
it's an open air concept cabin so we shared our stay with some little critters...
that took some getting used to but i survived.

since i didn't really surf the www this week 
i figured i'd do a picture post of the lovely things from my week. 

i have to say other than spending time with my handsome men this week
my second favorite thing has been my new 35 mm f/1.8g lens.
so glad i bought it before coming down here.

this picture is going down in history as one of my favorites forever.
also. i love my head wrap and haven't taken it off all week. 

love my kid spending time with grandpa 
he's only seen him once before when he was 4 months old.

catching a viewing of fish fileting and seeing this big head being chopped off

the snake reveling in the sand
my son. i shall pass on the art of beach bumming.

waking with the sun to enjoy 
granola + bananas in the outdoor dining room.
on the table. no problem.

family pictures by the sunrise

finding things like this shell in the front yard of our rental

walking to cabuya island during low tide
i still can't get over the whole walking to an island thing.

playing in the river lajos

touching gross gross gross things that i would otherwise not let him touch at home

do you know that i feel the luckiest girl in the world when i am down here?
sometimes phil and i stand side by side and say to each other
"isn't this unbelieveable?" 
"yes. we are so blessed."

we're starting the second part of our trip tomorrow.
the week filled with family visiting and more beach + pool time.

as i said. we are so lucky.

ps: yes the mosquitos feasted on my son. we're slowly healing. 
he's not itchy but my heart hurts when i see those bites. 
stupid bugs. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

{ When Brownie Met Double Stuffed Oreo }

While I'm away on vacation I asked a few of my favorite people to write some guests posts for me. 
I'm very excited for this first guest post because it's from one of my gal pals from high school.
We were often in the same English classes and even worked on the school newspaper together.
The staff affectionately combined her first name and her last name to call her MereCon 
and even though she's since gone and gotten herself a new last name,
she's still MereCon in my heart. Forever. 
When she got that much coveted prefix of "Mrs." 
she accepted her wifely role very seriously... in the kitchen!
She started posting pictures on FB of these mouthwatering creations she cooked up.
Finally she started a blog where she tries recipes that she finds on Pinterest and other sites
and then she writes down the pros and cons she encountered.
Isn't that a great concept?

If MereCon and I lived closer I am fairly certain I would spend every afternoon in her kitchen. 
Taste testing of course. 

Today she's sharing a treat for Valentines Day that looks incredibly good.

So here's my friend. Please check out her blog but first read what she has to say about
brownie covered oreos! 

(Excuse me while I wipe my drool.)


When Esther asked me to guest write for her blog this week, my response was embarrassingly
like a tween meeting Justin Bieber for the first time, “like O. M. Gee!!! I would love to!!!!!!.”
(Note: No exclamation points were harmed in the writing of this post). But seriously, writing for
Esther’s blog is my version of the Oscars, so here’s to hoping I don’t pull a James Franco.

But no James Franco bashing, this blog is about love and Valentine’s Day, and along with
Valentine’s Day comes a frenzy of Pinterest pins and blog posts about what to make for your
sweetheart, what treat will win the kids over, what food will prove deliciously tempting enough
to make all your Facebook friends jealous when you inevitably post your decadent creation to
your time line. Well have no fear because I have found that treat.

I have featured recipes from The Picky Palate several times on my blog, Foodie Blogs
Uncovered. What I like about her recipes is that they are fairly simple, yet creative. Also, she
isn’t afraid to throw in a box mix into her recipes, which I respect in a woman. Not everyone has
time to whip up an entire cake or batch of brownies from scratch!

Anyway I found this recipe for “Brownie Covered Oreos” while perusing Pinterest and after
pinning it and subsequently getting bombarded by repins in the span of an hour (women really
like chocolate), I knew I had found my Valentine’s Day foodie experiment. So without further
adieu, here is the recipe straight from the Picky Palate:

Brownie Covered Oreos

1 Brownie mix (or use your own brownie recipe)
1 package Oreos, I used the Holiday ones
White chocolate, melted for drizzle, or Wilton White frosting pen works great
White nonpariels Sprinkles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare brownie batter according to package
directions. Leave in mixing bowl. Dip Oreos in brownie batter then place in bottom
of cupcake tins that have been generously sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 12-
15 minutes, until brownies are cooked through (doesn’t take long). As soon as you
remove, take a plastic knife and run along edges, (this is VERY important so you
get the cookie out with brownies not stuck to pan
Let cool for 5 minutes, remove drizzle with melted white chocolate or the Wilton
White icing pen, sprinkle with nonpariels and EAT! Enjoy
Makes entire package of Oreos


….oh sorry I’m still stuffing my face with these dangerous desserts, but they are just SO
good. I am no scientist, so the fact that the Oreo stays firm inside the softness of the baked
brownie baffles me, but it does! It really does! They are so yummy, not messy, and hold up very

well for a couple of days. Another positive is the actual writing of the recipe. I found it very easy
to follow and was thankful for her tip about running a plastic knife (or in my case mini spatula)
along the edge of the brownies when they first come out of the oven. You MUST do that! They
will stick to the pan if you don’t! If you are looking to cut corners that step is not the time to do

Also, and she doesn’t note this, but as a general baking rule, bake one tray at a time, don’t put
two trays in the oven, one on the bottom rack one on the top, because they will bake unevenly.
It is a pain, but take the time to bake each batch individually so you can insure they are baked to
your liking.


The only real issue I seemed to have is that for the Oreos that didn’t have more brownie
mix on the bottom, they tended to be a bit overdone. I would suggest using a little more brownie
mix on the bottom so that it doesn’t cook faster than the top. Also, take them out a bit underdone.
My first batch came out at around 15 minutes and they were a tad overcooked, the second batch I
took out at 12 minutes and they were perfection.

Also choose your brownie mix wisely. I learned the hard way (aka several broken Oreos later)
that super thick fudge like brownie mix is going to be very difficult to dip Oreos in. I would
suggest just using a normal box mix without “Triple Thickness” or anything like that advertised
on it.

Revisions: I couldn’t find holiday Oreos (upsetting) so instead I used regular Double Stuffed and
purchased red icing to decorate the top to stay in the Valentine’s Day theme. I also found these
pearl sprinkles that were a fun way to glam up the brownies.

This was a definitely foodie win in my book. These are fun and easy treats that you could make
for a special someone or have a good time decorating with your kids. Be warned though, they
do make about 24 so make sure you have a lot of people handy to give these away to or you are
going to have a lot of treats to polish off on your own (which is maybe not the worst thing in the

If you are still looking for more dessert ideas for Valentine’s Day, here are three other options:

“Chocolate Wasted Cake”, which you could also call “Chocolate Crazy Cake!” for the kiddos.
This cake is rich and delicious and you can definitely get creative with your decorating. Throw
some Valentine’s Day M and M’s, maybe some of those ridiculous hearts with sayings on them,
and you have yourself one festive cake!

“Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies”: Yes, same idea as the above post, but just as delicious.
Grab some red icing (or for those lucky ones that have a supermarket that sells red Oreos) and
you have one delicious holiday-themed dessert.

“S’mores Brownies”: For the non-conformists amongst us who just want a tasty treat with no
gimmick, here’s the dessert for you. After several failed attempts at finding a good online recipe
to revamp the campfire favorite, I finally found my answer in this dessert.

Thank you f or taking the time to read my post and to Esther for allowing me to invade her
blogosphere for a day. Happy baking and for more recipes (or to share how your dessert pick
turned out) come on over and visit me at Foodie Blogs Uncovered!

Friday, February 10, 2012

{ traveling with a toddler : the carry on }

our little family recently took a trip to costa rica, where i am originally from.
i decided to write a couple of posts about the subject of traveling with a toddler.
somewhat hoping that it helps other moms and dads attempting to do the same,
but mostly as a way to analyze the entire experience.

for the whole sha-bang!, click here.


It's 11:44 pm. We have to leave for the airport at 4:10 am. 
Don't ask why I am still up.

I've just finished zipping up the suitcases. 
But I am way too tired for pictures.
Besides, the camera is packed.
I'll bombard you with pictures in a few days.

For now, I'll tell you whats in the carry on suitcases.

2 diapers
1 wipe case
diaper cream

Mr. Potato Head
Stacking toy
Race cars
A pack of those silly bands (he's never seen those before)
Travel Play dough set
Drinking Cup
Cereal Bar
Applesauce squeezable

Ergo carrier

I am so nervous about this trip I don't think I'll sleep tonight.
Am I being silly?
I keep telling myself
"Prepare for the worst, expect the best."

I'll report on how it went as soon as I can!!

Ciao for now!!

{ sponsor love february II }

Christina at Tico and Tina

creative. entrepreneurial. supportive.(just go with your first instinct, right? ha)

at our blog we're just a spicy Latino boy and a spunky Irish girl who want to glorify God through our art and who believe that Truth = freedom. we're bohemian yet mainstream; simple and real, but sophisticated; fun-loving yet analytical; epicurean, but very frugal/thrifty - a unified contradiction, which = pretty random. 
if you visit you'll read (and watch - we like videos) a journey of self-employment, travel, and moments of confusion or clarity as we try to just keep it real. come keep it real with us!

we really suck at watching movies, we're better at shows. lately we've been watching Mike & Molly, which we find kinda humorous for some odd reason. basically, we like to laugh together, so that wouldn't change on Valentines Day.

blog | facebook | twitter | pinterest | design | art

Ashley at Sugar Mama Bakeshop

mega. sweet. tooth.

Sugar Mama Bakeshop is a blog about baking, crafting & party planning. Nearly every recipe is gluten free and vegan and I occasionally offer specials for my etsy shop! 

Best valentine's movie: 
Shrek! I just love any excuse to watch Shrek... and it's a great love story :) 

pinterest | shop | blog | twitter | facebook 

{ lovely things } week of 2/6

We're pretty busy getting ready for our 7:22am flight tomorrow morning
(yes that means we have to be at the airport at 5am)
Here's to hoping the snow doesn't ruin our schedule!

Here are a few things from this week:

a. my sister-in-law put together an adorable valentine's day home decor project
by the way aren't my nieces and nephew freaking adorable?? 

b.   lindsay is rebranding her little shop and, to celebrate, 
and i want it.  like now.

c.  phil, jake, and i have joined a team for the muscular dystrophy association muscle walk
on march 11 at the prudential center. we're raising money for the organization in honor
of mda summer camp which is very special to phil and i . i'll share why soon!
if you want to support our fundraising, please go to my fundraising page.

d.  speaking of mda summer camp, anthony is one of our former campers.
he suffers from duchenne muscular dystrophy but doesn't let  it stop him. he goes to college and has a webpage design business going on. check out his blog. he is inspirational!!

e.  all you have to do is say the words"baby shower" and i'm already typing them into pinterest.
i could spend all day looking at ideas on bump smitten.  how sweet is this balloon mobile??

Thursday, February 9, 2012

{ traveling with a toddler : packing }

our little family recently took a trip to costa rica, where i am originally from.
i decided to write a couple of posts about the subject of traveling with a toddler.
somewhat hoping that it helps other moms and dads attempting to do the same,
but mostly as a way to analyze the entire experience.

for the whole sha-bang!, click here.


Hey guys! You know what I am thinking today?
It could be worse.

First of all, I could not have this cute little boy. 
That would definitely be worse. 
I could also not be packing for vacation. 
That would also be worse.

So I'm trying to see the bright side of it all 
-- I'm going on vacation with that little boy and his handsome papa!! --
instead of getting all flustered from all the things I need to do before we leave at 5am on Saturday.

Part of the bright side is that I am almost done packing. 
This whole task has been so daunting for me. 
I've been planning this endeavor for months.
Looking through bins of summer clothes, making shopping lists, 
getting suitcases out of storage, making plans of what goes in each suitcase,
rolling everything up to make the most of the luggage space.
The process takes sooo long.

I keep saying to myself:
How much stuff does one really need when going away for 18 days?
Let me tell you, when a baby is involved, you need a lot of stuff. 

Jake and I are flying back by ourselves because Phil has to come back to work
which means that everything for that little boy and myself has to fit comfortably in one suitcase 
that way I will have the ability to carry and push other things when I'm alone at the airport. 

Thankfully, diapers, wipes, and other things that will be used 
while were there can go in Phil's suitcase. 

This is an 18 day trip to Costa Rica, where I am from.
Our little family will be spending 5 days on vacation with my dad
and the rest of the time Jake and I are staying at my aunt's home and then back to my dad's.

What that means is that we can do laundry! Thank God. 
Can you imagine 18 days without washing clothes?

Also, while dining, lodging, and local arts and crafts are quite cheap,
real needs can be very pricey.
Last year I ran out of diapers and bought a pack of about 20 for $25
and let me tell you they were low low low quality.
Not doing that again (I hope).

Are you curious as to what we're bringing?
I figured I'd share what I'm lugging down for the boy.

Here's the list so far:

93 diapers (playing it safe, 18 days x 4 or 5 changes a day)
4 cases of 80 wipes and one half used
30 swim diapers
10 onesies (they double as pajamas when it's warm at night)
3 pajama sets
10 short sleeve t-shirts
7 pairs of shorts

1 dress shirt (for a family baptism)
1 pair of jeans
1 polo (for going to church 3 Sundays)
2 long sleeve t-shirts
1 sweatshirt
2 bathing suit bottoms (sometimes he hangs out in swim diapers)
3 rash guards
1 hat

Ergo carrier

Now that's just in the big suitcase. 
Do you think it's too much? Too little?

I'll have to do another post on what is going in the carry-on.
I'm very nervous about a 5 hour plane ride with a very active toddler. 
Won't you say a prayer for me? Pretty please!!

PS: Do you see Jake's belly?! Squishy squishy! I love it.
We call it "panza" around here. It's Costa Rican Spanish slang for belly.
Jake points to it when we say it. Cutest!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

{ diaper rash solution }

Guys. There's been a lot of nudity around here lately.
Before your mind goes places... it's not as exciting as it sounds.
It's just Jake-the-Snake walking around in his birthday suit.
Why, you ask?
He's been having the worst diaper rashes.
The worst I tell you.
His poor little bum. 

I started reading up on rashes and..
did you know rashes are totally normal?
Like "to be expected" kinda normal.

Imagine being wet several times a day.
Then imagine all the moisture and acidity from number twos.
Then add the chemicals in diapers.

Not a good combination.

Before I start driving myself nuts with guilt for not using cloth diapers,
I decided to take up Dr. Sears on one of his easiest recommended home remedies:

Letting that little bum air out.

Of course this is all to be combined with other good diaper changing practices:
Changing them immediately.
Washing his rear with water.
and ample diaper cream.

It has been the best solution here.

The knowledge that comes with motherhood.
Who woulda thunk?

Of course there are diaper rashes that are not normal
and should be checked by a doctor so, you know, trust your instinct!

As a side note:
Phil and I were wondering why Jake-the-Snake's diaper was so incredibly wet so often.
Well, I certainly discovered the reason.
Did you know kids pee like ever five seconds?
I cleaned up five puddles in five minutes the other day.
Then I learned it's best to wrap the boy in a towel, put a show on tv,
and keep him very warm whenever I keep his diaper off.


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