{Free Printable} Inspirational Quote – Take Time To Do What Makes Your Soul Happy

Free Printable Chalkboard Quote - 'Take Time To Do What Makes Your Soul Happy' || Sweet Little Sparrow

Take Time – Printable Chalkboard Quote

I made this a little while ago, but I’m just getting around to sharing it now. It seemed like a good time though, as we head into the weekend, to think about the ways we choose to spend our time. I know I, for one, often have a hard time giving myself permission to do the things that I enjoy just for the sake of the enjoyment. Particularly when my life is busy (ok, let’s be honest, when is it not?), and I feel like I have a million other more important things to do, it seems self-indulgent to do things just for myself. But time spent doing the things that nourish our souls is never wasted time, is it?

—-> Click here to download, save, and print. <—-

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

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{Daily Musings} February 5, 2015 ~ Dreaming of Summer

Floating on Trafton Lake || Sweet Little Sparrow

Floating on Trafton Lake

It’s dark and gloomy outside today, so I’m stealing a few moments to close my eyes and dream about summertime. For me, lake swimming is one of the simple pleasures that makes life worthwhile, and this is one of my favorite places in the world to do it. I can *almost* feel the sun on my skin, the warm breeze, the cool water…

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{Daily Musings} February 3, 2015 ~ We Are So Lucky

Jack with a Spiffy New Haircut

Jack Computing

[Photo is of Jack, playing on the computer, with his brand new buzz cut.]

You know those weeks when nothing seems to go right? When you feel like things couldn’t possibly get any worse…and then they big fat do? This, my friends, is one of those weeks. I’m sure at some point in the (distant) future, I will look back on this week and laugh. I mean, so much has happened in such a short period of time, that it’s *almost* funny. Not ‘ha ha’ funny or anything, but the ‘you might as well laugh instead of cry’ funny.

Last Sunday, Josh was getting ready to go on a trip for work. Having daddy leave town is always really stressful for our family because Jack has a hard time dealing with changes in his routine. Hours before he was supposed to get on the plane though, he had to be rushed to the hospital and ended up having emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder. Fortunately, things went well, and he was able to come home after only a few days. He was exhausted from surgery and I was exhausted from three sleepless nights spent rushing back and forth between him and the boys, so I was desperately tired when Olly woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he didn’t feel well. I sat with him for the rest of the night while he threw up over and over again. In the meantime, Griffen’s hair has started falling out in clumps, probably indicating that his thyroid medication needs to be adjusted again. I very nearly fainted when I tried to change Josh’s bandages, and had to call a nurse friend to come help. It looks like a bomb went off in our house (a bomb that deposits copious amounts of of dog hair and Legos). And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…

Jack has lice. The child with such a severe aversion to having his head touched, that up until last year I cut his hair while he slept to save both of us the ordeal. Who hates to have his hair washed, even on the best of days. Who grinds his teeth and clenches his tiny hands into fists, in order to endure the haircuts that we have ever so slowly worked our way up to. Why, oh why, does he have to go through this? Ever since he started school I have dreaded the possibility of this happening. And here we are, in the midst of this ridiculously crappy week, and he has lice.

But here’s the thing. Even though it’s every bit as bad as I had imagined it would be – he’s miserable, his eyes are swollen from crying so much, and he’s tired of having his hair messed with – he said something that just completely blew me away. “Mom, I’m really sorry you have to do all this work to get rid of the hair bugs, I wish you didn’t have to.” Of course I assured him that it was in no way his fault, to which he replied, “Oh, I know it’s not. I just wish you didn’t have to deal with it. It’s not very fun.” This, from the kid who I was told would never be capable of feeling empathy. I had no words for what I was feeling, so I just gave him a big hug and told him how very much I love him. And then this… “You know mom, the good thing is we will always love each other – you, and me, and dad, and Olly. Even though dad had surgery and I have lice, we still all love each other. So, we’re really lucky, you know?”

I do buddy, I really do…but thank you so much for reminding me ❤

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{Daily Musings} February 2, 2015 ~ This is Us

This is Us || Sweet Little Sparrow

This is Us

[This photo was taken many years ago, but it is one of my all-time favorites of us together.]

As some of you may know, Josh (my absolutely amazing husband) was in the hospital last week. He had to have emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder, which is a pretty routine procedure in most cases. Since he has an extremely rare chronic kidney condition, however, any sort of emergency medical situation can be very dangerous for him. Basically, he can’t have a regular saline IV and must be re-hydrated at a significantly different level than most people if he has to have surgery.

I always knew the risk involved and thought we were prepared to handle it. He wears a medic alert bracelet, and in this case, we were both present and conscious and able to explain the situation to medical personnel. I had no idea, however, that it would be such a struggle to explain, or how many times I would have to repeat myself before I could get anyone to listen to me. Apparently, treating someone for whom a saline IV could be potentially life-threatening is something that most doctors have never encountered.

I ended up practically standing guard over him, a letter from his specialist in hand, checking the contents of each bag of fluid as one nurse after the next rotated through their shifts. It wasn’t until I spoke personally with the surgeon, that I felt comfortable letting him be wheeled away. Thankfully, she was exceptionally kind as well as competent. She listened to me, and had no problem admitting that she had never encountered a patient with Josh’s condition before. She researched it first, and had no problem consulting with his (out of town) specialist before the surgery.

Thankfully, everything went well. This man, who I love so much more than I could ever express with words, is back home with me, and I am so grateful. It will be a few weeks before he is completely back to his usual self, but in the meantime I feel like I can breathe again…and let go the tears that I have held back all week. All I want to do is hold onto him (gently of course) and appreciate how incredibly lucky I am to have him in my life.

❤ ~

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{Daily Musings} February 1, 2015 ~ Cat Nap

Cat Nap || Sweet Little Sparrow

Cat Nap

This photo of JoJo and I, napping on the couch, was taken nearly 12 years ago. Many things have changed since then, but some things have not. ❤

{Daily Musings} January 31, 2015 ~ Spring is Coming!

Spring is Coming!

New Growth on the Plum Tree || Sweet Little Sparrow Blog

Spring starts on March 20th this year, which means we only have 7 more weeks to go! Yippee!!! Anyone else as excited about that as I am?

Photo is of one of the branches on my yellow plum tree, where tiny new buds have just started to peek their little heads out. Where I live, this always happens around the end of January, and is one of the first signs that spring is coming!

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Microblogging – What is it and why am I so excited about it?

Microblog Monday - Take back your blog! #microblogmonday

Microblog Monday – Take back your blog! #microblogmonday


I recently came across an image on Pinterest with the hashtag #MicroblogMonday. I had never heard the term ‘microblog’ before, and I was intrigued. I repinned it to one of my secret boards – ‘Things to Check Out Later When I Have More Time’ (I use this board a lot…). So, it wasn’t until this morning that I did, in fact, have time to look into microblogging in more detail, and I must say, I’m inspired.

First of all, what is microblogging?

The simplest explanation is that it’s no different from any other type of blogging, except that the posts are shorter and less involved than the typical blog post. For example, a single photo with a brief caption. A few sentences about what you did this morning. Think along the lines of a Facebook status update or an Instagram post.

More importantly, why should you microblog, and what’s got me all excited about this idea?

The concept of posting brief status updates and/or photos is hardly a new one. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were built around this idea. Many people who have blogs, myself included, are frequent users of one or more of these sties, but don’t post this same sort of content on our own blogs. When I make a blog post, I put quite a bit of thought (and time) into it. Some posts (recipes, tutorials, I’m talking about you here…) can be quite involved, and my life doesn’t always afford me that kind of time. I currently have a VERY long list of post ideas that I either haven’t started working on yet, or are in some sort of partially completed state, waiting until I get around to finishing them.

I have come to think of blog posts as pages (or in some cases, chapters) of a book. Each can be viewed and enjoyed on its own, a finished work in its own right. They’re a perfect balance between words, and beautiful, illustrative photos. My favorite blogs are resources, repositories of information and inspiration, all wrapped up with a pretty bow. So, it makes sense that I would try to model my own blog after these ones that I admire, right? Well, maybe…

For the most part, the blogs I’m talking about are written by people who have made blogging their full-time profession, or, at the very least, who are able to devote much more time to their blogs than I am. So, if I try to emulate that style of blogging, my efforts will never measure up to my own standards. I also won’t be able to post very often, since each post takes so much time to create. This is why I sometimes go months between posts, which causes me to lose my momentum and enthusiasm about blogging.

The things that keep me excited about blogging are the interactions. I love to hear from readers and connect with people who I wouldn’t have gotten to a chance to meet otherwise. Most of these interactions, however, don’t happen on my actual blog. When I find a blogger I like, I tend to follow them on other social media sites, and its there that more of the interactions take place. Why is that? Probably because they, like most of us, share more frequent, stream of consciousness, “what am I doing right now” posts on these sites. These posts tend to be more personal, more varied, and in many cases, more interesting than the well-crafted posts on their blog. It might be their blogs that introduced me to them, but it’s these ‘microposts’ that cause me to interact with them. These glimpses into their real lives make me enjoy their blogs even more.

I love seeing James of Bleubird blog’s family photos (she has the most adorable, photogenic cat and children in the universe), and Beth of Local Milk‘s travel and cooking snapshots (every last one of which is stunning – even the ones that don’t make it onto the blog). I learned from his Facebook page that Brett of Green Thumb White Apron is getting chickens this spring (a kindred spirit in ‘backyard farming’), and got a sneak peek of the gorgeous coop he is building for them. I eagerly await each new post from Emory of Hello, Scarlett Blog, as she shares the progress of the new home, affectionately dubbed “The Little Barn“, that she and her husband are building. I also love seeing photos of her beloved four-legged family members.

One of the first things I struggled with when I started my own blog was narrowing its focus. Everything I’ve ever read about becoming more successful as a blogger, encourages you to clearly define your purpose and subject matter. So, if you have a cooking blog, post recipes and food photos, and don’t muddy the waters with lots of off-topic posts. You do want to inject your personality into your blog – but you don’t want to overdo it. So, don’t post photos of your cat Fluffy, or talk about the cute thing your kid said this morning, unless your blog is about cats & kids OR is intended as a personal blog that’s mainly written for the purpose of keeping friends and family updated on your life. I’m going to go out on a limb here though and say, hogwash! Who wants to see those photos of Fluffy or hear about the cute thing your kid said? This girl.

I love personal details in blogs. I like the beautiful, professional-looking content too, and I will continue to strive towards that in some of my posts, but I’m no longer going to worry about staying on topic. My life is crazy and always changing. My interests vary widely. There probably aren’t too many people in the world who can relate to EVERYTHING I’m interested in, but I’m going to post about it all here anyway. I’m going to aim to turn my blog into a reflection of me – a quirky and chaotic mixture, to be sure. I’m going to post short, unpolished ‘status updates’ – the things I have been sharing on Instagram & Facebook. (Incidentally, I’m still going to post them to IG & FB, I’m just going to post them here first.) I’m going to post recipes and projects and tutorials. I’m going to post about being a mom, about parenting a child with Autism, about my chickens and why I raise them, and about my latest gardening endeavors. I’m also going to post about my small business and the things I make for my Etsy shop. Sometimes I’ll post photos of new products, and sometimes wedding ideas – because in the process of designing wedding accessories and interacting with brides, my mind is overflowing with inspiration, and sometimes I just have to share. In short, I’m just going to create posts without worrying about the subject matter or the blog I’m creating as a whole. To continue the book analogy, I’m envisioning more of a diary than a reference book. Sometimes my updates will be short, ‘microposts’, sometimes photos, and sometimes longer, more traditional posts. I’m also going to try not to worry so much about making each post perfect – editing and re-editing my words, or waiting until I have a photo that is up to snuff. I’m giving myself permission to post anyway – even if my writing is a little rough around the edges, or my photo is a bit out of focus. It’s all part of the process, and part of my story.

I’m working on redesigning the site to improve the ability to search for specific content, which hopefully will make it easier for readers to find the things that are of interest to them (without having to wade through the things that aren’t). In the meantime though, let me know what you think! Does this sort of blogging appeal to you or do you prefer the more traditional style? How do you manage your own blog? What works for you? If you’re already ‘microblogging’, or think you might want to give it a try, leave a link to your site in the comments – I would love to check it out! And even if I am turning this blog into a home base of sorts, let’s still connect on our other social media sites:
Instagram || Facebook || Pinterest || Google+ || Etsy Shop

You can find my ‘microblog’ posts here: Daily Musings

If you want to learn more, or participate in #MicroblogMondays, click here to see where I first discovered the idea.

xo ~

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{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream

{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream #thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at our house this year was a low key affair, filled with family, friends, and lots of good food – just the way I like it!

{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream #thanksgiving

Apple pie has always been my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love the turkey…and the stuffing…and the sweet potatoes…but I just have a soft spot for pie. This pie in particular is the perfect melding of flavors – a rich, buttery crust, tart spiced apples, and plenty of fresh whipped cream.

{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream #thanksgiving

I have had these cute little leaf cutters for years, and I always bust them out when I make pies for the holidays. They’re easy to use, and make your pie look super fancy 😉 I’m pretty sure mine came from Williams Sonoma, but Amazon has a set that looks very similar. In trying to find a link for this post, I also came across this set, and I must admit I’m tempted to get it too! I love the acorn and the little sheaf of wheat.

{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream #thanksgiving

Cutting the leaves is a two part process. First you cut them from a rolled out piece of pie dough, then you press gently on the plunger to imprint the vein pattern. To make sure they stay put, apply a little egg wash to the back of each cut out before positioning it on your pie. I like to use them to circle the edge, overlapping them just slightly. Brush the tops with the egg wash as well, before putting the pie in the oven, to give it a deep, golden color.

{Recipe} Spiced Apple Pie with Brandy & Cream #thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8 to 10
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  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 pounds Granny Smith apples (or another tart variety), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 recipe ‘Perfect Pie Crust‘ (or your favorite double crust pie dough recipe)
  • 1 egg (optional, for egg wash)


  1. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 of the apples, 1/2 of the sugar and spice mixture, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the apples have begun to soften. Remove pan from heat and add 2 tablespoons of brandy. Return pan to burner, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons of cream. Continue to cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until mixture begins to thicken. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients (to save time, you can do this in two skillets, simultaneously, but I find it easier to just do it in two batches).
  3. Remove apple mixture from heat. This part can be done a day or two in advance, if desired. If you’re not making your pie immediately, transfer the filling to an airtight container, let cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Make egg wash by lightly whisking 1 egg together with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Divide pie dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the bottom crust out until you have a 1/8 inch thick round. Transfer it carefully to a deep dish pie pan. Pour filling into prepared crust, mounding it up towards the center. Roll out second half of your dough. Cut shapes with cookie cutters or a paring knife to form the top ‘crust’. Apply egg wash to the back of each piece of crust that is going to be laid on top of another piece of crust (this will help seal them together). Lightly brush the entire top of the crust with egg wash.
  6. Place pie into the preheated, 400 degree oven, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until top is starting to look golden. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue to bake for another 45 to 55 minutes. If the top crust starts to get too brown, carefully place a piece of aluminum foil over the top, and continue to cook until the filling is bubbly and the bottom crust is no longer doughy.
  7. Remove pie from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool 45 minutes to 1 hour before slicing. Serve with plenty of fresh whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

To all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

xo ~

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{Giving Thanks} A Letter to My Son’s Teachers

Thanksgiving is only two days away, which means that I have a to-do list a mile long, and everything feels a bit hectic. In the midst of the chaos, however, I want to take a moment to slow down and just be thankful for some of the good things in my life. I’m thankful for my family (of course), but I tell them so often that they’re probably tired of hearing it. So, here’s a thank you to some of the people I am thankful for every day, but who I don’t often get a chance to say it to.

Kindergarten Graduation

Photo is of Jack with his teacher last year when he graduated from kindergarten.

Thank you to the teachers who go so far above and beyond, who show such love and compassion, and who give so freely of themselves. Your dedication changes lives. My son’s life…my life.

To Jack’s special ed teacher, who despite the 30 other children in her care, calmly and capably deals with his anxieties and meltdowns. Who takes the time to text me in the middle of her busy workday just to let me know he’s doing ok. Who stops by during her summer vacation and plays with my kids, and listens patiently as they tell her about play dates and Lego camp, and gently reminds them (over and over again) to be careful of her injured knee as they climb on and hang from her. Thank you.

To the entire team of people who worked with Jack during his preschool and kindergarten years, you will always hold a special place in my heart. These were the years when he was crying more than he wasn’t. When I felt like a complete failure because my little boy was so unhappy. When his default answer to every question was a resounding ‘no’, followed by kicking, screaming, and scratching if you persevered. Thank you for persevering anyway, and for helping me to understand why he felt the way he did. When leaving the house was almost more than he could handle – thank you for being his home away from home. For not only teaching my boy, but for loving him. For the reassurance and hugs you gave so generously to him – and to me. Thank you.

To Jack’s first grade teacher (I still can’t believe he’s in the first grade!!), who sees his potential, and challenges him to do his very best every day. Who understands that some days, simply making it through the day is his very best. Who celebrates his achievements, and helps him pick up the pieces when things fall apart. For all you’ve done, and continue to do – thank you.

I am so very grateful for all of you.

Jack's Kindergarten Graduation

Jack giving me a big hug after his kindergarten graduation ceremony, Olly peeking out from behind.

xo ~ Stacey

{Recipe} Three Bean Chili with Dark Chocolate & Walnuts

{Recipe} Three Bean Chili with Dark Chocolate & Walnuts

{Recipe} Three Bean Chili with Dark Chocolate & Walnuts

The weather has been cold and clear here for the past week, resulting in frosty mornings and gorgeous (albeit early) sunsets. I have been having daydreams of snuggling up in front of a crackling fire and drinking hot buttered rum. Unfortunately, we don’t have a fire place, and I’ve never even tasted hot buttered rum (although if anyone wants to drop by with a cup for me, I would be totally ok with that). Continue reading