Monday, December 30, 2013

Coffee Bar Update

It is unusually quiet in my house right now.  The kids are upstairs in the loft watching a movie.  It is really cold and rainy outside and I am enjoying my favorite sweater and a cup of coffee.  I need to remember this moment when life resumes to normal.  I am sure that will be in less than 15 minutes. :)

With my beautiful moment of peace and quiet, I decided to get on Pinterest.  I noticed I had 22 notifications!  What?  It has only been a few days since I have been on Pinterest.  I clicked on the drop down box and realized the 22 notifications were 22 new re-pins of our beloved coffee bar.  This sends the total to 522 re-pins!!! Now I realize in "blog land" that is not much but in my world that is A LOT of re-pins.  What a huge compliment!

It has become one of my favorite parts of the kitchen.  My husband and I use it constantly.  The kids also enjoy it for making hot chocolate or apple cider.  Since the original post (DIY Coffee Bar), I have added black wooden crates to the bottom shelf.  These have come in handy for storing my purse, tote bag, items that need to be returned to various stores, etc.  I love the coffee bar and I love that 522 people like it, too! :)

***While I was writing this post and enjoying the rain and my cup of coffee, I also enjoyed the company of our puppy, Lucy.  She is about 5 months old and has quite the personality. 

Such a sweet face...

Now, back to my cup of coffee.  Come to think of it, I should probably run upstairs and check on the kids.  It has been too quiet for way too long.... :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Keeping the Old, Adding the New

As you all know and as I have said many, many, many times...I LOVE TO BAKE!  It is a family trait on both sides.  My mother's side has generations upon generations of women who loved to bake.  The same is true on my father's side.  I am blessed with countless family recipes and holiday baking traditions. My maternal grandmother, Esther Johnson, passed away in 2010 (A Little Wisdom from GrandmaJohnson Strong).  We hung onto just about every item she owned.  My cousins and I divided the treasured items used and owned by our amazing grandmother.  One of the items I received, was her Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.  I was over the moon to own something she used so often.  We can't quite figure out how old it is, but my mom thinks it is at least 30 years old.  I can't even begin to imagine how many dozens of cookies or batches of homemade cinnamon rolls she made with it.  I often joke that it has magical powers and everything I make in it is extra yummy.  Actually, it is not a joke...I truly believe it! :) This year, while making Thanksgiving dinner, my husband noticed the motor was making a strange sound.  He said it was "skipping gears".  He brought it to my attention and I refused to believe that my fourth child (named, Kitchen Aid) could be wearing out. I ignored his suggestion... I pushed forward, even though I did notice the strained sound in the motor... Kitchen Aid and I made it through Thanksgiving! :) A couple of weeks ago, my husband talked me into a new model.  He said it was only a matter of time until Kitchen Aid bit the dust!  Did he have to be so blunt?!  I mean, she was sitting right there! I had to admit the new model was beautiful.  The bowl was 2.5 quarts bigger than Kitchen Aid's bowl. The dough hook was formed with a new technology.  The color was a sleek gun metal gray....  Plus my mother is always reminding me how my family will only grow in number.  She says since we have three children she figures we will have at least 6 grandchildren plus three spouses and their parents, and so on and so on.  I am going to need a bigger house with an industrial kitchen for future holiday gatherings!!! Oops sorry, the thought of an industrial kitchen makes daydream. Where was I?  Oh yes.... My husband knew exactly what I was thinking. WHAT IF MY FOOD WAS NOT AS GOOD WITH THE NEW MIXER?  IT DOES NOT HAVE GRANDMA'S MAGICAL TOUCH! He bought it anyway because he knew I never would.  Not to mention, they are not cheap and he knows I will not spend that much money on myself! The day arrived when the new mixer was delivered.  We put it on the counter next to Kitchen Aid, it dwarfed her in size.  I did not have any feelings towards it.  But I didn't have a choice.  I had to turn it on and use it.  The first recipe I made in the new mixer was a batch of vanilla bean scones.  Okay, I have to admit it worked beautifully.  It also sounded good. I have gotten use to the new model, however, I just can't get rid of Kitchen Aid.  While making cinnamon rolls, it dawned on me I didn't have to get rid of her.  I could use the new model for large things, bread dough, batches of cookies, mashed potatoes, etc.  However, I could continue to use Kitchen Aid for smaller items, particularly homemade icing or anything that will not put to much of a strain on her motor.  I did come to terms with the fact that my kitchen counter looked ridiculous with two mixers sitting on it.  I have put Kitchen Aid in the pantry but I will continue to pull her out and use her from time to time.
Happy baking from my kitchen to your's!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Breakfast Blessings

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I LOVE to bake and cook.  Give me a good recipe and a quiet kitchen and I am in my happy zone! :)  Oh, who am I kidding?  I am happy any time I am in the kitchen and realistically, my kitchen is never quiet.  It is usually filled with the background noise of the TV, radio, and three children running in and out.  I enjoy every part, except the clean up.  If I could just get those three children to clean the mess while I sit and enjoy a cup of coffee....  Isn't that what happens in other homes??? :) Family meals are on my top priority list.  However, the busier life gets and my husband's work schedule makes family dinner time almost impossible.  The kids and I typically have dinner together but even that has started to change.  What really happens is that I serve the kids and then I end up hovering and playing waitress.  The only day of the week that we actually get to eat as a family of five is Sunday. I decided a couple of weeks ago to shake things up.  It took a little effort on my part because it required me to wake up earlier than I prefer (I believe I beat the roosters).  But what we have gained has been well worth it. I decided to have a family breakfast instead of a family dinner.  In the past, our breakfast has consisted of a fast bowl of cereal, pop tart, or granola bar.  There is nothing wrong with this, families are so rushed in the morning.  However, I figured if I put a little more preparation into it, we could manage to have one family meal a day. The past two weeks have been filled with wonderful mornings.  I get a good amount of piece and quiet while I cook breakfast because everyone else is still in bed.  As much as it hurts to wake up earlier, it is worth the peace and quiet in the house.  I have been excited to see everyone's face when they come downstairs to a pre-set table.  We hold hands as a family and say a prayer.  The kids have been eager to lead the prayer.  Our youngest son said the prayer this morning.  It was so cute and heartfelt.

"Dear Jesus, Thank you for our day and for this food.  I love you God and I cannot wait for Jesus's birthday.  Amen."  

My word, I am more than happy to get myself out of bed early if I get to start my day with prayers like that! It also makes me feel great to send my husband off to work with a great breakfast in his belly.  I know that sounds very June Cleaver-ish, but it is true.  He works crazy, long hours (especially this time of year).  It is nice to know how much it means to him. So, in a nut shell, family meals can be anytime of the day.  Meals around the table bring so many blessings.  This morning I made a great meal, spent quality time with my family, and listened to an amazing prayer from a six year old all before 7:15am. I have always said the kitchen is my favorite part of the house and feeding people is my love language. :) ** Oh, and my hubby has been great with the cleanup!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Few Things I Have Learned This Christmas Season

Christmas is one of my most loved seasons.  I wait for it all year, pinning things on Pinterest, thinking of our traditions, writing down gift ideas, looking at new recipes, etc.  Until this year.... I can't explain it, I am not sure what has happened, but.... I still love the season but I just can't seem to get into the rest of it.  What I have figured out is that over the past years I have put way to much on my plate.  It is my fault.  My husband is not exactly the one sitting on Pinterest (for way too many hours) comparing our traditions to other families.  The kids are not the ones who begin feeling the stress in October when a single gift has not been bought.  Nope, I brought this little problem on myself.  This is what I had hoped to accomplish this season: 1.  Advent Wreath - This was going to be the first year for this tradition in our home.  However, I never bought the candles... Come to think of it, I never bought the wreath. 2.  Advent Calendar / Countdown - I started this tradition last year and our family loved it.  Each day the kids would have a new activity or treat.  On December 4th (this year), I hung the countdown envelopes.  Yes, I was already 4 days late.  I told myself that at least those were four activities I did not have to plan or arrange on our calendar.  :)  Well, today is the 17th and we only got to the 12th on the countdown.  The interesting thing...the kids haven't even noticed!  I guess those activities that I stressed over really didn't make that much of a difference to them.  This is the perfect example of me trying to makes things...ummm, perfect, when the kids are fine without the fuss.
Each day has a small brown envelopes which contain an activity and a Bible verse.

I painted each number each year and then decorated with a small sticker.  Where was the time?!

3.  Planning family activities from a new book I purchased with some friends of mine.  Ummmm, where did I put that book again??? 4.  Putting up the tree - In the past, we always put up the tree on Thanksgiving night.  I think we finally got it up on December 1st or 2nd this year.  THEN our adorable puppy chewed all of the wires to the lights.  Now our once beautiful 8ft pre-lit tree is pushed to the side, actually it is blocking our front door.  I don't know what to do with it and I can't muster up the patience to take it apart and wedge it back into the box.  How did it fit in that box to begin with, anyway?  Our replacement tree is 4 feet (supposedly) tall and is sitting on top of a table far away from the puppy.  It reminds me of the tree I had in college.  I thought about buying a real tree but we just sold our tree stand in a garage sale.  Grrr...
the evidence

the accused
This looks so much bigger than it actually is.  Also, I did not put out my favorite ornaments for fear that the tree would get bumped off the table.

5. Decorating Cookies - This will get some point! 6.  Looking at Christmas Lights - some point! 7.  Sitting on Santa's Lap - Is it horrible that I have tried to figure out how to get out of doing this??? The list could go on and on, sigh.... What I have learned:  I think my kids are just as happy cuddling up on the couch and watching "Home Alone" or making hot chocolate than all of the other Pinterest ideas I have piled onto my shoulders.  Yes, my Advent Calendar / Countdown has been amazing in the past but it definitely did not work this year.  I think I need to re-access and pick only the traditions that truly mean a lot to our family. Ahhh, I feel better about next year all ready!  Here's to Christmas 2014! ***There was one more tradition this year and I hope it does continue.  My mom and I took my daughter to see The Nutcracker.  :)  It was a fun girly afternoon!

Hopefully in a couple of years she will be performing!  No pressure.... :)

When we slow down and pause, we are reminded the true reason for the season and that is Jesus and family.  Neither of which should involve stress, hustle, or bustle.  

Now if I can just remember this post next year... :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane

As I am getting ready to send out Christmas cards, I thought it would be fun to look at cards from past years.  It was so much fun to look at the cards.  The first card captures Charlie and I with our pets...NOT KIDS!  That is shocking in itself.  We looked so carefree, young, rested... :) I scanned each card which unfortunately altered the color of the pictures.  I did not take the time to be a perfectionist and edit them back to their original look.  So, don't look to closely! :) Oh, and if anyone happens to still have our card from 2006 could you please give it back.  It is the only one missing from the last 10 years.  If you don't still have it, my feelings are forever hurt by the fact you did not hold onto it and treasure it...keeping it on your fridge until the end of time (okay, just kidding). :)
Like I said, so young, carefree, rested.  Maggie (our cat) is now 14 and Beau Beau (our dog) passed away in September.    

The birth of our first child, also the year it snowed on Christmas Eve.  This was also the first time I decided to refer to our family as "The Moench Bunch", it is definitely stuck!

So sweet, melts my heart.

2006....Missing, missing, missing.  I don't even remember what it looked like!

Trying to get these pictures was like running a marathon.  I remember we were all sweaty by the time it was over.

The two cutest little guys I know.

Seriously, could his hair be any whiter!  This was our last picture as a family of four. :)

Finally!  Someone who could wear a bow!!!

Our happy little three!

Last year's picture was one of panic on my part.  I drug my feet on getting the pictures and cards done until the last second.  Come on kids, stand here and act like you love each other.  Never mind that your hair is not combed and your clothes are dirty!  :)

I had so much fun looking at these cards.  My how the years have flown by.  I love sending and receiving Christmas cards.  It is one of my most favorite Christmas traditions. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Johnson Strong, Passed From One Generation to the Next

(My grandparents, Warren and Esther in college)

We have a saying on my mom's side of the family, "we are Johnson strong".  "Johnson" is my mother's maiden name.  Her parents were amazing individuals.  Actually, I cannot think of an appropriate adjective that truly describes the type of people they were.  Our entire family thinks about them and references them on a daily basis.  Their faith was deep and their generosity and love was felt by everyone who came in contact with them.  I thank God often for the foundation they laid for my family.  The term, "Johnson Strong", is in reference to both of my grandparents and the way they handled life's curve balls.  I could include a lengthy list of their many struggles but the list isn't the important part.  What is important is that they always remained close to God and strong in their faith.  Whenever one of us is struggling with a difficult season of life, we gently remind that person that they are "Johnson Strong".  It immediately brings a smile to your face, makes you stand a little taller, and brings your faith to the surface.  It reminds you that you will remain strong because "this too shall pass".
(2008, 55th Wedding Anniversary)

My oldest son has recently been withdrawn from public school, again.  This happened last year after the first 10 weeks of school.  After a season of homeschooling, we decided to give him another chance at public school.  I have discussed his struggles in both blog posts, Raising a Child with ADHD and A Little Glimpse of Progress Goes A Long Way. Unfortunately, this school year came to an end after the teacher (the second teacher for this year) decided she could no longer teach him.  There are only three third grade teachers at my son's school.  We had already switched classes earlier in the year and the third teacher was not an option.  We were told we would need to withdraw him because there wasn't a third grade teacher willing to teach him.  Let me make a side note.  The school administration and counselor were wonderful.  They worked endlessly with us trying to help him and find success.  However, the "right" teacher did not exist. We just couldn't believe this was happening again.  Do you know how devastating it is to be told over and over again that a teacher does not want your child to be in their classroom?  Do you know what it feels like to have teachers, parents and other students become excited when they find out your child will no longer be there?  It is a feeling I would never wish on anyone.  It hurts to the core.  I thank God that he doesn't quite understand the depth of their comments and awful looks. HE IS A GREAT KID!  HE IS SMART, SO, SO SMART!  HE NEEDS ADULTS WHO CAN LOOK PAST THE STRUGGLES AND SEE HIM FOR THE CHILD GOD CREATED! I have cried, yelled, whispered, dropped to my knees with these words.  I held my husband in my arms while he took the blow of the news, yet again.  It is in moments like these when I constantly remind myself that I am "Johnson Strong".  If no one else will teach my son, I will.  I will make sure his education does not suffer because the "education system" failed him. He has jumped back into homeschooling with ease.  It amazes me how driven he is.  He works endless hours on his school work.  His anxiety is practically non-existent.  We are weening him off so much of the medication he has been taking.  Medication that we were only giving to help him function in a normal classroom/school setting.  The sparkle is back in his eyes because he is no longer in a stressful environment.  He is smiling often throughout each day.  He is relaxed and happy. He has always been a fighter, passionate in every way.  His pediatrician and cardiologist have often stated that the reason he made it through three heart surgeries was because of his will to fight. He is amazing... I am a stronger women, wife, and mother because God trusted me with him. I am so thankful he is strong... Johnson Strong

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Card Outtakes!

Every year, I have the intentions of a nice, formal, respectable family Christmas portrait.... This has not happened, yet. :) Every year I have the dream... Every year I think of coordinating outfits... Every year I panic December is quickly approaching... Every year I fall in love with our impromptu photo shoots... On the spur of the moment, I will decide that everyone needs to get dressed and take pictures for Mommy.  I use bribes, candy, money, video games, whatever it takes! :)  The kids giggle, argue, push, hug, shove, give kisses ( I think those are kisses).  We laugh, I sweat, they always pick their noses, and want pictures of their "booties" (as adorable as they are).  I always worry that even though I take approximately 200 pictures (198 to be exact for this year) I will not find one that is card worthy.  Honestly, it the outtakes I love the most.  Here are some of my favorites.
(Christmas music was playing in the background)

(This is our new puppy "Lucy".  She did not want to cooperate. :) )

(Not sure what is happening here)

(The party is getting a bit wild!)

(Strike a pose!)

Now I get to spend a ridiculous amount of time in Photo Shop.  :)