Showing posts from 2019

Getting In Our Youth Group Harvest Party Before The Snow Hit!

This picture makes me incredibly happy. When the youth group is at our house for one of our special occasion gatherings, this is what the entry way looks like. Every time. I can't help but smile because all of these junior high-, high school- and college-aged kids actually want to be with us. They want to spend time with us, and that speaks directly to my heart.

As with all teenagers, most of what we do at our youth retreats centers around food. For the harvest party, Danny grilled angus burgers and brats, and we had slow cooker lasagna and dirty rice. Everything gets set out on the counter, and we graze for the rest of the day. (Which makes for very few leftovers. They always take to-go boxes home with them.)

This was probably our last opportunity fish this year, so all the guys wanted to do a fishing derby. We're blessed beyond measure to have three brothers join our group this month, so they had never been down to fish in the big pond. Since it covers several acres, they w…

Creating A Perfect Grazing Platter

One of my favorite parts of Danny’s birthday party three weeks ago was putting together my very first grazing platters. (You know, after celebrating half a century of my husband’s life, which was so amazing.) The platters were a huge hit, and we were able to share them at church the next day, too!

The savory platter featured three bowls of fruit, which was the perfect way to serve them. The juice all stayed in one place instead of leaking all over the other food. From there, I piled on deli meat and cheese, cut into bite-sized portions, and crackers to pair them with. There were several kinds of chips and munchies, and a bowl of nuts separated in case there was anyone with a nut allergy. My favorite nut mixes come from the dollar store, so I combined two different kinds in the center bowl.

On the other end of the table, close to where I was standing for obvious reasons, was the sweet platter. It was piled high with a variety of cookies and candies, including Danny’s favorite Pinwheel…

Words For Wednesday


Let It Snow Winter Wreath

The weather outside is frightful, but it's absolutely delightful to have a winter-themed wreath inside!

This mesh wreath is so perfect for a snowy day, and all the sparkle is just fun. 

I've had this snowy blue mesh for a couple of years now. I originally picked it up on after-Christmas clearance so I could use it for bulletin boards. It makes a great snowy backdrop. So I bought all 10 rolls of it, you know ... just in case. The wreath form is from the dollar store, so that was pretty great, too.

I started by cutting the mesh in half lengthwise. I didn't want the wreath to be overly thick, and this makes for twice the length without buying twice the mesh.

A small disclaimer - I have never made a wreath like this before, but I knew what I wanted it to look like. I created a technique that made that happen. So here's what I did: I tied one end of the mesh to the frame at one of the cross bars. Starting at one side, I pulled the entire length of mesh through the first op…

A Tribute To My Veteran

Thank you for your service. Five little words that can have a huge impact in the life of a serviceman.
 As the wife of a retired Army soldier, I have seen firsthand everything that is sacrificed and given to our Armed Forces. My husband devoted more than 20 years of his life to the military, and it is with a grateful heart that I thank Danny for his service.
I love hearing stories from soldiers, where they served, what they did and how their lives and hearts were changed during the time they served our country. My heart is always blessed by the men and women who willingly offered their time and their gifts to make our military a better place. 
Today, and every day, I thank my family and friends who served. Freedom is not free, and your efforts have truly made a difference. Thank you for everything you sacrificed and for giving your all for the people of America.
On this Veteran's Day, I pray that we will all take time to thank all our veterans for their service. They deserve all …

Rejoice Because Jesus Passed By

In the very first sentence of John’s account of the blind man healed, we read those amazing words: Jesus passed by. This is the third time in the Gospel we see that Jesus passed by someone and changed their lives.

In Matthew 20, two blind men were sitting by the side of the road when they learned that Jesus was coming their way. Hearing this, they cried out to Him in faith. When He asked them what they wanted Him to do exactly, these men both replied that they desired nothing more than to have their eyes opened.
So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. Matthew 20:34

In Mark 2, Matthew (Levi) is sitting at his desk, minding his own business collecting taxes, when Jesus passed by him. And in a moment his life was changed forever.

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. Mark 2:14

In both of these accou…

How To Make Number Cakes With Just Two Shapes

For Danny’s 50th birthday party, I made number-shaped cakes in three flavors - vanilla, chocolate and spice. They also had three different frostings - buttercream, cream cheese and Nutella. You can click HERE for the Nutella frosting recipe. You’ll be glad you tried it!

For some reason, making shaped cakes has always seemed like something difficult and fancy that I could never do. I love decorating cakes and would do that part every day if I could, but to cut and shape and turn cake into something beautiful always felt a little out of my wheelhouse.

All you need to create fun, yummy numbers are two 8-inch circle cake pans and two regular-sized loaf pans. From there, choose your flavors and get to baking!

To make the five and zero pictured here, I started with two circles and two loaves. Using a small circle bowl as a guide, I cut the center out of each one. For the five, I cut a notch out of the left side of the circle, then cut off 1/3 of the first loaf cake, leaving the other 2/3 i…

Words For Wednesday


Cold Weather Days Bring Out The Puppies In Our Dogs

It looks and feels like fall in southeast Iowa this week. We even had a taste of winter last week with a day of snow! These cool, crisp days always bring out the puppy in our dogs, who are torn between playing outside and curling up inside where it’s warm. Over the weekend Callie learned that she can get up in the papasan chair and have some cozy naps.

Danny’s parents have been with us for the past three weeks, and their dog Triniti got to run with the big dogs. She was just as excited about running around outside as our puppers, but it was also good to watch the wildlife go by from the inside.

Cold weather means they want to play outside, but they really don’t once they get out there. Then we get these pitiful looks through the door, trying to stir up enough sympathy for someone to let them back in.

Our basement is always 10-15 degrees cooler than the main floor, so staying close together and under blankets becomes a necessity during the fall and winter months. Needless to say, that…

A Test Of Your Patience

When was the last time you tried to make a line of dominoes so you could watch it topple? If you’ve not made a domino race since you were a kid, I suggest you try it now that you’re an adult. Not that age makes a difference, but it’s just as much fun!
There are several reasons this game is so difficult. First, you have to have steady hands, which some of us (me) do not. You have to be incredibly careful as you add the next domino so you don’t topple your entire creation before you’re ready. And you don’t want anyone even breathing in the vicinity of your layout or all that hard work will be in vain.
What makes it so difficult to be patient? Is it our need for immediate gratification? Our desire to hurry up and move on to the next thing? The feeling that we’ll miss out if don’t get a move on?
And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5
This letter to the church at Thessalonians was written just a few years after Jesus a…

Sunday Sketch

I had a special order this week that was a little more detailed than usual. These two cards are for a friend’s war room, where she can see them and pray the truth of these verses every day. I love being a part of something this special and this powerful.

The difficulty in creating them, though, is there is a lot of text and she wanted a certain layout for both of them. It would have looked cluttered with printed-out words individually attached to the paper, so it was much easier to design them on the computer and print them out. Hopefully that’s not cheating because they turned out beautifully.

I used Canva for the layouts, a design program that I hope you’ve checked out from previous posts. They’re my go-to at work when I’m creating social media, it’s super easy and the results are gorgeous. Give them a try for the layouts I used for today’s post or use the program you’re most comfortable with.

When I print a layout, like the two cards above, I always mat them on at least two colors…

My Sweetheart Celebrates His 50th Birthday!

My amazing husband turns 50 years old later this evening. I am blessed beyond measure that God has chosen this man for me and that we have celebrated another year of his life together. And what a year it’s been.

Danny is such a man after God’s own heart, and he makes everything we do so much fun. He also puts his heart and soul into his work, helping families when they need it most. He loves his job, his family and his church. I’m so grateful for the ways he shows all of us that we are his priority.

My prayer today is that God blesses my husband with another 50 years - at least - to work for Him on this earth. May the next half a century be as amazing as the first! I love you, sweetheart. Happy birthday!

A Prayer For The Important Things

A very dear friend made this amazing sign for our youth group room. She told me that as soon as she saw this quote, she knew it would be perfect for our teens, and I would have to agree.

We’re trying to teach the teens that it’s not about us - it’s about God and our relationship with Him. The important things are the people in our lives, our communion with the Lord and the desire to lead others to Him. These four prayer nuggets will be a great way for our youth to focus on the things God says really matter.

* Eyes that see the best in people: In a world of negativity, it’s easy to judge, to hate and to respond in anger. But God says to see people the way He sees them - as souls He created for a purpose. When we trade our vision in for His, we will see the potential, not the present.

* A heart that forgives the worst: Forgiveness is one of those things that benefits us more than the person who has wronged us. When we forgive the worst things done to us, we free ourselves from that bur…

Words For Wednesday


Sunday Sketch

I love looking through my paper scraps to find combinations of patterns and colors that I wouldn’t normally combine. That makes every project even more fun, like the card I made for today’s sketch. None of the papers I used were full sheets, so there’s your challenge for the week!

For my card, I found two patterns and two solid colors that went really well together. I covered my white card stock card with dark green textured card stock, and the green swirls paper is matted on top. For the side banner, I cut a strip of the second patterned paper and matted it on orange card stock.

The tree die cut is also matted on card stock, and the sticker phrase is double matted and raised on 3D adhesive. Orange acrylic dots embellish each of the corners.

Ready to make this sketch your own? Start by going through your paper scraps to find two colors of card stock and two patterns that all coordinate. Mat the background and the left hand banner.

Choose a large image and a small sentiment to stack a…

Our Alumni Pupdate To The Animal Shelter

Dear Heartland Humane Society,

When we moved back to Ottumwa in 2011, we brought our two senior dogs with us. They were adopted from a shelter in Kentucky, and they were the most special dogs ever. They began to age, though, and in September 2014, we met our Great Dane Molly when Heartland had several dogs with them at the Alzheimer’s Walk at Indian Hills Community College. She became the perfect addition to our family.

It wasn’t long before we said goodbye to both of our older dogs, who were 14 at the time, and Molly was our only dog for quite a while. But we wanted her to have a playmate, so we went to Heartland again to see a little black female dog that looked so much like the ones we’d lost. When we arrived at the shelter, though, we learned that she had a brother, they were a bonded pair and the last of their litter. So that day we went home with two black lab/German shepherd puppies to add to our pack.

Almost two years later, we have three constant companions who love cuddles,…

Hazelnut Fluff Frosting

Yesterday I shared my special fall spiced cake recipe, complete with pumpkin nuggets baked inside. Today I’ll show you how to make the most amazing frosting and then use it to make an incredible layered dessert.

To make the frosting, you’ll need a 12-oz container of whipped butter cream frosting, a 13-oz jar of marshmallow fluff and a 13-oz container of hazelnut spread.

While the two layers of cake from yesterday’s recipe are cooling, empty the container of butter cream frosting into the bowl of a stand mixer. On low speed, cream the frosting for about a minute. Then spoon in the marshmallow fluff and cream it together for another minute.

When you add in the hazelnut spread, you can take one of two directions. For a completely brown frosting, turn the mixer on low and combine completely. For a swirl frosting, only let the mixer paddle circle six or seven times so you see both white and brown swirls through it.

Cover the first layer of cake with about 1/3 of the frosting. Then put the…

Fall’s Perfect Spiced Pumpkin Cake

Nothing says fall like spice cake, pumpkin nuggets and a variety of traditional candies. Put them all together and you’ll have a decadent treat to enjoy all autumn long.

When I saw a round tray of mixed Halloween candy at the grocery store, I actually saw the top of this cake in my head. It’s not often that what you picture becomes a finished product, especially in the kitchen, but this time it was absolutely perfect.

What’s special about this cake, in addition to its mesmerizing decorations, is what you’ll find inside. I used a regular boxed spice cake mix and sprayed this 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Then I poured half of the batter into the pan. Now for the plot twist - I covered the top of that batter with half a bag of these new pumpkin spice filled baking truffles. They are a melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that you can find in the fall baking section of your favorite stores right now.

Then I baked that half for about 20 minutes, until it was browned and pulling …

Words For Wednesday


Quick And Easy Meatloaf Muffins

It’s so amazing what you can do with a pound of ground beef. You can use it to make a meal from almost every culture and nationality. You can make a simple burger, add it to pasta or rice and you can even make it into muffins. Let’s just camp right there for the next couple of minutes - meatloaf muffins!

Grab a few pantry items and set aside just a few minutes to put this tasty and totally fun meal together! I served ours with  Green Giant’s sweet potato/cauliflower veggie tots, one of our favorite sides. (They’re not paying me to say that - they’re just that good.)

1 lb ground beef (we use Butcher Box)
1 egg
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp onion powder
2/3 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

2. Combine egg, milk, cheese and onion powder in a large bowl. Add the ground beef to the bowl, breaking up the meat and mixing it all together.

3. Form t…