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Happy New Year!

I hope you all had fabulous holidays, that were free from family drama but filled with lots of delicious carbohydrates.
(As the Lord intended it to be.)

If your December was a busy as mine, then I'm guessing you've also been spending the last week trying to do as little as humanly possible in attempts to recover from some Post Holiday Stress Disorder. I swear all I've done this week is eat leftovers, read, watch movies, avoid text messages, and turn oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Actually, that's not true. We all went to the Y as a family on Monday, where I did minimal amounts of weight lifting and went on the elliptical for a bit. But after seriously only 2 minutes on it, my legs felt like they were on fire and I was about to curse out loud and give up, at which time Luke pointed out that I had been running backwards that whole time.
Huh. Maybe that's why my muscles weren't used to doing that.
Apparently I am an elliptical novice, which I did not even know you could be on a practically idiot-proof machine.
Anyway, after that I went home to continue my strict schedule of eating more and doing nothing.

But now it's back to reality and probably time to re-enter the world as a somewhat functioning member of society who does laundry and shops for groceries and texts her friends back.

So while my dishwasher is running (and cleaning dishes from, no joke, 5 DAYS AGO), I thought I'd share a few of my current favorite things:
 (Spoiler Alert: none of them are raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens.
It's way too cold to rain right now, and my slutty cat has had like 8,000 kittens this year and their whiskers no longer excite me.)
(What am I saying? Kittens will always excite me.)

1.) Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle 

I have been a huge fan of Melanie for years, of her Big Mama blog and also her other books, all three of which I absorbed like a sponge. So when her new book came out, I was pumped.
And of course, it was not a let down.
The book is comprised of a series of different essays, with various topics from family relationships to food to cutting your bangs to owning pets to being a writer to loving Jesus to walking with a friend through breast cancer. All threaded together with this theme that this beautiful life we've been given isn't as much about the big moments and accomplishments, which we tend to spend our time waiting and hoping for, but all the small moments and ordinary acts of faithfulness and love and realness.

It is a beautiful book.
It's funny, relatable, and whimsical, while also being deep and heartfelt.
I laughed and cried and put the book down feeling encouraged and inspired to truly enjoy more of the little things and to give God thanks for all of it.

Go get it here and while you're at it, pick up one of my other favorites of hers The Antelope in the Living Room. (A hilarious memoir about marriage that I will never stop recommending to people.)

2.) Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip from Trader Joe's

This isn't a new product or even new to me, but I hadn't bought it in a while until I was at TJ's last week and they were sampling it with their pita chips, when suddenly I experienced a renewed love affair with my once-favorite dip.

Even though I am outspoken about the strong feelings I have about Kale (mainly that it's a filthy liar who has tricked people into thinking that it's not disgusting), I do also believe that the only exception to the Kale Is The Worst Rule is that it is sometimes acceptable when it's been carefully hidden inside of something that's better than it is. (i.e. Zuppa Toscana, smoothies, the garbage, etc.)
And since this dip is flavorful and amazing, and doesn't taste like eating dirt, the kale has obviously been concealed into submission.

Another great thing about this dip, in addition to its deliciousness, is that it's made with less fattening ingredients so that it's only 30 calories per serving. 
Let's take in mind, however, that while they might call two tablespoons a "serving size", SOME OF US might call that "a sample at Costco" and would more likely polish off half the tub in one sitting.
(Totally hypothetical. I definitely have never done that with half a french baguette for breakfast yesterday.)

Bottom line: it's a scrumptious, healthy, and affordable (around $3 a tub) snack or appetizer, that can even be enjoyed in January, when we're all apparently supposed to be on a health and fitness bender. 
Go get yourself some!

3.) Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is an online program that I started with Vienna and Boaz back in December after having it recommended to me by a couple of friends who had used it with their struggling readers with great success. Even though Boaz hasn't struggled and is right where he needs to be, Vienna is such a visual person, who loves art and writing, but couldn't seem to sound out even small words if her CAT or BAT or HAT depended on it. So when reading with her kept making us both want to cry, I was in search of some help. We did the 2-week free trial for both kids and within just a couple of days I was already seeing amazing progress with her. Bravo, Reading Eggs, bravo. 

It's a fun program that the kids really enjoy because most all of the learning is done through a variety of different games, with short books at the end of each level that they can now read because of what they've learned. It's been a huge blessing to me to see the struggles that I saw Vienna have finally click for her, because it was taught in a different (and more visual!) way.

I totally recommend checking it out if your kid is in the 3-8 age range, whether they are struggling or not. They have placement tests at the start of the program, and progress reports emailed to you, which has also been fascinating and helpful to see as a parent.

Check it out here.

4.) The Thin Man Movies

Years ago, when I was in bible college in Northern Ireland and flew home to Colorado for Christmas break, there was a blizzard that kept us shut inside for a few days, and my mom and I spent that time snuggled up on the couch having a Thin Man marathon. 
 I have LOVED them ever since, and happily introduced them to Luke when we were married, so we could continue the tradition of watching them around Christmas and New years.

In these classic comedy-mysteries, the main character is Nick Charles, a charming, martini-sipping former detective who retired and left his playboy ways behind him to marry a gorgeous and equally charming heiress. In every film, the lovable couple find themselves in some sort of proximity to murder and other crime, where Nick is pressured to investigate because of his famous reputation, always leading to a twisty reveal of who the actual culprit is.
In a time of film-making, when comedy was mostly cheesy slapstick and marriages were portrayed as boring and restraining, these movies offer refreshing contrast with a youthful and sassy couple who adore each other and became iconic for their dry and witty banter.

You can fall in love with Nick and Nora yourself by renting all 6 on Amazon or iTunes for $2.99 each.

Alright, well I should probably be cut off from more recommendations, but if I've left you even slightly interested in at least one of these current favorites of mine, that's all I need to find peace and satisfaction in life.

 Ta Ta for now!


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