Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year 2014! Remember, Reflect, Renew!

RememberReflectRenew

It's here - the end of 2013. 

This is just about the time when I start to get sappy. I start to feel a lot of emotion and realize that the end of 2013 is really here, and it is time to start a new year.

It is profound when you really think about it.

A full year of doings has taken place.
A full year of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
A full year of God carrying me over and over again.

And now... it's time to start a whole new year of events, emotions, hopes, dreams, goals, projects, relationships, recipes...

As you think about the past year, remember all that God has done. Remember that the past is in the past, and the future holds good things.

Reflect upon the good that happened, and what you should work hard at maintaining.

Also, think about where your life is lacking and where you hope to see improvement. Renew your mind, your schedule, your goals … your life.

Don't overwhelm yourself with too many goals at once. Make a list and start somewhere. As you check things off your list, you will feel good.

Remember. Reflect. Renew!

Happy New Year to all of you!

May the Lord bless you and keep you
and may His face shine upon you.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas is Over. Now What?

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Do you ever feel that letdown, as Christmas ends? It feels like the feeling you feel after planning a wedding or some other big event. You pour so much time and energy into something, and then… it’s over.

I love Christmas. I really do. It is always sad to see the celebration has ended.

However, there’s still plenty to do!

  • Write out thank you notes for the people who gave you gifts.
  • Give to the poor and needy. Give to a charity or to someone you know personally.
  • Make Christmas cookies! Yes, even though the holiday is “technically” over, there are still plenty of cookie recipes that fit the winter season quite well.
  • Listen to Christmas music! Who said you have to stop?
  • If you weren’t able to send out Christmas cards, you can still send a letter or a note to someone.
  • You can always give someone a present! If there were people you forgot or just didn’t get around to shopping a lot, it is never too late to show someone you care, even with something simple.
  • Of course, with the New Year approaching, you can start preparing for that!
    • Do some cleaning and organizing in your home.
    • Prepare a celebration with friends or family.
    • Reflect upon the past year and plan for the year ahead.

Keep celebrating. Keep giving.
Keep moving forward with God!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men!”
Luke 2:14

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Inexpensive, Thoughtful Gifts

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Christmas is not about the amount of money you spend. It is possible to give to someone this season without spending a lot of money. Some people choose not to give because they think they can not do so when they don’t have money. Not true! There are ways we can give that are inexpensive (sometimes free, or close to it!) and thoughtful.


Heartfelt Tokens
Create a picture collage or book.
Write a letter of appreciation and thanks.
Write a poem, possibly about the recipient.
Use your talents: write a story, record a piece of music or play a live concert for someone in your home, paint a picture …
Give coupons for chores, errands, or projects.

Homemade goodies
Bread.
Flavored popcorn.
Christmas cookies.
Homemade creamer.
Instant mixes for hot cocoa, pancakes, muffins …
Granola.

Gift of time
Give a coupon for a lunch at your house.
Provide a free babysitting night for someone’s children.
Invite the person over for tea and cookies.

Gift cards
Coffee shop.
Ice cream spot.
Accessory store.

Grocery store items
Tea, cocoa, or instant coffee.
A box of the recipient’s favorite cookies or other favorite grocery store food.
Candle.

Regifting
Perhaps you have something at home that has not been used at all and may even still be in its original packaging!
Perhaps you have something that has been used, but it is in “like new” condition – a book, household décor, household item …

Books and Magazines
You could purchase one brand new, or you could search through your own home. Do you have back issues of a magazine your friend or relative would love? Wrap them in a bundle with some ribbon!

I am sure there are a lot more ideas! This is just to get your brain going!

Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give something to someone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Candy-coated Rice Krispy Balls

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These rice krispy balls are a beautiful addition to a holiday spread.

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The basic gist:

  • Make Rice Krispy balls.
  • Stick a peppermint stick inside.
  • Dip into melted candy coating.
  • Decorate with sprinkles.

drizzled krispy balls

 

If you do not want to go through the hassle of dipping the balls, you can actually drizzle the candy coating on top of the balls and decorate them with sprinkles. This is quite a bit easier.

The original recipe mixed in crushed candy canes. I did not do that, to keep the taste more simple, particularly because I was making them for a large group of girls.

PC110215-001Here’s a big tip: If you want to put mini candy canes inside the balls, buy the candy canes that are wrapped in the cellophane packages, NOT the ones that are wrapped with the plastic adhering to the candy cane itself. It was impossible for us to unwrap the candy canes without them breaking, as you can see from this photo of my workspace.

Candy-coated Rice Krispy Balls
Original recipe found here.
Printable version.

  • ¼ Cup Butter
  • 1 10 Oz. Package Marshmallows
  • ⅓ Cup Crushed Candy Canes, optional
  • 6 Cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • 2 12 Oz. Bags White Candy Melts
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat.
  2. Add marshmallows to the pan and stir continually until marshmallows are melted completely.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Rice Krispies and candy canes, if desired.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute.
  5. Form heaping tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls with your hands. Add a candy cane into the center of each ball.
  6. Place the balls in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool.
  7. Melt the candy melts according to package directions. Then add in the vegetable oil to thin the mixture.
  8. Dip your cooled treats into the chocolate, decorate, and set aside to cool and harden completely.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Simple Gift Ideas

My husband and I coordinate the boys’ and girls’ groups at our church. I put together these simple gifts for our leaders.

Put a box of holiday or specially-flavored tea inside a clear bag. Tie with a decorative ribbon. Attach a simple gift tag. (I made this one with free snowflake clip art).

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For the men, I bought large candy bars and attached a decorative ribbon and gift tag.

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Both of these gifts were a hit!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas ornament

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas" …

We wish each other a "merry" Christmas but how often are we trying to experience that ourselves? Oftentimes our frantic, hectic schedules and plans make us feel frazzled and grumpy, like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

How can we strive to have more of a merry, little Christmas?

1) Plan and prioritize. Think now about what you really want to fit in this season.

2) Simplify where possible. Let go of things that aren't as important or valuable or that stress you out too much. You may even have to say "no" to good things.

3) Enjoy the season. Take a deep breath and try to enjoy the busyness. Stay positive. Look on the bright side. Remember how blessed you really are.

4) Stay calm. Peace brings joy, really. When we are not at peace, it is hard to feel "merry". Try to keep a calm spirit, focusing on each day, one at a time.

5) Be sure to get enough rest and strive to have white space on your calendar. Burnout never feels good, even if it is for a “good cause”.

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight” …

Let’s enjoy the season as best as we can
and push those troubles aside!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pioneer Woman’s Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

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Maybe you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving in your freezer.
Maybe you will have leftover turkey after Christmas.
Maybe you want something different to make for Christmas.
Maybe you just want to eat turkey pot pie!

Regardless of your reason, this is a great dish to make and eat!

It's creamy, savory, and pure delicious!

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
Original Recipe found here
printable version

1 pie crust (I used a single crust from my chicken pot pie recipe). 
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 cups leftover turkey
1/4 cup flour
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
Frozen peas (optional)
Fresh or dried thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a skillet or dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until translucent (a couple of minutes.)
Add turkey and stir. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour in chicken or turkey broth. Stir continually and add cream. Stir, just to mix. (Add approximately 8 ounces of frozen peas to the pan at this point, if desired.)
Bring to a slow boil and allow mixture to cook and thicken for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add salt and pepper to taste and fresh or dried thyme to taste.
Pour mixture into a casserole dish, deep pie pan, or cast-iron skillet.
Roll out crust so that it’s about 1 inch larger than the pan you’re using.
Place the crust on top of the pot pie mixture, and press crust into the sides of the dish. Cut vents in the top of the crust.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until very golden and bubbly and the crust is done.
Allow to cool for a little bit before serving.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Delicious, buttery, flaky, crunchy cookies with a sweet strawberry zing. Yep, that’s jam thumbprint cookies for you!

If you haven’t tried making these delights, you should.

We piped our jam into the thumbprint holes. You can snip the corner of a plastic sandwich or quart-size bag, fill it with desired amount of jelly, and pipe from there!

Our recipe only made about three dozen because we made them larger. I do think the smaller size (made with a melon ball-sized scooper) works well, and looks adorable!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
original recipe found here
printable version

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • strawberry or raspberry jam
Preparation:

Cream butter and sugar together.

Add egg yolks, flour and vanilla; mix well.

If dough is too soft to handle, add a little more flour. Roll dough into little balls.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Make a thumb print in the center of each. Fill thumbprint with jam. You can use a spoon or you can pipe it.

Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes, until light brown around edges.
Makes 8-10 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hot Chocolate Buffet

Hot Chocolate Buffet

A hot chocolate buffet is a great idea for entertaining during the holidays or just for spending time with your family.

Serve up some hot chocolate with some yummy fixings on the side.

  • a splash of coffee
  • red hot candies
  • mini chocolate chips
  • mini marshmallows
  • crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
  • whipped cream

You choose!

For a delicious crockpot hot chocolate recipe, try Mrs. Happy Homemaker’s recipe.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Appreciate the Little Things in Life

Little Things

The other day I saw the moon in its glory. It was beautiful.

It was low in the sky, massive, and sunset-orange in color. My husband was driving somewhere separately at the same time, and he noticed it as well. He texted me. "Do you see the moon?"

"Yep, couldn't miss it," I thought.

Seeing the moon brought a smile to my face. It was one of those spectacularly simple, yet divine, moments in life -- one of those moments when you are reminded that God is the Creator of the universe and made all things beautiful.

Seeing the moon was a short moment, but an important moment. It was silent and quick, but it made a lasting impression on my soul.

The crux of our lives is full of good and important things that are sometimes very hard, especially in this sin-filled world.

  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Leadership
  • Home Management
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Education
  • Health

These things occupy a majority of our efforts and thoughts. Our days can be grueling as we strive to succeed in these areas.

However, most of us wake up each day and are blessed immediately.

We wake up in a comfy bed with warm blankets and cushy pillows, perhaps even next to a spouse we love.

We proceed throughout the morning and are confronted with the possibility of a myriad of blessings:

  • The ability to read God's Word and encounter Him
  • A warm shower
  • A good breakfast
  • A cup of coffee or tea
  • Greetings and hugs from family members
  • A closetful of clothes
  • Beautiful décor that graces our homes
  • Sunlight that brightens the day or Rain that brings refreshment to the earth

and the day has just begun...

If we are able to grasp the small and somewhat silent things throughout our days, I believe they will give us strength.

The small pleasures of life add up
to one great, big, blessed life.

Focus on the small, silent, good things in your life today.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving Food

Chocolate Pecan Pie wih text

With Thanksgiving only a little over a week away, many of us are thinking about what we will serve, take, or eat for Thanksgiving. Here are some of our favorites:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Cornbread

Chocolate Pecan Pie

What are you having for Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Thrifty Meal Plan




This week I am trying to spend as little as I can on groceries.

I already have the following on hand:
  • turkey bacon
  • potatoes
  • beans
  • frozen vegetables
  • items for pizza: sauce, cheese, pepperoni
  • frozen chicken breast
  • brown rice

Here’s my menu:

Baked Potato Soup
Chicken Pot Pie (using half of the chicken from making the broth for the chicken soup)
Black Bean Burritos

Some tips for planning less expensive weeks:
  • Use items you have in your freezer and pantry
  • Make soups
  • Make meals that have a little or no meat in them
  • Plan to use items like potatoes, pasta, beans, and rice

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I Cut the Crust Off My Daughters' Bread


I'm a rule follower, a "good girl". I believe in order, manners, and following God's law.


To admit that I cut the crust off my daughters' bread is a bit, eh hem, humbling. You see, to me, the crust should be eaten. After all, there are people STARVING in other countries. When children don't eat the crusts on their bread, they are being unthankful of course! They should appreciate every morsel they are given and eat it with a smile.


Why then do I cut the crust off my daughters' (yes, plural!) bread?


The first reason supports my strong sense of responsibility. If *I* cut off the crusts, there is less waste. That's a good thing! If I let them eat their bread without me altering it, they will leave large chunks of their bread on their plate, and well, that just is not acceptable.


The second reason is the more important reason.


Some things just aren't worth fighting over.


Let me say that again.


Some things just aren't worth fighting over.


As parents, we deal with many issues, some more weighty than others. We must continually, carefully and prayerfully, consider our ideas and preferences about how things should be.


Some of them are absolute truth.
Some of them must not be compromised.
Some of them must be fought over!


Some, on the other hand, must be let go.


When I took my niece into my home a handful of years ago, she was 14 years old. I had no clue how to raise a teenager. I made a lot of mistakes. I tried my best, but I made mistakes. I realize that I made issues over some things that I should have let go. I did not have the grace to deal with so much change at once, so I learned... by mistake in some cases.


As I continue to raise my children, I'm going to continue to fight for many things, but crust on bread? Nah. I'll let that go.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Life Tells You to Slow Down

 God and life have been telling me to slow down for a while now.
 
Signs of wear and tear are showing.
Stress tries to win over many times.
My mind feels like it is spinning at record speeds.
 
And now. I have battled illness for weeks and will be battling illness for several more weeks.
 
It, all, started with a flu/sinus infection type illness that had me in bed for two days. It lingered as a cold for a week or so. Then my husband went away for 5 to 6 days for work within a week's time. Yep. Stress. It seemed to catch me, and I was down again. This time with flu symptoms and a crazy rash, which are supposed to be my friend for about 6 weeks.
 
As I embrace today's struggles, I am hearing God's gentle but loud voice,
 
 
 
He's sending the messages I have been hearing for a while now. You hear them too.
 
The signs are shouting at all of us.
 
Simplify. Rest. Prioritize. Declutter. Unplug.
 
We face the messages throughout the internet, on book titles, and all over the written and spoken world.
 
I've seen the messages, and my heart cries out with a loud,
"Yes! Yes, I want to do all of those things."
 
I want a slower, simpler, fuller life.
 
Life is zapping us of energy and the things we find to be most important, sometimes without us being fully aware.
 
Are you feeling worn out?
Are you tired of missing out on more time with your family?
Are you tired of feeling so scattered?
Are you tired of your schedule controlling you?
 
I am. I don't fully know the answer, but I know there is a process occurring in my life.
 
Change.
 
It will happen, bit by bit, step by step, through faith and God's grace. I don't even know how and when all will happen, but I grab God's hand and proceed forward.
 
Simplify. Rest. Prioritize. Declutter. Unplug.
 
Say those slowly.
Write them down.
Pray about them.
Establish goals.
Move forward, one bit at a time.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Farmhouse Bread

 
I've been thinking about making bread lately. Again.
 
I've thought about making bread a lot over the past handful of years. This time, though, I actually made bread.
 
There's nothing like homemade bread!
 
Fresh. Wholesome. Nutritious. Simple.
 
Oh, and don't forget that tantalizing smell that seeps out of the oven when you bake it. That, right there, is enough reason to bake bread!
 
I admit. The only downside to this bread is that it does not have a lot of whole grains in it, my usual preference. However, if you use my favorite, Ultragrain all-purpose flour, you will be sure to gain nutrition!
 
 
Farmhouse Bread
Adapted from Bran Appetit
I originally saw this recipe on "Crumbs and Chaos".
 
 
Yield: 2 loaves
3 cups BREAD FLOUR
1/3 cup HONEY
1/4 cup CANOLA OIL
1 Tablespoon SALT
4 1/2 teaspoons ACTIVE DRY YEAST
2 1/4 cup WARM WATER
3 cups (Ultragrain) ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
1 Tablespoon OLIVE OIL
 
In a large bowl, mix bread flour, honey, canola oil, salt, and yeast.
 
Add warm water and mix until combined.
 
Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour at a time until the dough is mixed well and forms.
 
Knead by hand or with a dough hook for about 5 minutes, until smooth.
 
Coat the inside of a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough inside. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and set aside to rise, somewhere warm, for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
 
Grease two 9x5 loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape into loaves and place in the pans.
 
Cover the pans loosely with the dish towel again and let rise for another hour.
 
Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven, til golden brown. Watch carefully.
 
Let the bread cool inside the pans for 5 to 10 minutes. Then remove to a wire rack for complete cooling before slicing.
 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Benefit of Writing Your Prayers


  
Sometimes when I quiet my heart to pray, the moment doesn't feel very quiet. Thoughts race through my mind. New tasks pop up, waiting to be added to my "To Do" list. Emotions flood my being. It can be very difficult to feel quiet.
 
My thoughts can wander: "Dear Lord, I need... to get the laundry done... No, wait. I do need to get the laundry done, but that is not what I am praying about. I need a touch from YOU, Lord!" 
 
One thing that can be helpful during prayer time is to write down my prayers. By writing down my prayer, it helps me focus more. I am forced to channel my thoughts and emotions better. 
 
You can create a spiritual journal just for the purpose of writing down your prayers, Scriptures, and other things God teaches you or you could simply use your daily planner, a blank sheet of paper, or even type an email to yourself. Whatever works! The point is to get you writing, thinking, praying, and pouring your heart out to God in a more efficient matter.
 
Give ear to my words, O Lord.
Consider my meditation.
Psalm 5:1

Monday, October 21, 2013

Banana Banana Bread

 
Autumn is such a wonderful time to bake! It was quite dreary and rainy here today, lending itself to be one of those cozy, fall days you appreciate as you wear your favorite sweater, drink some tea or coffee, and do some baking!
 
I made some banana bread today, and it was nothing but delicious! I have tried several banana bread recipes over the years and have had a low-success rate. This recipe, though, is a keeper!
 
I really believe the eggs in the recipe add great texture, and the generous amount of bananas make the bread oh-so-very yummy.
 
I like to blend in my bananas, because I do not like chunks of banana in my baked goods.

Banana Banana Bread
original recipe on Allrecipes.com
printable version

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use my favorite flour)
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.
*I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, starting with the creaming of the butter and sugar and beyond.

Beat in eggs and mashed bananas, until well-mixed.
Mix in flour mixture, until moistened and mixed together.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until you insert a toothpick in the center, and it comes out clean. (My oven cooks fast, so mine was done in 55 minutes. Know your oven and watch it carefully.)

Let bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a wire rack.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lay Aside Every Weight

Run with Endurance2

Imagine a runner carrying many bags.

Heartache. Grief. Unbelief. Addiction. Bad Company. Poor Choices. Lost Hope.

The runner is bogged down, unable to run. He is barely able to lift his feet. His back and shoulders hurt. His gaze is fixed upon the bags, as he is continually trying to fix them. Maybe, just maybe, if he keeps arranging them they will fall into place, and he can run well. Maybe if he holds the bags in a better fashion, he will be able to run faster.

No. He can't run well. In fact he can hardly run at all. The only solution is for him to get rid of the bags.

Oh, but the bags…

Some of them are dear to him.
Some of them he has nurtured.
Some of them have been around a long time.

Nonetheless, the runner comes to the grave conclusion that he definitely must get rid of the bags.

After a long pause, he continues to run and starts to unload the bags.
Bags fall. Tears fall.

As the bags are unloading, however, he starts to feel lighter... happier... more able to run the race. After unloading a few bags, he is now motivated to get rid of the rest. He empties the bags with a quicker pace and a joyful disposition.

"Although it be painful, it is also joyful to get rid of these bags
that I have carried for so long.
Now I can run my race with endurance".


We are like the runner. We carry many bags. Only you know what is written on those bags. Only you know how attached you are to those bags and how they have affected and are affecting you.

If we are to run our race for Jesus with endurance, we must get rid of the bags. We must get rid of the weights that burden us.

Hebrews 12:1 – "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

Merriam-Webster defines endurance this way:

  • the ability to do something difficult for a long time
  • the ability to deal with pain or suffering that continues for a long time
  • the quality of continuing for a long time.

Are you able to continue with Jesus wholeheartedly for your whole life?
Are you able to walk the difficult path He calls you to walk?

Lay aside the weights and sin and run with endurance.

1. Give your weights to Jesus. Continue to pray and ask God for healing and grace. God is able to comfort us and strengthen us. He is the only One who can reach the depths of our heart and fill us with His Holy Spirit,

2. Make practical steps to get rid of weights. If there are things you can do to get rid of baggage in your life, do it. Ask God for wisdom. Ask friends for advice. Figure out what you need to do to move forward in God. Recently, I decided to take a sabbatical from my personal Facebook page because it causes me a lot of pain right now. It was not an easy decision because I like the social interaction, but it is the best decision for now.

3. Surround yourself with a company of people who encourage you to live rightly. We need the community and support of others to give us strength and remind us that we have people cheering for us!

Get rid of the weights you are carrying
and run the race with endurance!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Zone Cleaning: Tackle the House Together!

Last year we started zone cleaning. It has been a huge blessing! Since we started zone cleaning, I have run across other people who also use this system to keep their home more orderly.
 
With zone cleaning, people in the house are assigned zones to maintain. In our home, the children have a zone that they monitor throughout the week. Daily, usually in the morning, they are required to do a quick pick-up, shaking of rugs, and sometimes a sweep, depending on the zone. Weekly, usually on Friday or Saturday, they do a more thorough cleaning which involves dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming.
 
Since zone cleaning requires regular attention, it helps keep our home in better order daily. Even if there are messes and projects to tackle, the general atmosphere of our home feels clean and manageable.
 
Zone cleaning helps your children to gain responsibility as they learn to watch over an area of the home themselves. They also learn the importance of work and see the reward of keeping their area clean.
 
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the state of your home and/or just want to get your children more involved in the upkeep of your home, try zone cleaning!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Simple, Savory Spaghetti Sauce

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A good friend of mine gave me this recipe. It is simple to make and delicious to eat.

Printable Recipe

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 15 oz. cans tom sauce
3/4 t oregano
1 t basil
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 t sugar, optional

Saute 1 lb. ground beef with onion and garlic until beef is fully cooked. Drain.

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about a half hour or longer if you want to mingle the flavors more.

Remove bay leaf and serve over pasta.

*This recipe serves about four people. I actually used one and a half times the recipe, and it fed our family of six, without leftovers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Moving Beyond Grief and Pain

Zachary on climbing wall

Life is a beautiful blessing.
God made a beautiful world.
God had beautiful intentions.

However, in the midst of beauty, therein lies great pain.

Thorns.
Thistles.
Weeds.
Hurts.
Wounds.
Heartache.
Tears.

Grief and pain are deeply felt. They are intense emotions of the soul. They have the ability to consume us, keep us in darkness, and paralyze us.

How do we move beyond grief and pain and experience fullness of life, as God intends?

Accept the imperfect world. Accept that circumstances will not be as we hope.

Remember that we live amongst fallen people. People, unfortunately, will continue to hurt us – sometimes unintentionally, yet even then, it hurts.

Remind ourselves that God is our healer and can HEAL our hurts. He can mend broken hearts and bind up our wounds.

Look to God for hope. God does not leave us hopeless. He has good things planned for us. He wants us to have joy.

Think like Paul. “Forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead”. Phil. 3:13

In the midst of pain and suffering, we can seek God and find His goodness.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marriage Maintenance

20130914_122136

Marriage requires maintenance.

Marriage is to be the most intimate and committed relationship. In order to keep that noble position, a marriage must be continually groomed and maintained.

As life progresses, so do people. We change (hopefully for the better), and so do our spouses. My husband and I have been married for sixteen years, and we are not the same people we were on our wedding day. Sometimes this helps our marriage, and sometimes this makes things more challenging.

A husband and wife are two, intricate creatures who have joined themselves together. They have become one, yet they are still individuals. A husband and a wife may have different interests, personalities, opinions, and goals. In addition to that, a husband and wife are human. They have the potential to sin – to say and do things that will hurt their spouse.

Offenses come.

Distance comes.

Division comes.

Usually the degrading of a marriage comes
through the little sins we commit everyday.

Solomon 2:15
Catch us the foxes,
the little foxes that spoil the vines,
For our vines have tender grapes.

This is how we need to think! We need to catch the little foxes that are spoiling our marriages so we can preserve our most valuable relationship!

Each day we must be seeking to maintain our marriages. We need to watch for the little arguments and differences that seek to place a wedge between us and our spouses and deal with them.

We must forgive.
We must be gracious.
We must seek to love our spouses more than ourselves.

When we do this, our marriages will thrive and be the testimony they are supposed to be.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rejuvenate. Relax. Regroup.



I am currently on a weekend getaway with my husband, a much-needed vacation for just the two of us. Even as I break away from my full life's demands and schedule, it is easy for my soul to fall into hurry mode. 

Hurry. Run. Jump.

In my normal, everyday life I am working hard to undo that rush-around feeling. This weekend is perfect practice. On this getaway, there are no demands, no schedule, and no real pressure. All of time presents a clean slate. This is my great opportunity for rest, rejuvenation, relaxation, and regrouping. All of those important R words are vital to our health. It is important to have blank spots on our calendar and breathing breaks in our lives when we can just *BE*.

This weekend I am trying to do just that. I am trying to enjoy every moment, to stay calm, and to let this weekend do its work in the depths of my soul.

Have you made time for the R's lately?

Have you had adequate alone time?

Have you been able to evaluate your course of life and refresh your vision?

Have you been able to bond with your spouse, children, and other loved ones?

Rest. Rejuvenate. Relax. Regroup.

It's essential to your well-being!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Segmenting Life–Dealing with Life’s Busyness.

Live!

Soccer. Homeschooling. Church. Piano lessons. Violin lessons. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. My husband's needs. Church leadership. Ballet. Social engagements. My children’s needs. My blog ...

On any given day, these things occupy my brain and my time. Life is continual. Life is busy. Life is moving fast.

Our fall schedule is revving up, but the priorities of my life remain the same.

I want to live a full and joyful life, accomplishing God's will, remaining calm and thankful.

Sometimes we do need to focus on how we should simplify our lives and be less busy. However, there is a stark reality for many of us that our lives are going to be busy. I don’t think that is bad actually. We are meant to be busy – busy, but not overwhelmed, maxed out, and left for dead.

How can we experience more
victory in the midst of busyness?

Segment life.

The Lord has graciously been helping me learn this valuable lesson of segmenting life. I tend to be a “big picture” kind-of-girl and think about too many things at once. My mind spins and whirls and ends up paralyzing me (or at least slowing me down) rather than fueling me into greatness. Too much thought brings too much worry and doesn’t allow me to focus my energies on the real needs of THE MOMENT.

How can we segment life?

  • Do your best to THINK ABOUT TODAY, only.
  • Better yet, THINK ABOUT NOW. What is going on right NOW in your life that needs your full attention?
  • Don't focus on what is coming up, even later today, unless you have to prep for it.
  • Allow your mind and emotions to be fixated on the life experiences God has for you TODAY.

Worrying about the future, even hours from now,
simply robs us of serenity.

Feeling busy? Do your best to take each day (each moment) one-at-a-time.

Go to that soccer game and enjoy it.
Drive your child to the piano lesson and remember it is a blessing for your family.
Do that next load of laundry and be thankful you have a washing machine.
Do the dishes and listen to some pretty music.
Postpone something so you can spend more time with your loved ones right now.

Ask God to help you focus on now. Don’t get caught up with the scheduled events of your life and miss life itself. 

Live fully, calmly, and joyfully
with God’s help.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chicken Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma Collage

For some reason, I got myself in the mood to make Middle Eastern food.  Chicken Shawarma got into my brain, and I couldn’t get it out.  I searched the internet for recipes and found a couple that inspired me.

I started off using Rachael Ray’s recipe. That was my inspiration. I basically used her spice mix for the chicken, sautéed some peppers and onions, and grilled the Naan, just as she does.

I also cut some cucumbers into thin strips and diced some tomatoes.

Then, I made my own custom sauce – 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 1 heaping tablespoon of hummus, and 1 clove of garlic, pressed.

Finally, I assembled it all together, and it was better than good! 

A layer of the sauce, chicken, peppers, onions, cukes, and tomatoes, all inside a nicely-warmed slice of Naan bread.  Delish!

Chicken Shawarma
serves 4 to 6
printable version

1 T coriander
1 T cumin
1 T cardamom
1 T chili powder (or less if your chili powder is spicy)
1 T paprika
1 T grill seasoning
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 bell peppers, sliced (I used orange)
2 onions, sliced

1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 tomatoes, diced

Yogurt Sauce:  1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 1 heaping tablespoon of hummus, and 1 clove of garlic, pressed.

6 slices of Naan bread

Combine spices, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a shallow platter. Coat both sides of chicken with spice mix. Marinate for about 15 minutes. Grill, until the chicken is completely cooked.

Grill peppers and onions in olive oil.

Grill Naan, until warmed and charred a bit.

Layer yogurt sauce, chicken, peppers, onions, cukes, and tomatoes inside of Naan bread!  YUM!  A meal the whole family will love!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sow to the Spirit, Reap from the Spirit

Sow to the Spirit

Galatians 6:7-8
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Usually when I think about this verse, I think about the man who is reaping to the flesh, the foolish man who follows folly, chooses wrong, and chases after the world and its ways. I think of someone who is making poor decisions and think, “A man reaps what he sows”.

However, I read this verse again recently and God prompted me with the other part of this verse:

“He who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life”.

The Bible is clear that the man who follows wisdom and chooses God’s ways prospers – just read the book of Proverbs. The man who sows to the Spirit WILL reap from the Spirit! There is a guarantee.

Just after the Bible lays out the law of sowing and reaping, the following verse, Galatians 6:9, states: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Are you losing heart?  Do you feel like your labors in the Spirit are to no avail? 

Don’t give up!

If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap!

Pray.
Think pure things.
Flood yourself with good influences.
Read your Bible.
Read uplifting books.
Choose godly friends.
Worship.
Attend church regularly and become an integral part of the Body of Christ.
Keep trusting God.
Don’t. Give. Up!

Psalm 1 gives a beautiful picture of the man who goes against the grain to delight in God’s ways.

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Want to prosper? Sow to the Spirit and reap His fruit!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Take Time to Smell the Roses

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In this day and age of technology and machines, our lives are supposed to be better . . . simpler.

In some ways, that is true, but in other ways, that isn’t so true.

We are hurried.
We are stressed.
We live in a frenzy.
Our calendars are extremely full.
We barely have enough emotional margin for life to require something extra.

Today, in the midst of your hustle and bustle,
take time to smell the roses.

Calm your pace.
Enjoy life.
Smile.
Hug your family.
Call a friend.
Light a candle.
Pour a cup of tea or coffee and drink it s-l-o-w-l-y.
Read a book in peace.
Unplug from the TV, computer, and phone and just be ALIVE in your moments.
Draw.
Sew.
Sit on your porch.
Appreciate your toddler’s cuteness.
Place your growing child on your lap.
Hang out with your older child.
Snuggle your husband.

Relish the beauty of life that exists
within your grasp every day.

Take time to smell the roses.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

To the Mom of a Wayward Child

Wayward

As a mom, you pour into your children, hoping they will succeed.  You hope they will grab the torch you passed to them and run with endurance, shining Jesus' light and carrying it to the next generation.

What happens though when your child grows up and rejects the truths you taught him? 

Pain.
Sorrow.
Heaviness.
Tears.
More pain.
Worry.
Fear.
Discouragement.

These monsters want to plant themselves in your soul and weigh you down, making you ineffective.

When your child grows up and rejects everything you taught him, it feels like pure death, BUT God has hope for YOU.

God has a plan for you, apart from the choices your child is making.

  • He wants you to be productive.
  • He wants you to be an integral part of His community of believers.
  • He wants you to live a life of freedom and joy.

Mother of a wayward child, I see you.  I feel your pain, for it can be overwhelming at times.

However, don't let the enemy keep you there, in a pit of pain.

Fix your eyes on God and the purposes he has for YOU.

  • Make goals for yourself.
  • Seek productivity rather than passivity.
  • Surround yourself with godly people always.

Keep going.  Keep serving.

And in the midst of it all, keep praying for your wayward child.

Sending you a virtual hug today!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Encouraging Bloggers

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I still remember the day… A few years ago I paid for a blog consultation, hoping to improve my blog.  Really, I was looking for some basic tips on graphic design, reaching readers, making good content, etc.  When I got off the phone, I was nearly in tears.  Okay, I think I was in tears.

I felt pressure to build my blog into a business, making money through ads – something I was not ready to do at the time – and spend at least three hours a day on the internet building my blog.

Three hours a day on the internet?  Nope.  Not gonna do it.  I can’t do it.

Some people may be able to afford that kind of time on the internet.  Not me.  Not at this point of my life.

I guess if I needed the money, I would have been able to justify the time online.  However, I wasn’t doing it for the money.  I was writing and blogging because I have a passion in my heart for it. 

I have a passion to share the love and knowledge of God with others.
I have a passion to equip moms, wives, homemakers, and women to live better lives for God.
I have a passion to share my love for the family and home.

That’s what keeps me going.  My passion.

If you are a blogger, you know it is easy to get discouraged.  It is easy to see the popular bloggers and compare yourself to them.  Sometimes the urge to quit reveals its ugly head, and you push past it, hoping you are making a difference in someone’s life.

Let me encourage you.

If you are following God’s will for your life and sharing your talents with others, you ARE making and WILL make a difference.

You may not have the size crowd you want, and it may not come when you want it.  Nonetheless, you WILL touch people’s lives.

If you have a blog, let me encourage you.

Keep writing.
Keep praying to see how God wants to use your blog.
Keep plodding along in small ways to make your blog known to the world via social media, friends, etc.
Don’t compare yourself to others.  Focus on the task God has for you.

Here are some other resources for blog encouragement.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tilapia Tacos

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When I made these tacos last week, my son did not realize I had used tilapia.  He was about to say, “Mom, you should try these with fish”, when he realized I DID use fish.

These tacos are fresh, healthful, and tasty!

Tilapia Tacos
makes about 12 tacos
printable version

1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 or 4 tilapia filets
1 or 2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper
corn tortillas
handful of cilantro, chopped
feta cheese, optional

Season tilapia filets with lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.P7160003

Saute onion and peppers in olive or coconut oil until they are well-cooked.P7160002

Remove from pan.

Add more oil to the same pan, if necessary, to sauté tilapia filets.  Sauté for a few minutes on one side.  Flip and sauté for a few more minutes until fish is fully-cooked and flaky. 

Flake fish in pan and cook for another minute or two.

Take fish off heat and season with more lime juice and salt.

Warm corn tortillas, if desired, and fill them with peppers and fish.

Top with cilantro and feta cheese.

Enjoy!