Author: Amanda Cunningham (page 2 of 66)

These Are a Few…

One of my absolute favorite authors, Chautona Havig, blogged yesterday morning about a writing challenge that she was joining in on and I decided to check it out.    I thought it was a really neat idea and thought I’d try and use it.  One of my goals this year is to try and blog at least once a week.  So, if I need inspiration I can use one of the prompts off the 52-week writing challenge from the MFRW blog.  I will say, this blog is mainly for authors (and I don’t really consider myself one since the only thing I’ve currently “authored” is this blog.  However, I love to write.  So while I did not actually sign up for this challenge over on the website (*I cannot fully endorse everything on it but want to give credit where credit is due for these blog prompts) I do plan on using some of the prompts to fill in when I need some inspiration.  Not because I want to blog just for the sake of blogging, but because I do appreciate all the readers who keep coming back to my blog looking for new content and I want to give that to them.  I don’t plan on needing to use one every week (in fact, I already have some book reviews planned) but I’m excited for the help in brainstorming.

This last week’s prompt was “A Few of My Favorite Things”

This phrase always makes me think of Julie Andrews singing while holding on to the ugliest set of curtains ever in The Sound of Music.  Which seriously, is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I love movies based on fact.  I just watched one called Sully about the pilot that landed the plane on the Hudson River.  So riveting.  Very dramatic!   Favorite Things - Family

My family is also one of my favorite “things” (hmm, that sounds wrong, people aren’t things…oh well, the idea is there).  I have a new family photo hanging around somewhere, on someone else’s phone, and I need to get that.  I will definitely share it when I do.  We adore the newest addition to our family.  Little Guy has this cute little onesie that says “Mommy’s Favorite”.  I haven’t told the other two Littles what it says, hehe.

Books are my favorite things.  I don’t have a favorite.  I love all books.  I could collect books.  I’ve decided to get rid of books this year because a book collection can outgrow your house, and that is never a good thing.  But I really like books.  School books, novels, Bible-based, etc…  A Kindle just doesn’t do a real book justice.  Sadly, all of Chautona Havig’s books that I own are on Kindle.  Although, maybe that’s a good thing, since I own most of them (Kindle books take up no space – except on my Kindle).

Tea.  You can’t read a good book without a good cup of tea.  I have to admit though, that my favorite kind of tea is the kind already in bags.  Although I love the idea of loose tea, it just annoys me.  Just sayin’ – or maybe I’m just lazy…sigh.

Cozy slippers/socks.  My feet are always cold.  We’re talking, middle of summer, hottest day of the year, my feet will be cold at some point during the day.  Yes, I know it’s related to low iron (which I do have an issue with ).   So fuzzy socks are my best friend.  And an amazing pair of slippers ranks right up there with them.  But I really do love the socks.  It’s the one thing on my Christmas wish list every year.

Organiztion.  My house is not the most organized, so those of you who have seen my house may be wondering if I’ve gone a little crazy.  But I seriously do love organization.  If I could have the shelving and filing cabinets to do everything I’d love to do, my house would be spotless.  But I don’t.  And so stuff sits around because it has nowhere to go…and it drives me crazy!!!  I move things around and try to reorganize about once a month.  I just moved the garbage can in the kitchen to the opposite side of the island because my son’s desk fit better where the garbage was sitting than it did in its old spot near the front door.  But now we’re all slightly irritated trying to throw garbage in my son’s desk, hah (but it does really work better there – it’s staying! We’ll get used to it eventually).

These are just a few of my favorite things.  What are some of your favorite things?   Head on over to my Facebook page and leave me a comment.  I love to hear from you all!

Frockbox Reveal!

I have been jealously watching some of the American bloggers I follow talk about Stitch Fix for a few years now and wishing we had something similar in Canada.  I hate clothes shopping.  So much so, that my idea of going shopping is heading to Value Village and buying whatever I can find that actually fits me.  Even that is a frustrating thing.  My husband even comments on how I can take 20 items into the changing room and come out with one that I “like”.  I cannot even fathom going into a mall and spending hours there going into 10 different stores and trying on one or two items just to come home with nothing.  That’s my reality.

The added problem with Value Village clothing is that they are already worn.  So I might get home and realize that, ugh, there’s a tear on the item somewhere, or a stain.  And the items don’t last very long because they’re already showing signs of wear.  I knew this wasn’t a good option to continue on with if I was going to have a closet of clothes that I liked, that fit, and that were good quality (that would last longer than one season).

After I had the baby in November, I went back through my clothes and started to get rid of everything that I didn’t love.  I had t-shirts that I had remade from my husband’s, I had homemade skirts not hemmed, dresses that ended at a weird place, etc.  I just needed to make over my closet and I decided, having a baby, was a good time to do that!  Why go back to all those things I didn’t like?

One day I was on the computer and checking out subscription boxes.  A couple friends of mine had dived into the world of them and I was intrigued and curious as to whether it would be beneficial (and budget-friendly) to treat myself every once in a while to something like that.  When what to my wondering eye did appear!  FrockBox!

I spent an hour or so (I’ll admit to the time-waster, but a baby that takes an hour to drink a bottle kind of allows for that) reading reviews on this new, monthly, clothing subscription.  To be honest, the reviews weren’t all that great.  BUT, as far as I can tell, the company only started in September, so it’s fairly new.  And some of the reviews kind of made me laugh, because, someone who has never met you can’t get your box of clothes right every time!   And the whole point of being able to try on clothes and send them back is because there are going to be things that don’t fit, etc.  That’s the beauty of the box.

What FrockBox Is:

FrockBox is a monthly clothing subscription company.  They have 3 separate options for boxes.  You can do a Favorite 5, a whole Outfit, or Jewelry.

Favorite 5:  With this option, you fill out a style profile, pay a $25 styling fee, and they send you 5 items of clothing.   You have 3-5 days to try them on, decide what you like/don’t like, and mail back what you don’t want.  If you don’t get them back in the mail by the date specified you are billed for all the items.  If you keep one item, the styling fee is deducted from the cost of it.  Most of the items cost between $35 and $70  (normal price if you hit the mall).  If you keep all 5 items you get an added discount.   In your style profile you can ask for certain items of clothing to be left out of your box.  So if you don’t want pants or jackets or jewelry – you check those off.  Then there’s a box where you can write a note to your stylist.  I wrote that I liked dresses to be knee-length, shirts to be somewhat high on the neckline, and no tight clothing.   I actually think they did pretty good with what they sent.

Outfit:  With this option, you pay a set fee and they send you 3 items (1-2 pieces of clothing that will comprise an outfit and an accessory unless you decline the jewelry).

Jewelry:  With this, you will also pay a set fee and receive one accessory each month.

I chose to try out the FrockBox Favorites.  I figured if I didn’t like anything I was only out $25 (kind of a birthday gift to myself).

frockbox-collage

Here are the five pieces I received.

  1. Swing Skirt
  2. Green blouse
  3. Brown draped cardi
  4. Colour-block dress
  5. 3/4 Sleeve dress

The only one that I wasn’t sure about upon first look was the skirt – but it ended up being one of the pieces I kept.   It has a lot of stretch in it, so even though the waist looks small on it, amazingly it fit.

The colour-block dress was the second one I wasn’t sure about, and I did send that back.  It was very tight and very short.  I could have worn it with jeans if it had fit better, but, boutique sizing is usually smaller and I didn’t really think about that when I plugged in my sizing on the website.

The 3/4 sleeve dress was so pretty but the waist was not a true empire waist (one of the things I had asked for) and it cut me in the wrong place.  It was also barely knee length and I don’t really go shorter so it might have been awkward – it went back.

The green blouse was pretty as well, but my mom belly needs some time to tighten up, so it went back.  It also had a really weird, long back to it.  I suppose it could have worked as a tunic.  I would have kept it if it had fit, but I thought I would note that awkward part of it.

The brown, draped cardigan was a piece I had been looking for, and I was ecstatic to get it.  Brown is my colour (I do really well with the earth tones) and I love how the draped cardigans sit.  I think they are very flattering.   I definitely kept that piece.

Overall, my experience with Frock Box was very positive and I’m looking forward to trying it again.  I won’t do it every month (as that’s a lot of money) but I think it will help me to fill my closet with pieces that are good quality and that fit and look nice – as I won’t spend money on pieces that don’t.

Frock Box has a lot of positives going for it.  I really enjoy not having to spend time out of my day going shopping for clothes (not my favorite past time – although I know a lot of women enjoy that).  I don’t have time to spend out, especially with a new baby.  If I don’t like something I can send a note back to my stylist telling her my reasons for sending an item back.  That way she can choose something more to my liking next time.   ALSO, I plan on emailing her a link to my pinterest clothing board (another option they allow), so she can see the kinds of outfits I like and what I would wear.  I’m hoping this company continues to grow (like it’s US counterpart).  If enough women start to use it it could potentially become a lasting company.

I would definitely recommend Frock Box.  If you do try it, leave a comment and let me know how your experience was.

*Disclaimer:  I was not compensated for this review – I paid for the subscription box on my own.  All opinions regarding my experience and this company are completely my own.

Christmastime at the Cunninghams

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.  I can’t say it’s my absolute favorite but it’s close.  I love the decorations, the music, the visits with people you only see once a year, all of it.   I’m not as much into the presents (or maybe it’s the spending money thing).  But there’s just something so exciting about the advent of Christ.  It excites me.

Every year I work pretty hard at decorating my house.  I love having greenery and lights everywhere!   I don’t really consider it Christmas decorating, but more of “winter” decorating.  If I can use fake greenery it stays up till at least the end of January.  But, like I said, I don’t like spending money so when the fake greenery gets used in other areas, I have to get creative.

Some people would say creativity is my middle name, but I wouldn’t quite go that far.  I think Pinterest is, haha.  Last year, I had a number of dying fir trees in my back yard, so I stripped them of a few branches and made a garland for the deck outside, and pots of greenery for our church and our porch and entryway.

This year I didn’t have a fir tree around to strip so I was a little discouraged in that area.  Plus, I just had a baby (I don’t think I made an official blog announcement about that – I’ll share some pictures in another post), so I wasn’t up to braving the crowds to go looking for cheap fake stuff.   However, while leaving Walmart one day, I noticed a bin outside that had bunches of branches in it for $4.  I was so excited, but I was in the car already, so I thought I’d go back another day and get some.  By the time I made it back to Walmart a couple of weeks had passed and I was sure that bin would be empty.    What a blessing from the Lord to find enough branches in the bottom of a bin labeled “Clearance” to make the pots for church that I had been working on.  And they were $1 a bunch!  So I had 4 pots made for $3!!!   I wish I had pictures to share with you, but I keep forgetting to take some.  Maybe if I get pictures at some point I’ll post them on the Facebook page.    I added some decorations from Walmart and the Dollar Store and each pot cost me less than $10 to make but would be over $25 (at least) in the stores.  img_0233

But I was still a img_0230little discouraged that my house had no fresh greenery in it, until we got our Christmas tree.  This is the first year we’ve had a real tree since we’ve been married.  We’ve always lived in apartments or rentals and weren’t allowed to have real trees.  Don’t get me wrong, artificial trees have their place (especially since their trunk is perfectly straight and takes zero effort to get straight up and down in its stand) but I love having a real tree in my house and the scent of the pine every time I walk past just makes me happy.   We had to trim quite a bit, actually, off the bottom of the trunk and I was left with a number of beautiful branches!  Those branches are now sitting on my piano, in a container by my couch, and in mason jars for the table.  It smells amazing in here.  So for $30, I got the tree and all the trimmings for my house too!!!   I really feel like the Lord blessed me this year.

I did purchase a few decorations from the Dollar Store and Walmart – spending less than $50 on everything (keeping in mind these are things that I can store and reuse next year – I hate spending money).  I got two wreaths from Walmart for $3 each and put them in kitchen window, adding some Dollar Store icicles (part of a package and the other part of the package was used on the tree).  I used ribbon that I had in storage from previous years to add some bows, etc.  I got two tiny wreaths from the Dollar Store that went in the opposite window over the sink.  When Canadian Tire had their Christmas ornaments on sale, I RAN there (believe me, I wasn’t going to miss out) and got a 40 pack of bulbs for $10.  I didn’t have any for the tree so I knew I needed them, but I was able to use the smallest size to hang in the living room window (pinterest there), two bigger sizes for the tree itself, and the biggest size I glued onto sticks and poked into my Christmas pots at the church and at home.  And all of them will be able to be re-used next year!!!

 

For the tree, I have a lot of homemade ornaments and they’re my favorite.  My husband’s aunt gave us two snowmen for our wedding (she’s a crafter and does some pretty awesome stuff).  Every year they find a home somewhere else in my decorations but this year they made it onto the tree!  I have my homemade garland (that fits a whole lot better on my artificial tree, haha – I may need to get some more burlap next year and make it bigger), and we added salt clay ornaments this year that the Littles made for an activity in Little Man’s school work.  I also made a tree skirt out of some Christmas material and some felt (I gave you a sneak peak last week on Facebook).   I hot glued the felt in a ruffle around the edge, but honestly, it would have been a lot faster to sew it, hah.

christmas-tree-collage

My house is so Christmassy and it took very little effort or money.

I do have to add that outside I put my fake greenery on the deck and added a beautiful nativity sign that I got from a friend who creates them.  You should check out Spanish Crea8ions on Facebook and see all the beautiful work she does.  I’m hoping to add a peacock canvas to my living room wall sometime in the future.

Every year I do my best to create Christmas at the Cunninghams with little effort and money spent.  I don’t think the holidays should be about how much money we spend but about remembering why we are celebrating.  I am beyond excited to be having church on Christmas day this year!  I figure that’s what Christmas is all about and I want my kids to grow up knowing that.  It’s not about the presents under the tree but the Person the tree is pointing to.

I plan on writing another post between Christmas and New Years just to update everyone on what has happened in the last two months in our little house – but I wanted to say Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Do you have any other ways of bringing cheer to your house in the winter months without shelling out a ton of money?  I’d love to hear them!  And I hope to be chatting more with you all in the New Year.

 

 

One Pan Fall Casserole

I rarely share recipes on my blog, because, quite frankly, I hate to cook.  Like seriously hate to cook.  I have a couple friends that I joke around with sometimes about having our own little commune.   I would teach everybody’s children, one mom would do all the cooking, and the other would do all the cleaning, hah.  Seriously, that sounds more amazing to me than anything.

HOWEVER

Cooking is a necessity when you’re a wife/mom and sometimes you hit the jackpot.   Now, one friend who tasted this recipe ended up adding some of her own dressing to it to spice it up – but I liked it totally as is.   I had seen a similar recipe on Pinterest but since I rarely follow a recipe to a T (read: never have the same ingredients so I substitute what I think will work) this really became my own recipe.  I drive people crazy when I tell them “I found this amazing recipe but I didn’t have this so I used this, and I didn’t have this, so I used this,…” You get the idea.  And I rarely have all the ingredients for something because I’m a terrible cook and never buy things that cooks/chefs would have normally have on hand.

I love the idea of one pan for making a meal (although, I have to admit, I boiled my chicken first, so that would make two pans/pots) as I also hate doing dishes, hah.  I found aluminum throw-away pans at Costco for super cheap (cheaper than the dollar store) and they’re great for making meals in, especially if you double the recipe and put half in the freezer.    And this can be a super cheap recipe if you use vegetables that are on sale (or on the clearance rack at your grocery store).

I made one for our meal and one for the freezer the night I made this.  And it made enough for about 6 servings (for those with somewhat large families).   My kids eat very little at supper but my husband took a good portion for his lunch and I shared another container with a friend and her husband for lunch…so it stretched pretty far.

One Pan Fall Casserole

Ingredients:

4-6 Chicken breasts (thawed; or boiled if frozen)

1-2 large sweet potatoes OR 4-6 medium white potatoes – the more potatoes you add the larger the cassarole will be

2 small peppers (or 1 large)

2 carrots, chopped in circles

1 onion

1/2 squash (I actually used 1/4 of a squash in each pan I made as I only had half a squash in my fridge – it was plenty)

3 small apples (or as much as you want for added sweetness)

!/2 cup of cranberries (option for added sweetness)

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup oil

Apple cider vinegar

Uncooked bacon

 

Directions:

  1. Boil chicken in water with 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar (gives the chicken a nice flavour) for about 10 minutes.   Combine 2 TBSP of oil with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar, the Italian seasoning, and garlic.  Place chicken in a plastic bag and pour oil mixture over chicken, rubbing it in.   Let sit while you do the rest.
  2. Chop veggies and place in a pan.   I have written in the vegetables that I used because those are what I had in my fridge, but you could sub in any veggies that are in season in your area (ie, green beans, peas, corn, brussel sprouts, etc).    Add the apples, diced, with skin on (or you can choose to peel but it’s a little more work and who needs that?)
  3. Pour remaining oil over vegetables and stir to coat (this is so the veggies don’t stick and burn while they are roasting).
  4. Place chicken breasts on top of vegetables (alternatively, you could cut the chicken into cubes and mix right into the casserole if you only have so much chicken to work with – this can make it stretch farther).
  5. Sprinkle with uncooked, chopped bacon
  6. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes (or until vegetables/potatoes are soft when poked with a fork).

 

If you didn’t want to make a huge pan of this, I could also see it over rice – also making it stretch farther.  Or if you made a big pan, you could serve up to 10 people with this casserole by putting rice under it.   I’m all about stretching a meal.   My rule of thumb is to keep my meat servings to about $5 per meal, which I know doesn’t sound like much.  Sometimes it’s more but not very often.  When I make a roast (costs about $10-$13 at the local meat store we buy from) we always have some for lunches the next day.  I serve a family of 4 (two of whom are children who don’t eat much).   When the kids are older and eating more I will, obviously, have to adjust this number accordingly.

I did make this in two pans and put one in my freezer.  I kept the chicken off and will do that part of it when I pull the pan out of the freezer.  I’m a freak about meat and food poisoning so I didn’t like the idea of half cooking the chicken and then re-freezing (which is a huge no-no in my house).   I suppose you could cook this in its entirety and then freeze but, since I made this on a church night, I didn’t have time to cook the second one before we had to leave.

The only thing I regret is not taking a picture.  So I’ll update this post next time I make it and post a picture of the meal.  Or you can do a search for similar meals on google and see what they “look” like.

My husband loved this meal and even my kids gave it a thumbs up (which is huge in my house).   If you try it, let me know what you think, or if you would tweak anything. =)

 

Life Update

I’m sure you all have noticed that the blog has been super quiet for the last couple of months.  Life has a way of making you evaluate priorities, and, unfortunately, the blog wasn’t top of the list.    So I thought I would take a minute and just share with you all what has been going on in the Cunningham family.

In August, we were able to take a 2 week trip to Ontario to visit family.   It was an incredibly long drive for this 7 months pregnant lady.  I think I was more ready to be out of the car than our active 4 year old (almost 5 at the time) Little Man.  The trip wasn’t exactly what we had thought it would be, but the Lord gave us some blessings in the midst of it all.   We celebrated Little Miss’s 3rd birthday while there.  She is such a little lady and loves to boss all the older children around.  Our little princess is going to be very happy when she realizes that her place in this family is extremely secure with another boy coming along.  Hah.    She loves frilly, sparkly dresses, big bows in her hair, and pretty shoes on her feet (she’ll wear her Sunday shoes to play outside every day if I let her).

The kids thoroughly enjoyed visiting one of mommy’s friends who had 3 children around their ages.  It was a blessing for us as we were able to enjoy an evening out alone while this couple watched the two Littles of them for us.  We had an amazing time with these sweet friends, and we were treated to an apartment all to ourselves with a fridge filled with food.   They live out in the country so we got to see some amazing sunsets and sunrises, the kids were able to go searching for eggs from the chickens, and we learned a few things about bagging beets!

The kids had a fun time at the Toronto Zoo and Niagara Falls (our two big trips while there).   They got to know one of their cousins a bit better, and were able to put faces to aunts and uncles that previously were just names to them.  Little Man learned how to swim a bit (our main stay was at a place on Georgian Bay – perfect for swimming!).   And they enjoyed time out in a paddle boat with Daddy.

Although I struggled with being tired while there (what pregnant person wouldn’t after driving for 3 days), we found out that my iron was low when we returned home, and I wished I had known that so I could have enjoyed the trip a bit more.

After our return I was thrown into doctor’s appointments and spent the better part of a month going here, there, and everywhere it seemed.  Lots of little things kept coming up with the pregnancy and we had to deal with each as it came.   We praise the Lord that everything evened out, most of it probably being due to my body just being stressed after our trip, but it made for a very busy month between the last of August and beginning of September.

Little Man started school this year.   As soon as we got back from our trip we dived right in to Kindergarten.  Our hope was to get ahead so that when Baby comes we can take some time off and not lose too much time.  He loves it so far and is enjoying recognizing words and actually reading simple stories already!    He also enjoyed a birthday in September and was excited to get his train table put together (you might have seen that on Instagram if you follow Quietworkings) and some new trains to play with on it.

Little Miss is potty training and doing really well with it.  A good friend took her for a few days and helped me out with that, which I am so thankful for.  It will be very helpful when Baby comes not to have 2 in diapers.

We also celebrated my Mother-in-law’s 70th birthday in September.  I’m so thankful for her and her sweet spirit.  She’s had some health problems the last few months but we’re thankful that she was doing a lot better by the time her birthday came around.  It was really neat to have her entire family there as my husband’s brother was home this year for it.  3 siblings plus 2 grandkids there for it was a nice treat (wait, technically 3 grandkids, hehe).

Two weeks ago we decorated our church for Fall (I still have to take pictures).  I had a lot of fun making up Fall planters for the front of the church.  I love Fall and Winter – they are definitely the colours I like for decorating with.  Spring and Summer are cheery but there’s just something about the colours for Fall and Winter.  We also had an evangelist in the end of that week.  Bro. Fielder comes every other year and does a few days of meetings at our church.  We really enjoy his ministry every time he comes.  He is a walking Bible, I tell ya.  He can quote so much of it.  Puts us all to shame really.

I have also been enjoying making soap.  One week I made 5 batches of soap and I have ideas for so many more!  Lack of ingredients has put a curb on that but hopefully we’ll get some more in inthe near future.  I am planning on trying to get out to one or two markets over the Christmas season (call me crazy), and I want to have my soap all ready to go before Baby comes.

Life seems to be settling down a bit now.  I’m enjoying the cooler weather (it definitely makes sleeping a little easier) and it’s easier to keep up with school during these days.  We have just about a month left before Baby comes and I am so looking forward to it.  I’ve been getting clothes ready and setting up the bassinet in our bedroom.   I am thankful that the Lord gave me this pregnancy.  It has been so different from the other two in every way.  I’ve enjoyed having him squirm around (every time I sit down for even a second).  I don’t know if knowing the gender has made it more special as I can picture that little boy in my head (speaking of, I need to come up with a “Little” name for him…ideas?).

I’m hoping to be able to get back in to blogging a bit more but we’ll see how busy life gets once the Baby comes before I commit.   Willow’s story is still being worked on and I may have to continue it over into 2017 so you can get the whole thing.  I’m hoping to get several episodes ahead so that there isn’t such a large span of time between chapters.  We’ll see, I may end up  posting one a week just to finish it up once I’ve got them written.

Two more days till October!   Can I say Happy October yet?  I hope you are all enjoying your Fall.

Until next time….

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