My Top 10 Favorite Books

I had this grand idea to write this post about my favorite books, and it turned out to be SO HARD. The truth is, I just really love to read. LOVE to read books with characters who become my friend. And I love to read books that point me to Jesus and help me be a better wife and mom. This list could very well change tomorrow, although it would take a LOT to knock some of these off the list. They aren't really in order other than the first one. (And I guess I should say, the Bible is my favorite book ever. It's my truth and my sword and the book that we as believers live by. I didn't include it on my list, but it's my given. )

1. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

You might have heard my story with Harry. I used to think they were witchcraft in high school and college and I made my college roomie keep them under her bed. (Sorry Kara! I repent!). That same room mate convinced my sister to read them a few years later and Cassie and I have identical taste in books, so of course I fell hard and I fell fast. They are hands-down my favorite books I have ever read and I typically re-read them once a year or every two years. If you're holding out, now's the time. Do it!

2. The Christy Miller Collection by Robin Jones Gunn

These were the books that taught me to love reading and to be friends with characters. I feel like I grew up with Christy and Katie and learned to love Jesus along side them. Great, wholesome books for teenage girls that stretch into adulthood now!

The Christy Miller Series
The Sierra Jensen Series
Christy & Todd the College Years
The Glenbrook Series
The Katie Weldon Series
Christy & Todd the Married Years

3. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

This book makes me feel so excited, equipped, and encouraged about the process of making my house a home. Far more than a mere decorating book, Myquillyn Smith (aka the Nester), digs into your heart in this book and helps you explore how you feel about the space where you dwell. Then, on top of that, has awesome, practical tips to create purposeful space. SUCH A GOOD BOOK. If you havn't read this already, you must go get this book right now.

4. For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

What The Nesting Place makes you feel about your home, that's what our girl Jen makes you feel about your heart. SO MUCH FREEDOM to walk in. Never has a book made me laugh more and encourage me more to walk out who God has made me to be as a woman and as a wife and mother. I will re-read this book for years to come.

5. The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

This trilogy sucked me in from the get-go. I was fascinated by the structure and fell in love with Tris and Four. Some of my favorite book friends ever.

It was also really awesome getting to meet Veronica Roth. She is one of two authors on this page who I have met in real life.

6. The O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson

Suspense. Romance. The Gospel. Suck you in book-friends. It's got it all. Dee Henderson is one of my favorites. My copies of this series are worn and faded from my re-reading. This author is an EXPERT at character development. I love the story of this family and I think you will too.

7. Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

This book is one to dig deep deep down in your heart and explore your past events that have shaped you and made you who you are. It's about finding your place inside God's story. It's hard. It's rich. It's exhausting. It's so worth it.

8. Green Sparkly Earrings by Melanie Shankle

This book is such a new read for me that I can't even believe I'm putting it on this list, but I couldn't bear to leave it off. Such a sweet, funny, honest and NEEDED memoir about motherhood. I said in my book review of it that I feel like she crawled inside my head and plagiarized my thoughts. It's that good.

9. Vampire Academy

Judge away. Go ahead. It's ok. Then read them and say sorry and "THANK YOU CARRIE". I love love love these characters. It's so easy to hang out with them in these stories. Seriously loved them.

10. Anne Of Green Gables 

This is my classic. I love all of the books and all of the movies and there will never be another character like Anne (spelled with an 'e'). Now, I love sharing them with my girl, who is cut from the same cloth as Anne.

I can already think of more books I would add to this list, but I'm going to stop because I won't be able to if I'm not careful.What books make your top ten cut?

Posts about Reading and Books on this blog:

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{Weekend Recap} Ladies Night

Friday morning I woke up early to run! It's been two weeks of the Couch to 5K program and I'm really proud of myself for waking up early and doing it, even though the waking up early part is not fun. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it. I watched a video by famous Olympic swimmer who say the worst part of swimming, the part they HATE is jumping in the pool. Can you believe that? jumping in the pool and they're swimmers. So I kind of attribute the waking up early part to that. Also, I'm sure it would help if I went to bed earlier. Still working on that. 

Friday morning we had some dance parties and jumping on the bed parties. My kids favorite jams right now are: (still) Shake it Off, Roar, and Can't Stop The Feeling! 

Even Archer was getting into to it with his apple.

Friday night, for Family movie night we watched "Wreck it Ralph", Shep's request. It's NOT mine and Kyle's favorite for sure, but the kids love it and our reasons are not because there is anything bad in it, but just because we don't think it's very funny or entertaining. 

I did not sleep well Friday night for some reason and I was TIRED on Saturday. I woke up fairly early and Kyle sent me back to bed for a few more hours. Then I still took a 2 hour afternoon nap. Goodness, I felt behind. That left Kyle to wrangle the babies by himself. 

Kyle and I had a dinner party to go to Saturday night and we took this prom pic before we went! You're welcome for that!

Bayleigh and Justin were in Birmingham a couple weeks ago and stopped into Trader Joe's just to get me my favorite candy! This little blue bag right here is helping me survive the "crazy summer kids" that I have flopping around my house right now. Sanity, covered in chocolate. 

Sunday morning before church. These pictures always crack me up. Fischer is just NOT in a picture taking mood these days so he only looks at the camera for one frame. Shepherd is wearing his "ninja headband", Archer is finally standing and LK is mad at the sun being so bright. 

Sunday night, April hosted a Ladies Night at her house and it was awesome! We ate all the yummy food. Gosh, I could live on snack food. This food would have made Lorelei and Rory proud. 

We played this really fun game with conversation sticks. Everyone draws a stick and has to answer their question. They were anything from "what reality show would you want to be on" to "Favorite them party.." etc... My question was, "What is your favorite Halloween Costume?" I told them all about the time that Kyle and I went to a youth group party as Quail Man and Patty Mayonnaise.  Don't worry, I found a picture of the event!

haha! So awesome! 

This week is going to be awesome! My college roomie is coming to visit and we are getting ready to head to the farm for the 4th! Happy last week of June! 
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{Friday Favorites} Friend Visit

 Happy Friday! As usual,  I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love Blog, and Little Bit of Everything Blog for Friday Favorites! Join Us!

Today marks two full weeks of running. They say it takes three to make a habit and I'm hoping it will start to feel better next week. I was definitely less sore this week, and I know if I still with it, running will be a FAVORITE again. Here's my FAVORITE running playlist. Don't make fun of me for "Call Me Maybe".... it reminds me of the 2012 Olympics Swim Team and the video spoof they made. 

Which reminds me, the Olympics are just a little bit over a month away. Swimming trials start THIS WEEKEND. I can hardly contain myself. THE OLYMPICS ARE MY FAVORITE!!!!! 

This little guy is really moving now! The past few days he has really picked up his walking skills and also his climbing and *ahem* helping skills! 

I LOVE it when friends come to visit me. It's my FAVORITE. This sweet friend, Melanie has been one of those friends who has just "stuck" through life with me. We went to elementary school together in a small Alabama town. Then, years after my family had ended up in Lubbock, TX, she came to Texas Tech for grad school and ended up working with me at the children's ministry at my church. Then, a little bit after Kyle and I moved to the North Dallas area, she and her family moved there too! Now I'm just waiting on her to move back to Alabama. It was so good to catch up with her and squish he babies a little bit! 

My uncle came by yesterday and surprised me with a Sonic. He said he thought I could use one after my kids sprayed bleach on my flowers the other day (yeah, they did... it's been a long week). Drive-by Sonics are my FAVORITE.  

Disney is my favorite and right now, my sister and I have a great incentive for you to book a trip through us. Contact us on our Facebook page for a free quote! 

This week I wrote a post sharing all about our pets, past and present. You can read that here
Look at Tonks last night, playing on the farm!

Last night for Date Night, we tried out a different wing place, still looking and hoping for something to come close to Wingstop. No luck. All the fries are just AWFUL. These tonight had no seasoning. I guess Wingstop will always be my FAVORITE. 

This weekend I'm looking forward to relaxing and catching up with laundry (except not that second part). 

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Taking Care of Mama: How 15 Minutes Can Radically Change Your Day

One thing I have found is how common it is to hear Mom's of young kids talk about things like how long it has been since they had a shower or wore make-up. I know we joke a lot about it, but I think the jokes come from a real place of missing the ease of not having to choose between our self-care and our little people's care.

After all my babies have been born, it has taken a WHILE to get into a good groove. It's full-on survival mode for a while. And that's OK. There is so much grace for these seasons. Archer is 18 months old and I am still am just now starting to pull out of survival mode (**I hope**).  After having been in survival mode more often than not in the past 8 years, I have learned a little trick that can help make a difference in my day.

Here's the thing I have found: 15 extra minutes in my day, that I devote to taking care of myself, can make or break my Mommin' (my word for parenting or mothering or mommy-ing) for the day. I feel refreshed after a shower, and even a stroke of mascara and a dab of lip gloss can make me feel more confident in my day. I feel like just those few minutes of doing a little bit of self-care really can make a difference in my day.

What can you do in 15 minutes? Here are some ideas:

- washing your hair
- shaving your legs
- brushing your hair
- changing into fresh clothes
- 10 minute shower + 5 minutes for make-up
- making your bed
- putting on lotion
- use a face mask

On the surface, these things may seem petty or insignificant, but I find I am a better mom when I feel better about myself. And when I really stopped to think about it, it doesn't take that long to do just a few things to feel human again and ready to face my day with my little people. Is there anything specific that helps you feel better that I missed on my list? Leave a comment with more ideas!

Today, the Babywise Blog network are all blogging on the topic of "hygiene". Check out all of the posts today and visit our Pinterest Boards for a wealth of tips, tricks and ideas.

Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: Must Have Products For Doing Your Daughter's Hair

Mama's Organized Chaos: Our Potty Training Method In 10 Easy Steps

Team Cartwright: Hand Washing - Time To Stop Being Lazy

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6 Great Meals To Feed A Crowd

I got this really great post idea from my friend Kayse. She requested a blog post on my favorite meals to feed a crowd!

We love having people in our home, it's actually one of the reasons we bought this particular house because of the spacious patio and backyard perfect for hosting. We host small group at our house 3-4 times a month and a meal is always involved (roughly feeding 15-20 adults and children). Also, we have friends over frequently. We just love people and love hosting.

I am not the greatest chef. In fact, when I was younger my family used to tease me and say the only things I would know how to cook my future family would be Shake 'n Bake and Macaroni and Cheese. While I am no Gordon Ramsay, I have learned a few things and can now hold my own (unless my family lies to me... in which case, don't tell me, ignorance is bliss!). When it comes to feeding a lot of people, I have learned a couple of things:

1. Keep it simple. The more people involved, the less complicated your meal needs to be. Crowds aren't the best time to try out fancy complicated recipes with rare ingredients.

2. Be strategic in what you ask others to bring. On small group nights, everyone chips in and brings something, but we still need a plan. Think about the different categories and what would be the best way to make a complete meal from drinks, to main meal, to desserts. What is the easiest for you to prepare as the host, and then what additions would be the most helpful to you.

Build Your Own...

This is probably my favorite way to feed a crowd, setting up a Build Your Own table. This option is great for groups where everyone is bringing something to pitch in. I also like that this works for picky eaters because they choose what goes on their plate.

Salads - Kyle isn't a big salad fan, so I tend to go for this option on girls nights. Divi up your options for everything from different kinds of lettuce, to proteins, to cheese (can I get an amen for feta cheese on a salad??), to nuts, to fruit, to dressing.... the possibilities are literally endless. Line it all up and let people build a masterpiece.

Burritos - Think Chipotle or Freebirds style(or Cilantros for my LBK friends): Tortillas, meat choices: chicken or beef, beans: black or pinto, rice, cheese, more cheese, veggies: tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, onions, salsa, sour cream, guac, queso, .... am I missing anything? Bring it! Set it up and build your dream burrito.

Baked Potatoes - You provide the cooked potatoes and have everyone bring their favorite fixings: butter, sour cream, did somebody say CHEESE??, chili, bacon, ... get creative!

Carrie's Chicken

Our families' favorite turns out to be a great crowd pleaser. You can easily double the recipe and the great thing about crock pots is it cooks all day for you so there is less to worry about right before all the people come over! I actually made this for Shepherd's Bug Birthday Party and it was a hit!

Great things for others to bring:



It doesn't get more simple than this youth group classic. Cook your sauce and meat in your crock pot and all the noodles in your stock pot (ha! I made a rhyme... poet and didn't know it).

Great things for others to bring:

Garlic Bread
Parmasan Cheese

Chicken Tacos

Another great crock pot option. Any version of tacos I think is a great crowd pleaser and easy enough to put together. My favorite are Fun Jen's Chicken Tacos (with cilantro and lime juice, yum!). This is another recipe that is easily doubled depending on your crowd size.

Great things for others to bring:

Chips and Salsa

Taco Soup

.... speaking of Taco options.... Taco Soup is my favorite soup hands down. It's so so easy. But really, any easy soups are a good option, especially in the Fall and Winter.

Here's my recipe for Taco Soup:

Throw the following things in your trusty crock pot - 3-4 chicken breasts, 1 can of corn, 1 can of beans (pinto or black), 1-2 cans of rotel, 1 packet of dry ranch dressing, 1 packet of taco seasoning. Fill to the top with water and let it cook all day until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Before serving, take the chicken out and shred it and then add it back in.

Great things for others to bring:

Tortilla shreds
Cheese and Sour Cream
Chips and Salsa

Grilled Things

This is easily Kyle's favorite option. He loves to grill. There are a ton of different options you can do when it comes to grilling for a crowd. These are our favorites:

Hot Dogs
BBQ Chicken

All of these options are simple enough and easy to have sides for! 

These are my go-tos for feeding crowds! What are your favorites?? Leave a comment to add to the list! Would love to scroll through and see more great ideas and options! 

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Pets! {Show And Tell Tuesday}

I'm linking up today at the Momfessionals blog for Show and Tell Tuesday, and today we are talking all about our Pets!

I grew up in a home that LOVED animals. My parents truly believed that animals teach responsibility and love to children so much and we always had pets growing up. Mainly dogs, but we did have a few cats and there was the rabbit phase... Also hamsters (yep... M.C. Hamster and Baby) (But we won't talk about them because we found Baby dead outside one day... TRAUMA!!!!).

You are welcome for these jewels! The top pic is my siblings and I with our dog Moses... aka, the best dog that ever lived.  And the one below it is me with one of our Shih Tsu's, Winnie the Pooh girl. 

Kyle married into having a cat, much to his displeasure, my cat... Lucy. The story of Lucy actually starts waaaaay back to 2001, two days after the September 11th attack. I was a Sr. in high school and we got up for school to find a box holding two orange kittens on our door step. They were TEENY TINY, estimated only about 4 weeks old. We never did find out who left the box. We named them after our favorite Atlanta Braves players, naturally: Tom "Glavine" Wood and "Chipper" Jones Wood. We had to feed them bottles and vitamins and everything. Long story short, Chipper, my cat, didn't make it but Glavine, Cassie's cat, did.

When it comes to animals passing, my parent's are also really big about getting back up on the horse again, so to speak,  and so my dad took me to get a new kitten the next week. That's where Lucy comes in. My college roomies hated her (sorry girls!), Cassie and Joel called her Lucifer. But I loved her and she sat on my lap and soothed many a broken heart from dumb boys. Also, she loved to eat Macaroni and Cheese. A few years ago, Kyle was gone on a trip, and Lucy suffered a stroke and didn't recover. LK and I were both so sad. She really had turned out to be a wonderful family cat and we still talk about her and miss her.

By the way, Glavine is still alive and still remains everyone's favorite cat. He lives at my parent's house so we still get to see him frequently. 

When Kyle and I married, Kyle had a Black Lab named Knox. Knox was a graduation present for Kyle and he was this beefy, big black lab. Kyle adored him. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we had to move from our house into an apartment and couldn't bring him with us so we had to give him away. I still feel so awful about this, even after 10 years. He was an awesome dog. (I dont have a picture of him unfortunately). 

We got Sookie, a mini schnauzer,  for Laura Kate's first birthday as a gift from my parents. Kyle and I actually picked her out and she has been the best dog for our family. We named her from Gilmore Girls because well, it's the best. She potty trained in less than a week, has the sweetest spirit and everyone in our house adores her. She rarely barks and loves to snuggle.  She has been AWESOME with our kids and has survived all of them learning to "pat pat love love" and not "grab grab yank yank"

Sookie is only 7 years old, but we got some very sad news about her this past month. We started noticing a significant amount of weight loss and that the whites of her eyes were turning yellow. I had Kyle take her to the Vet for tests because I didn't think I could handle the bad news I felt was coming. Sookie has lost over 1/3 of her body weight and after some tests we found out she has tumors and liver disease, likely cancer. She wouldn't likely survive the exploratory surgery to find out more. She doesn't seem to be in pain at this point so we are just loving on her the best we can and watching till we feel like she is in pain or suffering. We are all so sad and heartbroken about her. (Pssst... my kids know she is sick but not that she is dying so if you see them, we would appreciate it if you didn't bring this up with them... thanks!)

For Christmas this past year, we gained another mascot... a hedgehog names Tonks! It's kind of a crazy choice, but she has been fairly low maintenance and a lot of fun! She got her name from Nymphodora Tonks in the Harry Potter series. (We really like character names :). (Also, we tend to go for female animals now that LK and I are outnumbered for girls in the house!) 

And finally, you may have read here that we are getting a new puppy later this Summer!! After we found out about Sookie's health, we started looking and watching for breeders in our area (in an effort to "get back on the horse again". We felt like this might help the kids with Sookie whenever her time comes). I had promised Kyle that the next dog we get would be a big dog for him to field train to hunt and also for us to have a good sized family dog for when Kyle is gone. Two different breeds we were looking at was another Lab or a Boykin Spaniel. It just so happened that we found a mix of the two breeds and it sounded perfect for our family. So coming at the beginning of August: Gilmore "Gilly" Wiley. (yeah, we are sticking with the Gilmore them :). 

(photo cred: Michael Gibson)

So that's the story of the Wiley Mascots! 

Other Show and Tell Posts:

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