Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm a Winner!!

This year I participated in Short Stop's Cookie Exchange and had a great time checking out everyone's cookie recipes. And I won The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by participating!! Yay!! This book is the reason that Sarah bakes for 25 days in December with her boys. Sounds exhausting, so I'm excited to read this book and learn why she wanted to create this tradition with her sons.

She's also having another giveaway at her blog starting today and ending Wednesday, December 16th at 5pm. Sarah's giving away a Cuisinart ice cream maker!! Head on over to Short Stop to enter this great giveaway!!

Short Stop's Giveaway

**Update: I did not win this giveaway, but I received my ordered book in the mail and I love it. So does my husband!! I'm even using some of the Isaiah stuff to tell the Christmas story with the point being the cross and the resurrection. It would make a great Christmas gift!!

One of my favorite bloggers, Sarah over at Short Stop, is having a few giveaways this month and I wanted to share this one with you!! She's giving away 10 copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible. (I just ordered this book last night!) So, head on over to Short Stop to share what's on top of your Christmas tree as your entry into the giveaway.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Doorposts Purchase

About a month ago I was introduced to Doorposts and I've been eying quite a few items on their website. Several days ago we delivered a meal to a family from church and they had the If-Then poster and I decided that it would be a great investment. So this morning I made my purchases and made a list of other resources that I'd like to eventually get. You can order a free catalog here and through the month of December you can receive 10% off by using the code CHRISTMAS09. Happy shopping!

My Purchases
Honor Your Father and Mother
- The 5th commandment for little ones

If-Then Poster
- laminated, black and white (16"x22")
If-Then Chart
- laminated, colored (8.5"x11")
each $6

My WishList
For Instruction in Righteousness
- A topical reference guide for biblical training
Plants Grown Up
- Projects for sons on the road to manhood
Prepare They Work
- Preparing young men for Christian marriage

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finishing Up My "To Do's" for the Week

Yesterday we were snowed in and I set some goals for myself. I didn't get everything done, but that's the beauty of a snow's an extra day to get things done. Today is my husband's day off so I already feel like I'm ahead of the game.

Goals for Yesterday (and Today)
* workout I scooped snow for 1 hour, I think that counts as a workout
* make gingerbread houses with the family
* sew a blanket for my son's Christmas present
* sew scarves for my boys
* wrap gifts
* clean my bedroom (mostly it's picking up and putting things away, but still it's a big job)
* bake these bars
* drink some hot chai tea and watch Home Alone (yes, that can be considered a goal) even though we watched Veronica Mars instead
* read my library book, Shepherds Abiding
* housework: vacuum, sweep, mop, clean both bathrooms, dust, laundry
* put together our new stroller (arrived Tuesday while we were running errands; the box was on our front deck covered with 3 inches of snow)
* add my Pebbernodder recipe to Short Stop's cookie exchange
* finish my San Diego posts on our family blog
* cuddle with my boys
* take my youngest to his 2 year apt
* babysit for a friend

That would be my regular list for Thursday but now I'm ahead of the game!! Yay for me. Do you make a To Do list for yourself? How do you stay motivated to keep working when you just want to sit and enjoy another Chai tea and a movie? ;)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This cookie is so yummy and it makes a great snack for you your kids. Pebbernodder, pronounced "pure-a-nuh-tha" (I am not a linguist but I gave it my best try), is a recipe for Danish Peppernuts. This recipe comes from our friend's mom who is married to a true Danish immigrant. The first time we had this cookie was in 2001 during spring break. We went down to southern Missouri to go rock climbing with some college friends and Sue made these little cookies for us to take on our trip. They were delicious and we munched on them all day. They do take a little work so I always try to make a double batch because once you start munching, it's hard to stop. ;) Oh, and don't forget, the dough has to be refrigerated overnight so plan ahead.

from: Sue Olesen

1/3 cup softened butter (I use margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
2 to 2 1/2 cups flour

Cream together margarine and sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet. Chill dough overnight.

Flour your work surface and take pieces of dough rolling them into a pencil-shape, using more flour if dough is sticky. Cut into small pieces (less than 1/2-inch).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the tops are golden. Enjoy!

**If you use an airbake pan, they cookies won't brown as well. And they do need to be brown because these cookies are best when they're crunchy.
**I rarely prounounce pebbernodder correctly so our family has just started calling it Pua-Nua. ;)

Check out Short Stop for more great cookie recipes!!

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Current Status (8am)
Temp: 9 degrees
Wind Chill: -14 degrees
Amount of Snowfall: 12 inches
Sustained Winds: 35 mph
Wind Gusts: 49 mph
Drifts: HUGE - I haven't been out to measure but some look taller than me (5 ft 3 in)

I probably won't post any pictures of the great outdoors until the wind dies down (I really don't want to go outside today) but I will get some before our boys tear into those drifts. ;)

Goals for Today
(in no particular order, although the workout and housework should come first)
* workout
* make gingerbread houses with the family
* sew a blanket for my son's Christmas present
* sew scarves for my boys
* wrap gifts
* clean my bedroom (mostly it's picking up and putting things away, but still it's a big job)
* bake these bars
* drink some hot chai tea and watch Home Alone (yes, that can be considered a goal)
* read my library book, Shepherds Abiding
* housework: vacuum, sweep, mop, clean both bathrooms, dust, laundry
* put together our new stroller (arrived yesterday while we were running errands; the box was on our front deck covered with 3 inches of snow)

My husband is working from home today so I'm sure he'll be joining in with the fun, even the housework. ;) We'll also see if we have school today. Since the whole city is shutdown and no one else is having school, maybe we won't either, although making gingerbread houses should count. ;)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review

** Guest post from my husband, Jonathan

Christianity Today Study Series: Faith and Pop Culture

This book asks questions about what it looks like for a Christian to engage culture. It covers the main topics of art, literature, sports, TV, movies and how the Christian should interpret and engage with these culturally prevalent topics. It does not necessarily paint things in black or white but tries to challenge the reader to see how each of these areas can be used to bring God glory. It recognizes the depravity that is inherent in the endeavors of people while using questions to help you think about what this looks like in your own life. This book would be great for teaching a series or for self-study. There are a variety of questions and follow-up stories that would be helpful for a variety of people. This book challenged me to be more discerning in the way I read, watch, listen and play. This book helps combine biblical truth with modern-day dilemmas.

We received a free review copy of Christianity Today and needed to post our review on our blog and on a consumer retail website. It's a great way to check out new books without any cost to you. You can click here if you are interested in becoming a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best Friends Take a Bath

This all started as an emergency rescue before bed last night. Our oldest son dropped Peanut or Squirrel (TY Beanie Babies Nuts) into the toilet during our bedtime ritual.

We (dad) left him out overnight to dry but I wasn't satisfied with the cleanliness and so this morning I washed him with some Johnson's Head-to-Toe Baby Wash and put him in the dryer (on warm) and he came out fine. (Phew!!!)

Then our youngest was enjoying his Advent chocolate after breakfast this morning and proceeded to get chocolate all over Doggy (TY Classic Roscoe). After removing most of the chocolate with a washcloth I noticed that Doggy had a urine-smell to him (yuck!!). So, I washed him in a little bath with some Johnson's and put him in the dryer. (I was very, very afraid at how this would end up.)

As I waited for Doggy to finish drying, I searched online to find out if I could buy a replacement...and I'm in trouble. All of my boys' beloved friends are RETIRED. I can't find them anywhere, except on the TY website saying they're retired. So hopefully they won't be ruined by me...or themselves because they're going to be hard to replace.

Now, I'm just hoping that Bunny or Outside (TY Classic Brambles) doesn't have an accident and he has to take a bath and venture a trip through the dryer.

**Update: Doggy made it!! And he smells great. I don't know how often I can do this without ruining our poor furry friends, but I'm glad I tried it this time. I'm just glad that TY products are well-made.

Monday's Resolution

Why wait until January 1st to start your resolutions? Why not start today?

Today I started The 30 Day Shred again. Last time I did The Shred, I lost 12 lbs and maintained until right before our trip to San Diego (3 months). Vacations can be hard like that because you want to's vacation! But it's not always a good idea. ;) So, here I am again, weighing in and starting over. Well, not completely over, but I have gained back some weight. Bummer!!

I will usually be weighing in on Wednesday with the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans but I'm starting The Shred today and wanted to mark my start. Please pray that I have enough energy to get up early and enough discipline to go to bed on time! ;)

starting weight: 160.6 (yikes)

Here we go again, and hopefully I'll be to 150lbs by Christmas!! ;)

original starting weight: 166.4 - started May 20, 2009

lowest weight recorded: 154.2 - August 19, 2009

Shrink-a-Versary Challenge with the Sisterhood!

**Update: Up at 5:30a this morning. Shredding is horrible. I barely made it through Level 1. I can feel my body jiggling with every jumping jack and my heart was pounding. I almost felt nauseous. I know it will get better every day (at least it did the last go round). Here's to a full week of Shredding.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reflections On Psalm 127

When we were in San Diego I had a lot of non-distracted time to read (and I really enjoyed that time). ;) One of the Psalms that hit me in a new way (as it did my husband) was Psalm 127.

Psalm 127

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

We have always loved vs 3-5. It holds such meaning for us as parents. We want our children to be strong arrows that we eventually send out into the enemy's camp. We pray that God blesses our quiver and that He gives us the strength we need when it's time for us to let them go and fight for Christ.

But the first 2 verses I thought were always talking about building a city and what that requires. But as my husband and I were looking at the entire Psalm, we thought it might be talking about parenting and building your home. It's amazing how this Psalm has changed my perspective.

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

No matter what we do to protect our children or how we work to raise them, it is ultimately in God's hands. And we need to hand over that control to God. He will build up our children and He will protect them. It's totally up to God no matter what we do to try and hold on. God's got this. He's got our kids. He loves them and He wants us to hand them over to His will. That doesn't mean we don't do anything, but we need to realize that God loves them more than we do, which is hard for me to grasp.

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

This verse took on another parent-meaning. It goes so many ways - parents worrying more than praying - for our children's health/future/character/walk with God, dad being gone all the time to work to support the family, mom trying to be all (seamstress, gardener, maid, laundress, cook, baker, shopper, chauffeur, crafty, frugal, Proverbs 31 wife and mother, secretary, entertainment director, friend, full-time job outside the home, hostess, blogger, book-reader, spiritual adviser, accountant, referee, etc) and becoming ineffective in her parenting. That last one is more me than anything else. I spend too much time trying to measure up to my own unrealistic expectations when my ultimate desire is to have my children know Jesus Christ, love and serve Him. But God grants sleep to those He loves. I don't need to be all of those things all the time. I need to be a lover of Jesus, a wife and a mother.

So, maybe this verse is about building a city. Or maybe it's about building a family and a home. This Psalm has been a great encouragement to me and it needs to go somewhere where I'll see it everyday. To remind me to refocus on who God is and that He will care for me and my children. My study Bible states it like this: "A good harvest is not the achievement of endless toil but the result of God's blessings." And I think that's such a blessing for a mother to know!

P.S. When I read this article on self-doubt as a homeschool mom over at Heart of the Matter Psalm 127 came right to my mind.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dirt Cups

I love cooking with my boys and we had a lot of fun recreating dirt with this recipe. I know there are other recipes out there for "dirt" but I like the look of this layered dessert. And my boys liked that it was called dirt. I gave the job of crushing the Oreos to my oldest son and he had a great time. Get your kids cooking in your kitchen, you'll be surprised at how excited they are to eat something they helped make (yes, even vegetables). ;)

Dirt Cups

1 box instant pudding
20 Oreos
4 gummy worms

Put the Oreos in a zip-lock bag and crush with a wooden spoon or your hands. Mix the pudding and layer with the crushed Oreos, starting with the Oreos. Put a worm on top of each cup and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Advent Celebration

Main Entry: Ad·vent
Pronunciation: \ˈad-ˌvent, chiefly British -vənt\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin adventus, from Latin, arrival, from advenire
Date: 12th century
1 : the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting
2 a : the coming of Christ at the Incarnation b : second coming
3 not capitalized : a coming into being or use personal computers>
from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary and Thesaurus

Yesterday we started our Advent calendar. It's a little house that my husband and I bought before we had kids. I knew that I wanted to count down the days to Christmas when we had littles of our own and I wanted to include some fun activities, how we can help others, how we can give to others, and how we can prepare our hearts for Jesus' birthday. Here's what we have planned:

Day 1 read Luke 1:26-38 and discuss how the angel came to Mary and told her that she would have baby Jesus; open Fisher Price Little People Nativity set and talk about all the people included in the box

Day 2 be mom's helper by washing the dishes after dinner tonight

Day 3 treat

Day 4 make popcorn and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas movie

Day 5 money to buy a hat and mittens for the Mitten Tree at church

Day 6 read Matthew 1:18-25 and discuss how an angel came to Jesus' mom and His dad; make angels out of coffee filters

Day 7 treat

Day 8 money to buy your brother a gift for his stocking

Day 9 bring a meal to a family from church

Day 10 make caramel corn and deliver to neighbors with The Perfect Gift tags

Day 11 make hot chocolate and go for a ride to look at Christmas lights

Day 12 build an ornament with dad at Lowe's workshop and deliver to someone special

Day 13 read John 1:6-9; each boy will get their own flashlight and we'll go on a scavenger hunt around our home in the dark

Day 14 treat

Day 15 make mixes (pancakes, French vanilla cocoa, Chai tea, etc)

Day 16 make dad's lunch and supper

Day 17 deliver mixes (from Day 15) to friends/babysitters

Day 18 build a snowman; if no snow make snowmen from rice krispie treats

Day 19 attend The Perfect Gift

Day 20 read Isaiah 9:2,6 and talk about how Isaiah, the prophet, told the people that there would be a Savior born; sing Christmas carols by candlelight

Day 21 treat

Day 22 pipe cleaners gift (great thing to play with on a long car ride)

Day 23 pack for our trip and talk about how Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem

Day 24 build a manger for Jesus with a shoebox and write names and attributes of Jesus on strips of yellow and orange paper (hay) to prepare a bed for Jesus

Day 25 read Luke 2:1-20; put baby Jesus in the manger and sing "Away in a Manger"

Most of the days will be a slip of paper with a hint of what the activity is for the day. But there could be a treat or a symbol of what's up for the day, or even some cash (Day 5) for little shopping trips. I hope my boys enjoy this Advent season and next year we will add the Jesse Tree devotions to our Christmas traditions.

Some other great Advent ideas:
RCA Jesse Tree - we plan on doing this with our boys next year
Baby Sock Advent Calendar
Teaching Mom's Advent Calendar - don't be overwhelmed by all the ideas on this calendar, just pick what you want to use and skip the rest - that's what I did ;)
Christ In Christmas - we bought this book when we were first married and planned on using it with our family some day but it seemed a little over the heads of our toddlers, so maybe when they're a little older

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Menu:

Old Fashioned Roast Turkey
Honey Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Gramma's Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potatoes
7-Layer Lettuce Salad
Pumpkin Pie
Nibble Mix
Hot Apple Cider

Thanksgiving Decorations:

from Monica at The Homespun Heart
& Hostess with the Mostest Daily Blog

Thanksgiving Devotions:

Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks.
Psalm 75:1

from My ABC Bible Verses by: Susan Hunt

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brined Pork Shoulder

This is a recipe I searched for because I wasn't able to purchase salt pork for the Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey recipe I used for Thanksgiving this year.

If you're like me and you can't find salt pork you can brine 1 lb of pork shoulder. I got my advice from Cook's Illustrated but changed the recipe to get more salt in my pork:

Brined Pork Shoulder
my recipe

1 lb pork shoulder
1 quart cold water
1/2 cup table salt
1/4 cup sugar

Pour water into a large zip-top bag. Add salt and sugar and squish around in the bag. Add pork shoulder and brine for 1 1/2 hours in the fridge.
Drain liquid from pork shoulder and continue with your recipe.

I think this worked just fine but I'm sure that salt pork would be the best choice to use on your Old-Fashioned Turkey if you can find it.


Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey

This was a great recipe for turkey. It's not complicated (and that's my favorite part) and it was really moist. It didn't require much prep time and it didn't require basting. Again, this is from Cook's Country. ;)

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey
from: Cook's Country Magazine Oct/Nov '08
Serves 10 to 12

1 pkg cheesecloth (2-yds)
4 cups cold water
1 (12- to 14-lb) turkey (natural turkey - not self-basting)
1 lb salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
** if you can't find salt pork click here for a "how-to" brine pork shoulder

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove cheesecloth from package and fold into 18-inch square. Place cheesecloth in large bowl and cover with water. Spray V-rack and pan with butter spray. Tuck wings behind back and arrange turkey, breast-up, on V-rack set inside roasting pan. Prick skin of breast and legs of turkey all over with a fork, cover breast and legs of turkey with salt pork, top with soaked cheesecloth (pouring remaining water into roasting pan, and cover cheesecloth completely with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Roast turkey until breast meat registers 140 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove foil, cheesecloth, and salt pork and discard. Increase oven temp to 425 degrees. Continue to roast until breast meat registers 165 degrees and thigh meat registers 175 degrees, 40 to 60 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.


The recipe in Cook's Country Magazine Oct/Nov '08 included a recipe for gravy. We don't really use gravy at our house so I didn't make it. But it sounds delicious and fairly simple. Just remember to keep the giblets and neck from your turkey.

Honey Spiced Cranberry Sauce

This is seriously the BEST cranberry sauce I've ever had. It was almost like eating applesauce with a little tartness at the end. Yumm-O!! It's really simple and I picked it because I had most of the ingredients (except the canned cranberry sauce) in my pantry. This would make a great condiment for a turkey sandwich and is great with stuffing, too!!

Honey Spiced Cranberry Sauce
from: Cook's Country Magazine Oct/Nov '08

1 16-oz can cranberry sauce
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Pulse together in food processor until combined. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

See, I told you it was easy. ;) Cook's Country Magazine is by far my favorite cooking magazine. I enjoy reading each article and the foodie pictures are wonderful. Check out a copy and consider putting a subscription on your Christmas wish list.

Hearts at Home - Resources

The first weekend of November I attended the North Central Hearts at Home Conference. It was great! Of course there were vendors and I only wish I had more time to look through them all. I did make a few purchases and found some resources that I will be putting on my Amazon wish list.

Items I bought:
Professionalizing Motherhood by: Jill Savage
What a great book! I finished this while I was in California. It was a great read with lots of helpful advice and encouragement. I plan on doing a full book review to discuss some of the things that I really related to.

Time Out for Kidz - naughty seat
I wish I had thought of this. Very creative idea and I'm keeping one in my purse until further notice. ;)

Children and Sexual Abuse
by: Victoria L. Johnson
This little book had a lot of great information. It's sad to know that there are so many kids out there who have suffered from sexual abuse in it's many forms. It really calls you to pray for your children.

Simply Romantic Nights Kit
from Family Life
I bought this for a friend for her anniversary. We bought one for my husband's parents for our wedding gift to them. They had been enjoying it so much that we decided to buy one for ourselves and we've really had fun with it. I think this would make a great baby gift as it gets more difficult to create romantic evenings after having kids. A great resource for couples!!

My Wish List:
My Heart's At Home
by: Jill Savage

I believe this takes Professionalizing Motherhood to the next level. I found the first book so encouraging that I may be purchasing this one next.

A Life That Says Welcome
by: Karen Ehman

This book has been recommended by fellow bloggers and I've had it on my wish list for a while, but I was reintroduced to it at the conference and Karen Ehman was even "manning" the table. It was nice to visit with her and share my struggles with hospitality - I like the idea of it, but am not good at doing it.

Chosen Family Prayer Rocks Kit
This is a kit that includes a wooden bowl, tall pillar candle, and medium-size river rocks. You right names on the rocks as a reminder to pray for your family. It would be a great tradition to start together as a family.

I'm sure there are plenty more great books and other resources that I didn't get to peek at while at the conference. Next time, I'll make sure I get a little more time to shop. ;)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday

Did you know it was Cyber Monday? Do you know what Cyber Monday is?

Cyber Monday is the online version of Black Friday. Once again, I didn't have an agenda and was just browsing the online ads for some deals and I found the one that I needed at Babies'R'Us!!

We have been wanting a double stroller for some time. And we've been saving for some time as well. Now with a 2 year-old and a 3 /12 year-old I'm wondering what I'm doing buying a double stroller. But I figure we'll probably have more kids so it would be a good investment. We decided on a double sit-and-stand stroller where the rear seat can be removed so the toddler can stand. Great idea!!

I'd like to say that I haven't purchased this stroller because we're still saving, but I have the cash in an envelope ready to be spent on this stroller. Mostly I've just been procrastinating because I'm still a little nervous buying online. My husband purchases things online all the time, but I'm fairly new at it so I was waiting for him to do it. Last month he told me to go ahead and buy one, but still I procrastinated.

That brings us to today. I decided to peek at Babies'R'Us and see if they had any strollers on sale and they did!! The stroller we've been wanting and saving for:

Original Price $169.99 (+ $19 shipping)
Discounted Price $135.99

Not only did we receive the Cyber Monday discount of $34 but we also got $10 off for using a new way to checkout and we didn't have to pay shipping ($19) because we purchased over $100. What a deal!!

Grand total spent: $125.99
Grand total saved: $63!!

Thanks to Cyber Monday our new stroller will be arriving in 10-14 business days. ;)

Christmas Wreath

I got this great idea from Monica (The Homespun Heart). She made a beautiful Advent wreath for her table and I needed a new wreath for my door. I had some Christmas fabric left over from a project I did last year and I got the wreath for $4 at Hobby Lobby (50% off). I think it turned out supercute! Thanks Monica for all your great ideas!!

I will be posting more inspirations by Monica later this week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giveaway at Marie-Madeline Studio

You have an opportunity to win a beautiful quilt!! Not here, but at Marie-Madeline Studio. She's giving away one of two scrappy quilts and I thought you should you can comment on her blog (not here) and have your chance to win too! ;)


My First Black Friday

My first Black Friday shopping experience was overall very positive. It was actually a pretty relaxing moment for me. That's a surprise, huh? ;)

I didn't have much of a shopping list. I knew what we wanted to get our boys and I had some stocking stuffers to purchase, so nothing big like a 32" LCD tv that were in limited stock. No fist fights for me. ;) And there was an ad for the dishes that I've been eyeing so I went to bed at 12:30am and was up at 5:05am to get ready to shop (which consisted of dressing, brushing my teeth, putting my hair up and putting on my eyebrows). ;)

5:27am - Wal-Mart
That's where the sale for my dishes was. I parked way in the "back 40" (that's farmer speak) and grabbed a cart from the parking lot on my way in. The Wal-Mart greeter was not very friendly, but it was 5:30am and she had just experienced 30 minutes of madness. I had mentally prepared myself for the number of people shopping (so I wasn't overwhelmed) and headed straight to housewares. And there were my boxes of dishes. I needed three and there were three boxes left!! Yay!! But I noticed that there wasn't a discounted price listed. So I asked the staff down the aisle. They said they didn't know about the discount and I would have to go to customer service if I wanted to know "for sure." So I went to the auto-ring-up-thingy in the aisle and discount. THIS is what I got up at 5am for!?! Oh, well, I returned my boxes of dishes and started to browse. I didn't really find any deals to die for so I picked up a few items that were on my weekly shopping list at home and to walked to the checkout area. To my surprise there were no real lines!! I think I was had to wait for 2 minutes max. It was superfast and not what I had expected at all.

6:21am - Target
I parked in another "back 40" parking space and picked up a cart on the way in - and was so glad I did since there were no carts available when I entered the store. Oh, to think ahead. ;) Again, I had no agenda so I was pretty relaxed. I hit the $1 area and picked up a few books and things and then walked past the women's clothing where all the DVD's were. There was a great selection and they ranged from $3.99-12.99 and included seasons of "House", "Friends", and "Psych". Fun, but not really on my list. I did pick up a movie for myself, "The Holiday" and continued to peruse the store. The toy section was horribly picked over. I didn't really need anything but noted how some people were upset about the lack of restocking that was (or should I say wasn't) going on. There was some confusion in the electronics department because all of the discounted movies were "sold out" and there wasn't anyone relaying the message to the customers that there was a HUGE supply in the women's clothing section. I mentioned it to a few people but alas, I kept moving and headed to the checkouts to purchase my DVD and my dollar items. The line was horrible. And that's all it was - ONE line. It went down one entire main aisle and around the corner. I didn't have anything to lose by wandering so I made my way down another aisle closer to the checkouts. And there weren't really any lines. I don't know how those people decided to get into that line for one checkout counter. I made it into a fairly short line and waited about 6 minutes to purchase my items. Yay again for me and for my curiosity! ;)

6:44am - Starbucks
A few months ago I received a gift card from Denise for winning her giveaway. And I thought that this morning after 4 hours of sleep I deserved a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte. And it was delicious and free! ;)

6:58am - Hy-Vee
I needed to pick up some bacon for later in the week and since I was out and about I decided to stop at the grocery store before heading home. And I'm glad I did. They had a huge bin of books that were originally $7.99-23.99 discounted to $1.99-8.99!! Books are my weakness and these were awesome prices so I started to dig through the piles and ended up with quite a few books. And they had previously viewed DVD's 3 for $10. So I picked up 2 movies for my boys and a movie for my husband. Fun stuff!! Oh, and I got my bacon. ;)

7:32am - JoAnn Fabric
JoAnn Fabric is right next to the grocery store so I decided to peek in and see what they had. They had some great deals, but nothing that I needed so I just browsed through the store sipping on my latte. It was great.

Then I drove home. I had about 3 hours of quietness all to myself. I didn't shop with anyone else and ventured out on my own. I was a little nervous about this because I thought I might get bored and tired and just want to go home. But I really enjoyed this time alone and it was quite refreshing. That's probably the statement of the year - Black Friday was an enjoyable time of peace and quiet and I felt quite refreshed by the time I arrived home. Oh, and I only used cash so it was even more peaceful!!

Hope you had a great Black Friday, not to mention a wonderful Thanksgiving!! Only 26 days until Christmas. ;)

**Update: My husband and I took the kids out on in the afternoon to Target, Wal-Mart and a local game store after we discussed (always a good idea) some deals that I saw when I was out. I think we have 85% of our Christmas shopping completed. ;)

**Update: My husband went to Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon to pick up a few storage tubs for stuff we're moving to our shed and he saw and end-cap with my dishes for $18!! He called me right up and asked if I still wanted 3 boxes and I said, "YES!!" He went to the checkout and they rang up as the original price. He told them about the end-cap and the sign and after she had it checked he purchased my dishes at a discount!! She told him that they had trouble with them all day on Friday because they kept ringing up at the original price. So, I guess they were on sale when I was there, I just missed the end-cap. A BIG thanks to my husband for finding my dishes!!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Candy Train

Several weeks ago our homeschooling theme of the week was trains. We had a wonderful time reading books about trains and watching the trains that roll through our town. I had a fun craft prepared for the end of the week. I just wish they would have enjoyed it a little longer before they started to disassemble and eat this cute little train.

You can create a candy train of your own by clicking here. It can be made into a Christmas ornament to decorate your tree. Kaboose is a great resource for kid-friendly crafts. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's For Dinner?

Last night we had this

and this
Short Stop's Homemade Beer Bread
picture from Short Stop

for dinner and it was delicious!!

* soup tip - add the chicken stock gradually, I added it all at once and the soup didn't really thicken up
* soup tip - whatever you do, don't bring the soup to a boil because the milk will curdle (oops!). take your time and heat it slowly, it's worth it
* bread comment - this was the best beer bread I've ever had. my husband said it was the type of beer (Samuel Adams Octoberfest), but I said it was because it was made from scratch and not from a packet


Check out Sarah's other recipes. She's one of my favorite foodie bloggers!!

French Vanilla Hot Chocolate

This is a modified version of El's Hot Chocolate. It's super delicious.

French Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix

10 cups powdered milk
1 lb Nestles Quick chocolate milk
2 tbsp cocoa
1 lb jar French Vanilla creamer

Mix and store in an ice cream bucket in the freezer.

Put 1/3 cup of mix into a mug and top with 2/3 cup of hot water. Enjoy!

This makes a great holiday gift. I've tried adding different flavored creamers, but French vanilla tastes the best.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catching Up with School

It was hard to get back into the groove of homeschooling after our two week illness in October. I hate that "behind" feeling and honestly I didn't know how we were going to catch up. I had planned some great things and didn't want to skip any. I had planned a break in there, but we were going to be out of town during that time so it wasn't a great time to catch-up. So, I had to cut things. Fun things and I was bummed, but I'm feeling SO much better now that we're caught up.

These are the things we got accomplished:

letters: F, G, H, I, J
numbers: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
colors: yellow, orange, green
shapes: rectangle, pentagon
themes: seasons, autumn
memory work: John 3:16, Mark 16:15, Deut 5:16, Phil 4:13, John 14:6

I combined the colors and the shapes since he has most of them down (we're still working on pentagon). And I put the numbers (he knows up to 10), the letters (he knows most of them, just working on their sounds), and the memory work together. It went pretty well. I'd have to say that it's easier for him to memorize Scripture when he has a week for each verse instead of a day. But we review them daily as we go along and his memory is pretty great! We've been doing a craft everyday which he loves. I'll be glad to be back to our normal routine after Thanksgiving. I'm just glad that he didn't feel stressed out and we ended up having a lot of fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

El's Hot Chocolate Mix

This is one of my favorite recipes...only I just received it a year ago. It's something that I grew up with and it was made by a family friend. We drank this hot chocolate when we went camping and when we visited their house. Delicious and fun to make at home!

El's Hot Chocolate Mix

10 cups powdered milk
1/2 lb powdered sugar
1 lb Nestles Quick chocolate milk (sugar-free)
2 tbsp cocoa
1 lb jar Creamora

Mix together and store in an ice cream bucket in the freezer.

For hot cocoa mix 1/3 cup of the mix with 2/3 cup hot water. Enjoy!!

Back from a Long Hiatus

After being away from the blogging world for over a month, I'm back. And I'm so ready to be back! It started off with our computer dying and that lasted about 2 weeks. Then I decided just to take a break and focus on cleaning my house, playing with my boys, catching up on some laundry (and sleep), and refilling my heart.

It's been a great time of refreshment. I went to the North Central Hearts at Home Conference at the beginning of November and my husband and I just returned from a trip to San Diego for Rebound (the national youth pastor's and spouses retreat). And a retreat it was. More on that later.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to catch up on all the things we've been up to and I decided to start with the most recent and fill in with previous exciting events. ;) That way I won't feel behind and I won't stay behind.

So glad that some of you missed me, but I'm back and I'm ready to post. Have a great week!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On an Unscheduled Break

For those of you that inquired and for those of you who did not I thought I should let you know that our computer has been nonfunctioning for a little over 2 weeks. I hope to be back online soon blogging about all our adventures. Hope you're all doing well and I hope to have time soon to check in on all my blogging favorites.

PS. Thanks to my gracious husband for letting me post this on his work computer. ;)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Yes, I'm still obsessed with pumpkin. And it won't be ending soon. I haven't even made pumpkin pie yet!!

I found this recipe on Bake at 350, such a cute blog, and thought I'd share it with you. It's SO delicious and is the closest thing to pumpkin cheesecake that I'll ever make. My husband even went to Panera and bought some fancy bagels for the pumpkin cream cheese. So delicious. Enjoy!!!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese
(from Bake at 350)

8 oz cream cheese, softened (1/3 less fat, ok)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp brown sugar

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009


On October 11th, my baby sister (the one who got married this summer) and I are going to Wicked in Des Moines. We're really excited as we both enjoyed watching The Wizard of Oz when we were growing up. She even had a little witch voice and said, "I'll get you my pretty...and your little dawg, too." So funny. Hopefully, this will be a chance to make some new memories with my baby sister. ;)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slow Cooker Lasagna

It's crock pot season in Iowa. The evenings are nice and cool and during the day there is a crisp breeze but the sun can get warm. We don't want to turn on the AC so I try not to use the oven unless it's early in the morning. So, I've come to rely on my crock pot during the first few fall months. Time to get your crock pot going with this great recipe from my husband's Gramma. I added a little more garlic powder and some spice to give the sauce a little more kick.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
2 (15-oz) cans tomato sauce
1 cup water 1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 pkg (8-oz) lasagna noodles
4 cups shredded mozerella
1 1/2 cups (12-oz) small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook beef, onion and garlic; drain fat. Add tomato sauce, water, tomato paste and seasoning; mix well. In another large bowl, mix the cheeses together. In a 5-quart slow cooker spread 2 cups meat mixture, 1/3 of noodles (breaking if necessary), 2 cups cheese mixture. Repeat twice ending with meat sauce. Cook on low for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. (Don't go longer than that or your noodles will be mushy.)

We served some garlic bread and a side salad with this lasagna. Be prepared, it makes a lot but is great as left overs. Maybe invite some friends/family over to share this meal with you. ;) Enjoy!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hearts at Home North Central Conference

In November I (along with several other women from my church) will be heading to Rochester, MN to Hearts at Home. I'm really excited to spend time with my dear friend, Emily, during this weekend of refreshment and learning.

This conference was started by Jill Savage. She's written some great books on motherhood and the Christian woman. I really enjoy reading her blog and am excited to hear her speak at the conference. I can't wait to hear Dr. Kevin Leman, as he's one of my favorite authors for parenting and marriage/sex. But he's mainly known for his books on Birth Order. It's all very interesting and I can't wait to hear more.

There's also breakouts in the afternoon and there are a lot to choose from. This conference is for all stages of motherhood and the breakouts help you get info for your stage of motherhood.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Friday night of the conference is girls night out. Sounds wonderful to me!! Go Fish will be there with all their musical talent (funny to think I saw them at a park in Sioux Center, IA when they were first getting started). If you get a chance to go, it's a great conference and I'm really looking forward to it!!

Some of my favorite books by Dr. Kevin Leman:

Sheet Music - "This book will expand and challenge your thinking, help you start your marriage off right, or go from humdrum to exciting if you’re already married."

First Time Mom - "He describes the traits that characterize firstborn children and educates new moms (and dads!) on the essentials of parenting, offering practical tips on what to expect and how to adjust in your new role."

The Birth Order Book - "Dr. Leman will offer readers a fascinating look at how birth order affects personality, marriage and relationships, parenting style, career, and children."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pumpkin Yogurt

I told you that I was on a pumpkin kick. ;) Anyway, I had more canned pumpkin in the fridge and I didn't want to waste it (since there's a pumpkin shortage and all) so I decided to mix up some pumpkin yogurt and it's surprisingly good.

Pumpkin Yogurt

3/4 cup pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix and enjoy.

You can adjust the brown sugar and cinnamon to your liking. I didn't even really measure when I added so I hope the measurements are correct. You can also add some allspice and nutmeg to make more of a pumpkin pie yogurt. Have fun mixing!

Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein

I love Cook's Country Magazine. It's my all-time favorite cooking magazine. It's from America's Test Kitchen (on PBS) and I love that because they go through all the trial and error to get the "just-right" recipe so I don't have to. In the center of the magazine they have 30-minute meal recipe cards. I wanted an extra vegetable with our Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein so I tried making garlic green beans and they were delicious! I also bought some wonton skins (wrappers for egg rolls) and cut them into strips and fried them. They gave the dish some extra crunch. Yumm! Makes great leftovers, too!

Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein
(from Cook's Country February/March 2009)

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (I just used white vinegar since I didn't have rice)
1 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I used ground ginger and taste-tested as I added)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 1/2 cups water
4 (3-oz) pkgs ramen noodles, broken into large pieces, seasoning packet discarded
1 (16-oz) bag cole slaw mix
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4-in-thick slices
1 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Simmer soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, and cornstarch (whisk in the cornstarch so you don't get lumps) in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Tranfer half of soy sauce mixture to large bowl and reserve. Add water to saucepan with remaining soy sauce mixture and return to boil. Add ramen and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes (maybe a little less than 4 minutes because they'll soften as they set). Off heat, stir in cole slaw and mix. Cover and keep warm.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels (season with salt and pepper). Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 1 minute per side. Transfer chicken to bowl with reserved soy sauce mixture and toss to coat. Transfer noddles to platter and top with chicken. Serve.

Garlic Green Beans

1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
1/4 cup water
large bunch of green beans

Use the same skillet you cooked the chicken in and add vegetable oil. Heat on meiumm-high until smoking then add the garlic and sautee until fragrent, about 1 minute. Pour in water and add green beans, mix to coat. Cover for 2 minutes, toss, and cook uncovered another 2 minutes. Serve.

That's it. And it was delicious! As good as any Chinese take out, I think. And it only took 30 minutes!! Fry up some wontons to give this meal an extra crunch. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Almond Bars

I make these bars often because I always have these things in my pantry, fridge and freezer. It also makes me feel really Dutch in this non-Dutch city I live in (even though it's almond extract and not almond paste). ;)

Almond Bars

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
dash of salt
2 cups flour
1 cup melted butter or margarine
2 tsp almond extract (I usually add a little more)

Cream together the eggs and sugar; add salt. Blend in flour, butter and almond. Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees. Do NOT overbake. Sprinkle with sugar before serving.

That's it. That's why I make them a lot. They're almost like cake but better. ;) Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 9/23

Pathetic. That's all I can say. I've gained a total of 6lbs which puts me at a loss for words. I've been tired lately and that's my trigger to snacking and not making healthy choices. It's just pathetic.

Ok, enough pitty-partying. I'm making a commitment to post a short report to let you all know that I have been Shredding daily and not slacking off. In fact, I haven't had a chance to Shred today (or since last Wednesday) so I will be doing that first thing after the boys are in bed.

We are going on Rebound in November, and I'd like to be a little more in shape than I am right now. I just want to feel good...because I was really starting to. Now, I'm feeling more jiggly and I can tell I've gained some weight back because my face is the first place I see it.

So, here are the stats and they will be much improved next week! Help hold me accountable to that. ;) Oh, and I'm not giving up my 10# button because I will be back at my 10# loss next week!

starting weight: 155.2
current weight: 160.2
loss: +5 lb
original starting weight: 166.4
cumulative weight loss: 6.2 lb

My Thoughts on The Biggest Loser
*spoiler alert*

Not much to say except the Losers did a great job this week. They defied the week 2 odds and lost 155lb together. We'll see how they do next week when they're bodies really hit survival-mode.

I was surprised that Shay was so judgmental towards Julio. He actually did a great job during the last chance workout. They all did a great job. Cheers to no one going home and what a great job on the balance beams!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Homeschooling is going pretty well. It's hard not having a designated school area besides the kitchen table. We have a little area in the "dining room" but some day it would be nice to have a more permanent place to learn - less distraction for the students and for me. ;) We're still working on the flow of the day, but I'm sure it will get better and better. It's all a learning curve because I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing. But we're having fun and I think we're all learning something. ;)

A few week ago our theme for the week was airplanes so we read lots of books about airplanes, "flew" around the room to "airplane music," and on Friday the boys painted airplanes. Wal-mart has little wooden planes/cars/trucks in their craft aisle. They worked great for this and my 22-month-old loved the project too.

On Thursday we went to the local municipal airport to watch planes land and take-off. My boys loved it. My husband has taken them before and every time they have a ball. Another reason it's great to live in a smaller town.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 9/16

After watching The Biggest Loser last night I was inspired to fight against my self-will and get out of bed to Shred. I didn't want to, but my 22-month-old kept wandering in our room at 6am until I got out of bed at 6:30am. ;) That's some great accountability. Thanks, son!

Here are my stats and next week I expect some results from my week of Shredding!

starting weight: 155.2
current weight: 155.4
loss: +.2 lb
original starting weight: 166.4
cumulative weight loss: 11 lb

My Thoughts on The Biggest Loser
*spoiler alert*

First of all, I was surprised at all the swearing. And not just swearing but swearing at people. I didn't like that at.all. If I was on the show, I would tell them that I don't mind the yelling, but I would appreciate it if they didn't use horrible language. It just sounded abusive.

There are some heavy people on this episode but for the most part they seemed ready to work. And it's pretty cool to see Bob and Jillian work together. We'll have to see if there are any major arguments between them as the season rolls along. They have different strategies, although last night there was a lot of yelling from both of them.

Daniel - It's great to have him back. I hope he can be an inspiration to all the contestants of what you can do with hard work.

Shay - That girl just makes me sad. And mad. I was disappointed to see her walk out of the gym but I think it was a huge mental/emotional breakthrough for her when she walked back in without being coaxed. Good call, Jillian.

Julio - If he keeps flopping on the ground like a fish, he will not be my favorite contestant. I couldn't believe Jillian calling him "dead father" when he'd fall on the ground. But he said he appreciated her honesty and needs that reality check.

Alexandra - I thought she was such a cute girl and I was sad to see her go. I thought she worked pretty hard and most of all, she had a great attitude. Seems like she's done well at home with a 60lb loss!! And I can't wait to see who her crush is!! Oh, the drama. ;)

Abby - Nothing made me cry more than hearing Abby's story. And then when she was weighing in and she said she had to do it for herself because there was no one else to do it for. It just broke my heart. I pray for her.

Final Thoughts:
  • I can't believe that two people were already in the hospital after the first challenge. And Tracy is still there! I hope she's ok, they didn't really talk about what was wrong with her or if they thought she'd even make it to the show.
  • I could never do this job. I wouldn't be a great motivator because I'd get caught up in all the feelings. I can't yell at people when they're sad and crying. I know that both Bob and Jillian have a heart for these people and the time to talk and work through their hurts will come. It was just really hard to watch.
  • I will not be watching this with my little people because of the language. Yes, there were some bleeps - well, a lot of bleeps, but some words weren't bleeped and they should have been. I thought it sounded more like verbal abuse than encouraging, inspirational words. I understand that there needs to be some yelling because people were quitting, but they need to cut the swearing.
  • I will remember my tissues next week and try not to use my sleeve for my snotty nose and watery eyes.

Advice from a 3-Year Old

My husband and I were discussing discipline at the dinner table one evening. It's been rough with our 3-year-old constantly pushing the the limits. The biggest problem is that he doesn't want to go to bed. Nap-time is ok, but at bedtime (when I'm completely exhausted from the day) he just will not stay in bed and rest.

Well, we were talking about what to do. And how we need to be good at communicating to him the bedtime routine and just stick to our guns. We need to be consistent. This is what our 3-year-old had to say:

"Mom, if you put your guns down, they won't get sticky."

Just had to make us laugh, even though we will not be putting our guns down and he's the only one to make sure they don't get sticky. ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Apple Crisp

This is the easiest recipe for Apple Crisp and I have been using it since I graduated from nursing school and moved into my first apartment. It was my "fancy" dessert when I had people over. And it's so good. Nothing really fancy about it, just yummy!

Apple Crisp
from Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics

4 medium tart cooking apples, such as Granny Smith
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup margarine or butter at room temperature
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I like mine fresh)
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8-in pan.
  2. Peel apples and cut apples into slices, removing the seeds. You will need about 4 cups of apples. Spread apples in the greased pan.
  3. Mix brown sugar, flour, oats, margarine, cinnamon and nutmeg with a fork (I usually use my hands). The mixture will be crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
  4. Bake 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and the apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm.

Creative Lunches

I thought Funky Lunch was the neatest site, but I don't think I have time for all the little details when my little boys are hungry! ;)