Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sweet Treats: No Bake Cookies and S’mores Bars


I have made no-bake cookies in the past without too much success.  The cookies turned out alright but nothing to brag about!  This recipe, however, is great!  I am thinking a lot of it has to do with using quick oats.  I think it helps the cookies set a lot faster and also helps them keep their shape better.  Besides that, the flavor of these cookies are just decadent!  My family and friends agree!  ~smile~

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

Boil the following in a saucepan for ~1.5 minutes, until mixture seems well-blended, thicker, and frothy.

1 3/4 cups white sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa.

Remove from heat and add:

1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy …. whatever you like!  I have used both).

3 cups quick oats

1 t vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips

I “drop” the cookies with a  medium-sized (~ a Tablespoon or so) batter scooper onto wax paper.  This makes a nice shape.

Let cool until hardened.

Recipe Source:  Adapted from “A Joyful Noise” No Bake Chocolate Cookies


I have found so many good recipes at “Mel’s Kitchen CafĂ©”, including this one for S’mores Cookie Bars!

I made this recipe for my husband’s birthday, and my family raved about them!  They said it is now one of their favorite desserts that I make!

Truly, they are delicious! 


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Bonding Experience


This afternoon, while my toddler was napping, I called the children to the table.  I offered them tea or milk and a no-bake cookie.  (I will have to post the recipe for the cookies soon).  I passed out copies of a questionnaire I had recently printed from the “B’Twixt and B’Tween” blog ~ a neat blog that encourages great relationships with your daughters.  The questionnaire asks questions like:

What is your favorite color?

… favorite meal?

… favorite memory?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

We spent several minutes filling out the questionnaire individually and then discussed our answers.  We tried to guess how each person would answer the questions.  We had a fun, relaxing time as we bonded and laughed about some of our favorite and not-so-favorite things.

This questionnaire was intended to use with your daughter.  I chose to do the questionnaire with all of my children.  You could use it various ways ~ with your husband, with a friend, as an icebreaker at a gathering, etc.! 

What a great way to get to know someone better and develop more intimacy!

You can find the questionnaire here.


Growing Home

Monday, September 26, 2011

Doing the Laundry

Recently I shared my laundry “system” with a friend of mine. She said it helped her, so I thought I would share some tips with you.

1. Establish a good spot where people can put their laundry.

Each of my children’s rooms have a basket like this where they put their dirty items.


My husband and I actually sort our items as we put them in baskets. These baskets are in our closet and are labeled: whites, lights, darks, and other (reds, delicates, and sheets).


2. Pick a good day to tackle most of your laundry.

Mondays are my main laundry day. I like to start cycling the laundry Sunday night to get a head start. I collect all of the children’s laundry at once when I am ready to begin the process.


3. Sort the laundry so it is ready to wash!

I sort all of the kids’ laundry in my family room and start washing! If the loads are not full, I will get some of the already-sorted laundry in our bedroom and add it to the load. I proceed through the children’s loads this way first and then do anything additional that is left.

4. Cycle the laundry as continually as you can!


5. Create a system for clothes once they are folded.

When I get the clothes out of the dryer, I fold them and put them in separate laundry baskets, according to bedrooms. That way, I can drop off the baskets for unloading into drawers and closets.


What helps you get your laundry done?

Growing Home

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don’t Let a Bad Day Get You Down

I've had a “bad day”.  Two bad days in a row, in fact.  The kind of days where you feel completely swamped and unable to come up for air.  The kind of days where deep emotions are sitting on the doorstep of your soul.
The dishes are backlogged.  Children's attitudes have much to be desired.  The toddler is getting into everything!  I am unable to shower before early afternoon when my baby is asleepThere seems to be more need than a single person can fulfill.
The white flag starts to raise.  My soul feels great despair, YET I will encourage myself to plod on.
These moments will pass.
The dishes will get done.  The children's attitudes will fluctuate.  There will be periods of productivity amidst the lazy legions of time.
Are you having a bad day? 
Remove yourself from your situation for just a few moments so you can refresh yourself and clear your perspective.
Find some quiet time.
Pray.  Ask God for help.
Count your blessings. 
God is not the author of discouragement.
He is the author of hope!
Don't despair!
Don't let this bad day get you down!
This too shall pass!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Squash Chips

Remember that crookneck squash I got from my garden?
(The yellow one).
I finally did something with it today!  I made Squash Chips.
Our family members are not thrilled about squash, so I tried to think of a creative way to use the squash.  I did a little searching online and found the idea to make “chips” out of them.
First I cut off the narrow neck of the squash and removed the pulp and seeds from the large part. 
Then I sliced the squash thin and put the slices on an oil-sprayed tray.
Next I sprayed the slices with oil and put salt, pepper, and seasoning on top.  In hindsight, I put a little too much seasoning on.  When the slices roast, they dehydrate and become very concentrated, so watch the amount of seasoning you use!
Roast at 425 for 15 minutes.  Flip slices and roast for approximately 15 minutes more, until desired crispiness is achieved!
I’m sure you could try other vegetables like summer squash, zucchini, and carrots with whatever herbs you like!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Origami Scavenger Hunt

My husband’s birthday was last week.  This year I bought him non-tangible gifts for his birthday, with only a computer screen and sheets of paper to announce his presents – a painting class, an upgrade to Pandora, and a Groupon coupon for go-karting with a friend.  I wanted a creative way to present his gifts.  The kids bought Brian a Dairy Queen gift card so he can go on a date with me.  I asked my oldest son to make an origami so we could stick the gift card inside.  Then it dawned on me.  Why not make a scavenger hunt with origami clues to boot!  Yes, that’ll do it!
My son made two pieces of origami, and I constructed the other three:  a frog, star, piano, dog, and house.  Inside/on each of the pieces, I wrote a clue.  The initial piece said:
Of course, that was to lead him to the refrigerator where he would find the kids’ gift card.
The next clue was:  “Can you check my email, please?”
That led him to the computer for his Pandora upgrade and so on…
This was a fun, creative way to display my husband’s gifts, and I didn’t feel bad for not having something “wrapped”. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Serenity Prayer


I’m sure most of you have seen “The Serenity Prayer” before.

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

My grandmother loved this prayer, and I am learning to love it more and more.  The longer we live the more we see the need for serenity.  We experience difficulty in life and know that we need peace and strength to endure.  We need a quietness of soul and mind that will help us keep our joy. 

Serenity is defined (by Merriam-Webster) as, “the quality or state of being serene”.  How does MW define “serene”?  Clear and free of storms or unpleasant changeshining bright and steady.

Do you long for more serenity in your life?

When I Googled “The Serenity Prayer”, I discovered something very interesting.  Perhaps you know that this heartfelt prayer does not end with those four lines typed above but continues with even more great definition and purpose in surrendering to God’s will.

Read this S-L-O-W-L-Y:

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

~Reinhold Niebuhr

Yes friends, those are the keys for gaining serenity:  living day by day, enjoying life, accepting hardship, embracing God’s will and trusting Him, realizing that we will, some day, be immensely happy – forever – with Him.  Amen!

God grant me the serenity…

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making Time for Fellowship


Is your calendar busy?  Feeling swamped?

Don’t have time for extras? 

Life can be very full at times.  It seems like a person can hardly come up for air.  There is a lot vying for our time, yet I want to encourage you to think about your priorities and to make sure you have time for them. 

For the past few weeks I have had a few different opportunities come my way to fellowship with others.  At first, I admit, I wondered how I could fit something else into my schedule.  My mind starts to weigh out the plusses and minuses, and Brian intervenes and says, “Let’s do it!”  Each time I have committed myself to a time of fellowship, I have felt encouraged and blessed.  I may not be able to go as long as I want or as long as the event lasts, but I am happy to break out of my routine and rub shoulders with others. 

God made us to need one another.

We need each other for encouragement, comfort, strength, advice, and plain ol’ fun! 

The Bible heeds us to spend time with one another:

Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

(I realize this verse is usually applied to corporate worship, but I think it is applicable to fellowship with the Body of Christ, in general).

This world can be pretty discouraging at times, but God gives us something to lift up our hearts – fellowship with those who love Him and follow His ways. 

I challenge you to do two things:

1)  Say “yes” next time you are invited to someone’s house or another event for fellowship.  Make it work somehow, even if you have to propose another day.

2)  Find a spot on your calendar within the next month to invite *someone* over to your home or elsewhere.

Make time for fellowship in your life!

It is the glue that holds us together and the grace that enables us to plow forward!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Keeping Toddlers Busy

Last fall my baby was a few months old and people wondered how I would be able to homeschool.  My comfort then was that I had homeschooled with a baby before and also knew that last fall would pale in comparison to this fall.  After all, this fall I am homeschooling with a… toddler!  What do you do with a toddler for the entire day?

Here are some ideas for keeping your toddler busy, whether you homeschool or not:

A Notebook and Crayons for Scribbling


Containers with Craft Pom Poms

Just be careful the toddler does not EAT them!


Chore Time

Toddlers can do things like help with the laundry, taking out clean laundry from the dryer and putting in the next wet load.


Sticker Time

This is a more interactive activity.

Peel off stickers for your toddler to place on other sheets of paper.



Toys that come in sets, like blocks or animals.

Safe kitchen items, like measuring cups and bowls.



… And don’t forget to use the Pack ‘N Play!  ~smile~

Your child may not like it in the beginning.  Persevere!  Aim for small amounts of time.  It is okay if you listen to a bit of crying at first.  It’s for your own sanity and the rest of your household!

Enjoy your toddler!

She grows fast!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wrestling with God


You probably know the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with God (Genesis 32).  Jacob appeared to wrestle with the Man for a long time, until day broke, which could be another story in and of itself.  Jacob would not let the Man go “unless you bless me!”.

I can relate to this story in my life right now.  I feel like I am wrestling with God.  Somehow, I feel the roles are reversed, though.  I feel as if God has me pinned down and is saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” or “unless…”

Truly God uses the circumstances of our lives to mold and shape us, to make us into the people He wants us to be.  He wants to change us.  He wants to get the proper response from us.  He wants to see His glory and light in us, and to do that, He must deal with our flesh – our inadequacies, our fears, our sins, our dislikes…  Yes, He must shake our world so we can see things in a different light and grow deeper in Him.

Are you wrestling with God right now?

Be encouraged.  Jacob did, and he was forever, drastically changed – from Jacob to Israel.

Genesis 32:28

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

May God be praised!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mexican Lasagna


This is my husband’s FAVORITE lasagna.

If you like Mexican food, you’ve got to try this lasagna.  It is delicious!  The recipe makes a large 9x13 pan serving, so it is a good recipe to make if you are having guests over too!  We are able to use the lasagna for two meals, which is always nice since it doesn’t happen often with a household of seven people.

*I use 12 lasagna noodles and omit the olives.

Mexican Lasagna

taken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

*Serves 6-8

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
dash of ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cup frozen corn kernels, white or yellow
1 (6 ounce) can olives, chopped
9-12 no-boil lasagna noodles (I love the Barilla brand), or boil and drain regular lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream, light or regular
8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan and set aside.

In a large 12-inch skillet, brown the ground beef or turkey and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste. Stir to combine well and cook for about a minute. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano and salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Add the black beans, corn and olives. Mix well and heat through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer three (or four, depending on the brand of noodles you use) noodles over the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the noodles. Dollop 1/3 of the sour cream and 1/3 of the cream cheese (just pinch off chunks and toss them on top) across the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheeses. Repeat the layers two more times until all the ingredients are used.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more, until the lasagna is hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into and serving.

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