Steadfast Heart Review

Steadfast Heart

I recently received Traceie Peterson’s newest book to read and review. I’ve always enjoyed Tracie Peterson’s books. Her “Heirs of Montana” series was one of my favorites of all hers. So when I received this first book in her new series, the “Brides of Seattle,” I was eager to read it.

Steadfast Heart is the story of wealthy, only child 20 year old Lenore Fulcher. Her parents are insistent that she marry a man of equal standing and try to set her up with various proper gentleman. Lenore, however, resists all of those and searches for true love. When she sees Kolbein Booth, a young lawyer from Chicago, she falls instantly for him. Kolbein is searching for his runaway sister and Lenore is not sure how he feels about her. Steadfast Heart supposedly tells the story of Kolbein and Lenore, but what I found disconcerting is that Lenore isn’t even mentioned for a good portion of the book.

I enjoyed the story of Steadfast Heart but it was not one of my favorites. I felt there were too many other little stories going on, which I’m sure was intentional, since this was the first book of a series. Most times that doesn’t bother me, but this time, I found it distracting and was actually glad when the book finished. I’m not giving up on Tracie Peterson but I probably won’t finish this series. I’d rather reread some of her other ones.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

A Snowy Weekend in Fort Wayne

We finally got our first big snow of the year. The forecasts were telling us to expect 10 to 15 inches of slow and steady snow on Sunday. It was as promised with 10 inches of snow in Grabill falling by late Sunday evening and even brought us a snow day on Monday. I love a good snow fall! Here are a few pictures from our latest big snow.

When Andy drove us to late church at St. Paul’s on Sunday morning, the roads looked like this. I was very thankful that Andy was driving.

A Snowy Scene in Indiana

By the time we came home from a sparsely attended service, we slowed down more than usual on the snowy roads. The Amish buggies were hurrying home from their church too as we knew the snow was set to increase.

Amish Buggy in Snow

The snow continued to fall all day, slow and steady. We stayed in and watched the snow, and were excited – and surprised – to get a snow day call already on Sunday evening. Nathan doesn’t understand sleeping in yet, so he and I read stories in our pajamas and let Daddy sleep in on his snow day.

Nathan and Mommy reading in pajamas

After Andy shoveled us out, he took Nathan for a quick sled ride. It was still cold and Nathan did not want to be bundled up in all the layers. Once we got outside, we were able to get some smiles from him on his first big snow day.

Nathan bundled up for sledding

We made soup for dinner. Nathan skyped with Grandma Barz to show her all the snow. We read some more stories and cuddled before bed. All in all, it was a lovely snow day. We have a delay to start our day today which is nice. I’m a bit nervous to drive since I hear the roads are quite snow packed and now, icy. I’ll be driving slowly to teach music today! I hear more snow is in the forecast on Wednesday and yet again this weekend. It looks like winter is here in Fort Wayne!

Supermarket Healthy Review

Supermarket Healthy

One of my goals for the year is to continually improve our eating habits. As a frugal shopper, I’m always interested in ways to improve our meals on a tight budget. For this reason, I was curious to read Supermarket Healthy by Melissa D’Arabian.

The premise of Supermarket Healthy is that we can all eat well without spending a lot. Melissa promised a book full of healthy recipes made from ingredients that can be found at any supermarket. I was intrigued and eager to explore the recipes in this book. I love a good cookbook! Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to my expectations.

I have to admit that I was disappointed in this cookbook. I thought the recipes were too fancy for most families. The recipes used a lot of kale, fish and other ingredients that my husband (or myself) wouldn’t be a fan of eating. I also didn’t think the recipes were as frugal as promised. I could cook a lot more frugally than these recipes. There were pricey ingredients (certain cheese, olives, and cuts of meat) in many of the recipes. Of the 150 recipes included in this book, there were only a couple that I would actually make for our family.

For some people, maybe Supermarket Healthy is a frugal cookbook. And for some people, maybe this really is a cookbook that would encourage them to explore the bargains in their grocery store. That said, I’ll keep looking for a cookbook that fits our budget – and food tastes – better than this one.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Reason Number 84 That I Am Thankful to be a SAHM

Let me start by saying I’m not sure if this is really number 84. It could be 37 or 115 or 271. I’ve lost count. My thankful list for the opportunity to be a Stay-at-Home Mom grows almost daily. This is the latest reason I am thankful.

You see, last week was busy. It seemed busier than usual. We enjoyed having Andy home with us for a day off on MLK Day. We ran a couple of errands together, did a couple things in Andy’s classroom and enjoyed a lunch out at Olive Garden with one of my Christmas gift cards. Nathan enjoyed his first taste of breadsticks, too! Tuesday was a school day for me, which meant Nathan was at his Grandma’s while Andy and I taught. Wednesday saw Andy home again with a surprise ice day. He drove me to my dentist appointment and entertained Nathan, before we came home and baby-sat my cousin’s boys for the rest of the day. Thursday was MOPS in the morning (love those ladies) and school in the afternoon. By Thursday night, we were all worn out and looking forward to Friday. And that’s when it happened. Nathan caught another cold.

I knew it was coming. Last week, the doctor had commented on Nathan’s slight wheezing and named bronchilitis as the diagnosis. He said not to be concerned as long as there was no fever or rapid breathing. That’s what happened. Lots of coughing ensued with this cold before the runny nose started on Sunday. Nathan’s remained (mostly) happy through it all.

Friday was spent cuddling – as was most of the weekend. I knew Nathan wasn’t feeling well when he crawled onto my lap (several times) and laid his head down on my shoulder. He wanted to cuddle – more than usual. He wanted to be held – more than usual. He wanted to nurse – more than usual. He wanted to read books – even more than usual. He didn’t want to eat much. He didn’t want to sit on the floor and play. He tried to sleep but couldn’t. Our good sleeper has not had a good couple nights as a result of this cough. When he did finally sleep, it was on me, limiting my activities but allowing him to breathe and sleep. I snapped this picture as he napped on Sunday morning after church.

Sunday Morning Naps Instagram

I’m thankful that I’m able to stay at home and cuddle my baby when’s not feeling the best. I’m thankful I don’t have to scramble to arrange a substitute so I can do so. I’m thankful we can sit on the couch and read books. I’m thankful we can (both) recover from sleepless nights during the day.

Yes, Nathan still had his cranky, sick moments, and yes, I admit I had my frustrated moments in response. Still, I’m thankful to be just where I am. At home. Taking care of my baby. This is what I need to be doing. This is what I want to be doing. I have several friends who wish they were at home with their babies. On the longest of frustrating days, I remind myself what a blessing it is that I can be home with our baby. I’m also thankful to my husband for his willingness to work hard and sacrifice so this dream of ours is a reality.

And that is reason 84 and counting.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan Review

Food by Jim Gaffigan

Have you heard of Jim Gaffigan? He’s a comedian who recently wrote the best seller “Dad is Fat.” I read and laughed my way through his previous book, especially as he described his life with his wife and 5 children in their two bedroom New York apartment. When I heard Jim had written a new book all about food, I was quite curious to read it.

Food: A Love Story is 335 pages all about yes, you guessed it, food! I know. You wonder how someone could write that much about food but Jim would say, a book like this could only be written by someone who loves food as much as he does! Here’s how he words it in his introduction. “What are my qualifications to write this book? None really. So why should you read it? Here’s why: I’m a little fat. If a thin guy were to write about a love of food and eating I’d highly recommend that you do not read his book.”  

Food covers every food topic possible from cheese to cheeseburgers to doughnuts. Jim writes quite eloquently about all his favorite foods. My favorite section was the chapters where he divided the country into food areas. I was also impressed that he wrote about Cincinnati chili (from my former hometown) and Fort Wayne coney dogs (from my current). Fyi…I like the chili more than the coney dogs, but Jim likes them both!

Food was an entertaining read. I actually thought it got a little long at times, but it is still a quick read. Each chapter is only a couple pages so it is easy to read over several sittings. I also enjoyed how there were applicable pictures of Jim (and his family) eating the specific foods that he wrote about.

If you are looking for a light read, I recommend Food: A Love Story. If you are unfamiliar with Jim Gaffigan, I recommend you start with Dad is Fat. If you already read it (and enjoyed it), I know you’ll enjoy this one as well!

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

A Day Just Like I Needed

Andy and I both had to return to school on Tuesday. I confess that even after a lovely Christmas break, I wasn’t ready yet. When I saw snow was in the forecast, I hoped for a snow day – or a delay. We didn’t get as much snow as expected so no snow day – and we didn’t even get a delay like most of the other Fort Wayne schools. The roads were still snow covered so I drove slowly and carefully. I love snow…when I don’t have to drive in it. Even after 11 years of living up North (15 if you count college), I still am not crazy about driving in winter weather. Add Nathan into the mix and I left extra early. The first day back went well, all things considering, and the children were excited to finally learn what our musical for the year would be. By the time I taught music and my piano lessons, and picked up Nathan, it was 6 o’clock when we got home. Time for dinner, bath and bed. It was a busy and tiring day of jumping back into a school routine.

After Tuesday, I needed the Wednesday I had. Nathan slept through the night, before waking at 5:30 am to nurse. He didn’t want to go back to sleep so I brought him into bed with us. He crawled in and cuddled with us for quite some time. He wakes so instantly and so cheerfully! Nathan and I played, ate breakfast, and waved to Daddy as he drove away to school. We played some more before he cuddled and fell asleep in my arms for a brief 30 minute early morning nap. I decided then to make the most of our day and savor as it was.

It was too cold to go out (-5 wind chills in the “warm” afternoon), so we stayed in. It was a no make-up day for me and Nathan stayed in his pajamas all day. I gave myself full permission to just enjoy being at home with Nathan and not worry about my to-do list. It was funny, though, because by doing that, I suddenly had the motivation to accomplish some things.

Nathan’s short morning nap meant he slept over 2 hours in the afternoon so I made the most of that quiet time. I brought down the bins from the attic for our Christmas decorations. I didn’t put anything away but at least the bins are down. I made a loaf of homemade bread. Yum! I sorted through our Christmas cards and updated my address book. I did the dishes and vacuumed. Nathan and I skyped with his cousins in North Carolina. I blogged and read my book for book club. I even closed my eyes for a bit while Nathan napped.

Most importantly? I played with my son. I looked at him – really looked at him – while we nursed. We read stories over and over again, for at least an hour, throughout the day. I laughed with Nathan as he drummed with a cardboard box. I cherished the day and thanked God for the opportunity to be at home with Nathan. I still love teaching music but I need days where I can focus on being the mother and wife that God has made me. It is days like these that I need.

Nathan Playing with a Box

One of the changes I am making this year is more actually blogging like this. I want to share honestly what is happening in our lives. I want to actually blog – both for you and for me. I love being at home but it’s nice to be able to “talk” with other grown-ups…even if it’s online! :-) So stayed tuned for more of my musings this year.

Our CHRISTmas Celebrations (2014)

Today is our last day of Christmas vacation (unless we get the big snow and cold temperatures they are predicting this evening). It’s been a lovely – although seemingly quick – Christmas break. It’s one of the times I am especially thankful that my husband and I are both teachers so our breaks align. Here’s a look at our Christmas in pictures.

Our break started out with a visit from Andy’s best friend, Michael, and his wife and daughter. They were in town to spend Christmas with Michael’s parents but their house was full. They came in the evenings and we stayed up late visiting, before they headed back after breakfast. It was so good to see these friends again because Houston is so far from Fort Wayne. It was also fun to watch our children play together. Elizabeth is almost a year older than Nathan but these two hit it off. We were able to capture them giggling on the couch one morning. Precious!

Nathan and His Friend Elizabeth

We spent Christmas Eve at my in-laws. We let Nathan open some of his presents during the day since his bedtime came during church. He was starting to get the hang of unwrapping but the paper and boxes were often more fascinating than the gifts. Some friends gave Nathan this cute elf outfit so he was a festive little boy for the day!

Nathan as a Christmas Elf

We went to Christmas Eve worship at St. Paul’s Lutheran for the evening children’s service. Nathan stayed awake through the first two carols and then slept through the rest of the service. On Christmas Day, we went to worship at Ascension Lutheran. We let Nathan open some gifts before church and some more after. I also set up the tripod so we could get a family picture. Nathan was getting sleepy so Dad tossed him around trying to get a smile until just before the camera took the picture. Here’s one of them.

The Whirrett Family Christmas 2014

After church, Andy’s family came over to our house for a brunch of appetizers. We were having a ham dinner at his parents when his nurse Mom got off work, so we kept it on the lighter side for lunch. Nathan opened a couple more presents and got a nap in his own crib while we watched “The Muppets Christmas Carol.” After Nathan woke up, we Skyped briefly with my parents in San Antonio so they could see Nathan open a present. He got better at it as the evening went on. Nathan was treated so generously this Christmas! We ended Christmas Day at my in-laws. After opening presents, Nathan went to sleep in his pack and play, while we stayed up visiting.

Nathan opening a present

On the Saturday after Christmas, we traveled down to Indy for the extended Whirrett family Christmas. It’s a small affair but it was good to see everyone. Nathan has one second cousin, Waylon, who is a couple months older. We managed to get a picture of the two Great-Grandparents with their two Great-Grandchildren. I took a lot of pictures to get one where everyone was looking – and the boys both smiling!

Great-Grandparents and their Grandsons

The rest of our break flew by. There was no sleeping in with a 9 month old in the house! We did take some extra naps while Nathan slept. We went out together and browsed the after-Christmas sales. We went out to eat together and accomplished a task or two around the house. We spent time playing and tag-teaming time with Nathan. As always, Nathan loves having his Daddy home for bedtime stories!

Story time with Daddy

As I said at the beginning, it really was a lovely Christmas break. It passed much too quickly, as all breaks seem to do. Still, we enjoyed the time we had together as a family of three! I hope you and your families had a very Merry Chrismas, too!

The Knot: Little Books of Big Wedding Ideas

The Knot Book of Weddings

Yes, I’m happily married for 5.5 years now. No, I’m not planning a wedding for anyone else anytime soon. Still, I always enjoy looking through wedding magazines and books. The pictures are so beautiful and it’s fun to dream. When I saw that the Knot had released a series of wedding books, I was more than happy to take a look through them. What a beautiful set!

The Knot: Little Books of Big Wedding Ideas is a boxed set of 4 mini books. They are mini but full of pertinent wedding information! This set includes 4 little books on 4 wedding topics – cakes, bouquets & centerpieces, details, and vows & toasts. Each of the books starts with details about the topic – things you should consider, questions to ask, tips and more. There is a lot of information included here in a dozen pages or so. For example, the bouquet book has a section on flower lingo to help you communicate with a florist. The vows section (surprisingly) included a Lutheran section of vows. They are not the traditional Lutheran vows that we used from Lutheran Worship but they were still well written.

After the details of each book come the pictures. Beautiful, close-up, inspiring, detailed pictures. This is the beauty of the set. It gives you a wide variety of ideas in a visual format. These books are like a printed version of Pinterest. Beautiful and helpful for gathering ideas. If you or someone you know is planning a wedding, I would certainly recommend these books to you. There is a wealth of wedding information at your fingertips, thanks again, to the Knot.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Christmas Vacation Time

Christmas Vacation

It’s time. It’s time for Christmas vacation! I taught my last day for the year last Thursday. Andy still teaches today and tomorrow, but then he will join us on vacation. It’s nice to share a vocation with your husband when your school teacher breaks align. I don’t know what Nathan will do with his Daddy around during the day but I think he’ll adjust quickly.

We have friends staying the nights with us for one more night yet. It’s been so nice to visit with Michael and Clare again and see their growing daughter. Andy’s brother and his wife arrive from Nebraska late Tuesday night and will stay through Sunday. It will be good to have Chris and Jessica here for Christmas.

We will be attending Christmas Eve worship at St. Paul’s and Christmas Day worship at Ascension, as has become our tradition. We won’t be opening gifts with the Whirrett family until Christmas Day evening. We plan to open some with Nathan in the morning before church, and probably some on Christmas Eve too. At some point, we’ll skype with my family in San Antonio so his Barz grandparents can see Nathan open his presents that they delivered at Thanksgiving.

I still have things to check off my to-do list (including wrapping presents) but I’m officially declaring Christmas vacation in the Whirrett household. I’ll check in here occasionally through the first of the year but nothing planned. I’m going to enjoy the time with my husband and baby, take naps (especially if Nathan keeps waking in the middle of the night for an hour or two like he’s been doing lately), read some books, visit with family, and do some after Christmas shopping. It’s Christmas time and I’m ready!

May you and your family be blessed as we celebrate our Lord’s birth! I pray that your Christmas is truly joyful!

One More Week Till Christmas

Oh my. Really? Already? As much as I always look forward to Christmas, it’s hard to believe it’s only one more week away. One week from today is Christmas Eve! It makes me think of my pregnancy. As excited as I was to welcome Nathan into our lives, I couldn’t believe it when our due date actually arrived. Time spent in joyful expectation can pass so quickly. It doesn’t always, but sometimes, we blink and entire days (or weeks!) seem to have passed.

We’ve been keeping busy in our home getting ready for Christmas – and Nathan’s first one at that. The tree is set up as are our Christmas nativities and other decorations. It’s nice to eat breakfast when it’s still dark by the light of the Christmas tree. Nathan smiles and sighs every time we turn on the Christmas tree lights. It makes me smile to see his simple delight.

I’ve been baking but still have more to do. I’ve made a batch of caramel corn, peanut clusters, spritz cookies and two batches of buckeyes. More buckeyes are on the list as well as another batch of caramel corn. I also need to finish my menu planning for all our upcoming Christmas parties.

My piano students had their annual Christmas recital last Sunday after late church. They did a nice job. It’s a slightly smaller group (8 students) but they all played well. I was most proud that even with mistakes, they kept playing. I also was pleased that we had an audience that included non-family members this year.

Yesterday, I took advantage of a good coupon and an open afternoon to get Nathan’s (almost) 9 month pictures taken. He showed off his nice smiles although some of my favorites were his more serious ones. He’s changed so much since we last had his pictures taken at 3 months.

Nathan at 9 Months Collage

Tonight is the school children’s Christmas service. We are leading our final Advent service revolving around the theme, “O Christmas Tree: Reveal to Us the Savior.” We sing 8 different verses of “O Christmas Tree.” To help us remember all of them, I taught the children how to sign the verses in ASL so we’ll be singing and signing tonight. Last year, I was sick with the flu and missed the service so I’m thankful to be back and directing. I’m also thankful for a wonderful organist who will do all the accompanying.

Tomorrow is my final music class before our Christmas vacation begins. Andy still has to teach through the 23rd but I will done for this year. It will be a fun music class since our service will be over.

This weekend starts the Christmas parties. My faculty party is this Friday, although we missed Andy’s due to scheduling conflicts. Then, we have his Mom’s family party this Saturday and his Dad’s family get together next Saturday. Also, we’re excited to have good friends from Houston staying with us this weekend while they visit their family in town. I’m sure we’ll be up late visiting (as late as we can be with two babies between us).

Yes, there is still (a tiny bit) of shopping to do and presents to wrap. My house needs cleaned and menus prepared. In spite of my to-do list, I’m focusing on taking time to savor this Christmas season with Nathan. I’ll be posting sporadically on this blog as I enjoy this time with my boys. The to-do lists will get done. (And what doesn’t get done probably didn’t need to be done in the first place!) Celebrate CHRISTmas with your loved ones. Rejoice in our Savior’s birthday! That is on the top of our list!

More of Nathan at 9 Months

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