Monday, January 22, 2018

Winter Top 5

Winter, indeed! I'm watching the snow blow outside my window right now. And bring it on! We haven't had nearly enough of the white stuff this year.

So here's what's keeping me busy while I hibernate. ;)

1) Sara Groves "Abide With Me"

I got this for Christmas and it's so beautiful. Dan and I had a chance to see her in concert right before Christmas in an old church she and her husband have converted into a concert space called Art House North. And this album was actually recorded there! It's full of old hymns that she has redone, sometimes to new melody altogether. So lovely.

2) Aldi's Seeded Rolled Tortilla Chips

I grabbed these on a whim at Aldi a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out, they're only around for a limited time, so I've stocked up. They are perfect for dipping in hummus or, well, just about anything. Super tasty!

3) Sharpie pens

I love a good pen. You can spend a small fortune on a decent pen, which is why I love Sharpie pens. They're cheap and awesome, and I just got a brand new pack with all of these colors. Happy writing. :)

4) Koselig candle

Dan and I had a day date about a month ago and after lunch we ended up doing some browsing in the shops in the North Loop in Minneapolis. We happened into Askov Finlayson, where everything costs over $100 (or so it seemed) and we found this candle. Koselig is the Norwegian word for cozy, similar to the Danish concept of Hygge. And this candle smells so amazing. They had a couple of scents in the store (and have a handful more online), but this lavender spruce is perfect.

5) Books
Too many for long reviews, but here are some of my favorites lately. :)

Brene Brown's "Braving the Wilderness" is one of her best books yet. She's the queen of vulnerability research and I really loved her thoughts on belonging.

Katie Davis Majors' "Daring to Hope" is a beautiful follow-up to her book "Kisses from Katie." Katie lives in Africa and has adopted 13 young girls there. Her stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring.

"Heating and Cooling" by Beth Ann Fennelly was a random recommendation on someone's Instagram story a couple months ago. It's a quick read full of essays that are hilarious and thought-provoking. 

"The Nesting Place" by Myquillyn Smith is best described by the book's subtitle: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." She has great ideas for making your home feel welcoming and comfortable. 

And a few books for the younger crowd.....or those who enjoy a little YALit. ;)

"Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper is about a girl with cerebral palsy who is learning how to communicate without being able to speak, and navigating school and friends in the process. 

Julie Buxbaum's "Tell Me Three Things" was a cute, quick read about a teenager who moves from Chicago to California and has to assimilate to a brand new school and culture in the wake of her mother's death. 

John Green's "Turtles All the Way Down" comes on the heels of his popular "The Fault in Our Stars" and "Paper Towns." This is another fascinating storyline with interesting characters and I'd love to see it as a movie. :)

Happy winter, friends! Hope you're all surviving well. ;)

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Good grief

Last week I stopped into Cub to buy the candle in this picture. I grabbed the 6. And then I hesitated. It's so easy for me to think of Hannah as a baby because that's the only way I knew her. Was I grabbing the right number? Would she really be turning six? That feels so big. She'd be just two years younger than Leah. They'd be such good friends! And two years older than Will. He'd have two big sisters bossing him around!

Alas, it has been six years since Hannah Marie entered this world and our family forever.

Sometimes I can't believe it's been that long. But then sometimes I can hardly remember what life was like before Hannah. Before grief was the new normal.

Grief is fascinating to me. I've never completely lined up with the classic stages of grief--denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Sure, all of those surfaced at times in the weeks and months following our losses. But never in the "right" order. Or for the "right" amount of time. And I knew right away that "acceptance" felt like the wrong word for the end of the cycle--as if I could ever accept this burden and move on with my life. 

I read an excerpt from a book recently that resonated so clearly with me regarding grief. Because the truth is, even though I may never "accept" or "move on," my grief has certainly changed. It's not as heavy as it was six years ago. Not as all-consuming. Not as painful. This is a portion of Beth Moore's book Breaking Free:

"Nothing could be more natural than a mother grieving the loss of a child. However, if ten years later the mother is still completely consumed with the loss and bitterness that have eclipsed all comfort and healing, she has wedged a stronghold between appropriate grief and gradual restoration. The enemy will capitalize on normal emotions of love or loss to swell them out of healthy proportion. They can consume our very lives if we're not aware of his schemes. Loving is never sin. However, obsession that flows from putting something in the place of God is sin. Likewise, grief is never sin, but disallowing God to minister comfort and healing to you over the passage of much time is."

It is my job, as a loving mother, to grieve for my daughter. It is also my job, as a daughter dependent on her heavenly Father, to accept the comfort, healing, and love He gives. We are not meant to be burdened by our grief forever. We are meant to be comforted in it. 

The week of Hannah's birthday last year, I heard this song while I was driving that spoke volumes to me of what I experience in grief.

Hannah is a part of our family and will forever be a part of my story. My story would be really boring if it was just the happy parts of my life. Our stories are the good and the bad. The mountaintops and the valleys. Every piece tells our story and tells of God's goodness through it all.

On a Sunday evening I'm looking back
Over all the years and where I've been
Looking at old photographs, I'm remembering
You were right there and you have been ever since
With every page that turns, I see your faithfulness

The mountain where I climbed
The valley where I fell
You were there all along
That's the story I'll tell
You brought the pieces together
Made me this storyteller
Now I know it is well, it is well
That's the story I'll tell

There were some nights that felt like they would last forever
But you kept me breathing, you were with me right then
And all that You have done for me, I could never hold it in
So here's to me telling this story over and over again

You hold the broken
You hear my every cry
My eyes are open
I know that it is well
It is well

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Do you hygge?

You should!

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah or hue-gah) is a Danish concept for which there is no comparable English word. The closest we get is "coziness," but it really means so much more.

The Danes use the word hygge as a verb ("You and the family should come over and hygge with us tonight"), an adjective ("The fireplace and flannel blanket makes this livingroom so hygge"), or a noun ("You need more hygge in your life").

Dan and I were introduced to the concept of hygge a couple of years ago and have fully embraced it. :) I was re-introduced last year while reading The Year of Living Danishly. In the book, the author is on a quest to discover why Denmark is repeatedly named the happiest nation in the world, despite harsh winters, high taxes, and other adversaries.

Dan surprised me this week with The Little Book of Hygge, and I have devoured in over the last few days. The author explains that hygge can be a year-round practice, but the Danes practice it the most in the winter, which is quite long and dark for them. The idea is having practices in place so that instead of dreading the impending cold, dark season, you have a way to embrace is through coziness and togetherness. (And the book has recipes! So adorable).

There are so many ways to practice hygge, but here are my top hygge essentials:

  • Tea. Hot drinks are one of the top hygge practices in Denmark, and I'm not a coffee drinker, so tea it is :)
  • Our fireplace. Our firewood was delivered last week and all five of us spent about an hour stacking it. We've already had two fires, and it's definitely something that marks the season for us.
  • Candles. This is another top one for the Danes as well.
  • Crocheting. There's something very cozy about creating something warm and comforting.
  • Cooking. Being in my kitchen is so hygge for me, especially if I'm making something like soup. ;)
  • Slippers. Dan and I splurged on nice slippers from L. L. Bean last year, and they've been one of my favorite things to wear.
So check out the book or any of the following articles on hygge and dig in. Especially if you're in a state that experiences long winters. There's no need to white-knuckle it through the cold and snow! Bring it on! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fall Top 5

It's the most wonderful time of the year! FALL! I'm in love with this weather and everything about this season. It's already going too fast and pretty soon there will be snow on the ground. But I will enjoy these crisp sunny days while I can. :)

Here's what else I'm enjoying right now!

1) Books. Lots and lots of books.

Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie was just about as enjoyable as she gets. So hilarious and also beautifully thought-provoking. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is an intriguing memoir chronicling Noah's life in post-apartheid South Africa. I loved this book! Such an unbelievable life and he's a great story-teller.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a children's lit book that both Jack and I read (and loved) AND the movie is coming out November 17th! Heart-wrenching story about a boy with facial deformities who attends school and makes friends for the first time. I can't wait to see how they portray it all on screen.

Two young adult lit picks that I loved--The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt and Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. Both are fascinating and captivating stories and quick reads. Bonus: Everything Everything is ALSO a pretty recent movie. :)

2) Nichole Nordeman's Every Mile Mattered

I have loved Nichole for many years, and her newest album is some of her best. I saw her at the Belong Tour last fall and she's just the real deal. And these songs are straight from her life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. ;) Check it out!

3) WoodWick cinnamon chai candle

This is seriously what fall smells like. It's so perfect. And WoodWick candles are awesome because they crackle while they burn. So cozy!

4) Podcasts

"That Sounds Fun" with Annie F. Downs. I first heard Annie on Jen Hatmaker's podcast, and she was awesome, so I checked out a few of her episodes too. She's fantastic to listen to and has a variety of fascinating guests.

I forget why I started following The Lazy Genius on Instagram, but I did and I love her. I've listened to a couple of her podcast episodes, and they're perfect because they're practical and short. :)

I think Jen Hatmaker is also to credit with my introduction to the lovely Jamie Ivey, and her podcast "The Happy Hour" is so much fun. Jamie is real and funny and so easy to listen to.

5) Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My family recently stopped eating bananas, for whatever unknown reason. It took me approximately six weeks to catch on to this new development, so I have had lots of over-ripe bananas at the ready for all sorts of banana bread recipes. And this chocolate chocolate chip one is one of my favorites. Enjoy. :) (And this one happens to be gluten-free, but just use all-purpose flour if your intestinal tract is cool with it)

Gluten-free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe from my sweet friend at Sweet Anna's!)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups mashed bananas (about 5)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups gluten-free flour (plus 1 teaspoon xanthan gum if your flour blend doesn't already have it)
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and grease two loaf pans.
Whisk together the flour (plus xanthan gum), cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix together mashed bananas and sour cream. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and the vanilla.
Add half of dry mixture and mix well. Add half of banana/sour cream mixture and mix well.
Add remaining dry ingredients and mix, and then remaining banana mixture and mix.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips if you're feeling fancy.
Bake for about an hour.
I love that this makes two loaves--I stick one in the freezer right away and it's like Christmas when I discover it a couple of weeks later. :)

Happy fall, y'all!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

first day

Next week I'm putting two kids on buses for their first days of school.

The first day is always such a mixed bag--saying goodbye to an amazing summer, welcoming back our school year routine, excitement, nervous energy, elation, anxiety.

There's an extra emotion this year and I'm not yet sure exactly what it is.

Because the truth of the matter is, I should be putting three kids on the bus next week.

I should be packing three lunches. Taking three "first day of school" pictures. Meeting three teachers at back-to-school night. Hearing three kids tell me who they sat with at lunch or played with at recess.

This is just one of those parts of grief that doesn't hit you right away. It's not the intensity of hearing your baby no longer has a heartbeat or the heartbreak of cradling her lifeless little body. It's the stuff that will continue to pop up as we realize just how much we're missing without Hannah here.

So as "first day" photos fill your newsfeed, know that there should be more. More cheesy smiles and huge backpacks. More first day jitters and brand new shoes. More kisses goodbye and fresh-off-the-bus hugs.

Monday, August 07, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

Actually, The Sound of Music itself is definitely one of my favorite things. Adorable Julie Andrews and the VonTrap Family Singers. What's not to love? 


Know what else I love? I love giving gifts. 

And I have an idea that I'm very excited about. :) Once in a while I share some of my favorite things--books, snacks, music, etc. But rather than just share those things on the blog, I'm going to literally share those things with you! 

On the 10th of every month, I am going to have a giveaway for something fun--a book, a giftcard, music, whatever little thing I happen upon that I want to share with someone. :)

SO, stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram this Thursday for your first chance to win! 

Saturday, August 05, 2017


Last week I noticed that the kids and I had a completely open calendar for about seven days in a row. So rather than fill them with beach days and playdates, we decided to keep them empty. And it was exactly what all of us needed.

The summer has been full and crazy and wonderful and tiring. But I think we were all ready for a change of pace.

We stayed in our pajamas way too late. We watched movies and had popcorn for lunch. We read books and played games. It was glorious.

I read a book this week called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren, and her final chapter was so perfectly timed: "Sleeping: Sabbath, Rest, and the Work of God." Here are a few of Warren's thoughts on Sabbath.

  • Rest is not simply a physical need--it is not only our brains and muscles and eyelids that must learn habits of rest. We need holistic rest--physical, psychological, and spiritual. 
  • We learn to rest by practice, by routine, over time. This is true of our bodies, our minds, and our souls, which are always intertwined.
  • We are finite, weak creatures who are abundantly cared for by our strong and loving Creator. In our workaholic, image-barraged, overcaffeinated, entertainment-addiction, and supercharged culture, submission to our creatureliness is a necessary and often overlooked part of discipleship. 
  • God wants to give us not just lives of holiness and prayer but also of sufficient rest. And perhaps a key step toward a life of prayer and holiness is simply receiving the gift of a good night's sleep. 
So if your schedule allows, I'd highly recommend taking an extended sabbath. No agendas, no plans. Just rest. :)