What I’m Into :: Summer 2015

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I wanted two things from our family vacation. TWO THINGS. I wanted a family photo and a Christmas ornament. Which I got. But I should have specified, it seems, because what I really wanted was a GOOD family photo where all four of us are looking at the camera and smiling and a beautiful and/or unique ornament that represented our week’s journey together.

*snort*

I got an ornament – a cheesy one with bears and the words, “South” and “Dakota.” And I got family photos. Lots of ’em. Just not many with all four of us (there are two) – and certainly not one where none of us look constipated, angry or confused.

SIGH. Oh well, at least I have these end-of-summer beauties as consolation:

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Yep, that’s my life these days! Constant chaos and sometimes pure exhaustion, days filled with tears and tantrums and hugs and giggles and silly faces. So many silly faces. It was a good summer and a hard summer, a fun one and a long one. In short? We were all ready for the school year to begin a couple weeks ago!

I realize it’s not quite the end of the month (when I typically publish What I’m Into posts and link up with my friend Leigh), but next week my blog will go dark as it goes under construction for a redesign. And I haven’t written a What I’m Into post since May. So – an early, end-of-summer version it is!

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What I’m Reading

This may be my most eclectic group of books yet. Here’s the best of what I’ve read this summer:

  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: For about five minutes earlier this summer, I caught a touch of royal fever. After using a photo of William and Kate in this post, I decided to watch the Lifetime movie about them. IT WAS ADORABLE, so I figured I’d read the book next. The book – which, as it turns out, was basically well-written fan fiction – was much longer and a little edgier than the TV movie. I liked it anyway – and really wish I knew how much of it was true to the actual William and Kate story!
  • On the Fence and The Distance Between Us by Kasie West: These books were two of the best contemporary YA novels I’ve read. Realistic, moving, funny – and great dialogue. I’m not-so-patiently waiting for West’s third book to be available at the library.
  • Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey: I put off reading this for quite a while after getting it. It was the last of the five-book series about siblings in Alaska, and I didn’t want to say goodbye. The last book was a solid finish to the series, and thankfully, Goodreads tells me that Pettrey is working on a new series.

Plus I have the latest books by Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci, Catherine Coulter and Janet Evanovich waiting beside my bed, along with Longing for Paris, Wild in the Hollow and Simply Tuesday by my friends Sarah Mae, Amber Haines and Emily Freeman. And while I can’t technically call Amy Poehler my friend, I am about halfway through her surprising, entertaining and enlightening memoir, Yes Please.

Oh, and I just got Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love, last week and I’m dying to crack it open and dive in.

I told you guys: I have a book problem!

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What I’m Watching

Last week I finally caught up on So You Think You Can Dance. Would you believe I’d let half a dozen episodes stack up on my DVR? And that doesn’t even count the audition episodes I simply deleted. WHo AM I? I don’t know, but please don’t tell Cat Deeley. I couldn’t handle it if she were disappointed in me and my fandom!

So what HAVE I been watching? Plenty. (I know. Shocker.) Here’s what’s taken the place of America’s favorite dancers, at least for a couple months:

  • Stitchers: A young adult sci-fi procedural on ABC Family. Creative and pretty and snarky. Basically, all my favorite things.
  • UnREAL: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of The Bachelor? No, me either, but that didn’t stop me from watching this well-written, less-than-family-friendly drama on Lifetime.
  • Suits: So much anger and drama! Revenge! Secrets! And so many sharp suits! I love this show, season after season – and this one is just as good as previous ones.
  • Blue Bloods: This is the show Mark and I have decided to watch together on Netflix. It’s no Friday Night Lights, but we like it better than Heroes or West Wing (the other shows we tried together). (Don’t yell at me, West Wing fans. I’m going to watch it on my own!)
  • The Musketeers: The only thing this BBC show is missing are the lovely harmonies of Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting. Otherwise, it’s got all the Musketeer adventure, humor and dashing heroes and heroines you could ask for.
  • Miranda: My friend Amber said it, nonchalantly, “You know Miranda, of course, Mary…?” NO, I said. WHAT IS THIS SHOW OF WHICH YOU SPEAK? HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT? Well, there’s no explanation for the latter, but I can tell you more about it now that I’ve watched nearly the entire series. It’s about a tall, awkward, delightful British woman and her awkward, delightful friends and family. It’s a half-hour sitcom in which the main character breaks out in song nearly as often as she addresses the camera. It’s hilarious and sweet and such fun – and you should watch it right away. (It’s on Hulu.)
  • Veep: I just watched the first season, and unless something changes dramatically I probably won’t see the rest of it for a while. (It’s on HBO, a station we don’t have, which limits options for streaming or online viewing.) Anyway. This show about a female vice president and her staff is irreverent and smart and biting and funny. Watch it if you like that sort of thing (but beware of a whole lot of HBO-rated language).

I’ve also had the uncommon [to me] fortune to see four movies in the theater this summer. Four! Of course, that hasn’t kept me from whining [at least to myself] about not seeing the new Mission Impossible movie (or the entertaining-looking Man from UNCLE) yet, but it has kept me from having the nerve to complain out loud.

You know. Until now.

WOMAN IN GOLD - 2015 FILM STILL - (L-R) RYAN REYNOLDS, HELEN MIRREN, and DANIEL BRUHL - Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky  © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

Anyway. A few words about the movies I did see:

  • Jurassic World: I laughed so much, you guys – but I’m just not sure it was supposed to be funny…
  • Inside Out: Fascinating, touching, intricate and highly entertaining to both my daughter and me. I can’t wait to watch it again!
  • Woman in Gold: A little slow (read: no car chases or superheroes, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE) but very, very good. Based on a true story, it was about a woman trying to reclaim her family’s property that was stolen by Nazis during the war. As usual, Helen Mirren was lovely. And I remembered how much I really like Ryan Reynolds.
  • Ant-Man: I hate to be punny, but this was a much smaller move than the other Marvel films. And yet it was funny and sweet and still reasonably exciting. I liked it a lot.

I love the beginning of the school year more even than January when it comes to fresh starts. So I’ve been trying harder than ever to get my stuff together and organize this family. It’s going…so-so. I’m sure we’ll get it all figured out by May. Heh.

So that’s some of the fun stuff I was into this summer. In case you missed it, here are some of my favorite posts:

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On this blog:

At other places

Now, tell me: What were YOU into this summer?

 
Read more What I’m Into posts at Leigh Kramer’s blog!

A Great Value on Diapers Works for Me (WFMW)

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We had kids years after most of our friends and family members did. That means we got a lot of flack and questions – but also a lot of real-life, in-the-trenches advice. I’ve really been grateful to learn from parents a little further down the road than us.

But one of my friends completely led me astray. I remember so clearly hearing her assure me that kids weren’t all that expensive, that they really only cost a couple hundred dollars a month.

You guys? I don’t know where she got her inexpensive children, but I have found mine require a much more substantial place in our monthly budget. So when I was contacted to participate in Family Dollar’s diaper campaign, I was ALL OVER IT. (In other words, this is a sponsored post, but all opinions and adorable children are my own.)

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Diapers are so expensive, aren’t they?! But not all of them. Between my two kids, I thought I’d tried all the brands. But it turns out I had not, and I was happy to give Kidgets diapers from Family Dollar a try this month.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. I’ve tried “value” diapers before and was sorely disappointed. Also, Adrienne is a busy baby. BUSY. She is on the move – running, climbing, dancing, move-move-MOVING – all the time. So diapers have to work pretty hard to prevent leaks on my little monkey. Luckily, Kidgets have stretchable sides and great leak protection, which means she stays dry [on the outside] no matter how wiggly or giggly she gets!

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No matter what my friend tried to tell me, raising kids is expensive. So when I find such a great value for the most essential baby item ever (you know, DIAPERS), I’m way happy to tell you about it! Budget-friendly, leak-preventing Kidgets diapers from Family Dollar work for me!

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[Oh, and one more thing! Family Dollar also offers a money-back guarantee if you’re not 100% satisfied. Can’t beat that!]

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Family Dollar.
 
Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

When You Don’t Know What to Do

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On Saturday night I went to bed at a decent time, with plans to get up on time the next morning. That might sound like common sense, but it’s not always – or even often – what I do. Most Sunday mornings start off late and get more stressful every minute between rolling out of bed and stumbling into church.

But this week I was determined to be different.

And it was – but not in the way I expected. Despite going to bed a little early, I lay in bed for hours, WIDE AWAKE. This is not normal for me at all. I have family and friends who fight insomnia on a regular basis, but if I’m good at one thing, it’s sleeping. Just not Saturday night.

In hindsight I think the large quantities of tea and a before-bed Diet Dr. Pepper are mostly to blame. But the myriad thoughts and questions swirling in my mind didn’t help. More than other recent seasons, this back-to-school time has brought with it an overwhelming number of decisions to make.

Do we lead a small group this session?
Do we make Annalyn continue piano lessons?
Is it time to start potty training?
What should my next book be about?

These are big questions, you guys – and not issues that can be figured out overnight. Which is probably why, as I tried so hard to go to sleep (as if THAT ever works!) the other night, I focused instead on what my girls should be for Halloween and the possibility of throwing a Back to the Future party. Important things, you know?

No, not at all, but much easier and more fun to think about when I feel like I’m drowning in questions!

On top of those questions, I’m also in the process of working with a designer to refresh the look of this site – which brings with it lots of questions only I can answer.

[Side note: Speaking of my blog redesign, this site will be dark from August 31 to September 10. No new posts, no looking up old ones. And my plan is to reveal the new site on September 11. I’ll miss you while I’m gone, but we’ll have lots to discuss when I return!]

What do you do when you have a big or difficult decision to make?

When You Don't Know What to Do

My nature is to research, so I look up all the information I can find about the topic at hand. Sometimes that means crowd sourcing, like I did last week when I asked my Facebook friends for advice about getting my daughter to practice piano without yelling. Sometimes it means Pinterest surfing, like when I fell down the rabbit hole of Halloween costume ideas late Saturday night. Other times I will ask just a few trusted friends for their opinions, like when I wasn’t sure how to treat the stinking lice that showed up on my baby girl this summer.

From there I usually make a pros and cons chart, either mentally or literally. Some decisions feel so overwhelming and complicated that only the physical act of writing down the angles and considerations can help me sort things out.

But I know the best thing I can do is pray about it.

This month isn’t the first time it’s happened, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the lessons we’re teaching in Kids City at church are exactly what I need to hear. This month’s theme? WISDOM. Of course.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you.
(James 1:5)

Just ask. I know that. I know that later in the book of James, it says “you do not have because you do not ask.” If I need wisdom, guidance, ANSWERS, then I simply need to ask for it.

So I am. I’m still researching (go ahead, ask me how many articles I’ve read about potty training readiness!) and seeking the counsel of a few friends, but I’m praying that God will guide my decisions and make my paths straight.

Annnnnd, I’m going to take a poll. Because I’ve got one more decision to make, on top of all those others. And for this one, I want YOUR opinion!

Can you help me decide: What should I write about for my 31 Days series in October?

If you don’t know about 31 Days, it’s a challenge that a lot of bloggers take in October to write about one topic for each day of the month. In 2012 I wrote about giving up on perfect, in 2013 I wrote about giving up on fairy tales, and last year I wrote about turning lemons into lemonade. But this year, well, I’m not sure which topic to choose. I’d love to hear what you think!

Which of these topics sound most interesting to you?

a. The intersection of pop culture and faith
b. #sorrynotsorry – Why I’m done apologizing (for some things)
c. Another series about life’s fairy tales
d. Something else entirely!

Please, tell us in the comments what sounds most interesting to you! (And if you’re doing a 31 Days series on your own blog, I’d love to hear what you’ll be writing about, too!)

Leaf photo source

14 Simple & Savory Recipes for Stuffed Peppers

14 Recipes for Stuffed Peppers | via givinguponperfect.com

Several years ago, I read an article in Redbook about Trisha Yearwood. Among many other things she shared a recipe for stuffed peppers – and I was intrigued. I’d only had stuffed peppers once before in my entire life, and I thought maybe I needed to try them again.

That was five years ago. Sometimes I’m a little slow to try new things. But when 2015 began, I decided that this year was the year I’d finally make stuffed peppers.

I got so excited about this prospect that I created an entire Pinterest board of stuffed pepper recipes. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making elaborate plans. (Don’t ask me about follow-through. Just don’t.)

But this time – THIS TIME! – I did follow through. I’ve made stuffed peppers not just once, but twice – TWICE! – and I’m determined to try yet another recipe soon. I’m going to tell you about the peppers I made (the peppers I stuffed? what’s the proper verbiage here?), but first, here are the most delicious recipes for stuffed peppers I’ve found:

14 Ways to Make Stuffed Peppers

And then, as if that’s not enough, I also found recipes that look AMAZING for a Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup from Recipes That Crock and a Skinny Stuffed Pepper Casserole from Skinny Mom. No matter what form you want it in, we’ve got your stuffed pepper recipe here, folks!

Now I can’t wait to tell you about the recipe I’ve already tried. She’s the Bross posted a recipe for Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers, and I found it on Pinterest. (Of course I did. Where else would I look for a recipe? In a cookbook?!) (I’m kidding. The church cookbook I got from Mark’s mom at my bridal shower – plastic spiral, no pictures – is my absolute favorite home of tested-and-tried recipes.)

Anyway. I wasn’t sure if my husband (who might possibly be classified as a picky eater, if you like to classify things like that) would like stuffed peppers, but I knew he loves Philly cheesesteaks. So this seemed like a good place to start. (Also? The recipe was simple, and that’s my favorite.)

[Side note: As it turns out, stuffed peppers was a dish Mark’s mom made often – and that he liked. I just somehow missed that in the last two decades of knowing him and his family and their church’s cookbook.]

Anyway, I took the original recipe and made it even more simple. And since it turned this mess:

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into this cheesy goodness:

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I think simplicity wins. (Also? Kudos to real food bloggers who can take photos of things like stuffed peppers and make them look appetizing. I don’t know how you do it.) I do know how I made these peppers, though, and I’m going to tell you about it right now!

Philly Stuffed Peppers | recipe via givinguponperfect.com

Ingredients
2 large green peppers
8 oz. roast beef, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
8 slices provolone, swiss or pepper jack cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the peppers in half, and remove the stems, seeds and ribs. Saute the garlic in a bit of butter or olive oil, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions are tender.

Next, slice the roast beef (just get it from the deli! so easy!) and add to the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes.

Line each pepper half with a slice of cheese, spoon in the meat and onions mixture, then top with another slice of cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly (probably for 15-20 minutes).

The first time I made this, I used WAY too much garlic! So, you just add however much garlic you like. Also, obviously I know that cheesesteaks usually have mushrooms. The original recipe called for them. But I don’t love mushrooms so I left them out. Enjoy!

How do you stuff your peppers?

 
Like simple recipes like this one? Like recipe roundups as much as I do? Check out my other food posts here!

Buy One, Get One Mugs – SALE at Dayspring

BOGO Mug Sale

I drank coffee this morning. As some of you may know, I am not actually a coffee drinker. As in, I like the way it smells but can’t stand the way it tastes. But this morning I decided to give it another try. With a whole lot of skim milk and stevia.

It seemed to work as advertised. I was actually quite productive and energetic-for-me during the day. But once I got dinner cleaned up and the girls bathed and put to bed, I crashed. That’s not unusual, but given my need to write a thoughtful, helpful WFMW post, it was certainly disappointing.

Sometimes, even after blogging for more than seven years and keeping an editorial calendar and pages of post ideas, I can’t think of anything to tell you guys. Tonight was one of those nights. I have at least a dozen half-finished thoughts that will someday make great posts.

Just not today.

Today I’m going to tell you that mugs are one of my favorite gifts to buy and give. They truly are. You can put candy in them or colorful pens or any number of things. (Yes, I realize you can also put coffee in them. Be gentle. I’m new to this coffee scene!)

And lucky for us, Dayspring is holding a FLASH SALE on several of their mugs this week. For just a couple days, you will get a mug free for every mug you purchase. Buy one, get one!

These links, of course, are affiliate links, so I’ll earn a small commission if you find something to buy today. Thank you for shopping through this site.

And thank you for grace on a fuzzy-brained, writer-blocked day. Mugs really DO work for me – and maybe even better when I fill them with a little coffee in the afternoon.

How do you fight the afternoon/evening slump?

 
Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!