How I’m Surviving Winter

While I love living in a state that gets to experience the unique weather of four different seasons, I don’t particularly consider winter to be my favorite season. However, because I try to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, I have come to realize that there are some things that can only be enjoyed during these cold, blustery days. So this winter, here are some things that are helping me to not only survive winter, but to thrive during it …

~Warm blankets and our fireplace – I absolutely love snuggling up under a thick warm blanket, turning the fireplace on, and reading a good book. During most afternoons, I read aloud to the kiddos and we all love getting cozy.

~Hot drinks – Whether it is homemade hot cocoa, homemade chai tea latte, my morning cup of coffee, or an afternoon cup of tea, I almost always have a hot drink as a companion throughout these cold days.


~Thick scarves – I have a few knit infinity scarves that are a part of my every day wardrobe (yes, while I am inside my house!) since we don’t keep our heat very high.

~Wool socks and warm boots – While some of my children seem to think walking around barefoot all winter long is brilliant, I am pretty sure my feet would turn blue if I did that. I am thankful for warm woolen socks and boots with wool lining in them.

~Comfort food – This time of the year, we eat tons of soups, stews, roasts, and casseroles. Not much beats a hot bowl of soup and fresh homemade bread for dinner on a cold dreary night. We also typically have a hot lunch to warm us up (grilled cheese with tomato soup, baked potato bar, leftover soup, English muffin pizza’s, etc.).


~Grapefruit – I absolutely L.O.V.E. grapefruit and since this is the time of the year when they are available, delicious, and cheap we always have them on hand. I don’t buy much fresh fruit this time of the year, but grapefruit is a staple.

~Candles – Throughout the winter, I almost always have my candle warmers turned on. I also burn candles, but since the candle warmers are so much more cost effective, we use those more often. There is something about candles burning that just makes the house seem warmer, even if it really isn’t!

~Body Butter – I made a huge batch of Cocoa Peppermint Body Butter which has eliminated any dry itchy skin problems. I have been using my hard lotion bar (same ingredients in my homemade lip balms) on my hands for a few years to avoid dry, chapped, and bleeding hands – however, the body butter is easier to apply all over which has made it a life saver (and saving me money since I used to buy a natural body butter every winter).

~Essential Oils – We have been diffusing essential oils every day and we all love it. Our schoolroom always smells lovely and it is an easy way to absorb them into our systems. We still spray an immune builder blend on every day, but diffusing throughout the day has been a blessing around here.

~Dreaming of summer – Since we just had an in ground pool put in our backyard this past fall, we dream of summer days by the pool!



Since I neglected to put up a single post this entire summer (until today – 3 Alaska posts plus this one might be a new record, ha!) I thought I would show a glimpse into what we have been up to.

While we were spending 2 weeks in Alaska, the best Mimi (and Gramps, but we all know Mimi did 99% of the work!) ever watched our precious kiddos.  She made memories, loved on our kiddos, was patient, did special things with them, and made our time away a joy for us.  It took about a month for them to stop calling me “Mimi” but I am ok with that!  We are so incredibly blessed to have parents who will watch our kiddos for such long periods of time so that we can get away.  We know not everyone has this blessing and don’t take it for granted. We are blessed and so are our kiddos! 
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Tea party at Mimi’s housetea party

Gramps and Mimi braved the rain for the local parade with the kiddos on July 4th!
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And took them to see fireworks!
finale fireworks

Emma picked some flowers for us while we were away (and informed us that she is getting married)!
emma flowers

Before we left for Alaska, Justin’s baseball team won the championship!
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After we got back from Alaska, me and the kiddos dressed like cows for free Chick-fil-A food.
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On hot days we swim at our next door neighbor’s house.

While the big kiddos were away at the grandparents Emma was my buddy … and she also beat me at “I Spy.”
emma game

I missed my big kid helpers, but at least Emma is cute!  We have been busy freezing zukes, making pickles from cukes, freezing green peppers, making BLT’s with garden fresh tomatoes, and eating lots of fresh food from the garden!
emma garden

I was happy to have my big kids back home!

Emma and Callie love to climb this little tree.
girlies tree

Sydney takes a morning walk or bike ride across the street every morning to visit her horse friends, Cody and Angie. Our kind neighbor lets them pet the horses, help clean them, brush them, give them treats, ride them, and spend as much time as they want climbing on the fence to visit them!
sydney horse

Brian’s brother, Derek, and his fiance, Joy, came for a visit to play some doubles tennis and to ask Callie and Emma to be their flower girls.  We had a blast and the little girlies are absolutely thrilled (and eagerly anticipating March)!

Emma got bike lessons from Daddy … kiddos #5 on a 2 wheeler.
emma bike

Emma turned 4!
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She got new pig pj’s from Mimi … a big deal when you are girlie #4 and new pj’s are rare!
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And last but not least, we started school!
first day of school

Although we don’t start Classical Conversations until the Monday after Labor Day, we are gradually getting back into a routine around here.  Because of that, don’t be too surprised if another couple of months goes by without a post!  I need to learn the art of short and sweet posts.  I am hoping to get up a school post showing our schoolroom, some favorite supplies, and what we are using this year for school.  However, that post will not be short and sweet so who knows when and if it will happen!

Alaska – Part 3

This last post will have pics from the week that we were on land in Big Lake, Alaska.  We relaxed, kayaked, went hiking, enjoyed some scenic drives, rented 4 wheelers, and relaxed some more!  I didn’t take as many pictures that week, and sometimes only one of us took a camera along on a hike so I don’t have those pictures yet. 

Our view from the deck was lovely!

Dinner together

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Another hike with amazing views.

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Hatcher’s Pass Scenic Drive

Denali drive to see Mt. McKinley

We got some nice views before the clouds moved in (we were told that only about 15% of people get to see McKinley because of how often it develops storm systems with clouds that cover it from view).

Almost completely covered

By the time we got to the last lookout, McKinley was hiding.

We rented 4 wheelers for a day and had a guide take us through the mountains. A highlight for sure!

My hot driver (until it was time for the girls to drive!)


Some of the trails we were on.
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We drove through a bit of mud.
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Compared to the river we crossed, these areas were nothing!

Brian and I won the award for who got the most wet!





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When we were almost finished with our riding (and safe from any wildlife), our guide taught us girls how to shoot his gun.
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We saw this rainbow on the way back to our house … a beautiful way to end the day.

Alaska – Part 2

Next up is Skagway, and then our scenic tours into Glacier Bay and College Fjords (with a few other random pics from on the cruise ship thrown in)!

Skagway was such a quaint little town.


Waiting for the others to finish shopping.



Me and my love.
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My hot breakfast date.

Glacier Bay National Park


Warming up with coffee before heading back out

Dad and Mom Herr



Krista, me, and Kendra (my 2 sis in laws … excited to add another sis in law to the family in March ‘15!)

We had amazing views.


My hot lunch date.


College Fjords


Beautiful views every way you turned.

Crazy thing is that it was almost 8 p.m. in these pics.



Almost 11 p.m. and still light out!

Formal night group shot
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Alaska – Part 1

This post is long overdue, but that is just the way it goes!  Being away for 2 weeks made our summer fly by even faster than it usually does, so there wasn’t much time for blogging. 
We had the amazing privilege of visiting Alaska for 2 weeks back in June/July with the adults in Brian’s family.  His parents are incredibly generous and are the ones who made this trip happen.  We spent a week on a cruise (with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, as well as scenic tours to Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjords) and then a week on land in a beautiful cabin on Big Lake.  Just a warning, this post (and the ones to follow) will be a little long because narrowing down 700+ pics to a few blog posts is tough.  Alaska is a gorgeous state!

Pulling out in Vancouver (As a side note, we barely made our connecting flight in Toronto because a passenger, who is afraid to fly, had a panic attack right before we took off. The airline had to remove her from the plane and then also remove her luggage before we could takeoff. As another side note, only Dad Herr would crack a joke to some folks in Toronto about staging a panic attack to delay the plane from taking off until we all made it there and then have them respond “actually, that women in Philly is a part of our group!” Thankfully they had a sense of humor and laughed.)





Walking to find our hiking trail







Hiking with a view like this is glorious.

Our trail was buried in snow! We pressed on (after a vote, ha).

This one was for our kids.



At the end of our 7.5 mile hike we had a gorgeous view.


We moved a little faster on the 7.5 miles back out (partially because certain members of our hike were a little unprepared to hike 15 miles with absolutely zero food in their backpacks!)

At port in Juneau