Sunday, December 31, 2017


Some people in recent years started having a "word" for the year. I started having a theme. Something the Lord puts on my heart that typifies my journey for that year. I decided to put each theme yearly, on an ornament. "That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in times to come, saying, what do you mean by these stones? Then you shall answer them...And these stones will be a memorial for the children...forever" (Josh 4:6-7) 

Because I think it's important for people to remember all the great things God has done in His great rescue of us. And its also important to share these things with the next generations, so that they can see the struggles and the victories that come with living the life God gave us.

My Grandma Shantz gave me an ornament each year, from 1979 to 2015 (making them ahead, as she passed in 2010). Every year we take them out, hang them up and talk. Stories about her, about life, about what I was doing that 2016 I was a little battle-weary, you might say. It wasn't the year I wanted it to be in many ways, & yet it surpassed expectations in other ways. And there was no new ornament from Grandma to mark the season. So I made my own

'Tis mercy all, so rich and free...That old hymn had been on my heart all year, and spoke clearly to summarize the ups-and-downs. Because His mercy to me was evident in my brightest day & in my darkest night. Unshakeable goodness, even in circumstances I wouldn't have imagined, but also wouldn't change, for His loves display was so sure. Could I see that it was ALL a mercy of God? Truly?

My theme for 2017, summarized "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert". This year, this verse has been on display in my livingroom & always close to my mind. He has forged so many "new things", and, instead of my tendency to not pay attention, I was watching & waiting & seeing all the ways He was working and changing me. And that was worthy of another ornament, I thought.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Family Picture Day 2017

 Here is the video from our family picture day this year:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! 😱 Sometimes looking back through the years is a little scary, right?!😂

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Family Video 2017

We had our pictures taken again this year, of course! It really is one of my favourite parts of the year. It's fun to coordinate wardrobes and scout a good location. As always, I like to try and vary my photographer, if possible. I love pictures so much, and they are a form of art - each artist has his own take on it, and I like that personality to be a little different, if I have that option available to me, and this year, I did!! Luke Rieke took our pictures this year, and he's quite talented. He is our former pastor's son, and was in youth group when Brian was the youth pastor there. We decided on a downtown Norfolk scene - and I think it suits us. I adore city shoots. Anyway, enjoy our pics with a little walk down memory lane - because I know we're all thinking, how did these kids get so big?!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Chicken Lombardy - Recipe

Every once in awhile you see a facebook video on how to make something. And it looks SO delicious you just have to try it. And when you do, #winning, it's ah-may-zing! That's how we feel about this spectacular dish, which tastes like something you might order in a restaurant. The official recipe I used is here. But it's a little "fussy" as written. I'll put ingredients here with my own "how to", and if you know how to cook, you're good to go. Perhaps if you don't know how to cook you need more step by step, but I'm saving you time, and not altering the outcome, so you should love me, if you don't already that is;-) This is perhaps our very very favourite dish, currently!

(I double this recipe for our family, and we have a serving or two left over - it's excellent reheated)

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts - cut thin (butterfly if thick), and pound between wax paper or similar
1/3 C butter divided (2 T approx for mushrooms, rest for cooking chicken)
1/2 C flour
8 oz sliced mushrooms - canned is ok in a pinch, but trust me, fresh makes all the difference here! If using canned, use liquid, don't drain it
3/4 C Marsala wine
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 C shredded mozzarella (shredding it yourself instead of pre-shredded really does make a difference)
1/2 C parmesan cheese ("real grated" instead of the 'for spaghetti' kind really makes it great, but can use either)
green onions (optional, but nice)

Dredge the chicken in flour, and pan fry in butter (or olive oil), flipping for even cooking, until done (but not over-done). If you have two large pans, when chicken is nearing done, start cooking the mushrooms in butter (if you don't, use the same pan for both - maybe do mushrooms & sauce first, then set aside and cook chicken), when mushrooms are cooking down well and browned and delicious, add the wine, stock, salt & pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer while chicken finishes cooking, about 10 mins. Heat oven to 450, and grease a 9x13 pan. When chicken is done, place in 9x13 in a single layer. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over all. Top with cheeses and green onions. Bake for 15-20mins, (while you make the rice), once cheese is melting and browning, you're good to go! Serves well over rice, or pasta

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore

*This was written and posted on Instagram in November 2015*

Well folks, it's a new song, but an old, old memory. There is much to be grateful for, when taking that ol' trip down memory lane.

My life has been both extremely ordinary and extraordinary - paradoxically, at once. Perhaps it was the ordinary that allowed the exceptional to seem so, or, perhaps the unique just made the rest seem mundane. But either way, having lived it, it always just seemed like life to me.

If asked to name one single, solitary, defining thing that shaped my growing up, the very first thing that springs to mind time and again is this: Music.

I've spent more time sitting and listening to sad old songs, sung by a smooth baritone than probably anything else, collectively. My favourite pastime, and his too. There were songs about love, and life, and the Lord. The soul stirring cries of notes on the page, brought to life in a six string. I can't help but hear a new song, like this one, and not reminisce. It's hauntingly familiar in every way. It's not the only kind of music that speaks to my heart - but it's the best kind.

It's the kind that makes you wish you never had to grow up. The kind that makes you wish people never left. The kind that makes heaven seem wonderful. Because: Jesus and music. Could there anything sweeter? I'm grateful for my Dad, and his passion for music. I'm so glad that I have memories buried all the way down to my toes - of music.

And I'm grateful for new songs to sing everyday. Music, just like life, is a story that never ends. Always have a song in your heart, even if it's a sad one. There will always come a brighter day, and a happier note.

Because like it or not, we all dance to the tunes we know. (link to Chris Stapleton's Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore)

Summer Fun

It's been a year since our big renovation! It took us a little time to get our feet under us again after that, but I feel like we're doing pretty good! I'll have to post house update pics soon. But anyway, for awhile we couldn't really accommodate large crowds like we used to, but I think we're "there" again. We tested that theory by having 50+ people over for a BBQ. It worked out really well!
A bunch of the men started a "keep the ball up" game or something. It was well over 100 degrees out and incredibly humid. They were literally soaked to the bone in sweat (ew).

We have a "pop up" beach tent that we set up for additional shade. There is nothing "pop up" about it, it really takes a little effort to set up, but it sure does work well, so it was nice to have. So part of our summer fun has been: Friends
The other part of our summer fun, as always: Water
They love love love the ocean, and I love that. They are getting to be good like body surfers, and have zero fear, even when there are riptides.
*Found this post in the drafts folder, never posted, from Summer 2016*

Friday, November 3, 2017

DIY Toner

Facial toner! It feels amazing! I use an amber glass "spritzer" bottle - I get them on amazon and they are so useful (I use for after sun spray etc). Spritz on face after washing it morning and evening.

1oz witch hazel
10 drops Purification
10 drops Lavender
10 drops Frankincense
10 drops Cypress

Monday, October 23, 2017

Foaming Face Wash

I put this in a "foaming handsoap" refillable dispenser, and it's GREAT! An easy way to wash your face and get all that makeup off at the end of the day. Because I have all these ingredients on hand for "normal life" this costs me basically nothing to make. I do tend to use cotton make "rounds" for wiping it away and rubbing it around my eye area etc. Use this in the shower, or each morning or evening. Sometimes I use a wet-with-water cotton round to "rinse" it, sometimes, I don't. It's great for your skin, so it doesn't need to be cleaned off per se.

3/4 C cooled brewed chamomile tea OR filtered water (I prefer the tea)
1/4 C liquid castile soap (I like Dr Bronner's Peppermint)
1/2 t sweet almond oil OR jojoba oil OR grapeseed oil (I prefer jojoba - each one is good for a different skin type, so google the best choice for you)
3-4 drops Vitamin E oil
8 drops Frankincense essential oil
8 drops Geranium essential oil
(you can add other oils to this, or replace these with other ones that are great for the skin. A few ideas are Lavender, Tea Tree {aka Melaleuca Alternafolia - good for acne prone skin}, and Elemi)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall, Waiting

It still feels like summer, but I'm ok with that.

We don't get beautiful autumn-orange and brilliant-yellow, and a red that seems to set a spark in your soul. But that's ok too. 

Everybody else has pictures to share of the places they live. Where winter comes long and hard, but is somehow made bearable by the amazing turning of the seasons, and it often makes me wish I could see what they see. 
But then I have to remember - this place is not a mistake. It's not less beautiful. It's not "supposed to be" better, and is somehow merely acceptable and looked-over for something that shines brighter. 

This place was created just as perfectly as a personality by a creative God who has good uses for all of His creations. It is no mistake we are each made with our own "dull spots" that seem to shine with less brilliance than our neighbours. 
Because for every negative that we compare, there's a positive that we don't see rightly. 

And it still feels like summer here. #achievablebeauty

Homemade Shampoo

I've been consistently trying to eliminate toxic chemicals from our home, but hair products can be tricky!! I've tried a few recipes, but none were just right. I really like this recipe, it works very well for me, and leaves me feeling clean without a waxy buildup or whatever. I use Trader Joes Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo and Conditioner too - I rotate through (homemade one time, baking soda & ACV the next time, Trader Joes the next time etc. I shower/wash my hair every other day, so use these recipes rotationally only about once per week.

1 cup of green tea steeped for 30 minutes (I used a Tazo regular green tea)
1 teaspoon honey mixed into tea while it is hot
1 teaspoon olive oil mixed in tea after it has cooled
1/2 cup liquid castille soap (we love Dr Bronner's peppermint) added to cooled mixture
Stir well and pour into container. Shake shampoo before each use.

3 tablespoons baking soda to 2 cups of water and then shake. I put in old shampoo bottle and shake before each use. Focus the baking soda mixture on the scalp, leave on for a minute, and rinse well.
Then apply Apple Cider Vinegar mixture (I put in plastic spray bottle), spray on hair, and concentrate it on the ends, not the scalp. Let sit for 5ish mins and then rinse with cool water right at the end of your shower. Easy and done!
Boil 1 1/2 cup water, and remove from heat. Add 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and let that cool. Remove the rosemary and add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (strain to avoid getting the "mother" in your mixture)
You can use dried rosemary, in a thing for loose tea, or just strain afterwards, or use rosemary essential oil - Which is what I did, once the water was cooled. About 10 drops.
Shake before each use on all three of these.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sea Salt Hair Spray

Sometimes I spend tons of time looking through all kinds of recipes on the internet, for beauty replacement stuff, and cobble together the few ingredients from this one or that that I want to try. Then I make the recipe - and when/if it turns out - I can't ever remember how I made it to do it again because I can never to replicate the exact google search or whatever! So in an effort to remember the things I want to do again, I'm posting them here! ;-) (Publishing recipes I consider "successful" only)

Recently, I've been wearing my hair curly. Mostly because my hair actually is curly, now (thank you pregnancies and hormone changes), and also because Brian has decided he likes is curly, maybe even better than straight. I also decided to try and grow my hair long. On purpose. Not like in the past when I forgot to cut it for 4.5 years and it felt like straw. I want to grow it longer, for real this time. So I'm taking care of it (natural and homemade shampoos, for another post perhaps!), and getting regular trims to keep it feeling great!

So, in an effort to not use as many heat tools on my hair (previously blow dry, then flat iron), I let it air dry, which produces curly hair, but kind of flat. If I scrunch with mouse, it's perfect. But I didn't want all the product in my hair, so enter the beach wave with sea salt spray.

Sea salt can dry your hair out, but there are enough natural conditioners in this recipe that I think it's doing ok for my hair. No noticeable "problem" yet anyway, and I also still use my argan oil and stuff for in my hair too when it's wet.

When it's drying/damp, I spray some of this in my hair all around, and scrunch, and then just let it go. Every once and awhile I'll scrunch/push up my hair as is dries, and that seems to give the volume I want with the beachy wave look I want.

1 C warm water
1 T sea salt
1 t epsom salt
1 T fractionated coconut oil (stays liquid)
1 T aloe vera gel (is a liquid)
essential oils - I do Cedarwood, Rosemary & Lavender - they are good for hair and smell nice.

Mix all together in a spray bottle (I'm using a glass one because I had on hand, but plastic is fine), and shake before using. Enjoy the messy curly beachy look it gives your hair. And if you ever chew on your hair (ew, don't), but if you do - um, just believe me - it tastes pretty my friends tell me anyway;-)

*I found the coconut oil and aloe vera gel on amazon, and I use them for in our After Sun Skin Relief spray (way better feeling than that goopy green aloe gel you can buy, and way better for your body!).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Brian Birthday 2017

One of my favourite things about you is your ability to dream. Big dreams. Weird dreams. Hard dreams. One of my next favourite things is your desire and drive to see those dreams come true. Happy birthday, my love. Thanks for dreaming with me all these years. #hockeyhair


"Thanks for revenging me Big Brother, I knew I could count on you!" That was an actual quote from this morning that melted my heart. To which big brother replied with an air of slight disdain "it's a-venging" 
#becauselove #becausebrothers #lleytongrey#brooklyncarsonjames (pic from 2012)

Mothers Day 2017

I made a mother, and so did she.
#raisedbycanadians #kennedyshea #1979 #2006 
(Kenna and Darla were both 3 weeks old as pictured)

Clarene was the first born of Ruby Haas. Rebecca was the first born of Clarene Shantz. Darla was the first born of Rebecca Kennedy. Kennedy was the first born of Darla Bolger.  #mothersday#fourgenerationsofgirls #2010

Brian Birthday 2016

Happy birthday to the love of my life. Love is surprising sometimes, and this was one of those times. Life is surprising sometimes, and certainly it has not turned out the way I imagined it would be. Because usually imaginations, though we think we dream of far off things, are limited by what we think, know and desire. We can't begin to see the greatness until we are pushed passed what we can't even imagine, into an unfamiliar realm. In a certain sense, it's a failure of life - it's not gone according to plans. And in another sense, it's the fulfillment of dreams you dreamed, you just lacked vision enough to supply all the grand particulars. Because had you known, you would have imagined them in the first place. Life has been surprising me ever since 1998, I guess. And this one has been the reason. He's pushed me into realms I'd never imagined, but in so doing, fulfilled my dreams, instead of dashing them. I am so grateful for him. Happy birthday Brian James.
 #hockeyhair #raisedbycanadians  #lovehim  #loveloyaltyfriendship

A Letter, To the Son of my Youth:

Ten years: Can you remember when adding ten years was doubling your life, and it seemed impossible to dream of the way things would be?

And adding another ten once you got that far – well – that seemed, at the first ten, to be sure. Because life's intricacies will be made plain by then, everyone of ten knows that. But upon arrival and looking forward to another ten, you're struck with it. You really don't know as much as you'd hoped. All the things you thought – there really are not adequate words to describe them. As if you just knew that the passage of time would add a lyric to the melody in some miraculous way, only to discover that what you see is more of a riddle than a song. You probably just need ten more years. That will do it. 

I asked you today how you thought life would be in ten years, and you said “I don't know”. It's childish I suppose, yet profound. When I ask myself the same question, I'm struck with the irony of life as it is – we never do grow up. I've got nearly thirty years on you, and I still say “I don't know” with the same sense of mystery and trepidation. 

Time has taught me a few things, one of which is how little of it I have: There are a great many things that I have a very short window left to teach you. How to be a strong leader. How to be a loyal friend. How to treat a woman. How to have courage to do what is right when it's hard and you're weary. How to fight for the right things, and not be drawn into a false battle by distractions and emotions. How to see the hurt in the world and show empathy. How to talk to God.

But I don't know how that will go. For all the things I've learned, and all the decades I'm looking back on, I still don't know very much about any of those things. I don't know what my next ten years will look like, and I can't imagine yours any clearer than you can – But I do pray that at the end of all your decades, you are formed into a strong character. 

It will take ten years, and then ten more, and of course, probably another ten and ten and ten. By the life you live - sometimes by the choices you make, sometimes by the circumstances that God orchestrates as a tool to shape you – use your years to become ready for the decades that will never cease in all of eternity. Root this life you've been given solidly in the Word of the living God. Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit with confidence. I pray that one day you will be what all mothers dream of for their little boys growing: A good man.

Love Challenge 2016

There was a "challenge" posted on facebook last year, and I got tagged to participate. I can't even remember why now, but anyway, I did the challenge, and as it's coming up on my feed a year later, I'm thinking it might be nice to document it, in this "permanent" online space, as facebook is so fleeting.
DAY 1 - 

I was nominated for the Love Your Spouse challenge by Sarah. For day 1, Here we are, at 23 years old, but babies. We'd already known each other for 4 years. I'm volunteering at the Markham Fair, and he's just waiting around for my shift to be over. He's done a lot of waiting around over the years. A lot. He's determined and patient (and I'm really not). This was the day before we officially began our dating relationship (which was mostly long distance). More about that another day, perhaps. But I thought maybe I should start back where it all began! I nominate Amy S. & Kari K.! I think you're supposed to post for 7 days...ummm... Because love is nice? It sure beats all the USA politics on my feed;-) I guess I didn't look into the rules before accepting the challenge (somewhat typical of me! Haha)

Love Your Spouse Challenge - Day 2. Well, here we are in 2004. When everything we owned in our 500sq ft apartment fit into a very small trailer, and we left NY (me having only lived there for 11 months) to move to VA. We really had no idea what we were doing, though I'm sure at the time we felt we did:-) One of the things that I am begrudgingly grateful for is Brian's vision and plan for our family. I say begrudging, because if it were up to me (the play it safe non risk taker aka: worrywart), we'd still be renting an apartment in Rochester, I'm sure (because all other options seem scary!). But after being somewhat dragged along (even if just in my own mind), I eventually see the wisdom in it all. I am so grateful that, while he does listen to my cautions, he isn't afraid to do what he feels is right. I'm very glad God saw fit to give me to a man so different from myself - because it's allowed me to grow and change in ways I never would have forced myself to do otherwise. And it's landed me in a place I never would have imagined, but couldn't love more!

DAY 3 - 

Love your Spouse challenge-day 3. "He must be so tall that when he is on his knees, he reaches all the way to heaven. His shoulders must be broad enough to bear the burden of a family. His lips must be strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no, and tender enough to kiss. He must be big enough to be gentle and great enough to be thoughtful. His arms must be strong enough to carry a child." (Ruth Graham). I love his patience, with me, and our kids. Its not one of my outstanding qualities, so the contrast is evident. I want to do everything "this instant", and he is willing to take the long way around, when needed. I like that. I wish I could do that. I'm so thankful that he is long suffering in his love for me. I'm so glad that he always seems to assume the best in me

DAY 4 - 

Love Your Spouse Challenge - Day 4. This is a picture from where we met. We worked together, and were not particularly good friends, but friendly co-workers. Then, we got in trouble for things you only ever get in trouble for at very strict places (accused relationship after going to church with another mutual friend). It all was very innocent, but the accusation was very off-putting to me, so that was the end of that. I don't think I spoke a single word to him, let alone entered a room he was in for a solid 18 months. Since there had been "nothing going on", I didn't want it to appear as though we'd somehow just escaped trouble, and I had plenty of friends. He didn't need to be one of them. And he wasn't. So all of this was our strange beginning. And it's not particularly "loving" haha. But what was displayed in all of these shenanigans was character. Not so much mine, but his. Well, sure enough, my character *was* revealed, and it wasn't much to look at. Unless you somehow place high value on grudge holding, and people avoiding (to make myself appear "better"), but I really haven't found a lot of people who like those things;-) But one of the things that comes to mind when I think of Brian in those days is "consistent". He has never pretended to be anything other than what he is. Don't get me wrong, that meant *plenty* of trouble for him, because conservative Christian places 'have a rule for that' to be sure. But he didn't govern his behaviour based on the crazy flavour of the day. He was solid in what he believed, and he's exactly the same now as he was then, outside of the normal growth and change in life. I have always appreciated this consistency in character, and it's one of the things I will always love about him


Love Your Spouse Challenge - Day 5. I was asked after yesterdays post to share how we got together in the end. Well, that's a long story, and I'm only half of it, but I'll try to do justice to his side of the tale. The backstory is that we were introduced in Indianapolis by a mutual friend, Matt Coleman in 1998. I don't remember this encounter at all, haha. If I think about it really hard, I can picture it all, based on his descriptions and details, but yeah, no real memory of this. So in 1999 Brian had the chance to come work at the same place I worked, and he didn't base his decision to go solely on the fact that I was there - but it was a factor;-) So I met Brian (the one I remember), in Chicago in 1999. First impression on my end was not winning. It was obvious right from the start that this guy would say *anything* he wanted to, regardless of situation or location. People like this were trouble in a conservative Christian situation, and my friend Audra marked him off the bat as "trouble". In his opinion, I ignored him, simply because he worked in the warehouse and I didn't...because I was a snob. In my opinion, I was just behaving myself. Befriending random people (opposite gender) was frowned upon. And the fact that we didn't work together meant that I'd have to go out of my way to be nice to him, and I had zero reason to do that. Snob - or just trying to be good. Potato, potatoe. He came to work in my department, and we became friends. Not great friends, but friends enough. After the situation with us getting in trouble I was QUITE sure this guy was a NO on every level. Although he was left with the opposite impression, that I was a YES. So while I set about to make his general existence fairly uncomfortable, he set about to try to be friends. I refused to speak to him. So he figured out a way to put himself in a position where I *had* to speak to him for work issues. I was organizing a homeschool conference. He figured out a way to get himself on the travel team that came to my conferences etc. Small (and annoying to me) insertions into my life where I really had no choice but to be at least cordial:-) With enough time and space between me and HQ in Chicago (I was now working from Canadian location), and with enough of his general prying (thinking up any excuse to talk to me), I started to see that my reactions were at least slightly overdramatic, and I started to feel badly (I was basically borderline or not borderline rude to him on multiple occasions - and in public. He'd enter the lunch room, I'd glare and exit - this kind of thing, so immature). Anyway, I started to feel bad about it, and winter of '00 I apologized to him for being overly dramatic about the situation. It was a fairly lame, and not very thorough apology, but he was like "hey, no problem! actually a bunch of us (from HQ) are going skiing this weekend in NY, want to come?" I was like...UUUUUUHHHH, again rude? Lol. I said "I have to ask my parents" because I was quite sure they'd say no. But they said yes. So I went. It was fine. This picture is from that ski trip. After that, we became friends for real. But just over AIM or email basically. There was another ski trip the next winter. And we were engaged the winter after that! This guy definitely has a vision for his long-range goals! The whole "story of us" is basically defined by his patience and long suffering.This guy can put up with a lot, and is quick to forgive. I'm so grateful he's mine!

DAY 7 - 

Love Your Spouse Challenge – Day 7. Well here we are at the end of the challenge. It's been a fun exercise in "speaking love" and it's always so nice to reflect on old pictures and memories. At the end of the day, I am grateful that God gave me to this man, knowing all my flaws, and knowing all of his. Does he always “love me as Christ loves the church”? No. Does he always anticipate every need, and emotion and respond in the way I desire? No. Do I honour him in my heart all the time, and choose to believe the best of him? No. Am I a proper helpmeet, setting aside selfish desires and making a priority the things I know he values/wants as he leads our family? No. I know this is sounding like a bit of a bummer...BUT. God brought us together. He sustains us. Life is not perfect, and of course we will never be perfect husbands or wives. But life together is great fun. I'm better for the time we've spent together, and that makes me happy. I will always be grateful he chose to love me.
“Now make such assignments to them on the scroll of Thy will as will bless them and develop their characters as they walk together. Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them human, enough failure to keep their hands clenched tightly in Thine and enough of success to make them sure they walk with God. May they never take each others love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, 'out of all this world, you have chosen me'. When life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now, still hand in hand, still thanking God for each other.”