Saturday, September 29, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Grasp


Grasp onto what I have. That's been the goal of this year. Contentment has been a big thing for me. Or rather finding more of it. I feel like I'm a fairly content person. I have a wonderful husband who loves me to the moon and back. I have two beautiful and healthy little girls. I have a loving family that surrounds us. I know and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a home with 3 bedrooms a nice kitchen and den and everything in between. I haven't quite grasped onto all these wonderful things though.

I look around, as most probably do, and see that I could have so much more. But I know deep down it wouldn't make me happy. Would a fourth bedroom be nice? I would say "yes" to that. But then that's an extra room to clean and that would probably come with another bathroom to clean, etc.

Grasp onto what I have. Grasp it. Be happy with it. I live a wonderful life with loving people all around me. People of character. People who love Jesus. Grasp them. Don't let them go. Build a life with them. Love them. Live out life with them. Make them my community. Love Jesus. Love people. Be content with the many many many blessings God has given me. I have definitely have a lot to be thankful for in my life.

This post is linked to Five-Minute Friday. Click here to see this week's link-up party and join the fun!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Settlers of Catan [Board Game Review]

Picture courtesy user pigeoncamera on BGG
In a continuing effort to draw you, the reader, away from Monopoly, Life, Scrabble, and the other "usual suspects" of games, I now present to you the game that has done that very thing for many people around the world - The Settlers of Catan. This game was released in 1995 in Germany but became immensely popular around the world. It was the first "Euro" game that I played. Since then, well, as Ginny can attest to, I have assembled a nice collection of games. But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to tell you why this game is one you should consider purchasing.

The Settlers of Catan is a game for 3 or 4 players in which you gather resources and build settlements, roads, and cities in an effort to be the dominant force on the island of Catan. Playing time should run no more than 90 minutes. As with my look at
Ticket to Ride, I won't bore you with the complete rules description but instead will focus on the overview and why this game is one you should look at.

Picture of resources courtesy user pigeoncamera on BGG

There are three steps to your turn: 1) Roll the dice and pass out resources corresponding to the hex of the number rolled; 2) Trade - or at least offer to trade - resources with another player or players; and 3) If possible and if you want, build an improvement by paying the cost for it (i.e. one road requires one wood and one brick resource). Then it is the next player's turn. This continues until one player reached 10 victory points. You'll want to refer to the rules for more details on the scoring system and other ways to achieve 10 victory points. There are also special conditions when a "7" is rolled, but again, for the purpose of this review, those details have been omitted.

My Thoughts:

So what do I think of Settlers of Catan? I enjoy it. It's a game that does not require much brain-burning and can be enjoyed by people of all "levels" of board gaming. The one caveat that I have, as do others, is that the method of acquiring resources revolves around rolling dice, and if the dice are unkind, you could theoretically receive no resources for several rolls. You can mitigate this if you build your settlements across several numbers, but be aware that the luck of the dice can play a big part in the game. For some people, this makes the game not enjoyable and even unplayable (these are people who are die-hard strategy game players). This is not the case for me. I know going in that the dice play a role (pun 100% intended) in determining resources, and I am ok with that. It adds to the elements of where to place your settlements and trading resources with the other players. I have the game rated as a 7 out of 10. If you're looking to draw a few more players deeper into the world of strategy board games, The Settlers of Catan is an excellent choice. (It is available at Target and other stores.)


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Menu Plan-September 24

September 24-30

Hey y'all! It's been awhile since I've posted my menu plan on our blog. I've continued on with menu planning and sticking to it but I also started something new with our menu.

I was inspired by Rachel's simplifying series and loved her thoughts on meal planning. I loved the idea about planning one week of meals and repeating that same menu the following week. What a concept! And I wish I would've thought about it. I also struggle with coming up with awesome meal plans each week. I mean I love planning but some months the task is daunting and I have a hard time coming up with meals. Even though we eat a lot of the same meals I try and be fun and plan new things but I get bogged down in that. Easier and familiar are better!

It's been a couple weeks since I've started planning our dinners like this and I love it! It's easier to plan our meals and surprisingly we don't mind eating the same things two weeks in a row. And I've found that our grocery budget is staying in check and somewhat lower. And that's something I didn't expect to come along with this new menu planning adventure.

Well, enough about that.  Let's see what we're eating for the second week in a row.

Monday- America's Test Kitchen Taco's (these are really great!)

Tuesday- was going to be penne alla vodka but since I forgot I used all the heavy cream I have no idea what I'll be making. oops!

Wednesday- pulled chicken sandwiches and veggie chips

Thursday- jambalaya

Friday- bbq chicken pizza

Saturday- leftovers or sandwiches

Sunday-leftovers or sandwiches

Are you looking for easier breakfast planning too? I wrote a blog about that not long ago. Check it out here! An update on that... we're still doing it! I love looking on the fridge and knowing what we're eating each morning without thinking about it too much.

This post is linked to:
Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday
Stone Gable's On the Menu Monday

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wide


I welcome him with arms open wide. I missed him all day. While my girls keep me busy throughout the day I think of him often and look forward to his homecoming each afternoon. I love the little moments of lying in bed and relaxing for five minutes before reality calls us back that we have two little ones to care for.

With arms wide open I welcome my man into my heart each day. I never want to be closed off to all he has to offer me, for all he has to offer us as a family. I am here with arms wide open.

My love grows more each day for my husband, mate, friend and lover. With arms wide open I want to not miss a moment with what God has provided us. Do I take him for granted? Will I have each day to wait for him with arms wide open?

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Go here for this week's post.
Come join the fun!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blessing Others... In Prayer

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about blessings people with food and how it's something I've felt called to do with the many food blessings we have. Today I figured I'd continue the "series" and talk on something else.


Something I can do often but something I do very little.

This past week I found out a girl I've known since she was about 4 years old (now 16 years old) is struggling. She's struggling with anorexia. I'm heartbroken. This is a girl who comes from a sweet and loving Christian family who you look at and think they're perfect. And yet here she is, struggling. It tells me no one is safe.

I'm at a loss for words. I held my girls and wept on last Thursday afternoon; struggling to wrap my brain around it. It's a word I've heard most of my life but never experienced or known anyone who's experienced it. I wept for my friend and her family. I wept for others who struggle with it. I wept for the unknown. Would my girls ever experience this?

In my head I play out scenarios of what I would say to her or write her in a note.

I don't know what to say.

All I can think to say is, "I'm praying for you. And if you ever want me to pray with you I can do that too."

We have made and continue to make healthier choices for our family. Daniel and I are the examples the girls see the most when it comes to food. I think I need to write this on a card and put it on the fridge and on the pantry. Would it make me more aware of making better choices? They don't notice now but in a couple of years they will. I don't want them to see me have a bad relationship with food. I don't want them to see all the struggles I have with it. Some struggles are okay; and I do want to be able to talk about everything with them. And food will be one of them.

This has been a wake up call for me. This is why we don't watch much TV. Food commercials, clothes and super skinny models are not what I want in my girls heads each day and night. This is why I have to change my thinking when it comes to food. I need to have a better relationship with food. This is why I need to pray. And not only for my friend and her family but for others and for my girls.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Notes of Randomness

There's no rhyme or reason to this post, just random thoughts as they come to me. You have been warned.

*We are now a month and a half or so away from the election (thank goodness). Mercifully, my Facebook feed has not featured too many political posts, and the ones that do get hidden or reported as spam (that may or may not be true). I highly doubt that posting a status about your views is going to make someone say, "Well, crap, you just swung my vote to the other side." I'm thinking of posting a status asking for money in exchange for voting a certain way. Isn't that how politics works anyway?

*It almost never fails that between August and September, I get one cold or sinus junk every year. It's nature's way of reminding me to drink more orange juice and get more sleep (and take more Nyquil). Apparently, Nyla also has this same issue. The first strong cold front of the season brings about change and throws sinuses out of whack.

*I have started school again. I may write more about this later, but I am currently enrolled back at
my alma mater in a class to earn a certificate in financial planning. The first class was last night, and I think it is a class I'm going to enjoy.

*2012 is drawing closer and closer to a close. Are the Mayans going to be right? Will Harold Camping make another bogus prediction? Time will tell, as will making it to 2013.

*Ginny and I have actually been able to fit in some board gaming in the last week, getting Settlers of Catan and Agricola to the table. (I have not fared well in these either.) I'll get a review of Settlers up here soon. It's a game you'll need to check out.

With that, I think that's enough randomness for one day. Enjoy your Wednesday!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gratituesday: Zoo Fun

This weekend we traveled to the Memphis Zoo for a little Saturday morning fun. We have a membership that we get for Christmas every year and I really think it's one of the best gifts. It takes up no space in our home and it's a different experience each time we go. Nyla and Naomi love it more with every visit. I'm thankful for the chance to spend time with just our little family. We have no TV's, computers or cell phones interrupting our time together. It's just us!

Nyla and Mama waiting for the gates to open.

The giraffes; one of Nyla's favorites to see.
The "zeebies" are Nyla's favorites!

Up close and personal

The Bald Eagle
This wolf welcomed us into the Teton Trek exhibit

I'm grateful for the time we get to spend together when we go to the zoo. Not only do we get to spend time together but we get to enjoy God's creations. We may never go to Africa to see a giraffe or a zebra; it's nice to have a place to enjoy what God has made.

What is God doing in your life? 

Daniel's picture of the bumblebee

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!
This post in linked to Gratituesday, September 17, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Focus


We hear it a lot these days. And it means something different to us all.

Right now, for me, it means focusing on my relationship with my husband, my girls and trying to lose some weight.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I focus on dragging my tired, big butt out of bed at 5 a.m. to meet my sister around the corner to run for 20+ minutes. She's sacrificing her sleep to help me. I definitely take this for granted. I love that she lives 1 minute away and she can help me train. I still take it for granted.

Focusing on my husband is another priority. He's going back to school to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and that means less time with him as he'll be in class 4 hours on Tuesday night and studying most other nights. The time we'll have together for the next year will be precious and some nights of cuddling on the couch will be cut short. But I know it's only a year and something he needs to do. And I'm very supportive.

My girls. They are now 2 and 10.5 months. Where has the time gone? I want to soak up every moment with them. The days are long but the years are fast. This is so true and I didn't realize it until my oldest turned 2 in July. This can't be! And now I'm thinking about #2's first birthday party. Eek!

I want to focus on living a simple life with them and honoring God in the process.

This post is linked to 5 Minute Friday by The Gypsy Mama. Go here for this week's post.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Travelling Band of Gaffords

My dear readers, as you are all well-aware, our little family of 4 went on a trip this past weekend to Slidell, Louisiana, for my cousin's wedding. My wife covered all of our busy-ness and fun in her previous post. I won't add anything more to that except for the part where someone pulled over a glass vase full of Hershey kisses right after the newlywed couple cut the cakes. Apparently, if no one was going to give Hershey kisses to Naomi, then no one was going to have them. Period. Anyway, the real purpose of this post is to detail some tips and thoughts on travelling with two little ones. Your mileage may vary of course, in both driving distance and the success of these tips. With that, off we go!

(1) Know your route. Look, I know you're saying, "Duh. What kind of stupid tip is that?" Well let me ask you this, suppose there's a huge traffic jam or construction area slowing you and everyone around you down. You know that it's getting to be feeding time for your animals. Are you going to suffer through the stop-and-go, scream-and-fuss traffic? Or will you choose to be the savvy traveller, do your homework ahead of time (I see you, Google maps), and prepare to take evasive action to resume travelling speed? Fortunately, we did not have to exercise this alternative plan, but you need to have it, because when your toddler has to go potty, sitting on I-55 just won't cut it.

(2) Plan your schedule. If this trip were just Ginny and me, it would have been easy. We could make the trip in a total time of probably 7 hours (drive + stop time). With a 2-year-old and 10-month-old, not so much. Based on our directions and my research (I see you again, Google maps), I knew the drive time would be around 6 to 6.5 hours, given ideal driving conditions. Our plan was to stop every 1.5 to 2 hours to let Nyla run around and go potty (because no one likes to sit in a peed-in carseat), with an extended stop for lunch. That worked out well. We stopped just shy of 90 minutes for breakfast, had a potty false alarm an hour later, and was able to enjoy a nice long lunch at Dairy Queen about two hours later. After that, except for me changing a poopy diaper on dirt road off Louisiana Highway 10, we were able to roll into Slidell with no trouble at all. (If our trip was going to be longer than 9 hours of drive time, we probably would've had to break the trip up over two days, because I refuse to ride in a car with over-tired Naomi.)

(3) Make time when you can. If your little ones are asleep and there's no highway patrol in sight, then put some miles on the trip. If your kids are morning people, get ahead while they are happy. We left before 7:00 last Thursday morning, because we knew a) that was when our girls are happiest; and b) that the earlier we could get settled at the hotel, the better.

(4) Make the trip fun. Ginny was going to put together a fun to-do book with different things in it for Nyla to do. Because the two weeks prior were busy preparing for a visit from Ginny's grandmother, the time got from her. She was still able to put a nice little kit together of things for Nyla to do. A cookie sheet with magnets, crayons and paper, books, and stickers were all our Big Girl needed to be happy. As for Naomi, she was happy to play with keys and whatever else we gave to her. Nyla also talked to her and entertained her as well. Also, I decided Thursday morning to get us a special treat for breakfast. Early that morning, I went and picked up donuts for us, which we then had at our first stop. While some would say that's nothing special, donuts are a special treat for us, so it was great to enjoy them on our stop!

(5) Relax. This one can be hard to do when you're stuck in a small hotel room trying to get 2 busy but now fussing girls to sleep. It was hard for me Thursday night when over-tired Naomi visted our room. Once they got to sleep, though, it was quiet and peaceful in the room, until they woke up at 5:15. Enjoy the trip. Have fun. And remember the good times of the trip, like Nyla saying in a depressed voice Thursday, "We're nootttt gooinng hooooome."

Have a great day!


Monday, September 10, 2012

First Family Trip

This past Thursday we traveled to Slidell, LA for a family wedding (Daniel's cousin's and he was in it too). This was our first time traveling with both girls and let me tell you it was interesting. They both did great in the car which I was a bit surprised by but all four of us in one hotel room was tough! I'm even more thankful for our modest 1300 square foot house. It seems HUGE to me now!

In our room we set up Naomi in her pack-n-play in a dark corner of the room and Nyla slept in a bed surrounded by pillows while Daniel and I occupied the second bed. We planned this to be the sleeping arrangements before we got there, as you should plan most everything when little ones are involved. :) The first night seemed like it would last forever. Nyla kept peeking into Naomi's bed and Naomi kept standing up in her bed laughing at Nyla. It was all fun and games until Naomi got overtired and started screaming. And overtired Naomi is one of the worst things imaginable. I'm sure the people on either side of us pretty much hated us for awhile. Daniel got Nyla settled down and I did my best to settle Naomi. It took a good 30 minutes (at least) and each of us to handle Naomi to settle her. Thankfully, Nyla was asleep and nothing could wake her by this point. I finally got Naomi under control and she slept great. And then 5 a.m. rolled around and they were both up. Yuck! Thankfully, sleeping got easier for them and by our last night they both went down with no trouble, of course!

Since we planned an extra day in our travels we were able to drive over to New Orleans for a few hours on Friday morning. I have never been and Daniel was a kid when he went so we were both excited to head over there. I didn't take as many pictures as I would've liked (typical me) but that can be hard to do when it's flippin hot and we're having to wrangle to little ones. I do what I can do. :)

First stop: Cafe du Monde for beignets.
This was a must and they didn't disappoint either. The girls gobbled them up too. :)
St. Louis Cathedral
Daniel and Nyla outside St. Louis Cathedral

This place was beautiful on the inside and outside. It was an overwhelming experience walking into such a big and beautiful church.

"Moonwalk" or Riverwalk by the Mississippi River
Bourbon Street
See, I told you I didn't take a lot of pictures in New Orleans.
We walked around for probably 2-3 hours in the sweltering heat and practically melted. We also searched for a bathroom someplace that didn't have a sign out that said, "For paying customers only." Nyla is day potty trained and the last thing we needed was her to have an accident there. Right after we visited the cathedral we started looking for a bathroom so we didn't get in an emergency situation. Thankfully, we found one after a few minutes of searching. It's so hard traveling when you have little ones and you have to think about those things. Don't even get me started on places to change diapers. Ugh! I appreciate being home with a changing table and a bathroom that's always available. 

Friday also meant rehearsal for the wedding! Daniel and I were so excited that Linda (Daniel's mom) said she'd watch the girls so we could go to rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner without the girls. It was such a treat to be kid-free and be served dinner. I didn't have to cook or clean up the kitchen. It was pretty great.

The future Mr. and Mrs. John Gafford

I took no pictures of our dinner so I'll tell you what we ate.
Salad: spring mix lettuce with walnuts, grapes and apples with a wonderful tasting vinaigrette
Soup: I had a sausage gumbo soup and Daniel had the corn and crab bisque
Main course: I had steak and Daniel had the Mahi; both were served with a roll, asparagus and mashed potatoes
Dessert: I had the creme brulee (wow) and Daniel had the white chocolate bread pudding

The dinner was at an old house that only serves breakfast and lunch but opens for dinner for special occasions. They had 2 servers for 40-ish people and they did a wonderful job. They really knew what they were doing there. The beautiful place was called Sunset.

And now we've come to Saturday the wedding day. Because Daniel was in the wedding he was only with us until 9:30 a.m. when he and his brother had to leave for pictures. Thankfully, Linda was able to help again with the girls. We went out and ran around and had lunch together and she helped me get the girls ready for the wedding after their naps. I couldn't have done it without her! 

I, unfortunately, didn't get any pictures of the bride and groom but you can check out the wedding photographers (Erin Rachel Photography) website and blog. She doesn't have anything up quite yet but I'm sure she will in the next few days. Her and her "second shooter" did a great job capturing John and Sarah's big day. 

Here's a few of the pictures I was able to get with two busy and tired girls!

Naomi, Daniel, Andrew, Linda, Nyla and Ginny
Family picture

Daniel and happy girl Naomi

Ginny and Naomi (she's always happy, I promise!)
Ginny and Nyla (the tired toddler)

"Gigi" and her girls

The reception was held in an old house and it was beautiful. The place is called Patton's but I don't believe that is the original name of the house.
Gigi and sweet Naomi


Me and my beautiful girls

I love this funny face!
Thank goodness there was yummy wedding cake. :)

We left Sunday morning and were able to meet my mom's good friend, Mandy, in her hometown of Brookhaven, MS. She saw Nyla in early 2011 and I was barely pregnant with Naomi so she hadn't seen her yet. I'm so glad we were able to have a visit with her even if it wasn't long enough. Thanks Mandy for suggesting to meet us!

Naomi, Mandy, Ginny and Nyla

We had a wonderful, first-time traveling experience with our girls. We look forward to many more adventures as a family but for now we're glad we're home and resting. I'm appreciate and am much more thankful for our small home. We have plenty of room to spread out and play separately and it doesn't feel so small anymore!

Congratulations to John and Sarah Gafford. And thanks to the Rick Gafford family for making us a part of their son's special weekend. We are thankful!