Nine Tips for How You Can Afford to Travel as a Family

    We have incorporated our children into our travels from the very beginning. When Raeca was not quite a year we started planning our trip to Uganda and never even though of not bringing her, it was just a given. And because we adopted Ephraim from South Africa he was on a plane not long after becoming our son.

    While they have a long way to go before being world travelers they (especially Raeca) have traveled a decent amount, more than a lot of adults I know.


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Watching the monkey grab food out of the bird feeder in South Africa.



    There is something really special about traveling with your kids. Last month was actually our first getaway without the kids and while we had a good time it was definitely different traveling without them and we hope to go to Phoenix again in the near-ish future with them.

    Traveling with kids can open up special opportunities (like the short line in airport security) and often makes locals more friendly – both great bonuses!

    There is also something extraordinary about being able to see a city through the eyes of a child, they will often see things I would have otherwise missed.


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Holding hands on a crazy public bus ride in Mexico.



    I’ve learned something about myself over the last few years: I love visiting new places but I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling to those places. Maybe I’m getting old but I’d rather sleep in my own bed than across four seats in an airport or in a plane with my mouth open and my head bobbing around.

    This realization that I don’t enjoy the actual travel so much has made me realize that in the future I want us to be more intentional with slow travel. Fortunately/unfortunately, slow travel involves staying in one place for longer which can end up eating more budget than doing things quickly.

    While our kids are good travelers, slow travel just makes even more sense when kids are involved. Oh, and if you factor in our food sensitivities, that’s another point in the slow travel column.


    How to afford and budget for family travel - 9 tips for affording family travel


    I am not the most well traveled person, and my bucket list is longer than the list of places I’ve been but I’ve learned a few things over the years, especially on the budget side of things so I thought I would share some of the things that have been working for us.

    Because, the more money you can save 1) the longer you can go or 2) the more places you can go to!

    One of my big dreams has always been to travel Europe, and while I would like to go to every country, that’s not possible right now, especially if we want to travel slowly, so, last year Jared and I both picked a country we wanted to visit and started the savings. These following tips are ones we are applying to this trip, it’s a combination of all we’ve learned over the years.


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Meeting one of the boys we sponsored in Uganda.


    We don’t actually create a separate account but we use a zero based budget (we have used YNAB for years and years), so we’ve set a “Europe” savings and have been funneling money into there as much as possible for the last nine-ish months and will continue to do so until we go.

    Our zero based budget helps keep us (imagine this:) on budget. It also helps our savings to grow quite quickly because we know what our priorities are.



    If you want to have the money to travel one way is to spend less money! Find something that you buy each month and stop buying that for awhile and put that money into your savings instead. See if you can find a few different things like this that can add up to $50-$100+ a month and you will be well on your way. (This is where that budget and designated savings come in play.)


    How to afford and budget for family travel



    I have friends who have taken on a second job to save for a trip, I’m thankful that I can use a fair amount of the money I make from blogging to help us with our travel savings. Earning extra money can help give your savings a significant boost.

    (Curious about how to earn money from blogging? I just started a series on this topic and plan on continuing it over the next few weeks, so stay tuned! You can always sign up to the newsletter to be notified of the series as well.)

    Another way to earn a little extra is through a site like Swagbucks, it is mostly an online rewards program but there are other ways to earn through there as well. You won’t get rich through Swagbucks but it will save you a little money (you can even earn money back from the trips that you book!).

    Yet another way to make a bit of extra income is to sell stuff that you own that you aren’t using, there could be enough stuff in your house for a few nights extra at your destination.


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Watching a man shuck oysters on the beach in Mexico.



    If you want to save money on your flights, accommodation, etc, it’s best if you are flexible either with your dates or the location you are going to. I like to use Google Flights and am constantly looking for good deals (for us and others), I like to either choose dates and see what is cheap during that time or choose a location and see which dates are cheapest for travel.



    Airlines are charging for every little thing these days and your bags are just one of the things. If you travel with just carry-ons you will save yourself money and it honestly makes traveling way easier – no more waiting in line at the baggage carousel! We’ve been burned in the past by luggage the airline lost and never found, ever since then we’ve flown with carry-ons only.


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Chatting with the boys in Uganda.



    You may think we are part hobbits when you see how much we like our snacks (second breakfast and elevenses are a must). Airplane and airport food is notoriously greasy and/or expensive. We always try to pack some of our own snacks (nuts, crackers, granola bars, etc). They keep you from getting too hangry while waiting around in the airport.

    I definitely did not pack enough snacks on our last trip and paid $20 for a tiny pack of pistachios in the airport, they know they can get you when you are weak (literally).



    This isn’t something we used to do but ever since food sensitivities became an issue, cooking our own meals almost became a necessity. We quickly realized how much better we felt cooking our meals and how much healthier we ate. While it doesn’t feel like a “vacation” when we are cooking it is still an experience. Plus, if you go to the local grocery store or market you can check out the different food options they have. As Canadians it can still be weird to go into an American grocery store, you think all the food would be the same but just walk down the chip aisle and you will see how different things are, never mind going into a store or market when on a different continent.


    Downtown Phoenix - where to stay, where to eat and what to do

    Our Stay Alfred in Phoenix (to the left was a full kitchen).



    Not staying in a hotel goes hand-in-hand with cooking your own meals. Have you tried to cook a meal in a hotel before? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. We’ve enjoyed Airbnb (if you use that link to book you’ll get a credit towards a stay!) and Stay Alfred and in the future I would love to try some house sitting.



    Instead of doing all the touristy things in a location, live like a local! Touristy things like zip lines and tours eat up a budget really quickly but wandering around old neighborhoods and browsing used bookstores can actually teach you a lot more about a city and save you money (unless you have a used book buying addiction like I do, in that case you will need to remember #5: carry-on’s only, so you don’t break your back).


    How to afford and budget for family travel

    Exploring a residential neighborhood in California.


    All this writing about travel has made me excited about our upcoming Europe trip (date still TBD), I better get busy finishing up the savings so it can happen!

    If you have a minute I would love for you to leave a comment below and let me know your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to and/or what is on the top of your to-travel bucket list.


    My Word and Goals for 2019

    I have been thinking about my word for 2019 for a few weeks now and ever since writing my post about why and how to choose a word for the year I have been having some great discussions on the topic with friends.

    This is my ninth year choosing a word and as always I’m excited about the word that will be sticking with me for the next twelve months.

    Curious about my previous words? I didn’t write a blog post every year but you can check out my words for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

    The word I chose for 2019 is ADVENTURE.



    While adventure was one of the first words to pop into my mind for this year I struggled with the word because I felt like it sounded so privileged and that is not what I intended. But then I realized that as long as I defined what the word adventure meant for my year I could still use it. I ended up taking the actual definition of adventure and changing it slightly.


    So, what adventure means to me:

    viewing life as an exciting experience


    I thrive on change but am aware that change (at least at the degree that I want it) is not always possible. This year I want to view my life as an adventure, no matter what happens or how little change may actually happen. In reality, a lot of this comes down to changing my attitude.


    adventures are the best way to learn


    One of the reasons I enjoy travelling with my kids so much is because I get to see the world through their eyes, they have such a fresh take on life and have the ability to stop and notice things I would skim over. While having adventure for my word this year I want to make sure I don’t skim over the next 365 days but rather, I want to cherish each one as though it is it’s own adventure.

    God has made this incredibly beautiful and complex world that we live in and I so often forget to stop and savor them (savor was a close second for my word) and that is why I chose adventure as my word this year.

    In addition to picking a word each year I also set a number of goals for myself. I have been thinking a lot about goals lately and thought I would share some of my goals for this year. (Some of because a few of them are personal goals that I would rather not share into cyberspace.)


    A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot

    I love this quote and completely agree with it! (Hence why it’s on my letter board.)


    MY GOALS FOR 2019

    1) Document the everyday with video more – I want to start making a short video compilation at the end of each year of the tidbits of video Jared and I take. He’s way better at remembering to take videos than I am so it’s something I would like to improve this year. You may notice I’m not putting an exact number on this (it’s not a SMART goal) but I feel like I’ll know if I have taken more or not.

    2) Make photo books for 2015-2018 – um, so I’ve slacked with this for the last few years. We love the ones we do have so I need to get my act together and make some for the last four years.

    3) Take a big trip as a family – where this will be I don’t know. I had hoped Italy & France but then we second guessed doing that trip at this time, then we contemplated buying a motorhome and doing some road trips but now we second guessed that idea so I’m not sure where we will go but I have a good chunk of savings for this already so it should happen. There is a personal goal that I have that is a little more out of my reach that may bump this goal off the list. Only time will tell.

    4) Take a one month social media break – this is what I am doing for January! I actually started before Christmas already but I plan on going until the end of January, so it will be a month and a half break. I’m going to share some thoughts about break after it’s over.

    5) Go vegan for a month – this is something I have been wanting to do for awhile and I don’t think it will be too hard. The things that will be the hardest for me are eggs, bacon and maybe honey.


    Do something today your future self will thank you for


    6) Consistently track my income monthly – the last couple of years I’ve just calculated all my income from blogging at the end of the year but that’s really annoying to do, this year I want to do it at the end of each month.

    7) Exercise on Mondays and Thursdays – I fell off the exercise band wagon the last few months and would like to get back into it. I don’t enjoy exercising but it does make me feel better.

    8) Learn more – (once again, not a SMART goal). I want to do this mainly by reading more non-fiction and watching more documentaries.

    9) Read 5 Elisabeth Elliot books – this year I’ve chosen Elisabeth Elliot as my literary mentor and plan on reading at least five of the books she’s written.

    Those are my goals for this year! Around my birthday in May I will create a longer list of birthday goals (one goal for each year I’ve been alive), that is always fun to make, though I haven’t made one for the last few years I want to get back into it this year.


    What goals are you setting this year? And do you have a word picked? I would love to hear them!


    Three Common Mistakes That Are Keeping You From Reaching Your Goals

    This is the time of the year where the majority of the western world is thinking about setting goals for the new year.

    Some people won’t set any goals, some will set some and actually reach them but the majority of people will set goals for themselves and then fail.

    Why is it such a high percentage of people fail at their goals?


    Three mistakes you are making that are causing you to fail at your goals. These common mistakes are stopping you from achieving your goals.


    I have been thinking about this a lot lately and have realized there are three common mistakes people make, I have made each of these mistakes multiple times and it’s only now, years later that I am realizing why I failed.

    Thankfully, with this knowledge I can now set better goals and actually have a chance of reaching them.

    I have turned the three mistakes into a mini email course, you can sign up below and see if you’ve made one, two or all three mistakes and then learn from your error and set better goals in the future!


    Receive the mini e-course on the three common reasons people fail at achieving their goals and stop the cycle in your life.

    Check to verify you want to receive the free e-course!


    Why and How to Choose A Word for the Year

    The dawn of a new year is approaching and even though Christmas isn’t even here yet I’m already thinking of resolutions and goals for next year as well as my word for the year.

    I first came across the idea of choosing a word years ago, I believe it was Ali Edwards back in my paper crafting days who started the whole idea.

    The concept is simple: at the end of the year (or the beginning) you take some time to choose a word for yourself for the year.

    The choosing the word and subsequent follow through are not as simple.

    Choosing a Word for the Year - why you should do it and some tips on how to find a good word

    The word you choose is supposed to influence your year some how. I’ve always picked a word based on something I need to work on and I find myself remembering my word throughout the year to quickly remind myself of my goals.

    Remembering a single word is a lot easier than remembering a list of goals.

    I have chosen a word for myself for the past nine years (!). Some years the word comes to be in October before I’m really even thinking about it, other years it’s the middle of January before I can truly nail one down. I’ll share my previous words at the bottom of this post but I don’t want to influence your word choosing by sharing them now.

    Choosing a Word for the Year - why you should do it and some tips on how to find a good word


    Personally, choosing a word helps me to be more intentional with my year.

    My word that I chose for this last year kept popping into my mind throughout the year and I noticed a lot of growth in that area this year (check out my 2018 word later in the post). It’s fun to look back on years past and see how the word I had chosen helped to shape that year.


    I’m not going to say everyone needs a word for the year but if you are the type that enjoys goal setting this is a really great way to go about it. Today I wanted to give a few steps you can take to choose your word, assuming one didn’t pop into your mind instantly (and if it did, that’s awesome!).


    I like to pick words based off of areas I need (or want) to improve so often one of my biggest problems is narrowing it down to a single word. (I’ll admit, I’ve often cheated and had two words.)


    Often you’ll notice certain themes that seem to pop up everywhere, this is usually a sign that it may be a good word for you.

    I know this often happens when I’m reading up on a certain topic or area and then that seems to pop up in the messages I hear at church and the conversations I have with friends. This is often a sign that word is a good contender for the word of the year.


    While praying about a word for the year may sound weird, hear me out. We are all flawed human beings and God has called us to be perfect. That’s a hard calling to achieve. So Who better to show you areas you need to work on than the One who created you?


    Ultimately, picking a word for your year probably won’t alter the course of your entire life so go ahead and pick one, even if you aren’t sure it’s the right one. Maybe it will be your word for half a year or even just a month.

    Choosing a Word for the Year - why you should do it and some tips on how to find a good word


    Feel like you need a little more inspiration? Here are some of my previous words from years past (click on the link to go to the blog post where I share a little more about why I chose that word):

    I don’t have my word for 2019 quite figured out yet but I have the general theme and a number of different word ideas, I’m excited to be able to narrow it down to the one that will be my companion for the year.

    Want a free printable for tracking your word for 2019 and monthly printables to help keep you on target? Sign up for my newsletter and get access to current and future printables:


    check to verify you want to receive the monthly email


    Do you have a word for 2019 yet? I would love to hear it in the comments below!

    Family photos in this post thanks to my awesome friend, Holly!



    A Mother Culture Instagram Challenge

    One of the reasons I enjoy homeschooling so much is because being a lifelong learner is very important to me.

    Even if we weren’t homeschooling I would constantly be taking books out of the library on topics that interest me and I want to learn more about.

    Before we started homeschooling I loved the sounds of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method, I won’t dive into the method right now but one of the terms that often goes along with the Charlotte Mason method is the idea of “mother culture”. This term wasn’t used in any of Charlotte’s writings but was made popular by Karen Andreola who wrote A Charlotte Mason Companion.

    The whole idea of mother culture can be summed up in this quote attributed to Billy Graham: “Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.”


    Simple Mother Culture - An Instagram Prompt Challenge


    While we have not been Charlotte Mason homeschoolers up to this point I am planning a bit of a trial run because I love so many aspects of the method. But one area I’ve unintentionally followed is mother culture.

    I think the general term for this in society these days would probably be personal growth but in my opinion mother culture goes much deeper than that.

    The way I see it, personal growth is done to better ones self in order to grow for ones self but mother culture is done to grow your knowledge to be able to help others. It may be a slight difference but I do think it exists. That being said, I have nothing against the term personal growth, I think it’s a term people understand and whether or not they know your motives for the growth, be it for yourself or others, it doesn’t really matter.


    Simple Mother Culture - An Instagram Prompt Challenge


    Anyway, I thought it would be fun to have an Instagram photo prompt challenge for the month of August with the theme Simple Mother Culture.

    My goals for the challenge are to:

    • find a network of fellow mamas who are excited about the idea of mother culture
    • gather inspiration and resources
    • intentionally set aside time to think about how I approach mother culture in my own life

    I decided to make the challenge only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for one month because I know how busy mothers are! I would love to have you join in, and feel free to post on whichever days you can/feel like it/are interested. You can join the challenge even if you don’t post for each prompt.


    Simple Mother Culture - An Instagram Prompt Challenge


    Here’s a little breakdown of how the challenge will work:

    On the specified day you will post a photo pertaining to that days prompt and use the tag #SimpleMotherCulture so I (and others) can find your photos. I hope to share some of the posts you share as well.

    Because I know the simple prompts may not be descriptive enough, here’s a little more info on each day:

    01 (W): post the challenge photo – you can grab the photo from this blog post or over on my Instagram
    03 (F): introduction – introduce yourself, I’d love to hear a little about your family and some of your interests


    In A Charlotte Mason Companion she talks about always having three books going; a stiff book, a moderately easy book and a novel. I’m hoping we can get a list of some great book suggestions this week! Feel free to share the books you are currently reading in these categories or ones that are on your list, or even some of your favorites you have read!

    06 (M): stiff book suggestions – this is a meant to be a deep and challenging book
    08 (W): moderately easy book suggestions – generally non-fiction these can be biographies, parenting books, etc, etc.
    10 (F): novel suggestions – I think this one is pretty self explanatory, let’s share the best of the best


    13 (M): learning alongside – share anything about what you like to learn alongside your kids
    15 (W): art – this is broad on purpose, share your own art, how you study art, favorite resources, anything to do with art!
    17 (F): music – pretty much the same thing as the art prompt, I kept it broad on purpose, though, spoiler alert: I probably won’t have a whole lot to share this day


    Simple Mother Culture - An Instagram Prompt Challenge



    20 (M): garden – I hadn’t thought of having a garden prompt until I read an occasional new plant in A Charlotte Mason Companion, so share anything garden/plant related.
    22 (W): nature study – favorite resources? how do you study nature? I want to hear it all!
    24 (F): quiet time – I was thinking about Bible and prayer time when I wrote this prompt, I’d love to hear when you make time for it and if you have anything else you would like to share about it


    27 (M): handicrafts – share some of your favorite crafty projects you like to do!
    29 (W): friendship – part of mother culture is making sure you have time for friends, how do you find and make time for your tribe?
    31 (F): marriage – and last, but not least, all things marriage related! (If you want a few great podcast episodes to listen to on marriage, check out this one, this one and this one from the ladies at the At Home Podcast)


    So, are you in?! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and start sharing on August 1st!


    My Word for 2018 & The Best Books on Gentle Parenting

    A few weeks ago I thought this would be the first year in the last five or so that I didn’t have a word for the year, nothing was really sticking out to me, but that changed . . .

    I spend quite a bit of time thinking about my words for the year, usually a few pop up and I prayerfully consider the one or two that I feel like God wants me to focus on for the year.

    In all reality, sharing my words is real vulnerability because in essence I’m saying: here’s where I really fail.

    This year’s word definitely opens up some vulnerability because I feel like I’ve been living the opposite.

    The word that I’ve chosen for this year is gentle.

    I used to think that gentleness was a weakness and was the opposite of strength but I’ve learned how wrong I was, though gentleness still doesn’t come easily to me.

    I specifically want to be more gentle when it comes to parenting this year. And like I always do when I want to learn about something, I’m planning on reading a bunch of books about it.

    I have curated a list of what I think are the six best books on gentle parenting that I want to read this year. Most of them I have read before and a couple I’ll be reading for the first time. The ones I have read I plan on re-reading because they are worth it.

    I’ve written down the six books I want to read in case there is anyone else looking for some gentle parenting books to read this year.

    The Best Books About Gentle Parenting



    I’ve already actually listened to the audiobook this year but I promptly went and ordered the hard copy because I know I want to take time throughout the year to go through it again and slower. I’d highly recommend this book!

    Triggers: Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses examines common parenting issues that cause us to explode inappropriately at our children. Moving beyond simple parenting tips on how to change your child’s behavior, authors Amber Lia and Wendy Speake offer biblical insight and practical tools to equip and encourage you on the journey away from anger-filled reactions toward gentle, biblical responses.


    I have just started this on audio. It’s written by the same authors as Triggers so I feel like it’s going to be a great one!

    You want to say the right thing when your children do wrong — trouble is most parents aren’t sure where to even begin. Parenting Scripts is the much-needed resource for moms and dads who are desperate to speak life to their children instead of defaulting to the same old words and ineffective consequences. Focusing on the most ordinary and yet troublesome areas in our daily routines, Parenting Scripts helps parents to craft intentional and well thought out and prayed over words.

    When parents step back to consider their children’s wrong actions, there’s a chance they can plan the right reactions. In the margins of their busy day, Parenting Scripts leads parents to a calm place where they can pinpoint their family’s bad habits and choose better ways of dealing with immature behavior — theirs and their children’s.

    Laid out as a parenting book and workbook all in one, each of the thirty-one short chapters includes:

    • Parenting Script – main lesson, complete with a script to try at home
    • Scriptures – verses to apply
    • Prayer Script – prayer to pray
    • Make the script your own – empty pages to write down your own parenting script


    I read this book a few years ago and bought it last year, I’m looking forward to re-reading it, it’s one of my favorite parenting books!

    Parents in our post-modern world tend to be committed to but anxious about their child-rearing responsibilities. They’ve tried the countless parenting books on the market, but many of these are strident, fear-based books that loving parents instinctively reject, while still searching for direction.

    Now Dr. Tim Kimmel, founder of Family Matters ministries, offers a refreshing new look at parenting. Rejecting rigid rules and checklists that don’t work, Dr. Kimmel recommends a parenting style that mirrors God’s love, reflects His forgiveness, and displaces fear as a motivator for behavior. As we embrace the grace God offers, we begin to give it-creating a solid foundation for growing morally strong and spiritually motivated children.

    PARENTING: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

    This one has been recommended to me by a couple of people already. Paul David Tripp has a 14-day devotional on YouVersion (the Bible app) on this topic with videos on the 14 principles and it was really good, I’m hoping the book is as well!

    What is your calling as a parent?

    In the midst of folding laundry, coordinating carpool schedules, and breaking up fights, many parents get lost. Feeling pressure to do everything “right” and raise up “good” children, it’s easy to lose sight of our ultimate purpose as parents in the quest for practical tips and guaranteed formulas.

    In this life-giving book, Paul Tripp offers parents much more than a to-do list. Instead, he presents us with a big-picture view of God’s plan for us as parents. Outlining fourteen foundational principles centered on the gospel, he shows that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God—grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents.

    Freed from the burden of trying to manufacture life-change in our children’s hearts, we can embrace a grand perspective of parenting overflowing with vision, purpose, and joy.

    GIVE THEM GRACE: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus

    This is my all time favorite parenting book. Can’t wait to re-read it!

    All of us want to raise good kids. And we want to be good parents. But what exactly do we mean by “good?” And is “being good” really the point?

    Mother-daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson contend that every way we try to make our kids “good” is simply an extension of Old Testament Law—a set of standards that is not only unable to save our children, but also powerless to change them.

    No, rules are not the answer. What they need is GRACE.

    We must tell our kids of the grace-giving God who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters. If this is not the message your children hear, if you are just telling them to “be good,” then the gospel needs to transform your parenting too.

    Give Them Grace is a revolutionary perspective on parenting that shows us how to receive the gospel afresh and give grace in abundance, helping our children know the dazzling love of Jesus and respond with heartfelt obedience.

    TREASURING CHRIST WHEN YOUR HANDS ARE FULL: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms

    I listened to this one on audio a year or two ago, this time I’d like to read the hard copy.

    Grocery shopping. Soccer practice. Dirty dishes.

    Motherhood is tough, and it often feels like the to-do list just gets longer and longer every day—making it hard to experience true joy in God, our children, and the gospel.

    In this encouraging book for frazzled moms, Gloria Furman helps us reorient our vision of motherhood around what the Bible teaches. Showing how to pursue a vibrant relationship with God—even when discouragement sets in and the laundry still needs to be washed—this book will help you treasure Christ more deeply no matter how busy you are.

    Do you have a word for the year?
    Have you read any of these books? What are you favorites?
    Any other book recommendations?

  • A Simplified Birthday Bucket List


    For the past few years I’ve created an annual bucket list around my birthday with items that I’d like to accomplish or attempt before my next birthday comes around. I’ve corresponded the number on the list with the number I am turning; last year I turned twenty-nine so I created a list of twenty-nine things to do while I was twenty-nine (easy enough, right?).

    This has served me well for the last few years but this time I knew I wanted something different, something simpler.

    For the past couple of years I have been a journey of learning (and often re-learning) how to live a more simple life and this year I knew I wanted that bleed over into my annual birthday list. I didn’t want to create a list that was full of “fillers” just so I could get thirty items.

    This year I want to live with more intention and I want my list to show it.

    I decided that this year I would simplify my birthday list by asking myself one question for every item I contemplated putting on my list, if I couldn’t answer the question, the item didn’t get put on my list. If you receive my monthly(ish) newsletter you will have found out last weekend that the one question I am asking myself is:

    how can I honor God in this?

    This one question has ruled out a number of different items I considered putting on my list and has helped me to get a vision and really focus on this upcoming year and decade of my life.

    I ended up coming away with only five items on my list, and while I am going to share them here I’m not actually going to share my answers to my question of how I can honor God in each item. Some of them will be easy enough to figure out and that’s fine but some I just didn’t care to share right now.

    With that in mind these are the items I have on this years list:

    01. practice my craft – for me this means doing lots of writing, taking lots of pictures and continuing to learn how to tell stories through both.

    02. live intentionally – I want to be present in the now, not always wishing for the future, I want to be intentional with the possessions I have as well as the events on my schedule. I want to make sure that every item I have in my home has a purpose, if I am living with more than I need than it ends up just being a distraction and I want to ask myself, could I sell this item and use the money in a better way?

    03. homeschool my kids – I am still kind of shocked that we will be homeschooling this next year, five years ago I never would have believed it and yet here we (almost) are. I want to focus on character building with my children as well as the academics, the act of homeschooling fits very well with our family values and I plan on breaking that down in a future post.

    04. use our home as a gathering place – this has been a process over the last few years, and one that I want to continue, and as our backyard gets a little closer to completion I am looking forward to being able to host people back there.

    05. travel – this year Jared and I have plans to finally go on our 10/30 trip (this year is our tenth anniversary and we both turn thirty), we have zero ideas where we are going yet but I would love for the opportunity to help out a mission organization in some way wherever it is we end up going (I’d especially love it if I could help out with photography & storytelling in some way).

    And that’s it! Just a simplified bucket list for my year, I’m hoping the simplicity of the list will help me to keep each of these ideas at the forefront of my mind throughout the year.


    2016: My One Little Word

    With Christmas just over a week away and the year close to coming to a close I’ve been thinking of my one little word for 2016. 2015 was the year of hospitality, do for 2014, 2013 was the year of serve, create & celebrate were 2012’s words, and my first year, 2011, I had move & pray.

    I know many people who think (and have voiced their opinions) that the one little word for the year is a pointless fad, maybe it is for some but I know for myself, these past 5 years that I’ve been choosing a word (or two) I’ve had much more clarity and a stronger vision for my year. It might not be for everyone but it works for me. I find it works much better for me than setting new years resolutions, this way I have a little word or phrase I can quickly and easily think about through the year.

    Each year I’ve felt as though God puts these words on my heart, it’s as though He is pointing out the areas in my life that He wants me to grow in.

    I started thinking and praying about 2016’s word about a month ago and despite it being right in front of me it didn’t really hit me until this last week. The word is one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and has been showing up in my journal for the past few months:


    In this next year I want to be an encourage those around me, both online and offline.


    I’d love to hear if you have a word for 2016, leave me message below.


    Twenty-Nine Things

    Here it is, the last year of my twenties! As usual I’ve got a few things I’d like to accomplish this year (you can also check out my lists for twenty-six, twenty-seven and twenty-eight).

    I love this quote I came across in a Dee Henderson book a few months back and it really hit home:

    “she doesn’t waste her life.
    she just lives it.”

    Living life is what I’m aiming for.

    On to the list for this year:

    1. get professional family photos done
    2. order photo books for 2013, 2014 & South Africa
    3. decorate our master bedroom (and get a new bed since Jared broke ours)
    4. continue our now-annual summer camping tradition
    5. document my grandparent’s stories (like actually write them down)
    6. get some photos with Raeca and some horses (her obsession)
    7. also on that note, get some photos with Ephraim and trucks/tractors (his obsession)
    8. start saving for Europe (next year are both of our 30th birthdays and 10th wedding anniversary!)
    9. put more effort into celebrations/events/occasions
    10. go on five more day (or longer) trips around Saskatchewan
    11. buy that elusive globe (ha, this is from last year’s list)
    12. go canoeing or kayaking
    13. buy an old school popcorn popper for the movie area I want to create (I’ve got my eye on this popper)
    14. get some drawings into my nature journal (and some watercolor too)
    15. run at least one workshop (hopefully more)
    16. start a tradition of having my family over for one Sunday lunch a month
    17. homeschool myself (I’ve realized I know absolutely nothing about history, so I’d like to improve this)
    18. have supper with at least five of our neighbors
    19. learn to freehand draw a map of the world (using the technique mentioned in The Core)
    20. plant an apple tree
    21. work on my hand lettering (I mentioned in my twenty-eight update but I’ve been going through this free series)
    22. read twelve classics
    23. read five missionary biographies (Jim Elliot and George Muller for sure, any other recommendations?)
    24. start photographing some children and families again (knowing what I enjoy photographing and sticking to it is huge for me, the more I enjoy what I do, the better the photos are win-win for everyone)
    25. start a podcast (so many ideas, so many little time!)
    26. have a table at a craft show
    27. do afterschooling with Raeca through kindergarten (similar to how we are now)
    28. participate in the 31 days writing challenge in October (blogging every day for a month)
    29. don’t let my marriage get pushed to the back burner just because things are good and life is busy, aka be more intentional about getting out on some dates!

    I am excited for this year! Bring on twenty-nine!

    If you make an annual list I’d love to know some of the items on yours.
    Is there anything on  my list that you can help me complete?

    twenty nine


    Twenty-Eight Things – Final Update

    And just like that another year has come and gone. Next week marks my entrance into the final year of my twenties.

    For the last few years I’ve been making a list around my birthday of things I’d like to accomplish throughout the year. I purposely put some easy items on so I can cross them off as well as some that I doubt I will get to but I like to dream 🙂

    Before I share this years list of twenty-nine things I thought I’d share how last years list of twenty-eight things went:

    1. travel to South Africa and complete our adoption – boo yeah! you can read that post here.


    2. have professional photos taken of our family of four – nope, not yet, definitely happening this summer though

    3. move – yes! we actually did twice. first into a rental while our place was finished being built and then here! into my bright white house!


    4. start something I’ve dubbed the hospitality project – yes! I originally planned to share a lot more of our hospitality on here but realized that would prevent me from being as hospitable (because then I would think everything would have to be perfect).


    5. get my 2013 photobook printed – nope, that’s going to be added to my twenty-nine list including my 2014 photobook and one for South Africa . . .

    6. go on a three month spending freeze – I didn’t keep track exactly but I did go quite awhile

    7. go camping – yes, we spent a week at Rowan’s Ravine and a few days at Candle Lake last summer


    8. run a 5K – haha yes, and I vowed never to do it again


    9. photograph my grandparents and document some of their stories – I’ve been doing a pretty good job at the photographing but I would like to do a little better on the documentation of their stories. I did post a little about my Grandma


    10. register for a bloggers conference – unfortunately, no

    11. photograph at least one dessert/meal/food item a month – I started out doing this but then got too lazy

    12. start growing my own herbs again, and actually use them – yes! basil grows like crazy and I need more uses for it. my rosemary grows slowly and I need more of it 🙂

    13. find a place to start volunteering again – this didn’t happen, I’ve been too busy with Ephraim 🙂

    14. eat more real food – I think so!

    15. teach Raeca all her letter sounds – yes!

    16. go on at least six dates with Jared – ha, this seems like it should have been so easy but it was a complete and utter fail. I’d guess we went on three

    17. go to Europe – I threw this one in here in case our adoption didn’t go through, but since it did there is no way this could have happened!

    18. make some amazing gluten free bread or buns – after many, many attempts we did find a pretty good recipe! I’ll have to share it some time.

    19. get a clear idea of what I want this space to look like and be about and write it down – this is ever changing, just like my life so it will continue to be tidbits here and there

    20. buy Raeca an amazing birthday cake this year – this girl loves her birthday so much and I felt bad that we weren’t even around for most of it this year (we had an adoption meeting 3 hours away to go to), but I did make her a cake with a pink marshmallow icing and she loved it.

    21. eat more meals outside – we definitely did last summer!

    22. get a globe – no! I kept forgetting to look for one 🙁

    23. go on five day/weekend trips around Saskatchewan – we did! we saw the lighthouse at Cochin, spent a day at Martins Lake, spent another day at Waskesiu Lake, tented at Rowan’s Ravine, and then Candle Lake, and then I caught my first fish at Clark Lake.


    24. decorate our master bedroom – ha! actually we ended up deciding to finish our basement this spring and instead of our mater bedroom turning into a relaxing place it has become our basement storage. BUT within the next few months we should be able to move everything out and then I’ll work on decorating it!

    25. take a class – hmm, kind of, I have been reading through this free hand lettering series

    26. write another ebook – um, nope

    27. set a profit goal for the blog to help with the adoption costs – well, the adoption is done so this one is kind of not applicable any more!

    28. keep dreaming – always 🙂

    That gets me a tally of 16/28 this year for a whopping 57% haha (though that blows last years 40% out of the water!). I find this year I’m not disappointed about most of the things I didn’t accomplish but rather just that my goals and priorities changed, that actually seems to be the case almost every year.

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