Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goals for 2010

I can hardly believe 2010 is under two hours away! 2009 was a wonderful year for our family, and my prayer is that God will continue to grow us in Him throughout this year. I set some goals last year, and with the introduction of Katie to our family, they fell to the wayside. With my husband's counsel (some of them are joint efforts), I have set several goals for this year and by God's grace, I plan to stick to them. It is my desire to serve God by being the best wife, mother, and homemaker I can be, and I think my goals reflect that desire.

::Daily devotions. I have not been as faithful in this as I should have been in recent months, and I am determined to get back on track with daily Bible reading and prayer (we do devotions together as a family most days, but I am referring more to private devotions). My preference is to do it first thing in the morning, but if I can fit it in at some point during the day, I will be happy. To kickstart this, I am joining Read Through the Bible in 90 Days. My sister-in-law down the road will be doing it too, which should help keep me accountable. I want my mind to be saturated with God's word, and live in obedience to it.

::Memorize the book of John. I am young, and at this point in life, memorization comes pretty easy to me when I actually take the time to do it. I know I will regret it when I'm older if I waste these years in this regard, and I want to hide God's Word in my heart that I might not sin against Him! If I do 17 verses each week, it will take 51 weeks. And, for me, this is pretty doable if I stick to it. My sister-in-law and I are planning to do this together, too.

::Complete a Home Management Binder. I won a year subscription to ListPlanIt, and I am hoping to use these lists to put together a usable binder to help me be better organized with my homemaking endeavors.

::Lose weight. I'm not brave enough to share numbers with the world, but I'd like to be 10 pounds less than I was when I got pregnant with Katie. This means I need to lose about 30 pounds (!). Definitely can be done in a year if I stick to it. I am planning to do this by changing what I eat and implementing an exercise routine.

::Improve the quality of our food. Several mini-goals fall under this. One major one is eliminating sugar in favor of natural sweeteners (sucanat, honey, pure maple syrup, stevia) in our home. I have experimented with sucanat in recent weeks in baked goods and Ben doesn't mind it at all so that's a good start. This goal will involve making a lot more from scratch since almost everything pre-packaged has sugar (pasta sauce, crackers, etc). I bake with freshly ground flour, but I also hope to begin soaking our grains. Additionally, I would like to find sources for quality meat, eggs, and dairy (preferably raw and local).We are already eating mostly organic, seasonal produce, because it is very reasonably priced at our grocery store. I am planning to have a small garden in the spring to supplement this.

::Finish 6 classes. I am slowly working on a correspondence degree in Christian Education from Whitefield College. I am realizing more and more that if I want to finish, I will have to work on it sooner rather than later. I am scheduled to finish two classes by the end of this month, so I have somewhat of a headstart on this. :)

::Get on a budget, set aside an emergency fund, pay off debt. We live frugally, but have not been on a strict budget yet. Due in part to my unexpected hospital stay when Katie was born, we have a small amount of debt. We want to set aside a small ($1000) emergency fund to prevent any more debt and then focus on paying it all off, hopefully being completely debt free by the end of 2010!

::Blogging. I have several goals in mind to improve my blog over the course of the next year, which I will, Lord willing, be hashing out more fully next week.

May God bless you and your families and grow you in the knowledge of His Word unto the praise of the glory of His grace in the coming year!


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 in review



This year brought many changes beginning with the birth of our precious daughter in February. Katie is by far our greatest blessing this year! She came three days "late", but despite some complications during labor, the delivery was safe, healthy, and drug free [!]. Parenthood has presented many challenges (and I know there are many more to come as she gets older), but Katie is such a blessing and brings so much joy to us! I don't think I knew I could love another person so much, but when I look at Katie, I feel like I could just burst. I am so thankful to the Lord for making me her mama. (and as a side, is it possible that she is already over 10 months old?! really, truly?)

 

The other major change of the year came in August, when we moved from Florida to Virginia. I lived with my parents until we got married in May of last year, and then, only lived half an hour away. It was a very emotional time for me, and driving away from their house the morning we moved was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. Thankfully, I have been able to see them four times already since the move, and we talk on the phone almost daily. I do still not-so-secretly hope they eventually decide to relocate. ;)

The move has proven to be a blessing. We have become part of a wonderful, very like-minded church and we have really enjoyed getting to know the other families. It has also been a joy to live just down the road from Ben's family; seeing them on an almost daily basis for a few months has even more cemented it in my mind that they are really my family now!

2009 has been quite a year, and I can't believe it's almost over! It has been a year full of the continued mercy and grace of God, poured out on us unworthy sinners. The addition of Katie to our family was expected, and the move was not. But, God knew what was coming and has faithfully seen us through, and for His faithfulness we are eternally grateful. My prayer is that He will continue to grow us and use us as He sees fit in the coming year.

I will be taking a bloggy break for the rest of this week, but hope to be back either Friday or at the beginning of next week with some goals for 2010. Enjoy the rest of 2009 with your families!


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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas



...from our family to yours!


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
~Isaiah 9:6-7

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Delicious Cream Biscuits

There are few things as tasty first thing in the morning as piping hot biscuits fresh from the oven, smothered with sausage gravy. It's one of Ben's favorite breakfast, and for a long time, I couldn't seem to find a biscuit recipe that was as tasty as the (completely unhealthy) slice and bake refrigerated biscuits at the store. I got this recipe from this cookbook, and it definitely rivals Pillsbury, in flavor and healthfulness. Biscuits are one of the only things we eat with white flour, and I suppose it's not the end of the world to have it every once in a while. I tried making it with half whole wheat flour one time, and Ben just didn't like it as much.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I use organic, unbleached)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (this really makes it delicious--I used half and half the other day because I didn't have heavy cream and they just weren't quite as good!)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
Preheat the oven to 425*. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the center and slowly add 1 cup of the cream. Gather the dough, and if it seems to crumbly, slowly add more cream until it's workable (I am usually able to get by with just one cup). Place dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 1 minute. Pat into a square about 1/2 inch thick and cut into 12 squares and dip in the melted butter so all sides are coated. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan, 12/21-12/27





Christmas is this week! I can hardly believe it. We are spending Christmas at my Grandma's house, joined by my Aunt Debbie and my parents. Saturday, we'll come back to our house with my parents and spend the weekend. We leave for Grandma's Wednesday, and my sister-in-law and her husband are coming into town today, so I'll only be making dinner twice this week!

Monday:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage, banana crumb muffins from the freezer
Lunch: salad with ham, turkey, cheese, and wheat crutons
Dinner: at the farm

Tuesday:
Breakfast: cranberry apple muffins (made with wheat flour & sucanat), sausage, scrambled eggs
Lunch: grilled cheese, tomato soup
Dinner: tortilla chips and dip (I think I'll add ground meat and serve it warm)

Wednesday:
Breakfast: leftover muffins, sausage, scrambled eggs
Wednesday lunch-Saturday lunch: at my Grandma's house

Saturday:
Dinner: burgers with homemade fries

Sunday:
Breakfast: pumpkin bread (from the freezer), scrambled eggs, sausage
Lunch: snacks at church, bring a batch of cranberry apple muffins
Dinner: at the farm

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Update on my Grandma

I spoke to my Grandma this afternoon for the first time since she went into the hospital. She had a tube up her nose going into her stomach that caused pain when she talked, so I waited to call 'til that was out. She sounded very tired but said she was feeling much better. We are so thankful! As it turns out, she had a partial block in her intestine caused by scar tissue. She has been on a liquids-only diet for a couple of days, and thankfully the problem seems to be taking care of itself. Lord willing, she'll be able to go home tomorrow. This is contingent upon whether she is able to keep solids down, and the doctors are confident she will be able to.

For those of you who prayed for her, thank you so very much. It means more to me than I can begin to say.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Please pray for my Grandma


Grandma, Katie, and me at Grandma's house in June. 
It was Grandma 's first time meeting her great-granddaughter and namesake. 

Wednesday night my Grandma was admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. The tests they ran determined her intestine is blocked. They think the blockage is caused by scar tissue from a hysterectomy years ago. For now, they think surgery will be avoidable. This is a blessing, since there are many risks associated with intestinal surgery.

Grandma is a precious, godly woman who means the world to me. In fact, my firstborn daughter bears her name. She played a pivotal role in leading my parents and I to Christ, and I love her more than I can even say. Please keep her in your prayers. I will update when I hear something more.

Christmas Caroling


Last night lots of the folks from our church got together to go Christmas caroling in the surrounding neighborhood. Due to a series of events we were pretty late and only caught the tail end, but it was a lot of fun anyway. The warm (in more ways than one) fellowship at church afterwords certainly was the icing on the cake. And, Katie stayed cozy and looked SO cute in her marshmallow-like snowsuit. (I wish I had a picture!)

Christmas caroling is a wonderful, and free, way to be a blessing to your neighbors during this season (and a frugal, fun way of blessing people is definitely a finer thing!). It adds a bit of cheer to their evening, and if you choose Scriptural songs, it can give them some food for thought, reminding them of the Christ of Christmas and spreading the good news of His gospel. There are even some great Christmas-themed gospel tracts you could give them. I went out caroling several years ago with some friends in Florida, and we went through a little skit at each door that clearly explained the gospel. You could go out with just your family, or get together with other families from your church.

However you decide to do it, here are some things to remember:
-Bring the words for the songs you want to sing! You might think you have them memorized, but it's better safe than sorry.
-Bring a flashlight or lantern so you can see the words. It's good to have at least one for every two people, we found.
-Be sure to dress warm. Walking around in the freezing cold gets old if you're not bundled up. Something to keep your fingers warm is nice (especially if you're pushing a stroller and can't use your pockets!), as well as something for your ears.
-Wear comfy shoes
-Bake some goodies and make hot chocolate to share with your fellow carolers when you're finished.
-And last, don't get offended when people don't want to listen to you! It's their loss, and there are plenty of other houses to stop at. :)

Consider adding Christmas caroling to your family's holiday traditions. It is sure to create special memories over the years, and could very well brighten up the holidays for someone who is otherwise not having a very merry Christmas.

Picture found here.



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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Using spare moments

Something I have had to train myself to do, especially since becoming a mother, is to wisely use little spurts of time I get to clean. For example this morning, we started to leave the house right after breakfast, before I had a chance to clean up the breakfast dishes. I had Katie and the diaper bag ready to go, and was waiting by the door when hubby headed to the bathroom with a book. ;)

My first response was to sit down with Katie and wait. My second response was to put Katie in her exersaucer (a gift from my Grandpa, which we love!) and try to wash a few dishes. Much to my surprise, in the few minutes Ben was in the bathroom, I was able to put away all the dishes in the dish drain from yesterday AND wash most of the breakfast dishes (I made muffins, so there was a bit of a mess). I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that I was able to leave my kitchen mostly clean instead of a disaster.

I definitely need to remember to use moments like this more often. After all, during this busy (though incredibly wonderful) season of life as a new mom, there's just about always something in my house that can be done. And if I work efficiently, these tasks often take a lot less time than I expect they will. Why put off 'til later what can be done in just a couple minutes right now?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keeping baby's hands warm


This is actually a picture of Katie from a little over a month ago, and she has 4 teeth at the top now! 
I'll have to post a more recent one soon.

This Virginia winter is a whole new thing for me, having lived in Florida most of my life (back home, it's been in the 80s this week, while we have had frost on the ground!). Our house is heated by a wood burning stove. This is great, because it saves us a bundle of money. We get wood for free from my in-laws' farm, and our landlady said if we used the central heating system, our electricity bill would be more than our rent!

The wood burning stove does pretty well with keeping us warm, but we do need to sleep in warm PJs to stay cozy. Katie sleeps in fleece footie sleepers, but she had been waking up during the night with her hands FREEZING. I didn't have any mittens for her, but I suspect if I did she'd pull them off anyway! ;) So, the other night, determined to keep my baby toasty AND sleep through the night, I came up with a solution that has worked pretty well so far. I put a thin pair of socks on her hands and tucked them into the sleeves of her sleeper. Then over the thin socks, I put a thick, fuzzy pair on, without tucking them in to her sleeves. And, thankfully, she didn't pull them off and has made it through the night all week with nice, warm hands. :)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I won!

Remember this post? I checked my email a bit ago and had an email from Stephanie at Keeper of the Home telling me I won the year long subscription to ListPlanIt.com! Such a pleasant surprise...I've won one other giveaway several years ago from a blog that no longer exists, but other than that, my giveaway entering has been vain. ;)

I am hoping to use the lists to create a workable home management binder, and with all the hundreds of lists they have, I bet I'll find something else I can use them for! I'm sure I'll post about how I'm using this excellent resource in the not-so-distant future.

Great Giveaway @ MoneySavingMom.com

Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom is giving away 5 $100 giftcards to the store of your choice from ShopAtHome.com today. There are five separate ways to enter the drawing. Go here for more details. I'm sure everyone could use $100, so I would definitely encourage all of you to get in on this one!

Oreo Dessert

Oreo Dessert is a family recipe. If I have the story right, it came about because my aunt needed an egg free dessert for my egg-allergic cousin's birthdays. It has been around as long as I can remember, and is my birthday dessert of choice. Yesterday was my first birthday away from "home", and my sweet mom-in-law was kind enough to fix it for me. As far as I am concerned, the buttery oreo crust, rich ice cream, and whipped cream are only a vehicle for the amazingly delicious homemade fudge sauce. In case my description doesn't have your mouth watering, here is a photo (it's not a great photo-taken last night in the bad lighting). :)





Anyway, here is the recipe:
-1 package of oreos
-1 stick butter
-1 box of icecream (any flavor you want...we usually do vanilla or a vanilla/chocolate combo)
-1 tub of cool whip, or make homemade whipped cream
-1 batch of homemade fudge sauce

For the fudge:
-4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
-4 tablespoons butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 1/3 cup evaporated milk

First, melt the stick of butter, crush the oreos, and combine. I usually do this in a gallon ziplock baggy. Spread this at the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish and freeze. Now, take the ice cream out of the freezer so it can soften some.

Then, make the fudge. To do this, melt the baking chocolate and butter. Stir in the sugar until it's all combined. Then, add in the evaporated milk slowly. Heat over low-medium heat and stir almost constantly until thickened (this takes forEVER, seems like. 7-8 minutes or so). Once thickened, let it cool.

While the fudge is cooling, spread the softened ice cream over the frozen oreo crust, and put back in the freezer. When the fudge is cooled, spread it over the ice cream, and put the whole pan back in the freezer. You can either spread cool whip over the whole dessert and freeze, or add the cool whip to the individual servings. The latter is my preference. If you don't want it to look messy like the above picture, make sure to let it freeze for a long time so it's firm when served.


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Monday, December 14, 2009

Twenty Years

Today is my twentieth birthday.  I've been thinking about this day with some frequency since last year. A lot of people I know, especially now that we are in a new community, are quite surprised that I'm only twenty. You know, since I've been a wife for over a year and a half and have an almost 10 month old daughter ;). In the past several weeks when they found out I was almost twenty, the reaction was generally a surprised, "It's about time!" But, to be honest, I think it's a little weird. I remember being so excited to turn 10 and be in the double digits, to turn 13 and finally be a teenager. And, now that chapter of life is closing.

When I think back on the last twenty years (the first few of which I don't remember, of course), the thing that stands out to me the most is how fast time goes by. Twenty years ago, I was a newborn babe in my mom's arms. Now, I'm a wife and not so long ago, I held my own newborn for the first time. And I think how different life will be in another twenty years, should the Lord tarry and spare my life. Katie will be a young woman, and I will be middle aged. Lord willing, I will have home schooled at least one child from birth through high school. My childbearing years will be coming to an end if they're not already over, and it won't be long before my children will begin to have children of their own. And then, 20 years after that...I'll be a senior, my children will be approaching middle age, and so on. And then I will probably think back just like I am now and wonder where the time has gone. Twenty years is a really long time when you think of it that way.

Though today has had some extras in it to make it fun (hubby took me out for a delicious breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and we poked around the "big" city some before heading to a friend's house to pick up some hand-me-down furniture), it is still filled with all the typical things--taking care of Katie, some cleaning, etc. But, amidst all the typical-ness, it does sort of stand out in my mind as a significant day. A new beginning of sorts.

The first twenty years of my life have been very blessed. Over all, I have had very little sorrow compared to so many, I have wonderful parents and grandparents, an amazing husband and an oh-so-precious daughter. And, above all that, the Lord graciously saw fit to draw me to Himself. I have no idea what the next twenty years of my life will hold, but I pray that the Lord would make them more productive than the first twenty. I pray He will help me to be a better wife and to raise my sweet daughter well (and with that, I pray He would give us many more children to raise, if He is willing). I pray that He would grant me the wisdom that comes only from more years of following Him. I pray that He would give me grace and thankfulness in the face of the challenges I know He will bring my way. Ultimately, my earnest hope is that He will make me more like Christ and use me as a vessel to advance His Kingdom, for nothing else is more important.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan, 12/14-12/20


I have come to the realization that I often do not follow my menu plan. However, we always eat dinner, and it's usually at a decent hour. Having things on hand for a week's worth of meals is definitely best, even when the plan changes some. When things don't go according to plan, it's usually because we are invited for dinner at the farm at the last minute, so I don't use the planned meal. That is part of the reason my plan usually has repeats. And, sometimes, it's just because it's something we like that's frugal. :)

So, here's the plan for this week:

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, whole wheat pumpkin pancakes with butter and homemade syrup (made with raw sugar), cold cereal with bananas

Lunches: leftovers, grilled cheese and tomato soup, quesadillas

Dinners:
Monday~birthday dinner with my in-laws. :)
Tuesday~peanut butter & banana sandwiches (to eat between classes)
Wednesday~Farmhouse Chicken [turkey] from the freezer, steamed broccoli
Thursday~homemade pizza, steamed veggies
Friday-Sunday~eat with family at the farm

For hundreds of other menu plans, be sure to check out Org Junkie!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pluggedin.com



We try to be careful about what movies we watch, and I'm sure our caution will only continue to increase as Katie gets older and we are watching movies as a family. A great source for checking into movies before you watch them is pluggedin.com, by Focus on the Family. I've used this resource for years to see whether movies were suitable for watching.I especially like to use it when we are going to see a movie in the theaters, since we can't fast forward there!

They have hundreds of reviews: old movies, new releases, and movies still in theaters. Each review gives a summary of the plot, as well as specific positive and negative elements (such as sexual content, bad language, etc). Scripture does not give any specific guidelines for exactly what we watch, but I think we'd all acknowledge that we should be careful what we allow in our homes, especially when it comes to what our children see.

If you haven't used this website before, I would encourage you to check it out next time you are planning to watch a movie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Use water

I used to always use some kind of cleaner when I wiped down my kitchen counters. I try to get good deals on cleaners (and I usually only use natural ones--we don't like chemicals!), but I was still using quite a bit and the cost adds up. Recently, I've been using just hot water to wipe the counters, and it works marvelously. I have really only been using cleaner when there's something extra stuck, or something that needs to be disinfected, like raw meat.

I'm all about simplifying things and saving money, so this has worked quite well for me!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

ListPlanIt Giveaway at Keeper of the Home


I recently came across the blog Keeper of the Home and really love it! Her frugal, natural, very practical homemaking tips have been such an encouragement to me! Right now, she is giving away a year long subscription to ListPlanIt.com. She has a full review of the site here, as well as information on the giveaway. If you could use some (free!) help getting yourself and your home organized, I definitely encourage you to check it out.

Yummy Winter Dinner: White Chili

Winter (especially in COOOLD Virginia, as it turns out!) is a wonderful time for soup. A hot bowl of soup on a cold day, really hits the spot. Especially when it's accompanied by some fresh from the oven cornbread. One of my favorite soups to make is white chili. I originally got the recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, but have adjusted it some to suit our family.

White Chili
-4 cups cooked chicken
-3 cups chicken broth
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (I *love* cilantro!)
-1 can Great Northern beans, drained
-1 can butter beans, drained
-1 can whole kernel corn, drained
-1 tablespoon lime juice (optional)
-A couple splashes of hot sauce, like Tobasco
-Season with cumin, salt, black pepper, and basil to taste

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 45 minutes. 
Optional: sautee garlic and onion and 1/4 cup of butter before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot. my husband doesn't like onions, so I pass on this step. Sometimes, I add onion powder and/or garlic powder, though.

This post is linked to on LifeasMOM's Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Controlling the tongue

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 
-Proverbs 31:26

Last night the ladies at our church met for our monthly Bible study, and the topic of discussion was the tongue. I found the study very encouraging; it definitely gave me a lot to think about. Scripture speaks time and time again about the importance of taming our tongue, speaking wisely, edifying our hearers. Clearly, it is very important. I wanted to share with you some of the points we covered so you could benefit from them like I did. One of our elder's wives led the study, and my notes are partly taken from the handout she brought.

It is important to keep in mind that the spoken word often carries more weight than the written word, and it is very easy to abuse. I know it is very easy for me to speak before I think biblically about what I should say, and unfortunately, my sweet husband is the recipient of most of my speaking-before-I-think. I shouldn't speak rashly to anyone, but Scripture specifically calls me to reverence him and honor him, and this is certainly an area I could use some improvement in. Romans 6 says we need to bring all our members in subjection to Christ, and the tongue is certainly included in this. 

There are several things we must avoid in our speech. 
One is untruthfulness. Proverbs 12:22 says lying is an abomination. This is a very strong word. One of the worst forms of lying is lying about our neighbor to hurt him, and benefit ourselves. However, even "little white lies" that can be so easy to tell, and seem inconsequential, are dishonoring to the Lord.


We must also avoid gossip and slander. This is especially a problem for women. So often, we begin by discussing things going on in our lives, and end up talking about someone in a bad light. In our pride, we enjoy sharing things about someone that make them look bad. Something to point out is that something does not have to be untrue to be gossip. Speaking poorly of someone unnecessarily falls under this category. Slander is when you lie about someone. Both gossip and slander are not only sin for us, but can (and often do) lead the hearers into sin as well. 


How should our speech look, then?
For one, we must speak with wisdom. If we look at Proverbs 31:26, we see that a wise woman speaks wisely and kindly. This is, she applies wisdom to her speech. When others ask her for counsel, she responds giving them biblically sound advice. She does not speak rashly, but conforms her speech to Scripture.

We must also speak with discretion and humility. Proberbs 10:19 says that a soft answer turns away wrath, but if we answer harshly, it provokes the person we are responding to. This is true in all situations, but specifically in relating to your husband. If he makes a decision you think is not a good idea, the best response is NOT a quick, rash reponse, giving him a piece of your mind. (Ask me how I know!) The best way to go about it is to search the Scriptures, pray, and answer him softly. And, as long as it's not sin, purpose to submit to what he decides without nagging.

Lastly, we must speak with patience and peace. Provers 25:24 says, "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house." This literally means it is better to spend your entire life in a tiny confine alone than with a contentious woman in a palace. Keep this in mind in your interactions, especially with your husband. 

The tongue is certainly hard to tame, but by God's grace, it can be done. We must rely on Him constantly and saturate our minds in His Word that we might honor Him in all we do.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Menu Plan, 12/7-12/13


I can't believe December will be halfway over at the end of this week. Time goes by so fast! (do I sound like a broken record when I say that?) Anyway, I'll be using some of our freezer meals this week, which will be nice! Actually with freezer meals and meals at our my in-laws' farm, I will probably be doing very little cooking this week. That will mean not too much grocery shopping, and I was under budget last week, so I am hoping to buy some bulk foods in efforts to improve the health of the food we are eating without spending too much more.

Anyway, here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Farmhouse Chicken [Turkey]
Tuesday: Pinto beans with ham, cornbread
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Turkey Tetrazzini
Friday-Sunday: Dinner at the farm (I usually don't plan it this way, but this is almost always how it works out, so...)

Should be an easy week as far as meals go. And as a side not, it is my last week as a teenager. A week from today, I will be joining the halfway to forty club. ;)

For hundreds of other menu plans, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Katie feeds herself now



and absolutely loves it! I still feed her her oatmeal, but fruits and veggies I cut up and she feeds herself. It makes quite a mess sometimes, but it really buys me a lot of time. I can do things in the kitchen while she eats, and it takes her quite a while. A new found favorite is avocado (which she is eating in the above picture). The organic ones (the haas variety) were on sale this week, so we decided to try it, and she has been eating half of one at a time. She also enjoys baked sweet potatoes and bananas a lot. Crunchier things like apples, I put in the mesh feeder.

It amazes me how fast my baby is growing up. She just turned 9 months old last week and she's got four teeth now, and two more are about to break through. She's cruising quite a bit now, and babbling up a storm. What a precious gift from the Lord she is. I just love being her mama.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Freezer Cooking Day: Results



Above are the results of my freezer cooking day.

::2 loaves of pumpkin bread (the third is almost gone!),
::2 batches of Farmhouse Chicken (made with turkey; I also added some cooked carrots to the mix, and used a 6 oz. package of stuffing instead of 12 oz.). These are in the 8x8 square dish, and the round covered one.
::2 dozen corn muffins (minus the one I ate...)
::2 dozen banana crumb muffins (minus the two I ate...I hadn't had breakfast, so I munched a little while cooking!). They turned out a wee bit on the flat side this time...not sure if it's because I put more bananas, or if it's from using coconut oil instead of butter. In any case, they still taste good.
::2 batches of turkey tetrazzini, split up into three one-gallon freezer bags

I made it through my whole list, except the dinner rolls. I got started this morning right after Ben left for work (just after 9) and finished after 1. By that time, Katie had spent enough of her day in her high chair and exersaucer, so I decided to call it a day and play with my baby girl. I think the dinners I made will last us about 10 meals, and the muffins/pumpkin breads should last us lots of breakfast, coupled with scrambled eggs or alone.

If I can talk my sister-in-law into coming over and helping with Katie, I might actually try to do a full month of dinners next month. That will require more planning ahead and time cooking, of course, but I think it may just be worth it! I guess we'll see what happens. :)

I'm way late in getting this up...most people put theirs up yesterday evening. If you head over to Crystal's blog, there are 70 people with links up to their freezer cooking day posts. You should check it out for some inspiration if you're interested in trying it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Note to self

When you want to do freezer cooking, plan to start in the morning. And do NOT plan to pick up a few things at the grocery store. And, don't offer to drop off your younger brother-in-law and sister-in-law to finish up a home school co-op project while you go to the store, because you will have to wait for them for an extra hour unexpectedly.  If you do these things, you won't start until almost three and you won't make it through your list. In fact, you'll only get through the first item (three loaves of pumpkin bread) before Katie needs attention, Ben comes home from work and you (of course!) want to hang out with him, and then it's time for dinner at the farm. If you do this, you will have to postpone the rest of your list until the following day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Freezer Cooking Day: The Plan




Crystal at Money Saving Mom and FishMama at Life as Mom are hosting freezer cooking again this month, and I am planning to participate. It started today and continues until tomorrow. Tuesdays are busy days for me because we have to leave at 3:30 for class, so I am just jumping in tomorrow. I am not being nearly as ambitious as either of them, but I have a BUNCH of extra turkey to put in recipes, and would also like to do some baking for the freezer. So, here's the list:

Breakfasts:
Pumpkin Bread (x3) (This cookbook has my very favorite recipe for pumpkin bread! I just change it to whole wheat flour...delicious!)

Dinners:
Turkey Tetrazzini (x2)
Farmhouse Chicken (with Turkey instead) (x2)

Other:
Dinner Rolls


Here's the plan:
-Go to the store and pick up last minute things
-Make pumpkin bread
-While pumpkin bread is baking, put together tetrazzini and farmhouse chicken (turkey)
-Make dinner rolls
-While rolls are rising, make banana crumb muffins and bake them
-Bake the rolls
-While rolls are baking, make corn muffins
-Bake corn muffins
-Freeze everything
-Clean up my mess
-Have dinner at my in-laws' farm. Ha! :)

Turkey, Rice, Carrot Soup

I very rarely make soup. Ben does not like onions, and he doesn't like a lot of vegetables either, so I am always at a loss for what to put in it! I recently took a cookbook out at the library in town and skimmed the soups section. I found a recipe for turkey, carrot, wild rice soup and altered it a bit to our liking. Since I roasted a turkey on Saturday, I put the carcass in my 16 qt. stock pot and made quarts and quarts of yummy, rich turkey stock. Here is how the soup ended up:

-About 4 quarts of turkey stock
-6 cups of cooked, chopped turkey
-4 carrots, slicked
-2 cups cooked wild rice
-2 cups cooked brown rice

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and cook until the carrots are soft. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.

Ben enjoyed this soup, it was really simple, and such a treat for this time of year. This Floridian is not used to such cold weather! And, there's plenty more to come. ;) As a side note, I always forget to take a picture of food I am going to blog about. I will try to remember to take a picture of the soup tomorrow when we have leftovers and add it to this post.

This post is linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Menu Plan, 11/30-12/6



Sorry for my abrupt absence again. My in-laws were sick again at the beginning of last week, and then with all the family festivities the last few days, I just haven't had a chance to blog. I am hoping things will be back to normal this week as the sickness seems to have dissipated. I really can't believe December is right around the corner already! Time goes by so fast...this time last year, I was just 6 1/2 months pregnant, and now my baby has spent over 9 months outside the womb. Amazing!

I roasted a turkey yesterday (my first ever). The meat from that should last us all week (and then some).

In any case, here's what we're eating this week:

Breakfasts:
country boy (hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy) (x2)
scrambled eggs, toast, fruit (x3)
banana crumb muffins (going to double, freeze some, and take the rest to church Sunday)
cold cereal

Lunches:
turkey sandwiches, tomato soup (x2)
leftovers (x4)
lunch at church

Dinners:
turkey, carrot, and wild rice soup
tortilla chips w/ cream cheese/salsa/ground meat dip
turkey tetrazzini
pinto beans with ham, cornbread
homemade Pizza
at the farm (x2)

For hundreds of other menu plans, visit org junkie!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baby/Toddler Toy Reviews

Babywise Mom is currently doing a series reviewing toys for infants and toddlers in preparation for Christmas. Each review has age rage, gender, her review, and whether she would buy it again. I have found it quite insightful! If you have a little one on your Christmas list, I would highly encourage you to check it out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan, 11/16-11/22




Monday:
Breakfast~arepas with butter and cheese
Lunch~Out
Dinner~at the farm

Tuesday:
Breakfast~homemade bread/leftover arepas, bacon, and eggs
Lunch~Grilled cheese and tomato soup
Dinner~I will be at Grandma's house; Ben will eat with his family

Wednesday-Thursday: Katie and I will be at my Grandma's house. Ben will have cereal for breakfast and eat other meals with his family

Friday:
Breakfast~toast, bacon, and eggs
Lunch~Our church's Thanksgiving feast. I am bringing two dozen corn muffins.
Dinner~Fall family ball. I am planning to bring this dip with tortilla chips.

Saturday:
Breakfast~French toast made with homemade bread
Lunch~grilled cheese with tomato soup
Dinner~pinto beans with ham and cornbread

Sunday:
Breakfast~French toast (the batter keeps really well in the fridge)
Lunch~at church. I would like to bring banana crumb muffins.
Dinner~at the farm

Back!

I wanted to apologize for my long and unannounced absense! My internet access is at my in-laws' farm down the road from us, and a couple of them came down with flu-like symptoms on Wednesday of last week. I made a bee-line out to keep myself and Katie from getting sick. They are finally on the mend, so things should be back to normal this week. I will be posting our menu plan later this evening, and tomorrow, I'll try to get up the conclusion of my "Restoring Order" series. There are some exciting things coming up in the next weeks that I'm looking forward to announcing in the coming days!

Thanks for sticking around despite my mysterious disappearance.

Blessings!
~Mary Jo

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hot Chocolate Recipe


My in-laws have a milking cow, and the weather has been just perfect for hot chocolate, so we have been frequently indulging in this delicious cold weather treat! I think I have "perfected" my recipe, and tonight, I measured everything so I could share it with you. The following recipe is for one mug. It is so tasty, so simple, and so much healthier than the pre-made mixes!

Hot Chocolate:
-1 mug full of milk
-1 Tablespoon sugar (I use raw sugar, usually)
-1 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
-dash of salt
-1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract or rum extract (we have been using this lately, and it is quite tasty!)

Pour the milk in a pot over medium heat. Add in the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Add in the cocoa and stir until it dissolves. Sprinkle in salt and add extract of you choice. Let it get very hot, but don't let it boil. Top with marshmellows if you want some extra calories. ;)

For more great recipes, check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Tasty Tuesday.

Picture found here.

Restoring Order: Day 2 Results

Unfortunately, I am not able to get before and after photos uploaded tonight. I took them, but the laptop is at our house, so I don't have a computer to upload them onto (I am writing from another computer). But, I can go ahead and give the update and add the pictures tomorrow.

We had a late night last night, but I was up at 6 this morning with a fussy baby. Finally around 7, I nursed her and she calmed down; again, I read and prayed while she was nursing. I may have to accept the fact that for now, that will be how it is most mornings. But, I'm going to try and get up before her again tomorrow and see how it goes.

As for restoring order to our living area, here is my list with the tasks I accomplished. My younger brother-in-law was kind enough to come over and watch Katie for me while I worked on cleaning...I bribed him with fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies from my freezer stash. :)

::Organize the desk  
::Put away the clutter on the living room floor 
::Dust
::Vacuum 
::Clean toilet 
::Clean counter 
::Clean shower/tub 
::Mop bathroom floor 

I got through most of the tasks before I had to nurse Katie and head to class, and the area looks much better. Sorry I don't have the pictures tonight! Tomorrow, I will be focusing on the bedrooms. Mostly, I just desperately need to put away the laundry and they will both look much better.

Restoring Order: Day 2 Plan


Picture found here.


The Plan:

Heart: Get up at 5:30 and read Scripture/pray before Katie gets up for the day. Yesterday, I read from an Amy Carmichael devotional, and began reading through the Psalms. I plan to continue the same today. 

Home: Today, I am going to focus on the living area and main bathroom of our home. Here is my list:

::Organize the desk (when you see the before pics for this, you will see it is quite a task!)
::Put away the clutter on the living room floor
::Dust
::Vacuum
::Clean toilet
::Clean counter
::Clean shower/tub
::Mop bathroom floor

Lord willing, I'll be back tonight with today's results!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Restoring Order: Day 1 Results

So, as it turns out, my list was a wee bit too ambitious. But, I did make it through most of it, and have enjoyed a nice, clean kitchen today! Now, to be diligent about keeping it clean... :) Below is the list and what I got to, followed by pictures.

::Wash all dishes
::Put all clean dishes away.
::Clean out under the sink
::Organize tupperware cabinet (does your tupperware fall out when you open that cabinet up?)
::Clean the microwave out
::Clean the burners on the stove
::Clean out refrigerator
::Sweep and mop


I decided to leave the tupperware cabinet undone in favor of doing the things that are visible. I started to get to the burners, and when I realized what a disaster they were (not a disaster made by me--previous tenants were very irresponsible), I knew it would not be a project I could get done in the remainder of Katie's naptime.

As for the pictures...once I took them, I wondered what I was thinking in offering to share them, but alas...


Before:


After:
 




I am scheduling tomorrow's post to go up in the wee hours of the morning. The plan for tomorrow is to do the living area and main bathroom. 
 

Restoring Order: Day 1 Plan


Picture found here.

Good morning! My morning did not go exactly according to plan; we forgot to turn the alarm on, so I woke up at 6:30, when Katie was up for the day. I didn't get the time I was hoping to have for devotions, but I did read and pray while I was nursing. Breakfast is in the oven and Ben is watching her right now, so I stole away for a couple minutes to get this up. I am planning to get my cleaning done during Katie's morning nap. Since I am focusing on the kitchen today, here is the list of things I am hoping to accomplish in the 1 1/2 to 2 hours I'll have.

::Wash all dishes
::Put all clean dishes away.
::Clean out under the sink
::Organize tupperware cabinet (does your tupperware fall out when you open that cabinet up?)
::Clean the microwave out
::Clean the burners on the stove
::Clean out refrigerator
::Sweep and mop

I will be back this afternoon with before and after pictures!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Plan, 11/9-11/15

I am so excited about this week. My parents are planning to come up from Florida for a visit Friday , we are spending Saturday with family in North Carolina, and Monday-Thursday, I am going to be restoring order to our home. In the midst of blessed busy-ness, my family has still got to eat, so here's the plan. :)

Monday:
Breakfast: baked oatmeal
Lunch: pinto bean and cheese quesadillas
Dinner: English muffin pizzas, salad

Tuesday: 
Breakfast: leftover baked oatmeal
Lunch: chicken salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
Dinner: white chili (bring to church in the small crock pot to eat between classes), cornbread

Wednesday:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, fruit
Lunch: leftover white chili
Dinner: dinner at the farm

Thursday:
Breakfast: cold cereal, bananas
Lunch: pinto bean and cheese quesadillas
Dinner: English muffin pizzas, salad

Friday:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, grits
Lunch: grilled cheese, carrot sticks, pears
Dinner: at the farm. Mom and Dad should be here, too! Yay! :D

Saturday:
Breakfast: banana crumb muffins
Lunch & Dinner with family in North Carolina

Sunday:

Breakfast: banana crumb muffins
Lunch: at church; bring banana crumb muffins to share
Dinner: at the farm, as is our Lord's Day family tradition

For hundreds more menu plans, visit OrgJunkie.

Restoring Order


Picture found here.

Over the last couple of weeks, I seem to have lost my focus and our house has become cluttered and messy (something I was sure I wouldn't let happen after our move!). I am hoping to spend this week getting it back into shape. And, the fact that my parents told me last night they are planning to come up and visit at the end of this week (YAY!) gives me extra incentive to hop to it. I have divided the house into four sections and plan to focus on one section each day, finishing up on Thursday.

Having an orderly home goes beyond just having a place for everything and keeping everything in its place, though. If our hearts are not right with God and we are not keeping our homes for His glory, it is all meaningless. I have been woefully neglectful not only of the orderliness of our home, but also of making sure I am setting aside time each day (preferably first thing) to spend time reading Scripture and in prayer. So, in addition to restoring order in our home, I am purposing this week to rise early enough (dare I say, at 5:30?) to have quiet time with the Lord before starting our day.

The area of our home I am planning to focus on tomorrow is the kitchen. I will be back in the morning with a plan for the day, and then again in the afternoon/evening with before (*gasp*) and after pictures.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

So Precious...

We took some pictures of Katie in our front yard last week, and I just had to share a couple of them with you all. I am so thankful to the Lord for my precious girl...








She brings so much joy into our lives. God has truly been so, so good to us.

Finer Things

My absense the last couple of days was unplanned but rather enjoyable. Yesterday was filled with Finer Things which is why this post is going up a day late. ;)

The last several Fridays, Katie and I have spent the day at our church's Home Educators Academy. It has been such a blessing to get to know the ladies at church better, and see how to co-op operates. One thing I love about our church is that all of the families home educate, and since we are the youngest family there for now, when we start Katie's formal home schooling I will be able to glean much from the ladies who have been there, done that, and done a wonderful job!

After classes were over, a friend from church came home with me, and we played flute duets together (how fun to have someone to play with!) while Ben finished up some work in the yard. Then, most of the family came over and we practiced for a performance we did last night at a local coffee shop. Every Friday night they have live music, and we performed last night and a few weeks ago. It's pretty fun. I couldn't leave Katie sleeping at the farm this time because Ben's parents came. Perhaps one of the nicest things about the night (besides actually being able to see my music this time--the lighting was horrible last time!) was how well she behaved despite being out until 10, instead of her usual 7:30-8:00 bedtime.



A wonderful family who I enjoy and love so much and a precious church family are certainly some of the very finest things God could bless one with in this life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baking Day(s) Results



Above are the results of my baking days, minus the banana crumb muffins which we already ate, a 2qt crockpot of pinto beans and ham that I forgot to put in the picture, some of the corn muffins which were also eaten, and a crockpot of chicken broth which won't be done 'til tomorrow morning.

I ended up with:
-1 dozen corn muffins
-1 dozen banana crumb muffins
-About 4 dozen cookie dough balls for the freezer (baked 16 cookies, too)
-5 cans worth of black/kidney beans
-2 qts. pintos and ham
-7 jars of organic sweet potato baby food (more on that another day!)
-5 cups of cooked, cubed chicken
-4 cups cooked, cubed ham
-chicken salad for lunch the next couple of days

It was fun! I think next time, I will try to do more full meals instead of cooking mainly meat/beans to put in meals later on. If you head over to Money Saving Mom, lots of folks are linking up to their freezer cooking results. I am looking forward to wading through the posts and finding ideas for next time!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Baking Day





Today, Money Saving Mom and FishMama are hosting a baking day. That is, a day to spend all day in the kitchen cooking so that you don't have to do that much for a while. I decided last night to jump on the bandwagon. So, here is my list for today. Hopefully, I'll be back this evening with photos.

-Cook black, pinto, and kidney beans (soaked the beans last night)
-Cook a whole chicken (in the crockpot). Debone and freeze meat in mealsize portions.
-Cook a ham and do the same.
-Make banana crumb muffins
-Cook up a couple pounds of ground venison and make Italian Beef and Beans to go over pasta. Freeze.
-With the chicken, make up some chicken salad and some quesadilla filling
-Make up some baby food for Katie (sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and pears)

I'd also like to do a couple loads of laundry since the sun is out today, and maybe work out. We'll see if I can get it all done. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu Plan, 11/02-11/08



This past week, my in-laws gave us several pounds of fresh, ground venison, so I will be incorporating some of that into our meals this week, in the place of ground beef. I am also planning to mostly cook from the pantry and just pick up a few things at the grocery store tomorrow. Some things I didn't get to will repeat this week.

Breakfast:
baked oatmeal with apples (x2)
whole wheat banana pancakes with homemade syrup (x1)
scrambled eggs with bacon and toast (x2)
potato bacon pie (x2)

Lunch:
chicken salad wraps (x3)
leftovers (x1)
snacks at church (x1)

Dinner:
pinto beans with cornbread and green beans (x1)
beef stroganoff with steamed veggies (x2)
dinner at the farm (x2)

Snacks:
organic cheese sticks
granola nut clusters
organic apples
organic carrot sticks
organic bananas

Saturday, October 31, 2009

492 Years Ago


 

Who would have known that a note posted on the door of a church in Germany 492 years ago today would be used so my mightily by God to change the course of history? Today, we remember the faithfulness of the great reformers, like Martin Luther who sacrificed so much to bring the truth of the gospel back to the common people and so advance God's Kingdom, unto the praise of the glory of His grace!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Frugal Friday: Stay Home



We moved our little family from a big city, where I resided for nearly 12 years, out to the country, just over two months ago, and one thing we have done a lot more of since our move is stay home! We are at least 15-20 minutes from most things, and about 40 minutes from everything else. ;) Our trips for "just one thing" are practically nonexistent. "Just one thing" is not important enough to spend $5 or more in gas to get. Staying home also keeps us from eating out, and from making unnecessary purchases "just because." Since we don't go out as much, we have found many enjoyable (free or almost free) things to preoccupy ourselves with at home. Some of these include:

  • Reading more, which also leads us into interesting conversations.
  • Spend time with Ben's family, who live half a mile down the road from us. These visits often involve coffee (not for me, though; can't stand the stuff) and cookies, which brings me to my next item.
  • Baking, especially cookies. These are our favorites.
  • Playing music. Between us all there are two guitarists, two violinists, one cellist, one penny whistle player, and one flutist (that is me). We have frequent evening "jam sessions" at our place, as the boys like to call them. They have actually composed several pieces of music together.
  • Playing games. The boys have a couple games they play on the computer together; I usually stick to board games or cards, though I occasionally indulge them and join in on a computer game.
  • Cleaning. My house is generally much cleaner, now that I spend much more time there.
  • Writing. I have wanted to blog frequently for a while, and now that I am home (or at my home away from home, the family farm), it actually happens.
  • Enjoying my baby. I love getting down on the floor and playing with toys with Katie, or snuggling up with her on the sofa, or sticking her in the sling and having her snuggled up to me so we can "talk" while I go about doing things in the home. What a precious season; Katie won't be a baby forever, and what joy it brings me to be able to enjoy her at home!
For other frugal tips, visit Life as Mom.