Monday, November 30, 2015

DIY Monogrammed Table Runner!

OK. This is super super SUPER easy! It took me all of 10 minutes to make!  The cost of the burlap roll (you could get at least two runners out of the roll I purchased) and the pack of stencils ended up being roughly $16.00.  I could have spent less if I had only purchased individual letter stencils but I wanted the whole alphabet for other stenciling projects. Anyway, I LOVE how it turned out and am thrilled that it was simple to make. SO here goes....

You will need a roll of burlap (adjust accordingly to your size table)...

A black sharpie...

Whatever stencil you would like...

Excuse the fact that they are backwards in this picture lol

Just lay the stencil on top of the burlap (be sure to put something underneath to prevent permanent marker from damaging the surface you use), trace the outer edge, remove stencil, and color it in! It's THAT easy and looks rustic and elegant all at the same time!

Tah-dah!! Happy stenciling!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 ways to foster a love for reading in kids!

Books are a big deal in the McNeil household. Everything from Lectures to my Students, to Sense and Sensibility, to Fancy Nancy... you name it, we will try to read it.  Our lives get hectic and busy like everyone, but we always try to keep reading(anything and everything) as a top priority. It's really important to us that our children not only love to read, but that they become confident and competent readers as they grow older. I know some days (let's be real... a lot of days) it's easier to turn to other forms of entertainment when we're buried under laundry or trying to get dinner on the table, but with a little effort and consistency, reading books as a pass-time can become a very enjoyable experience for you and your kids! After a while, you may even catch your one year old  quietly sitting and looking through a book without any prompting:). Here are 10 ways to help your kids learn to love books:
Sweet baby Vivi

1. Have a variety-  fiction, non fiction, adventurous, dramatic, silly, sentimental....the possibilities are endless! My kids are easily bored with monotony so I try to mix it up! Soon I will post a reading list for toddlers/preschoolers.

2. Make them easily accessible- Put em' where they can find em'! Having a variety of books to choose from will be useless if they aren't within arms reach.  I like to keep a basket of books in each of the rooms of our home so that my kids can be lured in to the magical world of reading while they play.
Baskets keep books low to the ground but organized!

3. Be a fun and EXPRESSIVE narrator- This is key! I try to use vocal inflections and intonations to bring alive the written word. I've also noticed that reading their books on my own allows me to anticipate the exclamation marks and better narrate the cast of characters while reading to them.  Whoever enjoyed listening to a monotone narrator lacking in passion and enthusiasm?

"...I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference."
-Sense and Sensibility

My sentiments exactly, Marianne.

4. Have "scheduled" and spontaneous reading time-  Every morning during/after breakfast and our daily devotional (nothing fancy since my kids are little... just the Proverb of the day and a short prayer time), we try to read a few books of choice around the table (unless the wheels are coming off for little lady #2 in which case we move it elsewhere).  It's a nice way to make it through breakfast in one piece as their mom (hehe) AND a way to encourage them to practice sitting at the table as a family for longer periods of time.  I also try to have structured reading around lunchtime.  The rest of the day we read whenever the girls bring me a book or if they choose to plop down and flip through pictures.
My big girl Noelle browsing through one of her favorites, the Mercy Watson series.

5. Let your kids see you reading- Of course I can't get completely lost in a book while chasing little people, but they see stacks of books on our nightstands, countertops etc.  Sometimes I will even pick up a book and join them when they are looking through books just so they see I value spending leisure time in that fashion.

6. Regularly discuss current reading material-  For example, I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables (again) to my girls.  At random times during the day I will ask little lady #1 about the storyline, or mention the book if we encounter something/someone in our day that reminds us of the story. I also use portions of the book to reinforce character training. This not only aids in reading comprehension, but I feel will help lay a foundation for critical literary analysis in the future.

7.  START EARLY!- I can't stress this enough! Don't wait to see if your child will just randomly start to show interest in books. Chances are it will never happen.  From the moment that little baby starts coming out of the newborn coma, start reading! Research has shown time and time again just how beneficial reading to children early can be!When both of my girls were small babies, I started with touch and feel books that had very little wording but lots of color and texture. They loved them!

8.  Be patient- If you are like me, you may be chomping at the bit to read some of your favorite classic books to your kids.  Although they are wonderful, most of them are lacking in illustrations which initially hold the attention and encourage the imagination of our kids.  You don't want them to lose interest because their little minds can't keep up with chapter books. So I suggest easing into them  and even using condensed versions like the one pictured below to get them started.  They can delve into all the exciting extra details when they're older!

9.  Visit libraries/book stores- Nothing can and will encourage a child to read like seeing other children their age enjoying reading for fun!  The cool thing about libraries and bookstores like Barnes and Noble is you can also participate in scheduled and structured story times with other families!

10.  Be flexible- There are days when 1 or both of my girls are just NOT in the mood to read(or me for that matter) AT ALL. There's also days when I read one sentence from the first page only for them to smack it out of my hand and go for another book.   That same scenario is usually repeated with the next book! That's OK. The worst thing we could do is force reading.  We will occasionally go a whole day (or even a couple) without reading and others they will want to read constantly!  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Any other tried and true ways to encourage/foster a love for reading? Feel free to comment below!

Happy reading,

Bryt xo

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When living your dream isn't what you always dreamt...

For as far back as my memory will take me, all I wanted to be more than anything else in the world was a mother.  I desired it with every fiber of my being. I imagined having tons of children whom I would joyfully raise at home in a big country house with a white picket fence.  I would think of meals that I wanted to make for my babies, what I wanted to name them, how I wanted them to dress, wether or not I wanted boys, girls or a bit of both.  I would just DREAM, dream and dream some more. The pictures of my motherhood drawn in the imagination of my little mind were bright and vivid, filled with color and oozing of blissful, idyllic living!

The inexplainable impact of sleep deprivation never occurred to me.  The gripping fear of the "what-ifs" and "how-comes" never crossed my mind.  The painful realization that, like me, my children are sinners in need of a Savior was unforeseen. The reality that even the most mild-mannered of people lose their temper from time time did not fit into the image of me lovingly and gently smiling over my  giggling children while I whipped up a batch of homemade brownies, dressed to a tee (#stepfordstatus). That wasn't part of the dream.  In fact, in all honesty, there are moments when I'm not sure if I'm living in a nightmare LOL!

Most of the time I DO smile lovingly over my kids, but not always.  I DO try to dress nice ("nice" of course is relative).  You better believe that I love to make brownies (albeit not always homemade). AND my kids don't always put their utter depravity on full display, for everyone in the middle of the grocery store to stare in complete shock (Thank God for His grace towards me:)).

My little ladies:)
But this dream that I am living is amazing.  It's real. It's raw. It's sanctifying. It's perfectly beautiful in the messiest of ways! Although its easy to grow tired, discouraged, unmotivated, complacent and frustrated with the daily, mundane grind of motherhood, all I have to do is look into the sweet and gentle brown eyes of my girls and I am reminded of one thing: I AM A MOTHER! I AM LIVING MY DREAM! Jesus has brought it to pass! HE IS FAITHFUL.  That TRUTH fuels me when I'm tired from a long night up with a teething baby. That TRUTH inspires me when I'm lacking in creativity when it comes to homemaking. That TRUTH grounds me with a providential perspective of salvation and sanctification when I'm dealing with a 3 year old who thinks she's 30, convinced that she doesn't need to obey.

Every aspect of motherhood may not be exactly what I planned, but I'm praising Jesus today that It's far better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.

"God can do anything, you know- far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" 
Ephesians 3:20

Oh, yes. Yes He can.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What do I REALLY need for a new baby?

A dear friend of mine just recently gave birth to one of the SWEETEST baby girls I have ever seen! She and I talked multiple times about preparing for the baby, what she would need for labor/delivery and the first several weeks, etc. It got me thinking about/reflecting on my own experience.

My little lady #1, Noelle Elizabeth Grace, the day she was born!
When I first discovered I was pregnant with little lady #1, I could hardly wait to start browsing the isles of every baby store and begin my baby registry.  So there we were, me and Mr. Wonderful, strolling blissfully into a well known baby department store, ready to take on the world with those fun little gun-like thingys. My initial excitement and confidence quickly dwindled when I was handed the registry packet. There were over 200 items. Yes. 200!!!!!! that we supposedly needed for this little person. All I could think was, "THIS is impossible! I don't even require 200 items to survive everyday!" (Now I know that a lot of items on the list were meant for several months postpartum, but I was trying to mentally prepare for the "here and now". What did I REALLY need just to get from point A to B?) Because I was a hormonal, overwhelmed basket case, I just started crying right in the middle of the store and chose to come back another day.  I spoke with other moms and finally mustered the courage to start really planning for what I needed for baby.  Although I managed to buy  way less than 200 items, I still discovered that a good percentage of the things I had accumulated I never  really got around to using.  It wasn't until the up and coming birth of my little lady #2 that I  narrowed down my list of newborn essentials.  I've compiled two separate lists  for what I'm calling your "Birthing Bag" (some of us give birth at the hospital, birthing center, or at home so I feel like this name, as opposed to Hospital bag, includes everyone) and your first several weeks  at home with baby!
My little lady #2, Vivienne Elizabeth Faith, the day she was born!


For Baby:

1. A few plain onesies/sleepers
2. A "coming home" outfit
3. Diapers
4. Wipes
5. A few swaddling blankets
6. 2-3 Hats
7. Unscented baby lotion
8. Burp cloths
9. Pacifier (be careful with nipple confusion)

For Mama:

1. Pads (for postpartum bleeding)
2. Loose comfy clothes (shirts, undies, sweat pants, maxi skirts, etc.)
3. Nursing pads
4. Your own (unscented) body soap and lotion
5. All other usual toiletries
6. Bottom numbing cream or spray  (the Earth Mama Angel line is the best in my opinion and you can find it here)

7. Regular pads that have been soaked in witch hazel and frozen (this will help reduce swelling and the coolness will help ease soreness


1. Your breasts/bottles
2. Swaddling blankets
3. 0-3 month onesies and sleepers (I'm saying this because I thought my babies would wear all of their adorable, fancier newborn clothes and they literally stayed in onesies and sleepers except for an occasional picture lol)
4. Burp cloths
5. Diapers
6. Wipes
7. Diaper Cream
8. A wrap/sling/carrier of some kind.  You can find my personal favorite here.  This is seriously the BEST. WRAP. EVER.  A lot of wraps are very bulky and caused me and my babies to feel too warm, but this wrap is the PERFECT fabric. I seriously cannot stress enough how much having a wrap helps in the early weeks, especially if you are dealing with a colicky baby!
9. A place for them to sleep (crib, bassinet, or your bed)
10. A car seat
11. A bouncer, rocker or swing of some sort to lay them in when you need your hands free!
12. HOMEMADE FROZEN MEALS (I'll blog about this soon.  After sweet friends and family delivered meals for the first week or so, it was nice to open my freezer to even more pre-made dinners.  It takes some time and planning leading up to your due date but it is SO. WORTH. IT.)

Well hey I think that's way less than 200 and we even had some overlaps from the lists! I'm sure I left out a few things since I'm already over a year postpartum and suffer from major forgetfulness.

What do you think, mamas? Anything else to add?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mommy Wars

A while back I read a book about motherhood that tackled the idea of principle vs. method when it comes to rearing adorable little people.  The more time that goes by as a mommy and the more time I spend around other mommies I finally understand the author's passion about the issue.  Any mommy knows that it takes a matter of seconds for a fun afternoon at the park or swim at the pool with other moms and babes to turn volatile.  All someone has to do is mention schedules, feeding, discipline, education, the word "organic", essential oils, birth experiences or any other popular mommy topic.  We mommies are SO passionate and steadfast in our mothering convictions that asking us to speak to our views on any of those topics is essentially handing us a microphone, turning it up to the highest volume, placing us on the top of a mountain and giving us free reign to practically preach like a good ole' southern baptist preacher. Think dripping sweat from our brow, growling and thundering voice, jumping up and down, piercing get the picture.  Whenever these topics arise it is SO easy to try to prove to everyone in the group that our way is the RIGHT way.  Now granted, there are some things in life that are just proven to be better choices than others.  Some things are not as "gray" as some of us wish they were just as some things are not as "black and white" even if we feel that they are.  In essence, we tend to confuse principle with method.

Here's an example:

In regards to feeding babies/toddlers/children, making sure that they are fed is the PRINCIPLE.  Choosing to make this happen with a feeding schedule vs. on demand, organic vs. nonorganic, breastfed vs. bottle-fed, are all METHODS of applying the principle.  None of those options are WRONG. Yes, some of those options may be more beneficial, but it doesn't make the alternate choices WRONG.  The most important thing is that we are applying the PRINCIPLE.  Our babies need to eat and they need to do so regularly.

Mommies often wage war with each other over issues that at the end of the day are not the most important.  As christian mommas, we should always seek to hold each other to the PRINCIPLES of motherhood. So if we notice that our friend prefers homeschooling to public school, or an organic homemade cake to a Costco cake, feeding on demand rather than a schedule, or perhaps a Diet Coke to a Kombucha then we should think twice before we get up on our high horse and start getting critical.  It DOESN'T mean that we can't share our convictions on those matters and even try to persuade our friends to maybe try it our way, but we shouldn't have the posture of "I have it all figured out and am without fallibility."  

The importance of us as mothers being WISE with our application of principles in the methods we choose cannot be stressed enough.  As mommies, we should be informed. Ignorance is not an excuse.  If you choose to breastfeed over bottle-feed with formula, then have good reasons for doing so and vice versa.  If your trying to decide between homeschooling and public school, then do some research! Ask questions! Talk to other moms. Reflect on your own educational history.  Seek the LORD's will and then make an educated and prayerful choice.  Always weigh out the pros and cons of various methods and prayerfully make good decisions!

I know what it feels like to be strongly convicted about something and have good reasons for it.  But my personal methods are not LAW and I have to remind myself of that everyday. So I hope that we mommies can come alongside of each other and support one another in upholding principles, but will be gentle and cautious in our recommending of methods. xoxo

Homemade Chai Tea

All I have to say is that this recipe is OFF THE CHAIN! I made my first crockpot full of this delicious yumminess the other day for Halloween.  Besides this being one of the tastiest beverages you will EVER have, the AROMA that fills your house as it cooks is just so.....practically pleasant:).  Don't make the same mistake I made, though, and have about 7 cups while trick-or-treating with your kids.  Let's just say that I did not sleep AT ALL that night and was a complete zombie at church the next morning. This recipe makes a ton and would be plenty for a medium sized party or enough to store in refrigerator for a few days.  Making a bigger batch and freezing it would also give you some serious homemaker brownie points.  So here goes....

~Homemade Chai Tea~


12 Cups water
12 Black English tea bags (cut off tag but leave enough string to keep tea bag intact)
1 1/2 Cups of Sweetener (plain white sugar, brown sugar, agave, whatever you love to use is fine)
20 WHOLE cloves
1 TBS of Ground Cardamom
10 whole cinnamon sticks
12 slices of fresh ginger
Half and Half for serving (or any substitute you would prefer)


Place all ingredients (except half and half) into a crockpot and set to high for about 2-3 hours or low for about 3-4 hours or until ingredients are boiling hot and flavors have entered into a blissful marriage.  Strain mixture into a bowl (or just do what I do and scoop tea straight out of the crockpot and try to dodge the floating tea bags and whole cloves) and serve with half and half and additional cinnamon sticks! (I like to fill about a 1/4 of a mug with half and half and then slowly pour spoonfuls of tea over the cream until mug is full.  It slowly warms the half and half and seems to be the perfect ratio of cream to tea!)

If you want to up the fancy factor, perhaps for a dinner party or just because you are feeling fancy, serve the tea in glass mugs and add a dollop of whip cream on top! AND you could also serve this over ice for a scrumptious iced Chai Tea! Enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Welcome to The Precious and the Pleasant!

This lifestyle blog was birthed from this verse! Any wife and mom knows that it's hard to establish a home.  It takes every ounce of your strength, commitment and devotion.   We desperately want our homes to be precious and pleasant places for our families to reside.  We desire that our husbands will be anxious to come home each day and that our kids will one day nostalgically speak of the whimsical nature of their childhood. It takes wisdom, time, patience and an intentional effort to focus on what's most precious. The calling is remarkable!

I know this verse is talking more literally about an actual home filled with material riches, but I also began to think about the immaterial.  What riches should be filling the "rooms" and "spaces" of my and my family's hearts?  How and with what can I fill the nooks and crannies of our souls?  Are good memories being made? Are words of affirmation flowing with ease from our mouths over one another? Are we relentless in our pursuit of one another? Are we lavishing each other with affection?

By God's grace, this blog will explore ways to literally and figuratively fill the rooms of our homes and souls with the profoundly precious and the practically pleasant. From my fav foods and must-have lipsticks, to real-life mommyhood and robust Bible study, I want to explore it all!

I'm not a perfect christian, wife or mother, but I love Jesus. I love the good news of The Gospel and all of its implications.  I believe that the precious and the pleasant are hidden in a messy life fully surrendered to a perfect Savior.  I'm excited to discover it all with you! Please subscribe for up and coming blog posts:).