February 26, 2015 By Amanda Brown
With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake is the perfect green treat! This cake is much like a traditional chocolate chip pound cake but with a hint of pistachio and almond. The pistachio pudding mix gives the cake a green color, and the flavor is subtle and delicious! This recipe came from an Arkansas friend during our newlywed days, and the cake is always a hit wherever I take it!
Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake is super simple to throw together. Basically dump the ingredients, mix, and bake!
Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake
1 box Pillsbury white cake mix with “pudding in the mix”
1 box Pistachio pudding mix
1 t. almond extract
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Baker’s Joy baking spray
Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips with a mixer. Stir in chocolate chips. Spray a bundt pan with Baker’s Joy and evenly pour in batter.
Bake 40 minutes. Check to see if knife comes out clean and add a couple of minutes to bake time if needed.
February 12, 2015 By Amanda Brown
Our baby turned 7 last week, and in lieu of a sleepover, we met in the middle and celebrated with a Popcorn and Pajamas birthday party. These adorable Popcorn Wreaths greeted our guests at the front door! We cloaked the wreaths in hot pink ribbons to match our party theme, but imagine how pretty these would be at Christmas with the addition of cranberries and Christmas ribbon! They’d also be terrific with traditional red, black, and white accents for a movie-themed birthday party!
The Popcorn Wreaths were very easy to make, and kids can help with assembly, too! We have double doors, making our project a bit time consuming, but one wreath did not take much time. Here’s how we made these…
Supply List: (makes one Popcorn Wreath)
1 sheet foam board (or large cardboard box)
Electric Knife or X-acto knife
Popped popcorn (about 2 microwave bags or pop your own kernels)
Hot glue gun/glue sticks
Ribbon for hanging
Florist’s wire for hanging
First, trace a circle onto the foam board. Mine is about 16 inches. Trace a smaller circle in the middle. The small circle shown is about 6 1/4 inches. If you have a very wide front door, you may want to enlarge these measurements.
Cut out the wreath form. My electric knife is as old as the hills and works like a dream for cutting foam board! An X-acto knife works well, too, just be careful that you are working on top of a safe surface!
Begin arranging the popped popcorn onto the foam board. I found it was easiest to apply the hot glue to the foam board and then add the popcorn. If there was an odd spot to fill, it was easier to apply the glue to the popcorn and stuff it into the spot. Play around with it to see what works best for you!
Below is the inside of the wreath where the foam board was showing more than I preferred. We added a bit more to cover this area, and we added popcorn on top of popcorn to fill in spots elsewhere, making sure every inch was covered.
Loop a wide ribbon around the wreath and add an extra bow to the top, if desired. You can secure the bow to the wide ribbon using florist’s wire. Create and secure a small loop of wire for hanging onto a nail or wreath hanger.
Our Popcorn and Pajamas welcoming committee!
The Popcorn and Pajamas party was a hit…here are a few pics from the party. Praise the Lord for my 13-year-old and her friends to help
manage the chaos at the party!
A precious cake from Lisa Whitehead in Oxford, MS.
Sweet girl loved every second of her party…
These cute bags were 10 for $1 at the Dollar Tree!
These decorations would be perfect for any movie-themed party for a boy or a girl!
February 9, 2015 By Amanda Brown
Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know my affection for seasonal goodies for the front door! Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Hometalk to curate a collection of wreath ideas for every occasion! Folks have made wreaths out of just about everything, and I was amazed at the creativity and unique twists on traditional wreaths! The curated board includes the full list of wreaths and their individual supplies, tutorials, and additional photos!
While most of the wreaths I chose to showcase are occasion-specific, there are a few that certainly can be made and displayed year round!
If you are not familiar with Hometalk, it is a site dedicated to all things home decor and gardening. You can easily browse through endless ideas and be inspired by some seriously talented folks! Many of the Before/After photos will blow you away and inspire you to create! One of the best features of Hometalk is that you do not have to be a blogger to submit your own ideas and photos, so be sure to check it out!
Head on over to the Wreath Board to get some wreath ideas!
February 6, 2015 By Amanda Brown
2015 marks 16 years of marriage for me and David, and as a 23-year-old naive bride in 1999, I assumed that people who had been married for 16 years and were 40 years old were wise in all things marriage, parenting, and life. (Insert hysterical laughter) Fast forward to January 2015. I am turning 40 soon, and Lord knows David and I don’t have marriage or parenting or life figured out. Just ask our teenager.
There is a very real, societal war being waged on marriage today, and in light of our own family histories, we have been careful to guard and invest continually in our relationship, and it has made all the difference. Marriage is sacrifice, hard work, and countless small, repeated decisions to keep loving when it’s easier to just quit. In the words of my dear friend, Julie, from Pine Cove Family Camp, “We fail, get back up, fail, try again, love some more, forgive some more, and the very thing that brought us together (Christ) is what keeps us together.”
There is no shortage of “marriage advice” out there, and you’ve likely read alot of it. While that advice can at times be helpful, we have learned that the most important thing to keep in mind is that grace is the name of the game. Different seasons of marriage and ever-changing schedules require couples to make adjustments often. Over the last 16 years, we have learned a lot as a couple. This is not a list of rules or a secret formula to a happy marriage, just a few things to keep us going, growing, and thriving as a couple.
1. Recognize that your spouse is not Jesus, and he/she did not come to save you. The pressure to be someone’s “savior” is far too great to bear. I vividly remember in late college after a painful end to a relationship, I wrote in my journal, “God, You are Enough.” This marked the beginning of a spiritual and emotional paradigm shift that has been key in our marriage. From the beginning, David was free to love me well without my expectations of him being everything I needed to survive.
2. Go to bed at the same time. Sounds silly, but it’s proven to be key for us. Many days, this is the first opportunity we have to actually talk.
3. Do not speak poorly of your spouse to others. Have a couple of safe friends to be transparent with about your marriage, but choose wisely. There are those who will spur you on to love your husband well, and those who will not. There is no room for public criticism of your spouse.
4. Go on a date at least once a month. Finances, babies, fatigue, kids’ activities, and just life can really put a wrench in this one. Breakfast or lunch dates can stretch the budget and accommodate schedules, too! To keep it fresh, a date idea we are currently loving is to eat at every restaurant in Oxford. Oxford, Mississippi is a small, but culinary-rich town, so we are slowly working our way through our own “hometown food tour!”
5. Be the first to ask for forgiveness. This is difficult for most folks. Being willing to admit and discuss how you may have hurt your spouse can open up the floodgates, yet can lead to genuine reconciliation rather than ignoring issues that will eventually resurface again and again.
6. Laugh a lot. Life is hard. There’s an awful lot of pain and suffering on the news, on our Facebook feeds, on church prayer chains, and in our own homes and families. Kids have definitely helped foster humor in our home. Sometimes you just have to laugh to avoid crying! Thankfully, David appreciates my mildly inappropriate sense of humor, too;).
7. Figure out your spouse’s love language, then speak it! “Love Language” is how a person expresses and experiences love. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an easy must-read. After reading it, you will be on your way to filling your spouse’s love bank, yielding far greater returns than you can imagine! Do a quick assessment! Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Chances are, you have a good idea off the bat.
8. Find a married couple who is a stage or two ahead and befriend them! We’ve known a few of these dear friends and mentors over the years, and their wisdom and encouragement continues to leave a legacy in our marriage.
9. Read a trustworthy book on marriage once a year. While real-life mentors are invaluable, they are not always available. Trusted authors have been excellent “mentors” to us over the years. We’ve read a few of these books simultaneously, which has helped us grow closer and has exposed areas that need some attention.
Messy,Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht; His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.; Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggrichs; Sheet Music by Kevin Leman; For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas; Team Us:Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater
10. Get away once a year for a night or two without kids. For some, this is nearly impossible financially or logistically. It was for us for a long time. If you can swing it, it is a great time to recharge and spend time together without the demands of home life. PS…if you live within driving distance of Oxford, Mississippi, plan a weekend to visit with your spouse! It is a fabulous weekend getaway! Head over to VisitOxford to take a peek!
11. Once a year, do a marriage “check up.” Typically, this conversation starts for us at Pine Cove Family Camp where, during the week, they provide the questions and build in time for couples to go through them. Long after camp is over, we are finishing this conversation. These talks can lead to hard conversations, yet they are so life-giving in the long run. Here’s an idea for starting this conversation in your own marriage…take some time to journal the current highs and the lows in your marriage and share it with one another once a year.
12. Call or text at least once a day from work to check in. Calls aren’t always feasible, but both keep us connected despite busy schedules.
13. Assume the best of your spouse. Don’t keep score. Never hold a grudge. We are on the same team! Keeping a running tit-for-tat list of who’s done more with the kids, home, and work, breeds resentment, discontent, and distance. One way we avoid this is coordinating calendars to schedule personal time. I look forward to an occasional Saturday alone, guilt-free, knowing David is with the kids. I can shop and relax knowing that he won’t hold that time against me.
14. Spend time together doing a shared activity. This can be recreational activities like exercise, sporting events, or other hobbies. Or just spend time at home watching your favorite Netflix shows! We try to cut off homework help and have the kids finished with lunch prep by 9pm. While it’s not always possible, it does communicate to the kids that our time together is important, too.
15. Pray regularly for your spouse! We have the privilege of knowing tiny, intimate details of our spouse’s life, whether it be emotional, spiritual, physical, or work-related! We can pray for them like no other person can and see God work “behind the scenes.” Pretty cool! Kat Lee’s Praying for Your Husband Calendar is a great guide!
16. Your marriage is a testimony to those around you, kids included. Kids see the good, bad, and the ugly in our marriages. We long for our children to know that our marriage is a priority and that we are committed to following Christ and loving each other well, above all else. Prayerfully, this will translate into their own lives and marriages one day as their time in our home becomes a cornerstone for their future relationships.
Marriage is hard, but investing in it can lead to a healthy, thriving relationship no matter what life throws us. Here’s to the next 16!
Leave a comment and share your ideas!