Thursday, December 19, 2013

Free Holiday Printables!

Add holiday charm to your Christmas gifts with our free printable Christmas gift tags! These gift tags feature fun Christmas sayings and elements in red & gold. After printed these were glued to Kraft paper for a fun twist but could easily be used alone or adhered to whatever favorite holiday paper you choose!
Another fun idea is to use your favorite holiday saying and frame it! It's the perfect way to decorate for the holidays!
Enjoy these printables!
--Brittany Trautmann

Click Here for the free Christmas gift tag printables!
 Click Here for the free "O Come Let Us Adore Him" printable!

A Beautiful Mess

Our theme this year in MOPS is “A Beautiful Mess”. Can you relate? On a good day, I can relate to the “beautiful” part. On pretty much any day, I can relate to the “mess”.
I am messy. Very messy. I have been this way since I was a young, young girl. I have many childhood memories of being banned to my bedroom as a kid, not permitted to come back out until the room was cleaned to my mom’s satisfaction. In elementary school, my desk was so messy that I was once relegated to the hallway to clean it. High school? If you needed a moldy banana for your science project, you’d probably find it in my locker. My roommates in my first apartment wouldn’t look in my bedroom if they could help it, and the first time I got my own place? Eeek! Even didn’t want to look if I could help it.
I always thought that I would eventually learn the art of being neat, tidy, and organized. You’d think it would come naturally to me. In my own head, I am super organized… obsessively so. That’s the melancholic half of my personality. But I’m also half phlegmatic, and that side wins when it comes to the way I care (or don’t care) for my personal space. And so here I am, thirty-four years old, a wife and mother of four, and have really not come very far at all down the road towards cleanliness.
My emotions about all of this vary, depending on my mood and the circumstances of the season. Sometimes I really just don’t care. Other times I’m frustrated by it, and stressed out. I have been irritated with myself. I’ve been inspired to make myself promises for the millionth time. Sometimes I feel inferior, or gross, or defective somehow. There’s shame attached to it… it can make me feel like a failure as a wife and mom. My home isn’t worthy of Pinterest or surprise visitors. It’s a home to keep hidden… to keep the doors closed. There’s nothing positive about this character flaw of mine.
Or so I believed… until a crazy thought came to mind the other day. What if I’ve been looking at it all wrong? What if, instead of seeing my messy environment as a result of my weakness, I saw it as a result of my blessings?
I’ve taken this thought and run with it, and the result has been huge. My eyes have been opened to the true meaning behind each piece that contributes to the mess. Those dirty dishes piled in the sink? They mean my family ate well last night. The books tossed around the living room? They made it possible for little guy and I to have story time. The gross bathroom? Means we have indoor plumbing and money for toothpaste. The pine needles on the carpet? It was sunny enough, and my kids were healthy enough, to enjoy going outside. And the messy house as a whole? The dozens of things scattered throughout every single room? They mean I have a home that is full. Filled with little ones, and not-so-little ones, and a husband, and a ME… and every bit of mess is just evidence of the joy that went before it. 
And that’s beautiful. Happy New Year.
--Cyndi Sparre

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pistachio, Dried Cranberry, and Toasted Coconut Bark

I saw this on Pinterest the other day and I said "YES! That's it!" I like to make simple goodies for the neighbors and friends for our Christmas Eve deliveries, this recipe looks easy enough and definitely is gorgeous enough to package in a clear bag with cute ribbon and tag! 

It also sounds divine with the combo of green pistachios, deep red cranberries and toasted coconut for a twist! So if you are looking for a quick, easy and pretty edible gift to give, this is the ticket! I think this will give a lot of bang for your buck, or rather a lot of merry for your money :) Merry Christmas!! Xoxo Katie

--Katie Hanchinamani

Pistachio, Dried Cranberry, and Toasted Coconut Bark

  • prep: 15 mins
    total time: 1 hour 15 mins
  • yield: Makes one 9-by-12 1/2-inch sheet or six 2-1/2-by-5-inch bars


Cook's Note

Bark can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


  1. Step 1

    Coat a 9-by-12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet or 6 small loaf pans (2 1/2-by-5-inches) with cooking spray, and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on long sides. Pour melted chocolate into baking sheet or divide among pans (3 tablespoons each), and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle toppings over chocolate. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Peel off parchment, and break bark into pieces.

Recipe can also be found here!

Restaurant Pick--Dickie's Barbeque Pit

Dickie's Barbeque Pit

If you've ever seen Steve Martin's "Father of the Bride", then you may recall that you don't want to have the word "pit" on your wedding invitation. However, weddings aside, this is a "pit" worth checking out! You can make up your own meal combo out of the wide variety of both meats and sides that they have. My favorite? Turkey breast and chicken breast - the two meat combo! Along with the sides, this gives me plenty to share with my youngest child. And, speaking of children, on Sundays you get a free kid's meal for every adult meal purchased. Score! Our family has visited the Lynden and Auburn locations but never fear - there is now a location right off 128th in Everett and one coming soon in Bellevue!

Some people have lamented that out of all the sides available it's a crime that cornbread is not one of them. Perhaps...but I'm also completely in love with the dinner rolls that come with every meal. Addicting, to say the least. I'm not missing the cornbread. Another little perk is that they have a soft serve vanilla ice cream machine that is open to all their customers. If you actually have any room left in your stomach that is! I've been known to get some soft serve ice cream and root beer in my cup to go. Hard to go wrong with a root beer float, my friends.

Visit the website here:)

4.5/5 stars

--Emily Hoornstra

When Christmas Loses its Magic

When I was growing up, Christmastime always had this magical element to it. There was just something whimsical in the air that made everyday exciting. The lights, the tree, helping mom put the ornaments on. The possibility of trading school days for snow days. The Christmas outfits and cookies for Santa. Knowing he wasn't real but still kind of hoping maybe he was. Family time, board games.Sleeping in sleeping bags out in the living room and watching Christmas movies with my brothers. There was always this cozy, secure, protective feeling the holidays brought. As if life wrapped me up in a giant-sized, holiday down comforter that I just cozied my way into and wanted to stay forever.

I don't remember how old I was, but I was still fairly young on that Christmas morning when my grandfather died. I didn't know him. He lived in India and at that point in my life I had met him twice and once was when I was too little to remember. So, my memories of him aren't many, if any. But, that Christmas morning was the very first time I saw my indestructible dad and uncle cry. It was the year Christmas kinda lost its magic and I thought it might never come back.

It took a few years before Christmas went back to the way it was, but ever since then, my heart gets a little heavy around the holidays because I know that it's not always all it's cracked up to be. This expectation of magic is hard to hold up when you're in the middle of the things of life. Pain doesn't pause when Black Friday starts. This year, I'm thinking of a friend who is celebrating his first Christmas without his dad, a wife without her husband. I'm thinking of a friend who just went through traumatic, physical pain and is learning to live and function through that. I'm thinking of friends who are watching their families fall apart and others who have shattered, broken hearts.

There is all this pressure to join in with the glamour of the 'holiday spirit' when reality might be the next carol-er at your door is gonna get punched in the nose or you have to change the station when you hear "Joy to the World" because it's just so hard to find joy in your world right now.

And yet, the real Christmas story was not a glamorous one. An unwed mother gave birth in a barn and a king wanted to kill her baby--who happened to be the Savior of the world. The real beauty of this season is that it reminds us that grace stepped into a world of pain and suffering so we wouldn't have to endure it alone. We have a God who brings comfort and peace when Christmas lights and songs cannot.

The one who created the world didn't come with glamorous, flashing lights. He chose to come in a posture of humility and vulnerability. He created a place for all of us to fit.

So, whether this is a magical season or a difficult one---you fit beautifully in it, just as you are.

--Lisa Barton--Til Kingdom Come

Recap of Meeting--11/26/2013

In the midst of an unusually busy week we had MOPS. Did you miss it? Do you remember it? :) That’s how I’m feeling tonight, recovering from the insanity, I mean joy, of decorating for Christmas, enjoying Thanksgiving festivities, combing the Internet for deals on gifts, and still battling sickness in our house. Our MOPS meeting from last week feels more like last year!

Before we even got to hear from our speaker, we had an ice breaker activity to help us meet the other MOPS moms in our neighborhood. In the adjoining room, we created a “map” of the neighborhoods and cities near Westgate Chapel and asked each mom to stand where she lives and meet her three closest neighbors. I loved seeing where everyone lives and getting to meet moms who aren’t at my table, but nearby. 

This activity tied in so nicely to our speaker for the day, Brenda Vladyko, and her talk on Friendship: The Importance of Living in Community. Brenda covered a number of different issues about friendship, but since I only took notes on the ideas that struck me, I apologize for a very slanted recap this time. She began talking about how difficult it can be to make friends as adults, especially if you are not living in the area you grew up in. She likened finding friends to dating, which I thought was so hilarious and true. She continued to describe the difficulties us moms have in friendships, because not only are we looking for other women we enjoy spending time with, but then there is also the dynamic of our children and how they get along, and do our parenting styles correlate enough to be friends with our children around too. That’s why MOPS is such a great platform for building community and finding those women that we can make friendships with that last beyond our MOPS table group or beyond a playdate at the park.

Once you are ready to make new friends, Brenda’s best advice is to remember to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is hard, because it’s not always pretty and can leave you open to hurt. Just thinking about my own friendships, the women that have showed me they don’t have it all figured out are the women I want to spend more time with. It’s intimidating to be friends with someone who seems perfect. This advice was a good reminder because with all of our social media it is so easy to hide ourselves and put out an image that doesn’t reflect who we truly are.

The last topic about friendships that Brenda covered was that not all friendships are meant to be bffs. There will be women in your life that you will create friendships with that will survive time, distance, family dynamics and all sorts of other situations. Hold on to those friendships and cherish them. But some friendships are specifically created for a season of your life. Especially while we are “in the trenches” of mothering young children, sometimes a friendship will happen very quickly and deeply. This friendship is new and exciting, but also feels like you have been friends forever. When the day comes that someone moves, or commitments draw you in other directions, that super close friendship will fade. As tough as times like these can be, they help us through seasons in our own lives and help us move on too. I also appreciate the idea that the I don’t have to be best friends with all the women I meet, and it’s okay when I am not close friends with some women anymore.
So many great reminders Brenda shared with us about being in community with one another and developing friendships. I hope this crazy, busy holiday season is also a season of cultivating new friendships in your own lives.

--Kristine Manz