Special Date Night...

There's not a whole lot to say about this post, because the pictures speak for themselves.  The background is that my husband and I enjoyed a special date night on Saturday, which began with a gourmet dinner for two,  followed by a concert with family, and {second} dessert and coffee after that.

I absolutely revealed to everyone in the restaurant that I don't get to eat these sorts of meals regularly by photographing almost everything that arrived at the table {I forgot to take pics of our salads.} 

So on to the pics...

freshly made bread and oil for dipping

We shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio and enjoyed our appetizers...


Farmhouse Cheeseboard
Savannah Bee Co Honeycomb/Fresh Berries/Crostini

...and his...

Seared Tuna
Date Emulsion/Cider Gastrique

{insert pictures of beautifully crafted salads here...}

Wedge Salad
Oven dried tomatoes/house smoked bacon/warm blue cheese vinaigrette

Caesar Salad
Parmesan-Peppercorn Vinaigrette/Croutons/Grated Parmesan

Our waiter was experienced in that he gave us plenty of time after the appetizers and salads to talk, drink some more wine, have another piece of bread and let that food settle before bringing the main dishes.  We SO appreciated that.

Tanglewood Farms Chicken
Creamed Brussels/House Bacon

and his...

Beef Short Rib/Haricot Vert/Garlic Whipped Potatoes

And finally, dessert...

Shot Samples
Chocolate Brownie/German Chocolate/Caramel Cinnamon/Strawberry


A Psalm for Today...

This Psalm has been on my mind a lot lately and has been particularly encouraging in very personal ways, so I thought I would share it with you today, as well as the footnotes listed in my Bible.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

{The book of Psalms permits no false spiritualization.  The whole person yearns for God, not merely a non-physical aspect of the person.}

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

{The psalmist remembers the place of God's appointment, and the vision of God's "power" and "glory" entrusted to him there.  Steadfast love = that is, the unchanging love God shows toward those joined to Him by His covenant.}

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help; and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

{Only in praise to God, in intimate communion with Him, will the psalmist feel spiritually content.  The psalmist has confidence in the Lord when he is most vulnerable to fear and attack (watches of the night).  God may be compared to a mother bird who protects her young...}

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  

{Though far removed from the sanctuary, the place where he has experienced God's presence, the psalmist still enjoys intimate communion with Him.  Clinging to the Lord means finding in Him one's only hope.}

But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.  But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

{This verse is the first indication of distress or danger in the poem of the psalmists's distress...God's justice wins out.  Those who love God will continue to praise Him, while the wicked will be stifled.}



Eat, Drink, and Feel Guilty...


Food.  You know I have a thing for it.  I mean, just check out my last post...  I've always appreciated good food...I come from a family of good Southern cooks and food is so much a part of our lives...not only by necessity, but as a part of our celebrating and fellowshipping.  Food is a gift that God has graciously given us to fulfill the needs that our physical bodies have.  

But, like all good gifts, because of our sin it can become a temptation...an idol...an addiction.  I've struggled with maintaining a healthy weight for the majority of my adult life and even more so after being pregnant.  Being a stay at home mom has been a hard road in that the kitchen is always at my disposal with no one there to monitor me, except myself.  Self-control is often lacking, and in recent years I have learned that I turn to food a lot of times when I am not even remotely hungry...and not celery sticks and cucumbers, mind you.  This is not in an eating-disorder kind of a way, but in a there's-a-void-in-my-life-that-I'm-trying-to-fill-with-food kind of a way.  Several different books have been really helpful in helping me identify the times when I am reaching for food and shouldn't be and also the deeper spiritual/emotional need that is present.  Two that come to mind are Reshaping It All and Made to Crave.

It is an ongoing battle and one that I'm not sure I will ever gain control over...my "thorn in the flesh"?  But, I am thankful that I am not alone in this battle and that others are facing the same temptations.  Today's reading from The 30-Day Praise Challenge was convicting and encouraging to me.  Reading truths such as these...

My child, I am the only One who can meet your needs completely.  I am the Bread of Life and living water.  Yet you often run to other things to satisfy the cravings of your soul.  Those other things can become addictions.  Instead of trying to anesthetize the ache in your soul, come and praise Me.  

I created you with an ache that only I can fill.

Taste and see that I am good.  I fill the hungry and satisfy the thirsty with good things.  Exalt Me!  I give you food to nourish and sustain your body and other gifts to delight your soul.  But I never mean for you to become obsessed with My gifts.

I want to be your obsession.

All you are longing for is found in Me.  As you praise Me, the cycle of addiction is broken.  Delight yourself in Me, and you will find that I can satisfy your cravings.  Those who set their appetite on Me will be blessed.

I am thankful that God provides spiritual food to help us as we struggle with physical food...


These verses stood out to me today as I looked them up and I wanted to share them with you in case any of you have similar struggles...


I would encourage you to look up these verses and read the context and any footnotes that your Bible may have about them.  That was a helpful exercise as well.


A quick search on pinterest for a Scripture reference will return a lot of images and these are easily printable and can be put in a cheap frame and placed around your home.  Filling your home with Scripture is a great way to fill your mind with it, because as you walk through your home, you see it and read it.


The footnote in my Bible for the verse listed above says...

"Only in praise to God, in intimate communion with Him, will the Psalmist be spiritually content."

How true for us too.

I hope this encourages you today.  Food is a gift...one that God gave us to enjoy.

Lord Jesus, I praise You for being the Bread of Life and the living water.  Thank You for quenching my thirst and satiating my hunger.  Thank You for being more than able to heal my addictions.  I praise You that the ache You placed within my heart can only be filled by You.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for enabling me to be disciplined and balanced so that I can enjoy the Father's gifts without becoming obsessed with them.  I know there are times when I run to {food} for comfort, because I am lonely or bored.  I praise You, Holy One, that You are healing my addictions with Your love.  Thank You that Your love can bring comfort and fill the deepest longings of my heart.  I will sing of Your love forever!


10 years ago today...

...this guy asked this girl to marry him and she said "Yes!"...

...and he gave her these flowers and this ring...

...and here they are 10 years later...on the same bench where he proposed...


Preschool "Curriculum"

When I posted about what a normal day looks like for us, which included our homeschool preschool, I received some requests to give more detail about the curriculum that I am using for preschool.  So, that is the purpose of this post.  Last year, we dabbled in some preschool activities at home, but we did not stick to a set schedule or have much in mind in the way of goals, etc.  This year, I am more dedicated to it, because C enjoys it so much, and as a preparation for Kindergarten next year.  C is learning constantly throughout the day as she plays and explores and tags along with and helps me, but two days a week for about 3-4 hours, we focus specifically on learning.  As I was thinking about the year, I wanted to have lesson plans in place and themed units for each month...  While those are both great things, I realized that this is just preschool and it is primarily about setting a tone for next year and having fun through learning.  I also realized that I had plenty of materials without needing to purchase a curriculum.  I did some research and made a list of things that I would like to focus on based on what a child should know going into Kindergarten, and based on what others were doing in the preschool years.  This was my starting point.  I decided to keep it simple, so I made a list of nine "subjects" or activities and decided that we would spend 20-30 minutes on each one on our school days.  We don't do them in the same order usually, and I often let C choose what she wants to start with and/or do next.  The only thing that I do try to do is to alternate writing with non-writing to give her hands a break, and also something more active with something less active so she has plenty of opportunity to move around and wiggle.  Also, on our non-school days, she is still doing several of these and actually spends more time on them on those days.  The nine things that we choose from are:

  • Calendar Book
  • Cutting & Pasting
  • Reading/Phonics
  • Worksheets
  • Picture Books
  • Reading out Loud/floor play
  • Games/Outside play
  • Sensory
  • Art/Crafts

Calendar Book
I learned very quickly that google and pinterest are a homeschooling mom's best friends and great resources that I'm sure those that have gone before us wish they had!  As with anything online, you can find more information than you could possibly process, but narrow it down and it is really helpful.  So, a quick search will give you lots of ideas for a calendar book.  This is something that we will probably do for most of the elementary years and continue to build on it as she grows and learns.  For now, we have a 3-ring binder with the monthly calendar page and she traces today's date, and then I have various worksheets for each day where she records the numerical date, what day it is today/tomorrow/yesterday, the weather for the day, her mood for the day, the time, etc.  There are lots of ideas out there for this, so you can make it as much or as little as you want to.  We are also working on identifying the US states, so I found a blank map of the states on google images and we color in a few states each day to learn where they are.  

THIS is a link to some of the pages that we are using for our calendar book.

Cutting & Pasting
Not on the computer...at least not yet.  We are doing actual cutting with scissors and gluing with glue-sticks, usually.  Learning to use scissors is a great motor-skill activity for preschoolers and they think it is great fun.  Cutting with adult supervision is preferred.  (spoken from someone who cut her own EYELASHES with scissors as a child...)  For beginners, these are great scissors for little hands, and using a hole-puncher is a good activity as well.  Creating a Paper-Cutting box is on my to-do list...  We mostly use printables that I have found from searching for preschool cutting/scissor activities on pinterest.  We also have a book similar to this that is fun and colorful.

Click HERE for more information

Reading & Phonics
C has enjoyed playing games on the computer since she was 2, and I have been amazed at how quickly she has picked up using the mouse and navigating her way around on the computer.  I really like the Starfall website and I think the $35/year fee is worth it for all of the programs and printables that are available.  There are a lot of things available for free, but there is SO much more with the membership.  In addition to beginning reading, there are lots of songs that teach things like days of the week, months of the year, etc.  Kids at this age memorize so quickly and learn so fast through music.  My parents gave me this book...

More information here
I am very pleased with this program so far.  Each lesson is short and easy and simple.  The thing I like most about it is that there are NO pictures.  NONE.  Personally, I think this is great for a reading program, because anytime there are pictures, it makes it easier for the child to guess rather than have to work to sound out a word.  Even without pictures, it still holds C's interest and I can tell that she is using her imagination to form her own illustrations for what she is reading.  Every 14 lessons or so, there is a booklet for the child to read, and we just got through the first one.  Let me tell you, C is SO excited that she can read a real book!  And I am excited too because I know that she IS actually reading it and not guessing based on pictures.  We usually spend however long it takes to get through one lesson each school-day...some lessons are longer and some are shorter.

This one is pretty random for us.  Both of C's grandmothers have given us workbooks for her as they have seen them at good prices or just thought they looked interesting.  I'm very thankful for a mother and a mother-in-law who have walked this road of homeschooling before me and have experience to share with me.  I won't list all of the workbooks here, but they vary in subject from math/numbers, colors/shapes, reading/letters, reasoning skills, etc.  One day we might focus more on reading and one day on math or it may be a balanced mix.  I usually just go through and pull out several or if C sees one she is interested in, we pull that one out and do it.  I mainly want her to get familiar with completing a worksheet, learning to write letters/numbers, and following instructions.  These books can be found anywhere, really...Sam's/Costco usually have them, and of course any kind of bookstore or educational store.  There are also LOTS of free printables available on-line and pinterest is a good resource for that.  You will pay for the cost of ink to print them, but even if you use an entire cartridge, you will probably have a book's worth of pages and the ink probably costs about the same price as a book would.  I have printed several from Confessions of a Home Schooler's blog.

Picture Books
Reading to your preschooler (and baby and toddler) is one of the most basic things you can do in teaching them to read.  We normally read books to C in the mornings and before bed and sometimes during the day, but on school days we set aside 20-30 minutes to read what I call picture books.  These are her choice and usually books from the library or some that we have at home.  Currently her favorites include: Franklin the Turtle, Frances (Bread & Jam), and the Berenstein Bears.  I wrote a post awhile back about resources for finding good books for various ages of children...

click for more information

Reading out Loud/floor play
Reading out loud to your children is another good exercise for them and one they will LOVE.  I remember my dad reading The Chronicles of Narnia to me and my brother and we never wanted that time to end.  Sometimes we would sit outside on nice Sunday afternoons while he read, and I remember having several neighborhood kids come and join us.  Kids LOVE to be read to.  We are currently reading The Little House on the Prairie series, and while I read, C plays on the floor either with puzzles, or legos/blocks, or coloring.  Children at this age tend to listen better if they have something to occupy their hands. :)  Usually a chapter takes me about 15-20 minutes to read, so we just read one a day.  Some other read-aloud books I have planned are Charlotte's Web and other E.B.White books, The Boxcar Children, The Indian in the Cupboard series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many others.

Games/Outside play
This is a chance for us to take a break...if the weather is nice, we will go outside for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood or to play on the swingset for a bit.  If it is too cold or rainy, we will play card or board games.  C loves games as most children her ago do.  So many card games are teaching games but the kids don't even know that they are being taught.  Some of our favorites are UNO, solitaire, clock, go fish, and match/concentration.

click here to learn how to play CLOCK

This is another one that is key to growth and learning at this stage.  For more information, just google it or look it up on pinterest.  For us, this usually involves playing at the sink -- I fill the sink up with water and C plays with her dishes and teapots and teacups...pouring, measuring, exploring, learning.  Or sometimes, playing in the sandbox...more pouring, measuring, scooping, learning about textures.  We also play with finger-paints, play-doh, or dried beans/rice...  again, pinterest has lots of creative idea for this.

click here to read this post -- it's good!

Girls in particular at this age (but boys too!) enjoy making crafts and they are able to make simple ones on their own and more complicated ones with limited help/supervision.  Pinterest again is a huge resource for these.  We tend to make seasonal crafts, so last month we made a jack-o-lantern and focused on pumpkins, and this month we will do some Thanksgiving projects and some things with turkeys.  

Whew!  That was a LOT of information -- not sure that ANYONE is still with me at this point!  This is just an overview of what is working for us, but there is probably a lot that I have left out.  A huge part of learning at this stage is learning through play, so providing lots of time for children to play and explore and imagine and create is what helps them to learn.  They remember things well and learn quickly, so even just basic conversations are teaching tools.  C is learning all day long, but the subjects listed above are just when I am specifically focused on "book learning."  She is learning personal hygiene when she dresses herself, washes her face, brushes her teeth, about health and nutrition when we discuss food choices and when she helps me cook...math when she helps me measure ingredients, science when she stirs, more science when we discuss plants and animals, history when we talk about stories, and the list goes on and on.  Every opportunity is a teaching opportunity. :-)

One last thing -- at this age, children memorize so easily and the best thing to fill their little minds with is Scripture!!  We are working through the Children's Catechism with C as part of a program at church, and she has verses to memorize each week for Sunday School.  Teaching these questions/answers and verses, as well as hymns/spiritual songs is good for the mind, and good for their little souls as well.  Most of us still remember the children's Bible songs we learned as a kid, right??  A good book to use for teaching Scripture to preschoolers is this one...

click for more information

Okay, one MORE last thing -- all kids learn at different levels.  What we are doing is probably more like beginning Kindergarten.  I have adjusted what we do so that it is at the level that C needs to be at...where she is learning new things but it is not too hard that she is getting frustrated.  So, the things that I have suggested may be too hard or too easy for your child, even if they are the same age.  Adjusting to each individual child's need is one of the great things about homeschooling.

Done.  Wanna talk more?  Contact me -- it's one of my favorite subjects. :)


November Reading...

I'm always interested in what other people are reading, so I thought I'd share what I'm working through (hopefully) for the month.  I do a lot less reading in the summer, because we are outside so much more, but as we ease into the cooler months, I'm finding myself drawn to my books so much more.

I've enjoy Courtney Joseph's blog for several years now and from it have discovered many other bloggers and authors that I find encouraging.  During the long days at home by myself with an infant, Courtney and others became a network for me that encouraged and challenged me.  I was excited to read that she was writing a book, and couldn't wait to put it on my Christmas list, so I've been enjoying working through this book.
click here for more info
Courtney has written a study guide of questions to go along with the readings, and that is available HERE.  Mandy over at Biblical Homemaking (another of my favorite blogs) is doing a weekly study through the book also and she has developed a study guide as well.  You can find links to those posts HERE.  I have found that it is so much more profitable to read a book with a study guide to help you digest what you are reading.

Lauren over at Only From Scratch suggested reading this book for the month of November, and I was going to wait on this one too, but something prompted me to go ahead and purchase the e-book and try to keep up, and I am SO glad that I did.  The first four days have already proved to be exactly what I need to be hearing right this minute.

The book is divided up into a devotional type reading for each day with an invitation (from God) taken directly from Scripture, a suggestion for praise songs to listen to for each day (I'm creating a Spotify playlist with all of them), a prayer for the day, and some questions to ponder/journal.  2-3 pages max, so easily do-able at some point in the day.  To whet your appetite for it, here are a few of the quotes that have stood out to me in the last couple of days...  They are random and not necessarily in order...

God invites us to praise Him, not just because praise gives God His due, but also because of what it does in us and for us.  Praise restores our faith, fills us with joy, calms our fears, and inspires us to love and obey God.

When you hear God speak to you in prayer, don't second-guess or question whether you imagined His voice.  Instead, trust by faith that you did hear His voice and then respond in obedience and faith.

Today, worship and praise Me for My wisdom.  Every time you face a perplexing decision, praise Me that I can show you what to do.

Every time you feel an uncertain angst in your soul, praise God immediately that He will give you discernment for that moment.

When you are weak and you praise Me, you give Me the opportunity to showcase My power.  So don't be discouraged by your weaknesses; instead, praise Me that I promise to sustain and help you.

Those who put their hope in You will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.  Thank You that when I feel weak, I can move out of the way and trust Your strength.  I praise You this day that You will provide the strength I need to be who You have called me to be.

I've been a part of a mom's group/book study for several years now, though my attendance has been lacking in recent months due to scheduling conflicts.  This group has been a huge encouragement to me and a challenge to me in my Christian walk.  They are currently studying this book and I am reading along so that I will be caught up when I do finally get to attend a meeting.  I have studied this book once before, and will openly admit that I didn't love it, but I'm giving it a second chance, trusting that God will use it.

click here for more info

My daughter has some dental issues that we are currently studying and researching.  Research tends to open cans of worms that you wish you could just stuff back in and seal up and pretend you never even broke the seal.  I'm overwhelmed by the information, but trying to learn how we might best treat her issues in the most natural way possible.  I'm about halfway through this book and I need to get busy finishing it before I have to return it to the library.
click here for more info

Finally, I'm looking forward to the Good Morning Girls Thanksgiving study starting on November 11.  I've been participating in the GMG studies for a few years now and I'm so thankful for that ministry and the gift that it has been to me and so many others.  

click here for more info about this study

I've also been enjoying flipping through some holiday magazines, cook books, and crafting books...but there are way too many of them to list here.

What are you reading, these days?
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