Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! 

I am so thankful for all that we have, for each other, and for all of life's little wonders. I'm grateful for our friends and our family. I'm grateful for a roof over our heads. I'm thankful for only wondering "what" we will eat at the next meal and not "if" we will eat. 

We are so abundantly blessed with everyday necessities that some days I have taken them for granted. 

As I laid in bed last night after getting Emmajean back to sleep for the third time, after a diaper change, two trips to the kitchen (once for food and once for water), I felt a surge of emotion. First I was exhausted and just glad she finally fell asleep. Next, a sense of relief rushed in that I was able to pinpoint what was wrong with our little one who is normally so easy to calm. She hadn't eaten much for supper and she was just hungry and thirsty, which was odd for her, but made for an easy solution. As she settled into a calm sleep, gratitude poured over me. A peace that even though our precious baby was hungry for a  few minutes and couldn't sleep, that I was able to quickly remedy the situation with clean water and something fresh from the fridge to fill her sweet tummy... basic necessities.

I've always been thankful for what we have and so saddened by the hunger and evil of the world, but this glimmer of what it was like to see my own child hungry gave me a new awareness. I was unable to go back to sleep until I thought about what I could do, any of us could do; it's such a huge problem. I immediately prayed for all of those mothers (and fathers) in this shared planet of ours who struggle to feed their babies, and I went to bed and woke up feeling this extra need to help those who are hungry. I'll be donating to our local food shelves and seeking other ways to help, too. I thought in the meantime, I'd encourage each of you to do the same. 

There are so many things to be grateful for in each of our lives, and the ability to share with those who may not be as fortunate is something to be thankful for.  

We never know what path lies ahead, but I'm going to do what I can today. 

 Will you join me and
 volunteer, share, and/or donate this holiday season?
I would love to hear your ideas for giving back!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Luna Stones Giveaway WINNER!!!

Hi, Friends!! 

It's been a busy week here in St. Olaf and I almost forgot to share the winner of the Luna Stones heart charm necklace with you! (I did share it over on my sunny facebook page.. you should probably follow me there, too, for the most up-to-date postings!) 

Emmajean needs a little more practice! 

Shirley Best!!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our second Sunny Giveaway! Thanks for checking in and I hope you enjoyed the video of E selecting the winner. Stay in touch to see what we giveaway next. In the meantime, I hope you all aren't staying up too late cooking tonight! Happy Thanksgiving EVE! 

P.S. I'll share my holiday shortcuts with you guys before Christmas rolls in.. that is if it turns out good tomorrow, lol! 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Weekend Adventures | Lighting the Bridge at Motor Mill

Weekend Adventures| Lighting the Bridge at Motor Mill 

There's been a whirlwind of activity over the past week/weekend in small town Iowa and beyond! 

This week Emmajean turned 18 months old and completed her last well child checkup for awhile. Buddy caught a medium sized sleepy possum in the cabinet of our outdoor grill, and he coincidentally had a trip to the doggy spa. Zach's parents put their NC house on the market and accepted an offer!!! E had her first friend spend the night; we danced and played and attempted to create salt dough ornaments. I'll share more on the salt dough ornaments after Emmajean and I finish decorating hers this week! In the meantime let me get back to our big weekend adventures!

They were so cute running around in my aprons!

As if I weren't excited for the holidays enough, this weekend Zach and I took Emmajean for her first trip to the Historic Motor Mill to see the annual lighting of the bridge! I'm 1000-times in love with these quick photos we took before the bridge lighting celebration. Emmajean is so sweet and gives the best hugs!

This image is Emmajean's first look out from Motor Mill. It was also my first time being inside of the mill!

The conservation board has worked to renovate Motor Mill so that people can once again go inside and up and down all of the floors.The celebration brought people to see not only the bridge, which is a gorgeous functional feature that enables locals and tourists alike to cross the Turkey River at this spot, but also gave many people a chance to see inside of the mill. What a neat way to share the renovations and work put into restoring this northeast Iowa treasure!

We were excited to see so many of our friends come out for the event and to learn more about the history behind Motor Mill. The effort and passion to restore and protect this Elkader local landmark that is on The National Register of Historic Places is evident. 

 We were all bundled up and the hot cocoa and cookies that the Clayton County Conservation Board provided for the celebration helped keep everyone warm and merry, too!  If you didn't get to go to the bridge lighting, you can still visit Motor Mill and plan to take a tour. Take a look at their website for the touring schedule and more information.

You may even recognize this bridge from a few of my JWebb photo sessions that I've shared over the years! I'm so happy I took along my camera this time and was able take a few photos of our friends, our first Motor Mill family photo, and these adorable images of Emmajean in front of the old mill. 

I'm not sure how I'll decide which one of these adorable red coat pictures of E I'll print! Who knows, maybe I'll take a few of her senior photos in the same spot one day! 

If you would like to learn more about Motor Mill, the Clayton County Conservation Board, and how to visit, support, or donate, click on any of these links.  

AND lastly, this weekend we began cleaning up for Zach's folks upcoming holiday visit! Can you believe it's almost THANKSGIVING? Don't worry, I've still got a few pumpkins and gourds around the house for Thanksgiving, along with a couple of our small lit Christmas trees! LOL.. I'm SO READY for ALL of the holidays, don't judge me! :) 

During all of the excitement, I have enjoyed cozy moments snuggling our little pumpkin and documenting our adventures! We hope you've had a fabulous weekend and don't forget to check back this week to see who wins the SunnyinSaintOalf Luna Stone Giveaway!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Quick and Easy Banana Pudding Pie

Quick & Easy Banana Pudding Pie
10 minute pie

Have you ever needed a sweet treat in a flash and had to improvise? I always like to have something yummy made when our neighbor girl(s) come play with Emmajean, when a repair man is working on the house, when a friend comes over, or just a special surprise for Zach every now and then. This week one of Emmajean's friends (her babysitter in training) was coming over to play with her and I didn't have time to run to the store. I dug through the cupboard to see if I had anything I could whip up for a quick and easy treat, and I came up with this DELICIOUS Banana Pudding Pie! The oatmeal crust didn't set completely but it tasted awesome and the whole pie only took about 10 minutes! (It only takes about 10 minutes to eat the whole thing, too!)

Crust (I would have used a graham cracker crust or vanilla wafers if I had them on hand, but I didn't and this turned out delicious!)

1.5 cups Oatmeal 
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Butter melted
3 Tbsp Honey
Splash of Vanilla extract (I put vanilla in everything!)
Combine all ingredients and bake for a few minutes at 350. 

Banana Layer
Thinly slice a banana and layer on top of the oatmeal crust. 

Pudding Layer
1 small box of banana pudding mix
2 cups cold milk

Whisk together per directions on box.

Whipped Cream Topping You could use Coolwhip or store-bought whipped cream, but I love to make mine from scratch. I think homemade whipped cream elevates any recipe, and it is so easy!

My sweetened whipped cream recipe:
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp powdered sugar 
Splash of vanilla extract

I whisk together with my Kitchen Aid mixer for several minutes until stiff peaks form.

What's your favorite pie? Do you make your own whipped cream?
This post is making me want to try another 10 minute pie! What flavor should I try?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

18 months and we are learning so much!

18 months and WE are learning so much!

Being a mom has given me so many new realizations about myself, life, and expectations.  Over the past 18 months (and the time leading up to motherhood), I've learned so much. I've learned that you have to be patient with yourself, life, and your little one. I've learned that life can be so hard, even devastating, but beautiful at the same time. I've learned that no amount of reading or planning can totally prepare you for real-life experiences, and that you have to be flexible. I've learned that communication is imperative for my health and our home. I've learned that joy is finding happiness in the small blessings of everyday life, and being grateful for what we have. 

Emmajean has changed so much so fast that it seems like I literally watch her grow before my eyes! She learns something new all of the time and is constantly amazing us with her spirit. She is talking (even if we can't always understand what she says), letting us know what she does or doesn't want to do, and climbing on everything. She LOVES: prunes, cheese, hugs, her rocking horse(s), shopping, pretending, the library, the piano, and she's totally obsessed with CLOCKS! She absolutely loves when we get her piggies, when we play hide and seek, and watching Peppa the Pig. Emmajean dislikes: time-out, spankings, the doctor's office, green beans, and the word "no!" We are constantly surprised by her new tricks and enjoying every minute... even the grumpy sleepy ones. We're also learning how to discipline this very determined little one! 

I've learned that becoming and being a mom really is all of those cliché sayings you've heard over and over again. It's been the most amazing and challenging series of events, the hardest job I could have imagined. It's been the scariest at times and the most adorable. Most every day I'm beyond exhausted, not only physically from chasing my fierce little firecracker, but also emotionally from weighing all of the many choices a parent makes. From little things to larger decisions, I've caught myself wondering what others might think and what is the best for my kid.  I've even felt guarded at times talking to other parents, but I've found that many have similar thoughts and worries. In the end we are all doing what we think and hope is best for our little ones. 

The past two weeks, being confident in my parenting choices has been especially hard as we began to implement spankings in addition to time-out. Thank you to those of you who've comforted me on this decision. I know what many of you are probably thinking... SPANKINGS? Of course, there are two very different philosophies on the subject: 1) Those who feel it's right, and 2) those who feel it's wrong. No one really talks about spanking anymore unless it's to say, "you don't utter the word." I'm uttering the word. 

Emmajean has been a wonderful loving little girl and continues to be so. She is learning quickly that I am mom and she needs to listen to me (and to her dad) to help keep her safe. She did not learn from listening alone as I had hoped. I prayed about it and I called my mom to ask her what she did to keep me safe when I was a crazy climbing toddler who wouldn't listen. She simply answered, "I spanked you." She always spanked with love and not in anger. I don't remember the spankings, I learned quickly, and I made it through childhood safe and sound. We've had to use both time-out and a few spankings over the past two weeks, but it seems to be working for our family. 

All babies are different and there are a million different ways of parenting. I've learned that the fear of judgement is something that I have to let go and that I need to trust myself and my own parental instincts. I'm finally becoming more confident in my choices as I learn to navigate this next stage of life with a toddler! 

As I wrap up this reflection on parenting and my amazing 18-month-old, I just want to say thank you to my own mom and dad for raising me and my siblings with so much love, a sense of discipline, and respect. I hope that Emmajean will feel confident and comfortable to turn to me one day for advice, and in the meantime, I'll just keep doing my very best to keep her happy, healthy, and safe!

Have you struggled with a parenting choice? Have you ever thought you'd do something differently before you were actually in the situation?  No judgement here! I know we are all different and trying to navigate this life the best way we can!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Greatest Show On Earth at the Left Bank Gallery - McGregor Iowa

 "The Greatest Show On Earth" at the Left Bank Gallery - McGregor Iowa

We had a fairly laid back, yet productive, weekend here in Saint Olaf! It included: snuggling, banana bread, chasing Emmajean as she flew around the pews at church, editing photos, working on some Christmas gifts, washing dishes, laundry, and among other things... a trip to the exhibit "The Greatest Show on Earth" over in McGregor, IA! For my out-of-town followers, McGregor is a charming historic town along the Mississippi River and only about 20 minutes from Saint Olaf.

It was pretty cold and dreary, but dad and I bundled up the little one for a fun adventure! There is always something fun to do in northeast Iowa!

Emmajean was entranced when we pulled up to "the circus" and 
encountered two ferocious tigers!  

These tigers were painted by artist Maureen Wild. Maureen and a few other local artists recently worked to fix up this fun, historic, McGregor feature! Have you driven past it yet? You should most certainly stop to have your photo taken! Make sure you see it in person the next time you are out in McGregor, luckily this is a permanent display! 

Fantastic job, Maureen! I could feel the tiger's roar! 

Like Emmajean, I immediately noticed and was entranced by this cage on my first trip to McGregor 9 years ago. She's never been to circus, but it instantly brought back the fun and thrilling memories of a trip to the circus from my youth. Seeing this display several years ago I knew there was a connection between McGregor and the Ringling Brothers, but I didn't know the full extent until we visited the exhibit this weekend. 

After we made it past the ferocious tigers and the clown, we made our way into the special exhibit "The Greatest Show on Earth" inside the Left Bank Shop and Gallery at the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts. 

The exhibit features memorabilia and belongings from the Ringling family's home when they lived in McGregor, Iowa, accompanied by entertaining information. You know I won't give too much away here, you have to get over there and see for yourself! Head over to the Left Bank Shop and Gallery in McGregor, Iowa, before Dec. 17th,  to see "The Greatest Show On Earth." 

Yep, you read that sign right.. the Ringling Brothers were born in the small riverside town of McGregor, IA. This exhibit has several interesting pieces that you should see in person. So when you are looking for an interesting adventure in the next few weeks, be sure to head over to The Left Bank Shop and Gallery to shop local art and to see a bit of history, too! 

For those of you who aren't in the area and want to learn more you can read this article by the Clayton County Register. Also, enjoy these images I took while I visited the Left Bank over the weekend. They always have beautiful things to view and buy. See some things that would make an excellent Christmas gift? I do! 

Have you thought of Christmas presents yet this year? 
 I personally think ART makes a great gift! 
#ShopLocal and #BuyArt 

At the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts
158 Main Street, P.O. Box 451
McGregor, Iowa  52157
Tel   563.329.2010


Friday, November 10, 2017

DIY - Homemade Ranch Dressing - so easy & delicious!

DIY Ranch

I've always loved homemade ranch. Whether it's the Hidden Valley packet at home or restaurants that make it from scratch,it's definitely the BEST! I will eat bottled ranch if it's the only option, but I'd much prefer homemade, either from the Hidden packet or an entirely different salad dressing. A few years ago my mom-in-law showed me how she makes hers from scratch and I was super excited! Today I'm going to share my version which is SO EASY that it will be your new go-to dressing! 

Two things I love about making it from scratch: 
1. I almost always have the ingredients on hand,

All you need (for a pint sized portion)

1 Cup sour cream, 
3/4 Cup mayo,
1/4 Cup milk (depending on desired consistency), 
1 clove garlic- minced, 
Dash onion powder, 
Pinch salt, 
Pepper to taste, 
Dill (optional)

For a pint-sized portion, use about: 1 cup sour cream, 3/4 mayo, 1/4 cup milk. The more milk you use, the thinner the consistency will be, or you can make it thicker with more sour cream and less milk for a dip consistency!

Disclaimer: I eyeball almost everything when I'm cooking, so you may want to tweak this simple recipe to your own taste.  You'll just have to try it for yourself!

*Container - I use a Mason jar with a plastic lid most of the time because I like the quantity, it looks appetizing in the fridge, it's pretty when you pull it out for guests, and I can easily write the date that I made it on the top. I always use a fork or a whisk to stir it up, but the jar also makes it easy to give it a shake! You can find Mason jars everywhere and probably already have one in your cabinet! 

How to DIY

Mix almost equal parts mayo to sour cream (slightly less mayo).

Add milk and whisk to desired consistency. I use cream, milk, or buttermilk, whatever I have on hand. Mom-in-law swears by whole-fat buttermilk, which you can't even find in our area.

Mince one clove of garlic. (I love my Pampered Chef garlic press)

Season with a pinch of salt, lots of pepper, and a dash of onion powder to taste. Add dill for an extra herby garden fresh flavor!

Whisk it up and ENJOY!

How easy is that?

Let me know what you think!

What do you eat ranch on? I could eat it on almost everything... when it's homemade!