Dream the Life You Want then Live the Life you Dream: 6 strategies for achieving your 2018 goals

Just three days. Three days until we ring in the New Year. Three days until one calendar will come down to be replaced by another. New. Clean. Squares on a page, blank except for numbers to count the days, waiting for ink to consume the empty space. A blank page upon which we will write our story. And that’s the amazing thing. We have the incredible privilege of writing our own stories!

It’s a truth we often want to ignore, deny and avoid.  It’s uncomfortable. It means that our reality, our circumstances, our lives are in some way, at some level our own responsibility. Like a sword, it severs excuses. Like a flame it burns away blame we too often place onto others. It calls us to responsibility. We squirm. We try to avoid it, but it’s there, this truth. If we can summon our courage, raise our eyes and look it in the face, if we can set aside fear for just a minute, if we can come to embrace it, we will find freedom.

We don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to settle. We don’t have to give up on dreams!

As I’ve thought about the coming year and considered goals, and what I will write in those blank, little squares, I’m increasingly mindful of this truth. My story will be written. Will I write it or will I let others write it for me? Will it be written by my intention or by the tyranny of the urgent? At the end of 2018, will I be able to say I lived the life I wanted to live, did the things I wanted to do, accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, grew in the ways I wanted to grow, and developed the character traits I desired.  I hope so. With intention, with discipline, with faith.

It seems everyone has strategies and advice on goal setting. I’ve read the books, watched the Ted Talks, and listened to the podcasts. This year I’ve compiled those things into 6 strategies I want to implement in 2018.

1. Define the “why”.

I recently heard best-selling author Jeff Goins speaking about Michael Hyatt’s goal setting program. Jeff said a couple of things that were really eye-opening for me. He spoke of the need to define the “why”. Why do I want to accomplish a certain thing? Jeff said that the “why” has to be real, not some politically correct version of a “why”, or a “why” I think I should have. It needs to be a real, deep down in my heart reason for wanting to have or do this thing. He gave the example of losing weight and getting in better shape. The politically correct “why” is to be healthier and to have energy to play with the kids. The real “why” might simply be to look great and have greater confidence as result. We might be able to fool others, but we can’t trick ourselves. Define your “why”. Make it compelling. Make it urgent and be honest with yourself. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, that’s the hard part for me, being honest with myself. It’s scary. It feels vulnerable. But it’s powerful.

2. Focus on the smaller goals first

Jeff Goins said something else that really struck a cord. He said that sometimes it’s better to attack the smaller goals and then the big goals will take care of themselves.

In his book, This Life I Live, Rory Feek shares his journey to becoming a successful songwriter and realizing his lifelong dream. For a year he wrote at least one song a day. Day after day he wrote and he just kept writing. It didn’t matter that none of them became hits. He wrote. It didn’t matter that weeks and months passed without success. He wrote. After nearly a year, and over 300 songs, one song became a hit. And then another and another.

The goal could have been to write a hit song. In fact, that was part of his  ultimate goal, but the goal to get there was measurable and attainable. Write at least one song a day. Staying faithful to the smaller goal allowed the larger goal to take care of itself.

3. Be Consistent.

One of the hardest parts of setting and achieving goals is practicing discipline. You’ve heard the saying, “Pay the price of discipline or pay the cost of regret”. The reality is that few things are accomplished or achieved without practicing discipline. Discipline means doing the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like it. It’s foregoing the good in pursuit of the best. It’s being consistent and tenacious, when you’re tired, when you’ve had a long day, when it feels like the world is resting on your shoulders, when your heart is aching. You do the thing anyway, because you can see beyond that moment in time, beyond those feelings, beyond the fatigue. The pain of the moment fades in the light of the promise of what is to come and you know that the cost of discipline pales in comparison to the cost of regret and joy comes in the morning.

4. Measure your goals and review your progress

Too often I’ve been known to set a goal and even go so far as to write it down only to stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Then I wonder why my life looks the same a year later. Goals are meant to be measured, reviewed and evaluated. This year I will review my goals each morning. I’ll keep them in forefront of my mind. I’ll evaluate my progress and tweak the goals if needed.

5. Celebrate wins, reward yourself.

I’ve never been very good at this. To me, accomplishing a goal is the reward. I don’t need a celebration. I’m much more comfortable just moving on to the next thing. But perhaps, just maybe, I’m missing the boat. My daughter Anna buys herself a little something every time she finishes a semester of college. She looks forward to this. It’s a little celebration, an acknowledgement that what she’s accomplished took effort and commitment, that she’s making progress toward the ultimate goal. I think it’s helpful. I think it’s good. Maybe I could use a little more celebration. Maybe we can celebrate together?

6. No place for fear.

What keeps us from achieving more? What keeps us stuck, struggling month to month to pay the bills? Or dieting year after year only to find the scale is moving in the wrong direction? What keeps us from pursing that thing we really love? Why don’t we tackle that project we’ve been putting off or get that education we talk about. The paperwork remains undone, the closets cluttered and unorganized. We still can’t get the car in the garage. We long for change so why don’t we create it?

For me, in my life, it’s usually FEAR. Fear is a ruthless slave master. His whispered lies become chains to bind us and we believe them. He cripples us from action. He’s a thief, stealing joy, stealing hope, stealing dreams. He tells us that we aren’t enough, will never be enough, that our best isn’t enough, and if we try we will only fail. He shouts that there’s not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. He wants us to believe that our dreams are too big, too unrealistic, that people like us don’t accomplish things like that. Fear is a liar made powerful by our own decisions to believe him. Silence him with truth. Dis-empower him with  faith. Conquer him with love.

Then let yourself dream. And dream big. Then dream a little bigger. Define your why. Be honest with yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s vulnerable. Set goals and tackle the smaller goals first. Let them pave the way to accomplishing the larger goals. Be consistent. Practice discipline. Learn to find joy in the discipline because of the harvest it will reap. Measure your goals, evaluate your progress, change course as needed. Know that challenges are beneficial. And celebrate! Celebrate your wins, celebrate your milestones. Enjoy the journey.

Write your own story!  Find your courage, be bold, be playful, laugh, be audacious if you want. Dream the life you want then live the life you dream. If you haven’t started yet, why not start now?

5 Quick, Homemade, Budget Friendly, Last Minute Gift Ideas

In just three days the sun will rise on a Christmas morning. All of the preparations, whether complete or not will be set aside for the celebration. The weeks of planning and busyness will cease,  the stress and planning will fade making way for peace, joy, and laughter as we celebrate that baby in the manger, Emmanuel, God with us.

If, in these final days before Christmas you find yourself in need of a last minute gift and a budget that is nearly exhausted, here are five homemade, budget friendly, last minute gift ideas. Each is easy to make, useful and can be beautifully presented. You could buy them in a store but in less time that you would spend fighting traffic and for a fraction of the cost, you can prepare these at home. All of them make terrific gifts!

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar

(I saw these at Walmart for $6.00 a jar)


1 3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1 quart sized mason jar, or equivalent jar, such as from spaghetti sauce.


Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Place in your jar. Tap around the edges with a spoon to pack it.

Add the brown sugar next and tap it down as well.

Add the white sugar followed by the chocolate chips.

Baking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat 3/4 c. softened butter, 1 large egg, and 3/4 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the contents of the cookie mix jar and mix well making sure to incorporate any clumps.

Drop by the spoonful onto an uncreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Let set for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

You can find a printable instruction label here. It can be tied around the jar or glued to the back using a glue stick.

Peppermint Body Scrub:


4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup crushed candy canes

1 cup olive oil

20-25  drops peppermint essential oil

You will also need a glass jar.


Measure and pour the sugar into a mixing bowl. Sugar is a wonderful exfoliant.

Add the olive oil to the sugar, and stir. This should look like damp sand. Be careful not to use too much oil, just enough to dampen the sugar.  If the sugar is too dry after adding a cup of oil, you can add more, 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Add peppermint extract.  Peppermint has been shown to reduce depression related anxiety, sore muscles, headaches and skin conditions.

Place a handful of your crushed candy canes in a ziplock plastic bag, and make the pieces even smaller with the help of a rolling pin. Alternatively a food process works great. The candy should be similar in texture to the sugar.

Place some of the sugar-and-oil mixture at the base of the glass container, and then sprinkle with a layer of the crushed candy. Continue layering until the container is filled. Use ribbons or fabric to decorate the jar. Makes approximately 4 cups.

For a free printable recipe click here.

Brown Sugar Vanilla scrub:


1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil, (almond oil is great too)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Optional: 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, or 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

Mix all ingredients until the mixture resembles wet sand. Put mixture in a jar. Use fabric and/or ribbon to decorate the jar.

For a printable recipe click here.

Hot Chocolate Ornament:

The ornament pictured here was created by my daughter, Alia.


Hot Chocolate mix of your choice.

Candy cane, coarsely chopped.

Glass Ornaments


Using a funnel, place enough hot chocolate mix for one, 8 oz cup in a clean, glass ornament.

Add the chopped candy cane.

Replace the top, and add a ribbon by which to hang it.

To use, empty contents of the ornament into a cup, add 8 oz of hot water and stir. These are fun little gifts for kids!

Cider Mulling Reindeer-

(Makes 6 Reindeer)


3 Large oranges

3 cups firmly packed brown sugar Mulling Spices (I used this recipe)

6 small whole nutmegs

12 whole allspice

36 whole cloves

6 Red Hot Candies

Black Edible gel food coloring or edible marker


Slice 3 the oranges in half, and scoop out the flesh. Take care to avoid breaking through the outer orange rind. Crumple up tinfoil into small balls to fill your orange halves. Place orange halves cut side facing up, on a baking sheet. Bake at 225°F for 3 hours, until dry and hard. It might help to turn the over about 2 hours into the baking time. Cool the oranges completely. Pack your mulling spices firmly into each orange half.

Creating the Reindeer:

Place a whole nutmeg in the center to make the Reindeer head. Push it firmly into the mulling spices. Using a food safe marker, create the eyes. Food safe gel dye can work too but I find it tends to smear. If you choose this method, paint the eyes a day ahead to allow the gel to dry thoroughly. Place a red hot candy at the base of the nutmeg to form the nose, then  place 2 whole allspice as ears on either side of the nutmeg. Use 6 whole cloves on each Reindeer head to form the antlers.

Wrap your Reindeer Mulling Spice tightly in plastic wrap.

To use, place the entire Reindeer in a gallon of Apple Cider or Juice and simmer.

A printable version of this recipe can be found here.


Why We Made Our Own Christmas Wrapping Paper and the Unexpected Gifts it Brought

14 moves in 18 years. That was the reality for my son Joseph. In his 18th year he calculated the number of moves we’d made in his lifetime. 14 …  14 in 18 years. Some of those moves were across town, but some involved packing up every earthly possession and 5 kids, and boarding an airplane to fly halfway around the globe.

Boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper and packing lists. I have a well-developed, extensively tested system for packing, moving and unpacking a household. But that’s a post for another day.

In an early move, when bubble wrap was beyond my budget,  I discovered that the newspaper office sells “end rolls”. When they run the paper through the printing presses there is always some left on the roll. Those are the end rolls. Not only that, they can be purchased for next to nothing, currently $1.50 at my local paper. The diameter will vary.  I have had rolls as large as 18” across. Through the years, we have used miles of this stuff. It makes fantastic packing paper and it’s much more budget friendly than bubble wrap.

One of my favorite uses for the end roll is wrapping paper. Throughout most of our life, the monthly income would fluctuate, sometimes quite drastically. One December we were hit particularly hard. I had no idea how I would buy presents for the kids let alone paper with which to wrap them.

After I’d figured out how to have something for them under the tree, I still had the dilemma of how to wrap those gifts. Then it occurred to me. I had a newspaper end roll. I had planned to create stamps out of potatoes but I happened onto two foam angel stamps marked down to mere pennies.

At home, I gathered the kids around, unrolled the paper across the table, retrieved a bottle of gold paint from my craft closet and spread it on a plate. I carefully showed them how to place the stamp in the paint then on the paper. The three of them shared the two stamps and before long we had a nice roll of glittery, golden, angel wrapping paper.

Every present, purchased or made was wrapped in golden angels. It didn’t matter that the paper was all the same. The golden paint caught the lights from the tree. The packages shimmered and the kids beamed. They proudly showed their creation to guests and visitors.

That started a favorite tradition. We didn’t always make wrapping paper but every couple of years we would return to the practice. We added stamps to our collection. As the kids got older, more creative and more skilled the end product changed. But the shared fun, the bonding, the sense of pride, the love, these things remained.

For this post, I anticipated making some paper while the kids were at school or work. Then the girls got wind of my plans. The protests were loud and complete. Three girls (those kids still at home), three voices, making their desires known. They wanted to help! You aren’t going to do that without ME?!

So, with a great deal of effort, we found a time when all were home and homework was done. An iPhone provide the Christmas music, an essential element of the experience.  Three girls, ages 21, 18 and 15 gathered around the table once more. We pulled out the paint and paper and stamps and they went at it.  I think they enjoyed it as much last night as they did when they were children!

I smiled, not the smile that is merely a polite expression on one’s face, but the kind that reaches to the very soul. The kind that reflects a heart at peace and full of joy, a heart that has found a moments rest among the busyness of life and of this season. A heart that remembers the meaning of the season because the love of the season is reflected in the faces of her children.

We laughed. Anna painted a star and announced she’d created a self-portrait. Later she painted a gift box and announced the same, “I’m a gift,” she said. Yes, she certainly is. Then she stamped out golden angels at a pace to rival the printing press. Alia was slow and meticulous, using brushes to add detail to her stamped images. Abigail’s boisterous voice filled the room and shook the rafters as she bent over her section of the paper.

We wanted a snowflake and a star so we carved them out of potato halves creating our own homemade stamps.

They decided hand prints would be fun, and paper with their handprints would be perfect to wrap my gift . They painted Anna’s nose red, and she posed her gold paint covered hands to resemble antlers as another girl snapped a photo.

Amidst the laughter and painting one of the girls paused and thoughtfully asked, “Did we make paper when we were little because you didn’t have money for wrapping paper?” Silence. Where noise and laughter had echoed seconds before, silence. 3 sets of eyes, all turned to me, all waiting for this answer. I am not sure why it mattered to them, but I knew it did. I knew this question was about more than wrapping paper. “Yes,” I said. “Initially, that is how and why the idea came to me. But you guys loved it and it gave you such pride and that’s why we continued.”

I went on to explain to them that sometimes the hard circumstances in our lives can lead us to things we might not have found otherwise. We had some tough years, especially early on, but without those years I do not think I would have taught myself the things I did. I would not have developed some of the skills and creativity that I so value, that have become a part of who I am.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This is truth has been born out in my own life time and time again. And sometimes, the result is so much more than even our wildest hopes can imagine. That Christmas, all those years ago, I was simply looking for a way to wrap gifts for my littles.

I got that and something infinitely more important and precious. That need created treasured memories for my kids. It gave their little selves a sense of accomplishment and pride. It fostered creativity and created a space for laughter and fun and love. The times we gathered around the table with stamps and paper and paint are worth a thousand times more than the money I saved on the wrapping paper. Store paper would have been forgotten as quickly as it was crumpled into a black trash bag and put in the bin.

I doubt the kids can tell you what they got for Christmas that year. But they remember the paper. Because ultimately it wasn’t about paper. It was about family, about memories and creating, about being together, and laughter and love. As we celebrate that baby in the manger, the very essence of love itself let’s not forget that here is where the real magic of Christmas is found.

No-Knead Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

As a young child, like most young children, my brother and I took afternoon naps. Every afternoon, at 1pm, amid protests, we’d reluctantly snuggle into our beds, convinced we were neither tired nor in need of a nap. My mom would turn on the tv and then the vacuum cleaner. I’d lie there listening as the monotonous hum of the vacuum blended with the theme song of General Hospital. Usually, before either finished I was fast asleep.

Don’t be fooled by the soap opera music. Though I’ve never asked her, I imagine, because I know her and I know what she managed to accomplish, that the show most likely played in the background while she did all of the myriad of things she did.

The song would end, the vacuum would be stowed in it’s home in the hall closet. Then the magic would begin.

The industrious woman that is my mother would pull out her sewing machine and transform discounted fabrics into garments to clothe her family. She’d iron clothes previously fashioned by her hands. She’d create handmade ornaments for our Christmas tree, and crochet afghans to keep us warm.

From her kitchen, on a tight budget she would prepare the food that would nourish us. Shucked corn was cut  from it’s cob, bagged and placed in our freezer. She’d peel and pit and slice peaches and pears then process them in her water canner. The colorful jars, the fruit of her labor, would stand side by side with jars of home-canned tomatoes and green beans, all lined up like little soldiers on our pantry shelves waiting to be called into service. Her hands would peel potatoes, form biscuits, and fry chicken.

But she did more than that. She created things simply to surprise us, because she knew, upon waking from their reluctant naps,  her little ones would be delighted to find a cake covered in pink coconut and shaped like an elephant. And sometimes, we’d wake to homemade cinnamon rolls. I have no idea where she first found the recipe, but it has been a family favorite for half a century. It’s as good today as it was then.

Like the No-Knead bread, the Loafer’s Loaf, this recipe does not require kneading. It is simply mixed in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, covered and placed in the refrigerator for at least four hours. I’ve left it in the fridge for over a week and the results are just as brilliant. I have, on occasion, baked only half the recipe at a time. I’ve left the sugar out of the dough and used it as a pizza crust. I’ve put the rolls on a sugar, butter, and nut foundation to create pecan sticky rolls. I’ve served them naked, without icing,  or topped with a pastry glaze whose recipe is included here, and even iced them with orange butter cream.

The recipe is quick, easy, and forgiving. Make them according to the recipe here or bring your own imagination and create something completely new. Maybe top with Nutella or chocolate buttercream, or fill with Craisins and include some orange zest in the dough, or maybe find a way to incorporate strawberries or raspberries, or cinnamon apples.

Use your imagination and let me know what you think!

Favorite Cinnamon Rolls


  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 packages dry yeast. (1 package is equal to 2 1/4 teaspoons.  I used 4 teaspoons total because of my high altitude)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 cups of unsifted flour
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

Combine the butter, sugar, salt and boiling water in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. When the yeast is completely dissolved, add the butter mixture taking care that the butter mixture isn’t still hot. Add the 2 eggs and beat well. Add flour and beat until the mixture is blended. It will remain lumpy looking

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to a week.

Preparing the rolls:

When ready to bake, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and form into a ball. Remember, you do not knead. Simply form the dough into ball. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 1/4” thick. Spread 1 stick of melted butter across the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with approximately 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, more or less to taste. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and nuts, if desired.

Starting on a long edge, roll the dough jelly roll style. Pinch the edges to seal and place the seam side down. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 1” to 1 1/2” rolls. Lay rolls flat in a greased cake pan leaving approximately 1/2” between the rolls.  Your number of rolls will vary depending on the size of your rectangle and on how thick you cut them. Allow the rolls to raise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 -18 minutes.

There’s a printable recipe here.

Allow to cool and top with the prepared glaze.

Glaze: (Prepare while the baked rolls cool)

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • dash of salt (to cut the sweetness)

Mix the confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Slowly add the milk until a nice, thick glaze is formed. Spread or pour immediately over the cooled cinnamon rolls.

Get the printable version of the recipe here.

Serve with a large glass of cold milk or a steaming cup of coffee and a generous pat of butter. (Ok, butter is optional, but in our family butter is a standard side dish). Oh, and don’t forget the company! These rolls are best enjoyed with a friend or family member and sprinkled generously with good conversation.


Loafer’s Loaf – No Knead Bread

The Loafer’s Loaf

It’s a funny thing, this season of my life, where kids are growing and the family structure is changing. It affects everything, from when I go to bed at night, to planning holidays and vacations, to what I cook and how I shop.

When the kids were young I often made homemade bread. Few things are as quintessentially homey as the smell of freshly baked bread. Somewhere along the line, I baked less until eventually the kids came to refer wistfully to the days when mom used to bake bread.

Recently, my daughter, Katie, texted to tell me that she had baked one of my bread recipes! I was proud of her and more than a little bit happy that she was choosing to continue that tradition. I was also challenged to make time to bake.

So I did.  Several times recently I’ve pulled out my big mixing bowl, and one of my enameled cast iron pans and baked this recipe. There are several versions of this no-knead recipe on the internet. But in case you’ve missed it, or forgotten how simple and delicious it is, here it is again.

I call it the Loafer’s Loaf. It’s for those of us who are just a little bit lazy, or maybe we just have too much on our plates. It can quite literally be mixed in less than 10 minutes. It requires another 5-10 minutes of effort after the initial rising period. And that’s it. Really! That’s all it takes to have delicious homemade, fragrant bread.

This artisan loaf is crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside and the perfect accompaniment to anything, but I especially like it with soups. Katie also reports that it makes a phenomenal pizza crust!

Serves 8  (I doubled the recipe for my large loaf)


•3 cups all-purpose flour

•1½ teaspoons salt

•½ teaspoon instant yeast

•1½ cups room temperature water


  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and yeast together until mixed. Stir in the water until a chunky, thick dough forms. If it needs a little more water you can add a little more, but just enough to get it barely wet throughout. If it looks like a sticky, pasty mess, you’ve done it just right! Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 12 hours. I typically mix it up in the evening and cook it for dinner the next day.

  • When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 450. Place an enamel coated cast iron pan in the oven for about 30 minutes to heat. (I have also used non-enameled cast iron with great success.) The dough should have risen in size, be fairly wet and sticky and have little bubbles across the surface. Gently scrape the dough out onto a well-floured surface. (Don’t forget … NO KNEAD.) Gently shape it into a ball with flour on the outside. (I usually use my pastry knife to turn in through the flour a couple of times.) Set the dough on a piece of parchment, and cover with plastic while your pan heats up.

  • Remove the pre-heated pan from the oven then remove the plastic from the dough. Lift the dough and parchment together into the pan so the parchment lines the bottom of the hot pan. This pan is HOT, so be careful not to touch it’s sides. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 10-15 minutes. This will form the golden, crusty, beautiful exterior of the loaf. And THAT’S IT! You’re done! All you have to do now if gather together friends and family and enjoy!

Next week I’ll share my mom’s No-Knead Cinnamon Roll recipe. Like the Loafer’s Loaf, there’s No-kneading needed and it is the best recipe for cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had!

Click here for the printable recipe.