Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oh by golly, have a Holly Jolly!!

This has been a different kind of week for me!! I've had just weird stuff going on - between my allergies, a virus and a million balls in the air that all simply must be juggled I think I may go crazy... but alas! NO!!! I refuse to give up and give in to the preholiday ugh!! Being a Salvation Army officer this can be the busiest, and easily the most stressful time of year but let's be honest - things are only what you allow them to be most of the time... And I absolutely refuse to be overwhelmed! I choose joy - or rather - this week, anyway - I choose HOLLY JOLLY!!!

"What is this "Holly Jolly" of which she speaks?" you may say... Let me tell you - it is holiday heaven in a mug!!!

I was reading a lovely Hannah Swensen "Murder She Baked" novel by Joanne Fluke last holiday season and the lovely Hannah went to a Christmas Tree farm and ordered a "Holly Jolly." This beverage was described as an orange cinnamon mocha and seriously sounded like something I absolutely had to have!!! Since I was technically reading the book with my ears (LOVE me some audible.com!!) I didn't have access to the recipe index in the print version and search as I might I never could find an actual recipe for this tasty sounding treat! I asked at my local coffee shop and at Starbucks if they could possibly make something similar for me but they didn't carry orange syrup so that was a bust... UNTIL NOW!!!! I've come up with a recipe all on my own and I can't wait for everyone to try this!!! Seriously - you had better be prepared to bust out a tacky Christmas sweater and put on some carols - or at least watch Elf for goodness sakes!

 
HOLLY JOLLY MOCHA COFFEE CREAMER
 
 
 
 
1 3/4c. milk (I used skim)
1, 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3Tbsp. Cocoa powder*  
1/2 Tbsp. Orange Extract
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon (it really depends on how spicy you like it!!)
 
 
Over medium heat, whisk together milks in a medium sauce pan. Add cinnamon and gradually whisk in the cocoa powder - it will not all "dissolve" - just won't.
 
 
 
Continue to whisk and stir until combination begins to steam - about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange extract. Allow to cool ten minutes or so before transferring to creamer container. Refridgerate - lasts about 3 weeks.
 
 
 
 
**please use Fair Trade Cocoa if it is available - I'm currently out and had this left from a while back... the little things we can do go a LONG way!! For more on what Fair Trade means and why this is so important, click here, here, and here.**
 
 
 
I do have a little confession to make - I have alterior motives for making my coffee creamers... Yes... it's true!! I make them to help motivate me to get out of bed in the morning!! I know I shared a few weeks back about the "plague" that visited our house and how I took that as a kick in the pants to be more committed in my quiet time each morning. At first, for fear of frogs and other such things, I was really good about waking on time. I really do enjoy that quiet, predawn time alone with God... but... dawn is coming later these days and my allergies are acting up, and I've got some back issues, and, and, and... the list goes on... So as I've begun to slack off, my sisterchick Tracey over at "A Shabby Chick Ministry" and I have challenged each other to keep up this positive momentuum and not give in to the grouchies that would say sleep trumps time with Jesus... because well - sleep doesn't trump Jesus-  He promises, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11: 28.
 
... and thus the coffee!!! Not because getting up earlier has made me exhausted!!! But in addition to getting to spend time with Jesus I really do look forward to a tasty cup of coffee!! It is added motivation for sure ... AND...  I've picked back up a series that I have long loved and I'm working my way through "Coffee Cup Bible Studies." They've inspired many a morning, and I'll be honest with you, they have really been used to spur me on, and challenge my heart in ways I've TOTALLY needed it!! Check it out - maybe you'll find it is helpful to you too!!
 
Until next weekend - Have a Holly Jolly!!!
 
 
 


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Julie/Julia Project

A couple years ago what is perhaps now my favorite movie came out - Julie & Julia. This evening, as a way of relaxing and just unwinding from what has been a bit of a stressful week, I am watching this wonderful expression of personal discovery! Once again I am whisked (pardon my pun!) away  by this beautiful story with which I identify on several levels. I am comforted by Julie's honesty - her feelings of inadequacy, struggle with a sense of accomplishment, and sense of escape found in the kitchen. I adore Julia's deovtion, her goofiness, and the way she is utterly in love with her husband! I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie!!!
 
So here I am enjoying this incredible feel good movie and I am taken aback by this line, "So there I was and... it turned out to be Julia. It's always been Julia." Ahhh... I suppose I'm just a hopeless romantic at heart. Then I look over at my husband and I am wooed once again by his cuteness, his intelligence, and his willingness to let me just be me. What an incredibly blessed girl I am.
 
This week I have nothing exciting in the world of kitchen adventures or crafting exploits to report. I have only this - I am one lucky lady! I've seen a lot this week - not all of it so pretty which is an unfortunate part of the ministry, and not all of it has been disturbing - not by a long shot! Tonight, I guess I'm just writing this post to say that if I could convey any one thing, it would be that whether you've see pretty things this week or not so much - whether you've been pretty things this week or not so much - you are loved!!
 
In watching this movie & looking around my living room with my kiddos cuddled under a blanket, the kitties atop that, the laundry stacked and ready to be put away and my husband by my side this is just what I feel - so incredibly loved! More than the love of my family, I am loved by Jesus.
 
Nothing deep or revolutionary and yet this is the most revolutionary thing ever - the love of Jesus that is... I could go on and on about this but for now I will leave you with that thought alone to think on, contemplate and meditate... I am loved! YOU ARE LOVED!!
 
"AMAZING LOVE!! HOW CAN IT BE? THAT THOU MY GOD WOULDST DIE FOR ME!!!!"
 
Good night all!! Have a LOVELY week!!
 
 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

$100 for a Month of Dinner Entrees? Can it be done? YEPPERS!!

Over the weekend my sisterchick Tracey (www.traceyguilliams.com - check her out!!) challenged me to try and make 22 dinners with $100 or less! At first I thought there was NO WAY this could be accomplished! I mean seriously - I spend almost $100 a week for groceries and that just dinners and breakfasts!! NEVER AGAIN!!! I will never again go back to wasting money like that... I mean of course we would eat all of the food, but there were many non-food purchases or junk food splurges that are made when I go every week - for example - there is a Starbucks in my grocery store and so there is a "mandatory" splurge of ~$4 every 10 times I go it there - of course that 11th trip is free (Note to self - update Starbucks account with new address!!!) since I have a gold card but still... that's some bankable splurge $$ - in a year, if I just cut out 3 trips to the grocery a month, I've saved $144 in coffee splurge money alone!! That's a really great spa treatment!!! Ahhhhh!!!

These are the steps I took in preparing for this adventure (and that's totally how I view this - an adventure!!) in uber-thriftiness - hope you find them helpful!! Keep in mind that this is only the main course of our dinner meal - it's not like I've made 22, 3-course meals here... but it is a decent sized entree for four people (we're two girls, two boys in our house - ages 34, 34, 10 & 9...)

  • Determine what meals you'd like to make - think of thing that freeze well. For inspiration take a stroll down the freezer aisle (inlist a friend to take your wallet from you so you don't "accidentally" stock up on Stouffer's mac& cheese!) or - and this is safer - explore pinterest! Type in "freezer meals and you'll be bombarded with everything you ever wanted to know about the subject! For reals!

  • Make a master shopping list - I included most everything except for stuff that is regularly in my pantry unless there was an extraordinary amount of something like the chili powder for this shopping trip. Here's my master list...
          • 38 chicken breasts (I've started splitting the breasts I get at the store - they're portioned so large they should be split for healthy eating reasons anyway...)
          • 6lbs ground turkey/beef
          • 1lb. ham
          • 6 cans Cream Of Chicken Soup
          • 4 cans Kidney beans
          • 4 cans diced tomatoes
          • 2 cans (19. oz) red, mild enchilada sauce
          • 2 cans (4.5 oz) chopped green chilis
          • 4 cans chicken broth
          • 3 taco seasoning packets
          • 2 packs Burrito size tortillas
          • 1lb. Swiss cheese
          • vegetable oil
          • olive oil
          • self rising flour
          • chili powder (1/2 c.)
          • soy sauce
          • Worchestershire sauce
          • parsley (dried will do)
          • red wine vinegar
          • Italian bread crumbs
          • 16oz jar of salsa
          • noodles
          • dijon mustard
          • 5 sticks butter
          • Parmesan cheese
          • Greek yogurt
          • eggs
          • frozen carrots
          • onions
          • celery
          • garlic
          • lemon juice
          • cheddar cheese
          • American cheese

  • Time to shop your own kitchen!! I got this tip from www.blissfulanddomestic.com (click here for exact post I read) Go through your freezer and pantry and see what you already have - such a simple step but I wasn't regularly doing this - this tip has totally changed my world!! Here's everything I found in my pantry:

          • 4 frozen chicken breasts
          • 1lbs. ground turkey
          • frozen carrots
          • onions (frozen)
          • celery (frozen)
          • 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
          • 3 cans of black beans - subbing in for 3 of the cans of kidney beans
          • 1 large can of tomato sauce - subbing in for 2 cans of diced tomatoes
          • 4c. noodles
          • bread crumbs
          • Worchestershire sauce
          • 3 sticks of butter
          • Greek yogurt
          • cheddar cheese
          • American cheese
          • garlic
          • red wine vinegar
          • soy sauce
          • veg oil
          • 1 can diced chilis
          • bouillion cubes - subbing in for cans of broth
          • bisquick - subbing in for self-rising flour
          • salsa

  • Bust out the ol' computer and your coupon file and search it out!! Look for all the deals you can! Don't forget to check your favorite brands website for any special coupons or perhaps their facebook pages too - a lot of times if you like a product on fb, you get a coupon towards your next purchase - yay!! Also be sure to check sites like www.southersavers.com and www.couponmom.com that will compile all the specials and coupons for you - takes a TON of the work out for you! Double check the "VIP" programs for the stores in your area, or their websites to see if they have a "silent" sale for their members or personalized sales. I found that my store had frozen chicken breasts as the manager's special for the week - yeah - I'd rather have fresh, but given the cost savings how could I refuse?! Seriously the 2.5lb. bag was $3.99!! Can't beat that!!! I grabbed a couple of coupons from www.target.com too. We don't have a super target, but the pantry section is pretty decent and they had a special on their store brand tortillas too!! Sweet!

  • Shop!! I know - what every woman lives for, right? Umm... no, not me... I can think of 100 different ways I'd rather spend my off-time!! Here's the list I took with me to the stores...
          • 34 chicken breasts
          • 5 lbs. ground beef/turkey
          • 1lb. ham
          • 4 cans Cream of Chicken soup
          • 1 can Kidney beans
          • 2 cans diced tomatoes
          • 2 cans (19oz) red, mild enchilada sauce
          • 1 can chopped chilis
          • 3 packets taco seasoning
          • 2 packs Burrito size tortillas
          • 1lb. Swiss cheese
          • Parmesan cheese
          • eggs
          • 2 sticks butter
          • milk
          • lemon juice
          • olive oil (of all the times to run out!!!)
          • chili powder
So here's how I made out in the end...
           Target                 $42.82
            Harris Teeter   +  51.97
           TOTAL              $94.17

Now you may have noticed, I left out the flank steaks... and I intended to buy it with what I had left over once I realized I forgot it... but now I've got an overage of chicken breasts and I'm going to use the marinade on that instead of buying the beef... yes - it's a chicken heavy month but seriously - with Cordon Bleu on the menu, who cares!!!??!!! Once the groceries are in your kitchen get to cookin'... Some folks advise doing it all at once - I've been doing a little at a time. I've made the chicken tacos, enchiladas (I froze them as rolled burritos and I'll make as the casserole when we decide to have it... this way we can eat them as burritos if we'd rather...), meatloaves, chicken pies, chicken cordon bleus, chili, chicken noodle soup, and oven fried chicken. I've still got the chicken gyros, marinated chicken breasts (subbed in for flank) and the chicken kiev to go... Hopefully I'll be done by tomorrow and then the rest of the month should be smooth sailing and happy eating!!

That's it - I hope you found it helpful. Between the links and the tips you should totally be able to do this too. Most of what I was able to get came from store specials and not coupons - I had almost $40 in specials savings and only $4 in coupons... Imagine what the savings will be when I amp up the couponing - woot!! I can see a lot more spa trips on the horizon... ok - so truthfully, it enables our family to pay off our bit of credit card therapy faster and have savings for those fun things we want to do - to the tune of almost $300 each month!! What?! And eating at home is healthier than eating out... and eating planned meals just takes the one decision out of the days craziness!!



To this I say - woot!! I can do all things - including feeding my family for less - through Christ who gives me strength - and kitchen savvy! Yeah - not exactly Philippians 4:13 but it is the essence of what is there... along with this one... "My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory," Phil 4:19... not as often memorized but nonetheless true and power-filled. Walk in His provision today...

PS - ok - so not exactly a "post script" but... Seeing as all these meals freeze super well, you will always have something in the freezer to take to a friend in need - when a baby is born, when a loved one dies, when someone is sick, and even when you just see a sister stressed beyond measure... share what you've got in that freezer - you've just saved a bundle on your grocery bill so you can afford to be generous ;-)



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Rude Awakening!!!

Were you aware that 5 o’clock happens TWICE a day? I was totally clueless… ok – so not completely! I have, however, had a recent reintroduction to this hour that was well – shocking to say the least!!!

 “MOM!!!! COME QUICK!!!!!!” Yes – that’s the sound that roused me at 5AM – I thought that perhaps my son had a bloody nose as he often does during peak allergy seasons. And if not that, perhaps Jbird’s feeling sick – really, really sick! And if not ill, perhaps he’s had a nightmare, the really terrifying kind… no, it was none of these things. It was something MUCH more surprising – MUCH more unexpected – a never-in-a-million-years-would-I-have-guessed-it kind of thing! It was a frog – on his bedpost – looking at us wondering what we were doing in his forest! Am I for real – of yes – I most assuredly am!

 It was one of those moments that you wish you had only thought to grab the camera before disposing of the problem… but as it was, catch and release was the only thing on my mind after I stopped laughing – and when I say laughing – it was the kind of laughing you expect that the old lady who swallowed the fly did – “she swallowed a bird – how absurd!” I wonder what the lyrics would have been if she had swallowed a frog – “it felt like a log to swallow a frog”? I digress…

 But this is how I awoke… It took about fifteen minutes to settle my boy back down – I can only imagine the fun dreams he had after that one!! And of course, going back to his bed was not really an option just yet… so that meant dear ol’ mom was up for the day… what could I possibly do for the next hour and a half whilst waiting to be able to make racket?!!

I made Ramen noodles for Zebra’s lunch. I read several internet articles. I prayed. I wiped the kitchen counters… and then I sat down, cup of coffee in hand. I sat down in a spot that I am confident will be my spot in this new-to-us house… and I prayed some more… I prayed for my Jbird, that as he grows that he would have confidence & be strong in mind, body and spirit. I prayed for my husband, to have certainty in the plans being laid. I prayed for my Zebra who is seemingly as resilient as the day is long, that she would keep that happy spirit and always know joy. And I prayed for myself to – to feel at home.

It’s funny how God uses strange things to get our attention. It’s funny too that we don’t always get it the first go round, or the second, or even the third… and if you’re as stubborn as I am you still don’t get it the fourth or the fifth time either!! I’ve been struggling with keeping my quiet time lately – not feeling settled into a routine, and not feeling at home in this house – not feeling at home in my skin, truth be told… and this bothers me! Oddly enough – as bothered as I have been it hasn’t prompted me to be any more intentional in keeping the one meeting I know will help with this… that meeting being my time alone, in the still quiet with Jesus.

 

I’m sooooo not a morning person, so I justify not getting up early saying that God made me the way He did and so He must know that I’m more a meet-you-in-the-watch-of-the-night kind of girl… but then when 9PM comes, I put the kids to bed and click on HGTV until I pass out… I vow, if only I could sleep well at night then I wouldn’t have a problem getting up in the morning… but the alarm goes off, my back aches, my sinuses protest and I hit snooze, getting up with just enough time to get the kids out the door for school with breakfast in their bellies and, on a good day, a smile on their faces… the cycle continues… tomorrow… tomorrow… tomorrow… and much like the 80s Larnelle Harris song, “tomorrow might very well be to late…”

So today, God sends a frog – at 5AM!!!  I’m thinking I’d better have my heart turned by this “plague of frog” because when I read Exodus, and see gnats, flies, livestock, boils…. I think yeah – I think I’ve learned my lesson – I’ll not keep Your child from worshipping You, Lord, any longer… Whether my back cracks, my sinuses scream, my alarm annoys… 5AM – ready or not – here I come!

 1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’” Exodus 8:1-4, NIV

 

And the best part is – the days will only get better from here!
 
Oh - and FYI - our friend looked something like this....
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Crazy Good Caramel Coffee Creamer

I know I’m supposed to be working on my tutorial for amazing meatloaf sliders, but when I got in the kitchen tonight I just wanted to make creamer more!! So… I did!!

It’s just been a sleepy kind of day – cloudy, raining off and on through out the afternoon… and well – it’s Monday! Enough said I do believe!!

Since it’s getting to be fall, and because I just love caramel… that’s the kind of creamer I made – blending a couple of recipes pinned on pinterest (I Like All Beverage- yea... The nonalcoholic kind... / The Virtuous Wife: Homemade Caramel Macchiato Coffee Creamer Tutorial & Do it at home: Homemade flavored coffee creamer) I came up with this recipe.

Right now I’m enjoying my first cup of joe even as I write this blog  (decaf – it’s evening afterall – and the school bell rings so dog gone early!! Hope you enjoy it as much as I am!!! Have a happy!!

 

Crazy Good Caramel  Coffee Creamer 


Creamer Ingredients:

  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 ounces milk (1 ¾ c.)  - I used skim
  • 1 c. caramels (1 used 24 Kraft caramels – unwrapped of course!!)
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a small sauce pan, whisk together  milks – no heat Is required for this step…

  1. Over medium heat add caramels & extract






3. Whisk continually until caramels are blended in smoothly – about 8 to 10 minutes – it took me 11 minutes…


 4.  Allow to cool a little – about 10 minutes



5. Pour into creamer receptacle – whether you have an awesome glass jar, a cute tiny pitcher for creamer, or are doing like I did and reusing an old creamer container it will need to be large enough to hold about 2.5 cups of liquid gold!!



6. Store in refrigerator – keeps for several weeks – or so I’ve heard!! Won’t be lasting that long at my house!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Cinnamon Kind Of Day!!

This week has been the first crazy busy week since arriving in our new home! It’s been WONDEFUL!!! I love activity! I thrive on it!! There is nothing quite so awful as being bored out of your skull!!! Don’t get me wrong – it’s exhausting! But it’s the good kind of exhausting – the kind that when you put your head on the pillow at night you realize that you did something with your day!! I love that!! I’ve met with some new colleagues in nonprofits and service fields! Visited with old friends! Shared meals & God’s Word with His people. Cuddled up beside the best kiddos in the world! Planned, snuggled and loved on my husband. Welcomed my mom home safely from Armenia!! And… successfully helped my Dad carry out a surprise Mom mission – SUCCESS is so sweet!!!

I’ve had a one notable culinary adventure too!! YAY!! Although Chicken Carbonara Ravioli was on the menu wednesday, and I do totally still want to give that one a go, it felt more like a nachos kind of night!! So I started browning the ground turkey (yeah – I’ve got hi cholesterol so I sub in the low fat turkey stuff when I can…) and I realized that I don’t have any more taco seasoning… I’ve got about a bajillion recipes for that pinned so I pulled one up and went to adding ingredients…. Chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and cinnamon… yeah – you read that right!! I totally thought I had put my hand on the cumin – for the life of me, I totally thought that I had cumin in my hand… and after adding 1.5 TBSP to my meat I gasped!!! WHAT HAD I DONE!!!! Gross!!! Cinnamon nachos?! What? There was no time for back up brownies as prayer meeting was a mere 45 minutes away… I did what all good mothers and food conservationists everywhere have done – I served it up anyway!! And it was truly the most unique thing we ate this week – YIKES! No one got sick and no one went hungry… we did however go through a huge jar of salsa that would normally last us a week!! Yeah… this summed up this crazy, run-around-the-world, meeting-filled, exciting-week-of -Woot!!

I only ended up making one of the dishes verbatim off of the pinterest list this week – We were out of town or entertaining guests (not letting them be guinea pigs unwittingly!!) for several nights, and we NEVER skip pizza night!!

The dish I made was the Mac & Cheese quiche. I made this Tuesday whilst Mr. Chill was unavailable – and… once again – I’m the only one who liked it!! In our house we’ve adopted a scale rating – more than thumbs up or down… if it rates 6 or under we throw away the recipe and never make it again… if it’s a 7-10 we keep it in regular rotation…

Here’s how the Mac & Cheese Quiche rated:
JBird:   5
Zebra: 4
Me: 7

So – it won’t be made again in our home sadly… oh well… it was a bit bland. The recipe doesn’t really call for much seasoning so I would recommend adding flavors you know you like – if I were doing this one over I would add salt, garlic powder and some mustard.

The dish I tried this week was a meatloaf slider!!! It’s my own invention – my very first foray into written recipes and…. Drum roll please… 

Meatloaf Sliders:
            JBird:  10!!
            Zebra: 9
            Mr. Chill: 9
            Me:      9

I will be posting the tute for that really soon!! I forgot to take pictures so when I make it as a freezer meal later on this week (preparing for my sis to babysit in a two weeks whilst Mr. Chill & I attend a conference) Zebra has graciously offered to photograph for me! Yay for team efforts!!

This week has also been crazy for many of my friends and family – in some good ways and in some not so much ways… And the “not so much” ways -  that’s rough! There’s nothing quite so hard as seeing someone you love in pain (the physical or emotional kind) and not being able to make it all better with the snap of a finger, a quick, witty word or a hug – afterall hearts don’t rebound, the lost don’t get found, and the new seasons don’t come ‘round quite that quickly or easily sometimes… Unlike my cinnamon debacle, fixing those times that we reach for the wrong thing isn’t as easy as adding more salsa.

There was a time in my life, not to long ago, when I questioned just about everything I was doing – was I on the right career path? Was I really following God’s call for my life? Was I really trusting Him – if so, then why was I struggling so much? Lots and lots of questions… during an afternoon visit with some friends who also happen to be pastors, they shared some words of real wisdom that have gotten me through every dark time of questioning since – “Never question in moments of darkness decisions made in the Light.” I’ve taken that to mean that when I’m filled with doubt, and guilt (not to be confused with conviction) and shame – things that are not of the Lord, I need to be reminded of those things that He has shown me when I’ve been in a better place – emotionally, yes – and spiritually.

When I’m embodying Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer, it’s important for me to get perspective and not be persuaded to believe that everything God has shown me is wrong… If I know He helped with certain decisions, even if the resulting consequence or reward was not what I expected, I have to trust His leading! If I know that He is at work in my body when I am well, I have to trust that He is still working within me when I’m physically sick – to overcome, or to allow me to learn through the experience… In all things, I have to know that whether the situation makes sense to me or not, now or tomorrow, His love remains – He remains – unchanged.

The key to discernment is not in having all the answers. It’s in knowing where to look for them. This is definitely good on those rough days – when we reach for the cumin and wind up with cinnamon…

“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,

And find the knowledge of God.”
Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)

On my dark days...  my cinnamon days… I just want to know Him more!






Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Results Are In... Pinterest Menu, Week 1

As I confessed yesterday - we didn't exactly stick to the menu this week - we had some successes and some - well... less than successful culinary moments! Here's the breakdown...

September 1 - Pizza Puffs - these were spicier than we expected but super good!! Didn't like them so much with pizza sauce for dipping but with ranch - YUM!!
Mr. Chill:     Ok
Jbird: Not so much
Zebra: Not so much
Me: Yum!

September 4: Cheesy Oven Fried Chicken— I messed this one up—I confess. I couldn’t believe that the chicken would be done in such a short period of time, so I added ten minutes to the cook time. DO NOT DO THAT!!! The flavors were all there but the chicken itself was difficult to ear. I made enough to freeze a meal’s worth so when I make it later this month from the frozen I should, hopefully, be able to give a better opinion of this!

Mr. Chill: Next time don't bake it so long...
Jbird: Totally forgettable
Zebra: Yeah - we don't need to keep this recipe.
Me: whoopsy!


In other news, my school days friend Susie from over at www.castleblake.blogspot.com  has nominated me for a Leibster Award… So sweet! And it’s really fun too. Here’s how the award works:
 
The Rules of the Award: The Liebster Award is given to bloggers, by bloggers. It is a way to acknowledge each other and say, "You are doing a great job." It is for blogs with 200 or less followers, so it is also a great way to spread the word about smaller blogs and get them more readers and followers! When you receive the award you post eleven random facts about yourself, and answer eleven questions from the person who nominated you. You pass the award onto eleven other blogs, (make sure you let them know they were nominated,) and ask them eleven questions. You are not allowed to nominate the blog that nominated you.

These are the questions Susie asked for me to answer—putting my thoughts and answers down was surprisingly more difficult than I thought!!


 
1. What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
 
A few years ago we took the kids to NYC for their first time. It was also my husband’s first time there as well. We traipsed all over the place, road subways, and the museums—oh my!! We were in heaven!! We also had the opportunity to visit with family and our best friends as well… And for the first time in my life, I was relaxed enough to enjoy the city and not be afraid and completely over stimulated by the sheer size of it all. It was incredible!!

2. What is the most daring thing you've ever done?
 
That’s a funny question for me!! Seriously! I am the most boring human being on the face of the planet and rarely try things I don’t think I will succeed at doing—so not an uncalculated risk taker! However, there was this one time… isn’t that how all the best, juicy stories begin… So there was this one time I was on a trip with all the freshmen teaching fellows… we were at a state park ( I think it was Chimney Rock but could totally be wrong!) and it was hot! There was a waterfall there so we decided that we would just strip down to our skivvies in broad daylight, with other tourists all around, and jump in the waterfall… Yeah—that was pretty awesome!

3. What is something you wish you could do better?
 
I wish I were a better pianist! And I know I could be if I would practice and such, but that’s not really something I make time for… if you really want to be better at something doesn’t it stand to reason that you then work towards that end? So I suppose my actual wish is that I were better at site reading piano music…

4. What are your favorite food flavors?
 
OOOOOH!!! This is a fun one!! My favorite flavors are those of fall!! Yeah—I know that you won’t find that on your taste buds exactly, but I love the flavors of that season more than any others out there!! Apple, cinnamon, chili… the quintessential Thanksgiving bite is what I live for!! Any time of year there is just something about an apple crisp, sweet potato anything and a pumpkin latte! And like I said, don’t forget the chili and all the fabulous weekend with friends and a good football game (as if I watch any of them!!) kinds of food!!

5. What is your favorite dessert?
 
Hands down—easiest question here—Crème Brule !

6. What is your favorite thing to actually cook?
 
Hmmm… I love to cook different kinds of chicken—I love the blank canvas of chicken that will absorb any of the flavors you decide to play with at any given time…

7. What do you long for?
 
I long to feel settled! This is an incredibly temporal question—the answer to which is constantly changing… Today, I long for my boxes to be all unpacked and for the house we are living in to feel like home… I long to feel I’m settled in my office—that I know where things are and what my new role is… That’s today’s longing—tomorrow—perhaps something completely different! World peace!

8. How do you celebrate your favorite holiday?
 
It’s hard for me to pick just one… but weird as it is gonna sound, I love that we celebrate Hanukah in our home the most. Each of those eight crazy nights, we push pause on everything at sundown, turn out all the lights and everything electronic, light candles, pray as a family and remember God’s incredible provision! Being Christian, we recognize this provision through the gift of Jesus Christ. We play games by the candlelight and simply enjoy God’s provision through the love and the support of each other...

9. When/how/why did you know your spouse was "the one"?
 
At the start of our sophomore year of college, Ray & I found ourselves living in different towns, attending different universities. I knew that what we had was a forever kind of love when I exerted my own voice and made decisions on my own and had some pretty different opinions on what was really important and he didn’t back down either… I found that I wasn’t lost in being what he wanted and that he wasn’t deterred by our views not being 100% identical. We maintained our own identities and could see being my own person and at the same time one with him… does that make sense? All this, over the course of one weekend and a conversation from a bathroom stall in a dorm room… yeah—we’re strange!

10. What is your favorite beverage?
 
Well—what is the weather outside? My number one go-to drink would have to be… hmmm… apple cider—just love that stuff—hot or cold—and yes, the American, nonalcoholic version is what I mean…

11. What is one tradition your family had when you were growing up that you'd like to continue with your family?
 
Dinner time. Every night growing up my mom cooked supper for our family. We all gathered around the table, partook of her amazing culinary genius and shared our day together. We had to always use proper table manners (“may I please be excused to go…”) and we always had to eat our vegetables… We drank sweet tea by the pitcher and learned what love tasted like… it was good!


The following folks for their sheer awesomeness and total likeability, on you I bestow the Liebster Award!
 1) Tracey @ www.traceyguilliams.com
 2) Amanda @ www.boyflowerbird.blogspot.com
 3) Leslie @ www.lesliepjackson.blogspot.com
 4) Deanna @ http://deanna-l-deaton.blogspot.com/
5) Oh my goodness - I leave for a minute and where did my list go?!! And now a storm? Let me upload what I've got and re-input the rest later!! Yikes!! Technology and organization (maybe I should've wished to be better at one of those?!) you are not my friends!!
 
Please answer these questions:
 
1) If you could be any animal other than human, what would you choose to be?

2) What is your favorite board game?
 
3) What subject from school do find you utilize the most in your everyday life?

4) What artist’s creative stylings have had the most profound impact on you? This could be art in any of it forms—dance, music, sculpture, painting...
 
5) Most profound truth you would like to pass on to your children, or to others in your life?

6) What is your favorite season of the year?
 
7) Do you find yourself to be a morning, day or night person?

8) NPR—love it or hate it?
 
9) What is your most vivid, positive memory from the playground?

10) reality TV—take it or leave it?
 
11) Finally, and perhaps least importantly, if you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself? (yep—that’s for Tracey!!)


Friday, September 7, 2012

Weirdness of this week...


Although it was my sincere hope to post every Thursday, it’s looking like Saturdays it is… just fits better with our schedule… Also seems as though my menu was a bit, shall we say, overly ambitious! I intended to cook every night this week and to stick to the pinterest menu, but alas, life has once again happened! I would love to say that I’ll be completely back on track this week, in all honesty, however, I know my life. We eat together every night, but it can’t always be a scratch-made or even semi-homemade meal each night… Time together around the table with no mobile devices, televisions, or screens of any kind this is my aim… so dear readers, I hope to make most of the things on the menu and I plan to continue to make monthly menus, but please forgive me, in advance, for not being so strict – I know you understand… thanks! I’ll be posting this weeks meal pics and family ratings tomorrow – for reals!

Ok – so weirdness of this week…

In January I chopped my hair off… Actually the major trimmings began months earlier, but in January I went short – shorter than I’ve ever gone… and predictably, I loved it for like two months but have been trying to grow it out ever since!

Currently, the hair (I don’t claim it as my own – it has a life of its own!), has had the most bizarre shape and I can’t keep up with it well. We’ve hit one, of what I am certain will be many, awkward phases. In an attempt to not shell out money every pay period for trims to avoid the mullet look it is rapidly developing, I have busted out an old friend from the 80s and early 90s! My curling iron!! WHAT?! Seriously – and yes – I do still own one!

I plugged that puppy in on Wednesday morning and I was surprised! Pleasantly so! Not by the coiffeur – although having some sense of cuteness returning to my do was more than welcomed!! I was surprised by the smell of my curling iron heating up – yeah – I notice weird stuff – but ladies – seriously – you know of what I speak!! There’s this scent of heating metal that is unique to styling devices – crimping irons have the same scent… and no, I don’t still have one of those.

What made the smell pleasant, however, was the way it immediately reminded me of Sunday mornings, special occasions, and holiday parties when my mom (you are awesome Lady!!) would curl my hair for me. She had a super hot curling iron that she had purchased from our hair dresser. Being in a family of super fine hair, this excess heat was necessary, as well as half of a bottle of Jhirmack hairspray (oh yeah – we were not an Aquanet house!!) in order for my feathered bangs to stay feathered, and my under roll to stay page-boy perfect. These were special times though – Mother-daughter times… times when my sister and I would fuss over who got to be with her first… times that occasionally were polished off with pink lipstick and a pair of Mom’s earrings! Good stuff!

 

It’s amazing how scents do that – they transport us in a way – no wonder Yankee Candle is such a powerful addiction!!! Scripture mentions smells as well – “…the pleasing aroma of Christ...” In fact we are called to be such scents among those who don’t yet know Him… in essence – they’ve had stuffed up noses and we are to be the “Vick’s.” We are to be the “squirt” girls of the department stores – well – not exactly… we are to wear the perfume of Jesus so that when we are around those who have never smelled the sweet scent of His love catch a whiff they simply MUST know where we got that scent… is it our soap, an expensive perfume… and then we tell them – it was a gift and the Giver of that sweet smelling nectar wants to give them a lifetime supply too!

2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” 

But, as the scripture notes – not everyone likes the scent. It’s their choice – so unlike with the “squirt” girls, we don’t force the perfume on others. We don’t sell it. We don’t bathe ourselves in the overkill of it so that it becomes a stench either. Rather – we wear it, with gladness and pray that it makes a lasting impression – one that as they say, “rescue[s] the perishing.”

How do you smell?          

                                                       

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back Up Brownies!!

This week's dinners have been comforting and calorie laden!! Thursday night, however, the frozen pizza I purchased- subpar doesn't even begin to describe the nastiness we attempted to partake!
 
Enter my rescue strategy- BACK UP BROWNIES!! There is nothing, and I mean nothing that can't be fixed with a little bite of chocolate scrumdiddeliumsciousness - yeah- its a real word ;-)!
 
Ok- so perhaps not everything- bad dinner, sure, and maybe even some bad days... But what about those days your bank account runs dry but the bills have not yet been all paid; the day the doctor's office calls and says they'd like you to come in to review your test results; the day the divorce papers arrive; the day the whole world stops and seemingly crumbles to the ground... Chocolate doesn't make those days better by a long shot.
 
On those days friends, well intentioned folks, and family members may say things like, "it'll get better with time," or "I'll be praying for you" and maybe they do... It's so hard to feel that God is a loving God on those. On those days we don't want to stand and sing, "This is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it." But does our lack of "feelin'" it make it any less true? Is God still the good God, Great Physician, Prince of Peace and Mighty Comforter on those days? YES! And He is so much more!
 
Keep in mind that God is the God who goes before the Israelite people in battle. He is the One who has seen afflictions of every kind and has used them to bring about His glory. Christ is the one who suffered on the cross and dealt with that very real, very painful reality. He knows what it is to do without- friends, money, food, shelter... He's been there too.
 
Two things to keep in mind on those dark days... 1) If Jesus Christ, Lord of all, Creator & Sustainer of the universe dealt with pain, suffering, and difficulty when He came as a man, why should we expect any different? and 2) If Christ Himself went thru all these things, then He knows what it takes to deal with them and He can certainly see us through our trials of many kinds.
 
Chocolate may make a rough dinner better, but for everything else, there's Jesus. I don't say that as a patent answer, I say that from experience as I've quit asking, "but why?" and learned to embrace the embrace of God Himself as He alone carries me – day be day.

 
"Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me." Psalm 23:4 NIV


 
Week Of Meals In Review

Monday – Croque Monsieur Mac & Cheese
            So tasty!!! So time consuming!! But did I mention that it is really tasty?!
            Our votes:
                   Jbird:          Smile 
                   Zebra:    Smile 
               Mr. Chill: Thumbs Up 
                    Me:    Thumbs Up 
Tuesday - Top of the Ridge Chicken
             Can I have some more please?! For this meal I went ahead and made doubles and froze one meal's
             worth - if it trns out I'll post a tute on that soon!! YAY!!
       Our votes:
              Jbird:        Thumbs Up 
              Zebra:    Thumbs Up 
                 Me:       Thumbs Up
           Mr. Chill: dinner meeting = no vote


Wednesday - Moravian Chicken Pie
           Jbird:   Roll 
           Zebra:  Wakka Wakka 
       Mr. Chill: Brows 
                 Me:  Way Too Happy (yeah - it was my favorite!!)

Thursday - Crack bread - the pizza doesn't need further review ( Blah )
           Jbird:  Woohoo! 
          Zebra:  Clappy 
      Mr. Chill:  Thumbs Up 
              Me: Teethy 
Friday - Emanadas!!!!
            Celebrating the end of the week with a wonderful meal!!! And that it was!! I made enough to have leftovers today!! YAY!! When I went to make this, however, I discovered that I had no taco seasoning - my home blended stash was walkabout... so I just started adding a dash and a smidge of the things I remembered were in it and Mr. Chill said it was the best ever to which I responded that he'd better enjoy it while he can because I didn't use a recipe... to which he rolled his eyes and hugged me and said, "Ahhh, yes, my wife - the mad scientist!"

           Jbird:    Rolly 1 
         Zebra:  Brows 
     Mr. Chill:  Raise The Roof 1 
             Me:  Sunshine (I'm walkin' on sunshine! Oh-oh!! And don't it feel good?! Hey!)
Until next time - have a great Labor Day weekend!! Enjoy friends, family, fun times!! And remember to be devoted to whatever you may do with all that you are!!