Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Houses Change...

We're all sick! So we're cancelling *our part* of the gingerbread houses. Everyone else is still going, we are just not so we won't be providing the houses. Ya'll bring your own or someone bring enough for everyone or just decorate graham crackers and have fun!

Sorry we'll miss you- our Merry Christmas is not getting you sick.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Gingerbread" Houses

Most of you know my history with Gingerbread... it's shaky, at best. So this year, we're going to make Graham Cracker Houses instead. :)

Now, don't get your hopes up... even if we use graham crackers, the houses won't look like the one in the picture. :) But the kiddos will have a great time, cleanup will be a breeze, and we can all split the cost by bringing a contribution!

I'm going to assemble the houses the day before so they'll dry and the kiddos can decorate w/abandon. You RSVP # of children and pick what candy you'll bring from the below list (or be creative!) by leaving a comment here.

Losco Park, Friday Dec 18, 10:00. Bring a sack lunch, too. Merry Christmas!

**Candy Needs**
mini Candy Canes
2 containers white frosting
Mini Red Hots
Chocolate Nonpariels (those chocolates w/little white candy dots on top)
Twizzlers (gross tasting, but they look cute!)
box of snack size ziploc bags
roll of paper towels, baby wipes, 1 grown up pair scissors, and a whole bunch of Publix bags to take the houses home in w/o gooing up the car

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Fun!

My intention was to upload a fun Thanksgiving Idea each day... but we've been so busy having a good time that I didn't get around to it. :)

Since it's a little late to share all of the fun crafts we did, I'll suggest some Thanksgiving Day Games you can play with the fam or to keep little ones from underfoot while the ladies are in the kitchen!

This year, I am bringing some things for the kiddos to play alone and others to do all together:
1) Draw with Sidewalk Chalk (Mayflower contest, anyone?)
2) Turkey Toss (Beanbag into a gobblin' turkey!)
3) Pilgrim Relay (Boys vs. Girls- grownups included!)
4) Bubbles! (No explanation necessary)
5) Indian Corn Hunt (like looking for a needle in a haystack...)

And another idea I had but didn't get to... pick up paint swatches and have the kiddos find something in nature to match the different hues. I thought it could be an adventure to look for bright red, oranges, pinks, grays, etc. Oh, and you could always collect fall leaves and make a collage or leaf rubbing.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! Time with family is precious and this is a way to get the oldest laughing with your little ones!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holiday Tip #1

Holiday Tip #1: Get Your Sitters Early!

I waited to post this until I had sitters secure for the two Christmas Parties we're attending... I have to practice what I preach!

We like to do most of our celebrating as a family, but for the evenings that are too late for the little ones or for grownups-only gatherings, plan early!

It's so easy to make a phone call to your favorite sitters, but just as easy to forget. :) Grab the phone (or shoot an email) and mark one thing off the list! Look how easy that was- this is going to be an easy-breezy Christmas.

Christmas Shopping

I have the itch. Today is a brrr... cold day. It's a fire day, a hot chocolate day, a prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas kind of day!

The children are choosing favorite game and craft ideas for Thanksgiving while I nurse Georgia Anne for her nap. I'm excited to go up and hear what they think of when we talk about Thanksgiving. Family, a trip to Tallahassee and food all come to my mind.

Oh, but my topic was Christmas Shopping! That's because I have a neat idea that I want to share. Even with a budget, moms are often subject to impulse buys. And $5 here and $20 there will blow a budget every time!

I've taken my Christmas list to a new level. As the catalogs start pouring in, I fold down everything I like. Then I go back through and cut out the items and glue into a folder, one page per person I'm shopping for. Sometimes I don't cut out something I folded down- that's impulse elimination phase 1. :) Phase 2 is gluing in... if there are 2 things that are similar, or if all of a sudden that remote control toy (and the 10 batteries it needs) doesn't seem so practical, I toss it.

Phase 3 is... (drum roll...) my Hubby! We look through my folder together (well, except for his pages) and he helps clarify our choices for the year. No return lines, no over-abundance of toys that will break in 3 days anyway... we pare it down to 3 gifts per kiddo and some stocking stuffers.

Freedom!! Now I have a purposeful list and when I hit the stores (or websites) if I see something I just "have to buy" I can look at the pictures we already chose and weigh my options wisely.

What do you do to keep expenses down?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our first field trip this year!

Today was our first field trip with our Learning on the Go co-op! The children learned about the history of the pretzel (a monk shaped bread dough into the shape of a child praying w/folded arms & the 3 holes represent the Trinity) and then shaped & baked their own. Afterwards, some of us went to the pool for some fun splash time. Good times.

Right now, the kiddos are enjoying popsicles on the back porch- then we're going to go out front to put up some flags and pray for the families who lost loved ones eight 9/11s ago.

I'm also praying that the Lord will continue extending his care & mercies to us. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray then I will turn & heal their land."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hi Mom! Hi Dad!

Here are some pix to show the family. We took these when we went to Animal Kingdom a few weeks ago. :) Love you guys.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

a summer break

Chris is using my computer for work while he waits for his new laptop to arrive. Just thought I'd explain this loooong lapse in posting. :) It's been a good (albeit forced) computer abstinence. Balance is a good thing! I'll try to check in soon!

Here's a picture of me & my wonderful hubby on our 11th anniversary! We were headed out to a fabulous dinner at Bern's in Tampa. My sweet hubs surprised me and what a surprise it was!! Love you, hon! Thanks for really knowing (and still loving!) me!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independance Day 2009!!

I'm leaning back in Chris' comfy recliner thinking over our full weekend. So many sweet memories! So many little kindnesses... I pray my appreciation for "the little things" will never become dulled.

Friday, July 3, we enjoyed time at the beach with Granny & Papa; they brought breakfast and the Lord provided perfect waves and a cooling breeze. Later in the day, we sent the guys to the store for cheese & tomatoes and instead they brought home a delicious spread from Whole Foods- all to keep Mom & me out of the kitchen. What amazing guys! And it was delish!

Saturday morning, July 4, Mema & Pa came up and helped the children put some finishing touches on our float for our neighborhood's 4th of July parade. After the parade, Andrew and Timbo checked out a firetruck and we all enjoyed Jenk's pizza up at the Am center.

My favorite story from the weekend: I was out of paper towels. We don't use them all the time but they are definitely missed when we don't have any!! Well, Saturday afternoon Charlie went to the store and surprised me with a HUGE pack of paper towels! The good ones!! An hour later, my Dad came in with... a HUGE pack of paper towels! Select-a-Size! I can't tell you how special I felt that these two Dads in my life heard me mention I was out and then went to the store just to bless me. I feel so spoiled!! Thanks, Dad & Pa!
We celebrated our country's freedom July 4 with friends (old & new) and LOTS of fireworks! Good food was plentiful (another blessing! Cookies, Cheesecake, Pasta Salad, Artichoke & Tom Salad, Drinks... all came in just as needed!) and no one was permanently hurt through the games, fireworks or fireants. :)

I always want to live with an awareness of the Lord's work in my life. Weather, sunsets, friends, laughter... He is good to all and His mercies are over all He has made!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quotable Quotes

"Cool! I can make tire tracks in the dust!" -Ben while playing with his "off-road" black Lego car

"Hey Mom, why [is the] beach inside?" -Andrew when the kiddie pool was on its way to the backyard

"I love you, Mamma. " -Timbo, being sweet to his sick Mamma

And the picture you see is of Lauren, our little chef, putting the final touches on a Southwestern salad & dressing she made.

Georgia Anne is standing at my feet now being adorable... yes, you read right, STANDING! I'm going to go sit outside in the pool with them now, brain & fingers are too wiped out to do any more. PTL for flexible summer days (and that my children are obedient and my New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream will be waiting for me when I recover!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Carpe Diem vs. Slow & Steady

I have a little whisperer on each shoulder.

C.D. cheers, "Drop everything and go play with the children!"

"Don't be silly! Finish this small vacuum job and put away the cleaner so you won't come back inside to a mess!" responds S & S with measured words.

"Messes will always be around! It'll be too hot to go outside if you wait much longer. First things first! Enjoy your little ones." demands C.D.

S&S sighs, "Oh please! Enjoy the children? Will you really be enjoying them when you come inside to mounds of laundry, a grocery list to be made & shopping to do and you stub your toe on the vacuum cleaner you left out?!"

Today, I finished the vacuuming in my bathroom and assigned the kitchen to Lauren. I'm going to put the cleaner away before going outside... I hate stubbing my toe! I'm leaving the laundry and now going outside (even though it's hot) and still wandering just what the right thing to do would be?!

In the end, I needed to just DO something! I can vascillate all day and accomplish neither fun nor to-dos. It's time to stop overthinking and start living!
p.s. Isn't Krissy so cute with Landon sleeping on her shoulder? It has nothing to do with the post- I just love my sister! :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A new year, a new name, but the Biblically-based teaching remains a constant. Chris went to NEXT this year and says he's taking me next time! No longer a "singles conference" (formerly New Attitude), NEXT is online & needs your attention! Like now! 2009 NEXT Messages Yes, you. Click that link.

D.A. Carson's message was my fave, but they're all wonderful. Make sure to listen in order... and then tell me which ministered to you the most.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The World's Best Muffins!

So good that the photo I'm showing you of the muffin depicts them perfectly- eaten up! (Note the crumbs on Andrew's lips- that's what's left.) Yes, these muffins are that good!

Now, I used to be a recipe hoarder... but I have learned that somethings are too good not to share! Enjoy these moist, flavorful muffins for breakfast, tea time, or anytime you want to share a special moment with your sweet family!

Allie's* So Very Yummy Nana Crunch Muffins
3 c flour (can replace 1 c w/whole wheat if you'd like)
2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted & cooled
2 x-lg eggs
3/4 c milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c mashed RIPE (read: sweet, almost rotten & mushy) nanas
1 c diced nanas
1 c small diced walnuts
1 c granola
1 c shredded coconut (I buy unsweetened from the HFS)

1) Sift flour, sugar, powder, soda, salt into a large bowl.
2) Mix eggs, milk, vanilla & mashed nanas in a bowl.
3) Stir butter into flour mixture (bowl 1) and then combine this with the wet stuff(bowl 2) only till it's all combined. You shouldn't overmix muffins- lumps are ok.
4) Fold in diced bananas, granola, coconut and walnuts. Use an ice cream scoop (it's so much cleaner!) to scoop into lined or sprayed muffin cups, filling all the way up to the top! Sprinkle tops with finely chopped walnuts, granola or coconut.
5) Bake in a preheated 350 oven until the tops are brown 25-30 minutes. 15 ish for mini muffins.

This recipe is good for a few days and even frozen & reheated, unlike most muffin recipes. The secret is all the butter & all the nanas. The higher the fat in a muffin, the longer it stays moist & tasty! YUM!!! Be prepared to exercise self-control b/c you'll want to eat them all up right away!

*I found this recipe 10 years ago in a magazine... it's undergone a few changes (like healthy flour & extra vanilla) but someone else deserves the credit for these tasty morsels. Whoever you are, THANK YOU!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Teresa came over to hang with the kiddos last night so Chris and I could have some time off. (Isn't she sweet!?) We decided to bring Andrew with us and Georgia Anne for some one-on-one time (or two-on-two, as it were) and also to focus on some behaviour issues. Training him to come when we call, be still at the table, and not ask "WHAT???" all night long is a lot easier without 3 other adorable little distractions.

It wasn't all training and seriousness, though! We had a very important first!! Andrew's first HOT Krispy Kreme donut! When it was my turn to order, he chimed in with, "We'll have two." But of course!

Look- he's leading well already and he's only two!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Link Tutorial

I (Chris) will show you how to make your links look pretty now. A Cup of Grace. Grace Covenant Church's womens' blog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brotherly Love

You know those moments when everything is going perfectly? The big kids were playing happily (together!), Timothy & Andrew were taking their naps and Georgia Anne was exploring happily. Of course that couldn't all last too long. Georgia Anne started crying and Andrew (supposed to be napping) rushed to my bedroom.

Andrew: "Georgia Anne crying!"
Me: "Yes, I hear her."
Andrew: "Georgia Anne need you."
Me: "Thanks. I'll go get her."
Andrew: "Georgia Anne crying me hit her on heeeaad."

Ah HA! The truth comes out! At least he fessed up, right? Turns out she was about to do a "no no" and... whack! He stopped her, all right!

Do I love my children, family & friends enough to stop them from sinning... no matter what the cost?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grateful for Laughter

The house is quiet now except for the steady hum of the dishwasher. I love modern appliances. I can type this blog while it washes the plates, cups and silverware of 29 of my best buddies. :) Yes, it was Game Night here at the Olsens and what a night!!

Throughout dinner, games with the kiddos, then games for the big folks, I heard laughter. How kind of God to give this gift so freely! I want to publicly thank the Lord for laughter, food, friends (not necessarily in that order... food def goes first LOL *grin*). His Word says, "every good and perfect gift comes from above." (James 1:17) Thanks, Abba. Man... if we can have this much fun here, can you imgine what HEAVEN will be like!??!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birthday Surprises

I think we should have birthdays at least twice a year! All the calls, emails, facebook posts, cards, surprise packages in the mail (Wow!) and personal visits make the day so fun!! I am so blessed to have you guys for friends!!

Mom doesn't keep special gifts and calls for birthdays. We have "UnBirthdays" all the time! Dad jokes with her that she won't have any inheritance to leave because she's going to spend it all now. I think she's on to something, though. I love giving little "I love yous" now while I can watch everyone enjoy themselves!

Today's picture is with my Birthday Ice Cream Buffet! Stacey was sooo sweet to bring over all these yummy flavors for a fun tasting. What a fun way to spend a few hours with friends!! Thanks, Stacey! You made my Bday special!

The children had made and wrapped special pictures for me, Chris brought home some chocolate dipped fruit (and a pink Guy Harvey shirt!) and the Lord sent a day of perfect weather we all enjoyed outside. That night, Seth came over to hang out with the kiddos while Chris & I ate some yummy dinner out. The gift of time was wonderful! I'm so grateful for birthdays- they're a chance to show love to each other and I definitely experienced this on April 10!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Locust for my Birthday

Today is my birthday. Yippee! The locust swarms should make today memorable! LOL We went to a Jacksonville Suns baseball game last night, so I didn't have a chance to make the locusts. Soooo... I think it'll be a family project and then we'll let them "swarm" (eeewww)- hopefully they won't eat my Birthday Cake!

Umm... do I *get* a birthday cake if I don't make it?

(p.s. No Birthday Cake, but I did get some incredible Dark Chocolate dipped strawberries & apples and the locusts couldn't find them b/c I kept them hidden in their box in the fridge. I managed to eat almost all of them all by myself... Andrew swiped a bite of apple, but I forgive him. *grin*)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What, the hail?!

Today, we had flies, gnats AND dead animals! We had to combine some days since I didn't start on time. :) Aren't you glad the Lord doesn't slam us like that?! Whew! He never gives more than we can handle but always provides a way of escape. Thank you, Lord!

Tomorrow, the weather looks gorgeous... sunny skies with a 100% chance of hail!! I'm trying to decide whether to actually let the children throw ice at each other or what. I mean, just laying ice all over the windowsills is not enough... but hurling ice at one another could go from fun to overboard veeeery quickly. Maybe we'll go to The Loop for some crushed ice!

How else could we "do" this plague? We could eat all our meals cold... nah! Ideas welcome!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ribbitt... ribbitt...

"But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs." Exodus 8:2

The water-to-blood plague went well today, except that all day long, Timbo would ask if he could drink some blood, which sounds quite disturbing to outside observers. LOL

Tomorrow, the forecast calls for FROGS... and lots of them. Now, one frog can be cute. Two calls for a frog-race. En masse they are admittedly icky, but cockroaches would be too! So why did Yahweh choose frogs? Check this out:

These critters were associated with the annual inundation of the Nile. So they were associated with fruitfulness, blessedness, with a good harvest and were naturally deified. Their "frog goddess" was goddess of both fertility and resurrection. I want you to remember those two because God really sticks it to this goddess; He really puts her down. Fertility, resurrection. You could not, by the way, kill a frog. They were sacred. In fact, if you intentionally killed a frog, you were put to death. In some cases, if you unintentionally killed a frog, you were put to death. Remember that law in light of what is going to happen here, and you will understand the problem they were facing. They could not kill one single frog. (Peninsula Bible Church)

So God (as in the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, not the false god Egyptians called Pharoah) made the very frogs that Egyptians considered worthy of worship into something detestable to them! He alone deserves our worship.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


So in spite of my best intentions (read previous blog) I forgot to start the plagues on time! LOL So I'll just end up doubling up on a couple. There are 12 (kidding- 10) plagues and only 7 days till Easter, so we'll just combine a couple. :) Tomorrow, we begin.

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. ~Exodus 7:20

So the children will wake up on a seemingly normal day to find water cups red, red water in the sink, toilets, etc... anywhere there is water, it'll be (you guessed it!) blood red.

My goal in incorporating the plagues into our Resurrection Celebration is to go beyond the Easter Bunny. Why do most parents say they "do" the Easter Bunny & Santa, etc? Because "we don't want to take away their fun". But in allowing our Holy Days to focus on these fantastical characters, are we taking the emphasis away from holy scripture and THE Fantastic God whom we serve?

I propose that parents can (and should) fill our family life with fun and memorable and magical (though true and historical) events straight from the Word of God. It brings the Word to life. Let's find our fulfillment and joy in Him from the youngest children to the oldest granny. Let's celebrate HIM this season.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guess What's Coming?

I bet you can't guess what I'm thinking... No, it has nothing to do with play dates or politics or vacations or food. Okay, it does have a little to do with food. :) And how you view this event has everything to do with how you engage in politics... But I digress.

Okay, Easter is coming! This is arguably one of the most important days within the church and yet most people give little thought to Easter beyond buying a new dress or maybe an Easter basket. But we should!

I'm a little extra-excited this year because Easter and Passover coincide with each other. The unity of all of scripture was never as clear to me as when we first kept Passover. No, we didn't sacrifice a lamb- I know that was taken care of on the Cross! What I didn't know was all of the other ways Jesus fulfilled OT traditions and prophecies. Like the red ribbon running through the park in this picture, all of scripture points to our saviour and, ultimately, His death for us.

Take some time over the next week to think of ways to share BIBLICAL truths with your children this Easter! I don't mean sticking a Bible Story Book in their Easter baskets (though you can do that as well), but actually looking into scripture with the kiddos and finding your joy and your identity and your family traditions in His Word!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Simple is for GIRLS!

Can you believe Georgia Anne is already 6 months old? Today was the day to take down her cradle and re-do Chris' and my bedroom as a sanctuary. I love it as a nursery but am excited to have an oasis of calm on those busy days.

So my plan was to use a simple wrench to take down the cradle. I enlisted Timbo to be my handyman. You know it's always a great idea to allow the youngest child possible to do a job, so he was my man. He, in turn, asked his big bro to help him find the right wrench. He and Ben returned from the garage with the Mechanic's Toolbox full of socket thingies and the wrench thing that goes click click click when you turn it!! Yikes!

After Ben & Timothy spent 10 minutes trying to find the right size socket, I walked over and picked up a wrench and said, "Why don't you just use this?"

Ben's response? "Daddy said using a socket is easier!"

And when I asked Chris about this, he chuckled, "I'm surprised he didn't use the drill with socket attachment!"

Two words from Mom: OH BROTHER!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Busy Busy Busy...

You know how life can get. Full, hectic, so noisy you can't hear yourself think... or the Spirit speaking.

My true, earnest and heartfelt desire (and I believe that the Lord has placed this in me) is to learn to quiet my soul in the midst of busy-ness.

This refrain is continually on my mind... and events continually press me to put my faith in action. I am thankful, Lord, for your patience and that you don't leave me in my childishness but continually call me forward. Even holding your hands out to me so that as I fall, repeatedly, you catch me and put me right back on my feet again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Courtship is like buying a boat...

Today, Chris was talking about boats and the boys were right in there with him. (Nothing new there, I know!) It is so precious to me how they adore their dad through mimicing his every hobby. Fishing? They're ready with their poles. Hunting? Sure Daddy, they can sit quietly for hours in the woods! (NOT!)

Anyways, today Chris told us he's going to buy a small boat he can keep here and go out on more easily. I was surprised (read: "You're going to buy another boat?") but not really. The conversation that followed was so cute I had to document:

"It's kind of like courtship, Mom" Ben quipped.

Me, incredulously, "What are you talking about, Ben?"

"You know, first you think about it... then you talk about it with your family... then you start looking seriously and you buy that boat!"

Well, now that we have that settled... LOL I don't know why I was worried about how we'll walk through that season of life! Sounds like we've got it down pat! (Let's all just pray that he doesn't tell his beloved one day that it's just like buying a boat!)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How to be a Lady

Lauren and I started a new "Mother-Daughter" study today. She finished Proverbs 31 before Christmas and now we're reading, "How to be a Lady."

Today, the book referenced the error of thinking too much or too little of yourself. Before I elaborated on the concept of thinking too little of yourself, Lauren surprised me with this explanation.

"If you're foolish while you're little, your heart gets set on doing foolish things and when you get old, like 16, you make bad decisions and it's harder to learn to do the right thing."

Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in my strong little girl's life! He is shaping her even now. May His mercies continue in Lauren's life all of her days.