One Year Later (Time Capsule)

Last summer, as part of my Summer Challenge blog series, we put together a time capsule to be opened on August 1st, 2015.

On August 1st, 2014 we filled an envelope with letters Steve and I wrote to ourselves, a picture that Natalie “drew”, and a camera card full of photos.  This August 1st we were actually on our way home from vacation, but I planned ahead and packed our little envelope because I was determined to open it on that day!  So, sitting in our hotel room, we took a look back…

We started by reading our letters.  It was so interesting to see what we were thinking about and hoping for at the time and how things have turned out since then.

Some things inspired and motivated us, some things were hopes we’ve seen fulfilled, and other things didn’t go the way we wanted or planned.  Isn’t that true of life in  general?  There are good changes and happy moments mixed with tough obstacles and unexpected disappointments and we certainly can’t plan it all out ahead of time!

Looking through the photos on the camera card was also really fun.  The changes in Natalie are most significant of course, but I had also taken a bunch of pictures of our house (since we had only moved in a little over a month before) and it was interesting to see the differences with that too.

Here are just a couple Natalie comparisons from last year to this year…

August 1st 2014 she was sitting and rolling but not yet crawling… August 1st 2015 she was running all over.










Last year she was eating pureed sweet potatoes, this year dinner was hot dogs (per her request) at a little restaurant near our hotel.









On a random note, I noticed that I was wearing the same shirt both years, haha!  We also drank milkshakes both nights – totally unplanned and not something we do often.  Funny… I guess some things change less than others.

I told Steve that this is something I’d actually consider doing every year.  It’s pretty simple and could be a special thing to share as a family.  We certainly enjoyed it this year!

PS I’ve been enjoying my summer so much that I haven’t spent any time sitting at the computer updating the blog.  I hope to write more in the next week or so and catch up on what’s been going on lately!



The Last Summer Challenge

I can’t believe it’s the last week of summer already.  Where did the time go?!

I’m wrapping up the Summer Challenge this week and I was having a really hard time deciding what to do.

I’d love to do a challenge based on creating a bunch of freezer meals.  I know it would help me getting back into the school year, but I also know I won’t have much time for that this week with the other things still on my to do list.

I thought of a challenge based on listening to some classical music, since music is near and dear to my heart and I know that many people rarely listen to classical now.  But I decided against that since we’ve already been listening to a lot of it lately (Natalie loves it!) so it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for me personally.

I thought about a challenge based on the Sabbath and truly making it a day of rest, but this weekend is Labor Day and I imagine it could be tough to take a full day of rest given all the stuff that often goes on for the holiday weekend.

So… here’s what I finally settled on.  My challenge is to soak it all in and be thankful this week.  It’s definitely a personal challenge – very specific to what I need right now – but I hope it can be an encouraging challenge to you as well!

Lately I’ve been feeling those end of summer blues creeping in.  A couple weekends ago I was really bummed out.  I know I can’t complain, given that I had the whole summer off, but it’s hard to think about going back to school when I’ve so enjoyed my time at home.  It’s especially tough this year because I’ll miss spending time with Natalie.

I know I’m at risk of dwelling on that this week.  Of feeling gloomy because summer is coming to an end.  But I don’t want those feelings to bring me down.  I want to fully enjoy this last week!

I want to soak it all in… the cuddly mornings with Natalie, the afternoon walks, the comfy clothes, the freedom and flexibility.  I want to enjoy it and be thankful, not only for this last week of summer but also for what is to come.

Thankful for my job.  Thankful that Natalie is in great hands with my mom while I’m at work.  Thankful for family and health and the year to come.  Thankful because God is with me each step of the way.

I hope you can take some time this week to be thankful as well and that you can soak in the moments as August comes to a close.

Also… if you want to look back at any of the previous challenges and try one of those, now would be a great time!  Below is the full list with links.  Thanks for following along and enjoy!


Better Late Than Never

For the challenge this week I started reading The Return of the King (J.R.R Tolkien).

I read the full series back when the movies first came out, and decided to re-read it a couple years ago.  I finished book 2 while we were in Jamaica, which was January of 2012!  So, needless to say there was a long delay between parts.

I decided now would be a good time to work on the last book.  I love the story (obviously, since I’m reading it again, haha!) and have always been impressed by Tolkien’s level of detail and depth.

I’ve also found, though, that such detailed writing makes it a slower read.  Which is actually a good thing for me at this point in time!

I mentioned, in Monday’s post, that I tend to get really engrossed in books and find it hard to stop reading.  So I picked this one as something I can read a little at a time and keep enjoying for a while.

I love reading new books, but sometimes it’s fun to re-visit old favorites too.  Anyone else enjoy some good reading this week?


Summer Challenge: Reading Rainbow

Okay, I’ll admit it, I only picked that title to see how many people will end up having the theme song from that old TV show stuck in their head, hehe!

The challenge this week is to read a book.  That might seem like a very easy challenge to many people, but I think it’s still worthwhile.

I love to read, but I’ve hesitated to start too many books this summer because I end up becoming so engrossed in reading that I can’t get anything else done!  So maybe instead of this being a challenge, it’s more of a permission slip to let myself read this week.

I haven’t decided what I’ll read yet, but I promised myself that I’ll have self control and balance my reading with my work yet to be done, haha!

Happy reading everyone!




Have Baby in Backpack, Will Hike

On Friday we took a day trip to Stony Brook State Park.  I missed going camping this year, so it was nice to get out and put on my hiking boots.


We started our outing with a picnic lunch, then loaded Natalie up in the backpack to take our hike.


We took a loop through the gorge, following the stream, enjoying the waterfall views along the way.


Steve got quite the workout carrying Natalie up a bunch of stairs and climbs.  She was a trouper and seemed to enjoy it overall.


We had fun being together on our little outdoor adventure.

Summer Challenge: Get Out(doors)

Only a few more summer challenges left… which means only a few weeks left of summer vacation, boo!!  I’m trying not to think about that!

The challenge this week – make a point to spend some time outdoors.  Go for a hike, visit a beach, go to a park, sit outside and watch the sunset… it doesn’t really matter what you do, just enjoy it!

Since we didn’t go camping this year, I’m especially missing those outdoor adventures I usually get to have.  I’m hoping the weather holds out so we can take a day trip somewhere this week for some exploring and outdoor fun.

Now get out and have fun!

He Calls it “Mexican Shepherds Pie”

Monday morning, before heading to the grocery store, I looked through a couple cookbooks and skimmed one of my Pinterest boards.  I came up with 3 new recipes to try in working on this weeks Summer Challenge.  I made the first one – Tamale Pie – last night.

The recipe came from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  I specifically picked it for Steve since he loves Mexican food, and he gave it his stamp of approval.  He enthusiastically dubbed it Mexican Shepherds Pie since he said it combines two of his favorite meals which, as you probably guessed, would be Mexican food (especially tacos) and shepherds pie.

I’ll agree that it was yummy, although it was a bit more complicated than most of the meals I’ve been making lately.  That’s not to say it’s a particularly difficult recipe, it just involved some more steps and used more dishes, haha!  That being said, I plan to make this one again.

See my slightly abbreviated version of the recipe below.   (PS I would highly recommend this cookbook!)


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I substituted pickled for fresh because I’m wimpy and still nursing so I didn’t want to be crazy with the spiciness)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TBS chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 TBS Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375.  Cook the beef until just beginning to brown, then added onion and jalapeno and cook until softened.  Add garlic, chili powder, and oregano and stir to combine.  Add beans, tomatoes and their juice, and corn.  Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (I probably didn’t simmer quite long enough, note to self for next time!) then set aside.

Bring water to a boil, then slowly pour in cornmeal while whisking to avoid clumps.  Turn heat to medium and cook (still whisking!) until the cornmeal thickens.  Stir in 2 TBS veggie oil.

Stir cheese into beef mixture, then pour into a large baking dish (I used a 6 x 13).  Spread cornmeal on top, then cover with foil and bake until crust has set, approximately 30 minutes.