Saturday, December 31, 2011

Post Christmas Post

This might have been the best Christmas ever. Not because of some huge thing that happened, but just because being with family meant more this year than it ever has. 

Highs of Christmas 2011:
Jude and Ezra on Christmas morning. They were super cute and they made it fun. 
Being with my Mam Maw and Ross's Grandma again this year. This makes me so, so happy. All that was missing was Naughnie!
Meeting Lainey Meade. She was so yummy! 
Each moment spent with each family member. Every single one was special. More time with the hubs (love his 2 weeks vacation at Christmas time!), giving Phil his birthday card that the boys made him, giving my sister a gift this year (which I'm not always able to do), the awesome food my mom and Mam Maw made, laughs at the table with the in-laws, jokes over matching pjs, great talks with my mother-in-law, and the generosity of others always humbles me. I truly felt loved and I hope I was able to make someone else feel loved also. It was such a great year and to be honest, I'm a little sad its over. 

You can't have a holiday without a few pictures, so here is our Christmas in photos:

Now its 2012 (can't believe this!) and while I know I have no control over the things that will happen this year, I have been reflecting on it nonetheless. Goals, dreams, hopes, plans, its scary and exciting at the same time. While I have no idea what is going to happen this next year, I do know one thing. I desire so much in 2012 for my understanding of who Jesus is to grow, so that my faith will grow as well. So much so that I just can't keep it to myself. That is my main hope for the new year. 

What about you, any new year's resolutions?

Friday, December 23, 2011

DtD Challenge #9 - LAUNDRY ROOM

I have to start out by saying this. One of the top 5 selling points that led us to deciding to buy our house was this: our laundry room. I know that sounds silly, right? But, when we opened the door, we were amazed. It was gigantic, it was glorious, there were 2 decent sized closets for storage space, and it was a room all on its own (a lot of older houses like ours don't have separated laundry spaces, unless they were added on later). We loved it. I'm not sure why it was so exciting to us, but I'm pretty sure we were ready to sign right there. 

Fast forward to today, 5 years later. I still love the room, very much so. But, the cats have kind of taken over it as their space, it holds lots all of our junk, and nothing is organized in there, so everything is pretty much just strewn about. As a result of these things, I hate going in there. In fact, I try to avoid it at all costs. Except on laundry day, of course. :) So, it should not surprise you to know that I did not clean it this week. Not even a little. Yes, I did get all Jude's summer clothes put up (I'm only a few months late, right?) and not just thrown in the laundry room (which is what I normally would have done), but I did not clean, nor straighten, nor organize any part of it. This time of year is just so crazy, there's always a million things to be done, things that do not include the laundry room. And Ross is off work, which makes it harder...if he's on break then I should be too, right? 

Not exactly. So, I think there needs to be a change of mindset here, on my part. If I stop dreading the laundry room and go back to remembering why I loved it in the first place, then maybe this will help me to do what needs to be done in there. And my mother-in-law told me something this past weekend that has been playing in my head over and over, even regarding the darn laundry room. She said, praise is always the answer. 

This may seem silly, but if I praise God for my laundry room, and be thankful for it, then maybe I won't hate it so much, and just maybe it will actually get clean. Maybe it will go from a duty to a delight. That is my hope and prayer for this next week.

And I know what some of you might say, what is the big deal??? Its just a laundry room! And you may be right. It is just a laundry room and it doesn't determine who I am, or whether I am a good housekeeper or not. Those of you who know me know that I don't take life too seriously and don't let every little thing get to me. But even though it may not seem like a big deal, it is to me. The fact that I dread it, procrastinate, and let it steal my joy is a problem for me. So, here's to change! I like change when its good...even if the process is usually hard.

Even though I didn't get my laundry room cleaned, I did, in fact, get my ornament done. Yippeeee!! Would you like to see it? 
I know, it's nothing special, but at least I will remember what we looked like in December of 2011. Yeah!

I thought I'd include some photos of our fun cooking baking event this morning. 
 Jude and I had fun doing this together. E joined us at the end. 

 Yum! They were delish! (don't mind my messy oven, eek! A future DtD Challenge perhaps?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Nativity Story

Joseph: If I claim this child as mine, I will be lying. I would have broken a law laid down by God. 
Mary: I would never ask you to lie. 
Joseph: If I say this child is not mine, they will ask what I'm going to do. If I accuse you... 
Mary: There is a will for this child greater than my fear of what they may do. 

As soon as Ross and I popped this movie in last night, I was captivated. I've never seen this part of the story told on screen before, not like this. I was touched by it. I laughed at parts, and I cried at parts. But I couldn't help but wonder while I watched. I wondered what it would be like to be Mary, in her little village of Nazareth, so young, barely married and very pregnant, about to participate in the biggest, most amazing event in history. The looks she received. The rejection she must have faced. The loneliness that this huge step of faith must have produced. People didn't get it. They didn't understand. But somehow she did. Of course, she didn't get the full extent of it and she must have been so afraid, but she knew it was huge, important and that she had to do it. There was a purpose in it. Bigger than her, bigger than anything that had ever been.

My favorite scene in the movie was this:

Mary: You've never really told me of your dream. 
Joseph: My dream? 
[pause, he is teasing her and also contemplating his response
Joseph: No. 
Mary: Please, tell me. 
Joseph: An angel came to me. He told me the child within you had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and that I should not be afraid. 
Mary: Are you afraid? 
Joseph: Yes. 
Joseph: Are you? 
Mary: Yes. Do you ever wonder when we'll know? 
Joseph: Know what? 
Mary: When he is more than just a child. Will it be something he says? A look in his eyes?  How do we raise such a child?  
Joseph: I wonder if I will even be able to teach him anything.

I just love that. Mary and Joseph were just normal people. There was nothing special about them, yet they were about to have and raise the Son of God, God Himself in the flesh. Wow. Talk about overwhelming! And I love what that means for us. That even if the task is scary, and seems impossible, God can and will use us, normal, ordinary people to accomplish His purposes. We just have to be willing to step out in faith and submit it all to Him.

With that being said, I just remembered that I haven't posted my weekly photo yet this week. So, in keeping with the nativity theme, I thought I'd get in a photo of our nativity scene (that I took outside). 

Luke 2: 17-20
''When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.''

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm back!

Until Saturday, anyway. Ahh, back to the swing of things. I always love being with family. There's just such a comforting feeling that comes with being with family, where you can be yourself, be and feel loved and love back in a really strong way. Its such a great thing. 

But today, back at home, there is laundry that is being done and a house that needs picking up. ...I should probably be doing that now. 

Instead, I want to share a few things that I received recently that I am in love with. 

These pants from Old Navy. I put them on and they felt like I was wearing a piece of heaven. In fact, I may never even take them off. They're only $6 online, so if you're thinking of getting yourself something nice and comfy, or getting an inexpensive gift for someone, get them a pair of these. They will thank you...and be warm in the process.

A sweet friend gave me this cookbook for Christmas, and I have to say, I just love the Pioneer Woman. I use a lot of recipes on her website and am really pumped about trying out some from her book. 

And these two books I checked out from the library:
I'm really excited about reading these. The Family Meal is written by a gourmet chef and he's adapted some really nice recipes so that us domestic ladies can use them. He explains how to cook them from start to finish, all the different ways you can cook an egg, what different oils are best to cook with, and lots of other really good information. I like cookbooks, but I really like books that help you in the kitchen. The second book I don't know much about, but it looked interesting. This subtitle sounded intriguing to me: Family, France and the Meaning of Food. We shall see!

What are you loving and excited about these days?

Friday, December 16, 2011

DtD Challenge #8 - ORNAMENT!

Just about all of the ornaments on our Christmas tree have some sort of meaning to our family. Whether they were given to us by someone on our first Christmas, or the kids first Christmas ornaments, they're all sentimental to me in some way. And every year, I get a family ornament to signify that year. Several years I have bought an ornament, and several years I have made them and put our picture in it. I think its fun to look back and see how you looked each year. Last year I meant to get a photo of us on the ornament I bought, being that it was our first Christmas as a family of four. But, it just didn't happen...and that made me sad. So, this year, when I bought our ornament, I was determined to get our picture put in it. 

So last week, I challenged myself to do just that. A whole week, I was sure I could do it. 

But, my week got away from me, and even though I tried once to figure out how I could get just 1 wallet sized photo of us, our 2011 ornament still looks like this:

Boo. This week's challenge was a fail. I still have a week before Christmas though, so hopefully I will get this done by then.

Next week: I have 2 this week, and one of them I might have to stretch over 2 weeks. The first is that I want to bake cookies with my kiddos. And the second one is that I desperately need to get my laundry room cleaned. That is a project that I have been in the middle of doing for months now. So, now I just need to do it! Ross will be off next week, so I'm hoping to get it done.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Menu plan~

This is an unusual week, being that we'll be having dinner with our families a few of those nights and will still have a week's worth of meals. And I'm going to try my best to stretch the budget as far as it will go, being as close as it is to Christmas, our budget is even tighter than usual. So, this week, boneless skinless chicken breasts are still on sale, so hopefully they won't be out this time! Here we go:

Easy night (because it is shopping day), something like hot dogs & mac n cheese (nutritious, right?)

Turkey (or pork chops), mashed potatoes & steamed broccoli (amended to tilapia and potatoes, the pork chops at Kroger were outrageously expensive and I couldn't find any turkey-except big huge ones)

Chicken pasta pesto & spinach salad

Christmas dinner with family

Dinner with family

Almost lasagna 

Homemade ravioli with spinach filling (trying this for the first time, we'll see how it turns out!)

Chicken soup and bread

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Christmas!

We went to the library today for story time, to see Santa, and to have some yummies that were provided to everyone by the library. I am so thankful for our library and their employees. All the free fun kid activities they provide are so great. We have such an awesome library! It was a good time, but the kids were so restless and running all over the place. It made me tired! Even so, Jude enjoyed seeing Santa and being with our friends, of which I was glad. Ezra had a good time too...for the most part. He loved the food, the playing, but did not love sitting in Santa's lap. He did cry...and quite loudly. I only tortured him for a second, quick enough to get a picture. If you haven't seen the picture on facebook, you should go check it out. It's quite comical. Good thing he won't remember it, right? Well, except for when he looks at the photo when he gets older and wonders why I would do such a horrible thing to him. It wouldn't be Christmas without a few tears!

Some photos I got of the kids today:

This weekend we plan on going to look at Christmas lights, one of our favorite annual Christmas traditions. If you have never looked at lights with a 3-almost-4 year old, you are missing out. It is really fun, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Only 11 more days til Christmas!! (hope you all have your shopping done...we do NOT. eeek!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Personal Photo challenge

I love to take photos. I'm sure you're aware of this by now. I probably take several photos, if not more, just about every day. But they're mostly done with my crappy quality phone camera. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to document our daily lives, even with a crappy phone camera. But, I have been itching to take more "real" photos. I need to get my creative juices flowing.

I've decided that in order to do that, I've got to set a goal for myself. And what better way to do that than to do my own photo challenge! I need to get outside and stretch my photography skills. I want and need to do it! Every week I want to get outside and take of picture of something that is not in my house. I'm hoping this will force me to go outside of my own front yard and devote a little bit of time to my favorite hobby, the only serious one I want to have time for.

So, here are my rules:
1. All my photos must be taken outside.
2. All my photos must be taken with my Canon DSLR camera (not just my phone).
3. All my photos must be taken within that week (I can't pull one from a long time ago and say that's my photo for the week)
4. No photos of the kids. While I love love love taking pictures of them, I need to branch out. That's the whole point of this!

And here is my first one. I took the boys for a walk earlier and they L.O.V.E planes. They will literally stop whatever they're doing when we're outside if they hear a plane. They want to find it in the sky. So, we heard this one and Ezra started saying "Paaaaannneeeee!!!" and I wanted to try to catch it with my camera.

 In this case, I wish I had a zoom lens. But, at least you can tell what it is! :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The toy monster

(eating ice cream at the mall today with friends)

I thought it would be a good idea to take Jude and Ezra to get their cousin a Christmas present the other night. As we went from store to store, Jude would say "I think Shawn wants this," but I really think he was the one who wanted it. Although I did at least get an idea of what we could get him from the grandparents, it certainly did not end pleasantly, with me carrying Jude out of the store - football style - while he threw a screaming, thrashing fit. Good times with a 3 year old, right?

For the past 3 Christmases, since having kids, we have been able to use that line "they're not old enough to really care what they get" and its been true. I have to admit, I've loved that rule. They'd be happy with just about anything we got them. But this year, consumerism has reared its ugly head. For a kid who doesn't get a lot of "stuff," and who has probably only seen 2 commercials in his life, he is going full speed on the "I want" train. He wants just about everything, and all he can talk about is presents. When are we getting presents, where's all the presents, when is it time for presents, is what I hear 50 times a day.

I have prayed, asked friends and racked my brain as to how I gear him more to giving, rather than receiving and to help him see what the real present/focus is during the Christmas season, but that's a hard concept to convey to a 3-almost-4 year old. My wise mama-friend of 5 kiddos told me some much-needed-to-hear things. She of course told me to model what giving looks like, and show how joyful it is to give. But she also told me just to continue to remind him what the season is all about. To have lots of talks with him. To emphasize Jesus and how giving is more important than receiving. To be gentle, and keep reminding him who the real Present is. My tendency is to get frustrated, having to say the same things over and over and over again. But, its important. Little ones forget things so quickly, they need to be reminded again and again. In fact, I think that a lot of times, I tend to forget quickly and need to be reminded again and again too. 

Here is Jude, hard at work coloring the frog green. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DtD Challenge #7- GRANOLA!

With all the homemade things out there, granola was last on my radar. Not for any reason, other than I just never thought about it. A good friend of mine makes her own granola and I thought I should do this...I COULD do this! So I did. We would eat granola around here more often if it wasn't so expensive. I love to have it in my greek yogurt, and its good for you! (minus all the sugar, which is why I wanted to make it myself so I could control the amount of sugar that went in). 

So, I got my friend's recipe and took a shot at it. 

I bought some off-brand old fashioned oats and applesauce and set to work. 

The first batch: Was too applesaucy, and I way overcooked it, which made it look like this:

Doesn't that look appetizing? No? It doesn't to me either. I'm not sure even the dog would eat that. I was sorta bummed, but that's to be expected. I usually mess up the first time I cook something. 

So, I tried again. I put less applesauce, more honey, and cooked it for a shorter amount of time. 

It turned out better, it tasted yummy! But it was still a little too hard. I went a bit too oven-happy again. Apparently you need to take it out of the oven while its still soft and let it harden while cooling. I didn't know this, so I kept cooking it, thinking it needed to harden while in the oven. 

Then I ran out of oats. Boo. I will try this again, (I want to try THIS recipe) and hopefully will continue to do it once I get the hang of it. It's much more healthy, and way more cost effective...not to mention, SO yummy! 

Next week: this is kind of silly, but I desperately need to get our family ornament done this year because last year's didn't get done at all...and I'm sad about that. So, I need to put a time frame on it and just do it. You guys will keep keep me accountable, right? :) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How do you grocery shop?

Something I've learned in the 5 years I've been married - grocery shopping is an art. Grocery shopping on a budget is an even harder art. It takes time, brain power and planning. It's not rocket science, but it does require you to be mindful and purposeful. I admit, I used to not have a clue how to grocery shop. I'd go in, buy a bunch of random ingredients and even though I covered everything we needed and then some, I'd way overspend. Then, during the week, food would end up going bad because I bought too much, or didn't feel like thinking about what to cook every day, so we'd spend money on eating out.

I think we as a society tend to over-grocery shop. We buy way too much food. This includes me. In some countries, they only shop per day for the groceries they need. An every day trip to the grocery store? You couldn't pay me enough! But they may be onto something, shopping for only what they need. Makes sense, right?

So, I finally decided that I needed to get with the program, stop wasting money and wasting food. I didn't know what I was doing when I started. Sometimes I still don't. But, I came up with a plan and while its not perfect, and I'm not super great at it yet, I'm working out the kinks...and its really, really simple.

How do you grocery shop? Do you walk in and go, where in the world do I start? Do you just go through and get a bunch of random ingredients? Do you just shop for sale items? Do you get the easiest things to make/warm up? Do you stock-pile? There are a billion ways to shop. There is no one right way, and the way I do it is probably one in a million ways to do it. Here is my way, and I'll tell you how I save money by doing it. (and I'm not talking about couponing either. I'm not a big couponer and I'll share why in another post.)

Questions I ask myself before my weekly grocery trip:
1. What meats are on sale?
2. What meals haven't we had in awhile?
3. What do we already have in the house?
4. What are we out of?

First, I spend a little time planning my meals for the week. I am planning a post on how I do that, but for now you will have to wait. :)

Next, I make a list. A list of all the ingredients I'm going to need for each dish. These are not extravagant meals, so there's not a billion ingredients. And sometimes I already have some of the ingredients, but I get all I need based on my meal plan and the staple things we are out of.

I ONLY shop by my list. No grabbing extra things that I think I might need. There's no need for that when you menu plan and list all of your ingredients (the ones you don't already have).

That's it! Have you figured out what my secret plan is? My secret plan is only buying what we need for that week.'s so simple that I can't believe I never thought of it before. But I'm glad I did because now I'm saving money, I'm not wasting near as much food, and I actually enjoy grocery shopping. It used to be such a duty, such a chore, but now I can honestly consider it a delight.

Some notes about how I shop: I don't stock-pile (although I know ladies who do this and it totally works for them), I don't buy a lot of extras (no pre-prepared snacky foods or frozen easy meals), Of course, there are staple items I need every week, like eggs, milk, oats, Cheerios, fruit, etc, but for the most part, I only shop by my list. And I will report that the the last several grocery runs, I have spent $20 less than our budgeted amount. That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it adds up. I will say, sometimes its hard to resist things I want to get, but when you shop on a budget, you have to be discerning about what you really need and what you want. I always want too many extra things that I don't really need.

What about you, how do you grocery shop?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Menu plan~

My menu plan threatened to be thrown off this week because Kroger was out of boneless skinless chicken breasts...again. So I had to make a few adjustments, and it took me a long time at the store of figuring out and deciding what to do instead, but I finally got it done. And here it is!

Fixing chili for my small group tonight, my mama's recipe

Roasted chicken leg quarters and beans & cornbread

Fish n chips (potato wedges)

Homemade pizza


Turkey paninis

Cream cheese chicken and broccoli

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crock pot = love

What did we, as a society, ever do without slow cookers? It's the busy (or tired) mom's best friend. I have used my crock pot plenty in the 5 years I've been married, but I use it for awhile and then forget about it for awhile. The last couple of weeks I've used it quite a bit. Every time I cook a meal in it, I re-fall in love with my crock pot all over again. I don't remember who gave that to us as a wedding gift, but they should be thanked again. So, thank you, person-who-got-us-one-of-the-best-gifts-ever.

Here are some of my new and old favorite meals I like to cook in the crock pot:

Lately I've been cooking my pork chops in the crock pot. I pour some chicken broth and seasonings in there, cook it on high for just a few hours (or low for longer) and the meat just falls apart when it's done. I like this way better than baking the pork chops in the oven, which makes the meat sort of tough and tasteless, in my opinion.

Who can deny the yumminess of beef pot roast cooked in the slow cooker? I put potatoes and carrots in with it and it is one of my favorite meals of all time.

A month or so ago, I smothered a few chicken breasts in bbq sauce in the crock pot and had chicken bbq sandwiches. I shredded the chicken and it ended up looking just like pork bbq. It was delish and sooo easy!

I'm trying a new beef stew recipe I just made up tonight, so we'll see how that goes. Instead of potatoes and carrots, I put zucchini, squash, broccoli, celery, green pepper and onion...hopefully it'll be good! It sure smells good.

There are a ton of things you can do in the crock pot...share them with me! I want to add a few new recipes to my crock pot staple. I did see a crock pot lasagna recipe on pinterest that I'd like to try soon. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Things vs. memories

(this is not our house, I just found it online and thought it was neat!)

Every year after Thanksgiving, we put the tree and lights up, we get the decorations out and the Christmas records and excitement and joy flood my heart. But then a few weeks later, the excitement and joy slowly disappear and stress and anxiety replace it. Instead of focusing on Christ, which is what Christmas really is about, I start obsessing about what things we're going to be able to get the boys, what I wish I could get Ross, and figuring out how in the world we can bless our families and others on such a tight budget. I'm starting to realize that in the past, I have let our budget determine my joy, which is really sad. I don't want to that anymore.

This year, our Christmas budget for the boys is really small. Like really really small. We don't normally buy them a lot of things anyway because they get a lot from everyone, and we try as hard as we can to stay free of consumerism/materialism; even though we always seem to fall into it a little every year. And sad to say, we don't do the thing where we save up all year, or even a few months in advance. Every year at Christmas I think man, we should have been saving all year long...but we're just not able to do that at this time. So, I've gotten the boys a few things and may get them a few more, but I am determined not to let our budget steal my joy this year.

Gifts are exciting. I know we always want to focus on giving instead of receiving, but who doesn't get excited when they open a present? I know I do. When we reference something exciting, we say "like a kid on Christmas morning." Seeing all the new things you have gotten is pretty exciting. Which got me thinking about our Christmas this year. We aren't able to get our kids mounds of gifts this year, so how can we, as a family, still keep the mystery and excitement in Christmas?

Of course Jesus is our main source of joy and excitement during this time of year (and all year). But kids don't always fully understand that. Heck, I don't even think I fully understand it. So, I had an idea. This year, instead of focusing on what the kids are getting, and instead of letting that be the main thing that gets them excited (which is what we've done in the past), I'm going to gear us more toward the things we do together as a family. We started a tradition of going to get frozen custard and looking at Christmas lights, but I want there to be more traditions, more memories. We may not always remember the gifts we receive, but we remember times spent with people, fun things we've done together. Those are the times that we cherish most. So, I looked online I found some inexpensive/frugal activities to do during Christmas time. Some people do an advent calendar which is kind of like this, but I'm not doing a calendar per se. We'll just do them randomly, not on certain days. Here are a few things I'm considering doing as a family and maybe doing with some of our friends:

  • The notorious cookie making/decorating. I think we've only tried this once, but we may make a bigger deal about it this year. We may invite our friends over for this one! 
  • Visit widows and nursing homes in my area. We did a Halloween parade at a couple of homes in October and it was so great. They enjoyed seeing the kiddos and the kids enjoyed the residents also. We may do this again for Christmas. 
  • Make homemade ornaments. I think we're going to start doing that every year and adding them to our tree. 
  • Collect your children's old crayons. Peel and place into Christmas candy molds. Place in pans of hot water to melt, or if the molds are heat resistant, melt at low setting in the microwave or oven. Cool and let your children create Christmas cards and pictures for others with their "new crayons."
  • Study how other cultures and countries celebrate Christmas. Try incorporating a foreign tradition into your celebration.
  • Invite the neighbors over for hot cocoa, coffee and cookies (Loooove this idea, plan on doing this one for sure)
  • Do something outside together on Christmas morning. If its snowing, have a play time in the snow. If its not snowing, we could do another outside activity. 
Christmas can be exciting and joy-filled even if we only get a few things, or even no things for Christmas. I truly hope all of you have a great holiday season. Make memories with your family and let's stop worrying about all the things we think they need! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

New discoveries

This is my niece...isn't she a beauty? Her picture has nothing to do with this post, but I took some photos of my sister's family for their Christmas card on Thanksgiving and this is one of them. I love this girl!

Anyway, on to the post. Next week I'm going to go back to my normal duties to delights challenges, I'm trying something new that I'm really excited about. This week I just thought I'd share some things that have helped me save money and provide healthier options for my family.

1. Baking our own bread. I do this for many reasons. a) its healthier. I know exactly what goes into my bread and there's not a billion ingredients or preservatives. b) its WAY yummier. If you'd ever have homemade bread, you'd never want to eat store bought again. c) its cheaper. Store-bought bread that is actually healthy is kind of expensive. But I have to admit, I don't bake our bread ALL all the time. I do it more often than not, and I really do enjoy it. And let me just encourage the non-Kitchenaid mixer people out there, and the non-bread machine havers out there also. I do not own a mixer of any kind (except a hand mixer), nor a bread machine. I do this all by hand and use my regular ole oven. Its a little harder, but I'm so used to it, so I don't mind it that much.

2. Making our own jam. Note: I am not great at this. In fact, I've never had a batch of jam actually turn out correctly, and I think I know why that is. It's always too runny, but it tastes pretty good, so we eat it anyway. The jam-making process is pretty easy itself, so I like doing this for us. Now if I could just get it to work right...

3. Using napkins and actual towels instead of paper towels. It cuts down on trash out-put and an extra expense in the budget.

4. Using reusable bags at the grocery store. The only hard part about this is remembering to take my bags into the store. I have gotten much better at this, and don't forget near as often as I used to. When we're done unloading the groceries, I usually put them right back in the car so they're there the next time I go shopping.

5. I shop mostly secondhand for clothes for myself and the kids. Believe it or not, you can find some really great, cute used clothes at the Goodwill and consignment shops. Try it!

Other things I've done recently and loved: making our own laundry detergent, cleaning with only vinegar and baking soda, making my own face wash, and homemade shampoo. All cost savers and way better than commercial products!

I love discovering new ways of doing things, if you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

Next week: Making my own homemade granola. A friend shared her awesome recipe, so I'll let you know how it turns out!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Working out during the holidays

Yesterday was my first run/workout since the 4 mile Turkey Trot race I did on Thanksgiving day. I could tell, too. Why haven't I worked out in a week? I don't know...but I was regretting it today when I was on the treadmill, huffing and puffing and sweating like nobody's business. And I'm still nursing a sinus infection, which makes me want to do nothing at all.

It's always so hard to work out during the holidays. And we always eat too much. And by we, I mean me. Holiday food is just so darn good. Turkey and dressing and casseroles and bread and pie and wait, what? I was talking about something....

Oh, right. Working out. Since we eat so much during November and December and tend to want to stay inside more during the winter because its so cold, its soooo important to keep active during the winter months. Get out and walk, run, go to the gym, or even do some type of dvd at home (there are tons out there, and most are inexpensive; Netflix/renting is also an option), if you don't want to leave your warm house. There's always something you can do to stay active during the holiday season. (I'm speaking to myself here too. I have not been feeling well enough to do anything, let alone work out!)

And if you fall off the wagon, you can always get back on. Tomorrow is a new day, as the saying goes. And don't forget about New Years coming up. Resolution time! Jan 1st is just around the corner and what better time to start a new workout regimen.

Now, if I could only take my own advice and tear myself out of bed before the sun in the morning to go work out....

Menu plan!

Menu plan time! This week I planned my menu around what meat was on sale at Kroger. I don't normally do that, but when chuck roast is on sale, I don't want to pass that up!

We don't eat a lot of beef, but I do love it so. Most of the time the better cuts are just too far out of our budget, so we eat a lot of the lesser expensive meats, or no meat at all. But with the chuck roast on sale, I wanted to have roast this week, yay! I was able to get 2, so I will be able to make 2 dinner meals with it...while saving over $9! (And chicken was originally on sale also, but they were sold out when I got there...bummer!)

Breakfasts will consist of oatmeal, eggs & toast, cereal; and lunches will be pb&j sandwiches, tuna, egg salad, or leftovers. And here is my dinner meal plan for the week:

Small group tonight, the kids and Ross will eat something easy

Cod fish sandwiches and spinach salad (this got bumped from last week)

Crock pot roast, potatoes and carrots

Spaghetti (with ground turkey) and homemade breadsticks


Crockpot beef stew with veggies (fresh zucchini, squash, broccoli) and bread

Chicken and rice

Small group night - will take something

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How we spent our snow day

This may the the first time its snowed in November in a long time, if ever. I'm not a huge fan of the snow, but the first snow of the year is always exciting. The first thing Jude wanted to do when he woke up was go play in the snow...and that's just what we did.
They lasted about 30 minutes before wanting to come in. Their toes were cold and they were soaking wet. But they had fun, and I had fun too!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The most wonderful season of all

We were so excited to get our Christmas decorations up last night and today. Even though we're all nursing sinus infections, we got most of it done. This is our favorite time of year, especially Ross's. There's just something magical about it. Jude has been asking us for weeks, "Is it Christmas time yet???" Now we can say, yes, it is! We watched 2 Christmas movies last night and all morning long, Christmas music was playing in the house, the tree was lit up, and the boys were completely infatuated with the decorations. 

Speaking of decorations, it's easy to get crazy with the spending when it comes to getting your house all pretty for Christmas. Wreaths alone can cost an arm and a leg. It doesn't have to be that way though. You can make your house beautiful, Christmasy and not spend a ton of money. Let me share some suggestions that I've done and some that I have found:

  •  Buy dollar store glass vases and ornaments and fill the vases with ornaments to set around your house. It is such a pretty and inexpensive way to Christmasize your house (yep, I made that word up);
  • Decorate with ribbon. I have some beautiful ribbon a friend gave me that I decorate my entry table and bookshelves with. Its inexpensive and adds Christmas color to the room!
  • Nativity scenes are lovely to look at this time of year
  • Find branches outside and spray paint them gold or silver; put them in vases around the house
  • Hang ornaments from an entry way or curtain rod with ribbon
  • Paint and hang up wooden letters from the craft section - JOY, PEACE, etc
  • Find pine cones outside to decorate your house with
  • Don't underestimate the dollar store decor. Sometimes they have really cute stuff, or you can make it cute by combining or adding something different.
  • You can buy canvases and make your own holiday wall decor 
  • Take unused picture frames and put pretty or fun wrapping paper in the windows for display
  • There are a number of ways you can make your own wreaths. I have not done this, but may try in the future. 
  • There are so many DIY Christmas decor websites you can find. Google is your friend! So is pinterest. :) 
Get your creative, crafty pants on and try some new (inexpensive) things this year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Refereeing boys

In my opinion, being a referee is probably one of the most exhausting parts of being a parent. I love having boys, and I love that they are so close in age. Building and playing in forts, dog piling, playing in the dirt are all things this mama loves doing with her boys. What I don't love? The constant competition between them, the fighting over toys, hurting each other on purpose. No kidding, Ezra busts out in tears at least 40 times every day. They really do love each other and play together greatly, but they do the thing where they play and then they fight. And then more playing and more fighting. Play, fight, play, fight. It can get tiring trying to deal with that a billion times a day. I'm find myself thinking that I should just let them duke it out. They are boys after all. 

We are constantly trying to teach Jude how to be kind to his little brother, and to his friends. Anyone who thinks people are inherently good has not had little kids. Jude can be flat out mean. No one had to teach him this, but his mean side most definitely comes out, and more times than I'd like to admit. 

I've been praying for Jude and with him that God would help him to be more kind. It sometimes seems like we're getting nowhere. There are many days I get discouraged, so discouraged that I want to just give up all together. But then I came across this book today:

I have no idea who gave us this book or where it came from, but I've seen it around our house and have never taken the time to read it to Jude. I don't know why, honestly. We read tons of books from the library, but we don't read much of our own, for some reason. 

But I'm so glad I read this to him. This book is so cute! It's about the little boy (Seedling) and how he's mean to his kitty cat and the cat runs away to hide from him. But at the end, he learns how to be sweet to the kitty and they become snuggly friends. And at the very end of the book, it has a verse that I wrote on our white board that I will remind Jude of every time he is mean to his brother, or to anyone else. 

"Let your gentleness be evident to all." Philippians 4:5 

I am so encouraged by this answer to prayer, that the Lord gave me this to help in training and teaching both of them. Maybe this will help keep a little more sane too. What do you think? How about you mamas out there? How do you teach your children to be kind and gentle to others? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rantings on life and change

Life is tricky. It seems that as soon as you get to a comfortable place, things change again an in an instant and you're having to get used to a new routine, or a new way of life, or a new something-or-other. Unless you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person, which I'm not, you like comfort. I guess its never good to be too comfortable. How can you grow if you're always in the same place, never moving forward?

This is on my mind because we are currently job hunting. I have no idea what God is going to do with this, but change is coming, I can feel it. Nervousness, excitement, dread, anxiety, sadness, joy, readiness, how can one person be feeling so many things at once? Change is good, but it can be hard. Especially when you have little ones. The Lord is preparing my heart for change though, He is helping me to view it as a delight and not a duty. Most people dread change. I don't want to dread the future! 

On a totally unrelated note, there is going to be no menu plan post this week. Obviously with Thanksgiving coming up, we're going to be with our family for most of the week. A few things got bumped from last week, so I won't even grocery shop until we get home. I am so looking forward to being with family and eating lots of yummy food, like this:

Turkey, gobble gobble!

Who doesn't like green bean casserole?

Hashbrown casserole might just be one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes

And especially this...

What I am responsible for cooking this year:
Zucchini and squash casserole (I made this either last year or the year before, and my sister suggested I make it again; I'll post the recipe this week)
Corn with salt and lots of butta (Ross doesn't like casseroles, so I like to have some simple veggie options for him to eat)

I wish I could encourage you to eat healthier or less on Thanksgiving, but I would be a big ole hypocrite. This is my favorite time of year to eat and I will not hold back much...I will probably just run/exercise more. :) 

Friday, November 18, 2011

DtD Challenge #6 - PLAY!

Kids are fun. I forget how exciting new experiences are and how easily amused they are. It is a really sweet thing when their eyes light up and you can hear lots of giggling. You can see the wheels in their heads turning and there's pure curiosity and enjoyment there. It makes me wish sometimes I was back there, to an easier time. And then I realize how crappy the teenage years were and there's no amount of sentiment, or money for that matter, that would make me go back in time. I am surprised grateful I survived it. 

I have been attempting to think outside the box as far as activities to do with the kids during our learning time. I came across this website, called Play at Home Mom, which is really neat. If you need some good ideas of fun things to do, check it out. BUT, be aware, their website and some of their activities can be somewhat overwhelming. They have had time to develop a great art center at home for their kids, which I think is so great. On the other hand, we don't currently have the funds to grow our art supply cabinet quite yet, but we do have some things. But I love their ideas, especially this one

So, here bodes the question, did I get back on my homeschooling groove this week? The answer is yes and no. I decided that I was trying to do too much structured learning and not enough learning through playing and sensory activities. So, I have decided to do less of the subject type learning stuff and more of the hands-on experience type learning. Learning should be fun...not just something to be checked off the list and drudged through. We've been doing a lot of reading, crafting and even did some puzzles this week. And this idea below of playing with water beads from the Play At Home Mom website, and decided to try it out. 

I got these water beads at the Dollar Tree in the flower arranging/vase section. I dumped them in a big bowl with measuring cups to scoop and dump.

They were like, what are these weird feeling things?!!?!

They loved scooping, dumping and letting the beads fall through their fingers. 
Of course throwing them was really fun. (this is Jude's throw face)

Ezra enjoyed throwing them too. We also stomped on them and threw them again the house. I thought it would be a fun experiment to do different things to them and see what happened. Throwing them against the house and watching them explode into a billion pieces was Jude's favorite thing. 
I will add that if you do this with your children, watch them closely. You won't want them putting these in their mouths. 
We also did puzzles this week! (I never realized how hard it was to take photos in my kitchen. The lighting is horrible!)

Even though I always feel like I'm being lazy on this part of being a stay-at-home-mom, I'm going to try to do more crafty things, hopefully doing that contact paper tree activity this week, and we're starting our nature study group the Monday after Thanksgiving. I'm really excited about that! Hopefully this next week will be more productive in the learning/playing department.

I probably won't do a Challenge next week because it's Thanksgiving, so I may just share some ways I've incorporated healthier/more eco-friendly practices in our daily lives. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fun wives unite!

I saw this on pinterest today and I laughed out loud and teared up at the same time.

Ok, I might be a little weepy, I am likely to cry at the drop of a hat these days. These last few weeks have been hard on this girl. But, this made me a little emotional because I think its awesome. Beyond awesome. And I was convicted when I saw this. 

Wait, I know what you're thinking. This girl probably has no kids and has no idea what it's like to have kids at this time of day, to be with them all day long and then to PLAY with my husband when he gets in? Riiiiiiight. That'll never happen. 

I want to be the best wife to my husband that I can be, and that God wants me to be, but I have to admit, I've not been the most fun wife these days. I've been stressed, exhausted and emotionally spent. I don't think I actually realized that until I saw this pin on pinterest. And then I was reminded of a book that I love (that I will post on sometime) on marriage and on being a great help-meet to your husband. She talks about how men are attracted to smiles, to a merry heart. And she suggests greeting your husband when he comes home from work with a smile. Then I realized, I haven't been very purposeful in doing this. I can't remember the last time I smiled at Ross when he came in from work. I may not be able to nerf gun fight with him when he gets home every day, but I can have fun with him in other ways. And I can smile and him and tell him I'm glad he's home. 

Sometimes we get so consumed with our kids and their needs, we tend to forget about our husbands and their needs. I know I do. I need to remember that I'm a wife first, mommy second. When we pay attention to our marriages first, our parenting flows from that, and is better because of it. Let's die to ourselves, make an effort, and be fun, attentive, loving wives. 

Now who's with me?

Monday, November 14, 2011


Confession time: I am horrible at time management. I am not even sure I should be writing a post on this. I can admit I've never been good at this, but especially since being a stay-at-home-mom. I love to be lazy, sit around and zone out. Thankfully, God is changing that part of me and after lots of prayer and relying on Jesus for His help every minute of every day, I think I am a little better at it. Not great, mind you, but better...and I thought I could share some things that have helped me. 

1. Get off the computer and/or tv. I used to spend so much time on the computer, it was hindering my ability to take care of my family properly. Don't get me wrong, I still spend some time surfing, blogging, facebooking, but not near as much as I used to.

2. Try to get as much done during nap times as possible. If your kids are too old for naps, it might be good to implement some kind of "quiet time" or play-alone time in their rooms in place of a nap time. This is when I get my blogging done, laundry, shower, mopping, dusting, most of whatever is on my list for that day. Thankfully both mine still nap, but I think Jude is getting ready to give it up. That makes me sad. 

3. Knock out easy tasks first thing in the morning. Making my bed, getting laundry started on laundry days, putting clean dishes away can all be done not long after you get up and start the day.

4. Fold laundry while watching a show - it will help you fold quicker. Or, I heard an even better suggestion today. Pray for your children and husband while you fold their clothes. Pray specifically for them, as they go about their day, where they will go and what they will do. I love this idea and think I'm going to start doing it! 

5. Make a chore list, gals. And while we're at it, let's not even call it a chore list. That sounds like a list of duties and not delights. Let's call it a delights list. I want to share with you my delights list, because I was lost before I made it-and put it on my refrigerator where I will see it every day. HERE is mine, and that's just an example. Make one that works for you and put it somewhere where you can see it every day. I have to look at this thing every morning to see what needs to be done. My personality type is so that I like to check things off when they are done, so I have a little box beside each chore to check it off when I'm done with a task (which is why I have make bed on my delights list. Because, let's face it; if it wasn't on the list, I wouldn't do it) And be specific in your delights list. If you just write "Kitchen" on a certain day, things like wiping down the cabinets and appliances may get overlooked. Also, don't worry if you don't get to a certain delight on the day its supposed to get done. If I don't get to something, like mopping my floors, I either fit it in on another day, or save it til the next week. Things can get overwhelming if you keep stacking until you have 40 billion things to do and you give up doing any of them because its just too much to do! This way, if you want to have someone over unannounced for dinner or coffee, then you won't have to worry about running around crazy trying to get the house presentable.

6. Make a flexible daily schedule. I've found that if things don't get written down, then they won't get done. So, I schedule a time for just about everything. Even if we don't get our stuff done in the allotted time, its always good to have a goal, to have something to go by. I am not a militant, organized person by any means. Notice I said flexible. If anything, I am probably too laid back. But, I'm more likely to remember to actually do things like "outside play time" or "music time" if they're written down. (I also schedule outings and such. Tuesdays are our library days, Fridays are our field trip or play time with friends days, etc). 

I'll stop here for now and save the others for another day. I need to make a disclosure here: I have not totally mastered this. My house is not spic 'n span, in fact, there are clothes sitting in the hamper waiting to be folded and put away right now. I don't want to seem like I have it all together and everything is perfect at my house. And don't even get me started on how kids can mess up a house in 5 seconds flat. I live this every day. But with God's help, I work hard at it, and running a household, whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home-mom is work, ladies. It's not drudgery work, or at least it doesn't have to be. You can be purposeful about your household/daily delights and be a planner, I promise things will go a lot smoother and your husband and kids will appreciate you more because of it. 

I found this thoroughly inspiring today as I write this post:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu planning

It's that time again, time to menu plan. I know this is probably a real boring post to read, but it has definitely helped me in my grocery shopping and dinner making. I don't buy extra food we don't need and therefore end up wasting, and if I need to know what we're going to eat that night, I just look back on here. I'm forgetful, I'll admit it. I'm also able to look ahead if the thought strikes me and thaw meat out the night before, so I am better at planning. And, I've found there's something that makes looking for new recipes and cooking more enjoyable It really has made the whole cooking thing less of a duty and more a delight. 

Weird, I know. Cooking as a delight, not a duty? I'm working on it! ;)

Here we go:

BBQ Chicken sandwiches (cooking the chicken in the crockpot smothered in bbq sauce to ensure extra yumminess) and corn

Tuesday (shopping day)
potato & broccoli soup and bread

Small group

Fried Fish sandwiches (Cod) and sauted veggies

Homemade Chicken & Spinach Calzones or quesadillas and salsa, haven't decided which, and spinach salad

Local beef cheeseburgers and baked beans (IF I get the beef. If not, I will have to substitute something here, maybe pork chops or pork stew) 

leftovers or roast beef wraps

I just realized we're eating quite a few sandwiches this week...oh well! Ross approved the list, so now we'll just have to see if the kids approve when they eat it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DtD Challenge #5 - FOOD!

I am really glad I have this blog to help me stay accountable. Even if only three of you read this, its super helpful to keep me from being lazy (mostly) and do the things I say I need to. Don't get me wrong, I'm still more lazy than I'd like to be, but it does help change some old bad procrastination, negligence, not doing certain things because I simply don't feel like it. I hope I am not the only one!

So I said last week that I wanted to cook 2 new recipes this past week, PW's Caveman Pops and this new salmon pasta pesto sauce dish. I am happy to report that I actually DID cook them both, and something even better than that is that my kids loved both dishes! Even my picky husband liked both dishes (the pops were a big hit all around). This is a huge accomplishment, and really can only be a blessing from and an act of God. So glad when things turn out better than you planned. In life, this doesn't happen too often, so I am grateful when it does. I even got a few photos for ya.

Raw turkey legs. I had to get very intimate with these legs to get that rub in there. I normally try to touch raw meat as least as humanly possible, so I just had to close my eyes, say a prayer and put my big girl panties on. 

After baking. The middle got a teeny bit over done, I was worried about it. Ross said it did not take away from the taste and in fact was delish. Hope he wasn't just being nice for my benefit...but like I said, he's usually pretty honest about everything. He knows I can take it.

Next week: I've got to get back into the schooling groove. I've gotten some ideas from a few websites, and I want to read/teach a new concept of odd and even numbers, so I need to get some materials and things together to actually start doing it. Who's with me? 

Proverbs 31:27 "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." This is what I want to live by this week. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You CAN do healthy for kids

Something I have learned in the almost 4 years I've been parenting: Cooking for 3 1/2 year olds is hard. Cooking for 21 month olds is even harder. Does anyone else have a hard time cooking for their little ones?

Nope? Just me then? ;)

I think it is hard. Unless you are a chicken nuggets and french fries kind of person...which I am not. Finding cookbooks that carry recipes that kids will eat is even harder. My kids are just plain picky. They won't eat veggies, and sometimes they skip dinner altogether. I will admit, for lunch, I usually feed them pb&j because I know they'll eat it and it's not all together unhealthy (I make my own jam and we eat peanut butter just about every day around here in some form or fashion). But they don't graze all day, they are not offered anything other than what I have cooked for dinner, and I always offer veggies, even though they rarely ever eat them. Feeding my family healthier food options does take a little more time, energy and money. And my kids don't always cooperate. One day they'll like something and then the next, they won't. But it's worth it. Once in awhile we'll have a box of mac n cheese, or processed hotdogs and I don't feel guilty about that. But I have honestly enjoyed cooking healthier for my family. It's been a great journey, and what I've realized most is that it CAN be done. You can feed your family healthier and actually enjoy it. My hope is that you will realize this too, sometimes you just have to be creative and think outside the box. 

If you are like me and constantly have to tell yourself things like: they will eat if/when they're hungry; its not the end of the world if they never ever eat greens (or if you have to be sneaky about getting their greens in their diet somehow); milk is good for them, even if its all they ever eat or drink; then you are not alone. And listen up, because I came across this super awesome cookbook that has yummies that adults will eat, as well as kiddos.

I actually found this from the library for free, but you could buy it if that blows your skirt up. It's worth it. (Let me say that I received no compensation for plugging this cookbook. Cooking Light has no idea who I am and probably wouldn't care if they did. I know you all were wondering... :)) Not only does it have mostly kid-friendly recipes that are actually healthy, it has jobs that younger chefs can do as well as older chefs, if you like having your kiddos help you in the kitchen. 

A huge perk to this cookbook is that there's more than just recipes in it. There's a whole section on the different food groups, what are the best choices of foods in that food group, what are ok choices and what to limit the amount given to your kids. There's a meal plan, which is good to have as a goal, but I'm not going to stress myself out if my kids don't get the set amount every day. And this was one of my favorite things, they have a whole section on physical activity, how important it is, how much is needed for different ages, and examples of great activities that will help them get their energy/exercise out! Activity isn't just about using up all that energy these kiddos have. I always thought it was. It's also about living a healthier lifestyle, and to be healthy, you have to incorporate exercise somehow. 

Also things I love about this book: There's a page on how to get your kids involved in living a healthier lifestyle, with things like, exploring new foods, take them shopping with you, plan meals together, start a garden, be active together, consider a screen time limit, and more.

The practical things I will take away from using the cookbook:

  • Make more smoothies. My kids will eat anything if its in liquid form, and they loooove smoothies. 
  • Eat more popcorn as a snack. Popcorn is actually somewhat healthy. I should probably pop my own instead of getting the bags. I may do that in the near future.
  • Cook with beans more. Ross doesn't like beans, but my kiddos do. They're chocked full of protein, and dry beans have WAY less sodium.
  • Consider letting Jude help me in the kitchen. I will admit, it is way harder to cook with him in there with me, so most of the time, I send him out. Sometimes I need to get over it and let him help. They actually learn a lot, and its a fun way to learn!
Can you tell I love this cookbook? I love just about anything that is helpful, that I can actually implement, and will make my life somewhat easier. This does all of those! 

Disclaimer and Copyright

All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Whether you try any of my methods or ideas is totally up to you. I am in no way saying you should do everything the way I do, every family is different and you should find out what's best for yours. I would, however, be delighted if you tried some new things in your own lives (whether be my ideas, your own, or someone else's), and shared it with me.

Also, you may use any of the content of this blog for your own personal use, but please do not take the ideas on my blog and claim them as your own. You may link back to my site with proper credit. This is much appreciated.

Helpful Sites

The Frugal Girl (frugality, repurposing, etc)

The Pioneer Woman (recipes)

MCP Actions (photography, PS/PSE actions)

Coffeeshop Blog (photography, digital design and PS freebies)

Digital Photography School (photography)