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Homemade Valentine’s Day Mints Recipe

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and this year I wanted to make something extra special for my friends and family. I saw a recipe for homemade Altoids a while back and decided I would make my own spin on the curiously strong mint. I’m not a huge fan of peppermint so I decided to make Vanilla Spearmint Heart Shaped Mints.home-made-mints-homemaker-chic

2014-02-06 12.10.33I have these amazing tins from SKS and I knew I just had to use for this project. You could certainly use repurposed Altoids tins but I made this adorable logo to go on the tops of the tins and the altoids containers have ridges on them and you can’t put a sticker on it. mint-to-beYou are welcomed to use my logo for free, because I’m just THAT nice :).

The tins from SKS are excellent quality and made for a lovely gift. This would also make a super cute wedding favor. I would recommend buying a big bag of ready made mints if you wanted to use the tins for a wedding because these are a scoche time consuming to cut out, and not really any cheaper than just buying mints at the store. These are just super fun to make and cute!

2014-02-06 11.39.47The recipe only calls for a few simple ingredients:

  • 1lb Gum Paste
  • Confectioner’s Sugar (powdered sugar) For a sugar free version of these mints try Xylitol.
  • Flavor Oils or Essential Oils
  • Food Coloring

 

Prepare the gumpaste following the instructions on the bag or carton. You can also buy ready-made gum paste. Either will work for this recipe.

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Cut off an egg sized portion of the dough. Add a bit of food coloring (I used a little green for a nice mint color) and 5-6 drops of oils. I used 6 drops of Spearmint Oil and 1 drop of Vanilla Oil for a sweet mint flavor. You could really get creative with the flavors, as long as the essential oil is food safe you can use it as flavoring. Or you can try Lorann flavoring oils in flavors like Wintergreen, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Orange, even Root Beer! The Oils are dirt cheap so get a bunch and try them out. Knead the dough until the oil and coloring is well incorporated. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Now you are ready to cut out your mints!

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I found these fantastic heart shaped cutters with plungers. The plunger makes it super easy to get the dough out of the cutter. The set I found came with 5 different sizes so you could easily do a super adorable mixed size batch of mints. They have other cool shapes besides hearts like stars, circles, squares and more. You could also use a large straw to cut these out if you don’t have the cutters.homemade-mints

2014-02-06 12.38.20Once you’ve cut out your mints, toss them in a little more powdered sugar so they don’t stick to each other, and lay them out on waxed paper to dry overnight. Allow them to dry for 24-48hrs for a nice hard, crunchy candy.2014-02-06 12.48.26

Line your tins with some tissue paper in a complimentary color to your mints. One egg-sized portion of the dough yields about 100 mints which will nicely fill up one tin. The entire container of gumpaste will make about 600-700 mints. You’ll want to make all the mints within a day or so of preparing the gumpaste because it will dry out and harden. I hope you have lots of fun making mints! I know these will make such a lovely valentine gift for all my friends. :)

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DIY Dollar Store Cloth Diaper Inserts

So in my last post I talked to you about Modern Cloth Diapers and all the awesome benefits of using them! Today I want to share with you a quick and easy way to make your own Microfiber inserts to use with Pocket Diapers.

There are many different types of inserts from lots of different types of fabric, but microfiber is the main type that will come with your new diapers from the manufacturer. It is incredibly absorbent but it is important not to put microfiber directly on your baby’s skin. This is because it SO absorbent, it will actually pull moisture out of their skin and cause drying and rashes. So make sure you only use these as inserts in a pocket, or under another natural fiber insert.

photo-3All you need to do is pick up some of those microfiber cleaning cloths at the dollar store. I have found them in the auto section as drying rags for your car, and also in the cleaning section.

I found two sizes 12×12″ and 14×16″. The smaller ones are great to be used in Newborn sized diapers, or as soakers used with another insert. The larger ones are great for regular sized diapers.

make-your-own-cloth-diaper-insertsFirst cut the tags off and wash the cloths in your regular diaper laundry. Then all you do is fold them over so you have three layers. This will make your insert even more absorbent. Finally sew a simple rectangle stitch around the entire insert. And that’s it! If you have a serger that would be even better but I just have a regular sewing machine. I did make the tension on my machine very high so I could ensure nice tight, close stitches.IMG_8127

I like to use these doubled up, or folded up inside a prefold. Yes you can use prefolds as inserts too! I have some newborn prefolds that no longer fit my big boy and they work perfectly with one of these Microfiber inserts in the center for extra absorbency!

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FYI – you could do this with a range of different fabrics! All you have to do is cut out a piece of fabric, fold it up, and sew it just like this. You could use old t-shirts, fleece blankets, towels… Try some different things out and see how it works!

Have you made your own inserts? What fabrics did you try?

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Cloth Diapers in the 21st Century

So you may or may not have picked up on the latest craze in cloth diapering in the last few years. If you follow any kind of mom group or Facebook page you will probably have come across someone, who knows someone, who is cloth diapering. You may have even seen them featured on Shark Tank. In an effort to save money, to keep my baby more comfortable, and to seek a more natural solution to disposable diapers I chose to cloth diaper Luke from birth AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!

Now, its not what you think. Cloth has come a long way from the archaic methods of the past. These days when I say “Pin it” I’m not talking about diaper pins. A whole new world has opened up and its going to blow your mind.

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There are several different types of cloth diapers to choose from now. The basic three are All in Ones (AIOs), Pockets, or Pre-folds.  They are made of a state-of-the-art breathable plastic lined fabric called PUL. The insides are lined with highly absorbent fabrics like cotton, microfiber, hemp, bamboo, or fleece.

  • AIOs are virtually the same as a disposable in that all you do is put the diaper on the baby. All the absorbent fabric is sewn right in and you wash the whole thing in one piece. They do take at least an hour, and usually two hours to dry in the dryer.
  • Pockets are similar, but they feature a pocket where you stuff separate inserts. The nice thing about this is that you can change what sort of insert you use based on your baby’s needs. This also means that the diapers wash and dry much more quickly because the inserts come out in the wash. They require extra time to stuff the diapers each time you wash which is annoying to some people.
  • Pre-folds are the old fashioned fold on diaper, but now they come with super awesome diaper covers with a plastic PUL lining that keeps them from leaking. They are also made much better than the old fashioned ones your mom used. They are thicker and way more absorbent. They are also a cheaper option and make great burp cloths.

This is what the Modern Cloth Diapers look like:

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7 Things I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know About Modern Cloth Diapering

1. You don’t have to use pins –                                                               velcro-or-snap-cloth-diapers

New cloth diapers come in either velcro or snap closures. They’re easy as pie! Its basically just like a disposable. You just put the diaper on the baby and close er’ on up. And if you still want to use pre-fold diapers (which is totally doable!) there’s a new invention for them too! Its called the snappi.

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Its sort of like the teeth on an ace bandage, except its plastic and rubber. prefold-snappiThere’s no need to worry about sticking your baby anymore. My mom tells an awesome story about how she was trying to change my brother’s diaper and my sister stuck diaper pins in their water bed and water was squirting everywhere. I picture my mother looking like Lucille Ball, trying to hold the baby and wrangle my toddler sister all while trying to put a finger on each hole. Hilarious as this picture is to me, it is a thing of the past.

2. They’re easy to wash-                                                                             We don’t have a diaper service in my area, but its really not a big deal to wash them myself. You see, there’s this fantastic invention called a Washing Machine that cleans the diapers for you! I know, I know… you thought you were going to have to go down to the river with a washing board and go to town on those bad boys. Nope, you can just throw them in and the machine actually does the work. Amazing, I know. What will they come up with next?! Many people act like washing cloth diapers is a crazy science but its really not. Don’t listen to anyone when they tell you to use special soap, or to only use a tbsp of detergent. Its not true. Because my baby is exclusively breastfed, his poop is water soluble, so there’s no need to rinse the diapers off or anything before I wash them. I use Tide powder, the same amount I would use for a regular load of laundry, I throw the diapers in (poop and all), I do a hot presoak and an extra rinse, and then I tumble dry them on medium heat. That’s all she wrote! There’s no big secret.

3. Chemicals in disposables are toxic!

disposable-diaper-gel-sapYou know when a disposable diaper gets full and you can tell the baby needs to be changed because it gets all saggy and hangs between their legs? Have you ever seen one of those full diapers break open and all the weird gel stuff spills out? Did you know that substance used to be used in Tampons but had to be removed after is was found to cause Toxic Shock Syndrome? The diaper companies claim that these chemicals are in trace amounts and are not harmful to the baby, but when can you ever trust a manufacturer’s claims about anything? Perhaps it does not cause TSS in such small doses (I’m not buying it), but it is certainly a skin irritant and can cause diaper rash and chemical burn. I personally don’t want to take the risk. Read more about some of the toxic chemicals found in disposable diapers here.

4. It is WAY cheaper to use cloth - 

Because these modern cloth diapers are so well made and last for so long they are a little bit more of an investment on the front end. They average in cost around $15 each new and even cheaper if you get them second hand, but that is a one time investment because the diapers are adjustable fit which mean they can be used for the same baby from birth to potty training. And if they are well cared for they can be used for future babies, making the cost even lower. Depending on how often you want to do laundry you will need between 12 and 36 diapers in your “stash.” So for between $300-$500 you can diaper several children from birth to potty. Plus if you decide to go the old fashioned route, prefolds are even cheaper running around $4 each. Disposables are much more expensive as you can see in the infographic below.

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5. Bye Bye blowouts!                                                                                   I’ll spare you an image to prove my point (although a quick google image search and you’ll find plenty of evidence). If you’ve used disposables for any length of time you’re all too familiar with the good ol’ fashioned blowout. It happens because disposables are flat against the baby’s back and it just can’t hold in a serious poop. I’ve been cloth diapering for 3 months and have yet to have a single blowout. Don’t believe me? Just ask anyone who cloth diapers and I’ll bet you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who has experienced a blowout in cloth. Its because they are so absorbent, and are lined with elastic around the legs and waist. When they are put on properly and tightly they will hold everything in beautifully!

6. The environmental effect of disposable is huge –

Did you know that disposable diapers are the #1 single use item found in landfills? Now I’m not a big environmentalist activist by any stretch but I do believe that we should be good stewards of the planet that God has given us, and we should leave this place in one piece so these babies can still have a beautiful place to live and grow up. Here is an awesome image that shows just how many diapers end up in the trash.

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7. They’re super cute!

Oh girrrrrrrl, don’t even get me started on how CUTE these things are! I’m slightly addicted. There are so many precious colors and patterns to choose from, and they look adorable all by themselves, no need for a diaper cover to hide those lame looking disposables. You could seriously get lost in the world of adorable cloth.

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4 Easy Ways to Shop Wiser and Eat Healthier

Each year millions of people make (and break) the New Year’s resolution to get healthier. It can be hard to keep when the supermarkets are lined with so many harmful products, and even so-called health foods are full of yucky ingredients. Here are some easy tips to help you buy wiser, and keep your family healthy.

1) Read the Ingredients

Knowing what’s in your food is an important step to buying better. Lots of ingredients hide behind different names, and some harmless ingredients may sound bad if you don’t know what their fancy-schmancy name is. It doesn’t take long to do a quick google search while you’re in the store, so do your research. Here are a few examples of non-harmful ingredients that sound scary:

  • Sodium Bicarbonate = Baking Soda
  • Mixed Tocopherols = Vitamin E
  • Cyanocobalamin – Vitamin B12
  • Ascorbic acid = Vitamin C

And here are some harmful ingredients that you may not know are bad for you:

  • Caramel Coloring = A dangerous carcinogen known in the state of California to cause cancer.
  • BHT = AKA Butylated Hydroxytoluene. Also a carcinogen derived from petroleum, and can be found in jet fuel. It is found in many breakfast cereals, even “healthy” ones like Great Grains.
  • Blue #2 = An artificial coloring found to cause brain and breast cancer in rats.
  • Paraben = Found to disrupt the natural hormones in our bodies.

2) If It Has More Than 5 Ingredients Don’t Buy It!

Within reason. 7 or 8 works too but the main point is to be aware of all the unneeded additives in your foods. You’d be shocked to find that pickles have 16 ingredients, and Ketchup has 21! Many companies have now come out with natural versions of their products with just a few simple, natural ingredients. Here are examples of some products I like:

3) Buy Fresh or Frozen NOT Canned Foods

Canned goods are infamous for being lined with toxic BPA. Bisphenol-A is found in many plastics, and has been found to cause hormone disruption. It can lead to all sorts of health problems not the least of which is infertility. Avoid it like the plague. Whenever possible buy fresh fruits and vegetables. But if you’re like me, fresh foods often go bad before you can eat them and if you’re buying organic throwing away spoiled produce can get really pricey!

frozen vegetablesI often buy fresh organic vegetables, chop them up and store them in freezer bags. This not only saves them from going bad, but it also gives me ready to go veggies to throw into soups, pasta dishes and more. You can also find lots of great organic frozen veggies in the freezer section at most supermarkets now. Looks for things like peas, corn, and beans that you would normally only buy in cans.

Many companies are also now canning their foods in glass or BPA free plastic jars. I know that Dole sells fruit this way. And Costco’s Kirkland brand sells glass jars of fruit in packs of 4.

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4) Know the Dirty Dozen

Buying organic can get really expensive so you may have to pick and choose which items you can afford to buy. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has put out a list of the top 12 most highly pesticide contaminated produce items. If you can, try to always buy organic version of these items, and if you can’t afford or can’t find organic, then skip them altogether.

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

Baking Cupcakes with Silicon Baking Cups

One of the benefits of blogging is that I often get asked to try products and share them with my readers. I don’t often accept these offers because I am very choosy about what I will endorse, and also I want to always provide my readers with relevant content that represents Homemaker Chic. Well recently I was approached by The New York Baking Company about trying out their silicon baking cups and seriously friends, these are SO cool.

I’ve seen these before in stores but never really considered trying them, but I’m so glad I finally gave them a shot!

They’re called Baking Buddies and they come in a set of 12 in four really bright and super cute colors. You don’t have to use paper cupcake wrappers or cooking spray at all. The cupcakes baked so evenly and perfectly and the best part is that the slipped right out of the cups without sticking.

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Well… the chocolate cake was more moist and did stick the slightest bit but not enough to bother me.

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I’m not sure I would use them as shown in the photos on the site. They show them being used as actual cupcake wrappers which I suppose you could do, but I would be worried people might throw them away.

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I like these cups for when you do not want a wrapper on a cupcake at all. For example I used them for making little petit-four cakes by slicing the rounded tops off the cupcakes, placing them upside down, slicing them in half to add a filling, and then piping some decorative frosting on the outside. The cups were great for this purpose because they yielded perfect little cakes with no need to peel off paper that takes half the cake with it!

Try them out. I know you’ll like them!

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Post-partum gift basket and meal delivery

This year not only did God bless us with our own baby boy, but my sister also had a baby giving me my precious niece who was born on New Year’s Eve! Brooke is just two months younger than Luke and I know they will be best buddies. He is so much bigger than her! She was born at just under 6lbs and my tubby boy is already 15lbs!

big-baby-little-baby-homemakerchicMy sister has notoriously easy births and this one was no different. She had a very short labor and Brooke was born after one push. I got to be right there with her to support her through her first natural delivery.

Since I just had a baby there were lots of things that I knew my sister would need for her post-partum recovery, so I put together a practical gift basket for her. This is a great gift for a baby shower, or to bring to the hospital. My dear friend Kelly made a similar basket for me and it was so helpful!post-partum-basket

Here’s what I included:

  • Heavy Flow Maxi Pads
  • Stool Softener (that first post birth poop can be daunting, and the stool softener really helps!)
  • Advil
  • Iron Supplement (for blood loss)
  • Lip Balm
  • Mother’s Milk Tea (to support breastmilk supply)
  • Summer’s Eve Intimate Wash
  • Tucks Pads
  • Coffee & Chocolate (In limited amounts if breastfeeding)
  • Nipple Cream
  • Washable Cotton Breast Pads
  • Flushable wipes (to help stay fresh)

After Luke was born, I was blessed by some very sweet friends from church who brought over meals for us. So i decided to pay it forward and bring some meals to my sister (and her family of 7!) I took the idea of a very sweet friend from my bible study who made up some Chicken pot pie filling and brought some pie crusts. All I had to do was pour the filling into a pie dish, unroll the crust onto the top, and pop it in the oven. We also put together two crock pot ready beef stew bags that can be stored in the freezer. (The beer is for the stew)post-partum-meals postpartum-meals

Here are the recipes:

Chicken Pot Pie-

Makes 2 pies

3 Chicken Breasts- cubed into 1cm pieces

2 cups of Carrots- thinly sliced

2 cups of Celery- thinly sliced

1 cup of Onion- finely chopped

2 cups of potatoes – cubed into 1 cm pieces

2 cups frozen peas or green beans (my sister hates peas)

1/4 cup Madeira wine or Brandy (optional)

1 tsp tarragon

2 tsp parsley

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 stick butter

3 T flour

S&P to taste

1 box of ready-made pie crust

In a medium soup pot cook the onions in 1 T butter and a little chicken stock. When they are translucent, add the spices and the chicken and cook until chicken is done. Add carrots, celery, and potatoes and 2 cups of stock. Simmer until potatoes are soft but not fully cooked (about 80% done). There will be a little juice left. In a small saucepan make a roux by melting 2 T butter and whisking in the flour. Cook on med-low heat until it thickens and the “floury” smell subsides, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the Madeira and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the alcohol is cooked out. Pour the remaining juice from the pot into the roux. Add the cream and remaining butter and whisk for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens. Pour over the chicken and vegetables and mix well. Allow to cool then divide into two large freezer bags. When it is time to prepare, instruct the New Mom to pour one bag into a deep dish pie plate, unroll one crust on top, and bake for 20-25 minutes on 350. If she wants, she can do a top crust and a bottom crust, and also do an egg wash on top. If you plan for her to do a bottom crust, be sure to provide her with two packages of pie crust.

“Scarborough Fair” Crock Pot Beef Stew

Makes 2 Stews

  • 2 lbs Stew Beef Cubed
  • 4 cups small carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 cups mushrooms quartered
  • 2 Bottles of Dark Beer
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 4 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 4 T Olive Oil

This one is easy. Chop the veggies into uniform 1 inch pieces. Divide everything evenly between two large freezer bags. Shake. When it is time to cook instruct the new mom to dump one bag into a crock pot, pour one entire beer over top, fill the bottle with water and add that to the pot as well. Stew for 6-7 hours. For a thicker stew- mix 2 T flour into half cup cold water. Pour into stew during last 30 minutes of cook time.

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The Miracle of a Little Baby Boy

Almost two months ago my little miracle was born. This sweet boy, who changed everything, emerged from behind the veil.

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Every birth is truly a miracle when one considers all that must be aligned for life to be created and brought into this world. But some births seems slightly more miraculous than others. If you’ve struggled with infertility or recurrent miscarriages you have an idea what I’m talking about. When you’ve waited so long to meet that sweet child, it almost seems unreal when he finally gets here. When you’ve waited so long… it can be hard to believe.

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As I consider the season of advent I’m thinking of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the birth of her miracle baby. Her people had been waiting for this King for thousands of years. But they never expected him to come as a baby. I remember being so very surprised to be pregnant, just as Mary was (although I’m sure she was probably a LOT more shocked than I was!). I think about the reality of what her situation might have been like as a pregnant young woman. She might have had morning sickness, swollen ankles, difficulty sleeping, food aversions, even stretch marks. I think about those last days of her pregnancy. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a long one, and though legend tells that Mary rode a donkey, there is no mention of her riding a donkey in Scripture. Being as poor as they were, Mary and Joseph more than likely had to walk the nearly 80 miles to Joseph’s hometown for the census. I think about the last days of my pregnancy how Adam and I took many long walks to prepare my body for labor, and how everyone told us that it might help start the contractions.

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I imagine her first few contractions. She was a very young girl so she may not have known what to expect, but then again she probably saw many farm animals give birth. I wonder if it was a long labor? I wonder if Joseph was a patient and supportive birth coach? Perhaps God showed mercy on the mother of our Savior and gave her a quick and easy labor. Or maybe, like me, she had a very long, intense, labor. Was Jesus, God incarnate, in optimal position for birth? Perhaps he was breech. Or, most mystifying and wonderful a thought to me, perhaps Immanuel was born in the caul, behind the veil, like my own son.

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Was Jesus a colicky baby? Did he spit up all over Joseph’s tunic? Did he pee all over Mary while she was changing him? (lol Luke has done this several times). Did he love to be rocked and nursed to sleep? What must it have felt like to kiss the velvety forehead of the tiny baby Jesus?

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Have you ever imagined these details?

The truth is that none of this matters, except to say that this child, the miraculous birth of this tiny baby boy, was real! It is so much more real to me as I look into the eyes of my own son this Christmas. I wonder what it must have felt like for Mary to carry this baby, to go through the pain of natural childbirth, then to hold him in her arms knowing that he was the God of the Universe. Considering the logistics of all this gives new meaning to the humble beginnings of Christ, and what an incredible thing it was for Him to come the way he did. I am still stunned that I finally have this boy, but imagine how much more amazed Mary was, that not only did she have a beautiful Son, but to know that he was the long awaited Messiah must have just been overwhelming.

This year I am blessed beyond measure and at times I just can’t take in all that God has lavished upon me. Between post-partum hormones, freely flowing oxytocin from breastfeeding, and the simple joy that I have knowing that Jesus loves me, and cares for me, and came to this planet to save you and me, I have found myself in tears on many occasions over the last eight weeks.When I look at Luke, I forget all the heartache of the last few years, and all I see is hope. Mary must have been overtaken with emotions staring directly into the sweet little face of the newborn Christ because He was and is the hope of a nation… He is the hope of the world.

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This year I pray that you consider the reality of what happened on that first Christmas and what it means for you if you believe.

And now, since you are all so awesome. I thought I’d give you a little visual snack as a Christmas gift. Who doesn’t love seeing amazing photos of adorable babies? One of my dear readers, Niko Williams, found my blog on Pinterest, and it turns out we’re neighbors! Is that a God thing or what? She took these photos of Luke when he was 12 days old. I am simply overwhelmed with JOY! :)

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This has been another amazing year here at Homemaker Chic. I have been so blessed by so many readers who have written to me to share how my story has inspired and encouraged them. I am very thankful for all of you! My hope is that this blog, and my story will always bring glory and honor to God because He is the reason I can speak about these things. Merry Christmas – I love you all!