Friday, December 23, 2011


I'm home for Christmas. And, to quote God (you know this will be a good one), "It is good!"

We have more family to see, more hours to drive back and forth to get all the celebrations in within these 4 days, but we are where we need to be.

My heart is still. The bills and debt and unfilled-out, tearing-me-down-slowly paperwork are all back in Chicago. They can't haunt me or frighten me here. They have no power to steal my joy here. I will deal with them again when we return (way too soon), but as for now, my heart is still.


Already, if I wasn't before, I am feeling the holiday spirit. Our cute, little apartment screamed "Christmas is coming" (in a non-tacky completely-tacky(?) way all December long. Our advent calendar was literally a daily surprise and kept us satisfied with a little pre-holiday treat each day to whet our appetite. Not that we needed it; the mound of presents under our tree was giving us enough Christmas spirit alone. We couldn't even wait 7 whole days to open our presents, we just tore into them last week. (And, boy, did Mr. Allen win best-Christmas-gifts-giving-ever this year... Or was it most-gifts-ever? You know both would get me going. And 17 presents later, well, if he didn't have my heart before...) :]

Our plans this weekend:
- 3 present-opening celebrations
- 1 family bowling extravaganza (seriously, extravaganza: snacks, costumes, prizes)
- 1 celebrate-the-bride-to-be-dress-pick-up-appointment with the best friend
- 3 readings of THE Christmas story (at least)
- 1 Christmas day church service
- 1 movie at the theater (or 2 if the first one is depressing, because it's Christmas, and we just can't have depressing movies ending our day)
- 2 pizza dinners (can't go wrong here)
- a WHOLE lot of cuddling, laughing, sharing, living, eating, being with the ones I love

Yes, I'm HOME for Christmas.

And there's no where else I'd rather be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

la sencillez de Sunday [preview]

I'm going to be starting a new weekly series called "la sencillez de Sunday" [the simplicity of Sunday,] and I have two objectives with these Sunday posts: provide you with a simple craft/project/recipe and a simple truth. I also hope that I can be diligent enough to actually locate and create a simple craft each week, then blog about it. The simple truths will come from the pulpit at church each Sunday.

This is the first week or preview week, and next Sunday is Christmas. I still plan to have a post go up next Sunday morning for the series, but you'll forgive me if not, right!? The series officially starts with the new year.

I hope you will enjoy the simple crafts I share. As always, I'm sure the majority of my inspiration will come from pinterest, but I promise to give creative credit where it is due.

To keep my crafts "simple," here are the rules I will follow:
1) There will be less than 5 steps, start to finish.
2) Minimal craft supplies will be needed. If I suggest a craft supply that I don't think you will have at your house already, (like if I find modge-podge to be absolutely necessary for the project) I promise to re-use that supply in later projects so that if you are crafting with me, you are getting the best bang for your buck. [Let's go in with the goal of no bucks being spent. I don't have very many free dollars floating around; don't know about you...]
3) The crafts will either be seasonal to the time of year we are currently in or multi-use, where then can be used over and over and loved over and over.

So, here is your preview:

Simple Craft: Magazine Christmas Trees
Supplies needed: old magazine
      (That's it. Seriously!)
Optional supplies: paperclip, scissors

Here is my inspiration:

click for source

I just stumbled on this project via pinterest, and, as I scooted around the blog, I absolutely love what I found. [Their projects may become many of my simple craft inspirations.]

Here is my version:

I decided to take it a step further and create three sizes. My largest tree is made from just one magazine (and it is a little bare in the back, so I would recommend using two magazines if you want more fullness, as was suggested on the blog). My two other trees are both made from the same magazine. I cut the magazine with scissors (optional extra supply), making one section about 4" tall, and the other about 7".

¡¿Sencillo, no?! [Simple, no?!]

Here there are in their "home" in our home, on the table next to my sewing machine:

Simple truth: Today's message was take from Matthew 1, the birth story of Jesus - more specifically Joseph's reaction to finding out about Mary's pregnancy. Because Joseph understood that his life was a part of God's story, He understood the need to honor God with his reaction. So, originally he chose that he would not embarrass Mary anymore than needed and would quietly end the engagement. Instead, God stepped in, sending an angel to tell Joseph that this was all part of God's plan being put into action. Because Joseph believed and acted upon his faith, he was able to have a role in bringing baby Jesus to Earth. When we believe and act upon our faith in obedience, we can have a role in bringing Jesus' story into our world. People talk about how their family or friends or neighborhood need Jesus [and that's true!], but if you are believer, you are the Jesus-in-flesh that God has put in your family, friend circle, and neighborhood to share the Gospel.

¡¿Sencillo, no?!

That's is for the preview week of la sencillez de Sunday. I hope you enjoyed! Leave a comment, let me know!

Be sure to enjoy this week-before-Christmas. Enjoy your family, you friends, and the truth of this season - a sacrificial gift, a King.

linking up with these parties:


Saturday, December 17, 2011

when the dog bites, when the bee stings.

...because earlier this week, the bees stung and the dog bit. And sometimes, I just need to look past ignore completely those bludgers [Harry Potter reference] and think of the goods things in life.

[when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.]

Nieces and nephews that squirm and smile,
Going home when it's been a while.
Christmas tree lit, the house all a-glow,
Snowflakes falling when there's no where to go.

A little baby girl waiting to arrive,
Her kicks and punches and nose dives.
Getting little-Christmas-somethings for the people I adore,
A yummy cookie, or two, or three, or four.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 am.

Whoops, I was supposed to have announced a giveaway winner by now. Sorry for those of you who have been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if it was you. [Was there anyone that anxious?]

Drum roll please... and the winners of my first-ever giveaway, featuring Blake Mycoskie's Start Something That Matters, are:

Liz, from Here's to Handy Andy
Robin, from Couponing from FL to MI

Congratulations! Send me your address ladies, and I will get those books right out to you. :]


A few months ago, I remember telling God that under no circumstances would I be accepting a teaching job in which I was going to have to wake up during the morning 5 o'clock hour. Since schools in Chicago start at 9 am, with most teachers rolling in around 8:30, I thought it wouldn't be a problem.

I guess I should have been a little more specific with my request demand... I meant I didn't want to wake up that each for any job; not just an early morning teaching job.

But alas, you will find my alarm going off every weekday during that most awful hour. And yes, it has gotten easier, and yes, I am used to it, but I cannot wait for the day that my next/better/eventual job lets me sleep in until at least 6 am.

Reasons anyone should be up before 6 am:
- You have an early morning flight to an awesome destination and booked your flight so early out of excitement, not necessity.
- It's Christmas. [I can totally get on board with this one. Feel free to wake me up at any hour if it means the celebration starts earlier!]
- You voluntarily stayed up all night and are now on your last few hours of that all-nighter, after which you will sleep until 6 pm.

That's it folks. Those are the only good reason to be up that early.

...and yet, 5:25, I'll see you in the morning. [And probably again on Saturday because the 5 o'clock hour has the ability to haunt me like that.]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

still counting.

I haven't just written in a while, so I thought I would take some time today... and just write what's on my heart.

Can you believe that just 2 weeks ago we were celebrating thanksgiving? I was between 2 houses in 2 different cities within a matter of a few hours, which meant lots of food and lots of family. Now those 2 weeks have passed, and are you still counting your blessings? I sure am.

I mentioned just over a month ago that I was losing my job. It was a tough spot to be in. But only s month later, and I'm working for a new family in a completely different part of town, with a little baby that is nothing like Henry. And I am thankful. Adjusting to the new job, new commute, and new work environment is a little hard, but I am so thankful for what God provided so quickly.

One benefit of this new job is that I get every other Monday off. This Monday was my first, and I got to spend it shopping all day with my mom. She drove into the city just so week could keep our yearly shopping-extravaganza tradition going. And how much I love a day with her. As much as I want to be an independent woman, I love to run back to my mom and tell her about everything and laugh with her about nothing. I am thankful for my Monday off, but more so for a chance to refresh the relationship with my mom.

In other news, I am so ready for Christmas to arrive. I am loving al the advent activities that give me a little bit of Christmas each day, but as I stare at the presents under the tree and think about family back in Michigan (and other parts of the country) I get so eager for days in the 20s of December... It will be time to celebrate soon! :) 17 days until the 25th!

In other news, this baby bump (which I promise I will show you all again soon... maybe featured with some second ultrasound pictures :]) is growing and growing, and as far as I can tell it is huge. Yet, I get these comments from people, when they ask how far along I am (almost 6 months), saying how small I look. Yes, our baby is tiny; at least that's what we've been told. But my question is, if this is small, and I'm supposed to look like a complete whale... am I supposed to just live in whale form for the next 3 months o my life?! Are you kidding me? So, I will be thankful for my "small" size stomach. [I can't even see my feet, people, I am not small. ... and yet, I'm sure I will regret thinking I am big now in a few months when I can't fit through doorways.]

with peace (in a time in my life that peace isn't simple.)

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for TOMS' Blake Mycoskie's book! It ends the 11th, and entries are low.

Monday, December 5, 2011

start something that matters [giveaway]

Mr. Allen and I definitely have a favorite shoe. We love one more than all the others. It's comfortable, it's affordable, and better than anything else - for every pair we purchase, a pair is given to a child in need.

You probably already know about TOMS One for One campaign, where they give a pair of shoes to a child without for every pair that is purchased. But if you don't, please read about it here.

I got my first pair in college, when TOMS was pretty new. I had won a pair in a contest and instantly fell in love with their versatility, durability [not that I haven't wore through a few pair from over-loving them], and their brilliant cause. [Seriously, I'm not getting paid to say this. This is how I feel.]

Mr. Allen and I used our wedding day as another way to spread the TOMS story and provide a few more children with shoes. Here is a picture of our wedding party in their new TOMS.

And here is a picture of our collection.
[We each have a few pairs. And even Baby will have one as soon as she's here. Aren't those little ones cute?!]

We love TOMS.

So, the moral of my story, or the point at least, is that a few weeks ago, as I was meandering about on facebook, I saw that TOMS was offering bloggers the opportunity to review Blake Mycoskie's new book Start Something That Matters. Blake is the founder of TOMS and Chief Shoe Giver, and he wrote this book with the aspiration of sharing his story in order to inspire others to "start something that matters" - a business or objective with a greater cause.

I was chosen as one of the bloggers to review the book, which means they provided me with two copies of the book, one to read and one to give away to my readers! [That's you!] I am actually going to do one better and give away both copies, not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I want to get more copies out there and "pass it on."

Here's my thoughts on the book, my honest review:

The book was not extremely well-written, not because of grammar or any problems of that sort, but because stories jumped quickly from one to the other. I think, honestly, it was a result of the author wanting to share a lot of examples of how a business or objective pursued for a greater cause can really make a difference. And I loved reading about all the different companies (large and small) that are truly making a difference in the world, even with small steps. 
Blake shares the story of TOMS shoes and how through trials, he and his team have made a successful business than is for-profit, which guarantees that they can continue to do "shoe drops" (when they distribute the shoes to the children in need) on a regular basis and without waiting for the next order. His story is inspirational, one of overcoming obstacles and thriving in a world that says looking out for "number one" is most important. I really enjoyed reading more about the TOMS story and some of the people who have helped TOMS become the great organization it is today. 
Some of the other organization he focuses on in the book are chartity:water, FEED projects, and method, among others. Reading more about these companies helps me to see the need for business men and women to step outside of the box and work for something bigger than themselves.
Blake shares a ton of practical advice for readers to take the areas in which they feel challenged most, overcome whatever obstacles stand in their way, and really start something (anything) that matters. One of my favorite thoughts from the book was about clarity. So often we want every step of our future to be completely clear and well-planned before we want to pursue it. His words challenged me to see how nothing will ever be clear entirely until I'm in the moment. I need to fall in love with an idea, no matter how confusing and cloudy it may be, and follow it boldly because in the midst is where I will understand how it is going to work out.

So, there you have it. I hope you'll enter my giveaway and win a copy for yourself. I don't think you need to be on the verge of starting a business or anything to benefit from this book. I was challenged to make sure the daily activities and pursuits I have in my life already are being done not for my benefit, but for others. I think bloggers could really benefit from these challenges in how they view their blog as a possible ministry to help and encourage others.

To enter the giveaway, there are 2 easy steps:
#1 - Become a little baby mama bear follower.
#2 - Comment on this post.

For additional entries into the drawing you can do one or more of the following (one entry per item):
- "like" TOMS on facebook
- follow me on twitter @mrsalyssaallen
- tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway

Come back and leave a comment for each of the extra entries you complete.

The giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm December 11th, then I will announce the winners and ship the books! Good luck. I can't wait to share this book with you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

advent calendar. [tutorial]

I swear I don't try to avoid my blog. It just happens. One day I don't post, even though I mean to, and then the next four (five, six...) days are busy, and not before too long I have lost all will to post because I am that far behind. That's how I feel now. Actually, within the last 15 days [that's how long it has been since I've posted...ugh] I considered that maybe I shouldn't blog anymore, maybe it wasn't for me after all.

But I've come around, and I will continue to pursue blogging for the time being. I have too much to share in this post though to catch up on all that's been happening.

Remember how I wanted to make it through November before celebrating Christmas, giving November all its necessary honor and respect? Well, that didn't quite happen. I thoroughly enjoyed November and the Thanksgiving season, and it really was a perspective-changing time for me. But once we got back from visiting our families in Michigan over Thanksgiving weekend, we immediately got out our tree and those Christmas boxes that have been calling my name for weeks now, and we decked the halls, turning this place into a Christmas wonderland. Oh, it makes me so happy! ... every decoration, every Christmas light, every present wrapped beneath our tree waiting for its recipient to open it. Oh, Christmas, I love you.

I talked previously about a Christmasy project I had been planning and working on as a surprise for Mr. Allen's family. I had meant to share it with you all way before December 4, but alas - I think I should follow through with it eventually. Better late than never, right?!

So here it is, my new advent calendar:

It sort of has bunting-mixed-garland style look. I designed the whole concept from scratch, so there's no inspiration that I will forget to link to, just my own mind. I am really proud of the whole creative process, since it was finally my own.

Here's a quick tutorial of how it all happened.

Step one: Gather materials. I found this awesome, green and white striped fabric at Goodwill. It used to be a curtain, and then it sat in my fabric stack for a while, waiting for good use. How perfect was it for this project? (And it was, by far, the cheapest fabric ever. I think the whole sheet/curtain [3-4 yards] was $2.) I used twine (via Joann's), hot glue (I finally have a glue gun of my own), and a red ball trimming (via Joann's). 
Step two: Pick your size, shape, and overall design. Here are the plans I drew up when I was thinking of this project and deciding on the measurements.

[The big-picture design for my calendar.]
[What became my template for cutting all the squares. I left 1/4 inch seam allowance.]

[The pile of squares... so many. Keep in mind though, I made 2 advent calendars - one for our home and one for our family. So I needed 96 sqaures in all.]

Step three: After cutting all the squares, I pinned them in pairs front-to-front for what would become little pockets when sewn. I forgot to take a picture of this step.]
Step four: [Apply these next few steps multiple times, one per pocket ... 48 to be exact if you're making two.] I sewed back the top of each side to create a finished edge.

Step five: Then I repeated with the other side, folding away from the front of the fabric. [You can see the finished edge of the first side where the red stitching is.]

Step six: Cut trimming amount to fit the pocket. Then line it up with the bottom side of the pocket (toward the front of the fabric.)

Step seven: Stack the other piece (front-to-front) keeping the trimming in line with the bottom. You may want to pin this to keep it in its place.

Step eight: Stitch the bottom, securing the trimming between the two pieces.

Step nine: Sew the sides of the pocket. [The top should still be open.]

Step ten: Turn your pocket right-side-out and enjoy. [Ugh, this is not my prettiest pocket.]

Once all the pockets are sewn, simply hot glue a looooong piece of twine to all 24 pockets. I spaced my pockets about 2 inches apart.

Then comes the fun part. This advent calendar is full of festive activities. Each day there is a little something-to-do to get more and more in the holiday spirit. I cut little cards from cardstock (read: old thank you cards from the wedding) and wrote the activity inside and the day-number outside. Each pocket holds one card, and once the card is read on that day, it hangs out of the pocket, adding a visual of how long until Christmas is finally here!

Here is our advent calendar, hung by the window (which should really have some lights up... I'll get to that soon... I think.) We're 4 days in and loving it. Mr. Allen has opened each day's card and most of them will be surprises for him. Today's was to hang up and enjoy the mistletoe. :]'s an all-day type of an activity.

Here is a picture of Mr. Allen's family's advent calendar, hung on the mantle. I think they are really enjoying it too! [I sure hope so at least.]

For ideas of how to fill your advent activity calendar, visit here and here and here.

Some other advent calendar ideas that I've liked: wrapping Christmas books up then reading one each day or wrapping up board and card games and playing one each day. I'm sure some day down the road, when the little one(s) are a little older, these will come into play in our family.

linking up with these parties:

joining this hop party:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

my first bunting.

This morning I got started on my last Thanksgiving project. I'm now done with the November-touches in our home, and I am [more than] ready to welcome December and all the festivities and decorations.

Here's the latest project, a thankful bunting:

I always want to share my inspiration for projects with you because I think the designer should get the glory, but it seems I saw my inspiration, forgot to "pin" it to my pinterest boards, and now it has completely escaped me. I searched for it amongst the blogs I read, but just can't seem to locate it. The original design was a printable bunting in blue lettering on white cardstock. I loved the simplicity of the design and decided to implement that simple look even more so by free-handing the letters and sticking with just pencil.

I started by cutting triangles out of cardstock. My little secret: we have way too many leftover thank you notecards from our wedding, and, although I've been using them lately to send out notes, I don't think my recipients really love getting a card that says "Mr. and Mrs." on the front when really it's just a note from the Mrs. So I cut the triangles out of these notecards to reuse them, and [once again] create a free project. Then I drew the letters lightly with pencil and filled them in darker when I was satisfied with all of them, using pencil again.

It was my first time stitching together a bunting, and I sure was nervous about it. I let the sewing machine catch a few stitched (5-7) between each triangle, then fed in the next piece. Make sure, if you try a bunting, to pull the feed line before and after your pieces to make sure you have string available by which to hang your banner.

I was going to place my bunting over my thankful tree, but decided, since it makes me so happy, it needed to be more prominently hung. So it found a home right over our TV to make me smile and remind me of what I've been trying to work on all month.

Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (NASB)

I could have been anxious this month. We had a lot of questionable variables in our family and life happen, but I chose to be thankful instead. I chose to concentrate upon what God has blessed me with as I brought the issues on my heart before Him. It was not an easy thing to do, and I often wanted to worry or have a spirit of fear, but I knew [and I know] He had a plan. He has control.

And so with this in mind, I will choose to remain thankful, even outside of this Thanksgiving season. I will remember how special this month was to me because it brought me trials, but it also brought me a new perspective on life.

with peace.

linking up with:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

a dust of decoration.

Our home needed more festive flavor to really get the most out of November, a light pixy-november-y dust of fall decoration.

Well, I would have loved to tell you where I got my inspiration for this project, but it seems that when I re-organized my pinterest boards, I lost all my good holiday pins. (That will take a few, necessary hours of repinning this weekend.) I had seen a project like the one I created made from wooden letters (or something similar) painted in fall colors. Even though I can't find that original post, here is another tutorial that I used as inspiration for the how-to/design element.

I am obviously all about making free crafts rather than buying any new supplies at the store. (Although, Jenny did get her wooden letter for a good price.) So I gathered up materials from what we already have: Aldi cardboard boxes (we grab a few every time we forget our reusable bags), paint (from past projects), scissors, tape (I can't believe I don't have any glue), and old magazines (it doesn't hurt that I've subscribed to Self magazine for the past two years.)

To start, I needed to free-hand draw my letters. I started with the G, and once I was happy with that, used its height and thickness as a base for the other letters. The drawing/cutting out process took me 20-30 minutes. Put on some background TV and get started. (I really should have been catching up on TV shows I've been missing lately: 3 or 4 episodes of Gossip Girl, an episode of The Mentalist, and one of Whitney.)

I originally had wanted to paint my letters with fall colors like the original inspiration/tutorial, but decided to go with a collage look instead. (Collages are way more my style. I used to do so many magazine-cut-out projects in college for design in our dorm rooms, notes, etc.)

I cut out sections of pages with the different colors I was looking for (brown, red, yellow, and orange) and separated them into piles. Then I asked Mr. Allen to pick a color for the first letter and I got started. (I always end up wrangling him into helping with whatever project I am working on. :] ) Cutting little pieces of tape took much longer that I wanted it to, but when you don't have glue (and you don't have money), you do what you need to do. The collage cutting/wrapping/taping took me the better part of an hour or so, and I actually had to finish the E today (you can notice that it isn't finished in one picture) because we really needed to head to bed.

Here's the final look:

The letters found a home in our window sills.

[And, if you've visited our house, there's a little different room set-up. We like it. No, we love it. It's Christmas-tree and baby-swing friendly.]

And there you have it. Sorry there was no full tutorial, but I think you get the idea. Very simple, homemade, cute way to Thanksgiving-ize your home. Let me know if you try it out. And no, I didn't pick out the word "Gobble"; the original inspiration post had used it. I liked it because it was out of the ordinary, and my next project will use the word "Thanks"... there's no need to over do it.

with faithfulness. (as I decorate our home/building its character and as I blog regularly)

Also, PRAISE report - today I accepted another full-time nanny job that starts the day after I am done with Henry. This is a huge answer to prayer. The family is wonderful, it is a job that I actually want (there were some not-so-wonderful ones out there), and they are on-board with the whole bringing-my-baby-to-work-with-me idea. I had no doubt that God had/HAS a plan. He is good. He is faithful.

linking up with these parties:

Creative Me Monday (via The Southern Institute)
Ta-Da Tuesday (via Mommy by day... Crafter by night)
Made by You Monday (via Skip to my Lou)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I might be... or I might not be... a genius.

Actually, I may be the last one on the planet to discover this little trick, but for those of you out there, just in case, I am posting just to let you know about the best cooking/prep trick I have ever thought of.

Last night, I had to make mashed potatoes for a Thanksgiving feast with our small group. 10+ potatoes: peeled... sliced... boiled... mashed... mixed. Done. ...or maybe an hour later. (It's a LONG process.)

But, I can save a little bit of that time for you. Have you ever thought about using an apple corer to cut up the potatoes? Seriously! It cut my cutting time from 20 minutes to [maybe] 3 minutes. It was brilliant. Maybe I could have taken a second more to slice some of the bigger pieces in half, but it wasn't needed. They were perfect size to cook quickly.

That's it. Seriously, get out that apple corer and go to work. Save yourself so much time.

(And if you have a standing mixed, which I am blessed to have, use it! I don't know why I had never thought to use it before to mash my potatoes. Here I was smashing them with a fork. I might be an idiot.)

with goodness.

Monday, November 14, 2011

happy november. (again)

I wish I could say that, because I have been gone for so long, I have tons to catch you all up on. If I did, it would be a lie. I have no new news, no new projects, no new anything.

Currently I can be found in Delaware, spending time with my brother and sister-in-law and their adorable baby boy and girl. I had a nice break from work this week, because Henry's family took a week-long vacation to Hawaii (must be nice, right?). My sister had just gone through some new obstacles in caring for her twins, so one-by-one family has headed to Delaware to help them out around the house and to care for these little joys. I have loved the break from work, the chance to visit family that I hardly see, and to get some out-of-my-ordinary-life time to simply rest.

Back at home, (to which I will be heading tomorrow) I have a few projects started or at least well implanted into my creativity brain. One project, which is a surprise for Mr. Allen's family (and I will be keeping one in this Allen home to enjoy) is a Christmas-y project that is long, hard work, but I can't wait to see finished. I will be revealing the project after Thanksgiving, since that is when the gift will be given. Maybe it will still give you time to start and finish the project... that is, if you set aside a few days/hours to really get into the holiday spirit before December. The other to-be projects are Thanksgiving-y, so they will be moving to the top of my crafty list when I get home so we can fully enjoy them before December comes. I'll be sure to share those too.

I want to talk about blessings for a second. This month of November, a time for Thanksgiving, has been a complete blessing to me as it reminds me to stop and consider all of the blessings that God has given me. My Thankfulness tree has been a physical reminder for me to stop and think each day before I head out the door and again as I settle in at home after work. I am truly blessed... beyond my expectations, beyond what I deserve. And it is hard for me not to be discouraged as we deal with a job loss, low income, daily trials that cast shadows too scary and monstrous for our little family to handle. But these daily reminders to take time and think about and be truly grateful for the wonderful blessings God has given us is sweet. And it is running so deep within me right now. I can't help but praise God for who He is and what He is doing in our lives.

One blessing in particular: friendship. This summer, moving to Chicago full-time, moving in with my husband, changing everything about our lives in such a short time was extremely challenging. I found myself discontented, burnt-out from newness, and ready to run back home so many times. I prayed for God to lead  me to some answers of why I was frustrated and beat-down. It was a long summer in good ways and bad. I had a hard time not focusing on the fact that I was lonely in this new city and needed my roommates and best friends nearby, but that just wasn't an option. (Don't get me wrong, I am madly in love with my husband and he is my best friend. But I am so used to having girlfriends, to having someone to chat with and hang out with. It was weird for me to be living a one-woman life.) Eventually, after much specific prayer to God to send me some friends, He started answering... loudly. I love looking back and seeing His hand in it.

We have been so blessed to meet people through our church, Armitage Baptist. We have a small group we got involved with early on that has couples and families who are being real with us and loving us, and after some weeks together, we have really been able to build relationships. Also, through our Sunday School class, we have met friends that, although the relationships are just starting out, I can tell are going to be good for us as a couple and for me individually.

I am thankful for friendship, for companionship. God didn't put us on this earth to live alone or to even be isolated with a few people, but rather to live in community, constantly building each other up and investing into each other. We have been overly-blessed with new friends. Last week we had 3 friend-dates with families, and this coming weekend we have 4 more.

Praise be to God for knowing our needs, for meeting them, for exceeding them. He is so good. It is so good to be thankful. Happy November! Take time today to be thankful. Make a list of blessings and let it bless you again as you gratefully consider each one.

with joy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

the big reveal.

We had our "20 week ultrasound" today. We saw this little bundle of joy, infantino, tiny tyke, baby bean, our beloved Cubbie squirming and trying to hide itself from the camera. Cubbie takes after Mr. Allen in that regard - not cooperating for pictures.

Well, you know... the technician asked if we wanted to find out the sex, and we talked about it on the way there and decided maybe we didn't want to know after all. Aren't surprises what life is all about?

So, we'll stick to the gender neutral crib, the gender neutral clothing, the gender neutral "it"-ness of the pregnancy and wait until mid-March to find out what our baby is.

with patience. (as we long await our little Cubster.)

No. I'm totally kidding.

I've already waited 4+ months for this day (not to mention 22 years.) We found out instantly. And our baby, Cubbie, will be coming out of that womb and soon to enter a world such like this...

We are having a BABY GIRL! :] And there's no "Maybe, well, it looks like a girl." No, we got a good view of those parts and we know. And we are so excited!

Oh, I can't wait to hold her. My baby girl.

I decided during the ultrasound that I could spend the next 4+ months just watching her squirm and move and grow, and I would be 100% content. I love her, I love her, I love her!

And soon, we will all meet her. (Well, you'll have to visit or expect a visit for that to happen.) Our little miss...
our [Nora Jean Allen].

with love, joy, peace, patience (maybe), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I am all about giving November its full right to holiday spirit. I have been extremely guilty in the past of jumping from Halloween to November 1 means countdown to Christmas. This year, I've vowed to fully enjoy November, especially Thanksgiving. (You're so welcome, Jenna.)

My endless hours on pinterest has led me to some excellent finds. (Remember those raspberry cakes? You know you want those next time you visit! ... and I might want them next time you visit.) Well, I found this little guy and instantly fell in love.

A thankfulness tree; here's my version of it:

Each day of November, I write something on one of the tags that I am truly thankful for. You can find out what I've been writing if you follow me on facebook; I update my status with my thankfulness tag each day. I love this piece in my dining room. Since we moved into our apartment and got our beautiful table (June/July,) I've been wanting a centerpiece, and now I've finally got one... at least for this month.

If you're looking for a more kid-friendly version of a thankfulness tree for your family or classroom, check out my sister's tree that my niece and nephew will be doing throughout November.

If you want to put together your own thankfulness tree like mine (and the one I borrowed from cloned,) here's the simple steps:

Step 1: Gather branches. (Not so easy to do in Chicago; I must say!)

Step 2: Wash out a mason jar/food jar to be your vase. (I had to empty my husband's favorite pasta sauce because it was the only jar in the fridge close to being gone. Shh - don't tell.)

Step 3: Make your tags. (I used recycled cardboard, some paints, and my scissors to make shapes. The original tree tags were made using scrapbook paper and a dye cutter. I'm not that fancy.)

Step 4: Assemble. (Add a bow or other detail to personalize yours. Again, I'm not fancy enough or an experienced enough crafter to have ribbon lying around.)

And wah-lah, you have yourself a beautiful piece for your home to remind you and your family to give thanks each day, not just on Thanksgiving! Let me know if you decide to make a thankfulness tree (any design) or you have another tradition for thanksgiving all month long.

with goodness. (I wish I could add thankfulness to the Fruits of the Spirit.)

PS - These just came out of the over for dinner. YES! :] (Another pinterest inspiration...)

linking up with these parties...


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

occupy halloween monday.

My Monday was hard to occupy with a joyful, celebratory attitude, so week one (although not a complete failure) was most definitely a challenge.

First of all, in order for me to celebrate my Mondays (in the same way I cherish my Fridays,) I have to look good. Seriously - there is something so mind-altering about doing your hair and makeup, and the way that it affects your day is magical. Better yet - as my roommate Bridgett would say, when your nails are painted, you automatically feel like a "10" no matter the actual outfit/situation/what-have-you. (You better believe I painted those puppies. With this preggo belly how it is, I can't bank on actually looking good [not having the belly look a baby rather than like a sack of extra weight.] So I always keep my nails painted as a back-up plan.)

So, Monday morning my alarm goes off at 5:25. Ouch. Other than my dad, I don't know anyone who effortlessly wakes up at that hour. Although it's only 10 minutes before my normal alarm - I'll gladly cherishingly snooze through those 10 minutes. So I'm up and at 'em: shower, hair, makeup, outfit (last minute change since I realized pastel floral was not at all saying "Today is Halloween" but quite the opposite,) make lunches, and out the door, thinking 'Good start to a good day. Maybe those extra 10 minutes are already worth it.'

Then I got to work and found out that family I nanny for is moving hours away... and I'm out of a job in a few weeks. Ouch. Ouch-ouch-ouch. I believe that after they left for work I cried for about an hour straight. Not only do I love my job (please tell me why it took 6 months for me to realize that,) but umm... we're having a baby. And this job was going to accommodate that fact, letting me bring Cubbie to work, but finding another job like this... so, so unlikely. Reminder: we are also a family of one (measly) income: mine. So panic, fear, worry, sadness... all started to set in, but I knew I was supposed to embrace this Monday business.

It took a while, like hours, to come even an inch out of this funk of fear I was in, but I had family and friends messaging me with their sympathy and support, and it was so good. I chose to say immediately after finding out the news a little phrase that I love, stolen from Angie Smith, "My God is the same God now as He was when I walked in that door." I literally said it out loud to remind myself - He is in control, and we are in His hands.

He is good. He is faithful. My brother and sister-in-law and their family are a true testament to His provision and faithfulness when situations seem rough impossible. I've seen His faithfulness even in the past few months, and Mr. Allen and I will stand firm in that.

My day with Henry went well. He's so cute; did I mention that?! And he's completely stolen my heart... which he'll need to give back before he moves out of the state. Mr. Allen came over after classes, and I spent some time looking for jobs online. We went to Taco Bell for dinner. Is Taco Bell the answer to all of life's problems? ...or is that ice cream? (Side note: remind me to tell you about my 3 favorite foods sometime. You'll probably be disgusted and shocked.) Taco Bell sure helped me enjoy and occupy my Monday.

Then we headed north of the city to join some (new-ish) friends and their kids for a trunk-or-treat. Mr. Allen and I were costume-less and childless (minus baby bump,) so we kind of didn't belong, but that was kind of okay. Spending an hour looking at kids in adorable or ridiculously-sweet costumes is on our activities-for-a-perfect-evening-list. (It can also be found on super creepy men's activities list. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that we like to watch kids. It makes us a bunch of weirdos.)

Afterward we went back to our friends' home and got to know them and their 4 boys better. (4 boys - a perfect number of what?! ... maybe plus 13 girls. :] Oh yeah, I've never mentioned on here my obsession of wanting 17 kids. I'll talk about it sometime. I need to make a non-mental-but-actually-physical list of all these "I will talk about that later" post ideas.) The family was so much fun and made a perfect ending to a long, badly-initiated Monday.

My keys to success for Occupy Monday (a sort of to-do list for next week):
- hair and makeup done (which means waking up a bit early)
- painted nails (can be done on Sunday like this week)
- make special plans for Monday night (to really celebrate the whole day)
- read my Bible (I missed this yesterday unfortunately)
- workout (also missed this yesterday)
- have a special treat (like Halloween candy... or a yummy, steamy drink)
- remember your purpose all day long (embracing and celebrating/occupying Monday until it becomes a natural joy)

Thanks for reading my long and dreadful post. Thank you even more to those of you who joined Occupy Monday yesterday. We'd love to have you join us next Monday - to change the view of Mondays, because it is a [day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!] (Psalm 118:24)

with joy. (even amidst this trial... can I get a "Praise God"?!)

Friday, October 28, 2011


I've had a few pictures to share with you all lately, but without sitting down to hook up the camera to the computer, I have found it impossible to follow through. Here they are -- a few looks at what we've been up to lately, enjoying the fall for all it is.

Two weekends ago we had some friends over, a wonderful couple who got married the day after Mr. Allen and I, so you could say they are at the same stage of life as us (minus one little growing infantino that we have going on.) We wanted to make them something special for dinner, so we planned to make crockpot chicken taco chili (a pinterest find, of course,) but our plans changed last minute and Mr. Allen and I enjoyed the taco chili, just the two of us. The couple came over the next night, and we scrambled around the house looking for something to serve them and found a pretty random variety of foods; but dessert had already been decided upon.

I had pinned a recipe for raspberry buttermilk cake a few weeks (months?) back, waiting for the right opportunity to try it out. My aunt had bought me a Crate&Barrel giftcard for graduation in June, and I hadn't used the whole balance up yet, so I ventured out to the store to buy ramekins (those little individual serving dishes that are too cute for words.) They are the perfect accessory for having friends over - a little showy, a little wonderful, and everyone wants to eat that full "small" portion. :] The cakes turned out beautifully and so tasty!

Of course we added chocolate chips. These Allens don't do recipes without chocolate chips if there is an option. (I just finished baking a loaf of banana bread + chocolate chips to push the point that much further. Also so yummy; I'm enjoying a thick slice while I write this.)

Last weekend we celebrated Mr. Allen's birthday (and I mean we celebrated all weekend/week.) We headed back to Michigan to spend a few days with his side of the family and were able to have lunch with my side on the way back to Chicago. My sister-in-law, Kelsey, called a few weeks ago and asked if, while we were home, we would want to enjoy the fall-er things in life: corn maze, pumpkin carvings, etc. I was definitely on board, and although we didn't make it to the corn maze, we did enjoy some doughnuts and cider from the orchard and spent an evening carving pumpkins.

Our creations...

[Mr. Allen's "Grim Creeper" creation. He always picks the creepiest pumpkin designs. Yuck.]

[My creation: the Chicago Blackhawks' logo. This baby took me a few good hours and more work than imaginable. Even though it is currently rotting on our back stoop only a week later, the final turn-out of this creation was so worth it.]

[My sister, Kelsey's, creation of what was supposed to be the Stanley Cup, but because our knives both were destroyed mid-carving ended up much more of a bowling pin look-alike.]

[All of our pumpkins out on the front porch, bringing joy to the neighbors (hopefully.)]

Man, fall is great. I know I've said it before, but it really is the best. I might even trade a day on the beach for an afternoon with those beautifully changing trees and falling leaves and all the fall-festivities. I can't wait to show Cubbie all of those next year and in the years to come. :]

with joy.

I'm linking up to these parties...