Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By request, I blog :)

I received this email from my sister today, 

"I think we could all use the opportunity to think about our snowy thorns and turn them into roses… I have a couple I could add…"


And since she is one of our most faithful readers, I will oblige :)  

Here in Oregon we are experiencing an "Arctic Freeze".  The weather is much colder than normal, and we are experiencing more snow than we have in a LONG time.  Most of us are well prepared for rain, and for a light snow that melts away with the next day's rain, but this heavy long-lasting snow has been quite a challenge.  Stuck at home, losing electricity, cold blistery wind making it hard to play outside sometimes, etc.  But it is BEAUTIFUL.  Agree?

This is a view out my front door where a snow drift has taken over!  That's about 4 feet of snow!


Here's my rose, thorn, rose, thorn, rose, thorn...
Eric missed a lot of work.  The store he works at has been closing early, opening late, and canceling shifts.  Plus, Eric couldn't even make it out of the garage let alone to work one day (until we borrowed a snow shovel).  This was nice (rose) because we got to spend a lot of time together, playing in the snow, sitting by the fire, reading, playing games.  But it was hard (thorn) because our budget is so tight.  Missing days of work is tough.  Thankfully (another rose) Eric picked up an entire extra 8 hour shift for today and another 2 extra hours so we almost broke even as far as missing work goes.  We will be okay :)  Another thorn has been all the canceled parties!  Faith, I know you can weigh in on this one!  But, the rose is a forced relaxed holiday.  Relaxed because we are STUCK!  Can't run errands, can't go to parties, can't go to events.  Being home so much has also forced me to be more creative and have a better flow to the day for the kids so that I don't go stir crazy!  I could go on and on but I will stop and let all of you share.  

And sister, I am expecting at least three comments from you :)  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow..almost a month and no posts on this blog! I have to admit it has been nice getting a break from so much blogging. This season is just so busy and when you have 7 blogs (only 2 are updated regularly) like I do, it's nice to get some breaks!

I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love this whole holiday season, especially here in Oregon. The smells, the trees that are red, green and vibrant orange, Christmas music, Christmas lights, candles, fires, hot drinks, Christmas movies, time with family and friends and the list goes on.

Lately I have been asking family members what their favorite food is at Thanksgiving so I thought I would ask you all. I will answer first. I could skip everything but the following..turkey(white meat), a huge serving of my mom's mashed potatoes, a ton of my mom's gravy over both and a side of green bean casserole. Yum. Yum. Yum. Oh, and a glass of my mom's iced tea. Can you tell I like eating at my parent's house??

So, what do you look forward to most?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving day with family and friends. Thank God for all he has blessed you with!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Croutons

This is probably a really obvious thing that you all do but just in case, I thought I would share this quick, yummy tip.

Make your own croutons! It is so easy and so worth it. Homemade croutons are SOOO much better than store bought.

Over a period of weeks I put the ends of my bread loaves (ya know at the end when it gets a little stale?) in the freezer and after I have about 10-15 pieces of bread I take them out of the freezer, cut them into cubes, (whatever size you want) spread them on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them, mixing them around to distribute the oil then sprinkle any herbs or spices that you want. My favorite is simply garlic salt and dried basil. Mix them around and bake them at about 275/285 degrees. It usually takes about 25-30 minutes depending on how many you have made. I just check them every once in a while and bake them until they are chewy to crispy. Put them in an air tight container and store in your fridge. They last forever and they are so yummy!!!!

If you do make croutons, share the things you put on them! Hope you all try this if you haven't already!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog Update/Rose and Thorn...

Blog Update...  I just wanted to let everyone know that Faith and I will not be posting as much as we used to.  We are still going to update, but not as frequently, at least through the holiday season.  We both feel the need to slow down a little.  Thanks for reading.


Personal Update...  I feel like I have changed a lot in these past months of running this blog.  I didn't realize how easy it was for me to get caught up in the thorns of life and miss out on the roses.  Now don't get me wrong, I am not going to win the Miss Optimistic award any time soon, but I do find it much easier to take each day with a smile.  I feel like God has helped me trust Him in the hard times (he has helped me do this so many times) and really focus on all the great things in life, and to focus more on His promises.  

Okay, enough updates.  Let's do Roses and Thorns...

Thorn:  Eric is still on the job hunt.    
Rose:  Eric has a job, and God is providing all our needs.  Plus we are learning how to live on less and less.  I feel like I have become a better wife and mom, figuring out ways to save money, ways to cook healthy for less, etc.  It has been fun to work hard as a wife/mom for our family in this way.  God has placed me in this time of life and I love doing my best each day to serve Him.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yummy Butternut Squash Soup

I tried my hand at making some Butternut Squash soup the other day, and YUM!  It was easy and delicious.  The recipe is from my cousin Jen.  I think I will make some more for the freezer when squash is inexpensive so that I can enjoy it for lunches through the winter.

                         

Yummy Butternut Squash Soup
1 Medium Butternut Squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Nonstick Vegetable spray
1 medium onion (chopped, about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger (optional)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups chicken broth (or stock)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds.  Arrange halves, cut side down, in a roasting pan that has been sprayed with veggie spray.  Bake the squash in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, until very tender.  Set aside to cool.  When the squash has completely cooled, scoop out the flesh from the skin.

While the squash is baking, cook the onion and ginger in the butter (in large sauce pan) for 10 minutes, until the onion is softened.  Add the brother and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, covered.  Add the squash pulp to the sauce pan.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, in batches, and puree until smooth.  (You can add water to gain the desired consistency...I like it thick).    Add salt and pepper to taste.  Return the soup to the sauce pan and cook over moderate heat until it is hot.  Garnish with sour cream and croutons!  

(This soup freezes and reheats wonderfully!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Closet organization

This is a little bit embarrassing.  This is my everything closet, the one that holds a wide variety of things, plus stores the stuff I need a temporary home for.  It is always a disaster.  

So a few weeks ago I tackled it and, well, wow.  It made such a huge difference.  The biggest change was the amount of extra space made to, well let's be honest, store more stuff.

I did some purging, some re-organizing, and some re-homing (if that is a word).

So, here's the before...
AHHHHH!  And to be honest, it was even a little messier than that.  I had already organized the floor before taking the picture.  When we moved in, the previous owners left the extra floorboards from the bathroom remodel right here in the closet on the floor.  For three years I left it there thinking 
1. that it needed to be inside
2. that maybe I would clean that up another day
3. where else can I store it?  

But I found a new home for the flooring, and opened up an entire new space for indoor storage. 

Here's the finished product.  It still isn't perfect, I would love some more storage compartments and such, but for now I am really happy with the results.  I can now store the diaper bag and my purse in there, which is a much better place for it than the kitchen floor where Elsie promptly empties them.  
Sigh, happiness.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday, Monday, oh oh...

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I guess Megan and I have both been very busy! Who isn't?!

Today's thorn in my side is a thorn in my side...oh...every day!?! I'm sure it's all of your's too! My thorn is a messy house even though I cleaned yesterday and the day before..you get my point! So, I get to clean again, and again, and again....

The Rose? Once I clean my house I feel like I have accomplished something and living in a clean house is so much more enjoyable!

You?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Keep the tomatoes coming...

If you still have green tomatoes on your tomato plants, here is an idea.


Dig them up or pull them out of the ground, roots and all.  Shake the excess dirt off.  Then hang them upside down in your garage.  I know, it sounds weird, but it seems to work.  And I am not sure that it is necessary that they be upside down, but it keeps them out of the way :)  The tomatoes continue to ripen, even without the sun.  I heard the idea from a few different sources so I am trying it out.  So far so good!  The tomatoes in the garage are ripening faster than the ones I left in the garden.


Now then, what are you going to do with your (garage) tomatoes?  I am doing a lot of freezing of my tomatoes.  I don't do much sauce, mostly crushed or chopped.  But when I do sauce, I use this cool thing.

It was my Grandma's, and it is sturdy and simple and just cool.  I did some applesauce in it too.  Anyways, tomatoes don't seem to yield very much sauce, so I prefer to do the crushed or diced first, saving sauce as a last resort.  There are so many recipes that call for canned tomatoes, so I am excited to have frozen ones on hand.  

I hope this is helpful to someone out there!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Roses and Thorns

Back to Roses and Thorns this week. It's also combined with a challenge. If you read this post you ACTUALLY have to comment! Okay? We like to hear from you!!

My Thorn this week: Hubby working about 62 hours this week.

The Rose: This is his LAST week doing this! Yay!

Now, what is the thorn in your side today? this week? month? year? Share!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recipe- Chicken and Corn Chowder

I am sharing a yummy chowder recipe that I am actually making for dinner tonight. I got it from Rachael Ray's show and it's really easy and really full of flavor. Totally worth trying, so please do. Perfect for a cold, rainy day! Hope you enjoy...

Chicken and Corn Chowder

2 T butter
1 1/2 lb chicken, cubed
1/2 c chopped onion
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 small carrots, sliced
2 c frozen corn
2 c cream of potato soup
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 t dry dill weed
1/2 c evaporated milk

In a large skillet, melt butter, brown chicken. Transfer chicken to slow cooker. Add onions, celery to skillet, saute 3-4 minutes. Add onions and celery to crock pot along with carrots, corn, soup, broth and dill weed. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender. During last 10 minutes, stir in evaporated milk. Serves 8.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dear Mom, Thank You...

I have to share with you a very encouraging blog post that I read a few weeks ago. It was written by a lovely young lady named Ellie. She is in her early teens and seems to have wisdom and understanding far beyond her years. She has a beautiful family who love and serve God together. I don't know the family very well but from what I see, I want to follow and learn to love they way they do.

I was extremely encouraged by Ellie's post, and hope you are too. She wrote this to her mom for Mother's Day last year. I hope that my daughters can say this of me someday, especially the last thing on Ellie's list.


Dear Mom, Thank You...

...for giving me birth.

...for marrying the most amazing guy and awesome dad.

...for providing me with a wonderful education these past seven years.

...for always being available for hugs.

...for letting me cry when math got hard.

...for being an example of what a godly woman and wife should be.

...for giving me the two best sisters.

...for teaching me about my Heavenly Father.

...for letting me sit in your lap and snuggle, even though it's not the most comfortable thing to do.

...for the discipline you have given me (and will continue to give).

...for being a wonderful homemaker.

...for making me do things I didn't want to do (such as Mrs. Barrett's writing class), but have taught me so much. You know what I need even when I don't.

...for the small things that show me you care. Driving me places, teaching me how to cook and sew, the shoes you bought me as a surprise.

...for the tuck-ins every night.

...for the times you stayed up with me until 3:00 am, because I couldn't go to sleep.

...for the weeks you let me sleep in your room because of my anxiety.

...for making me sleep in my own room with Dad, to get over my anxiety. : )

...for making potatoes for dinner.

...for all the encouragement you have given and still give me.

...for every day letting me know I'm loved.

...for being willing to take a Basque student three years ago. That sudden decision you and Dad made has been one of the best.

...for providing me with the opportunity to play violin.

...for the girl talks.

...for introducing me to many wonderful books.

...for just putting up with me for 14 years!

...for being fun to be around. You are the coolest mom.

...for working hard to be a mom. Even though it's what you want to do, I know it's not always easy.

You are amazing. I love you so much. Happy Mother's Day.


Pretty cool huh.  It's the everyday stuff that really matters. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Homemaker Tip

My last few "Homemaker Tip" posts have been pretty lengthy (and hopefully helpful) so today I want to try something new. I want to hear from YOU! Please share your favorite organizational/decorating tip. Either something you were told about over the years or something you have learned on your own. Don't be shy, PLEASE SHARE! Megan and I like to learn from our readers too:)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Favorites!

We are going to take a little break from sharing our thorns and roses with each other.  Yep, it's always exciting and new here at Choose to Bloom!  You gotta keep coming back cuz you never know what great thing you will find ;)



This week, we want to hear some of your favorite October memories.  When I think of my favorite memories and family traditions, I am encouraged to make similar memories with my family and kids.  So share!  
What are some of your favorite memories of October?!


Here's mine...
I always loved the church fall festivals.  I remember going to St. Paul Lutheran church when I was a kid for a harvest dinner.  We all dressed up and everyone brought soup and salad.  
There was barrel to dip your face in to retrieve a prized apple, a pinata (yes, someone got hit in the head with the pinata stick), and lots of candy!  It was such a fun way to celebrate fall together.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekend Challenge

Take a bubble bath.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Recipe - Beans

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to feed my family rice and beans for a week.  We started this on Thursday and it has been great!  I thought I would give you a rundown of the recipes we tried.  (I spent a morning cooking up my entire weeks worth of dry beans so that they would be ready for each different meal.  This of course took some time, but ended up saving me a lot of time each evening.)


Recipe #1:  Taco Soup (with cornbread)
(I don't use a recipe, so I am guessing on the measurements)
1 1/2 cup black beans 
1 1/2 cup pinto/chili beans 
1 1/2 cup kidney beans
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 can Rotel
1 can tomato sauce (or homemade tomato sauce)
1 packet ranch salad dressing mix
In a large pot, stir together all ingredients.  Add about 1-3 cups water to make it the consistency of soup.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Simmer for about an hour.  You may also want to salt to taste.  I normally make this recipe using canned beans which adds plenty of salt.  You can add ground turkey/beef, throw in some corn, or add anything else that you want.   

Recipe #2:  Chili
I tried this recipe.  It was pretty good, but needed some extra seasonings.  It also ended up a little soupy.  But it was pretty good.

Recipe #3:  Baked Burritos
Again, no recipe.  But simply take some of the pinto beans and mash them up.  Simmer on the stovetop, add some water if they dry out.  You can add spices (chili powder, garlic salt, etc), salsa and some cheese.  You can also add in some of the other beans (whole, not mashed), corn, olives, onions, anything!).  Heat it all together, melting the cheese and then fill each tortilla, roll, put in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  

Recipe #4:  Haystacks 
Put a pile of shredded lettuce on each plate.  Then let everyone choose their toppings - beans, cheese, corn chips, olives, sour cream, salsa, etc.  (aka Taco Salad)

Recipe #5:  Taco Pizza
Make/buy pizza crust (we like the jiffy pack, but I am soon going to make my own dough - Andrea or Alison, could I get your recipe?!).  Bake the crust for about 10 minutes (if you are using dough) at 425.  Then spread on a can of tomato sauce, some cheese, pinto/black/red beans, olives, anything you want!  Bake for another 5-10 minutes.  Add chopped lettuce and tomatoes.  

Recipe #6:  Baked potatoes with Chili
Heat up some left over chili, bake some potatoes, and enjoy.  Serve with cheese and sour cream.
Gotta love easy quick meals!

Recipe #7:  Cheese quesadillas, refried beans, Spicy Spanish Rice
Refry up those beans, make some simple cheese quesadillas, and add to the menu this spanish rice!  (I haven't tried it yet, but we will have it in the next couple days.  I'll let you know if it's good.)
1/3 cup salsa, chunky
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes, not drained
1 1/2 cups quick cooking brown rice, uncooked
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.  Add all ingredients and mix well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 25 min or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  

So, that was our 7 day beans and rice menu.  I guess we only did rice once (we aren't really rice people), so that was our 7 day bean menu.  Just to give you a little idea of the money you can save by cooking with dry beans, I spent less than $5 for our whole weeks worth of protein.  That's not bad.  And they are all very hearty meals so hopefully the hubby won't mind the lack of meat!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blessings from Above

I praise God for the way He cares for me and takes care of me.  As I trust Him and walk toward Him in faith He cares for my every need.  


God has shown me over and over that He will take care of me and my family.  Spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  Whether by providing food, a friend, a good conversation, or some quiet time with Him and an eternal perspective.  He does provide.

Recently a huge burden was taken off our shoulders.  For a few months we will not have to worry about our student loan payments because of the generosity of people that love God and love us.  I'm so thankful for their generosity, and for the Lord's provision.  God is so good, over and over He shows how much He cares.  When I sit down and think about the ways He has provided and cared for me, I can make a very long list!

Does anyone else want to share a way that God has provided recently or in the past?  Whether it was financial, friendship, guidance, etc.  

(Faith, thanks for sharing on your personal blog ways that God has recently provided for you. It made me stop and think through the ways He is providing for my family as well!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homemaker Tip-Organization

For those of you that have an in home office or a little desk area like we have, here are some great ideas to help organize those areas.

Paint-can cubbies. Take your old paint cans, clean them thoroughly inside and out or purchase unused, inexpensive paint cans from a local paint store. Anchor them to a shelf with Velcro and you have a convenient and creative way to organize your bills, mail and other papers that often clutter your desk.
Make your own bulletin board out of cork board covered in fabric and framed. (you wouldn't even have to frame it) wrap ribbon around it stapling it in the back and tacking it in the front. Use a drying rack to store magazines or wrapping paper.
Turn a chest into an organized storage unit. I think this is a really cool idea and Bryan and I were actually just given a cedar chest from my parents and I have been trying to figure out what to do with it. Something similar to this may be a great option. If you are really interested in learning how to turn a chest you have into something like this click here for instructions.

Here is a really cute and simple idea..turn empty cereal boxes into organizers either for your office or your kid's desks. Cut with a utility knife at the angle you want and then cover in craft paper securing with double stick tape. Use large boxes for books, magazines and paper. Use the mini boxes for pencils and other small supplies!


Happy Organizing!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roses & Thorns

Thorn: Bryan starts his 3rd job this week.

Rose: 1. This is hopefully the beginning of the end of working so many jobs. 2. It's a constant reminder of how very proud I am of Bryan for working so hard. 3. It's really only about 9/10 hours more than he has been working the last few months, so not much of a difference. 4. It gives me so much time to invest in my kid's lives!

What are you dreading this week??

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Weekend Challenge

The challenge:  Make 'it' a challenge.


What do I mean?  Well, the challenge this week(end) is to take something hard in your life and turn it around.  Try to look at it differently and make it a challenge to conquer if possible.  I recently have done this with our grocery budget, and I am having a blast. 

Our grocery budget has been pretty small for a long time.  It often  frustrated me and felt like a burden to be carried.  But recently I was inspired to change my outlook on it.  Instead of viewing it as a burden, I now see it as a challenge!  I am using my brains and working hard to figure out all kinds of ways to save my family money, to spend less and less each week on groceries (while still eating healthy), and become a better home economist.  This week I am making a meal planning menu with no meat, only beans.  I found the idea here and am excited to try new recipes and shrink my grocery budget even more by cooking up lots of dry beans.  

Is there something in your life that feels like a burden?  Is it your debt?  Make it a challenge to take on no more debt and to get rid of the debt weighing heavily on your shoulders.  Is it a child who causes a lot of trouble all day long?  Make it a challenge to channel his/her energy into creative and constructive outlets.  Is it your messy house?  Set a timer during nap time for 20 minutes and see how much cleaning you can get done in that short amount of time.  

How are you going to conquer the challenge in your life?  I'd love to hear about it!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Recipe - Layered Tostada Bake

This is a recipe from my mom.  It's easy, very tasty, and a crowd pleaser!  


Layered Tostada Bake
Grease a 11x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350.  This recipe has three layers: 1. Crust 2. Meat and bean mixture 3. Topping
 
Crust:
Mix 1 egg, 1 cup Bisquick, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup milk, and 2 T vegetable oil.  Beat by hand for 30 seconds.  Spread dough in baking dish.

Meat and Bean Layer:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
1 can 16 oz refried beans
1 can 4 oz diced green chilies
1 can sliced olives
Cook ground beef and onions until brown.  Drain.  Stir in seasoning mix, tomato sauce, beans, chilies, and olives.  Spread it in the pan over the crust.

Topping: 
Mix 1 cup sour cream, 1 egg, and 2 cups cheese together.  Spread over the meat and bean layer.  

Bake for 30-45 minutes.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with salsa and chopped lettuce.  It is really tasty :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Goals in Parenting

Parenting is really hard.  

And parenting well is a serious challenge.

For about six months now, parenting my oldest (3 1/2 year old girl) has been really tough. There has been a steady pattern of her testing us and pushing at her boundaries.  Don't get me wrong, overall she is a joy and delight.  But she can sin just as well as the next kid. 

Easy (but wrong) thing to do when problems come up?
- Give in to the constant disobedience.
- Ignore the testing and trying attitudes
- Get mad blow up at said child

Hard thing to do?
- Train my little one in the way she should go, over and over and over again...
- Encourage, stay calm and have patience
- Brain storm, ask advice, PRAY for wisdom, and try different techniques to solve the problem.

I have done all of the above in the past 6 months.  I've done the good things and the bad things.   In fact, I did all the bad parent things yesterday before 2pm.  Sigh.

After feeling discouraged, I sat down and wrote a list titled, My goals in parenting. Then I wrote another list titled, Ways to achieve these goals.  Seeing my goals of parenting written down before me was really healthy and encouraging.  There were some obvious changes to make, and some things that I can be proud of.  What struck me the most was seeing that if I want to teach a certain aspect of life, I realized once again that I need to be living accordingly.  

When I realize what I am working so hard to accomplish as a parent, it is a lot easier to have patience in the hard moments. When I see the finish line, it is easier to discipline with love and patience. It becomes worth it to be consistent each day.  

So if you, like me, have been feeling frustrated and exhausted in your parenting, sit down and make a list. Figure out what is most important for you and your family, and then do what it takes to accomplish those goals. Be honest and make the changes necessary.

And don't be too hard on yourself because parenting is really hard.


What are some of your goals?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homemaker Tip-Organization

Last week we organized our kitchens, this week we're on to bathrooms!

This is the most organized medicine cabinet I have ever seen. I don't know about you guys, but ours is always a mess. I am constantly pulling something off of a shelf only to have 3 things I don't need fall into the sink. I may have to try this one! A couple of the things I really like are the hooks on the door, not only would you always know where your scissors or tweezers are, it would also keep those things out of your kids reach! Here is a little snippet that came with the picture that helps explain the process..

Make the most of a tight space with these easy tricks. Have galvanized metal cut to fit the back of the cabinet and inside the door (you can get it pre-cut at Home Depot..make sure edges are filed so you don't cut yourself). Adhere metal with caulk. (If your mirror has clips, loosen them, and slide the metal behind them.) Attach magnetized hooks, a notepad holder for brushes and combs, and spice canisters for hair elastics and barrettes (SO great..I am always looking for mine!). Group like items in votive holders and small acrylic boxes; double surface space with acrylic risers.

How cool is this? I think it's pretty amazing..so organized and so pretty!
This is a cool idea that Bryan and I actually stole a couple years ago. Bryan actually easily built and painted ours. We use them more for decoration than to store things but either way you do it is great! I'm sure IKEA has something similar as well.(Alison?)
Here's a fun way to store towels. Hang bathroom towels from the rungs of a progressive or apple-picking ladder propped against a wall. To prevent the ladder from slipping, attach rubber tips made for chair legs to the ladder's feet. Secure the top to the wall with hooks and eyes.
Here is an easy and attractive way to store shampoo, conditioner and body washes. These small containers look nicer than store bought containers and they take up less room, storing nicely in storage devices like this one. Identify bottles with laminated labels, adding either the names of family members who use them or listing the contents.

ps. to go with last weeks kitchen organization post, one thing I forgot to add is that I have started using clothes pins (yes, the "old fashioned" kind) as clips to close any kind of bag in the kitchen. I use them on pasta bags, for spices, for things in the freezer, fridge, etc. They are great and they take up a lot less room than those big bulky chip clips and they hold things closed a lot better than twisty ties. I know that you can buy plastic ones as well, the ones I use are just some old ones my mom gave me! You should try them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Roses or Thorns

The thing I am dreading this week is actually happening today! Luke has his 1 year check up and so far in his life, the doctor's office hasn't been the happiest place for us so I get really anxious every time we have to go. Peyton was always so healthy and had the easiest appointments, shots weren't fun but she was always fine after about 20 seconds. With Luke it is a little different.

The positive side of this is that once it's over, we won't have to go again (Lord willing) until I think 18 months?! And, I get to ask a couple questions about his food allergies that I have been wanting to ask for a while now.

What are you dreading this week and what is the positive side of it??

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekend Challenge

Well, for those of us in the Pacific NW, the rainy season is lurking right around the corner.  And though it makes for a beautiful green landscape (and a green lawn for those of us who didn't water over the summer), it also makes forlot of time indoors.  


But the rain has not yet started, and so here's the weekend challenge.  Take the family somewhere outside to do something active and fun!  Enjoy the 70 degree weekend (or whatever weather your climate brings)!


Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Recipe -Chicken & Red Pepper Burritos

I got this recipe from a cook book called Quick and Healthy.  I am always on a quest to feed my family healthy, and quick is my middle name.  Needless to say, this recipe book is right up my alley.  


I made some changes to this recipe, so I will post what you are suppose to do, and what I did in parenthesis.  Does anyone else out there alter every recipe possible?  Anyways, here it is...

Chicken and Red (green) Pepper Burritos
1/2 lb. chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 red bell pepper (a whole green pepper)
2 T chopped onion
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro (1 T. fresh cilantro)
1/2 tsp. dried basil (1/2 T. fresh basil)
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tomato, diced
2 oz. cheddar cheese
4 flour tortillas

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray.  
2.  Over medium heat, saute chicken, bell pepper, onion, garlic and seasonings until chicken is cooked.  Mix in tomatoes and cheese, stir until cheese melts.
3.  Spoon filling into each tortilla.  Roll tightly and place seam side down in 8x8 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
4.  Bake 15 minutes, until heated through.  
(5.  Top each with a dollop of sour cream)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let's start over

The other day, my three year old and I were battling it out. The argument we were having was so ridiculous, and she was crying about everything. It was a lose-lose situation and I didn't even know what to say or do next. I was beside myself, and she was balling her eyes out at anything I said. Out of ideas, I sent her to her room.


I had no idea what I was going to do, how I was going to fix this problem, and what to say. I waited a couple minutes and then walked into her bedroom. 

She was crying in the corner behind her desk.  My sweet girl looked so sad. 

I called her over, and said, "Do you want to just start over?" 

She gave a half smile and quietly said, "ya." We went back to the living room and started the whole interaction over. It went much much better the second time around.  We both needed to forget about the past and press on. 

It made me think about how often we all need a second chance. A clean start is so valuable. Sometimes when we are deep in our sin, we feel trapped and feel that we can only go deeper in the wrong direction.  (That is just what Jenna and I were doing - both getting deeper and deeper in our sins.)  Thankfully, by the grace of God we can start over, forgetting the past and pressing on toward Christ.  If we believe and take God up on His promise that he cleans us white as snow, and that his mercies are new every morning, then we really can have a clean start. We are not trapped in our sinful ways. Just because we yelled at our kids yesterday or were rude to the insurance lady on the phone, or snapped at dear husband doesn't mean that we must continue that pattern. Believe in His grace and mercy, and act upon His forgiveness!  

Sometimes we just need to start over.  And we need to give those around us the chance to start over too.

"The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:19-23


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homemaker Tip-Organization

I was inspired by Martha Stewart's website to do some organization posts. So, I will be using pictures from her website (because they are so simple and pretty like all things Martha) but adapting them to things I am doing in my own home or hope to do in my home some day.

This week we will start with organizing your kitchen. If you are anything like me you lack the space you need to fit all the necessary kitchen items along with all of those cups, plates, bowls and silverware for your kids! There is never enough space and it's hard to know how best to arrange everything. Sometimes the most simple changes end up making the biggest difference.

This is such a simple concept. Put your dish washing soap in a pretty glass container like one of these (we bought one at Bed, Bath & Beyond) and then you don't have to shove it under your sink making it hard to find each time you need it. It's so pretty that you leave it out for all to see which makes it convenient to use each day.
I recently did this. I took all of my small baking ingredients (baking powder, soda, vanilla, cocoa, cream of tartar, etc.) and put them in a wire basket that Bryan had in the garage (or use a pretty Martha type tray like this one). That way, every time you go to bake anything you know right where all of your ingredients are and you just slide the whole tray off of the shelf. The lip on this one is nice because it will catch any spills!

I really like this idea but I have no where to put it:) If you have a lack of cabinet space and some extra wall space, this is perfect for you. Hang a handrail and get some "s" hooks and you can hang your pots, pans, colander and anything else..even large utensils would be great!
I love this idea.

This is a cool idea for the lids to your pots and pans. I am always digging for mine! Put a wooden peg rack and set it in one of your cabinets arranging your lids smallest to largest right there next to your pots and pans. So simple but so helpful.
I really like this idea and I'm going to keep my eye out for some cute, cheap trays! Arrange them around your sink for storing sponges and soaps. This keeps everything out of your sink and right there when you need them! You may even have some old soap trays or other trays around that will work.
I hope some of these have inspired you the way they have inspired me! Next week's room...the BATHROOM! Stay tuned

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roses or Thorns

Lately the thorns in my side have been related to finances. Here is something I am dreading this week along with the positive side of it.

Thorn: Making a specific financial decision in the next couple days....why is it that MAKING the decision is so hard when....

Rose: Either outcome to my decision is good. A) If I choose one way, I get to do something fun. or B) If I choose the other, I get to save some money:)

What is something you are not particularly looking forward to doing this week?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Challenge

I know that Faith and I are always very encouraged by your comments.  I love them all - ones that are from friends, from strangers, from strange friends...  


Anyways, the challenge this weekend is to comment on every blog you visit!  Be encouraging, be funny, comment short, comment long, just comment!  

I want to be better at commenting on every blog I read.  It only takes a moment and in a way it keeps me accountable (meaning I don't want to be on the internet too much so if you see my comments everywhere, confront me!  Tell me to get off the computer and to start paying attention to my kids!  Just kidding, I do most all my inter-netting at night.)  Anyways, that's the weekend challenge, if you choose to accept it.  

You can start by leaving a comment right here.  Look to your immediate left and tell us what you see.  That's easy enough, huh!

(I see a picture that my daughter drew of her daddy.  It is taped to the computer cabinet door.  She drew him in green, with huge eyes, a long mouth, and no legs.  It was one of her first stick figure drawings and he taped it up right away.  I guess I could just show you the picture...)


(She always asks me to accessorize her stick figures. 
Here I added the eye balls, the hair and Blazers hat)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Recipe-Italian Penne Bake

I thought I would start with a family friendly recipe. My almost 4 year old daughter loves this dish as well as my husband and I. It is easy, fills you up, yummy with garlic bread, good left over and easy to make ahead of time and freeze. Hope you enjoy it!

Italian Penne Bake
4 servings

1 1/2 c dried penne
1/2 c sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 c quartered, thinly sliced onion
1 medium green or red sweet pepper cut into thing, bite-size strips
3 oz. sliced pepperoni or Canadian-style bacon, cut up
1 1/2 t bottled minced garlic (I use fresh garlic)
1 1/2 t olive oil or cooking oil
1 1/2 c marinara pasta sauce
2/3 c shredded Italian blend cheese

Lightly coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Return pasta to saucepan. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook mushrooms, onion, sweet pepper, pepperoni, and garlic in hot oil for 3 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and marinara sauce to pasta; toss to coat. Spread pasta mixture evenly in prepared baking dish. Bake, covered in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes or until heated through. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Encouragement

A post from fellow blogger Allison McKenney...

"The glass is either half full, or half empty."

Heard it a million times.

Macy's glass is full to the rim, and thankfully, her fullness runs over to me sometimes.

Example.

Half empty: summer's OVER as in bye-bye summer... won't see you again for many, many long months...sob...sob...

Half full: technically, it's STILL summer...technically. And besides, the sun is shining, we're warm...

I'm totally taking advantage of the last week and a 1/2 of summer. When Ava's taking her afternoon nap, Macy and I take books galore and a blanket outside in the backyard and read until Ava wakes up. Macy is fully capable of reading the books to herself, but I'm reading them to her, and she corrects me if I make an error - just love that! Ha! I am so thankful for this precious time with my sweet girl.

Today, my glass is definitely half full. Thank-you, Macy.

Note from Faith: I just thought this was such a sweet story of a mother's pure love for her eldest daughter that is growing up before her eyes. A sweet reminder to stop and spend intentional time with our kids. I was encouraged by it, I hope you were as well. Thank you Allison for letting me share!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Homemaker Tip - Coupons

The tip for this week has to do with cutting coupons.  I used to think that using coupons actually makes you spend more money because the name brand item with coupon still costs more than the generic brand.  This can be true, but there are also lots of ways to use coupons in your advantage.  For tons of details about this, go to this site called Money Saving Mom.  But I caution you, this can be complicated and a little exhausting.  If you are up for the challenge, go for it!  I love the challenge, and I love saving money :)  Remember to use integrity, be honest, and save some money for your family!

Here's my coupon craziness revealed!

Now for some practical tips for the casual coupon clipper:
1.  Clip coupons for the things that you always buy anyways, for example Ritz Crackers.  Those generic just crumble!  So if you see a coupon, clip it and use it.  
2.  Don't forget to give the cashier your coupons.  If you don't use them often, you just may forget to pull them out!  If you are like me and do forget (I tend to remember as I am walking out of the store), head over to customer service with your receipt and coupons.  They will refund the money in cash.  
3.  Look through the ads and combine great saving ads with coupons you have.  For example, if a store is selling Cheerios, 4 boxes for $8, and you have a couple of $1 off one box coupons, use one coupon per box you buy, save $4 dollars and get each box of Cheerios for $1!!  Those type of deals come more often than you may realize.
4.  You can print out coupons online for many different items.  Click here for a great list of coupons to print.  But take caution, some stores such as Winco don't accept printed coupons.

I hope that helps you save some money for your family!  What money saving tips do you have regarding coupons?  Are there any websites that you love that help you save money?  Please share!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Roses and Thorns

Is the cup half empty or half full?

Are you sad that there are thorns on your rosebushes or happy that there are roses on your thornbushes?

I was really encouraged by the comments you left on this post and hope to do the same thing on a regular basis. Are you dreading something this week or this fall? Share what you are dreading (the thorn) and share the positive (the rose) about it.

I will go first:
I am not looking forward to setting up a weekly cleaning schedule for myself. But I am glad that this will mean a cleaner house on a regular basis!

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

"Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 106:1

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thanks!

Thanks to those who have stuck with us through the slow-posting summer months! The real fun begins next week with a new schedule of posts, new contests, new recipes, new tips, lots of encouragement, and much more!

I leave you with a challenge for the weekend. Find a creative way to encourage and love your husband (or good friend if you aren't married).  Share what you are going to do, what you did, or what you have done in the past to creatively love and encourage your honey. Have a great weekend and see you Monday!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Need vs. Want

It is really easy for me to push my wants aside in the best interests of my husband and kids.  If I want a new shirt or jewelry, I can easily say no to that temptation, especially when the budget is tight or when formula and diapers are on the grocery list (which both have been for about 3.5 years straight, over half our marriage!).  So, I don't buy the wants very often.  The needs, well of course I buy those!  But here's what I am constantly learning... the difference between a need and a want.


There have been many times where I have felt like I desperately-absolutely-definitely NEED something that I don't actually need at all.  I remember when my husband and I started to register for our wedding.  After a day with that registry gun, I was convinced that if we didn't get a wooden salad bowl with matching individual bowls, that I would have to go back to the store and buy them.  Obviously this was an important thing for every married person to have.  As you can see, I was confused.  (I did receive those bowls as a gift, and I love them.  But I didn't need them.)  

The same thing happened when we were registering at Babies-R-Us before our first was born.  Boy do they make you feel like you need to spend at least $1000  on gizmos and gadgets before the baby even comes out!  Again my needs and wants were confused.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night in a panic that we had registered for the wrong type of stroller!  Yikes, I was a mess.  

Thankfully I am done registering for gifts.  That task makes me feel like I don't have nearly enough stuff to survive in America.   But even without registering, I still feel that confusion sometimes.  A few weeks ago, I realized that we really needed a place to put our shoes when we come in the house from the back door.  This was truly a need, as our wood floor was being ruined.  But where I got confused was how to fill this need.  I started looking on Craigslist and at Ikea for cool shoe racks with a bench and baskets and all kinds of neat gizmos.  I looked and searched for weeks (yes, it takes me a long time to purchase something that costs more than $20) and finally realized that I was being silly.  I looked around the house, found this cute basket (that holds blankets in the winter but was empty for the summer), put it by the back door!!  It works perfect and it was free. 

Deciphering between our needs and wants can help us to find a lot of contentment.  When I think that I need something, I really have to step back and figure out WHY I feel like I need it.  God provides for our needs, and sometime we just have to look at things a little differently to see just how He is providing.   

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recipe worth trying

Check out my blog for an amazing recipe. PF Chang's Lettuce Wraps. YUM!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Summer's end

I have been feeling a little bit blue about the fact that summer is coming to an end here in the Pacific Northwest.  I love the summer here, the few hot days, the occasional rain, and of course the perfect 76 degree day of NW bliss.  I love to garden, take the kids outside, go for walks with strollers, and jogs with my ipod.  I love the vacations, the lack of schedule, warm evenings at sunset.  You get the picture, I love summer.  


Rain in August?  Cold days ruining my lovely tomatoes?  Sigh.

So, here is my attempt at looking forward to the fall and winter.  I really do like each season, but this one is my favorite, and it is always hardest to see it go.  Again, sigh.   Anyways, I wanted to list a few things I am looking forward to, please add to the list if you would be so kind :)

1.  My baby's first birthday
2.  Thanksgiving
3.  Cozy fires, cozy living rooms, warm coffee
4.  Schedule (yes, I like it both ways)

Okay, please add to my list!  Thanks :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Here you go Shellee!

Shellee has challenged me to decorate two areas in her home through pictures only so here are some thoughts...See her blog for the pictures and challenge.

This is tricky because 1. I have never been to your house to see what the rest of the rooms are like which is really how I love to decorate, I try to integrate every room. and 2. I don't know what kind of decor you have in your home that could possibly go in these spots you are asking about. But regardless of these things, I will give you my ideas and you can go with it:) That's why it's a challenge right??!

Okay. For the fireplace..here are my thoughts.

1. You could stick with pictures, but I would do a darker wood frame or black frames. I think the contrast to the white fireplace would make the frames and pictures stand out more. I would probably frame abstract black and white pictures. (have your niece take some of Renee)

(this is what I mean by abstract..that wasn't the best word to describe what I meant! I just love close up shots of kids! These are hanging in my living room..my sister in law took them)

2. I think it would be really cool to put some crown molding under the cubbies to look like shelves. Make sense? I don't know if you can hang anything on it, because I don't know what it's made of (if Adam can rip out that tree stump, he could probably figure something out) but if you could, I think that could look cool. It would give the illusion of a shelf! You could even hang an actual shelf that just wasn't very deep. Make sense? click here for more info. (don't decorate your shelves the way they show you to in the last picture...not good:)

3. I would stick with black or dark frames all around the fireplace. The pic of Renee is adorable, if you framed it in a darker frame and then got a couple more, I would arrange them on either end of the harth in the widest part.

(Sorry, this is really hard to describe in writing)

4. I really like the screens, those look very nice!

Okay, so the bookcase. This is challenging because again, I'm not seeing it in person but here's what I would do.

(It's a nice bookcase by the way) I would keep it simple. I think bookcases can look cluttered very easily. I would pick only a few colors as far as the accessories go and stick with that. I would get together a few frames, a couple candles or vases and some small potted flowers or plants. (fake or real) I would arrange a few of the shelves with these things in a very simple way. Don't arrange these things in a straight row across the shelves. Put a frame and candle in a corner and then a potted plant in the other corner..do you know what I mean? Be creative with it. I would save one or two shelves (depending on how many books you have) and arrange some books on them. Again, not putting them in a straight row. You can divide books by size, color, style, etc. or you can just put them in randomly. I like to line up about 5-8 books (depending on size) vertically, then about 8 books horizontally stacked next to the vertical books. On the other end of that you can put a frame or plant.

As far as the top of the bookcase goes, I would keep the decor to a minimum, I would only put a few things on top. Here are some pics of the tops of some of my furniture. Hopefully they will give you an idea of what I mean.

1.bookcase 2. TV armoire 3. end tableNow, if you like any of my ideas, (remember these are just suggestions..I won't be offended if you don't like them!!) and you decide to change anything, post pictures so I can see! Good Luck, let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for the challenge Shellee!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chicken Fingers with Honey Sauce

I tried a new "chicken maggot" (as my 3-year old calls them) recipe tonight and it was a hit!  It comes from a healthy cookbook that I love.  Anyways, here is the recipe:


12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 beaten egg whites
1 Tablespoon honey
2 cups corn flakes, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1.  Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels.  Cut chicken into 3/4 inch wide, 3 inch long strips.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the 1 tablespoon honey.  In a shallow bowl, combine the corn flake crumbs and pepper.  Dip chicken strips into the egg white mixture.  Roll in the crumb mixture to coat.  Place in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake chicken in a 450 degree oven for 11-13 minutes or till no long pink.
2.  For sauce - in a small bowl stir together the 1/4 cup honey, mustard and garlic powder.  (I also added about 1/2 teaspoon poppy-seeds!)  Serve with chicken.

While eating this meal, my daughter said that I was "the bestest cooker at chicken maggots".  Sweet huh.  


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Decorating? What's that?

After taking that survey on here a while back and seeing that many of you wanted to see more posts on decorating, I went blank. It's like all of my ideas, tips and creative juices were erased from my brain. I think the pressure is too much. Smile. I was never a test taker, the pressure of trying to remember information was always too much and I buckled under pressure.

So, I am working on an interesting and informative decorating post. Stay tuned but don't hold your breath:)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Staying married vs. A Great marriage

I want to do more than simply "stay married".  My husband and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary in March and I was really proud, that we are still married after five years, AND that we have so far experienced (and worked hard to achieve) a great marriage.  And this is because of the grace of God.


I was thinking today about some of the daily choices I make that determine whether I simply stay married or actually have a great marriage.  I can feel the pull during conflict - the urge to pull away and say "whatever" and pretend things are fine.  But then (thankfully) the other nagging pull comes, the one that sounds much like the Holy Spirit.  I feel Him urging me to do more than avoid conflict but to instead work through it to the other side.  And with obedience to do what is right according to the Lord, marriages go from fine to amazing.

I don't always do my part to make our marriage great, but that is what I want to strive for.  I want more than to simply stay married, I want a great marriage.  And the choices I make daily affect how our marriage will be in the long run.

So, if I were to give a newlywed couple advice according to I have learned in my five years of marriage, I would say this - 
When you feel the urge for to distance yourself from your spouse, resist that urge, pray, and fight for unity and greatness.  

What have you learned and what advice would you give?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Black Bean Salad

I realize summer is almost over:( but I wanted to post a really good summer salad (could be made anytime of the year) I just made for the first time the other night that I really enjoyed! It was great as a salad or as salsa with tortilla chips. Next time I make it I am going to try it in pita bread or flour tortillas with sour cream. yum. It was fresh, flavorful, light but hearty at the same time! (if that's possible!!)

Black Bean Salad
serves 12

2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
8 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (I didn't have one and it still had plenty of flavor)
1 red bell pepper, chopped (you could do green or orange as well)
1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 c Italian dressing
1/2 t garlic salt

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill well before serving.

(The nice thing about this dish is that you really can't mess it up. You can add whatever you want to it. Change it to fit your own tastes! It's great! Enjoy!)

Contest Winner!

I decided to draw the name out of a hat, and so the winner is...

Amy's Gorgonzola Chicken 
 
Congratulations Amy!  
Expect to see some yummy Starbucks coffee in your mailbox.
(Email me your address at megnichole1@yahoo.com, and let me know if you have a preference - bold, extra bold, decaf, etc) 
Thanks everyone for joining us and sharing your recipes and fun pictures! 
Maybe we will do another contest sometime soon.  I really loved the new recipes, I hope others are able to enjoy them too! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Winter garden research

I did some research, and this site was particularly helpful.  Here are the things I learned that seem to be the most important to know:

1.  Have good drainage - Raised beds are great, or a garden that isn't at the bottom of a hill.

2.  Know when the First frost will be - I don't totally understand the math of first frost, but this site will tell you when the first estimated frost will be in your area.  Then check your seed packet.  For instance, my lettuce says that I can plant up to two weeks before the first frost.

3.  Protect against slugs, especially when the rain begins.  Deadline is great but it can be harmful to pets.  Sluggo is the safer alternative.  Slugs will eat your small stuff over night.

4.  Veggies to plant - Good crops for fall and winter gardens include salad greens, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, leeks, beets, turnips, scallions, parsley, cilantro, spinach, and parsnips. You can plant these vegetables in mid- to late summer after you harvest spring crops and space is available.

5.  Take special care of your new seeds and seedlings.  They need tender care the first week or two.  Sprinkle them with water once (or sometimes twice) a day at first. 

Hopefully this is helpful to those who are like me and trying this for the first time.  If you are out there and have some wisdom to share with us newbies, please do!  

Winter gardening

I weeded my garden today to try and make room for all the other stuff I hope to plant soon.  My technique of scrambling the weeds out when they are small would have worked if I would have actually done it consistently!  I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be so I had some 3 foot tall weeds taking over the beans.  

I am getting ready to plant a winter crop, something that I have never done before. Does anyone have any suggestions for the best things to plant this time of year? 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Refusing to bloom"

This was a post my sister did recently on her blog and she said I could post it here.  I know that many of us will be able to relate!  Thanks for sharing Jenne, I appreciate your honesty.  I have been there. 


It is titled, Refuse to Bloom.

I mentioned earlier this week that my sister and her friend started up a cool new blog. It is called "Choose to Bloom" and it is all about encouraging others to bloom where they are planted: to take the circumstances you find yourself in and not just make the best of them, but find joy in them. Glorify God where He has placed you, and be thankful for the placement.

I was joking with her the other day that I had a "REFUSE to Bloom" day. And oh boy, did I ever. I won't go into detail, but it is sufficient to say that I was angry at my husband and it had been building for a solid three weeks. But, you know, I am pregnant so I was having a VERY difficult time discerning what the underlying cause of my anger really was, and if that anger was even defensible.

So in a fit of rage, I stormed out of the house (again) determined to discern. I really wanted things to get back to normal between the two of us so I wanted resolution and I did not want to argue about superfluous things. Its too easy to tangent into arguments that have nothing to do with the real issue - incidents from which you have built up ammunition. We end up fighting about things that don't REALLY matter and never really getting to the bottom line. Result: everyone is super mad, and nothing gets fixed.

And so I tried to make sure I knew what the main point of contention was. And one other thing I have learned in marriage: if I don't know what MY problem is, what MY unmet needs are, how can I expect Ryan to have a fighting chance to meet them?! Yes, knowing why I am mad is only half the puzzle. The other half is my ability to articulate to him WHAT HE CAN DO SPECIFICALLY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. My husband is a problem-solver, so if he does not have this critical puzzle piece, he gets pretty frustrated with me.

One thing that Megan said to me a long time ago about marriage is that it would be really nice if our husbands could read our minds, but they can't so don't act like they can. TELL HIM what you need. Don't hint around and then get mad when he doesn't get it. That's just not fair. She was not necessarily giving me marriage advice at the time, but it is something that really stuck with me and I have often times looked at marriage conflict through that lens: have I told him what I really need from him? And often times the honest answer I give back to myself is, "I don't even know what I need!" And so out the door I go, searching for discernment so that I know what to ask for that would really make a difference BEFORE I engage in a conflict.

So, it started out with my refusal to bloom - I was angry and was kind of enjoying the pity party I was throwing. I was really enjoying feeling sorry for myself. And even more so, I was revelling in the list of strikes I was building against my Ryan. Of course if you were to ask me, I would have said I was miserable. But really, I liked the misery. But I was not blooming.

Am I blooming now, after the conflict was dealt with and resolved? I think I am well on my way.



Friday, August 8, 2008

Countdown

There is one week left to enter the recipe contest!  You will see links in the right margin to those who have already entered.  These recipes sound so great, thanks for entering and sharing your recipes with us.  For more info about the contest, click here.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Zucchini

Zucchinis are delicious in so many different ways.  If anyone out there is growing zucchinis this year, you may be with me in having an abundance of the veggie right now!  So, here are a few ways to use it and save it.


Sauteed Zucchini
Melt 1tbs. butter in a pan.  Slice zucchinis and saute in the butter until tender-crisp.  Add a little salt and pepper while cooking.  Yum!

Battered Zucchini
1 Cup flour
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. baking powder
1 egg lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. zucchini
olive oil for frying (I use as little as possible)

Mix the dry ingredients.  Combine in wet ingredients, beat until smooth.  Slice the zucchinis into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces and pat them dry.  Heat the oil, medium high heat, batter and fry.  Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

Zucchini Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)

1.  Grease loaf (8x4x2) pan.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.  Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside
3.  In another medium bowl, combine egg, sugar, zucchini, and oil.  Add zucchini mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Fold in nuts.  Pour into prepared pan.
4.  Bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Freezing Zucchini
I am trying this for the first time this year.  I found this site and this site helpful.  I shredded and froze, sliced and froze, sliced and blanched and froze.  Next year I will know what works best so that I can stick to one or two methods.  

Oh, and of course share your zucchini with friends and family! 

Anyone else have good tips, recipes, or ideas to share?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bad day

Does anyone else ever have a day where things pile on top of each other and all of a sudden feel too heavy to bare?  I am having one of those days.  The straw that broke this camel's back wasn't necessarily a heavy one, it just was the last one I could handle before breaking.  But, His mercies are new every day :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fun wall hanging

When we put in new windows, I had 4 shutters that I could no longer use as shutters but I didn't want to get rid of them. I decided to paint them black and hang three of them in my kitchen! It's been a fun addition. I use them to display pictures and every few months I change out the pictures. After my sister got married, I hung pictures from her wedding, these pictures are some great ones my sister in law took at Christmas time this last year! (I think it's time to hang some updated ones) You can also use them for mail or paper organizing, or whatever you want to use them for! They are just great so I thought I would pass it on to all of you, maybe some of you have some old shutters laying around!
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dread

Sometimes I dread things that really don't need to be dreaded.  Like the grocery store.  Or packing for vacation.  Or waking up with cranky kids who woke up too early this morning.  But I wanted to look at the good side of things today so I thought I would find the positive in all these things.

1.  The Grocery Store - It's not so bad.  Sometimes I see people I know, so that is fun.  OH, and it isn't the first of the month yet, so I can't even go today!  Ya, that's great :)

2.  Packing for vacation - That means that vacation is coming soon!  That's nothing to complain about!!  Sure packing is a little stressful and exhausting, but it is worth it to make the vacation extremely enjoyable!!

3.  Waking up with cranky kids - This is a tough one.  Um, they aren't cranky for too long.  And maybe this means early nap time, and then early bedtime!  And I'm looking at them right now, they are doing elephant noises back and forth to each other, laughing and having a great time.  I think I may join the fun.

So, what about you?  What are you dreading today and what's the positive about it?  Please share :)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Faith in God

I believe in God.  I believe that the Bible is true, and that what it says about God is without a doubt the absolute truth.  I count on the promises in the Bible, and it is for that reason that I can always choose to bloom where God has planted me.  I'm not saying that it is easy to see the bright side, but it is possible.  That is how I get through the hard times.

My husband said to me, "Choosing to bloom for you is your way of saying that you believe in the future grace of God - you are believing that God will continue to take care of you today and tomorrow, just like He has in the past".  It made me think.  If I have an eternal perspective, and a big picture of what is important in life, it is much easier to bloom where God has planted me.  If I set my priorities on financial wealth here on earth or on a life without (my current) trouble (whatever that may be), I have a horrible outlook on my daily life.  And the burdens weigh me down.  But if I can keep my eyes focused on the big picture - that what is most important is to love God and love others, it is much easier to bloom.  I can love God and love others in any situation I find myself in, by living in the spirit and depending upon God.

I'm so thankful to know God, and to know that the biggest picture is eternity.  Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by this truth that I just have to share.   

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Freebies!

Who doesn't love free stuff?  I have been discovering that there are tons of giveaways on blogs out there, so I thought I would share a few.  First of all, 



They do lots of giveaways, and they also like to share about other bloggers who are having giveaways. Their current prize is Apple 4G iPod Nano in Silver! So head there and check it out. Their blog is all about supporting one another by commenting on blogs.

Next head to
Photobucket
From what I have seen, every Friday they list some freebies they have found on the web, or that fellow bloggers are giving away. They have a fun site with lots of great info for the "earthy mommy, brainy mommy, crafty mommy, hip mommy, etc." It's a fun one to check out.

There are so many fun blogs out there, and I admit, I like to spend some of my quiet mommy time checking out what other people are up to. It's almost like people watching at the mall, except you get to read a little about what they are thinking.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recipe Contest!!

Here it is, the first contest/giveaway on our blog!

To enter the contest, here's what you need to do...

1. Make a great dish and take a picture or two

2. Post about it on your blog, sharing the recipe for all of us to see. Be sure to link people back to our blog so that your fans can learn about the contest as well.

3. Leave a comment here so that we know you are participating!

This will be really fun if a lot of us get involved, and we will all get some new recipes! Great huh! The prize is a pound of delicious Starbucks coffee! The winner could be the one with the tastiest recipe, or biggest disaster, or most creative post, or best photographs, or maybe we will just pick at random. So, here is the first challenge...

Main dish
Deadline is August 15th
(yes, the deadline has been extended!)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another closet organized

This is not a life changing post, the before and after picture aren't that drastic, but if you look really close you can see the simple yet effective changes I made to my "linen" closet.

Before

After

Now, start at the top shelf. This is mostly my photo/video shelf. The grey box on the right holds greeting cards that are organized by category. This is a great thing to have for birthdays, weddings, etc. We buy cards on sale or I make cards and they are on hand when we need them. The maroon box is full of pictures. The Rubbermaid box on top is for Peyton's craft stuff, the one below that is full of old videos and pictures from high school (very embarrassing box) next to those are old yearbooks, photo albums and scrapbooks. Mainly stuff I don't look at too often but don't want out in storage.

Next shelf down is obviously towels. I don't know why we have so many colors and sizes but we do and it makes a huge difference to have them stacked and folded neatly. In about 2 weeks they will be shoved in there like a big mess but for now, they look nice!

Next shelf is bathroom stuff and decorating stuff. The metal container on the right holds my candles and other little things for decorating.

Next one is obviously movies, I like to have them lined up somewhat by category. On the left I have TV shows on DVD (notice my Little House on the Prairie collection..only 5 seasons to go:), then comedies, chick flicks and action/boy flicks on the right. This helps when we go look for a movie knowing what genre we are in the mood for.

The bottom area is for scrap booking/crafting supplies. The tall Rubbermaid in the middle is my "fire box" even though it is not fire proof:) but it is the container I would grab in case of an emergency. It has our wedding picture negatives, other negatives, all of our home videos and CD's of all of our digital pictures. (I store my digital pictures on my camera for a month, at the end of the month I make sure they are all on the computer and then I delete from my camera to make room for the next month. After about 2 or 3 months I make a CD. If anything happened to our computer I would DIE if I didn't have these discs. That would be 2 years of LOST photos!!) The grocery bag (lovely I know) is our gift bag. Inside are things we collect or buy through out the year that can be saved as presents..there are some sweet Starbucks mugs in there that you'd be lucky to get!! It's just great for last minute gifts or during a month where there are lots of bdays on not so much money:) Don't worry, we don't re-gift...too often:) hehe

And now you know what is in my linen closet and how I organize it. About every month I have to redo it because over time, when I'm in a hurry random things get shoved in there:) Oh and a fun idea if you have an ugly linen closet door like we did (thanks 70's) we took the door off and put a curtain there instead. It's much more cute and we don't deal with a squeaky door anymore:)
(sorry that was such a long post)
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