Snapshots

IMG_3855Spring is my favorite time to get out into the mountains and appreciate nature at its finest.

We visited Vogel State Park in Northeast Geogia, hiking a handful of breathtaking waterfalls and celebrating my youngest daughter’s birthday as well. We had lunch in the town of Helen, GA, a quaint German village (& tourist hotspot).

How are you celebrating spring?

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A Christmas Quilt

I’m excited to start another quilt. This time, I’m going to use blocks to design a winter village, hopefully giving a wintery-Christmas vibe.

Here’s the sketch:christmas quilt

I laid out the fabrics for the houses (reds, pinks & yellows), the trees (shades of green), and the background blues will fade from dark to light. I need to figure out how big I want this to be next, so I can make my square templates for cutting the fabric.

I would love to hear what you are making next! Send me a link to your project or find me on Instagram at singshoutpraisehome!

Grocery Budgets

The other day I was talking casually with my friend and mentioned that our weekly grocery budget is $125 – $150. She couldn’t believe it. Now of course, it’s not the total food budget. The kids eat out Wednesday nights (usually Chick-fil-a) and we eat out as a family for after-church lunch or order pizza with the neighborhood kids at least once the weekend too. All in all, I would say less than $200 a week.
Taking time to plan and make most of our food ourselves is the key to making it work. We spend a the biggest portion along the outsides of the grocery, in produce and meat, but there are some other tricks that are important to mention:

· We pack lunches. Usually sandwich or salad with chips or cookie, fruit or raw veggie, and yogurt. Sometimes I make a soup or roast/sauté veggies because I can heat up my lunch, but that’s not an option for everyone.
· We buy the produce that is in season. Right now we are eating lettuce, winter squashes, citrus and apples, strawberries, asparagus and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots. If you plan around what’s on sale in your grocery ad, you’re usually planning around what is in season and more plentiful.
· We buy a little bit of good meat and make sure to use and eat all of it. Bone-in chicken has more flavor when roasted, and we’re more likely to Eat the leftovers. It’s also easy to stretch a good beef roast or pork roast. A little bit of sausage or bacon goes a long way to adding flavor to pizza or pasta. Also buying on sale and freezing is wallet-friendly if you have the freezer space.
· We buy some items in bulk. Yogurt, applesauce, chips, oatmeal, rice, dry beans, and potatoes come to mind. Those little lunch packs are convenient, but are also full of processed ingredients and can be pricey. (With that said, my kids love Lunchables. I limit it to once a week, but yuck yuck yuck!)
· We make cookies or brownies for our dessert. Homemade always tastes better; Peanut Butter and chocolate chip cookies are my go-tos. And rice krispy treats are always a hit when you don’t want to turn on the oven.
· We plan a night to eat leftovers. We think this is especially friendly for those nights where everyone has to scatter in different directions anyway. And is it just me or does spaghetti always taste better the second night?

What is your grocery budget? Where do you splurge?

February Reading

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson – Excellent; I reviewed earlier this month.

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – Also excellent; I reviewed earlier this month.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell – I listened to this as I ran most of February. Basic plot is a group of teens struggling with sexuality as well as wizardry and fighting dark forces. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting enough. I shouldn’t compare it to Harry Potter, but having recently read those, I couldn’t help myself. It just wasn’t as imaginative or compelling.

Unforgiven, Lauren Kate – This was the final story in the Fallen series, and I read through it pretty quickly. This was set from Cam’s point of view, his love story. He was a very interesting character from the original band of fallen angels, and his love story felt less superficial and deeper than the original love story.

Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink – This is another pioneer girl story. Caddie has the pluck of Laura Ingalls but her family struggles much, much less. Caddie is likable enough, but I didn’t love her family the way I loved the Ingalls family. Her mother reminded me of Nellie (from the Little House books), and some of that arrogance comes through in Caddie as well.

Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk – This was an excellent middle grade novel set in early WWII farm country. Annabelle, a responsible and thoughtful 12 year old, befriends Toby, the town recluse. Toby helps Annabelle defend herself against a young bully that is threatening her and her younger brothers. I loved the mother character and the morality influence she had on Annabelle, encouraging her to not let fear or pride generalize the way she treated others, that what we do and how we act isn’t dependent on someone else. When the town bully goes missing, Toby is blamed. Annabelle is the only person that has tried to understand Toby and his PTSD, and her impossible task to make the town see the situation clearly and protect Toby will pull at your heart.

Wonder, RJ Palacio – I read this with my daughter, whose class is also reading this together. This story about a young boy that has facial deformities, starting school for the first time and his struggle to make friends, captured her interest from the beginning. Schools were closed for sickness and she wanted to finish the book and couldn’t wait for school to start back to find out, so she asked me to buy this book for her. I read it after she finished and we had an excellent discussion about the book, whose character she identified with most, and what parts she loved the most. Her class is going to see the movie together when it comes out, but I would challenge everyone to read this book first! It is excellent book for everyone, not just late elementary and early middle school readers.

The Nightingale

Another one of the favorite books I read last month was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Hannah is a best-selling historical fiction author of over 20 books. I loved Winter Garden and I’m adding Firefly Lane to my wish list.

If you need a book for your next book club read, this one is perfect and would spark some wonderful “what would I have done” conversation, as well as spark some wonderful conversations about how we currently stand up to government-sponsored racism.

This story was delicate and maybe a little glossier and romantic than Lilac Girls or The Paris Key. The story follows two very brave sisters shaped by loss and morality during Occupied France. Vianne, the steady and agreeable older sister, is mother to a young daughter and hosting German soldiers in her home. Isabelle, the brave but impetuous younger sister, begins on a journey with the French Resistance, taking on increasingly dangerous missions to aid the Allied cause. Their relationship is tenuous at best, and the story of how they survive and grow through this together will move you to tears.

I loved the humanness that Hannah presented in her characters. I can only imagine the fear and the guilt that would have reigned, that every person on each side of the fight was just one misstep away from brutal consequences. Maybe glossy isn’t the perfect word to describe the way she presented the German occupation, because reality was presented, but her themes of hope and sacrifice and love were part of what I loved about the story. At one point, one of the characters resolves, “Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain.”

If you like happy endings, you will love this. I promise. Do you have any recommendations for me?