Moments 12.2017

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Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine. Rustic, Easy & Beautiful Nativity Cake to celebrate Jesus' Birthday! #jesus #nativity #cake #birthdaycake #happybirthdayjesus #christmas

“I can’t remember all the times I’ve tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass.”

Welcome to “Moments” here on JoyFoodSunshine. At the end of every month I share a recap of all the shenanigans that went down in crazy town (i.e. my life in a nutshell).  So here it is for December 2017!

Recipe love:

Here are a few must-share recipes from the month of December from my favorite spots around the web!

Homemade Healthy Nutella from The Toasted Pine Nut {Homemade is always best}!

Paleo Shepherd’s Pie from Paleo Running Momma {Healthy Cozy Comfort food}!

Soft Sugar Cookies from The Kitchen McCabe {We made these this year and LOVED them}!

Gingerbread Tahini Banana Bread from Dishing out Health {Jamie is the tahini queen}!

French Silk Brownies from House of Yumm {No words}!

New Recipe Videos

Here are a couple videos we produced in December! There will be many more coming in January!

Homemade Pretzel Bread

Flourless Peanut Butter Blossoms

Life with my tribe:

Mara Hope

This has been a big month for Mara! She cut her two bottom teeth just before she turned 8 months old. And she laughed…like really laughed from the depths of her soul, for the first time ever. I was able to catch a lot of it on video…and I have watched it more times than I can count, and will cherish it forever. She also started really crawling! She’s been able to get around army crawling since she was 6 months old, but she finally got up on all fours and started moving even faster! Watch out world! She is also pulling herself up in the crib, on the couch, etc. However she hasn’t quite started cruising yet! 😉

This month I made a list of all the things I love about Mara, and will miss when this season of her sweet little life inevitably comes to an end and a new one begins. I’m someone who is nostalgic in the moment. It takes serious effort for me to truly live in the present without lamenting that it will soon be over. Can anyone else relate? I am just loving this phase of life so much and the irreversible passing of time is weighing heavily on my heart! So, I decided to keep a record of life with Mara so I don’t forget.

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

Her smell. All of my babies have smelled amazing but for whatever reason Mara smells the best. I literally walk into her room every night before I go to sleep to check on her and just stand there and breathe her in. Whenever I hold her I nuzzle my nose into her neck and just inhale her sweetness. I don’t remember when it fades but I pray that this baby scent sticks around a whole lot longer. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it forever.

Her snuggles. I’m literally tearing up as I type this. Mara is such a great snuggler {not quite as good as Naomi was/is but still so sweet}. Some of my favorite times of every day are the quiet moments when it’s just her and I snuggling in her room. Once she falls asleep her whole body just sinks into mine. And she must have her face touching my chest in true skin-to-skin fashion, which I adore.

Her thumb sucking. Part of her snuggles that I just love is the way she grasps her lovie with her fingers and sucks her thumb. She will sometimes tap her fingers on my chin too which just melts my heart.

Her bursts of excitement. When we walk into her room Mara explodes with excitement. She kicks her arms and army crawls in my direction and coos with delight. It’s an expression of pure joy and it feels like she’s saying, “You’re here! I missed you!” 

Her squeals. Mara shrieks and squeals louder and more often than any of my other kids, and it’s just the cutest thing! She literally just looks at you, opens her mouth and says, “AHHHHHHH!” with a huge smile on her face.

Her clapping. OH the clapping! She is SO proud of herself for learning this new skill and she does it all the time. She claps her hands together and looks around, just waiting for the rest of us to cheer “YAY!”

Her determined face. It’s just the cutest thing. I have been trying to capture it on camera with little luck! She just looks at you and clenches her teeth and gazes into your eyes. It’s like she’s trying to both figure you out and prove a point at the same time.

Her inquisitive nature. This might be one of my favorite things Mara has done since her earliest days. She looks through everything and everyone. She reaches out, touches my face and peers into my soul…just trying to figure out who I am and whether or not I am part of her or if she’s her own person.

Wearing her. I discovered the Solly Baby Wrap this time around and I wish I had one when we had our first baby. I love how the second she gets cozy inside of the wrap she places her cheek on my chest, starts sucking her cute little thumb and goes right to sleep. She has started getting a little restless in there when were out and about and it’s not nap time, but I am hoping to get to wear her for a few more months.

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine. #babywearing #sollybabywrap

Bethany’s Piano Recital

I don’t talk enough about Bethany in these moments posts. I think it’s because whenever I discuss her I feel like I’m boasting. She is truly a special little girl and I feel so blessed to be her mom……and she has become that way by the grace of God alone! Bethany is wicked smart…like SO smart I have had to navigate parenting her carefully and feel like I’m failing all the time! For example, she read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series by the time she was five years old . Ritch and I had to start speaking pig latin when we didn’t want her to know what we were saying because she learned how to spell by the time she was 4 1/2. Then she figured out pig latin, so now we have to speak SPANISH! LOL! I was actually going to start teaching her how to speak it but then I’m not sure what Ritch and I would do if we wanted to discuss the possibility of going out for ice cream or watching a movie without her knowing! 😉

Anyway, I love that girl so much, and this month she had a piano recital and did a phenomenal job. The teacher told me that she couldn’t play a certain song because another student whose 11 {Bethany is 6} was going to play it and she didn’t want him to feel bad! LOL! She learned Angels We Have Heard on High and Carol of the Bells to play for everyone and totally rocked. I can’t believe she will be seven in a few short weeks…my baby isn’t looking like a baby at all anymore.

I also took her shopping for the first time. She needed a special dress for her recital and I let her pick it out. I usually just order her clothes online because I do not like shopping {at all}, but I knew she would love getting to pick out a fancy dress. I absolutely loved going with her. She chose 4-5 to try on and rated them on their twirling ability, how sparkly they were and how many jewels they had on them. The dress below is the one she chose. I can’t believe my little girl is getting big enough to do things like go shopping with me.

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.


How is December already over?! It’s quite possibly my favorite month of the entire year. We like to focus our Christmas celebration on Jesus’ birth and I thought I’d share a few ways we do that!

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

Family Story/Devotional

In the month of December Ritch reads a story out loud to the family every night. In the past we have walked through the Christmas story in the Bible, but this year we read Jotham’s Journey and oh my WORD we were all captivated. Like even I begged him to “just keep reading” even though I knew that we could only read one chapter if we were going to be able to read every night! It’s a riveting story about a young boy in the time when Jesus was born. After each chapter of the story there is a bible verse and paragraph about Jesus. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an awesome family Christmas activity!

No Santa. 

In all honesty we don’t do the Santa thing….a decision that we made out of our desire to never lie to our children. We want every single word out of our mouths to our children to be true. And to tell them that something (or someone, or some event) is real when it is absolutely not, is by definition, a lie. We don’t vilify Santa, we just discuss him as a character in a story like Elsa or Cinderella. We watch Christmas movies with him in it and even let our kids sit on his lap, but they understand that it’s all just make believe. And no, the magic of Christmas isn’t any less for them. They still get giddy excited and love every second of it. 😉

Here is an excerpt from an article I love that explains exactly why we chose not to make Santa part of our Christmas celebration…”Santa Claus is not true and Jesus is very Truth himself. The birth of the Son of God is simply stunning and glorious and infinitely serious “good news of great joy”— not small joy; not a little bit of joy, but great joy. My question is this: Why would we give them Santa Claus when they can have the incarnation of the Son of God?”

Birthday Cake for Jesus

We make a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on the 25th. We thank God for sending His son and discuss the Gospel with our kids! I really love this tradition because it’s a reminder amidst the present opening WHO we’re really celebrating!

Plus, it’s the only time in the year when I get to decorate a cake the way I choose to {i.e. I don’t have a tiny cake-decorating dictator telling me they want a rainbow, candy land, princess castle birthday cake  and drawing me pictures to ensure that I get it exactly right LOL}! I really loved the cake this year!

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine. Rustic, Easy & Beautiful Nativity Cake to celebrate Jesus' Birthday! #jesus #nativity #cake #birthdaycake #happybirthdayjesus #christmas

Church Building 

One of the most significant events that happened to us this December was that our church held our first services in our very own building. If you didn’t know, Ritch and I moved from Chicago to Salt Lake City and started a Christian church out of our home in 2013. We were a family of four then, Bethany was two and Gabe was four months old. We left a church of 3,000 people to move across the country, away from everything we knew. After we met the first two couples who wanted to join us, we held services in our living room and Ritch both preached and led worship. It has been the most challenging thing we have ever done, and we have met in a handful of temporary locations over the last 4 years as God brought people and grew our congregation.

Well, in the beginning of December we signed a lease to a building and our people worked non-stop to get the worship center and kids spaces ready to hold services on Christmas Eve. We still have half of the space to renovate, and hope to be finished and publicly launch by Easter this year! But I can tell you that God showed up in miraculous ways to get us into this space, and we are grateful and excited to see what 2018 holds! Here we are on Christmas Eve!

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine

A few of my favorite things…

Lululemon Tucked & Twisted Pant

Oh ya’ll I LOVE these pans! Seriously they are the most comfortable pants in the history of ever. They even have pockets {which is critical for chapstick storage}. Toss on a cozy sweater, these babies and you’ll look cute but feel like you’re wearing pajamas…which is every woman’s goal right?! 😉

Origins Vitazing Tinted Moisturizer 

I am in LOVE with this moisturizer!!!! I am not kidding when I say that I have been searching for facial products that don’t destroy my annoyingly sensitive skin forever. I have bought and returned my fair share of specialty beauty products because they make me break out and irritate my skin. This stuff is worth it’s weight in gold. Especially because I usually only wear makeup 2 out of 7 days in a week, this moisturizer makes me feel like I at least have something to even out my skin and camouflage the bags under my eyes if I need to run to the store or something! Seriously it’s the best!

Vitamix {of course}

It’s the New Year! If you didn’t get that blender you wanted for Christmas now is the time to go for it! If you have any questions about which blender is right for you, shoot me an e-mail! I had some fun taking pictures of this beauty by Christmas tree. THIS is my idea of a white Christmas! 😉

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine. #vitamix #christmas

Recipes I’m Making on Repeat

Here are a few recipes I made quite a bit in December!

The Best Homemade Vanilla Frosting

I used this recipe to make Jesus’ birthday cake and to frost our sugar cookies!

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine Sugar Cookies!

Black Bean Brownies 

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

Easy Homemade Pizza Sauce {Literally takes 5 minutes}

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

 Easy Homemade Pizza Dough {no rising} 

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

{every. single. day.}

Moments 12.2017 JoyFoodSunshine.

Well that’s all she wrote! I’d love to hear a highlight from your December! What are you looking forward to in the NEW YEAR!?

If you want to stay connected or you make something from JoyFoodSunshine I would love to see your creations! #joyfoodsunshine

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  1. What a beautiful post Laura! You have the sweetest family and I adore reading about all these exciting happenings in your life 🙂 SO glad to hear you had such a wonderful holiday!