Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The secret

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  Phillipians 3:12-13

Paul had it right when he wrote this letter to the people of Phillipi. He passed on some valuable knowledge to his friends, but it was not something that he was just casually saying.

He had learned. How do we learn? We learn from doing, from experiencing, from hurting and growing. Paul had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, because he had lived in many different situations. By the time he had written this letter he had experienced many time of plenty and times of pain, and he knew that in all of those situations he felt the most content when he had his eyes fixed on Christ.

Being a follower of Christ doesn't mean that you will never face hard times. But what it does mean is that no matter what you face, you have the promise that Christ will never leave you. He will be your strength.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From my kitchen

Fresh bread cooling, working on a casserole to bake in preparation for lunch after church the next day, and dough in the bread machine for yummy whole wheat rolls. That's a full afternoon, even with a helper!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two years, and so much life

 My third and final baby turned two yesterday. Two years, and so much life, have gone by since her amazing home birth. I keep trying to find the words to describe my feelings, but I can't.

Three weeks after she was born, our family went through a trial that brought us closer to the breaking point than I ever want to be again. In a way, I think her birthday will always be a reminder of that for me. Remi Grace. In the two years since she was born, God has filled our lives with Grace abounding. She is a reminder of God's constant protection, constant guidance, and love overflowing. And, of course, His Grace. I can't imagine what our lives would be without it. I can't imagine what our lives would be without her.

God's Grace. My sweet Remi. My life is amazingly better because of both.

Friday, February 24, 2012

This morning

This morning I am loving:

* my morning coffee

*that my husband has been incredibly busy for the past two weeks and has still maintained a kind and loving disposition

*how joyful my 5 year old is, and how easily she can be brought to giggles (which is what one of her favorite uncles has actually nicknamed her)

*how my sweet, tenderhearted boy calls my almost 2 year old "fweetie" (for "sweetie")

*how my baby girl is so grown up, has an incredible vocabulary, and is figuring out just what role she plays in this family

*the 40 Days in the Word  study that my church and small group are doing; awesome!!

*that Spring seems to be showing up here and there; I have seen some crocuses blooming and my daffodils are just about to as well

*the anticipation I feel about getting my hands in the soil of my vegetable garden, and seeing just what this growing season will bring

Happy Friday to you all! We have a very special weekend coming up, as we celebrate our third and final baby turning 2. So much joy, so much emotion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So easy cheesy chicken enchiladas

(It's quite a spread when you are feeding five)

I don't have exact measurements for this recipe, because I loosely followed a recipe from my Food Nanny cookbook (actually, it's isn't mine, it belongs to the library, and just the fact that I referred to it as mine lets me know that I REALLY need to get my own copy) for the cooking times and temperature. But, it is so quick and easy that I know it will become a family favorite.

Chicken Enchiladas
-about a pound of chicken, cut into strips
-lots of shredded cheese, in any combination you choose (the recipe calls for monterey jack and pepper jack combined with cheddar, but I only had mozzarella to combine with cheddar)
-any enchilada fillers you choose (mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, etc)
-flat tortilla shells (you can use the big or small ones, but I can only find the big ones in whole wheat, so that is what I always use)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and liberally spray your baking dish with oil. I don't like much leftovers, so I just used a square baking dish and squeezed them in there.
2. Cook the chicken until done.
3. Lay your tortilla shell out, fill it as much as you want with chicken, cheese, and whatever fillings you choose.
4. Roll up tortilla shell and hold it closed with a toothpick. Place in greased pan.
5. Once all of your tortillas are filled and in your pan, spray over your shells with olive oil. This will make sure the shells are nice and golden crispy. I also sprayed the areas where my tortillas were touching each other so they didn't stick together.
6. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until golden on top sides. Take out the toothpicks and carefully flip enchiladas over. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until golden brown.

You can serve these with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, or anything you choose.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dealing with conflict in marriage

This past Sunday, my husband and I brought our children home from church, put them down for naps, and proceeded to have a huge argument. As in, both at times talking very passionately (I wouldn't quite say yelling), both at times crying. You might think, "That's strange, why would she write about fighting with her husband?" The thing is, in the past my husband and I never argued. If there was conflict, it was briefly brushed over if at all, and it was put away. Although the idea of never arguing with your spouse may at first seem nice, the reality is that when conflict isn't addressed, it just sits there, simmering under the surface until it explodes. Two years ago, this happened in my marriage.

While putting the pieces of my nearly-imploded marriage back together, I read a quote that said one of the top indicators of divorce is unresolved conflict. The fact is that unless you live in a world where you are the only one you ever see, there will be conflict in your life. There will especially be conflict in a marriage, where you are spending a great deal of time with the same person, who has different feelings, opinions, and ideas than you. What you do with that conflict is one of the biggest indicators of how satisfying your marriage will be.

Now, I am certainly no expert on dealing with conflict since, as I just mentioned, I have only been actually dealing with it for about two years now (out of the 13 that we have been together), but what I do know is that it must be done. When my husband and I have an argument, there are some things that we always try to do. First, we try to not get defensive. This is harder for me, and it drives my husband crazy. During our argument on Sunday, my husband actually said, "Okay, I feel myself getting defensive, and it drives me crazy when you do that, so I am going to step back and start over." He literally lowered his shoulders, took a breath, and started over.  Second, we try to approach things in a non-attacking manner. I wouldn't necessarily said that we do the "When you do this it makes me feel..." approach that most therapies say you should, but we try to talk in a non-threatening way and just really say what the issue is. Also, we don't stop the conversation until we both have said all we need to say, even if it means talking about multiple things. And finally, we try to truly move on from the conflict. We have both said what we need to say, figured out what needs changing if anything, and we leave the conflict there. This is harder for me than it is for my husband. He is always ready to hug and be fine when we are done talking, but I take a little longer. On Sunday, I actually told my husband, "I'm fine, I don't have anything else to say, but I'm not ready to be kissy with you yet." He chuckled and said, "Okay, thanks for telling me that." After a little while, we were both ready to smile at each other and move on.

This has been a big challenge for both of us to learn, since we are both conflict avoiders, but it has done wonders for our marriage. Conflict can actually be good for your marriage if you use it to improve your relationship instead of bring distance between you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Seasons of Marriage

 Life has ebbs and flows. Just as the weather changes through the seasons, so does a marriage. The way you feel about your spouse is never a constant. There will inevitably be "winter" times, when it seems like you are cold and distant from one another. These times may last a few days, or months, or even years in some marriages, if a couple gets into the habit of not resolving conflict and harboring resentment that builds over time. This is a season during which a lot of marriages end in divorce, because it is in these times that it seems like you will never be happy together.
If your marriage is in a "winter" season, don't despair. If you would make the conscience effort to turn to one another and work to rebuild your relationship, you will begin to feel the coldness fade, and new growth will take it's place.
The "springtime" in marriage is filled with new wonder and possibilities, as a couple rediscovers their love for one another and begins to enjoy each other again. This doesn't usually happen over night, but gradually, as you work towards one another instead of away. Even the deepest "winter" season in marriage can always be transformed into a "spring" season, but it does take determination and work.

No matter how long you have been married, you can do your best to keep your marriage from sinking into a "winter" season. If you determine to put any past hurts behind you, always address conflict when it arises or within 24 hours, learn how to communicate your needs to your spouse and understand your spouse's needs as well, and learn how to respect your husband or love your wife, you will find that the ebbs and flows of your marriage will never dip too low, and will be filled with plenty of sunshine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Food for the soul

One to fill my belly, and One to fill my spirit in ways that nothing on this Earth ever can.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gently, He leads me

I was reading a passage in my Bible yesterday from Isaiah 40. I was reading along, the words telling me about how God comforts His people. When I got to verse 11, I stopped dead in my tracks. Have you ever had something just hit you right between the eyes? This did it for me.

Isaiah 40:11 "He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young." 

He gently leads those that have young. I don't know about you, but some days I wonder what in the world I am doing. Sometimes I feel lost, like I am screwing up everything around me, including my kids. My husband and I pray every single night that God would watch over our children, that He would show us how to be the very best parents for our children that we can be. This verse reminds me that He already has it covered. When I am worried about something regarding my children, He already has them close to His heart. When my husband and I are trying to figure out the best way to deal with something regarding discipline or consequences, He is already leading us.We just have to let Him. In the times when I feel the most out of control, I just need to stop, relax, and let Him lead me.

So be encouraged, those of you that have children. The great Shepherd already has your lambs snuggled close to His heart. And as for you: very gently, He leads you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Baked Mostaccioli (perfect for Valentine's Day!)

(sorry for the poor photo quality; even though there are huge windows in this room, it is on the side of the house opposite the sun and there is not enough good light for picture taking)
This casserole is great if you are wanting to make something red for Valentine's Day. Everyone loved it, and it was even yummy as leftovers! The recipe comes from Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes 2009. I have had the recipe for a while, but this is the first time I have made it. It will definitely be a repeat.

Baked Mostaccioli
8 oz. uncooked mostaccioli (I used another tubular pasta that was cheaper)
1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 cups cottage cheese
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to directions on box. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook the turkey and onion until the meat is no longer pink, drain if necessary.
2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese and marjoram; set aside. Drain pasta.
4. Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce into an 11 in. x 7 in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with half of the pasta, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Top with cottage cheese mixture. Layer with remaining pasta, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese (dish will be full).
5. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and heated through (I baked it covered, because my family likes soft cheesy casserole and not hard baked ones).

The verdict is that this casserole got quickly eaten up by everyone, including Remi who will be 2 in a few weeks. It kind of had a lasagna-y feel to it, because of the cottage cheese layer. It went perfectly paired with fresh bread, green beans, and salad.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An early Valentine

We celebrated Valentine's Day today, a few days early because of conflicting schedules. We decorated with ribbon hanging from the ceiling and lots of glitter and noodles colored red and strung up on a window.

We used our good china, and ate a yummy casserole with red sauce that Libby helped me prepare yesterday. 

We had red juice, and these delicious red velvet cupcakes that Hudson helped me prepare yesterday. The recipe came from  here. They were so good!

While we were eating, we talked about all of the things that we love about each other.  I truly have a wonderful husband and great children, and after an evening celebrating what we have together my heart is incredibly full :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Easy whole wheat dinner rolls

We absolutely devour these rolls. The recipe calls for making the dough in a bread machine, but I would suppose that if you are a regular bread maker you could figure out how to make the dough by hand. I use the bread machine because I have one and it makes it crazy easy to make these.

I found this recipe somewhere online, and I apologize that I can't remember the source.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
1 Cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1 Egg
2 Cups Bread flour (I just use a finely ground unbleached wheat flour)
1 1/4 Cups whole wheat flour (again, I use a finely ground whole wheat)
1/4 Cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp yeast
additional butter melted for brushing on tops of rolls, if desired

1. Place all ingredients (except melted butter for brushing) in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer of your machine.
2. Select Dough/Manual cycle (do not use the Delay cycle). Keep in mind that this usually takes around 1 1/2 hours.
3. When machine is finished, remove dough from pan and place on lightly floured surface. Cover dough and let rest 10 minutes.
4. Grease bottom and sides of a 13x9 inch pan. Divide dough into 15 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball; place in pan. Brush with melted butter, if desired. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees, and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or cool on a wire rack.
We like nice big rolls, so I use a smaller pan and only make 9 rolls instead of 15.

We had these last night with yummy chicken soup (Thursday: Comfort Food :)) and a salad.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to speak his language

12 Years Ago by *megan_elzey*

If you were to straight up ask your husband if he wants you to respect him, he may not know how to respond. He has probably not thought about it using that exact word, but chances are really good that what he does want from you is admiration, devotion, and to know that you are behind him 100%. He most likely already knows that you love him, but he may not be sure if you like him. 

Here are some ideas that you could use to show your husband that he is still your man:
*Tell him how much you appreciate the work that he does for your family.
 Sometimes, especially if women also work outside of the home, wives and husbands can get in an unspoken (or even spoken!) war over who works harder throughout the course of a day. This is simply an argument that has to stop, because it will never lead to anything good. Husbands and wives both have incredibly important roles to play, both in the dynamics of the family as well as the marriage. Take the initiative to tell your husband that you are thankful for the work that he does to support your family, and mean it.

*Tell him that you really enjoy being his wife.
 There was something that originally attracted you to your husband. There were characteristics of him that made you fall in love with him. Tell him the things that you love about him. You could either just tell him, or you could write it in a note and leave it for him to find. My personal favorite is to write individual characteristics that you love about your husband, and either give them to him once a day, or leave them for him to find. 

*Tell him you value and support him as the leader of your family. 
 Again, this can get sort of blurred when both spouses work outside of the home, but God specifically states that he created men to be the leaders of their families. As with everything, if you go against God's design for something, it will not go as smoothly as He planned.

*Tell him that you are still attracted to him.
 He really needs to know this. Through the course of the day, we women can get exhausted and weary from tending to all the things that need tending to. Sometimes, once we put the kids to bed we just want to crash. This is valuable time, though, that you can use to connect with your husband. When you feel like you are connecting emotionally with your spouse, it will make you want to connect physically as well. And remember what I said yesterday, feelings are terrible leaders but they are great followers. If you put forth the effort to show your spouse that you are attracted to him, your feelings will follow your actions. 

*Tell him that he is a great father.
 Let him know how you love seeing him with the kids, and encourage him in his father role. Remember that God created men and women differently, so naturally they will have different ways of dealing with things. Even if your husband doesn't do things as you do or as you think they should be done, let him do them his way. Don't let your frustration over what your husband allowed your children to eat or how he dressed them override your support for him as your children's father. 

Give some of these ideas a good honest try. And leave it at that, without expecting anything in return. If you do them hoping to change something about him, your selfish ambition will show through. If you do them because you really want your husband to know how you feel about him, I think you will find that he will begin to show you how he really feels about you. It's a win win!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The day that reminds us to love (err respect)

So, Valentine's Day is coming up. This is a day that, for most women, can bring about any number of feelings. No matter how this day has gone for you in the past, this year why don't we let it be a reminder to show our loved ones how much we love and appreciate them all throughout the year?

There are numerous verses in the Bible that talk about love, both about Christ's love towards us and ours to Him, and about love between husbands and wives. It is a very important thing! You may have heard love being described as an action and not a feeling. I think this is true. One of our pastors at church once said something that has stuck with me. He said, "Feelings are not good leaders, but they are great followers". Feelings can come and go on a whim. When you married your spouse, you made the commitment to love even when you don't "feel" like it. When you make the choice to daily show love to your spouse, your feelings will follow your actions.

Things get tricky here, though, because while we as women speak the language of love, our husbands speak the language of respect. Ephesians 5:33 says, "Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." God created women to love, so He does not have to remind them to love their husbands. He does have to tell them to respect their husbands, though, because that is not something that comes naturally. Similarly, God created men to respect, so He does not have to remind them to respect their wives. He does have to remind them to love their wives, because that is not something that comes naturally. It is no surprise that the words "when they deserve it" are missing from that verse. Feelings are not good leaders, but they are great followers. When a husbands feels respected, he will be drawn to love. When a woman feels loved, she will be drawn to respect. Take the initiative and make the first move!

Since this post has become much longer than I anticipated (not a surprise, if you know me), tomorrow I will share some ideas on ways we can show our husbands the respect that they crave.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


We are sick today. As in I probably have strep throat and Libby may still have mycoplasma (atypical bacterial pneumonia) kind of sick.We await results.
I plan on making a yummy meat replacement that we like to use for ground beef in things like casserole and with tomato-based sauces (because my kids don't like to eat ground beef), but I probably won't do it until I feel a little better. When I do I will post about it, though.

Until then, I just have to say that I think my flowers are going to have a rude awakening if winter actually decided to show her face.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Catching some sunshine

 Yesterday evening we spent some time outside because, even though it was a little chilly, the sun was incredible.

Libby and Hudson got in some football...

and some "shoulder bumps" that they saw the high school basketball players doing.

We followed the sun to the front yard, where it was just a tad warmer.

(splotchy cold face)

And then he told me he was ready to go inside. It was getting chilly, and he had just fallen and scraped his knee. He had already removed all evidence of crying before I took the picture.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cookbooks I use

As I mentioned before, I use a 3-ring binder, with lots of recipes I have acquired over time, and two cookbooks. The first cookbook I use is Healthy Choices, by Marvin and Miriam Wengerd, authors of Keepers at Home magazine. This is a really awesome cookbook. It is full to the brim with lots of healthy recipes, made with ingredients that I actually have! It also has gardening and canning tips, and has a lot of home remedies for things ranging from colds/coughing to immune boosters to headache relievers.

The other cookbook I use is The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner, by Liz Edmunds. She actually has a television show, though I've never seen it, and has a whole program where she helps women and men set up a system that works for them to have regular homemade meals. She uses the theme system and it has worked for her for over 30 years. I have tried the theme system off and on over the last few years, but never was able to find it easy to stick to until I decided to come up with my "cheat sheets." That really is the secret for me.

The thing about this system is that you can have as few or as many recipes as you want. If you want to have only two or three recipes for each theme, then you will only have the same meal every two or three weeks. Or, you can have a lot of recipes for each theme and not have the same meal for quite a while. It's really up to you. I love cookbooks, and I actually own quite a few. It's unfortunate that they all now sit collecting dust, but really having so many things to choose from contributes to my undoing.  

There is also room for you to tailor this to your own family's taste as far as what themes you choose, and whether or not you choose to include a day or two for leftovers. My family historically has not done well with leftovers. I throw away more than I reheat. So, I keep this in mind when I am planning out my meals and I make sure I only make enough for us to eat in one sitting or to have some left for only one set of lunches. I also make sure I have a date night with my husband in there once a week or so, and I either still make the meal for my children or (usually) skip that meal and transfer it to the next 2 week plan. Easy peasy!

Has this been helpful to you? I would love to hear your stories :)  Happy cooking!! Your family will reap the benefits, and you will, too :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The meal plan!

Okay, so once you have decided which 2 or 3 cookbooks you want to regularly pull from (remember, if there are recipes that you enjoy out of other cookbooks, you could always keep a 3-ring binder and make copies of the recipes to put in your binder; I personally use 2 cookbooks and one binder), and have decided on what themes you would like to use in your meal planning, you are ready to go to the next step.

Now what you need to do is get a blank sheet of paper for each of your theme nights. My themes are Mexican (Tues), Fish/Meatless/Brinner (Wed), Comfort Food (Thurs), Pizza (Fri), Casserole (Sat), and Pasta (Sun). My husband and I go to a small group on Monday nights, so what I prepare on those nights always changes depending on what we are taking to our small group. If you have already gone through your cookbooks and made a list of the recipes you like (one of yesterday's tips), this step will be easier. On each theme page, make a small list of recipes fitting that theme that you will choose from when you are sitting down each 2 weeks (or 15 days, depending on how often you have a pay-day or choose to plan; personally, I do 15 days because that's how we have our budget set up). Beside each recipe, make a note of which cookbook it is from and what page it is on.

When I sit down to make my 15 day meal plan, I also make my grocery list at the same time. Since I have noted in which cookbook and on what page each recipe is on my master lists, as I decide on a meal I also take a quick look in the book to see what I need to add to my grocery list. 

I keep all of my master theme lists in a plastic paper keeper in the front of  my 3-ring binder.
When it comes time to sit down and plan out your 2 week meal plan, all you will have to do is go through your theme lists and find which recipes you would like to plug into your meal plan. I made up a sheet of paper that I use to write my meal plans on. One page is one week, so I use two sheets for my 15 day plan. I have listed each day of the week and noted what the theme is for each day.
I also make sure I make a note of the cookbook and page number where I can find each recipe on this page, too, so when it comes time to begin preparing supper I can easily find my recipe.

I know this may seem like a lot of work, but really if you break it down and work on it bits and pieces at a time until you have it all done, it's really not bad. Plus, this little bit of initial work really makes for a plan that is quick and easy to follow through on. If you work outside the home, having a plan like this will take the stress off of knowing what to make for dinner, and will save time on sitting down to plan because the theme night "cheat sheets" make the process run smoothly.

I hope you have found this helpful! If I have not explained something clearly enough or if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meal planning made simple

Before I go any further about what does work (for me) in planning out meals, I want to write about why it is so important to have regular family meals at home. It goes beyond the benefits of not having to worry about coming up with something to fix each day and saving money with less trips to the grocery store and less impulse buying (although those are great benefits).

In her book, The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner, Liz Edmunds talks about the benefits of having regular family meals at home. She talks of research done by the University of Minnesota that "investigated the potential benefits of family mealtimes on children and found that families that dine together tend to have healthier, more well-adjusted children." Their studies also indicated that "the more often children and teens eat with their parents - and the happier, more structured these mealtimes are - the more the children gain these benefits: better nutrition, better language and literacy, fewer eating disorders, and fewer risky behaviors."

There is definitely something to be said for the security and comfort (for everyone) that comes from consistent, well-planned, pleasant meals with the family all gathered together, at home!

So, here are some things that I have found work (for me) when it comes to easy meal planning:

*stick to the 2 or 3 cookbooks that you most regularly use
*if you have loose recipes lying around, gather them all together into a 3-ring binder; this way, as you print more from the internet or make copies of others that you like, you can just hole-punch them and add them to your binder; I have a binder that I use in combination with 2 other great cookbooks; I have it sectioned off into breads, brinner (breakfast for dinner), main courses, and soups
*go through your cookbooks that you plan to use, and instead of marking each page of a recipe you like, get a sheet of plain printer paper and make a list of each recipe you want to use and what page it is on; this way instead of searching through your cookbook, you have a list to quickly look at to pick out what you would like to make
*think about what your family likes to eat most, and come up with themes for each day of the week (Mexican, Italian, Pizza, etc)

This is a large part of the beginning work. Like I said yesterday, I am not a planner by nature. But, this bit of initial planning really is what makes the rest of the process much easier. When I did this, I didn't sit down and try to tackle it all in one day. Instead, I worked on it bits and pieces at a time when I had the chance (after the kids were in bed, during a little bit of down time during the day, etc). Once you have all of this done, there are a few more steps that I will go over tomorrow that makes the whole process incredibly smooth.

So get those cookbooks and start sorting! Tomorrow I will explain the rest :)