Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting Festive {Part two}

I am loving how our Christmas decorations came together in this house.  It is always hard to take what you have for one house and make it work in a new one.  I am happy to say that I love how it works.

Enjoy Part two:




I interrupt this tour to say: isn’t my new addition in the corner just so swanky?  I love these shutters.  I found them in our attic, and gave them a good dusting off.  I am going to use them to hold all the Christmas cards we receive this year.  I found this idea here.








…more to come.

If you missed Part one, you missed my favorite part of our house so keep on scrolling back; you won’t want to miss it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting Festive {Part One}

I love decorating for Christmas.

I realized just how much when I carried 8 Christmas bins down from the attic full of Holiday d├ęcor.

I am going to split this up in to a few posts.

Enjoy checking out our home for the Holidays…

















Thanks for being a part of our Holidays.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

J & A and Co.

Don’t forget to check back in for Part Two.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


We had a beautiful weekend; full of Thanks.

I started off Thanksgiving morning thinking about how thankful I am for energy and the ability to get up and make a nice meal.


I used some of that energy to decorate the Thanksgiving tables the night before the big meal.


I set up a big long table for the kids, and used our dining room table for the adults.


I am also thankful for a dining room table.  This dining room table has always served as a reminder to me of God’s love.

While in the middle of medical school, we were extremely poor; but had outgrown our small newlywed table.  I often prayed for things we needed, and asked Heavenly Father if he could help me find a table that would work for our family that was reasonably priced.


That very night while looking on Craig’s list; I found this table.  It came with the bench and two chairs for $100.  I called the lady and snatched it right up. 

God knew that our small family of four would grow, and this table would become the center of our home.


I am thankful to have shared a meal at this table with the Woodruff family.


They have five beautiful children, who get along so well with our kids.

It is so nice to have friends to share holidays with.

I am thankful that we have been blessed with friends we call family. 

Over the last nine years there have been many friends we have shared meals with around this table.  Many friends we have called family.


I am thankful for this delicious dessert that Amber made.  I’ll have to take a couple extra Zumba classes this week because of it.  It was sooo good.

I am thankful for dad’s who engage with their kids.


It was so fun watching them play football with the kiddos.

Jonathan is a great dad.

I am thankful for healthy children who can run and play.


Finally, I am thankful for the Holidays.

I am thankful for a time to share traditions with my family.


I am thankful for kids who get excited about the little things we do around here.  I know those are the things that will keep our family strong.


I am grateful I get to share my testimony with my kids about the true meaning of Christmas.

I am thankful for a Savior, and the sacrifices he has made in my behalf.


I hope your Thanksgiving was full of “Thanksgiving.”

Stay tuned for our house decorated for the Holidays.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Food is always on my mind. 

Yours too? I am so glad to hear it.

I always worry about what I feed my family.

I also know how important it is to sit around the table with my family.

I try so hard to eat and feed my family healthy foods, but lets just admit it right now.  They would rather eat chicken nuggets and frozen waffles.

and sometimes… I just don’t feel like cooking.

I have talked about this very subject a lot on this blog. 

I think because it has always been so important to me.

As I surf the internet and read about all the raw and whole foods we should be eating, I always leave having mom guilt. I always think two things:

1.  That is really neat that people can eat like that.

2.  I could never do it, and I don’t know if I want to do it.

I don’t know if I necessarily believe in all of it.

I think you have to believe in something to make it work.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in making good choices for my kids.  I just don’t know if completely whole or organic is the right choice for my family.

I think a balance is what my family needs.  I don’t want my kids or myself rather to explode because we never eat anything fun.

Then begins this whole process of talking to myself.

”How can I make my kids eat better?”

“How can I make better choices for my family and myself without taking away the fun of eating and cooking?”

“How do I find the right balance?”

While having one of these thought provoking conversations with myself, two things again came to my mind.

1. everything in moderation

2. I should prepare food the way my mother did

So if you are one of those mothers who has mom guilt because you don’t prepare and eat everything that is whole or you buy things that might say high fructose corn syrup on the label then this post just might help you.  You just might find a way to get rid of the mom guilt and learn to keep it simple. 

Going completely the opposite way and eating completely whole is hard for me because I have never eaten that way.  Then I had my ah-ha moment.  That moment that showed me that I didn’t have to be extreme in either way.  I didn’t have to serve my children packaged foods all the time, but I also didn’t have to cut them out completely. Let’s face it, we are busy and some times we need to rely on convenience foods. 

This is when the mom guilt went away, and the joy of cooking and serving my family came back.

This is my ah-ha moment:

When I asked myself(yes, I talk to myself a lot) “Andrea, how bad was the obesity epidemic when you were kid?” 

I knew that the answer to this was the answer I had been looking for.

When I was a kid, I went to school with less then 5 or so people that were overweight. 

Now, my kids go to school with a much higher number.  That means it is my generation that is dropping the ball.

What can we do differently?

It’s time to go old school.

I started thinking about how my mother prepared food, and I knew this was the way to get our family on track with a healthy food plan.

I believe sharing food with our family is less about what we eat, and more that we are actually sitting around the table with a home-cooked meal.  If we do this more often then we sit at a table at McDonalds or at line in the drive-through then I think we just might be able to take back control.

My mother prepared everything we ate.  She couldn’t afford to buy packaged meals or frozen food.  She cooked every meal; and she didn’t buy whole, raw or organic. She bought what she needed to put together a meal; and because of this I could feel her love through those home-cooked  meals.

So busy moms.  This is where your crock-pot comes in to play, or simple 30 minute meals.  We can make simple home-cooked meals for our family.  We should be making more home-cooked meals for our family. 

You can find some of my tips for how I prepare meals here in this four part series.

(Note about those posts: I wrote them 2 years ago.  Some of my strategies have changed, but the meat of it is what works for me.  In fact as I reread it, I was reminded of some things I have let go; and need to incorporate again.  I also mentioned that I have lists that I can email you.  Please don’t ask me for these right now.  I am re-working them a bit, and will share them in a few weeks.)

Our mothers also spent hours in the kitchen, but a home-cooked meal can be something as simple as tacos made in 10 minutes.  It just takes a little planning and thinking ahead.

I love that there our people out there who can eat raw, and make their own crackers; but I just can’t. I also believe that for the majority of us who try to do this as a weight loss solution will fail.  I think we need to stick to the basics and the basics being the food guide pyramid; and doing what our mothers did.

I can follow my mother’s example. 

I can make my own pancakes and waffles.  Instead of buying the frozen and packaged kind. (like I have for the last 3 years.  I started buying them when I had Tess and had a hard time making breakfast because I was nursing)

So, How can I squeeze this in to my busy life now?


I make them at night.  We have them for dinner.  I make a lot and freeze the extra for breakfast.


My pancakes are made with whole wheat flour, oats, and ingredients that I choose.


My mom never bought store bought pancakes.


In fact, there was no such thing.

My mom also made all our syrup.


I started doing just that.

Did you know that maple syrup is soooo easy?

Buy yourself a box of maple flavoring and follow the instructions on the box.  It only takes about five minutes.  I REDUCE THE SUGAR THAT IT CALLS FOR.


I have also enjoyed making homemade blueberry syrup, strawberry and peach.  Each with half the sugar of store bought.


Now my kids enjoy one of their favorite meals; breakfast.  I get to serve it to them without the mom guilt.

My mother also made our own Ranch dressing.  Of course, she bought the ranch packet and followed the instructions.  SO EASY.


When you make what you can, you limit the amount of preservatives that you take in.

I have found that to save on calories, I can use Greek yogurt instead of mayo in my dressing.  It tastes just as good.

Now I have saved myself on the preservatives and the calories.


What else did my mom always make and never buy?


bread, cookies, cakes, and treats.

When we make all of these for our selves, we can use ingredients of our choosing. 

We also have less of it around because we don’t make it as often as we buy it.

I am so thankful for this little ah-ha moment. 

Our parents didn’t have the means to buy every little thing that they ate.  They had to save money and prepare our food from scratch.

I know life is busy, but I also know that for the sake of our health there are some things that are worth taking the time to make.

Yes, we still eat chicken nuggets;  something I was never fed as a child. 

But, I try to make my own nuggets when I can. Of course there are some nights when driving through McDonalds for a 20 piece nugget is what we have time for.  I feel ok about that because I know that rest of the week, I am trying hard to feed my family the best.

Some other ways to help the health of your family:

buy local produce from local farmers

buy local milk from local farmers who have hormone free cows


buy your eggs fresh from a local farmer

I feel so blessed to have resources here in PA to do all of these things.

I know there are dairies out there that deliver milk to your home. 

It may cost a little bit more money, but the money you save on buying less packaged foods at the stores will cover the added expense.

Ok, mom’s of my generation.  Let’s stop dropping the ball.  Let’s realize that we can cook for our children without going to either extreme.

We don’t have have to be the packaged mom’s and we don’t have to be raw whole or organic mother’s either.  My mother wasn’t, and I turned out great.

I do give props to the mother’s who can do this and choose too; but here is a solution for those of us who can’t.  Those of us who need to get rid of our mom guilt.

Sometimes we just need to be down-home, cooking over the stove(or in the crockpot), gather round the table sort of mothers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I hope y’all are having a beautiful day spent with loved ones and family members.  I am slaving away in the kitchen today.  Actually, I enjoy every minute of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It doesn’t actually feel like slaving at all.  It feels more like service.  A wonderful service that I am doing with and for my family.  My sweet husband is in the kitchen with me slaving right along side me.  This.  is one of my favorite parts of this holiday. 

When I was first married, I never dreamed that I would cook our whole Thanksgiving dinner for the first time at the age of 26.  I believed that I would bring side dishes to my parents and grow old doing that.  Then we moved out of the country.  I learned quickly how to throw it all together, when I started making Thanksgiving dinner for 500 medical students and staff with the help of 10 other wives.

Needless to say; I am a pro at Thanksgiving dinner.  One of the perks of living away from your family; you learn to cook a turkey at a really young age.

So… today I cook and prepare to share dinner with another sweet family from our church.  We have nine kids between us so it will be a full house.  A full house and a heartful of Thanksgiving.

What I am thankful for…


Good, obedient, beautiful children


A husband who loves me


A job that provides for us and our children


Warm clothes, many, and thrifty finds that help keep our family beautifully clothed.  I know that this has been a huge blessing from Heavenly Father as we have made our way through medical school and what has followed.


A warm peaceful home to raise our children in


A place to carry on traditions, laughter and love


A loving extended family that has supported us throughout our journeys


My faith in an amazing church that teaches me gospel truths


…and the many friends along the way that have helped our children and us grow in to the people we are


Now go enjoy your beautiful day as you celebrate your many Thanksgivings.

Pictures taken at our recent family photo shoot by Andrea Swenson Photography and Krysta Moes Photography


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