Saturday, December 29, 2012

My favorite reads...from 2012

One of my absolute favorite past times is reading. I just love a good book. I adore a great series. And strangely enough, I am loving that some of my favorite reads are being turned into movies. I'll link all of the books to their GoodReads pages so that you can read more reviews and the book excerpts there.

My favorite series this year goes to The Caster Chronicles. The books start out with Beautiful Creatures (the movie version hits theaters in February). I love these sort of paranormal/young adult fiction/kind of romance novels. 

If you have read Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent or anything in that genre that you really enjoyed, these are for you. It's not as much as a love story as Twilight, yet not as removed from the love story as The Hunger Games is. It's so different from everything I've read before and very well-written. 

My only gripes are that some of the things that happen are fairly predictable, and at the end not every little thing is completely tied up in a nice, neat package. That's not to say that the ending isn't is. But, I'm the type of reader that likes to have all of the loose ends nicely tied up for me and not left to my own imagination (since it's not my world). I've read a few things online that say some of these unanswered questions will be answered in the movies. Hopefully that is the case!

Beautiful Creatures (The Caster Chronicles, complete series)

This next one is actually a devotional, but it is so completely different from any devotional I've ever read. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought several copies for Christmas gifts. Sarah has a beautiful way of re-phrasing scripture and making it so easy to relate to and understand. Each passage that she interprets is followed by the actual Bible verses that she is talking about. A big thank you to my Twitter friends for recommending it!

If you're looking for a great, easy to understand and relate to devotional for this year, you have got to read Jesus Calling.

Here (on the otherside) is a book I found for free on Amazon one day and decided to read. The sequel, There, has just been released and I can't wait to read it. I love scrolling through the top 100 free list on Amazon. I will say that the cover is a bit misleading - it almost looks like it would be a scary book, but it's not at all. The synopsis on GoodReads explains it far better than I ever could, so be sure to check it out!

Austenland  was another book I found either free or really discounted one day on Amazon - in fact, I looked just now and it's only $1.99. I purchased it quite awhile ago and then forgot about it because I started reading the Caster Chronicles. Anyway, at the start of Christmas break I got really sick and spent a lot of time in bed reading, and this was one of the books I read. It was surprisingly good! I liked it so much I started doing a little research on it and found that there is an un-related sequel out and that they are making a movie out of it starring Keri Russell.

I've mentioned this in the past, but if you don't have a Swagbucks account, I highly recommend it! You can sign up using my link here and earn points by using it as a search engine, taking the daily poll etc and then cash those points in for Amazon gift cards. It's so easy, and I can't remember the last time I paid out of pocket for a book! I have a tutorial on how to use Swagbucks here.

What's your favorite book of 2012?

PS - If you want to read my tutorial on how to loan a kindle book via Amazon, it's here!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Buddy...I'm that mom who breaks the rules

Hi friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! 3 of the 4 of us, myself included in that group, have been sick, hence the lack of posting from yours truly. The kids are all better and I'm finally feeling a little better myself (4 boxes of tissues later) so I decided to sit down, upload my Christmas pictures and get to posting. 

As you know, we love our elf on the shelf, Buddy. I've posted about how he arrived and 35 fun things to do with him.

This year presented a unique problem. See, I have heard all of the critics bashing the elf on the shelf. I get what they are saying, I just happen to disagree. We all have different opinions - that's what makes the world a unique and fun place! In my humble opinion, Buddy is just pure fun. It's something my kids will look back on and remember from their childhood as a fun/cool/neat/funny at times experience. It's a memory maker. My kids know the reason behind Christmas is 100% Jesus...if you ask Brayden why we celebrate he is the first to tell you, "it's Jesus's birthday!"

So back to what I was saying...what's the problem? Well, like I said, I want this to be fun. The kids love Buddy. The issue is the whole "you can't touch him" thing. That is SO hard for a toddler! I decided, being the rebel, rule-breaking mom that I am, to break the cardinal rule of the Elf on the Shelf. 

That's right. I let my kids hold Buddy. Kiss him. Hug him. Cuddle him. 

There's a catch of course. Here's what I did...

I - I mean, Buddy - wrote a letter to the kids. He told them how much he loves them and how much he appreciated them being good boys this year. He talked about the true meaning of Christmas, and why we celebrate the birth of Christ. And then, at the very end, he mentioned that on Christmas Eve, the last night he would be at our house until next year, that Santa will lift his magic for a few minutes before bedtime. During that time, they would get to snuggle with him so long as they put him right back where they found him when that time period was over.

Here's Buddy with the letter:

I think this picture sums it up. This is why we love our Buddy:

My sweet boys were so, so happy. Several days later, they are still talking about it!

This post isn't to debate the whole Elf thing...I'm a firm believer in doing what's best for your family in all situations...I don't care what kind of diapers you use, how you feed your kids, if you do 3 presents or a whole long as it's right for your family, more power to you! For us, doing the EotS is just pure fun. It brings my kids such joy! If it's something your family does, then think about this fun little goodbye for next year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reindeer Treats {For Kids}

I was looking for something cute to make for Brayden's class Christmas party and I came across something like this on Pinterest. I thought, "how easy does that look?" and I showed it to Brayden he asked me to make them.

We're calling them Reindeer Treats and they are the perfect little snack for kids!

What you need:

Mini chocolate donuts
Red M&M's
White royal icing (store bought tubes make this super easy)
Large pretzels

I think the one I saw online used mini pretzels...I didn't read their tutorial so I'm not sure. I had large pretzels on hand so that's what we went with!

Put a dab of icing on the back of the candy (the part with the M showing) and lightly press it into the donut so it doesn't fall out. Then just add 2 dots for the eyes and break a pretzel in half for the antlers, place it on either side of the donut and you're done!

Brayden is SO excited to take these to school tomorrow! Brody and I are sick and running fevers, so Chris will be filling in for me as Homeroom Dad (I'm Homeroom Mom for the Christmas party). I made him promise to take lots of pictures for me so I can feel like I was there. I'm so, so bummed to be missing it.

Anyway, let me know if you make these for your kids! They are sure to enjoy them!

Monday, December 17, 2012

35 Elf on the Shelf Ideas for TODDLERS and a LinkUp!

Jenna's Journey Blog is now on Facebook!! 
Click here to join in on the fun!

Last year I brought you THIS post with 25 Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers! The ideas I'm sharing are not mischievous...I don't want my elf teaching the kids any bad behavior, but rather fun, silly, cute ideas geared towards toddlers.

This year, I've got 10 new ideas to add to that post of 25. I've also received several emails from you asking to do a Elf on the Shelf Idea Link Up, so I'm including that at the bottom of this post! Feel free to link up any posts you have with EotS ideas! Hopefully we can inspire one another!

Buddy (our elf) brought the boys 3 new Christmas books. We love reading together so this was a great gift. He always shows up just out of reach from small hands - this time he was up in their entertainment center that Chris built for our playroom. They could just reach the books, but not him!

Also, I didn't make a special trip to buy these books. I order books every month through Brayden's school. It's a fundraiser thing they do where their library then gets free books to add to their collection, and these were the ones I had ordered in November!

I try to move him around to different rooms each day. This time, he was riding a reindeer that sits up on our mantle!

You might have seen this idea before, but if your kids have seen the movie Elf with Will Ferrell, you know that elves like syrup (and sugar!). We watched the movie one night and the next morning he was drinking syrup in the fridge. That way, it was still relevant and Brayden was able to make the connection!

We were attempting to think of a way to incorporate him in the entryway this year (last year he ziplined through it) and Chris came up with this one. He was hanging on to the entry light!

Another day, he lined up a bunch of the littlest toy cars we have to play with them.

Have you seen the plush elves that the kids can touch/play with? I got ours at Target. Anyway, Buddy brought the boys each an elf. It's so hard for little ones to love something and not be able to touch it so this was one of the best ideas I've had this year! Both boys LOVE their plush elves!

Here Buddy was playing with another toy but this one makes noise. It was fun to sneak in there when the kids weren't looking and push the button. They thought Buddy was playing with the toy when they weren't able to see him!

The snowman had fun giving Buddy a hard time the other day. Hint: For toddlers, we always set Buddy up back far enough on a table or up high where the kids can't reach him, even if temptation strikes!

The credit for this cute idea goes to my husband. He fashioned little weights out of marshmallows and toothpicks so that Buddy could work on his fitness. ;-)

I did my first EotS post this year on the Welcome Back Buddy Breakfast. You don't have to use this idea for a welcome back - you could do it for any regular day or a farewell breakfast!

Follow me for more great tips!
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Time to link up!! Link to your Elf on the Shelf Idea below!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beef Tips & Mashed Potatoes

While looking around on Pinterest one night, I found this recipe called "No Peek Beef Tips." I thought it sounded interesting, so I checked out the blog it was on. Sure enough, it was up my alley! I changed the ginger ale to water and the omitted the mushrooms and made this for dinner tonight. To go along with it, I made my moms mashed potatoes. 

It was seriously delish. And bonus? It makes your house smell awesome.

Beef Tips and Mashed Potatoes
Source: slightly adapted from
Serves about 6 people

For the Beef Tips:
2 lbs chuck roast, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1" cubes
1 can mushroom soup
1 can water
1 package onion soup mix
1 package brown gravy mix

For the Potatoes:
4 - 6 russet potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup milk (or more if needed)
1/2 stick margarine
2 teaspoons salt (or more if needed)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder (more if desired)


For the Beef:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place trimmed and cubed meat into a 9*13 pan. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over beef and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 3 hours - and do not remove the foil until the 3 hours is up!

For the Potatoes:
Once beef is about an hour away from being done, peel and cube your potatoes. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.

Remove from heat and drain. Put in a deep bowl. Add margarine and begin mixing using a handheld electric mixer. Add in milk and mix. Add in sour cream, salt, pepper and garlic and mix again. Taste for seasoning. Add more seasoning and milk as needed.

Serve beef over potatoes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spread Cookies - Super simple and delicious holiday recipe

I make a TON of holiday goodies. Someone asked me the other day on twitter and I probably named 10 things I make every year off the top of my head. Each year I try out a few other recipes as well as my staples, and this is one I started making last year.

This is a Pioneer Woman recipe. It's SO easy and really good. It's a great one to have the kids help you with!

And you change change up the topping to suit your taste!

I'm on facebook now! Find me here!

Spread Cookies
Source: The Pioneer Woman (featured on

            1 cup Brown Sugar
            1 cup Margarine
            1 whole Egg
            2 cups Flour
            1/2 teaspoon Salt
            1 teaspoon Vanilla
            6 ounces, weight ( To 8 Ounces) Chocolate Chips - see notes below


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together brown sugar and margarine. Add egg and mix together. Add flour, salt, and vanilla, and mix together well.
Spread dough onto cookie sheet to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2-inch.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until slightly brown. At this point, pull out of the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top. Return to oven for 1 minute. 

Remove and spread melted chips over the top. Cut into squares. (See below!)


Bake time - I've never made these in 15 minutes. The batch I made yesterday took 28 minutes to fully cook. Why? It depends on how thick you spread the batter!

I never measure the chocolate - I just dump a bunch on there. 

Also, I usually put the chocolate on and then pop it back in the oven (turned off) for about 2 minutes. It helps it melt super fast! 

You can mix up the toppings! I've done milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Andes after dinner chocolate mints and chocolate topped with crushed peppermint. You could do peanut butter and chocolate too!

I let mine harden all the way before cutting. Otherwise, it just kind of spreads the gooey chocolate everywhere! If you're in a hurry, pop them in the freezer to help the chocolate set up!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Weekend Away

Saturday morning we had planned to go our town's Christmas parade and have a quiet weekend at home. As I was getting ready I asked Chris if he'd rather go spend the weekend in Branson and take the kids to see all of the Christmas lights instead, so we loaded up the car, called in a reservation and headed north!

We usually stay at a resort that's a little farther away from everything but this time we tried out a new place. Whenever possible, we really enjoy renting a cabin to stay in. It's so much easier when you have little kids, and my kids will not sleep in a room together which translates to "no one gets any sleep!"

This was our first time staying at the new place. Isn't it cute?

Being the good elf that he is, Buddy made the trip!

Our original plan was to go to all the drive through light displays as well as Silver Dollar City....but SDC was using over flow parking lots and bussing people in. The line to even get to their turn off was 5 plus miles long! Brody is not a good "car-sitter" per-say, so we decided to skip the trip to Silver Dollar City and go to Branson Landing instead. After all that, we did the drive through light displays which the kids absolutely loved!

I'm so glad we took a little break from everything that is going on and had a fun, stress free family trip! The kids had a complete blast which is exactly what we were hoping for!

Did you have a fun weekend?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Win a $100 Visa Gift Card & Print a $1 off coupon!

Have you seen my brand new Facebook page? Check it out HERE for post updates & giveaways!

I'm excited to introduce you to P&G's Have You Tried This Yet? program. It's designed to highlight innovative products for yourself, family and your home. Each product is designed to improve your everyday life and improve your daily routine for the better!.

The product I'm highlighting today is COVERGIRL® Blast Flipstick Blendable Lip Duo. What is it? It's a double-ended lip color designed to give you endless lip looks when blended together! You can also wear each color alone. Fun, huh? It comes in 13 shades and endless possibilities.

One side is shimmery while the other is creamy. The sample I'm using is called "Whisper." There are so many ways you can wear this lip color but my favorite is to apply a dab of the shimmer on to the center of my bottom lip. As we all know, I'm pretty pale, and I found that Whisper was a great shade for me.

The Flipstick goes on evenly and left my lips feeling moisturized. I also really love that it's a two-in-one product. It's less to keep track of and less to hunt down in my purse (or as Chris calls it, my suitcase). It's also great for a day-to-night look without having to carry around an additional color or gloss.

Another added benefit for a busy mom like myself is the staying power of this lipstick! It lasted for five hours without me needing to reapply or do any touching up, which is wonderful. If you're thinking about trying it out, I'd recommend visiting P&G's Have You Tried This Yet website here and printing the $1 off coupon!
Be sure to check out the other great brands (and coupons!) in the Have You Tried This Yet? program. Some of the other great brands in the program are:

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Olay® Winter Retreat - I can't wait to try this one - it's a vanilla scented moisturizing bodywash. Doesn't that sounds great for dry winter skin?

So tell me, how would COVERGIRL® Blast Flipstick make your life easier? Leave me a comment to be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card sponsored by BlogHer.

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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
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following unique term in your tweet message: ""#SweepstakesEntry""; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post"
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Be sure to visit the P&G Have You Tried This Yet? brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New House Update! {My kitchen & family room revealed!}

First, thank you all for your kind comments on my last post. If I didn't hate the sound of my own voice so much, I would have probably vlogged that post - sometimes, it's hard to get the feel and tenor of words when they are written as opposed to spoken. But it seems like what I was trying to say really came through. I loved all your sweet comments, tweets and even emails! Thank you!!

I was out at our new house yesterday because my granite was being installed. I was SO excited. I made no less than 6 trips to the granite supplier. We're buds now. First name basis and all. Which is good considering my parents will begin building soon so I'm sure to be back down there with my mom looking for her granite!

Anyway, I finally choose my's called White Ice. It went in yesterday and I'm so in love with it. My kitchen is my other baby. I love it. I spend a LOT of time in it. I can't wait to cook here! 

The center island is where my cooktop will be going. Once it's in I'll take more pictures. I'll be putting four barstools here as well.

This other island is where my sink and dishwasher are/will be. For my cabinets I decided to paint them our trim color (it's a custom color, so I don't have a name to give you) and then do a gray glaze. I know a lot of homes have a brown glaze on their cabinets but, little known fact about me, gray is my favorite color. And a lot of my paint colors in this house are, you guessed it, gray. It also nicely compliments the gray throughout my granite.

This is the view of the family room, or as much as I could get in my lens. The beams are a custom stain I had made to match our hardwood. The mantle is stained the same color (it's not hung yet) and the trim on the stairs is as well. The paint is actually gray but it looks a little blue-ish in the picture. 

For the fireplace I actually used materials from the outside of our house. That brick and rock as well as stucco are what is on the exterior. Here's a note for those of you building homes...the mortar you use makes a HUGE difference in the look of your brick and rock. I actually found this brick on a home and told my builder that I loved it. She sent me to another house to look at the exact same brick - and I hated it. Why? It's all about the mortar. Using a white mortar made our brick pop and look awesome, while using the traditional gray/tan mortar made it look blah and outdated. If you find a brick or rock you love on another home, be sure to find out the color of the mortar they used!

 I never thought that stairs could make me so happy but I am IN LOVE with how my staircase turned out. Seriously. It's exactly what I pictured in my head. The paint in the foyer is a silver-gray.

This is actually our master bathroom - we have two sinks like this one with the jacuzzi tub in between them. I bought 3 huge slabs of granite and so there ended up being enough left over to do my master bath and our hall bath which made me incredibly happy. The paint in here is a blue from Sherwin Williams called Tradewind. 

More updates coming soon! Also, I just created a Facebook page for my blog. I know not all of you have blogrolls, so if you want to keep up with us via facebook just click here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Adoption Update...

I announced back in August that we had made the decision to add another child to our family via adoption. I also promised to share as openly as I am allowed to (legally) about our process. If you've missed anything up to this point, I have all of our adoption posts in order here:

Our Big Annoucement
First Adoption Update
Home Study: Part One
Home Study: Part Two
He Gives and Takes Away: An Adoption Update

So, it's December and we are in month 4 of our wait to be matched. We had another birth mom decide to place her baby with another family (this was in the last 2 weeks, so there wasn't a separate post on it). So far, that's two moms who have "rejected"us, and one who decided to parent.

I'm going to be really super honest here.

I started this blog after 2+ years of infertility. I can only imagine what I would have written here during those years. I can guarantee you it wasn't pretty. I was SO angry. I couldn't understand why God would put us through that. I was upset, hurt, mad, you name it.

I think my family expected me to be like that during this process as well. Because, yes, you can look at this a lot of ways, and one of them is like you are being "rejected."

But that isn't how I look at it. I can't tell you how happy I am for those other families who were picked or matched or whatever you'd like to call it. Seriously, I'm SO happy for them. I know a lot of families who are on lists like we are don't have any kids, and this will be their first baby. How awesome is it that they will get to experience parenthood!!!

It took me a LONG time to realize that God is in complete and total control and an even longer time to realize that I WANT HIM TO BE! I'm a planner. A scheduler. You can look at my life and easily see that about me. So handing over control to God in certain aspects of my life is way, way harder than I want it to be. So, I went into this knowing that God has a plan. After all, He led us here, to this decision. That's for a reason! There is a purpose! I believe that whole-heartedly.

So, we may be rejected dozens more times. This might go on longer than our attorney thinks it will. We could be waiting 6 months or a year or longer.

But I will wait and I refuse to complain. God is doing BIG things. I know that to be true and I will give Him my full and complete trust. I will continue to pray for our future daughter and her birth family. God knows who they are, even if we don't yet.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

Thank you to my blog and twitter friends who are always asking about the adoption process. I love to talk about it and I love that you are thinking about us and praying for us. Also, I recently opened up a blog facebook page, so if you want to check in there for updates, here is the link. You can also find me on twitter @Jenna05.

For those who have taken the time to share their experiences with me, thank you! I read every single comment and email and I appreciate them all. I love hearing your stories!

Monday, December 3, 2012

French Bread Pizza

I'm excited to announce that my blog now has a Facebook page! You can find it here!

It really doesn't get easier or faster than this...French Bread Pizza. On the nights when you're at work late or stuck in Christmas shopping traffic, this is the easiest thing you could possibly make!

You can also make this as a yummy appetizer!

Serve it with a salad, some steamed veggies or even my favorite Zucchini Stix!

French Bread Pizza

1 loaf white or wheat french bread
1 cup pizza sauce (I use Enricos)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Toppings: I used Turkey Pepperoni

Cut your french bread in half lengthwise. Spread sauce on both sides, then top with cheese and toppings. Bake at 350 until cheese is melted to perfection.


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