1.30.2009

Mobility

While Erin still isn't "crawling" by most people's standards, she is definitely mobile and can get from point "a" to point "b" at will. I thought I would post a video of her accomplishments. :)


(Note: the string mentioned is the camera strap)

Just to see if you've been paying attention...

What special event occurs on Friday nights in our house? ;)

1.29.2009

Crustless Quiche

This week has been very busy, but I didn't want to go too long without posting, so I figured another recipe would have to do. I adapted this from allrecipes.com.

Cheese and Onion Crustless Quiche

1 medium white onion, diced
2 cups shredded mozz. cheese
1 T all purpose flour
5 eggs
1/2 cup milk - 1% or higher
Italian seasoning - to taste (optional)
garlic salt and pepper - to taste
0live oil and cooking spray

Dice onion and saute in olive oil (and Italian seasoning, to taste) until clear. Once onions are cooked, spread evenly in the bottom of a generously greased quiche or pie dish. Toss 2 cups shredded cheese in 1T flour. Sprinkle evenly over the onions in the quiche dish. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat eggs, milk, garlic salt and pepper until evenly blended. Slowly pour egg mixture over the cheese and onion already in the dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400* for 10 minutes and then reduce temp. to 325* and continue baking another 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serves 8

Other optional ingredients:
pepper
ham
cooked bacon
cooked sausage
pepperoni
diced tomato

1.24.2009

My Favorite Place on Earth - Dunluce Castle

In March of 2003, I went with a group from Covenant College on a 10 day mission trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Out of the 10 days we were in Northern Ireland, we spent one touring the Northern Irish coast. Dunluce Castle is, bar none, the most beautiful place I've ever been, only followed by Howth, Ireland.

1.23.2009

Date Night In...

So, as I have mentioned on many occasions, Fridays are usually Scrabble Night and Daniel and I love it! Of course "Scrabble Night" is really a relative term - what it really means is "game night", or "movie night", or simply "at home date night". The more we have "Scrabble Night" the more I realize its importance and the more I enjoy it. :) Date nights with your spouse are very, very important as they help to cultivate your relationship. It doesn't take anything fancy... just a little structure and some time. :)

Tonight after the kids are in bed, we may play Scrabble or we may watch a movie or both. But, what matters is that both Daniel and I prioritize making time for each other and we enjoy that time spent together.

If you're married, what are you doing with your Friday night? :)

1.22.2009

Chewy Granola Bars

I found this recipe on another blog and finally tried it today. YUM! My changes are in italics.

2 cups rolled oats - I used quick cooking oats
1/2 cup oat flour, blended until powdery (or 1/2 cup wheat germ) - I used oat bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar - I cut the sugar in 1/2 and used a mix of both white and brown
3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional) - I completely omitted these
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350° F, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

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1.21.2009

Vinegar

So, you've probably noticed that I tend to mention vinegar a lot. Why? Because I love the stuff.

In my mind, there is only one "down side" to vinegar - that it smells bad. So, that being said, why do I love it? The advantages far outweigh the negative.

1. It is a natural disinfectant. You can use it in the laundry, the dishwasher, as a multi-purpose cleaner...)
2. It makes a great fabric softener - just add to the fabric softener dispenser in your washing machine!
3. It is the perfect hair conditioner when diluted.
4. It's cheap (hey, while we're not supposed to be stingy, we are to be good stewards, right?)
5. When diluted properly, it can aid in controlling hunger.
Last but certainly not least...
6. Without it, we wouldn't have such delicacies as pickles or sour kraut.

Go out and buy some. If used properly, you won't regret it. :)

1.20.2009

We have a new President

History has been made today, as Barak Obama is now president of the United States (and is the first African-American* to fill that office!). As such, regardless of who you voted for back in November, the office of President deserves the respect and support of the American people.

For those who differ in convictions to our newly inaugurated president, find comfort in knowing that God is just and that He is sovereign above all earthly powers. In that, we can find peace.

*In the vein of history making, maybe, just maybe, America will inaugurate it's first female president in 2013!

Today (and many days!), I find encouragement in this song by Indelible Grace -

Jesus, with Thy Church abide,
Be her Savior, Lord, and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure,
Help her, patient, to endure,
Trusting in Thy promise sure:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she one in doctrine be,
One in truth and charity,
Winning all to faith in Thee:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,
Seek the lost until she find,
And the broken hearted bind:
We beseech Thee, hear us.

Oft in sorrow, oft in woe, onward Christians, onward go!

Oft in sorrow, oft in woe, onward Christians, onward go!

Oft in sorrow, oft in woe, onward Christians, onward go!

~ (Andrew Osenga) Indelible Grace

1.19.2009

Photo Tag

I was tagged to do this by Amanda A. So, here goes. :)

1.Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
2.Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
3.Explain the picture.
4.Tag 4 people to do the same.This is Daniel's "artistic" shot of our brunch table on New Year's morning. We were literally about to sit down and eat. As you can see, my sister was pouring juice, Dad and mom were about to sit down and if you look very carefully at the upper, left hand corner opposite the Christmas tree, you can see Patrick's socked feet resting on the edge of the table. This meal was very similar to our Christmas Brunch. We're hoping to make this a regular tradition - hosting Christmas and New Year's brunch. This was the first year we have done it, but it has been so much fun already that we hope to continue!

I'm tagging: Tammy C., Brooke H., Rebecca J., and Heidi G. Have fun!

1.18.2009

Sundays

I love Sundays. God gave us Sundays as a day of rest and as a day to focus on Him.

The last two Sundays have been unique for me as both kids have really needed to stay in the house. Last Sunday, I opted to stay home with the kids so Daniel could go to church. This week, I attended Sunday school and then came home so Daniel could go to church. For us, this system works well.

As a believer, I need spiritual food as well as physical food and I know that it is easy to get spiritually dry without some kind of intentional nourishment throughout the week. Today on the drive to and from Sunday school, I found great encouragement from this song (I like the version by Dave Hunt - you can find it on iTunes) as it points my focus to Christ.

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven, He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am,
The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

1.16.2009

The Return of Scrabble Night

Now that the holidays are officially over - and have been for quite some time - and now that the kiddos seem to be on the mend - praise God! - Daniel and I are trying to get back into our usual Friday night date night at home.

Hence, this evening brings with it the return of Scrabble Night and the promise of popcorn. :) Friday nights are perfectly good for date nights - in or out. But, considering that it is a balmy 14* right now, I seriously think I would rather stay in.

For those of you without any set plans this evening, you might consider staying in - it is practically sub-zero out there... Why would you go out? Even if you only own one game or a deck of cards, surely you can make it a fun date night at home.

Oh, and tonight is a great night for split pea soup. :)

1.15.2009

Perspective

This past week has been challenging.

Because we all got sick last Friday with the stomach bug and took a few days to recover, we were unable to attend church on Sunday.

Because Erin had a low fever was obviously not feeling well on Monday, we were unable to attend CBS leaders' council.

Erin remained sick on Tuesday and finally started to feel marginally better on Wednesday, but because of her illness we missed CBS on Tuesday and we stayed home on Wednesday.

This morning, I missed Mom2Mom because the kids' noses were (and still are) running like faucets. Not to mention, it's 22* outside. Cold weather and runny noses simply don't mix. Besides, I didn't want to risk causing Erin to relapse as she is still not quite 100%.

As I like having regularly scheduled things to attend, this week has been challenging for me. Please don't misunderstand... I also like having days where I stay home as these days tend to provide structure for laundry, cleaning, and regular playtime with the kids. Our usual weekday routine provides the balance for this - out three mornings per week, home two full days per week. But, I can easily get worn down when I am unexpectedly home for several days in a row. This week has been no exception.

My mom has been a great encouragement to me through this - she has gently reminded me throughout this week that I am home taking care of my children. What greater calling could I ask for? I have a husband who loves me, who loves our children, and who works diligently so that I can stay home. (I love you, Daniel!) God has called me to be a homemaker and sometimes being a homemaker means, well... staying home! ;) I can find joy in knowing that I am fulfilling His calling for me.

Lest you think I've been "stuck" at home all week, I haven't. I have had a few breaks in the last few days thanks to Mom and to Daniel. Earlier in the week, Mom came over for a surprise visit (one of the perks of living 1 mile apart!) and treated me to Starbucks. Part of the surprise was that I got to go pick it up! It is amazing how much joy can come from 15 minutes alone in the car and from a visit with Mom - she always has something encouraging to say. Then last night, Daniel gave me the night off and I was able to go to the bridal shop with my sister - the bride-to-be - and most of her bridesmaids to try on the dresses. This was wonderful! (What girl doesn't like playing dress up every now and again?) So, I have had some great opportunities for "mommy time" this week even though I've had two children in differing stages of illness to care for.

While this week has certainly been different than I expected, and while I have missed some things that I love attending, this week has also been a week of growth in the Lord and unexpected time home with my children. I have been reminded this week that when things go differently than I have planned - as they are apt to do - try not to focus on the "But I...". Rather, by the grace of God, I try to focus on the joys of the unexpected, knowing that I am exactly where He wants me. What greater joy could I ask for?

1.13.2009

Recipes

A friend recently emailed me to ask for some inexpensive, but good recipes. I figured it was a great opportunity to post a few staple menus in our house. I am more of a "throw it together" cook than a "follow the recipe" cook, so please forgive me if these aren't specific enough.

Mexican Pizzas
1 large flour tortilla for each person
1 can refried beans - you should have left overs
diced onion maybe 1/4 an onion?
Diced green/red/yellow/jalapeno peppers - any, all, or none of these will work fine
diced tomato - canned petite diced work fine if you drain them
reduced fat or part-skim mozz. cheese
salsa

On each tortilla, spread about 1/4 cup refried beans on HALF the tortilla. Add more if you like. I usually add beans until there is a even, somewhat thick layer of beans on 1/2. Fold tortilla in half, covering the beans. Sprinkle cheese on the top. There should be enough cheese to give a nice layer, but not so much that you can't see the tortilla through the cheese. Top with diced peppers, diced onion, canned tomato. This really is to taste, so I can't offer suggestions here. You should have some of the peppers and onion left over for another Mexican pizza dinner later that week. You can either put the pizzas on a cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes at 350* or until cheese is melted or you can put in the microwave individually for 1 minute at a time or until warm. Top with desired amount of salsa just prior to serving.

Split Pea Soup (crock pot recipe)
1 bag dried split peas
8 cups of water*
8 cubes beef or chicken boullion*
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or garlic powder to taste
2-3 tsp. marjoram or to taste
4-5 slices cooked bacon (you can use ham, too, but this is a good cost-efficient alternative)
1 onion, diced
carrots (I often use 1-2 cans, drained)

In a large crock pot, add water, bullion cubes, garlic or garlic powder, marjoram, and rinsed split peas. Cook on High. After a few hours (this time may depend on your crock pot), stir. The peas should at least have puffed up quite a bit. Add chopped or crumbled bacon. If you're using fresh carrots, add when you add the bacon. If you're using canned, hold off on adding the carrots. Start checking on the soup hourly or so, stirring when you do. The peas should start to disintegrate and the liquid will thicken. Once the peas have pretty much lost all form and the soup has thickened, turn the crock pot to low and add your canned carrots and onions. This should be about an hour or two before you will serve dinner as the onions need to flavor the soup. If you like a chunkier soup, add extra carrots or onion. The liquid will start to separate at the cooler temperature, but stirring will even things back out. Stir before serving. This is good with shredded cheese sprinkled on top and bread on the side. This soup should comfortably serve a family for at least 2 dinners.

*For a healthier, but slightly more expensive alternative, use chicken or beef stock without MSG in place of the water and boullion.
*If the soup is too thick for your liking, add warm water about 1/2 cup at a time to the entire batch. You may need to add extra boullion if you add a great deal of water.

Some Photos of our Sick Day (Last Friday)


Patrick (before he threw up) with Gramma.


Erin and Patrick watching "Memo"... they look riveted...

1.12.2009

"Necessity is the mother of invention..." ~ Little Women

The above quote from one of my favorite movies - "Little Women" - seems to become more and more applicable as time goes on. As I mentioned in my previous post, sickness seems to abound right now and as such, there is often a necessity that I am unable to just run to the store for. Let's face it - with two kids under two, "just running" anywhere isn't really running, and in fact, it resembles more of a snail's pace by the time I get from point a to point b without careful planning.

This morning, the need for a humidifier/vaporizer arose due to Erin's horrible cough. Poor thing sounded like she was coughing up a lung (fear not, she sounds a bit better now). We don't currently own a humidifier and going out wasn't really an option since Erin's cough was so bad.

So, here is how I treated it...

1 - I took Erin to the bathroom (it is small, so it doesn't take a lot to fill it with steam), turned the shower on Hot only, plugged the drain, and dumped a mixture of epsom salts, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil into the floor of the tub. As the steam filled the air, so did the vicks-like vapors from the essential oils. Erin seemed to be coughing more productively during and after our vapor steam session.

2 - I have a small "dip size" crock pot. I figured that crock pots are designed to be plugged in for hours at a time, so it was a perfect humidifier when the lid is kept off. I filled the crock pot about 1/2 way full with warm water, added some of the essential oils and placed it in a safe location in the kids' room (Patrick doesn't play in there, so there is no danger of him coming into contact with it). Throughout the day, I've added water or oils as necessary. I've also kept the kids' bedroom door closed in effort to keep the humidity contained.

Both seem to have helped minimize Erin's cough. Of course, a humidifier is now on the list of upcoming purchases, but this has helped to get us through the day without an unnecessary trip out!

So, for those of you with small children, when you see a necessity arise, look through your kitchen/house. You probably will have something available that, while crude, will work just as well as the devices designed for the said purpose. Yes, you will eventually need to go get whatever, but at least you can make-do until your next planned outing. God gave us creativity... use it. :)

1.10.2009

Sickness Strikes Again!

Now I'm finally beginning to understand what people mean when they say they were sick all winter. We seem to be in our 2nd bout of true sickness and are dealing with the umpteenth cold for the season.

Wednesday morning, I got Patrick up, only to discover that he had hurled in his crib sometime during the night (I'll spare you the details). At first, I assumed it was because I fed him something a little too spicy and just let him take it easy, assuming that in a day or two, his appetite would be back to normal. Yesterday I was proven that it was not something Patrick ate when around 1:00am I woke up with a stomach ache and wasn't able to go back to sleep. Just prior to the bum-crack of dawn, I made my own visit to the bathroom to spend some quality time with the toilet. Thankfully, this only happened once!

I realized very quickly that I was going to need some major help getting through the day as simply walking the 15 or so feet from my bedroom door to the bathroom was enough to make me want to pass out. Daniel called my parents' and my mom graciously said she would be over as soon as she could. This was a HUGE blessing as it meant Daniel didn't have to take the day off of work.

I seriously don't know what I would have done yesterday without my mom. I spent 90% of the day in bed, getting up only to use the restroom and to "help" with the kids however necessary (grabbed a towel here, found a change of clothes there... you get the idea. It was nothing major). But, just to give you a picture of our day...

"Bob" or "Memo" (Finding Nemo) were on constantly until the kiddos' naptime. Mom held Patrick or Erin most of the day. And, she got puked on... twice. I maybe drank 20 oz of fluid in the time between 5:15 am and 5:15pm. Patrick ate about 1.5 goldfish. Erin couldn't keep much down except when I nursed her (interesting the way God designed our bodies...).

By the grace of God, Daniel was able to work a full day, even though he wasn't feeling very well either. Today, we all seem to be on the up-swing, though none of us are 100% yet. Praise God it seems to be short lived!

1.07.2009

Budgeting in the New Year

So, I've probably mentioned this before, but as we've just begun a new year, I thought this might be a good time to mention this. There are many things on a budget that are what they are - the mortgage/rent payment, electric bill, water bill, etc. But, there are some things that can be manged carefully - particularly the food budget. I've found that the food budget is one of the things that can skyrocket very, very quickly if careful attention isn't applied, but can be kept in check beautifully by just applying a few simple principles.

1 - We use a cash-only approach for food. Of course, if an emergency comes up - like we need motrin for the kids - then we might use the debit card. Otherwise, I take a set amount of cash (this should be the same every month) out of our checking account the day of my grocery shopping trip and I do my best to stick to it, if not go under. Going over really is a no-no, though on rare occasion, this still does happen and it is justifiable. But, 99% of the time, if I've gone over the cash allotment, then I've picked up something I don't really need.

2 - After trying several different methods, I've found that 3 major shopping trips/month works best. When I go to the store, I buy enough food to last 10 days. Usually 2 bags of brown rice, tortillas, cheese, canned or frozen veggies, pasta and flour are enough to cover dinners. We eat a lot of left-overs for lunches, but I still buy bread, PB, oatmeal, eggs, cereal, etc. to have on hand for breakfast and lunch.

3 - When possible, take baby hygiene products out of the grocery budget. I had been building diapers/wipes into my grocery budget for a long time, but this was pretty significantly throwing off my first shopping trip of the month. $60-70 can make a pretty big dent in the volume of groceries you can purchase on a set budget. So, we started putting diapers/wipes on the credit card as a once/month purchase. Because this is a set expense - give or take $10 - we simply budget for it and are able to pay the bill when it comes. As a general rule, we do not use the credit card except for emergencies, but this is a nice way of earning money back from the credit card company without using it unnecessarily.

4 - Because I make my own household cleaning products, I do put these into the grocery budget as it probably won't add more than $5 a month, tops. In fact, buying my ingredients for homemade household cleaners once will usually last several months, so this is not a monthly expense at all.

I'm also going to post my multi-purpose/window cleaner recipe again for those of you who may have been interested in trying it, but still had store-bought cleaners to use.

In spray bottle (use an old one if you can), add 1 cup water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and some white vinegar (I just pour, but it probably comes out to about an ounce).

Some people prefer to use 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water, omitting the rubbing alcohol. However, I've tried both and find that the alcohol significantly reduces the drying time and leaves glass looking much cleaner. I do have hard water, though, and this may have an impact on the evaporation rate.

I like to add esssential oils to my cleaner just so it smells good when I'm using it. My favorite combination is still probably lavender-eucalyptus, but I have tried orange-lavender-clove, geranium-lemongrass, and lavender-peppermint. I just pour the oils in the bottle until I am happy with the scent. You can also use tea tree oil as an added aneseptic, but there is really no need if you're using vinegar and rubbing alcohol as the germs should have already been eliminated.

1.02.2009

"Normal" life and Post-Holiday Weight Loss

While I LOVE the holidays, I also love when they're over. The schedule changes, the travel, the food can all wear you down after a few weeks. Of course, looking back at the last several weeks, I wouldn't trade an ounce of it, but I am very happy that I'm home, that my kids are able to nap in their own cribs at the right time and that the holiday food is quickly disappearing from my kitchen.

This week has been great for "down time" before we really get back into our routines. Of course, I was ill on Monday, but God's grace was sufficient to get me through the day and He blessed me with quick healing! In spite of Monday's sickness, the kids were able to have a pretty normal (short of watching far too much Veggie Tales!) day of being home. Tuesday and Wednesday were normal, non ill days in which we pretty much stayed home. I love days at home because it gives the kids time to enjoy their environments without having to run somewhere.

Of course, the Christmas tree and decorations are still up, but those will most likely come down this weekend. The taking down of holiday decorations is a great time to clean well - especially if you put up a real tree. Ours seems to have left pollen and needles all over the general vicinity. Vacuum, dust, clean windows, etc. in the rooms where your tree (and possibly real greenery) was. It probably left more behind than you think.

Now, on to the topic of food... Most of us probably put on at least a few pounds over the holidays. (I know I did.) It's one of the perils of Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention New Year's falling so close together. No one ever complains of gaining weight over the 4th of July or St. Paddy's Day, right? ;) From experience, I've learned that probably 85-90% of the "weight loss battle" is food. Exercise helps, but food is key. It's not so much what you eat as it is how much you eat. Losing weight really isn't that difficult as long as you can identify weaknesses. Here are some tips I've found to be extremely helpful.

*Before you start trying to lose weight, take two or three days and write down everything you eat. I mean everything. This includes that single goldfish you ate while giving your child a snack, that sip of regular soda, that chocolate chip you ate while making cookies...

*Once you've attained a few days documentation, look at your menus. Where are you eating and snacking that you probably don't need to be? You might find that you eat "just one" chocolate about 10 times throughout your day. Or, maybe you're getting most of your unnecessary calories through beverages - how much sugar do you put in your tea or coffee? What about milk - do you drink whole, 1%, skim? Soda, Starbucks, juice... you can probably alter the things you drink to minimize your calorie intake without changing your habits too drastically.

*Next, by looking at your food journal, determine if there are any regular times during the day when you tend to eat without even realizing it. For me, I've gotten into the habit of unnecessary snacking during the kids' nap time. I love my herbal tea w/ a cookie (or two...) or maybe chocolate while I'm working on CBS homework.

*Start measuring out your portions. I know this has been a big issue for me in the past, and when I'm not careful, I lose all sense of what a portion size looks like. Eventually, you'll learn how to naturally serve a true portion, but this can take some work as portions are generally smaller than most people think.

*Eat until satisfied, not until you're full. This is a big one.

*If you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first. You might find that you were really only thirsty. If you were truly hungry, the glass of water certainly won't hurt anything.

*Hunger is not always a bad thing. Usually it takes a few days for your body to realize that you don't need all the holiday junk-food. During those few days you might struggle with feeling hungry a lot. Your body has accustomed itself to eating more than necessary, so it needs time to re-adjust. Drink water. Drink water. Drink water. And, remember that a little hunger is good. It means you will probably see some weight loss at the end of a week. Sure, you don't want to starve yourself, and if you're consistently hungry after a glass or two or three of water, then go ahead and eat something - how about a carefully measured out bowl of cheerios w/ skim milk, or an apple?

Also remember, you don't put on weight over night, so you can't lose it over night. A good rule of thumb is 1-2lbs a week tops.