Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Be More Productive in 6 Simple Steps

I'm a procrastinator by nature. 
I really wish I wasn't, but that annoying trait is deeply ingrained on my DNA. 

Most days, as I'm crawling into bed for the evening, I'm left thinking, "I really should have gotten XYZ done today." Which then propels me to beg God to help me change my procrastinating ways. 

Enter really cool book! I stumbled upon 31 Days to Clean by Sarah Mae on my Kindle the other night. I'm a sucker for checklists and homework assignments so I immediately downloaded this book and flipped through the digital pages. 

While the book is geared towards getting your home in order and defining why that's important to you as a Christian woman, I've found many of the tips or suggestions useful in other areas too. 

Particularly, something called The Six List. (Have you heard of this?) In a nutshell, every night before bed you write a to-do list with only six items on it that you HAVE to accomplish the next day. Then you prioritize them from 1-6, listing your most urgent task first. 

The next morning you systematically work through your list WITHOUT skipping around. So you complete task 1 first. Then task 2. And so on. Whatever you don't complete that day gets immediately moved to the number 1 spot for the following day.

As the story goes, this trick worked so well in increasing a company's productivity that the owner mailed a check for $25,000 to the gentleman that shared this tip for free. 

(I apologize for the vague story. I can't remember their names and frankly, I'm too lazy to Google it right now.) 

But the fact remains that this system supposedly makes a huge difference. So I'm giving it a go in our home and with my writing. I'll keep you all posted. 

Talk to me: Have you heard of this technique before? Do you utilize something similar? Are you a procrastinator? When do you find you're most productive?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Son Hates to Read!

I have a seven year old son. And (gasp!) he doesn't like to READ!!!!

I know. I know! How is that possible? I don't think that kid has ever seen me without a book (or two) in my hands...or stacked a mile high on my nightstand.

Admittedly, I am unprepared for this type of battle, because what I really want to say to him is something super mature like, "how could you not like books? They're awesome! Duh!"

But instead of that, I decided to take the subtle approach. I would pick up one of my books and say something like, "Cody, I'm going on an adventure now. Books are cool like that. You can travel the world and slay dragons and never leave the house. Neat, huh?"

To which he'd reply, "mom, can I play my video game now?"

Subtle didn't work. Okay. So, I'll force it! "Cody, get over here and read this book right now!" That didn't work either. He'd whine and whimper the entire time and by the end of it, we'd both need a nap brought on by bouts of tears.

BUT then! The thought occurred to me that maybe he doesn't like to read because he's not a super strong reader just yet. And by the time he's finished sounding out a sentence full of words, he has no idea what he just read about. (Poor little man. That'd kill me too!)

So I did what any good mom would do to encourage a love of reading. I went shopping! (It solves all major problems, I assure you.) And I bought my son some high adventure kid books. Not the little twenty page books you might read to your four or five year old's, but long chapter books that I will read to him--proving that even he can get lost in a fictional world.

Some of my book choices actually had him asking me to read to him! The Indian in the Cupboard, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and (one of my all time favorites) The BFG (AKA: The Big Friendly Giant).

We're only a few days into our little reading experiment but already I can see a change. Now, we still have to do the flash cards and the regular reading to strengthen his own reading skills but until he's a confident reader, I will happily travel back to my childhood and read to him hours on end if it'll ensure his love of books! I mean, what other choice is there? :)

Talk to me: Do you have a reluctant reader? How do you combat their objections to reading? Teachers, out there...any tips? What are some of your favorite childhood stories?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sweet Winners! And a Review!

Last Tuesday I shared my mediocre cookie decorating skills and the sweet romance, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado by my friend, Keli Gwyn.
First of all, I want to say thank you for all the overly-kind comments about my lackluster abilities. By the end of the day, I had a pretty big head...which was quickly popped after viewing a real cookie site: SweetSugarBelle. Amazing! 

I'm excited to share my review of A Bride Opens Shop...and to drag out the suspense on who won the book and my cookies! :)

The Review:

If you like reading historicals, you're sure to love Keli's book. She has crafted a winner for sure! Her voice is light and full of rhythm, charm and spunk. I don't think I've ever read as many detailed historical tid-bits sprinkled throughout a book as I did in this one. The research she had to do is staggering! Everything was masterfully woven together to create a beautiful love story of two headstrong one firecracker of a little girl.

You can be sure you won't stumble upon any cliches between these covers, since Keli's creativity knows no limits. Her words and phrasing are fresh and fun. It was a pleasure to lose myself in El Dorado every day and I can't wait for Keli's next book...I know there will be many!


If you can't tell, I recommend this book! Go get it! :)

And now...drum roll please...

The winner of Keli's delightful book and a dozen delicious cookies is...

(Linda, please email me at lacie0430(at)comcast(dot)net with your address and I'll bake up a batch and have your prizes to you lickety-split.)

And because I'm a sucker for sweets, friends, and comments...and I'll be baking anyways...if you WANT one of my cookies to enjoy while reading this story (or any other for that matter) let me know in the comments (along with an email address) and I'll contact you to arrange delivery. 

Happy Reading! 

Talk to me: When you read, do you snack too? If so, what is your go-to goodie? If not...why not!!? :) And for fun...if you know Keli Gwyn...what do you LOVE about her?? Let's see if we can make her blush! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the Palm of His Hand

I'm absolutely obsessed with Kari Jobe's new song, Steady My Heart! OBSESSED! I can watch the video (below) over and over and get the picture. It puts my heart in a joyful, grateful, peaceful place...a steady and trusting place...somewhere I wish my heart stayed for longer than the duration of the song!

It's a song that simply resonates with me. And I think, if you haven't heard this song before, it'll touch you too. Because who doesn't have some hurt or struggle or scar that looms larger than our remaining strength can endure?

The truth of the matter is that we face horrible things--probably more often than not. Whether that's financial challenges, marital difficulties, struggles with conceiving a long-desired baby, exhaustion from the grind, high expectations that we simply can't meet, a sour mood that refuses to abate, health scares, shattered dreams, crushed hope in someone or something.

Truly the list could go on forever. Sadly.

But the glimmer of hope in it all is that He's here. And He's real. And He's got us right in the palm of His hand. And that's enough.  

Praying that your today is filled with a steady heart, that only He can provide!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Time & Cookie Time

What does a stagecoach, a violin, a derby hat, and a peppermint stick all have in common?

They're all pieces of Keli Gwyn's debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado!

I've been racking my brain, trying to find a fun way to help spread the word about Keli's book, without making her do another interview, and without giving you just another write up about it (which I do plan to do next week!).

And the idea came to me that two of my favorite things in the world (reading and sweet treats) just might be some of your favorites too! So I set off on a mini-adventure to Michael's armed with a recipe and a list of "supplies" I'd need to decorate the perfect Keli-cookies.

Attempt 1: Delicious cookies. Horrible icing.
Attempt 2: Delicious cookies. Clumpy icing.
Attempt 3. Delicious cookies. Poorly colored icing.

Are you noticing a pattern here? Apparently, I stink at decorating. :) But I was determined to do it! So I headed back to Michael's, after scouring the internet and reading studying sites like Glorious Treats, Sweetopia and Brown Eyed Baker.
Derby hat similar to one Miles may have worn. 

Attempt 4: Still yummy cookies. Icing = tastes good, but isn't so pretty.

Alas, they're still not even close to perfect (I need to practice more!), but I assure you (as do my kids and husband) they taste so, so good!
Stagecoach that Ellie and Tildy arrived to El Dorado in.

So, if you trust me enough to partake of my baking (LOL) OR if you just desperately want Keli's book (which you should!), leave me a comment! And I'll select one random winner to receive a dozen of my semi-beautiful cookies, and an autographed copy of Keli's book! (Yes, I said AUTOGRAPHED! Because I just happen to live close enough to Keli to stalk her until she agrees to sign one! And I know where she hangs out...Taco Bell and Curves.) :)

Talk to me: Are you a baker? Do you know how to ice perfectly smooth cookies? Or do you just prefer to eat cookies? What is your favorite sweet treat?

*Winner will be announced next Tuesday, the 17th. Any comment before then is eligible to win.
**Winner will receive FRESH cookies, not week-old ones that I practiced on. 
***Peppermint stick shaped cookies will be included as well, even though they're not pictured here. My apologies, we ate those ones before I could get a picture! :) 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What I Learned at the Top of a Redwood Tree

My family and I recently went zip-lining. Partly to celebrate my mother's 55th birthday and partly...just for the heck of it. 
Sort of relaxed, dangling my legs over the side of the platform.

My sister, Nicole, is notorious for planning ahead. So when she asked me two months ahead of time if I wanted to zip from a tree 200 feet in the air, I said yes without even thinking about it. (I'm more of a the-day-before planner.) 

Thankfully, I was swamped the weeks leading up to our trip, so I didn't have time to stop and think about what I'd signed up to do, if I would even be able to do it, or how scared I really was about flying from tree to tree. 

On our three hour drive to the Sonoma Canopy Tours everything started to settle in my mind. I am NOT an adrenaline-rush person. Believe me, the most dangerous thing I do in life is letting my kids use the public restroom at the park near our house. (Not that it's a dirty bathroom or anything but the thought seriously grosses me out!)

Yes, I really do have a death grip on that rope. 
I started to get really quiet...because my mind was distracted with worst case scenarios. Then when we stopped for lunch, I couldn't really eat because my stomach was so full of butterflies. But I was determined to do it! I've been reading a lot about being brave enough to go on an adventure, to do something out of my comfort zone, and that was definitely where I was! 

One step at a time...step into the harness. (Good, I can do that.) Follow directions. (Piece of cake. I'm a great listener.) Get into the back of a truck and bump along as it climbs higher and higher into the mountain. (Okay, now I'm trembling.) One final harness inspection before we're allowed to step onto the first zipping platform. (I want to go home!) Watch as one by one my group gets hooked up and zips to the next tree. (Don't cry!!)

Smiling, but freaking out! And that was the shortest zip!
Then it was my turn. I took a steadying breath, squeezed my eyes shut and...actually, I think the guide pushed me off the platform. :) Either way, I did it! And I didn't die!! The more I zipped, the less terrified I was. By the end of the three hour adventure, I was hardly shaking at all. And we even had to walk across one of those wobbly rope know, the kind you might see in an Indiana Jones movie. Not to mention the 60 foot repel down a tree when it was all over. 

So what did I learn? Well, like almost anything that we're scared of, the fear of XYZ is mostly in our head. Looking back I actually had a good time! A good time that I wouldn't have had if I'd allowed my fear of the unknown to paralyze me.

One of my guides, Claire, after she pushed me! Rude!
This is not earth-shattering news people. I'm sure you're all rolling your eyes at my silly fears and my silly take-away, but there it is! Fear is mental! Shocker, I know! :) 

So get out there! Do something adventurous! And prove to yourself that you're braver than you thought! 

What are you afraid of? Are you an adrenaline person or do you tend to play it safe, like I do? Have you ever been zip-lining?   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Updates!

Can you tell time got away from me? I was praying for the end of May (in my last post) and somehow I manage to find myself already in July! As they say, time flies!

The last month has been filled with packing/unpacking from our camping trip, daily swim lessons for three at-first-timid swimmers, my daughters annual ballet recital followed by her very first dance compani audition (I think she made it!), a sudden urge to purge our home of all baby gear, followed by a massive garage sale and then major heartache (on my part) once all my baby stuff was gone, two birthday parties, constant time spent on the boat/lake, a zip-lining trip...and a partridge in a pear tree.

Needless to say, we've been going constantly since my kids got out of school! My house is a disaster and summer doesn't feel like much of a "vacation" but hey, we're having a good time. :)

The reason I'm popping in today is to congratulate my sweet friend, Keli Gwyn on the release of her very first book! (Which took place a few days ago on July 1st!) A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado is at the top of my to-be-read pile. Actually, I keep picking up other books, reading a page, and then putting them down because I should be receiving my copy of Keli's book in the mail any second now. And that particular story has priority over the towering stack on my nightstand. 

Keli is a delightful person and a brilliant writer! Her book has already received many stellar reviews, and I can't wait to add mine to the pile. I highly recommend getting yourself to the nearest bookstore and picking up a copy. Or if you've progressed passed bookstores, click over to Amazon (or one of the many other book buying options) and grab a copy there.

You can be sure I'll be raving about this book again once it arrives! Actually, I'm off to check my mailbox! :)

Happy 4th of July everyone!