Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Giveaway for the Little Ones

I'm so excited to bring this giveaway to you!
My friend Cynthia is one of my very favorite people.
Real, caring, stinkin' funny and crafty.
She makes children's goods
- pillows, plush balls, pacifier clips, bibs -
and sells them on her {new} shop:
Named so in honor of  her three children whom, I can attest, are three very silly {and cute} monkeys indeed.
: )

Cynthia's in that giving Spring spirit I was talking about earlier and would love to send one lucky winner a handmade 14x14 animal pillow.
These little guys are too cute and a really nice alternative to those huge pillow pets that take up half the bed when they're unfurled.
They come in seven different animal styles:
Bee, Elephant, Dog, Beetle, Frog, Bunny and Lady Bug.

If you win you will get your choice of animal pillow (a $12 value) sent to your door.
And, by consequence, a very happy little person in your life.
: )

Here's how to enter:

1) Comment on this post after you've visited 3 Silly Monkeys telling me which pillow or product you like best.
{Required for one entry.}
2) Go to the 3 Silly Monkeys facebook page and "like"  it.
{One additional entry.}

3) Become a follower of She's Star-Crossed.
{One additional entry.}

4) Post about this giveaway (with a link to this post) on facebook, twitter or your own blog.
{One additional entry for each posting.}

If you do any or all of these things be sure to come back here and comment letting me know - or else I may not know about it and give you sufficient entries.
That would be a travesty.

This giveaway runs from now until Thursday, May 5th.
That gives you one full week to get busy and rack up your entries.
Even if you don't have children, these are a great gift!


Another great giveaway is happening over at So Loved.
Win a pretty little name plate necklace.
Have the names of someone you love engraved on a lovely piece of jewelry to wear about your neck.
Check it out here:

So Loved

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Auntie Em Moment

Good Friday was...well...memorable.
And not very good.

A tornado {later we found out it was massive, an EF 4} raged through our neighborhood around 8:15 pm.
We were taking cover in the basement when the steady chugging of a {very near} train passed over head.
It couldn't have lasted more than 60 seconds and this is the devastation it left on our street and the surrounding ones:

{two houses down}
{one block away}

{next door neighbor's back yard}

{one block away}


{a few blocks away}
When the train stopped chugging there was the sound of stillness.
{And my sweet piggies crying in fear.}
And then screaming...from outside.
We knew then that it was bad.

Trees on homes.
Roofs blown away.
Debris. Everywhere.
But everyone was safe. 
If a bit shook up.

As we surveyed the damage one thing became glaringly clear.
Everyone on our street was hit hard.
Except us.
Our home had some shingles torn away and two apple trees uprooted from the back yard,
{I'll mourn for them later...around September.}
but there was nothing near the devastation our neighbors and surrounding neighborhoods faced.

The oak tree in our front yard is massive. 
Just as big as the surrounding ones that were pulled from the ground and thrown about.
It is still rooted firmly in our front yard. It would have crushed our home, and us inside.
Potted plants, the kiddie pool and my sweet little garden in the back yard were untouched.
Everything in its place.
And all around us was chaos.

{my peaceful back yard. everything is in its place.}
I don't know why, but God's plan for us did not include a tornado catastrophe.
We are so, so thankful to have our home in wonderful condition and our family safe.

Our street was hit hard by the tornado but the storm picked up momentum after it  passed us.
Neighborhoods just over the hill were pummeled.
Please pray for them and our community as we clean up and try to resume life as normal.

Here are a couple of other photos I found googling the storm:
{bus on the roof of St. Louis Intl airport}

{a nearby neighborhood}
The rumblings of tree grinders and chainsaws reverberate through our walls and the cleanup efforts reach a fever-pitch.
Fire trucks rumble by and ambulances blare their sirens.
Neighbors wander, wondering when a roof will be back over their heads.
And inside my heart it is quiet.
There is a stillness there and a confidence that no matter how raging the storm is, I am held in the palm of His strong hand.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Year

Last year it was like this...

This year it's like this...

What a difference a year makes.

Feeling  especially blessed this Easter.
Our neighborhood was hit very hard by the tornadoes on Good Friday.
We are shell-shocked looking around at the damage and praising God that we are all safe and healthy.
Post to come...

Friday, April 22, 2011

I've Got the Fever...

Hello, my pretties.

I've got the fever...
Spring fever, that is.
And giveaway fever.
And dream-big fever.
{I especially like the dream-big fever. Makes me feel all buzzy and alive.}

Remember THIS gorgeous post?
With the birdie's nests and the tulips and the new ideas?

I'm not the only one with Spring fever.
My friend Ashley has got a raging case too.
She's serious about it.
She's giving stuff away because of it. honor of Spring and new ideas and cookbook collaborations
{seriously?! seriously.}
head over to Ashley Miller Photography's facebook page and "like" it.
That will enter you into a drawing to win an Organic Bloom 5x7 photo frame in your color choice.
The giveaway runs from now until the end of May when a winner will be chosen randomly and announced via facebook.
HERE is her blog post about it.

Ohmygosh, they're cute.
Cute cute cute.
You want one.
: )

I've got a giveaway coming right after Easter.
Perfect goodies for the wee ones in your life.

scroll back up and check out that peacock feather mini-calendar in the photo.
Isn't that the best little thing?
My friend Jen from Blackberry Graphics does those and other sweet paper goods.
I'd love to do a giveaway with her in the if you love her work, give me a comment and maybe she'll be convinced to do a giveaway with me.
{I really hope she's caught the fever.}

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A "Little House" Life

Things have been quiet on this blog lately.
Only five posts in this month of April - small doings compared to my usual 20+ posts a month.

I'm busy as a little birdie finishing up a semester of school {finals due today!} and planting the kitchen garden and trying to keep up with all of the things life with the three little piggies brings.
And dreaming...I've been dreaming a lot.
Asking questions.
Praying and bringing ideas to God.
{Ideas are useless until they've been brought to Him, I've found.}

I'm afraid this post is going to be a thoughtful one.
So, if you're into the pictures and the funny/sweet anecdotes and not much else, you may want to skip to the next blog on your list...

I've been asking myself "why" a lot - which always leads me to asking God, "why" a lot.
Why do I have the abilities and interests I do?
Why am I going back to school?
Why do I want to be a nurse?
Why am I raising my children to know the goodness of God?
About all of it.

I've gotten some answers...thankfully.
I'm not going to presume I know all of the ins and outs and how things will turn out and what God wants to do with it all.
I don't know...and I'm glad. Because, after all, if I were able to figure out every nuance of how God is directing my life, if I knew everything there is to know about the way He works, He wouldn't be very mysterious would he?
If I knew just how He was going to do things, He would be a whole lot like me {scary thought!} and He wouldn't be too worth worshipping.
So, although I wonder and wish {and, periodically freak out} I'm glad I don't know exactly what He's doing.
There is comfort in that, oddly.

I don't know to a T...but I've gotten some beautiful direction in the past few weeks.
Just enough to keep me keep me excited and focused.

I have always wanted to give my children a Little House on the Prairie type of childhood.
You know, the kind where Ma is always at home and ready to give, and she's baking bread every Thursday and hanging clothes out on the line every Saturday.
Pa is out, making the living and then he's home and telling stories by the fire in between songs on the fiddle.
Mr. B. doesn't play that's out.
But you know what I mean.
Little House on the Prairie; where things are routine and comfy and sometimes there's a great big snowstorm that keeps you cooped up for weeks but things pretty much run smooth.
And it feels good.
Like home.

But why?
{Told you I was asking that a lot.}
Why do my children need Little House on the Prairie?
Will it strengthen their character?
Will it teach them to serve?
Will they grow closer to God?
Maybe. Possibly.
But have we been called to a Laura Ingalls life?

Not really.
Here's what I've been called to:
{And you too, if you call yourself a follower of Christ.}

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.
Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys."
luke 12:32

"...He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound...
to comfort all who mourn..."
isaiah 61:1,2

Those are big words.
Revolutionizing words.
Especially when comfort and a sweet home life and steadiness has been your aim.
There's nothing "Little House" about that.

But lately, comfort and home have been much less comfortable and home-like to me.
I've been squirmy and less confident in my own skin, so-to-speak.
I've seen the hurt and need in the world and I've looked at my own life and said...
"This isn't what its all about.
I have something to give...I can help them...
and I'm not."

I just finished this book {admittedly, it is probably the catalyst for many of these thoughts I've been having} and this portion struck me.

"...orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes."
-Radical by David Platt

Which is so true.
Since I held those doe-eyed, glossy-haired orphans in China; so full of need, I have not been able to shake them.
{That was almost 10 years ago.}

If I am called...ordered to go and bind up the brokenhearted what am I doing here?
Hunkered in my little house on the Midwestern prairie with my sweet babies and a man that loves me?
Why aren't we using our resources to go, as a family, and do what God has told us to do?

Those were my questions...big ones, right?

Here's the conclusion that I've come to:
Everything that I'm doing, right now, and in the future, is done with this end in mind:
To serve other people and glorify God.

My schooling & a nursing career are the bottom rungs on this ladder that I'm climbing to get me to the place where I can go
 {into the world, you guys, not just next door...into the world}
and pour myself out for other people.

The end goal here is not to be a nurse and have a fabulous job outside of my home and give my family good things.
No - it's so far from that.
I have to do this to give us the opportunity to be mobile.
So someday we can sell our things and roam the earth and find people that are in need {physically, but even more so spiritually} and help meet their needs.

It's a life of sacrifice.
But is it really?
Wont my children learn so much more about God and life and love if they're out serving with Ma & Pa than if they're cuddled up under hand-stitched quilts by the fire?
Isn't a life of giving and service so much more meaningful than a bedroom full of Zhu Zhu hamsters and iPods?

I say, "Yes."
A resounding, "Yes."

We're not going to pick up and leave the US in the next month.
{Although that would be wild fun...}
Probably not even the next few years.
We've got some hard work to put in before we can be free enough to make a big move.
But, while we work and wait, I am going to be conscious of the small things I can do to bind up the brokenhearted and serve the poor where I am.
And you can be darn sure I'm going to be planning and dreaming and preparing for a major life-shift in the next five to ten years.

It felt good to get that out.
I've been mulling it over so much lately that putting it "out there" is freeing, somehow.

I hope you have a beautiful Easter weekend.
{If you make some bird's nests it is sure to be a sweet one.}
: )

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Kitchen Garden :: Planting and Labeling

Yesterday was the day.

These spindly little dears were on their way to their forever home:

Is it normal for seedlings to be this skinny?
Is this what they call "leggy?"
They definitely weren't hardy and robust...
I think they didn't get enough good light in my front window.
Next year calls for grow lights.
This year calls for a little extra prayer.
: )

A couple of weeks ago we added topsoil to our empty beds.

Side note: Gardening is much more enjoyable when you've got a "helper" with arms like that.

A couple of weeks ago I planted some rainbow mixes of carrots and radish (radishes? raddi?).
And the radishes have started poking their adorable little heads up.

I was at a bit of a loss on how to handle labeling my plants.
I wanted to get something like this:

But never got around to finding them.
I heard there were some cute ones at the Target Dollar Spot.
Totally missed out on that...

But I have a huge bowl of little sea shells that we gathered on one of our trips to South Carolina.
The kids love playing with a big bunch of shells...something about the sheer quantity.
So I snatched a few and whipped out my Sharpie {by the way, I think I have a Sharpie addiction} and went to town.

I am aware that this would be a lot more appropriate for a coastal garden...and I'm landlocked in the Midwest.
Yeah, that bugs me.
But its cute, and it works.
I'd still like to get a good deal on some metal stakes though.

My plants are small and I'm just hoping they like their garden home more than their little starter pots.
My Amish Snap Peas are cute though.
Look at their little curls...

And the flourishing lilac is one of my favorite spring miracles.

More on Operation Green Thumb as we get further into the season.
How I hope I have flourishing garden pics to share with you! 

More on The Kitchen Garden:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eggs in a Nest

Spring has gloriously, unashamedly, intoxicatingly sprung.
I'm basking.
I'm also baking.
{alarmingly close concepts in my life.}

Here's what we've been up to:

The piglets and I invited over some little piglet friends and had a nest making party.
Since when do little piggies make nests?
In the spring, of course!
Spring is magic.
Anything can happen in spring.

These Spring Nests - edible, dangerously so - are a spring necessity.
Mama used to make them with me.
{She still makes them from time to time even with no little bodies in her house.}
And now I must make them with my little ones.
My spring piggies.

Here's how they're done:

but messy.
And cute...
but much too edible and addictive.

Now...stop a minute.
Did you get a load of those photos??
Did you?!
{I'm freaking's spring, I can.}
They are lovely.
Wanna know why?
I didn't take them.
That's why.

My friend, Ashley, did.
With her magic camera and her mad photography skills.
Ashley is a very talented lady and one of my dearest friends.
She is a photographer and a sweet Mommy and a giver and a teacher and a smarty-pants and a God-lover and beautiful and actually really down-to-earth in light of all those attributes.
She does wedding, engagement and other fabulous photography.
And she is good at that. Really good.
But...I'm trying my darnedest to turn her into a food photographer too...
: )
Because I love food.
Food looks better in pictures than I do...maybe that's why.

But she's doing nicely with the food, no?

Wouldn't it be fun if, one day, one very fine day, we got together and did something like what you see above and tried to...(gasp!) print it and (double gasp!!!) sell it?
Wouldn't it?

I don't know.
Just wishful thinking.
Just wondering and dreaming and thinking bigger than I've ever thought before.

It's crazy.
But it's spring, so that's why.

Before you leave this blog {shaking your head all the while at Star-Crossed and her craziness}, please stop by Ashley's website and her blog to, I mean appreciate her art.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

20 in 10 :: Week Six

Unhappily reporting a weight-gain this week.
Two pounds up...that's the wrong direction.
Tragically wrong.

I would love to be able to claim total ignorance on why this has happened.
"This is a fluke!"
"I did everything I should have this week."
"I've hit an inexplicable plateau."
I know why I gained weight.

Last week was craziness on wheels.
{Helpful hint: tacking the words "on wheels" to the end of your sentence always makes it more malevolent. This is good for those moments you need a little drama.}
: )

But really...
I was so busy.
Midterms are coming up, I'm working on garden stuff and my babies...well...they're babies and they need me.
So workouts and the extra efforts to eat healthily flew out the window -
which is constantly open now since Spring has arrived

Thus, the gain.


LilySlim Weight loss tickers

I have a plan in place for this week. 
I'm going to start training for the race I'm going to run this summer and I'm going to be taking a serious look at priorities and cutting some un-needed "necessities" out so I have more time to devote to things that really matter.

More on that later...

As for now - have a lovely Sunday.
Hug your babies.
Kiss your hubbies.
Love your God. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

20 in 10 :: Week Five and a Valuable Tip for the Mamas

A quick check-in on this busy Saturday...
{Today is dirt day for the garden!}

I'm down two more pounds from last week.
Back on track and loving it.
That puts me at a seven pound weight-loss halfway through my little program.
Ideally I'd be at 10 pounds at this point...but I'll take what I can get.
I'm going to try to catch up this week and still keep a healthy milk supply for Babes.

LilySlim Weight loss tickers

Speaking of milk supply...
I've had a lot of friends ask how I'm keeping the supply up while losing weight.
The answer is:
While trying to lose weight I eat oatmeal every morning.
It takes a measly milk supply and makes it buxom (no pun intended) and keeps a good supply going.
I swear by it.
I've never heard someone say that it didn't work for them.
So, if nursing a baby is your concern while working out and dieting, eat your oats...I think you'll see a difference.
{and it works rapidly. I see a change within two days when I start on the oatmeal.}

Another tip:
Don't make my Banana Bread for Grown-Ups if you're trying to lose the pesky pounds.
Just because there are bananas in it doesn't make it healthy.
{That's a lie I'm quite familiar with...}
Save that for after you've slimmed down.
But please, some day, make it!

Don't forget to post a question for the trainer.
He'll be on to do a guest-post in the next couple of weeks.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Banana Bread for Grown-Ups - Recipe of the Month

I love banana bread.
I've been looking for that perfect recipe for quite awhile.
I tried the full-o-fat route, the honey-as-sweetener route, the flax meal and whole wheat flour route.
No, no and no.

While I was reading Molly Wizenberg's {perfect} book, I came across her favorite banana bread recipe.
And it was intriguing.
So much so that I dropped the book and checked the cupboards.
Delighted to find that I had all ingredients on hand
 (sort of a miracle since I don't keep candied ginger in my house ordinarily)
I threw it together and promptly fell in love with this bread.
In. Love.
(that's Yiddish)
: )

I call it Banana Bread for Grown-Ups, but really, feed it to your kids.
They'll adore it.
Mine do. can tell them that Star-Crossed said it was only for grown-ups and they're not allowed to have any.
While you're at it, tell your husband that Star-Crossed said it's Banana Bread for Moms and he's to stay away too.

The ginger and chocolate in here take banana bread up a notch...or three.
It's divine.
(I get candied ginger from Trader Joe's.)

 {oh, glory. look at that chocolate in there and the chunks of ginger. beautiful.}

Banana Bread for Grown-Ups
{with chocolate chips and ginger}
adapted from the book: A Homemade Life and the blog: Orangette

1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
2 ripe medium-size bananas
3 Tbs milk
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
Small chunks of candied ginger, to taste (I use about 3 tablespoons)
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, egg, and butter.
In a separate bowl, mash bananas; then mix with milk.
In another separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with banana-milk mixture in two parts, stirring by hand until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, ginger, and optional nuts.
Turn batter into loaf pan, smoothing top with the back of a spoon, and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes; then remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

As always, if you end up making this recipe let me know how it turned out and if you love it as much as I do.

Past recipes of the month:

Click HERE for a comprehensive list of the recipes I've shared on this blog.

My review of A Homemade Life.

I know I haven't posted my 20 in 10 weigh-in today.

If you can believe it, I forgot to weigh in this morning.
And you can bet your boots I stay away from my scale after breakfast.
I'll share the goods tomorrow.