Hello from the Hughes » Living and loving in redemption

Masthead header

It’s that time again! I gotta finish our Advent calendar. This year I am striving for more giving, less getting for our kids, for ourselves. Instead of endless treats from the Calendar … this year I am focusing on how we can serve our family, our community, each other. I have some ideas to share… albeit, nothing new under the sun. Stay tuned.

Here’s an old post on the matter…

This is our Advent countdown calendar. I had made one out of mini tins and scrapbook paper last year, but then, I saw THIS! At Costco. For a fraction of what I paid for the 24 tins. So I took those tins back and got this sweet little Christmas Village for $14.97. It’s beautiful, really.
I love it…
DSC_0728 copy
Every door, window, and chimney is numbered from 1-24

DSC_0733 copy

it opens up
DSC_0729 copy
for hiding

DSC_0734 copy

tiny surprises
DSC_0737 copy
Much of the preparation for Christmas, or Advent, happens to be things we already do, like pick out Christmas tree, watch Christmas movie, bake Christmas cookies, so don’t be overwhelmed by this.
I like to make a list of 24 ideas that include, but aren’t limited to:

Small Gifts-

Christmas socks (dollar bin at target)
Christmas PJs
Small snow globe
Special Christmas mug
A poem
Scavenger hunt
Scented votive candle for each child to get out year after year
Window crayons/snow decals since it doesn’t snow here
A mix CD of Christmas music (kid version)
A Christmas movie
Hallmark ornament that represents their personality right now
Mini candy canes

Activities –

Hand print Ornaments – trace your child hand cut out, or get messy and use clay
Chocolate dipped Pretzels (for gifts)
Make a snow globe (out of baby food jar, bits of eggshell, and mineral oil)
Bake rolled-out sugar cookies for neighbor or co-workers
Jingle Bell bracelet (bells and pipe cleaner)
Decorate Apron of Tea Towel with Handprint Christmas tree
Play with felt snow man/gingerbread man
Cut snowflakes and hang from ceiling
Make gingerbread scented playdough
Paint/Decorate Glass ornaments
Styrofoam gum drop tree
Make Candle holders with red/green tissue paper and glue
Make hot coco together in mugs

there are endless ideas on kids crafts – check out Family FunFamily Activities –

Pick out Christmas Tree
Watch Christmas movie (Charlie Brown’s Christmas)
View Christmas lights around neighborhood
Donate toys to Goodwill or shelter
Go to Downtown Disney or Disneyland
Take a ride in a Carriage (Tom’s Farms has one)
Ice Skate
Pick out present for sibling, wrap present
Participate in the Churches “Giving Tree” by buying toys for needy kids or
Toys for Tots
Snow sledding
Special visit to relatives delivering handmade gifts
Visit to see Santa at the mall
Prepare a special meal
Tickets to a holiday performance
A moonlit hike/walk
Popcorn and late night movie (sleeping bags in living room)
Have fun with it. I am really dragging my feet on this. It seems that way every year. I don’t really get to the activities until I decorate which is usually the first weekend of December. Oops! We’ll have to play catch up.
As for the Christmas books, I’ve been collecting them since my first born was born. Target dollar spot and Khols always has some good cheap books. Also I was a member of Children’s Book of the Month Club. When you sign up they give you up to 8 or 10 free books. And they are nice books. Since I’m kinda overloaded on my collection right now, I think I’m going to stick with what I got and stop collecting. As the kids grow, I may add a few or do something totally different, who knows? They have hardly even grown into these for right now. But along with opening a door and finding a little note inside they get to unwrap a new book from under the tree each night before bed.
More traditions to share soon. But first, we have to get busy decorating the house.



I get this question a lot. I think when people ask me that, they are really just asking where my heart is in all of this. Is there a personal gain? Why on earth would you want to put yourself out there? What’s the point? Do you think you’re someone important? Is this your way of making a name for yourself?

Would it shock you to know I ask myself why I blog almost every time I start a post? Opening my life up in this place can be daunting. In doing so, I’m subjecting myself to critical thoughts, judgements passed, and a world of well… crickets. (Oh, hi!)

Did I say it right? How’s my tone? Are my words too heady? My paragraphs too wordy? Am I trying too hard? Am I sharing too much? Not sharing enough? Is this too deep for the forum? Too shallow for my personality? Do they care? Do I really have anything noteworthy to say?

And you guys? That is only a fraction of my fears. So why do I do it?

Two things keep me going.

I love to write. At 9-years-old I hardly left the house without my spiral notebook. I wanted to compose something great, something powerful, something real. With all kinds of vivid memories and graphic stories to tell writing somehow feels embedded in my soul. There is something thrilling about the whole process. And yet, it calms me. Finding words soothes my always spinning brain, and gives it a space to run free.

But aside from this blog being about what makes me happy, writing for an audience allows me to escape self-reflection and view the world from a different angle. You! Because as a blogger, my deepest interest is my reader. Who are you really? You know, underneath? What is your story, your hopes, challenges? What makes you tick?

People fascinate me.

If you ever met me you probably know I can be super awkward. I get uncomfortable with generic small talk. Please no clumsy one-liners about the weather, or another disingenuous cliché to kill time. I crave genuine connection. So can we bypass the walls and cut to the chase? You have problems, I have problems. Let’s stop whining about it and instead find ways to solve them. There is community to be found here.

Frankly, I think the mom blog world needs more balanced bloggers. We got the self-glorifying Pinterest Moms on one end and this Bad Moms movement on the other.

Pardon me, but do we really want to keep company with perfectly manicured people who live in perfectly manicured homes with perfectly manicured crap (that doesn’t stink)– we all know they are kidding only themselves.

Nor do I want to be inundated with how normal it is to drink wine in a sippy cup while my kids eat Cheetohs for dinner — being transparent is in vogue these days, but with it goes our standards.

Neither extreme is all that good for us. Neither make us better on the inside or out.

I’m only speaking from experience. Trust me when I say I’ve lived on both sides of the fence. The struggle for balance is real. We all wear façades. And I will be the first to say I have lived blinded by them, not even knowing who I really was or what I really wanted out of life. I existed on the basis of what the culture was telling me and what others were doing.

Social influence infiltrates our lives in every way. It’s insidious. What we see, what we hear, what we allow in can truly change our perceptions. And we make concession because well, they do.

That’s why what I say and do makes a difference. That’s why what you say and do makes a difference. Lives can be changed in big and small ways as we interact with one another… even something as trivial as a photograph can change a thought pattern. It can inspire apathy, bring about discontentment, or it can rouse hope and produce motivation.

You just never know how you might be influencing another person. Words are powerful. My goal here is to shed light on the problems we face as women. We may not all share the same brokenness, but the challenges life throws at us are mutual. I’m simply here to urge women – flaws and all — to be who they were made to be, to live out the truth by living justly, to love and show mercy to their neighbor, brother, friend, enemy, and to fear God above all else.

I’m not looking for hits or likes. I’m simply looking to bring community. I want to be able to talk about anything here. To discuss everything from how I treat my first born differently to my personal skin care routine. From an ice-cream recipe to the orphans in Mexico. I don’t want to scare people off with my love of Jesus and the associated stigma you might bring to that name. I am just a former thrill-seeker/prodigal daughter who figured out the world and all its glamour has nothing to offer me.

I promise you one thing, I won’t try to be anyone I am not. Because no, I don’t have a perfectly manicured life… and honestly, I don’t aspire to. At the same time, I don’t wallow in stained sweats and hide from my kids in the bathroom (been there). I don’t have the house with the nicest newest upgrades or the latest DIY trends (done that). I have a home that functions well enough. I’m the blogger fighting for balance and struggling for truth beside you.

All of that to say, I blog for you. I want my blog to help people, to be a resource for people to find hope. It’s safe here. So I encourage you to get comfortable and join the conversation. There is community to be found.





Hubby truly is my bestest friend. He studies me. Knows me well. This time he surprised me with something super special to me.

You guys! It was the coolest date destination yet. The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A.—one of the largest independent physical bookstores in the world! There are no words for the wonder you can experience here. This booking-loving nerd got to roam around for 3+ hours. My brain nearly short-circuited at the sight. The musty smell of 250,000 books put me into a trans. All those wonderful pages! I fell in hard and didn’t want to leave.

I guess this place has been called one of the “22 most beautiful bookstores in the world,” “world’s 20 most stunning bookstores,” “17 coolest bookstores in the world,” and “20 most beautiful bookstores in the world.” Apparently it occupies a space that used to be a bank built in 1914. You could imagine the charm. The first story of the massive 2-story building is filled with a plethora of new and used books galore ordered by topic, while the second floor makes room for independent artist retail shops and what they call the “Labyrinth” of used books.

The Labyrinth is where things get bizarre…. it’s deemed as a porthole into an alternate universe. It’s dimly lit and crammed with dark bookshelves in all kinds of frenzied sequence to give the impression of being lost in a never-ending labyrinth. You see piles of books stacked in what seems like complete disarray, books arranged to make windows and tunnels, books organized by colors of the rainbow.

At one point I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. With so many copies of used books I wanted to really take my time scanning the titles and peeking at the excerpts. Truly, hubby gifted me with his patience by allowing me ample time to peruse at my own snail’s pace.

I had so much fun trying to find the most obscure used books. Old copies, new copies, various edition copies. I managed to find an old copy of a book that was given to me by my uncle many many years ago –- I must have been in my early 20s. It was a specific edition that I gave away after a moment of crisis in a friend’s life. Mere Christianity. It’s priceless to me because with it, the seeds of my faith were planted.

If we had eaten lunch and paid for all day parking, I would have spent my entire day there. Plus, I kinda have a non book-loving hubby who was looking tired out after 3 hours of watching me pore over hardbacks. I forced myself back downstairs to the writing’ section which is conveniently located next to an old bank vault—I got cozy with my pile and decided which to purchase. I then coerced myself to the checkout. How can you go wrong with 3 dollar books? The highlight was the whole experience. It’s just so beautiful and amazing. And I’m sure the smile on my face after finding that old gem, made it a mission accomplished for hubby.

It was a mini-trip date I won’t soon forget — my kinda Disneyland with so many one-off features throughout. Amazing. So worth seeing and experiencing for yourself! Thank you, Mr. Hughes for getting me there.

If you like books and you live local to LA, you gotta see this place!!! Check it out…






The old saying, “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother,” is something I heard long ago but it feels especially true in a step family.

In the blended home there is often a game of tug-o-war taking place that never seemed to come to play in a nuclear home. Can you guess who might be at the end of the rope?

Spouse versus kids.

Many step-parents are fighting a quiet, but constant battle. Can we agree that loving your child is easy because it’s natural? So then the reverse is probably true. Loving someone else’s child (like their your own) is hard because it’s unnatural. Step parent love isn’t as reflexive. It takes work. It takes giving. It takes sacrifice. And it’s exhausting!

I know for me, the kids are, and will probably always be, at the root of our marital stress. Far too often than not our marriage plays second fiddle to my attempts at making things as normal as possible for the kids. Fueled by mommy guilt, I get so pre-occupied with trying to help them re-acclimate, to feel secure at home that I can end up forgetting to put my time in with hubby.

To continually forge the bonds of marriage, we know we have to be intentional. We have to be man and wife again. We have to forget the kids! We have to do things we both love, together. I have learned the stronger our relationship, the more capable we will be at solving future problems and unifying our blended home. It’s something that takes time, but also determination.

Let’s face it, as parents with small children some days we can only take so much whining, and poopy diapers. “Momming” isn’t always such a becoming look, if you are doing it right anyway. Somedays, some weeks we just need that time. We need those uninterrupted kid-free moments to reconnect. It’s vital for our marital health, which trickles down to our family’s health.

Romance and memory-making is high on my list. Being out and about, hand in hand is quality time we don’t just happen to come by these days. One way we take the time to really be intentional with each other is through local mini trips. Every few months. Two days. One night. However trivial that seems, we know the effects of not spending that time with our spouse. So much so that we try our best to budget it in.

Getting away for a day to a unique destination creates a bond through shared experience, a deeper connection. In my un-asked for opinion quick dates can always can be “faked.” We can pretend all is well over dinner, come home and be in the same grouchy mood we’ve been in all day. There is no true connection. Obviously the date itself isn’t necessarily what creates the bond, but we can go on fooling ourselves. I did.

We date not just because it’s fun, it’s that too, but we date because it’s important. So to emphasize the magnitude of its importance I put together a little list.

Why Dating your spouse should be a serious priority.

Commitment: By opening up to each other on dates, we build strong bonds that solidify our commitment to each other. This is important for the inevitable hard times that will hit. When either of us are at a low point, we have each other to pull us back up. Our emotional bond must be strong. How strong is your emotional bond at the given moment? If it needs some improvement, then odds are you aren’t dating each other enough.

Fun: Life with kids is hard. I know ruts are formed easily when little ones are young because everything is about keeping to their sleeping and eating schedule. Dates can pull us out of the mundane tasks and into a new experience. That’s why I think you gotta keep it fresh and try fun things. Planning a creative or unusual date creates lifelong memories you can cherish later on.

Romance: The “chemistry” and the novelty of a date bring out the passion in our relationship and can make you feel like you’ve just started dating each other all over again. Who doesn’t want to feel those butterflies you felt when you first started dating? Planning consistent dates with your husband or wife will help you fall in love with each other all over again week after week.

Communicate: This one is pretty obvious. We’ve all been in those kinda passive aggressive type fights. Bad communication just goes with the territory in a marriage with children, blended or not. Expectations can’t be managed properly if we aren’t conveying them to our spouse. Lack of communication creates resentment which turns into bitterness if not dealt with. Dating throughout marriage will combat these kinds of miscues.

Relax: Lastly, who doesn’t need stress relief every once in a while? Dates should be fun! Hubby isn’t just there for me for the rough patches, but for enjoyable moments too. We need to relax together. Enjoy each other. Make memories together during well thought-out date nights. You will never regret the time you put in planning a creative date instead of watching the next episode of a show you watch too much of.

That said, I’m looking forward to sharing some of our adventures in this space. There are so many neat affordable places to go and see and do, locally.

What do you like to do for dates?


Since it’s black Friday and we got shoppin’ on the mind, I wanted to give my readers some easy and practical ideas for male teacher gifts. I think if you are like most people you may find yourself stumped when it comes to shopping for men you barely know. The truth is there are a lot of fun and cutesy ideas out there, but for the male teacher on your list, well, they might not appreciate them the same way.

I realize I’m no better at gift giving than the next person. When all else fails I grab a last minute bulk supply of Starbucks cards and hand them out to each of my kids’ teachers. Others of us will buy something we think might be appropriate, like a “teacher-themed” trinket of some sort. Some will load up on the candy or clothing like a tie or crazy socks.

But before you pick out a male teacher gift this year, you got to think about how many of the same kind of gifts they’ve come across over the years. I know my Kinder teaching hubby arrives home with an overabundance of chocolate (even though he is allergic) graphic T-shirts, ties and other clothing (which is usually too small or big). Mugs are also huge (but he doesn’t drink coffee). The thought counts of course, I get that, but it doesn’t hurt to think about what people may really need/want. Your child’s teacher, afterall, spends more time with your child than anyone else. They truly deserve a token of your appreciate – even if just a simple thank you card.

Without further ado, let me show you five simple and practical gifts that any male teacher will appreciate.


  1. The idea for this post really came to me as I recalled the hubs telling me how happy he was about getting a Gilette razor gift set one year. Who whoulda thunk it? It was practical but also thoughtful. So for numero uno, you guessed it…


  1. Teachers are crazy busy people who usually forget to stay hydrated. So what better than a Hydroflask? They are a fantastic water bottle that keeps beverages cold thanks to their insulated dual-walled structure.


  1. I know this seems super silly, but my husband is always losing Tupperware – thankfully we buy the cheap stuff! I would say it drives me nuts, but I too tend to leave it in random fridgerators around the district. A great gift idea for many teachers are the locking glass lunch containers. They’re the creme de la creme of containers, but they cost a pretty penny. That makes them a great gift idea, though!


  1. Sport-themed or classroom-themed décor. This is one of the sweetest gifts because it remains in the classroom for your child to point out and take pride in. But first you have to figure out what teams your kid’s teacher is into, or what the classroom theme is. For instance, hubby received a super awesome Dodger poster he now has on display. His room is superhero themed so trinkets that match are fun. And ultimately they save him money and make his classroom look cool.


  1. I think we all know most men are avid movie watchers. Movies tickets always make a nice night out, at a fairly reasonable price point, which makes them a great teacher gift option. And let’s be honest teachers are just better at their jobs when they get the chance to do something un-school related with the people they love.


  1. I threw this one in here as a bonus idea…Cliff bars. Because teachers need fuel! Cliff Bars are more expensive than your average granola bar, but also more delicious and the perfect thing to take with you for lots of activities. They make a great emergency snack/meal in the classroom because they don’t crumble all over while you try to eat them.

There you have it, 5 + 1 bonus male teacher gifts.  What else would you add to the list?

FYI – my site is not for monetization purposes. What I post is purely written as a resource to help. Friend to friend. 🙂



  • Brandee Miller - November 26, 2017 - 2:40 am

    I love this list, especially #1, I never thought about that one before!ReplyCancel

    • cherie1682 - November 27, 2017 - 4:23 am

      YAY! Im so glad someone found it useful! I think it helps being married to a teacher!ReplyCancel