Friday, December 21, 2012

The act of giving thanks



Eucharisteo.

What does that mean?

This is a new word for me. I've been reading this book (by Ann Voskamp) for several months in which she talks about daily eucharisteo. Giving thanks. Giving thanks in all things. As I read through her struggle of learning how to give thanks in all things, I realized my own struggle with it. I haven't been very thankful lately. Far from it, actually. And what does it really mean to give thanks in all things? It's easy to be thankful when you are comfortable. But what about when you're not comfortable? How easy is it then, to be thankful? Can it even be done authentically, not something we fake, but real thanksgiving and joy when we face hard times?

These are questions that have been looming in my head the past few months. This year has been weird. While we, as a family, haven't faced anything that would be considered a major crisis or even terrible suffering this year, there's been a lot of change. A lot of uncomfortable change. Change that I haven't really cared for. I normally like change, but this time, not so much. In the midst of all this uncomfortableness, I've found myself wondering where is the grace? I haven't been able to see it. We have been met with a lot of opposition since the move. With every letter from the mortgage company, every collection letter for bills gone unpaid, every bump we've faced in this road  has left me wondering where is God in the midst of all the hopes that were crushed, dreams that seemed to be snatched away, where was He in the myriad of disappointments that seemed to continue to build?

Since I didn't think I could find him, I grew bitter. Not good. I know we are not guaranteed a problem-free life and I never thought I would covet comfort as much as I did. I guess I just thought that since this was God's plan for us, to move, then it would go smoothly.

But that's not always the case. The Bible says there will be trouble in this life. So, are we left on our own when things seem to be going wrong?

I've often wondered this in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut also. (I'm not comparing my measly trials to those in Connecticut by any means, but the principle still applies. The issues I'm working through with this devastating event is another post for another day.) But in my life, I've felt left on my own. Devoid of grace. Alone in the darkness. But as I surface from the darkness, I've come to the conclusion that answer is a resounding no. We are most definitely not left alone. I'm finally starting to see the light, the grace in my life. Jesus has been there, where He's always been. His grace has always been there, even when I chose not to see it.

Voskamp says ALL is grace. Really? Everything? This is a hard pill to swallow. "All is grace because all can transfigure, take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness." She calls it the hard eucharisteo. "The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty." I haven't been doing that. I've been focused on the things that have been taken away from me and letting my anger fester, because, I don't know, maybe I thought I deserved a different life. One that I wanted. Which is silly, because I am learning something that I've always known, but not experienced quite like this: that His plans are different than mine most of the time, but are always most definitely better than mine.

And as I think about the birth of Christ this Christmas season, how He was born in that little town in the darkness of night, in the quiet, with just a few people there to witness it, in the lowliest of conditions I can imagine, I've been thinking about what that means to me and for me.

That Light can shine bright, right into the darkness of my (seemingly) crappy circumstances, right where I least expect it, right into the dark parts of my heart where I need it most. "The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace." Even though my life isn't at all what I thought it would be, grace is here. Even though this year, things have looked quite different than I ever pictured, there is eucharisteo.

Eucharisteo that includes new family holiday traditions, fun kids who make me laugh on a daily basis, a new community of great people that have warmly welcomed us and who love Jesus, a part time job that enables me to still be able to stay home, great teachers at Jude's school that he loves, a cute little library with a wonderful story time for us to attend, a park nearby, our health and physical well-being, family members that call us frequently and skype us (and even visit!) so that we can stay connected, and many more things that have gone unnamed but not unnoticed.

Merry Christmas to you all, my friends. May you truly experience joy and eucharisteo this holiday season.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nutella and Menu

Oh, blog world, I have not forgotten about you. Work has picked back up (yay!) and I am spending most of my free time doing that. Not to mention the most important thing (note sarcasm), I've picked up like 4 new shows this season, so finding time to enjoy these has been a challenge.

Why did I do this to myself? I know tv is not important, but it is the way I wind down before bed, after a long, full day. And it is something Ross and I enjoy doing together...although I think I got in over my head and got into a few too many shows this year. There are just so many good ones!

At least I'm not watching Honey Boo Boo.

With that being said, I want to start posting my weekly menu here again. Mostly because I miss it, but also because I've been way too unorganized and inconsistent with this and I think posting will help me stay accountable again. We shall see.

This week, we're having:

Wednesday
we're having some new friends over, so I plan to cook spaghetti, and I'm trying out a new sauce recipe (but in a smaller quantity)

Thursday
baked pork chops and baked potatoes

Friday
Chicken and rice foil dinner

Saturday
homemade pizza

Sunday
crockpot chicken, green beans and roasted cabbage wedges

Monday
broccoli soup and grilled cheeses

Tuesday
small group night, will take something

On another note, I haven't really ever been inspired to cook with or even buy Nutella, but these two recipes make me want to go out right now and get to bakin'. Bless the Pioneer Woman for paving the way to greatness when it comes to yumminess.

Itty Bitty Nutella Cakes


 And I especially want to try these sometime:

Nutella Krispie Treats


Nom!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Small joys

Life around here is starting to feel less like living on planet Mars and more like normal life. We've been enjoying this lovely weather, doing some park playing, Jude's started school, we visited library story time (and loved it), I'm getting lost a lot less while driving, we're slowly meeting people, and I even baked bread this week for the first time since we moved here. 

I even forgot how much I missed taking pictures. I brought out my trusty ole Canon and took some pics this week.

(Do you know how hard it is to take pics in the midday sun? Yowza. And I even dialed down the brightness quite a bit when I edited these.)



I thought this one could use a vintage touch. My little boy is getting so big!

I have forgotten how in the every day, joy can be found, even in the little things. You just have to pay attention and look for it. This little guy flew up right as I was photographing those plants, it was such a sweet moment. An ordinary moment turned extraordinary by a simple thing. 



And these dandelions were just so pretty.

I'm still not 100% okay with this move, far from it. But, I'm getting better...life is getting better. I'm learning more about who I am and who God is, some steps go forward, some go back. It's all a process of growing, even though growing is hard.

I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Life

You know those big, scary, things in your life that happen, leaps of faith you've taken and you're like, oh, this worked out so perfectly, everything just fit into place and you just knew it was meant to be?

It's happened to me before, when I went on a mission trip to Indonesia many years ago. I made the decision to go 2 weeks before we were supposed to leave. I got my vaccines, passport, raised all the support money in that time frame, it was amazing to see God work like that.

But what about the leaps of faith that are taken and not everything has worked out perfectly? What about the times when, in fact, it seems like nothing has gone right? When you're left wondering why? Why did it happen and why did it happen this way? This move has been one of those times. Moving here has probably been one of the hardest things I've ever done thus far in my life, and frankly, I've been afraid to write about it. Afraid of letting people know how I really feel and sounding like a negative nancy, but also afraid of painting an unreal picture of how life has been and seeming too fake.

Life has been difficult, I'm not going to lie. Every day is a struggle. Probably because for the most part, my attitude has not been the best. I feel like I constantly have an internal battle going on, parts of me scream out how unfair, uncomfortable, and how un-fun this is, other parts of me scream out how silly and immature that is, that at least my family is altogether and healthy, my husband has a great job, and I just need to get over myself. To be fully honest, I'm not quite ready to write about all of it. I still have a lot to work through and I'll need to do that and process it before I can even begin to write intelligent thoughts and feelings out about all of this.

One thing I have learned, is that Jesus is still good, even when life is not. Peace and joy can still be had when our circumstances suck, even though it's hard...very, very hard.

And just for the record, I would choose to be here in this place right now, rather than back home or anywhere else. These are the works God has prepared for me, and I will choose them rather than my own path any day.

But for now, I just want to share some good and not so good things that have been going on.

Our house used to look like this:


Now, like this. It doesn't look too different, boxes still line the walls. Hopefully we'll get all unpacked sometime soon.

This was a few weeks ago:

And today...

A few good things:

Ross is really liking his job. I'm so, so proud of him.

We've found a church that we really like and want to visit more of. 

Jude is starting part time preschool in a few weeks, we're both really excited about that. 

There are really great places to eat around here...and nice parks, too.

We'll be starting up story time at the library in a few weeks. 

We've met some of our neighbors, and most of them seem really nice.

And some less than good things:

This city is hard to figure out, geographically, and I get lost every time I get in the car.

Having only one car stinks.

Living on the south side of the city across the river means we have to pay tolls...and a lot of them. 

We live on a busy street, and it's hard to run around here. I am having withdrawals, big time.

I miss my old life. I miss Jonesboro, our friends, and our family. 

I guess that is all. I know things will get better, relocating is hard for anyone who has ever done it. It's just taxing, on the mind, on the body, on the spirit. 

Isaiah 40: 29-31
He gives strength to the weary 
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall; 
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tomorrow's the day!

Life has been a bit hectic at the Fergus house. Later today, we are going to load up our truck and drive away from our little house on James. The very first house we bought, the house we started our family in, the house we've spent the last (almost) 6 years of our life in.

We will miss our friends and family who have helped shape us along the way, so much. We'll miss gathering with our church family on Sunday mornings. We'll miss Slim Chickens, the ASU farmer's market, and the Craighead library. We will miss our life here.

Can you tell I'm a little sad?

While I'm sad, I also choose to look forward to what is to come. A future unknown, a new life in a new city, a new adventure with my 3 guys, Ross's new job. It's exciting!

Here's what's been going on around here, lately:
Lots and lots of boxes
Boys watching tv together
A bathroom redo!

Tomorrow morning we're pulling out of Memphis with all of our livelihood, and my parents, who have so graciously offered to go to Richmond with us to help us move. We'll get to our new place on Saturday and start moving in, and Ross starts work on Monday. It's going to be a crazy weekend!

Please keep praying for our house to sell, it feels so strange leaving it behind as we go on to Richmond. I know we can trust God to take care of it, but it's still a little unsettling.

Thanks, friends. I am ready to do this!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Update on the move

Life is funny sometimes. We waited and waited for Ross to get a job. It seemed as though we were at a stand still for so long, it was agonizing. Not to be able to plan or even anticipate your future, it was a hard season, I'm not gonna lie, and it felt as though it would never end. Just a few shorts weeks ago, it felt like someone had hit the slow-mo button on the remote and we were moving in still shots, like on a tv screen.

Now, it seems as though we've hit the fast forward button. Things are moving so fast, I can barely keep up! At the end of each day, I am collapsing into bed, barely able to keep my eyes open. Most of you know, we had our Richmond trip (which was AWESOME, by the way and successful since we found a place to live), but I have to admit, that drive was brutal. And it will be even more brutal with 2 little kids, a dog, 2 cats and all of our lives put into a truck.

What was sweet about the trip though, was not us getting lost, which we did several times, not the tour we got of the city, because we had to drive ALL over since we didn't plan our routes very well, and not even the amazing local restaurants that we found and loved, but the sweetest part was leaving.

As we were driving away, I told Ross, it felt like we were leaving home. He agreed. I know we were only there for 2 days, but we loved the city. We felt like that was where we belonged. It's hard to explain, but that little trip made me want to move back there, and quickly. I am so glad for that little piece of grace so that I am not dreading the move. I am still sad to be leaving family and friends, but looking forward to calling Virginia home.

I mentioned on Facebook that we are moving on August 4th (or the 3rd, to make it a two day trip), and now that we've actually put our house on the market, we are just continuing to do things to the house to make it more sellable, and packing up our stuff. It's hard to imagine that in 2 short weeks, we will be Virginians, Ross will be starting a new job, and we will have to adjust to a new life in a new city, in which we will not know anyone. It was like that when we moved here, but looking back, it didn't seem like that big of a deal, just a 1 hour move. This move is much bigger.

We will survive it as many have done before, and hopefully we will settle into a new norm in the new place. The next 2 weeks will be crazy, though, I'm sure of it! 

If you think of us, please be praying about the upcoming move and selling of our house. There is a lot to be done! Thanks, friends!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trusting God through relocation - Update

So, by now you all know that Ross got the job in Richmond. His official start date is August 6th. We are beyond overjoyed at this, of course. His offer was way better than we had anticipated or hoped for and our prayers were answered in ways we couldn't imagine. 

*throw my hands up and do a little dance*

Ok, now that we have that part figured out, now we have moved onto our next big hurdle.

Getting there.

Sounds easy, right? Not so much. We have 5 weeks to get there and moving is not very easy when you own a house. We have gone through every option out there (that we know of), from selling, to renting, and for reasons I won't really go into, none of the conventional methods of selling or renting are going to work for us. Not to mention we have to find a place to live there and move all of our stuff. The future is still so unpredictable and overwhelming to me right now that I can only take one day at a time. I know that sounds cliche-ish, but that's all I can handle at the moment, and truthfully, I think that's all we were meant to handle.

So, here are the things we do know and are doing:

  • We've scheduled a trip to Richmond in a week to try to find a place to live. I'm looking online and have already picked a few places. I hope to pick a few more before we go.
  • Ross's start date for his job, so we know he at least needs to be there by Aug. 6th.
  • We have packed up a lot of stuff and are packing more every day.
  • We are downsizing the amount of furniture/things we have by selling or giving away.
  • We are fixing what we can on our house and giving it a good clean. 
Things we don't know yet:
  • When exactly we will be moving.
  • Where we will be living in Richmond. 
  • What we are going to do with our house. 
  • Just about everything at this point.

One good thing about all of this is it's distracting me from the fact that I'm turning 30 on Wednesday, which I'm not very excited about. I'm not quite sure why 30 is so unsettling to me, but my 20s were good, so hopefully my 30s will be even better. 

Please pray for us if you think of us! Still so much is unknown at this point, so, we're having to trust God every step of the way. It's hard, and at times frustrating, but we know He's got the whole thing figured out and the peace we get from knowing that is what keeps us moving forward.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Calzones and menu post

I haven't cooked anything new lately. Partly (or mostly) because I've had no motivation or energy to. I've cooked dinners, but mostly just stuff I've cooked before. When you're emotionally exhausted, it makes you exhausted everywhere...even down to your finger tips and pinky toes. And I've been focusing way too much on my lack of energy lately. So, today, I thought I needed a redirection of focus. I need to set some (small) goals and focus on the goals, instead of my lack of wanting to do anything. So, my goal this week is to cook something new.

I've been wanting to cook a real calzone for some time now, but have never done it, like with homemade dough and everything. I know it's nothing super extravagant, but I can't do extravagant right now. So, calzones it is!

Here's our menu for this week:


Thursday
Chicken noodle soup and bread

Friday
Crockpot roast, potatoes and carrots

Saturday
Homemade pizza

Sunday
One pot mac

Monday
Fish (cod) sandwiches and roasted veggies

Tuesday
Broccoli and cheese calzones

Wednesday
Small group night

Monday, June 18, 2012

Future plans


Lately, my thoughts and feelings have been so jumbled, I haven't even known where to begin to start a post. I've sat down and even started writing so many times, but have eventually just deleted what I started. I'd like to use work as an excuse, but that's just not the case. Yes, I've been working a lot, but that is not the whole truth. With my work, it's straight forward, I type what other people say and try to get their story down right. I don't have to think about myself or sorting out any of what's in my head. It almost makes choosing it over this so much easier. And then I think, well, I do have a ton to do (which comes with strict deadlines), therefore the decision to work over write is even easier. I can push my internal stuff aside and focus on someone else. And to be honest, work has been kind of a distraction for me, it keeps my mind busy, and I like that a lot.

But this blog has been a little constant thought in the back of my brain every day. Don't get me wrong, I love writing. I love writing about my life, and I really love having this blog...obviously, or I wouldn't have started it. But, when  you don't even feel like you have much to offer anyone (or anything else), it becomes hard.

Like I said, my thoughts and feelings have been a big ole mess here recently. And I've struggled with all I want to share on here. But the blogs I love most are written by people who aren't afraid to share their real selves, their real struggles. And ultimately, I want to be real. I don't only want to show the happy parts of my life, where I have it all together and everything is a delight instead of a duty...cause that's just not how it really is. So, here it goes.

Most of you know, Ross has been job hunting for what seems like forever. It's really only been since November or so, but it feels like a lifetime. The funding for his current job has run out, and they told him that he'd be covered until the end of June. At the time, it seemed like such a long way off, surely we'd have something else by then. But here we are at the end of June (almost) and we're still jobless, we're still in the same exact place we were all those months ago.

The word frustrating doesn't even cut it. I have struggled so very hard through this time, going from full of hope to hopeless. I've had complete trust in God one day, to having no trust the next day. It's been a roller coaster of feelings and emotions for sure. Ultimately I know God will take care of us, but when you have absolutely no control over or even knowledge of your future, and you can't see how God will work it all out, things feel a bit shaky, to say the least. It's definitely shown me Who my security must rest in. Not in my circumstances, not in having a job, not in the being in control of my life, and certainly not in being comfortable. This has most definitely not been a time of comfort. There have been days that I've cried. That I've wondered what in the heck God is doing, been frustrated with Him and wondering when He will give us an answer. But my faith and my marriage have grown too. Ross and I have grown closer together through this, learning to lean on each other more. And my faith... there are really faith-filled days when I am completely at peace and joyful in where we are, and what God is going to do, even though I have no idea what it is yet.

So, we are waiting now. And we are praying. And we continue to trust. It's a hard place to be in, but it's good, too. It's good because this is where the growth comes in, as a person and as a follower of Jesus.

James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."


And ultimately I know where and with who my future lies, so, what do I have to fear?

The most recent update is that Ross flew out to a research company in Richmond, Virginia last week to interview and he said it went really well. We are still waiting to hear back from them, so hopefully that will happen soon, but we are trusting no matter what the outcome is.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

WAHM? (and a menu post snuck in)

I have added a new title to my lost list of qualifications. I am a wife, mom, referee, cook, keeper of the house, dog fosterer, hobbyist photographer, blogger, singer, baker, knitter, booger wiper, along with a billion other titles, but now I've added one more...working from home (part time, that is). That is why I've suspiciously been more quiet on the blog lately, there's just not enough free time in my days anymore. While I am so grateful for the opportunity to work from home and help contribute financially to my family, it hasn't come without a little kicking and screaming on my part...internally, that is.

I have mourned my "me" time, but I have also realized that there are more important things than just having "me" time. Yes, some "me" time is needed, but as much as I had before? I loved all the "me" time I had, but at what cost? Is that where love shines through, in the time I spend on myself?

Motherhood is all about sacrifice, and sacrificing some of my "me" time has been hard, but is ultimately what is best for my family. And it's been a blessing. I've thought over and over to myself other moms do it, I can too! 

I prayed for this. I have desired so much to be able to help out my family financially without having to work outside the home. So, while it's been hard, I've had to do some rearranging of my schedule. I even had to make a list of all the things I wanted to get done in a day because I'm not gonna lie, I was overwhelmed for awhile. It seemed like nothing was getting done. But, I am getting used to the new schedule and cherishing the "me" times I get even more now. And I feel that me and my family are better for it. :)

Even though this post has nothing to do with our menu, I'm gonna sneak our menu in for this week:


Thursday
Homemade pizza


Friday
Beef stew (bumped from last week)


Saturday
We will be birthday partying with friends that day, and Ross's sweet parents are taking us out for a belated anniversary dinner


Sunday
Baked salmon & roasted veggies


Monday
We will not be eating at home


Tuesday
We will be getting home late, so we may not eat at home this night as well. If so, it'll just be turkey sandwiches with chips


Wednesday
Not sure if we're having group this night. If not, then I'll fix up some chicken and rice. 



Monday, June 4, 2012

Marriage, duty or delight?

As a girl, I didn't have the traditional white picket fence dreams. I never thought I would get married, have a family, be a stay-at-home-mom and wife, these dreams just did not seem real to me. I never felt "normal" and didn't have dreams of a "normal" life. That's why I was so wild and crazy in my teen years. It's not that I didn't want the normal things, it's just that I never thought I was lovable or deserving of love, and never thought these things were actually attainable, so I dismissed them.

But after I met Jesus when I was 20, my dreams changed. Suddenly I wanted someone to spend my life with, and I sought to do just that. I didn't know just who it was God had in store for me. And I surely tell you, I never ever thought it would be the skinny, shaved headed boy from White Station High School who loved science, wore baggy jeans and would actually pick on girls rather than flirt with them.

I think it's so funny when I think back to how I knew Ross in high school, and who he is now, he's not the same boy, but I'm not the same girl either. 

Even though I would have never picked him back then, I couldn't imagine a man more perfect for me now. He balances me out perfectly, and he is fun, strong, confident, caring, silly, hard working, and the greatest Dad to our boys. He has made me a better wife and mother, and I am proud to call him my husband.

Most people think of marriage as a duty, and along with it comes so many negative terms, like "ball and chain", "tying down", "the beginning of the end" and many others, and that makes me sad. And I'm not going to lie, at times it feels like a duty. It's hard pouring your life out for someone else, self-sacrifice is no joke, people. But, it's in that where the delight comes in. Every time we die to ourselves, every time we kill that selfish voice inside of us that screams WHAT ABOUT ME??? and do something for our spouse, or for anyone else for that matter, we are strengthened, we are built up, we are more like Jesus.

I consider my marriage a delight, for sure. With the risk of sounding cheesy, at the end of the day, there is no one on this earth I would rather be with to watch old episodes of Friends with, or to watch some silly B movie we rented, to raise babies with, to grow old with, than the man I joined my life and flesh with 6 years ago today. He loves me, makes me laugh, challenges me, helps keep me focused and grounded, and he loves Jesus. It's not a perfect life, but it's our life...one that I love very much. What more could a girl ask for?



Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rollups and menu post

I like easy things I can fix for lunch. Wraps, sandwiches, leftovers, something quick to fix, but also filling. So, when I got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman last week, I instantly wanted to try it.

I love rollups! And yes, I do love the fruit kind, but I'm not talking about that here. These are tortilla rollups, and the thing I love most about them is you can put just about anything in them, healthy or not-so-healthy. You know me, I love something that's versatile and easy (and can either be healthy or delightfully calorie-filled)!

First, I used the Mission Artisan Multigrain tortillas. I have yet to make my own tortillas, but I will do it someday!


I got started chopping fresh parsley and basil to go in the cream cheese spread and mixing it in...


                                                      

And spreading it on...


And putting it together....





I put turkey, tomatoes and spinach leaves on mine. I wanted to slice up a green pepper and put it on there also, but I couldn't find it...and incidentally it ended up being right in front of my face. I didn't find that out until after I made it, though. The story of my life...in the kitchen. Where did this go? Oh yes, there it is...hours after I need it.

First of all, I have decided that I hate chopping fresh herbs and I have no idea why anyone would ever do it. Second of all, the rollup wasn't very good. I think the error was in the cream cheese spread because it just didn't taste right. I am more than completely sure that it was something I did wrong, because cream cheese spreads are usually good. Maybe I'll try this again sometime...in a different way, although I'm not sure. It was an awful lot of work (chopping, mixing, etc) for it not to turn out well.

What are we eating this week?

Thursday
Homemade pizza

Friday
Ross and I are going out for our anniversary, so we're doing something easy before we leave: Roast beef sandwiches and roasted veggies

Saturday
We're having a cookout earlier in the day at my aunt's, so for dinner, I wanted to go easy: (Local) Beef stroganoff and bread

Sunday
Chicken pasta pesto (bumped from last week) & spinach salad

Monday
Steaks and baked potatoes

Tuesday
Beef stew over rice

Wednesday
Possibly group night? Or something easy

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New toys!

Men love their toys, right? We've heard this over and over, and for any woman who's been married longer than five minutes, we've seen this in action. They love gadgets, electronics, and if they're able, sometimes that includes even big toys (boats, RVs, whatever does it for them). But girls, let's not fool ourselves. Men are not the only ones who have this problem. We love our toys too. 

Right? It may look a little different than what the men love, but we have our little things that make us giddy too. Maybe it's a kitchen gadget, a new tool to straighten or curl your hair, something to make your life easier?  I have a long wish list of "toys" that I would like to have someday, but for today, I wanted to share a few of my favorite toys that I've gotten recently that I love.

First, this knife:

My sweet husband knows how I've been desperately needing a new slicer, and because he loves me, he got me a super slicer by Wusthof. And let me tell you, the term "super slicer" doesn't do this thing justice. It is definitely super, and slices so clean...I am in love. (I will also *cough* mention that it slices so well, even through skin, and I have a cut already to prove this, ouch!)

And my second relatively new toy:

The Shark Navigator Professional...best.vacuum.ever. I've had several months to use this and I still love it. It has kept me from hating vacuuming, in fact, I've even started to like it a little. That alone deserves recognition right there. 

And I thought I would give this a try:

I like it okay, but honestly I don't know if I really like it any better than the other normal dishwasher detergent. I do like that it doesn't have a scent, and it does clean my dishes really well.

While I'm on the subject of house things, I am on the lookout for a decent mopping system, with natural products (like vinegar) that don't cost a ton and doesn't use the spongey type mops. Any suggestions? 



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Short ribs and menu post

If you've never tried short ribs, you are missing out. Big time. I have cooked short ribs a few times now and every time, I fall in love even more. I would have never even thought about buying that kind of meat if it weren't for The Pioneer Woman, so I will be forever grateful to her.

I tried a new recipe for short ribs this week and while it was a flop, the meat still was tender and yummy. My favorite way to cook them is in tomato sauce for several hours in the oven and pour that over linguine noodles. However, I cooked short ribs and chicken that way one too many times and Ross has forbidden me to ever even think about making that for the next year or so. There are some really fabulous short ribs recipes out there (a list of great ones HERE), and The Frugal Girl just posted one HERE. However you cook them though, whether grilled, baked, braised, whateva, you will be a happy camper...if meat is your thing (which, of course, it is mostly definitely my thing), then you will love this.

What are we eating this week?

Thursday
Fish and roasted zucchini, broccoli and cabbage (bumped from last week)

Friday
Crockpot lasagna (bumped from last week)

Saturday
Pork chops and beans & cornbread

Sunday
Homemade pizza

Monday
Going to my Mama's for a little Memorial Day celebratin' with burgers on the grill (is there anything yummier than burgers on the grill?!)

Tuesday
Chicken pasta pesto and bread

Wednesday
Small group, easy dinner night

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun things

Do you know what magazine I love these days? Highlights. Yes, I love a preschoolers magazine. My sweet sister got my boys a subscription to this magazine as a gift, and they love it! Jude loves just about anything I read to him, but even I like this magazine.

There's tons of pictures, reading in Spanish, picture finding games, learning about all sorts of different things, crafts to do, it's really great. I don't even know what the cost is, but I am really glad my kids get this every month.

We have been doing less formal learning and more life learning, just learning as we go about our lives. I do think that things kids learn in preschool is important, but for now, we are just sticking to free play at home and on field trips with our friends, hands on science stuff in the backyard playing with bugs, running around outside and doing lots of reading, oh and music. Who can forget about music?

The kids' new favorite musician is Michael Jackson. Random, I know. But as far as kids go, they have pretty good taste in music and I am totally on board with their recent interest in MJ. His old stuff is great and watching him dance in videos from the 80s and early 90s leaves me in awe.

With the temperatures rising and summer right around the corner, I suspect we'll be doing a lot of outside watery type things, and cookouts. Cookouts are always fun. I am going to try to think of more intentional ways for our family to spend time doing things together and with others. I really love THIS idea. Simple and fun!

What about you, what fun summer type things will you be doing this year?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Today


The last few months have been a hard road. It's still hard, even right now, and most days, I am weighed down with discouragement. But the latter part of this week, something changed in me. 

Today I am grateful and hopeful. Grateful for the things that are currently going on in our life and hopeful about our future, even though it is unknown. 

Today, my heart is light and not heavy for once. I am grateful for sweet friends, for visits to the library and nature center with friends, and for words of strength from those closest to me.

Today I am encouraged. I see my boys' hearts changing. They are more caring, more loving, more sharing. I am letting go of the guilt that comes with being a mom, the feeling of inadequacy and feeling like I am constantly failing at it. I am surrendering that lie, that struggle. I feel that I am a better mom for it.

Today I love my husband. I love him every day, but I am just thinking of how hard of a worker he is for us, and much strength, love and silliness he brings to my life. I am a blessed lady.

And even though my house is messy, my life is completely out of control at this time, I am exhausted and discouragement is trying to fight its way to the top of me, I am choosing joy. 

And hey, it's Friday! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stroganoff and menu post

I am a day off on my menu posts...life is extra extra busy these days. I wanted to share a recipe with you that was originally given to me by a friend of mine and regiven to me by my sister last week. I had received this meal from a friend when Ezra had just been born, and for some reason, thought Ross didn't like it. So, I never made it.

My parents came last weekend and I couldn't think of anything else, so I whipped it up for them, and I have to say, it was really yummy! And easy. Easy and yummy are my two favorite things! Even Ross liked it, and he is hard to please when it comes to cooking. :)

I did add the local beef that I bought from the farmer's market last weekend, which also makes me super happy (but the price had gone up from last year, which is a bummer. I still think the beef is worth it, though!)

HERE is the recipe.

Now for our menu:

Thursday
We're just going to have leftovers tonight, and I may cook up some sides to go with them.

Friday
Steaks and baked potatoes (or pork chops, depends on how I am feeling!)

Saturday
Homemade pizza


Sunday
Breakfast for dinner

Monday
Homemade chicken pot pie

Tuesday
Grilled fish & veggies

Wednesday
Small group night

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Great reminder for me today

We've been sticking close to home lately. Not for any particular reason, other than I have 450 billion things to do, and most of them are things I have to do at home, so staying home makes sense. Life has been a bit hard lately, and I'm finding myself wishing there were more hours in the day.


I have been stretched further these last few weeks than I ever thought possible. I will have to save the details of that for another post, but stressful, yet extremely faith-building, is how the past few months have been. It's not been easy, or particularly fun, but in times when I want to give up, curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep, I remember the verses in James that talk about persevering under trials, that how perseverance produces maturity...and in Psalms, how God is our refuge and strength. I cling to these truths so many times a day when I want to give up and throw the towel in.

I read this awesome blog called Chatting At the Sky and the writer is gifted, after all, she is a published writer. She says these things that breathe small breaths of life into my day when I need it the most. This is what I needed to hear today:

"1. Remember that productivity is not your god

We need to recognize our own uselessness sometimes. And not just recognize it and know it’s there, but actually live it. To still the hands and close the eyes and know that really, we have nothing to offer alone. If we are unable to still and to close, sometimes the Lord is gracious to quiet us on his own terms in the form of a useless day. It seems a waste to me, but I believe he loves me enough to spend a whole day reminding me that productivity is not my god."

I struggle with this so often. I want to be productive, feel productive, and so much of my joy and life is wrapped up in whether I got all of my things done for that day. When I'm not productive and haven't gotten anything done, I am sad, joyless, and I feel like that day is pointless. I need to be reminded that that is not true! Productivity is not my god.

Lately, it feels like I'm struggling just to make it through each day, much less get anything on my list done. Its in my weaknesses where I am able to rely on God the most, and that is exactly where I need to be.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mommies day!

This mother's day I am meditating on these words:

Proverbs 6: 20-23
My son, obey your father’s commands,
    and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
21 Keep their words always in your heart.
    Tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, their counsel will lead you.
    When you sleep, they will protect you.
    When you wake up, they will advise you.
23 For their command is a lamp
    and their instruction a light;
their corrective discipline
    is the way to life.

I have been reflecting about my own instruction given to me by my own mother, and the instruction I want to pass onto my children. Not just a bunch of dos and don'ts rules, but a way of life. Instruction that will lead my children, protect them, advise them and will stay with them all of their days. One day, I pray my children will rise up and call me blessed. 

I am so grateful to my own mother, for her instruction and unfailing sacrifice, past and present. For my sister, who is one of the best moms I know, who spurs me on to be a better mother, wife and woman. For my mother-in-law, who gives me words of strength when I need them the most. For my grandmother, who always shows she cares and always wants to know how we are doing. For my grandmothers-in-law for always making me feel like a part of the family and not one that I married into...and all of my mama-friends who have given me advice, listened to me cry out in frustration and modeled what true motherhood is all about...I thank you all. 

Happy Mother's Day, friends! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Local milk and menu post

Does anyone know what this is? Something I am very, very excited about. My sister and I went to the Farmer's Market in Arlington last Saturday, and guess what I found?

That's right...local milk, baby.

I have been wanting to try milk from a local dairy for months now. Our Farmer's Market didn't carry this last year (here's to hoping they have it this year!), and I'd given up hope of ever finding some to try. I'm sure there's some around here somewhere, but was unlucky in my search.

So, I paid the ridiculous amount of money, brought it home, took a swig and fell in love.

Yes, it really is that good. The only way I can describe it is, the milk is way smoother tasting than mass produced milk. They even have fat free, 2%, whole milk and chocolate milk! Too bad the milk is in Memphis, otherwise I might have to become a frequent customer! Now, this is not to be confused with raw milk. I've never tried raw milk, but I've known people who have. This is pasteurized, but I'm guessing it's way less processed than mass produced milk. But who knows. All I know is that is tastes like heaven, folks.

Now for our menu for the week!

Thursday
Broccoli & potato soup (bumped from last week)

Friday
Steaks & baked potatoes (this keeps getting bumped)

Saturday
Chicken & spinach quesadillas

Sunday
Since this is Mother's Day, I'm doing myself a favor and not cooking. So, it may be an eat-out night!

Monday
Homemade pizza

Tuesday
Something with the local beef I'm going to buy at the Farmer's Market on Saturday

Wednesday
Small group night, will take something

Go try some local milk, peoples! Especially if you live in Memphis or Arlington. Yum!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A bunch of stuff

Some people think that healthier is always harder. I used to be one of them. I’m not sure why that has been taught to us, or why we have preconceived ideas that healthier is better, but it’s not near as fun, good or easy as unhealthy things. Why do we think this? Marketing? The invention of the tv dinner? Somewhere along the way, we were told a lie and that lie has stuck with us.

Now, in some cases, healthier is a little harder. It does take a little more research, sometimes more time, but not in all cases. Through trial and error, I’ve learned a few things that have worked for our family and made me a really happy mama.



These things I cook/do on a regular basis:

Pancake/waffle mix:
This is super duper easy. I’m not sure why premade mixes were ever invented. They cost extra and have weird ingredients and preservatives. If you have flour, eggs, milk, baking powder and soda, and any kind of extras you want in your cupboards, throwing a pancake batter together is just as easy as using a mix.

Homemade granola: Please don’t ever buy already made granola again. For way cheaper than granola bars or cereal, you can make your own and it’s so much better.



Muffins: I'm not really a baker, but my kids love these. Cooking bacon in the oven: SO much simpler and cleaner than frying it in the frying pan...and pretty tasty too!


Smoothies: I'm sure you all know by now how easy it is to make a smoothie, but I had to add it anyway!


Homemade cornbread: This is so much easier than I thought it would be. And pretty delish too!

Things I've mentioned before, like Homemade laundry detergent: This takes a little more time, but not much...and my laundry has never been cleaner. I’m so in love with my laundry regimen I could cry.
Easier cleaning methods: With baking soda, vinegar, Borax. Easy, cheap and efficient. Facial cleansing: I've posted about this before. So easy and great for my face!


Things that are a little harder, but totally worth the effort:

Homemade bread: One word - Y.U.M.



Local honey, local beef, farm fresh eggs: These things take a little time to go and get (you can’t just get them at the local Wal-Mart), but I love local beef so much that I would miss it if it weren’t a part of my life (and it’s not right now, which makes me very sad).

Farmer’s Market shopping: Even though this is a little harder than running to your local grocery store, the fresh produce and other yummy things you can find are worth it...and you’re supporting local farmer’s too, which I think is pretty fabulous.



Homemade Jam: Okay, I can't really say I've ever done this right. Every time I've done it, it's turned out way too runny. But, if you can do it right, its so good and way healthier than store-bought (even if there's a ton of sugar in it).


Reducing paper waste: Not using paper towels is a bit of a transition, but I'm glad we are done with them.


Using resuable bags at the grocery: I have to remember to take them in and put them back in the car, but I feel better about reducing the amount of plastic we bring in.


Things that I thought I would like doing, but have been a big fat FAIL. 


Popping our own popcorn: Actually, Ross tried this and the popcorn was gross. I know it's supposed to be healthier than popcorn in the bag, but I couldn't make the trade. 


Hair washing: Trying to give up shampoo fared horribly for me. Enough said.


Things I would like to do someday:


Own my own chickens: I want my own eggs, people. But, it costs a little more than we can spare at the moment. And for now, I have a sweet friend who gives me eggs from her chickens sometimes.


Have a garden: Oh, how I have dreams about growing my own veggies and gardening with my children...someday people...someday!



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pork Loin and menu post

Last week we had some friends over for dinner. As I was trying to plan the dinner, I was trying to think of meals that everyone loves. I went through soups, stews, spaghetti, chicken, blah blah blah. My husband is very picky. As I thought What is a meal that everyone loves to eat? What is a meal that my husband loves to eat? It came to me.

Pork loin.

But honestly, I'd never cooked my own pork loin. We'd always done the preseasoned ones that you just throw in the oven, wrapping and all. But I had to get one big enough to feed everyone, and those preseasoned ones are tiny. So, I did some research and got my game plan together. (I love a new cooking challenge, by the way!)

First I brined it for 6 or so hours. Mainly because I only had 6 hours. If you have longer, 12-24, do that. It'll be tastier and juicier. For the brine recipe, I got out my stock pot, put about a gallon or more of water in it, turned the burner on high and then added a lot of salt, some pepper, some rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and sugar. You know I don't measure anything, so feel free to wing it. I boiled that for 15 minutes or so, then took it off the burner to let it cool. You're supposed to let it cool completely, but I didn't have time, so I popped the hunk of meat and brine in a very large bowl, covered it and put it in the fridge.

When it came time to cook it, I turned on the oven, put the hunk-o-meat in a roasting pan with some of the brine juices and started cutting slits in it. Then I rubbed a store-bought "rub" all over it and in the slits, but you can make your own rub if you so desire. I just happened to have some in my spice cabinet. Then I roasted it in the oven for 2 hours at, I honestly can't remember if the oven temp was at 350 or 400.

The meat was so juicy and tasted delish! And I was happy that it tasted good, you never know how something is going to turn out the first time you cook it! Ultimately though, it blessed our friends, and that is what really matters. We had great company and conversation, and I was glad they came.

And now for our meals this week:

Thursday
Almost lasagna

Friday
I will be off playing with my sister this night, so Ross and the boys are on their own. So probably Roman noodles, or maybe oatmeal. :)

Saturday
Infamous homemade pizza

Sunday
Chicken wraps and mac n cheese

Monday
Potato & broccoli soup with homemade cornbread and salad

Tuesday
Pork chops, corn and baked potatoes

Wednesday
Small group night, will take something

Monday, April 30, 2012

A long overdue DtD Challenge

Back in December (wow, has it really been that long???), I made a duties to delights challenge to myself to clean my laundry room. My laundry room is kind of the catch-all-throw-all-our-junk-there room. The junk just kept piling up and piling up and it got to the point where I was just literally throwing stuff in there. 

I don't recommend you do this. Ever. 

It became so overwhelming that I just gave up on trying to ever get it clean. I had my sister always encouraging me to get it organized, but I just never had the energy. 

Until one day I just did. I saw some tubs on sale at Walmart and I snagged about 6 or 7 of them. I finally got motivated and got to work. 

It took me a few weeks, but I'm happy to report that I can now walk through my laundry room, and you can even see the floor! It looks like this:


You have no idea how happy this makes me. While it's not spic and span, and I don't think it will ever be, just to be able to walk around in this room is a huge improvement. And it only took me 4 months, y'all. That's not a long time or anything, right? ;)

Please let this encourage you to get started on any house projects you've been putting off, because take it from me, putting things only makes it harder and more overwhelming. And it's just the right time for spring cleaning!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Salsa and menu post

Looking for a yummy addition to a wrap, or something to dip your quesadilla in? I just recently discovered this delicious salsa and I want to eat it with everything. It's Private Selection brand (from Kroger), I think it costed a little over $2 and it may be one of my new favorite store-bought salsas. Yes, I know that homemade salsas are better...especially my mother-in-law's salsa. But really, who has the time to make everything from scratch? 


Not me, unfortunately. I tend to stay away from store bought jarred foods because of all the preservatives and added unhealthy ingredients that I can never pronounce. This salsa has none of that! Just regular ole ingredients that I would use at home. 


Private Selection Tequila Tart Lime Flavor salsa
Ingredients: Diced tomatoes, water, jalapeno peppers, crushed tomatoes, dehydrated onions, lime juice, cilantro, granulated garlic, coriander, natural flavors. 
Serving size 2 tbsp: 15 calories per serving, 0 fat, 240g sodium


I am in love.


Now for our meals this week!

Thursday

Having friends over for dinner, so I'm making a pork loin, mashed potatoes, green beans and homemade rolls


Friday
Steaks and baked potatoes

Saturday

Homemade chicken tenders & veggies

Sunday

Ham wraps and mac n cheese


Monday
Small sroup dinner night at Chick Fil A


Tuesday
Homemade pizza


Wednesday
Small group night, will take something

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Off-brands vs. name brands

Trying to figure out where to spend money and where to save it is difficult sometimes. I feel like a lot of times, we get tricked into thinking that the name brand thing is the best and everything else is crap. And while that is true in some cases, it’s not true in all. Marketing is deceitful, and mostly I’ve just done this by trial and error. Figuring out what brands work best for us, which ones to spend the money for the name-brand and where to save money with the off-brand. It’s a journey I’m still on, so I thought I’d share what products we’ve used off brand that we like, and the items to go name brand on. 


This could potentially be a very long list, so I'll probably need to do this in several posts.


I'll start with the off-brand first. Most of the time, we don't feel as secure about off-brands as we do about name brands. I am guilty of this myself. But when you're on a tight budget, you learn to cut corners where you can, and sometimes that means going with a less than popular brand.


Off-brand products to try:
Feminine Products: Those name brands are costly, people, and to be honest, the off-brands are just as good.


Contact solution: I've used the off-brand for so long. Ross and I tried the name brand Renu stuff recently (that is crazy expensive), and while I like it, I'm not sure I can even tell much of a difference. So, back to the off-brand we go!


Medicines: We use the off-brand for the kids' medicines and for ours. The only type of medicine we stay away from is medicine from the Dollar Tree, because I read that most of their stuff isn't FDA approved, which freaks me out a little.


Certain foods, like milk, oats, cheese, coffee creamer, yogurt, (*this list is noncomprehensive)


Baby formula: Some people can't do this due to their sensitive little one's tummies, or for many other reasons, but we were able to use the Target brand formula with Ezra and he was just fine.


Things to buy name brand:


Cereal: Have you ever tried off-brand Cheerios? Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch? So gross. No matter what, Great Value nor Kroger brand can get it right.


Deodarant: I've tried off-brand deodorant and it just doesn't work as well. Enough said.


Camera equipment: I'm a Canon girl, and nothing else will do. Love my Canon camera and lenses!


Razors: I personally use the off-brand, and while they are fine, they really don't work as well. Those name brand razors cost a pretty penny though!


Peanut butter: I am utterly in love with Jif Natural Peanut Butter and nothing else will even compare. I've even tried other "better" brands and the off-brands too. Nothing beats Jif Natural!


More later! What about you? What off-brands do you use?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The journey of the American Robin

Let me just start this post off by saying, I really don't care for birds. Some might even say I'm a little afraid of them. I've never had any sort of encounter that has left me with a forever fear-scar, I just don't like things flying around my head. And birds can be mean, y'all. I don't trust them at all! So, when we saw the beginnings of a nest forming on our back patio floodlight, I wanted to be rid of it. Ross wasn't too keen on the idea of birds making our back patio their home either. 


So what did he do? He moved the nest. Not once, not even twice, but 3 times. He threw it up on the roof, tried to tear it apart, but that mama robin was seriously determined to have her babies in our backyard. Then one day, we looked in there, ready to toss it again, and saw these:


Even though we're not fans of birds, we aren't completely heartless, so we left it there and decided we would just deal with whatever having bird babies in our backyard meant. 


We honestly weren't sure what that would mean. I envisioned a protective Mama bird dive bombing my children as they played joyfully outside. 

I envisioned chirping baby birds that wouldn't be quiet...ever.

I envisioned our dog (or possibly even cat) eating the poor thing if it ever fell out of the nest, or even when it flew out. 

But, much to our surprise, none of that happened. In fact, it took so long for the eggs to hatch, we thought they were duds. Until one day, I saw this:



The boys and I were outside playing when the mama bird flew over to the nest with food. I saw the little baby birds' heads shoot up with their mouths wide open waiting for that tasty morsel of worm or whatever it was that Mama had brought them. 

And instantly, my heart melted. It was funny, I was thinking about how birds are on my top 5 not-favorite-things-of-all-time, yet I had this instinct to protect them, to scare off other birds who were waiting prey-like for the Mama to fly off and leave her babies vulnerable. 

I was scared to get too close those first few days. I wondered if I got too close, would the Mama abandon them? So, I kept a close distance. 

But as they got bigger, I got more daring. 

The Mama lost one egg and I'm not really sure whatever happened to the second, but I only ever saw 2 babies in there. And it was so sweet, watching how well the Mom and Dad cared for them, protected them, and cleaned up after them. 

It made me think of God, who loves, protects and takes care of us. We are so helpless, so needy and dependent, like these bird babies, and He holds each and every one of us in the palm of His hand. 

10 days after I saw the first little newborn baby bird head pop up, they started standing up and flapping their wings. I knew it was getting close to time for them to fly out of the nest. The boys were playing outside yesterday afternoon and I looked out the window to see Fiona going after something in the yard, while the kids were watching. 

I automatically knew what was happening. I ran outside, ordered Fiona back in, and stooped down to see the first baby bird had flown (probably more like hovered) out and was now needing to learn how to fly. 



It hopped around the yard and found a safe hiding spot. I watched it for awhile and finally came in, but not without snapping a photo of the other bird enjoying some solitude in the nest for some time.

This guy knew it was his turn next. He flapped and flapped, trying to get the courage. Finally, as I walked out the back door later that afternoon, he flew out! 

I felt like a proud Mama! I had grown attached to these silly birds and even though I was a bit sad, I felt pride as this little one had finally grown up. 

Neither of them are in the yard anymore, so I assume they learned how to fly and are off learning how to be grown-up Robins. This experience was a first for me, and it was a neat one. Nature is always a fun thing to watch and be a part of. And to be honest, it made me introspective about my own parenting and how I need to teach my kiddos how to live in the world, just like this Mama robin is going to teach her babies how to live in the bird world. 

Now, off to teach my own little birds how to grow up and fly on their own. It's a tough job, but one worth doing well. 



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.

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The Frugal Girl (frugality, repurposing, etc)


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Digital Photography School (photography)