Well, hello there! Even though it’s only mid-July, it’s hard to believe that summer break is more than half over for us.

It’s been a summer of ups and downs. Lots of fun, lots of challenges. Some wonderful memories made and some disappointments here and there. Just life, you know? But overall, I think we can all say it’s been a pretty good one.

This Friday Thoughts post is kind of long. It’s random. It’s a little weird. It makes me feel slightly vulnerable in parts. But it’s all real life stuff! I don’t blame you if you don’t read it all. Clearly I just needed to get a lot of stuff out of my brain and into this space, so no worries if you give up after the first paragraph. If you make it to the end, you deserve a super rock star award.

As I say with each of these posts, what I really want is to hear from you! Let me know how your summer is going, and weigh in on anything and everything below! It’s a highlight for me when I read all of your comments. 

You can catch all Friday Thoughts posts here (some of the best discussion and information in the comment threads of these posts).

1) Card Game Obsession: In between the massive amounts of outdoor projects and yard work we have done and have yet to do, we’ve found our new game obsession. Oh man. This simple card game is SO fun. I bought it after one of you recommended it in one of my last game posts, and we’ve already introduced it to so many friends and family (who have instantly fell in love and bought it too). It’s called Play Nine {aff. link}. It looks like a game all about golf (which actually kind of turned me off initially, no offense golf people), but other than trying to get a low score, it’s not really anything like golf. Highly, highly recommend this, especially since it can be played with as few as two people or as many as six people, and it is super easy to catch on. Yep, we’re obsessed.

2) Craziest Cookie of My Life: I posted this pic on Instagram last week asking for help thinking of what to call these cookies. Seriously, you guys, they are insane. So, so delicious. I’ve made probably six or seven batches of them in the last two weeks (notably, I just made 150 of them for my cousins’ wedding dinner yesterday). I received over 400 messages on Instagram (!!) with name suggestions, and all I can say is: you guys crack me up. I’ll be posting the recipe next week, and I’ll definitely be highlighting the winning name as well as some of the others that are too good not to share. Any last thoughts? What do you think this cookie should be called??

3) Cookie Dough Business: Speaking of cookies, my older three kids are busy earning money for a church trek/camp coming up, as well as a family trip we have set for next spring break (each of them are earning several hundred dollars toward the cost of the trip). My older two boys have “official” jobs (one working hard at a horse ranch and the other doing upkeep/yard work/fix it projects on our rental property and 20 acres behind us). That leaves my sweet 12-year old who decided he wanted to sell cookie dough. He put together this flier and got to work!

He literally spent three full days in the kitchen making cookie dough and freezing it in preparation for sales. He’s done his best to get the word out to neighbors and friends in the area and so far he’s sold almost 20 dozen cookie dough balls! Proud of him and all his hard work as he has tackled this largely on his own (he’s an amazing chef/baker so it was a natural business choice). We do need to work a bit on degreasing the kitchen floor and “cleaning as you go” but overall, it’s been fun to see him work on this.

4) Family Reunion Recap: Brian and I planned his extended family reunion this year. The planning consumed my every waking moment for a long time, and I was equal parts relieved and sad when it was over. His family of 48 prefers to stay under the same roof for reunions, which is awesome but poses challenges finding a space for that large group.

This year after asking on Instagram for your recommendations, we stumbled on Three Peaks Lodge in St. Anthony, Idaho, and wow. Wow! It was amazing and probably the most perfect reunion location we could have asked for (totally unsponsored). We loved it so much, in fact, that his family has already booked it for the 2021 reunion. The kitchen is ginormous (seats 40+ people!), there are rock walls and slides and hidden tunnels all throughout the lodge, and outside there are basketball courts, tennis courts, picnic tables, a hot tub, tons of grassy/playing areas. Ten bedrooms, six bathrooms and a huge bunkroom. Honestly, it was perfect. 

Brian and I basically packed up our entire house and brought it with us. Ha. Among all the kitchen and planning items, we brought our nine square game that our friends made for us, which was a total hit and occupied kids and adults alike for hours (along with tons of other outside games like spikeball, flimsee, Kub and others). 

One of the highlights that I didn’t expect was this baby faces game. I printed out 5X7 pictures of every family member as a baby and put them on a wall (each picture had a # on it). The “scorecard” sheets had all the names…whoever matched the most correct #’s to names won the grand prize (a set of teething rings and a Baby Ruth candy bar :). I couldn’t believe how competitive Brian’s family was about trying to get the most right! I think his dad and older brother sat in front of this wall for at least four hours. It was hilarious. 

Brian planned some epic family Olympic games involving everyone from the babies to the great grandmas. Super fun. Yes, those are ding dongs getting stacked on Jackson’s forehead. 🙂

And this bobblehead skit some of the grandkids did was hilariously awesome (faces of grandma, grandpa and the two great grandmas). I printed the high res photos at Costco (16X20) and glued them to foam board, cut them out, and glued a sturdy plastic cup to the back which the kids gripped in their little teeth. If this whole setup has you slightly concerned and freaked out, just google “bobblehead skit” and you’ll see how hilarious they are.

Mostly we did a lot of talking, laughing, game playing (inside and out), and of course, eating. I made this honey lime chicken and this lentil chili and served it as a build-your-own nacho bar with tortilla chips and tons of toppings. For a breakfast, I made this chocolate granola and this almond granola and served it with yogurt and lots of fresh fruit (and scrambled eggs and toast). Yum! His siblings brought some stellar meals, too. We definitely didn’t go hungry!

5) Quilting: Where are all my quilters at? I posted this on Instagram a few weeks ago, but I finished this flag quilt (pattern by Camille at Thimble Blossoms) just in time for the 4th of July. And even though I tend to say a lot of bad words when I sew anything, and I’ve never met a hobby that frustrates me quite as much as quilting, weirdly, I actually really enjoy it, too. I was visiting my mom when I finished this quilt – she took me to her local quilt store and taught me how to long arm quilt the top. I was a super nervous wreck (not the greatest hobby for perfectionists), but in the end, I’ll give it to my mom for pushing me out of my comfort zone and making me finish this 100% by myself. Geez. Why do moms always have to be right??

6) Pickleball: We are very, very recent pickleball converts (my brother taught us to play a few weeks ago when we were visiting in Montana), and oh my gosh, how come no one told us how fun this game is?? We quickly bought some paddles online {aff. link} and it has been a blast for our whole family. A few tears, but not too many. Our tiny little community doesn’t have official pickleball courts, but we have tennis courts that can be *pretty* easily  modified and there are some public park pickleball courts 25-ish minutes away. I am the least athletic person alive, and I’m still halfway decent (haha, not great but decent). Am I the last one on earth to play this??

7) Fill in the Blank: I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries lately. I’m not good at them. I never have been, really. But I’ve been trying to establish better boundaries in many areas of my life. Boundaries for things I do personally (blogging/social media) and also boundaries involving people in my life (for instance, trying to learn how to stop managing the emotions of those around me). Much of this initiative is to lessen some anxieties that I deal with on the daily. It’s not something I talk a lot about because it reveals some of my insecurities, and it’s probably a bit too deep to dive into fully here (we can pick it up in the comment thread, if you’d like), but mostly today, I’d love if you could fill in the blanks in this sentence for me. No judging! Any answer is safe here – be it deep, a little out there, hilarious, real, sensitive, whatever.”I want to do more _____________ and less _____________”

My responses today would be:
I want to do more being true to myself and less worrying about making others upset.
Or maybe: I want to do more reading in the New Testament and less scrolling through Instagram.
Or lastly: I want to do more cookie eating and less cookie baking. Def going to need to get my kids involved in this last one! 🙂

If you feel comfortable, I’d love to know what your response to that sentence would be! 

Love you guys. Thanks for being here.

Friday Thoughts Update: By popular demand, I’m recapping a few hot topics from the last Friday Thoughts post. Namely, what do you use for photo storage and what is your signature recipe? First up, photo storage. I went through each and every comment and kind of compiled a quick and casual list of how you guys reported you handle your personal photo storage. The highest number of comments talked about their experience with Google Drive and Google Photos (the latter syncs to your computer and an external hard drive). Lots of other responses included: Amazon Prime, wd.com, backblaze, forever.com, carbonite, and good old-fashioned hard drives. 

Signature recipes! It was impossible to categorize all of these responses, but I loved reading the recipes you are known for! Loved it, loved it. Everything from cinnamon rolls to chickpea curry to chocolate chip cookies to almond puff. The answers are golden and now I want all the recipes. 

Spatula lifting out frosted cinnamon roll from half sheet pan.

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