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!!) 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!

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!!
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 ( - 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 (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 and 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 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 ;-)