Wednesday, December 29, 2010

He's here!

Benjamin Joel, Jr.
Born at home 12/28/2010 at 1:48am
22 1/4inches, 9lbs 5oz.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden...For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
(Luke 1:46-50)

More pictures and a birth story to come. For the next several days, though, I'm going to focus on  resting up enjoying my son!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grandma's Chex Mix and a giveaway!

Growing up, I remember my Grandma always having homemade Chex Mix around her house at Christmastime. I wanted to share her recipe with y'all. When I called her to get it, she told me she uses the one on the box of cereal ("classic chex mix"). Even so, in my mind, it will always be Grandma's Chex mix!
Here's the recipe:
3 cups each Corn, Rice, and Wheat Chex cereals
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup bagel chips (Grandma usually puts White Cheddar Cheez-Its instead)
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Heat oven to 250*. In a large, ungreased roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

I was recently contacted by MyBlogSpark about a promotion Kroger is running in conjunction with Chex cereal. Through December 25, Chex are on sale so you can make delicious holiday Chex Mix on a budget! MyBlogSpark sent me a package with two boxes of Chex cereal and a $25 Kroger giftcard so I could check out the sale for myself, and they have offered to send one of y'all a prize pack as well!

To enter the giveaway, please comment on this post. Easy enough! For additional entries, you can share your favorite Chex Mix recipe, follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS feed. Please leave a separate comment for each entry! The giveaway will close this Friday evening, December 24.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pregnancy Update: 40 Weeks!

Earlier today--exactly 40 weeks pregnant!
 Well, today is the due-date, but apparently little Benjamin missed the memo! My absence the past week wasn't because I had a baby without telling y'all! My birthday was last week and my mom came into town on Friday to be here for the birth and my recovery. I've been enjoying spending time with her, and blogging has been pretty far from my mind--I'm sure you can understand! It's such an exciting time around here.

I had a check-up with my midwife yesterday, and everything still looks good. I haven't had a single high blood pressure reading the entire pregnancy, which I am so thankful for! I also have basically no swelling or water retention. My wedding rings even still fit--I had to take them off two months before Katie was born because they were too tight. I've also only gained 21 pounds this pregnancy, instead of twice that like I did last time. I think our current diet versus the way we used to eat, as well as being much more active have helped me stay so much healthier this time around.

Surprisingly at 40 weeks pregnant, I am feeling really good. I don't have many aches and pains. There is some difficulty with bending over and rolling over in bed, but certainly nothing intolerable. I'm so thankful to have had two relatively easy pregnancies. I know some women are just totally miserable for the entire 9 months! The only reason I'm anxious to not be pregnant anymore is because I am just SO excited to meet this precious baby and hold him in my arms, not because I'm exhausted and sick and tired of being pregnant.

Yesterday my midwife checked, and I was 2cm dilated and 40% effaced. Not a whole lot--but I guess that's 2 centimeters I don't have to deal with during labor! I've been having some contractions off and on, but nothing consistent enough to convince this little guy to make his appearance. So for now, we wait...!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So thankful

Since we moved to Virginia, we have heated our house with a wood burning stove. Since my in-laws have a large property with plenty of trees, this has been a free alternative to heating our home with the electric furnace (which we learned the hard way would cost almost triple what we pay for rent in a month!). Ben meticulously maintains the stove and pipes to make sure they're clean and things are burning properly.

This Sunday we had quite a scare--we experienced our first (and hopefully only) chimney fire. We came home from church and Ben was stoking the fire before we headed to the farm to spend the afternoon and evening as we always do on Sundays. Just before we headed out the door, he noticed the fire was really raging, which hasn't ever really happened before. All of a sudden he started saying, "We have a problem." And we sure did. There was a fire in the pipes and they had started to turn red from being so hot. Ben dumped water over the pipe and went to get more, and by the time he came back with a filled bucket, the entire pipe was red and part of it was melting, which could've allowed the fire to spread quickly through the house. The fire was burning much harder than we could have contained with water, so Ben used the fire extinguisher.

I try not to be overly attached to stuff, but all the same--some of our stuff is a little more than just stuff, and parting with all of it all in one day would have been really hard. I am so thankful that, in the mercy of God, we had a fire extinguisher, and that Ben was there to handle the situation. If not, we may have had to stand outside and watch our house burn down waiting for a fire truck to get there.

As a side: We're not sure what caused the fire, but Ben is cleaning/replacing the pipes and we're having a professional chimney sweep come to tell us what's going on.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

As with Gladness, Men of Old

 This is a less-known advent hymn. The words are so rich and full of truth. It's sung to the tune of "For the Beauty of the Earth."

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!
Words by William C. Dix

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pregnancy Update, 38 weeks

I fully intended to have a picture with this update, but as of yesterday I'm sick, and I am somewhat disinclined to post a photo of myself in maternity yoga pants and a t-shirt for all the world to see. I'll do another update next week (maybe the last one with Baby Boy on the inside!) and hopefully have a picture to go along with that one!

So, today I am 38 weeks and two days pregnant, putting me just 12 short days away from my due date! I can hardly believe how fast this pregnancy has gone by, and am getting quite anxious to meet this sweet little man who's been my constant companion for the past (almost) 9 months.

Besides being sick since yesterday, I have been feeling surprisingly good for being as far along in pregnancy as I am. I'm not sleeping as well as usual, due to frequent bathroom trips and the need to switch which side I'm sleeping on to keep my poor hips from aching. As a result, I have been a little more tired than usual and have slowed my pace down a little bit--which is probably needful at 9 months pregnant regardless of how well you're sleeping!

I had a check-up with my midwife yesterday and everything's looking pretty good. I've gained 19 pounds so far, and measured 38cms. Thankfully, my blood pressure is still completely fine (at 38 weeks with Katie, it was 130/90 at my check-up), and I am getting more and more hopeful that this baby can actually be born at home! The other good news we got was that my Group-B Strep screen came back negative--I was positive  when I was pregnant with Katie and had IV antibiotics during my labor, so I'm pretty excited about the negative results this time. She checked my hemoglobin and glucose as well, and both were good.

This past Friday, I had contractions for a couple hours and we got a little bit excited about the possibility of meeting our boy, but they stopped and I haven't had any since. Thankfully, it was a reminder that I needed to finish gathering all the supplies we need to have here at home for when he actually does decide to make his appearance. So, I now have all the supplies I need in a box in our room--complete with granola bars and some other healthy snacks. Labor's hard work, you know!

It's almost surreal that within a few weeks, I'll get to meet my sweet baby boy and hold him in my arms for the first time. My mom is coming up the 17th and will stay with us for a couple weeks, which will be so nice. It's hard to wrap my mind around what it will be like to be home with TWO little ones during the day, and I'm sure having Mom here to help with the transition will make it a lot easier--especially since I've been told I'll need to go two weeks without lifting Katie!

How are all you other pregnant mamas doing? Has anyone had their babies since the last pregnancy update? I'd love to hear!

And now, I'll go back to resting, drinking tea, and taking vitamin c, echinacea, raw garlic, and Juice Plus in hopes of getting better quickly and regaining my strength for the big day! My mother-in-law is going to bring some of her delicious soup over for dinner tonight--isn't that so sweet?!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Easy Peasy Chili

When I made chili before Ben and I were married, it had onions and plenty of peppers (including a jalapeno or two). However, Ben hates (with a very deep passion) peppers and onions, and prefers no tomato chunks, but he loves chili. After we got married, I experimented and finally figured out a way to make tasty chili that he still loves.

Because it doesn't have many ingredients, it's really simple to make, and it has become a go-to around here, especially on days we have to be somewhere in the evening. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes to put together and can sit in the crock pot all day, or it can simmer on the stove for just a little bit before you eat it and it still tastes good--though it does get better the longer it cooks! If you have some ground beef already cooked, it takes just minutes to put together. This quantity serves our family two dinners plus a little leftover after that.

We've been having some pretty cold days here lately, and since chili is so great on a cold day, I thought I'd share our recipe with y'all!

1 lb. ground beef
2 cloves garlic
3 cans of beans (I use pinto, kidney, and black), drained and rinsed
2 cans of tomato sauce
1/2 can water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and black pepper to taste (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of each)

Brown the ground beef along with the garlic. You can add an onion or onion powder here if you'd like (and even some peppers). Once the beef is cooked, add all the ingredients to a pot and simmer until you're ready to eat. Top with cheese, sour cream, or whatever else suits your fancy. It goes really well with corn bread on the side, too. Sadly, we've been eating ours without cornbread, because when I have cornbread at the table, that's ALL Katie will eat! Ha!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Plan, December 6-12

At 38 weeks pregnant (!), I'm trying to keep our meals mostly pretty simple, while still healthy and tasty. This is what we're planning to eat this week, assuming this little man we are anxiously waiting to meet doesn't decide to make his appearance.

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs served with cheesy grits, baked oatmeal, or pancakes

Lunches: warm shredded chicken sandwiches, PB & J, grilled cheese, snacks, leftovers

Monday & Tuesday~chili
Wednesday~Italian Roast Beef over pasta, salad
Thursday~beef tacos with salsa, beans, lettuce, etc.
Saturday~Rib Eye steaks, baked potatoes, salad
Sunday~at the farm

What are y'all fixing this week?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Toothpaste Fail and a Giveaway

Around our house, we do a lot of things naturally. We eat a mostly organic/whole foods diet, we use natural cleaning products, and we don't take much medicine. One area of our lives I haven't overhauled (yet!) is toiletries. This is partly because I can get most of our shampoo, toothpaste, etc., for free or better using the CVS Extra Care Bucks program, and partly because I'm just used to conventional toiletries.

Lately, I have been looking into switching things over, beginning with toothpaste. I have been using natural, fluoride-free toothpaste for Katie as long as I've been brushing her teeth, but Ben and I use the regular ol' sweet fluoride toothpaste for ourselves. I've read about the problems with using these kinds of tooth pastes, but just hadn't gone ahead and made the change.

Katie recently discovered she can carry a stool around the house and reach all kinds of things she couldn't reach before. And, until the other day when I caught her swallowing toothpaste from a tube she had gotten off the bathroom counter, I thought I had just about everything 'bad' out of her reach. I wasn't sure how much she had gotten, though it couldn't have been much since I'd only had her out of my sight for a very short while. But, I was concerned nonetheless and went ahead and called the poison control center (for the first time ever). They said all I needed to do was give her some milk and she should be fine. The lady said the calcium in the milk binds with the fluoride and keeps it from being absorbed. Thankfully, Katie loves milk and that was that.

After that incident, I was especially glad when a box arrived from Tropical Traditions containing my next product to review--all natural teeth cleaner! I have used it, and it's definitely different than regular toothpaste. It tastes WAY different--it's not very sweet at all. When I first had it in my mouth, I honestly thought it tasted terrible, but within one tooth-brushing the taste grew on me and I don't mind it at all. It also doesn't foam up in your mouth like regular toothpaste, but as it turns out, foamy-ness isn't at all necessary to get your teeth clean. It does the job perfectly well, leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean, AND if your toddler happens to swallow it, there's no need to call the poison control center. All the ingredients in it are perfectly safe for human consumption.

Tropical Traditions has kindly offered to send one of y'all some of their organic teeth cleaner to try for yourselves! To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post. The giveaway will be open until next Thursday, December 9.

For additional entries, you can follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), follow Tropical Traditions on twitter (@TropTraditions), tweet about this giveaway and include @mrsmurch and @troptraditions (and a link to this post!), subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter, and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed. Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Katie-isms, Part 2

Several months ago, I did a post highlighting some of Katie's most commonly-used words. Since then, her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, and she has recently started putting words into sentences (!). She never ceases to amaze me with how quickly she picks up on things--and she definitely keeps me chuckling, too! These are some of her favorite things to say--recorded mostly for my sake, and the sake of her Grandma and Great Grandma who I think both wish they could see her sweet self a little more often.

One of her first attempts at sentence-making was, "Where (insert word) ?" This question was most often asked about mommy, daddy, and the neighbor's cows. Her first four word sentence was, "Where did mama go?" Of course, I wasn't around to hear it.

She has lately taken to pointing out pretty things around the house. We put up our Christmas tree and a few other decorations on Friday, and Katie has just gone on and on about how "pritteh" (pretty) they are. She sits and stares and says "Wow, pritteh" in the most awestruck tone. When she's talking to one of us, she'll say, "It pritteh Mama/Dada!" When she wants to show off something of hers, she runs up and says "Wooow!" She also says wow about our things too--this often makes us chuckle. For example, this morning, Ben put on a old, brown, flannel work shirt (nothing particularly lovely--but a shirt she hadn't ever seen him wear) before he left for the shop and she said, "Wow!" Ha!

In addition to admiring pretty things, my girl LOVES to read (which I'm so thankful for!). When she first started expressing to us a desire to read, she'd just bring a book over and give it to us. That progressed into handing us a book and saying "book." In the last week or so, she has taken it up a notch and now says, "Ree da book" (Read the book), or even "Ree da book, Mama." It's really hard to resist!

She also now has names for some of her aunts and uncles. Sam is "Am," Hannah is "Annah," and Elijah and Josiah are both "Yah-Yah." Her grandmothers and great grandmothers are "Manna" and her grandfathers/great grandfathers are "Bapa." She'll point them all out in pictures, and gets VERY excited about an opportunity to see any of them (and she also loves to talk to them on the phone). She says "Hi" and "Bye" (in the most adorable southern belle accent, too!) to loved ones and strangers alike.

In recent weeks, we've been dabbling (without much success) with potty training. So, she has learned some potty words, too. I have to remind her frequently that just because someone goes in the bathroom, they aren't necessarily going "poopoo da potty." Ha!

She has also learned several animals and their sounds. Her favorite animals are dogs and cows (why, yes, we live in the country with lots of cows and dogs nearby ;). She also knows goats ("doat"), pigs (she just calls them "oinkoinkoink"), bees, horses, birds, fishes, bears and several others. She's pretty good at saying the sounds they make, too.

Of late, she has become quite insistent when she requests something, too (usually, in the kitchen). She frequently asks for more (and has to be lovingly reminded to say please, which she pronounces "pah"). She asks for her bowl and her spoon (both pronounced 'boo') quite often as well.

I could list more, but Katie's up from her nap and there's dinner to be made. Katie is such a sweet blessing and really adds such richness to our lives with her sweet spirit and crazy antics. I'm so excited to see how she'll be as a big sister in just a few weeks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

We keep Christmas pretty simple at our house. One tradition we really enjoy during this season is singing hymns about the birth of Christ during daily family worship. Many of them are so theologically rich and worshipful. I think the familiarity makes it all-too-possible for us to not pay close attention to the words. Over the next few Sundays, I'll be highlighting some of our favorite Advent hymns. What are yours?

Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King;
peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled!"
Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumphs of the skies;
with th'angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."

Christ, by highest heav'n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th'incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."
Hail the heav'n-born Price of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, ris'n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."
 Words by Charles Wesley

How glorious that Christ saw fit to humble himself and take on the likeness of man and dwell with us, and through His birth, death, and resurrection, make it possible for men to be reconciled to God!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

That Man of Mine

In this late stage of pregnancy, I have become increasingly aware of what a wonderful man the Lord has given me for a husband. Don't get me wrong--I've always known he was wonderful (I mean--I wouldn't have married him otherwise!). But, his sacrificial love and service for me during this stage of life has been such a sweet blessing.

One thing I've noticed--he always keeps up with Katie so I can relax when we're at family or church gatherings. He does it frequently without even breathing a word about it. It's not something he has to do, and it certainly wouldn't be presumptuous for him to expect me to keep up with her some. This was something I'd been completely taking for granted until I really thought about it a few days ago.

Ben's first time holding Katie
 Last week when I was having back trouble before I saw the chiropractor, he made dinner one night and then went out the following morning to get breakfast for us so I was able to stay off my feet. When he's home from work, he spends lots of time with Katie so I can relax. And sometimes, he even does the dinner dishes when I'm especially tired!

It's so funny--before we were married and had a baby (and another one on the way), it would've never occurred to me that acts of service such as these would be such a great blessing and even make my heart go 'pitty-patter' like flowers and chocolates! Ha!

Ben with Katie at just a few days old

Truly, a godly husband is a precious gift from the Lord. May God help me to be the wife he deserves, and to never take him for granted!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu Plan, November 22-28

I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving week! TWe are having some good friends come into town this week, and we'll all be spending Thanksgiving over at my in-laws' farm. Our week last week was busy and there were some events I forgot about, so there are some repeats on this week's menu.

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with baked oatmeal, pancakes, or sweet potato streusel muffins (didn't get to these last week)

Lunches: leftovers, snacks

Monday~Chili, Cornbread
Tuesday~birthday dinner at the farm for Ben's brother
Wednesday~Grandma's Stroganoff, served with brown rice and steamed cauliflower
Thursday-Sunday~meals at the farm with family and friends

For LOTS of meal plan inspiration, check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Menu Plan, November 15-21

I hope y'all are having a great week so far! We've been a little bit busy around here. I had a visit with a local chiropractor yesterday to help with some sciatic nerve pain I started having Friday night. I'm amazed at how much it helped! It's so nice to not be hobbling around. Because I wasn't on my feet much over the weekend, Ben cooked some and we also ate with his family, so there are some repeats on this week's plan.

We got our second shipment of meat from the farm yesterday, which was exciting. It's so neat to have such high quality, locally raised meat delivered right to my door! What a blessing.

Here's what I'm planning to cook this week. What are y'all making?

Breakfasts: whole wheat pancakes, baked oatmeal, and sweet potato struessel muffins--all served with scrambled eggs; quiche

Lunches: smoothies, leftovers, snacks

Monday~Pan-seared T-Bone steaks with creamy pepper sauce, green beans, baked potatoes
Tuesday~Chicken & Dumplings
Wednesday~Chicken Alfredo, green beans
Thursday~Grandma's Stroganoff, steamed cauliflower
Saturday~homemade pizza, fruit
Sunday~at the farm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On Coming Home: Be Content with Less

To read the first parts of this series, go here.

I think the most important thing you can do to make it possible for you to come home is to be content with less. We live in a very stuff and entertainment driven society. Our houses are packed to the gills with clutter and we spend lots of money just to keep ourselves entertained. Sadly, this mentality causes us to miss out on really living purposeful lives and devoting ourselves to things that are truly important--like a good relationship with the Lord and the people who matter the most to us.

If you're going to choose to part with a big chunk of your income, you'll have to evaluate your spending and figure out what things you can cut out. There's nothing wrong with spending money you have on stuff and entertainment and conveniences, though it is important to examine priorities. If things that are truly non-necessities are keeping you from staying home with your children, I would submit to you that perhaps your priorities are out of line.

Look through your purchase history next time your bank statement comes in the mail. What things do you spend money on that your family really could do without? Could you go down to one car? Downsize to a smaller house? Cut cable TV, or text messaging?

There are also several expenses you won't have if you are staying home: daycare for your children (which can be astronomical!), business clothes for you, lunches out while working, fewer convenience foods since you will have more time to cook from scratch, less wear and tear on your car since you won't be commuting, among many others.

Most importantly, be sure to consider what you are giving up to have the things two incomes can buy. Things have no eternal value. They won't matter a bit once you're gone. However, investing your very best into your families can have a greater impact than we can begin to imagine. That's why, for us, the cost of sacrificing the time I have at home with our daughter (and pretty soon, our son too!) is far greater than we are willing to pay.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Dryer Saga

When we first moved into our home here in Virginia, Ben's parents were kind enough to give us a washer and dryer. They were extras they had at their house (I guess when you have that many people in one house, it doesn't hurt to keep extra appliances around-ha!). The problem: when we got the dryer here, it didn't work. Not a big deal; I just used the clothes line.

A few months ago, Ben's mom surprised me with a dryer she found on Craiglist. It worked really well for about a week--until we had a power surge during a storm while it was running. It was a sad day. For the past couple months, I continued drying clothes on the line or at my in-laws' house if the weather was not suitable for hanging the laundry out.

More recently, it's been too cool most days to hang clothes out, and with a new baby coming (just 6 weeks 'til Benjamin's due-date), I began thinking now would probably be a good time to either get it fixed or get a new (to us) dryer. I think once Benjamin is born, keeping my chores simple and staying home more will be slightly necessary for survival those first few weeks! Thankfully, Ben agreed and we started setting aside some money.

My in-laws know a dryer repairman who they have bought a couple dryers from over the years. When we told him what was going on with our dryer, he was confident he could fix it. We took it to his shop and for $100, he completely rebuilt the dryer. It basically has all new parts and ought to last us a long time!

The day after we brought it home, it wouldn't heat up at all. Thankfully, he has a 30 day guarantee, so two (very long) weeks later, we were finally able to work out a time to bring it back to him. He plugged it in and it worked just fine. He even dried a load of laundry in it! As it turns out, there was just something electrical that needed fixing in our laundry room (the two weeks wouldn't have been so long if we had known that before-ha!).

So, as of yesterday, I am the very happy owner of a (finally!) functioning dryer. My laundry pile hasn't been this small in ages. :)

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan, November 8-14

Colder weather has definitely set in in our neck of the woods. We had to defrost the windshield before we could drive yesterday morning! We've also had the wood-stove burning all the time this week. So thankful my hubby deals with all the firewood hauling and keeps the house warm for us! :)

We are really enjoying the meat from the farm we started buying from. It is so fun to be surprised with a variety of cuts of meat, and have some different things to plan our meals around. And, knowing the quality is so high makes this conscientious mama's heart happy. Yesterday, I finally finished 'doing up' the last of the green beans. We had green beans with dinner just about every night over the last week and we have about 3 1/2 gallons in the freezer to enjoy later. I've never had farm fresh green beans before. They are so delicious!

Here's what I'm planning to cook this week. What's on your meal plans for the week?

Breakfasts: biscuits and gravy, whole wheat pancakes, toast--all served with scrambled eggs; breakfast burritos; quiche

Lunches: homemade pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and smoothies, leftovers

Monday~Adobo Red Rice, Pinto beans
Tuesday~Chicken Roll-ups with gravy, green beans
Wednesday~Brown Bag Burritos, oranges
Thursday~Rice & Bean Burritos, butternut squash fries
Friday~Pan-Seared T-Bone steak with creamy pepper sauce, green beans
Saturday~homemade pizza, fruit
Sunday~fellowship at church (bringing these to share)

For lots of menu planning inspiration, be sure to head over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Coming Home: Why? (Part 2)

If you missed the beginning of this series, you can get caught up here.

As we discussed last week, there are many practical reasons for a wife choosing to be at home over having a full-time job; ministering to the needs of her family by preparing nutritious foods, keeping the home, providing clothes, helping her husband's business, and ministering on behalf of her family to those outside her household are just a few.

Aside from all those (very important!) tasks, though, is perhaps the most important reason a woman should choose to stay home. That is, to disciple her children. When you become a mother, your children become your life's most important work. Training them to love and serve Christ is one of your absolute most important priorities as long as they are in your home. In each of your children, there is huge potential for Kingdom-advancement, not only in their lives personally, but also in the generations that follow them. Raising your children to follow Christ has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of people with the gospel.

Just think about it. I'll use my in-laws as an example. They have nine children. If all nine of their children persevere in the faith and go on to have even five children each (and, I know for sure several of them--including us!--are hoping for very large families if the Lord is willing), that is forty-five grandchildren. If those grandchildren have five children each, that is 225 great grandchildren. That makes for a potential of 279 disciples in just three generations! And, those 279 disciples will most likely not just influence their own children for Christ, but many in the communities around them.

If Ben's parents had slacked in their duties and failed to disciple their children, that potential would have been lost; no amount of 'ministry' or other work they could have done would have made up for the loss of disciples the generations following them could have produced.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-7, parents are given a clear mandate for the discipleship of their children:

4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

How can we best obey this mandate? Spending time with our children. Of course, there needs to be formal instruction time, but nothing will make up for living out a life of obedience before their eyes and using "teachable moments" as they present themselves. If both parents are gone all day working, it is inevitable that someone will have a greater influence on their children than they do. Since God has given the husband the burden of providing for the family and has called women to be at home, moms have the role of discipling the children in the father's absence.

So, why come home? At work you can be replaced. Most likely, you and your family can learn to live without a second income. However, no one else can be a mother to your children.

As a side note: I am in no way trying to condemn those of you who, for one reason or another, are absolutely not able to stay at home with your children. Obviously, if you are a single mom, your husband is disabled and can't work, or something of that nature, you have no choice but to work to provide. Next week, we'll begin talking about how to come home; hopefully some of you will be able to use some of those tips to be able to spend more time at home even if you can't completely leave the work force.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We just played

The other day at lunchtime, I shared a smoothie with Katie and she (of course) made a huge mess of herself. After we finished eating, we headed to her room to get her some new clothes. After I got her dressed, we stayed in her room for a while and we played.

We tried on clothes and shoes. Katie ended up in a silly outfit complete with a summer hat and snow boots. I, too, ended up wearing a (much-too-small) toddler hat and a little pink hair bow, both of which Katie picked out just for me. There were lots of tickles, giggles and sweet baby hugs. And for this mama? A few tears too (pregnancy hormone-induced, I do believe).

That hour spent on the floor in Katie's room was such a sweet reminder of the precious blessing the Lord has given me in having this season of life at home with my daughter. Sure, I spend most of my time every day with her; we read books, we clean together, we 'talk'. Too often, though, when she goes in her room to play, she plays all by herself. While I definitely see the importance of regular independent play, I will not soon forget how happy it made her just to have her mama in there playing with her.

One of these days, my sweet, chubby, blue-eyed baby girl will be too big to play with her mama. I know when that time comes, I won't look back and regret leaving the lunch dishes for a little later; however, I may very well regret not taking more time to just play when I could have. So for now? I think we'll just play together a little more often. And folks, that's definitely one of life's finer things.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oxygen Bleach Review & Giveaway

 **The winner of last week's Febreze giveaway was comment #41. She has been notified by e-mail.**

Since we got married, I have chosen to use only natural cleaners, save one: bleach. I mainly have just used it for cleaning the toilets and making the occasional white load of laundry come out whiter. I hadn't tried any toilet bowl cleaners that worked as well as regular ol' bleach. When I was given the opportunity to review Tropical Tradition's Oxygen Bleach, I went for it!

From the Tropical Traditions website:
Tropical Traditions Oxygen Bleach is a safe and effective alternative to chlorine based products and it can be used in many applications in and around the home. It is based on sodium percarbonate which uses oxygen for destaining and deodorizing. Oxygen Bleach is safe to use at all temperatures, on most washable fabrics, and all colors, in hard or soft water, and is compatible with other household cleaners. Also, it produces no harmful by-products which negatively affect the environment. Unlike chlorine bleach, which can merely cover up a stain, Tropical Traditions Oxygen Bleach attacks and breaks down organic stains to totally remove them from the garment.

I have used it for the past two weeks for cleaning our bathrooms, and I have been very pleased with the results. Much like chlorine bleach, I put a little bit (2oz., per the instructions on the container) into the toilet, let it sit for a while, and then swish it around with my toilet brush and voila! White toilets with almost no effort. I haven't yet used it for any other cleaning, though the list of applications is very long.

In addition to providing me with a 6lb. container of Oxygen Bleach to review, Tropical Traditions has kindly offered to give away a container of their Oxygen Bleach to one of y'all! To enter, just leave a comment on this post.

For additional entries, you can follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), follow Tropical Traditions on twitter (@TropTraditions), tweet about this giveaway and include @mrsmurch and @troptraditions (and a link to this post!), subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter, and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed. Please leave a separate comment for each entry! This giveaway will close next Wednesday.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Incorporating locally grown food into our meals (Menu Plan, November 1-7)

This Saturday, I ventured to the Farmer's Market in 'the big city' for the first time since we moved here last summer. I was able to get some great deals, and it was exciting to buy locally grown produce. I paid $5 for half a bushel of unsprayed green beans! We're enjoying them with meals this week, but I'm blanching and freezing most of them to enjoy through the winter (and beyond, probably--it's a lot of green beans!). I was also able to get some butternut squash for $1/lb. This is a new food for us--Ben and I have never had it! I also got a couple different varieties of pumpkins, which I'm planning to leave out to look pretty for a bit and then I'll cook them up.

Recently, Ben and I also decided to start getting our meats from a local farm. We finally made the plunge after our Kroger went about a month without organic chicken and raised the price of their hormone/antibiotic free ground beef. $6-$7 for ground beef is just too much, y'all! We found a farm nearby that raises their animals naturally on pastures, and they have a meat CSA program. We will get a delivery of beef and a whole chicken every other week. We got the first delivery yesterday and I'm really pleased! It's fun to have a variety of cuts of meat to work with (this shipment we got a chuck roast, T-Bone steaks, stew meat, and ground beef), and the average price per pound works out to less than the "good" ground beef at Kroger, and this is much higher quality! Supporting a local farm and getting higher quality food for less? No brainer!
Here's our menu plan for this week:

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs and sausage served with grits, pancakes, or muffins
Lunches: sandwiches (PB & J or grilled cheese), leftovers, rice & beans, smoothies

Monday~We had stew meat and gravy over mashed potatoes with green beans on the side
Tuesday~leftovers, with coconut custard for dessert (haven't made this yet--if it's good, I'll share the recipe!)
Wednesday~Chicken roll-ups with gravy, green beans
Friday~Italian Roast Beef over pasta with butternut squash on the side
Saturday~our usual homemade pizza night

Sunday, October 31, 2010

493 Years


493 years ago today, a note posted on the door of a church in Germany began something that would change the course of history. An innocent note, intended only to inspire discussion between theology professors ended up reforming the church throughout the world! Today, we'll be remembering this and thanking God for His grace in raising up godly men like Martin Luther who were then bold enough to carry the Truth forward regardless of the cost. One must wonder who, if any, will rise up in this generation and do the same.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Coming Home: Why? (Part 1)

 **If you missed it, you can find the introduction to this series here**

In a day when it seems the vast majority of women choose to pursue careers outside the home, some may wonder why it is worth it to give up your career to spend your days at home. The foremost reason to come home is because home is where God has called us to be, in order to best glorify God by ministering to the needs of our husbands and children first, and then to the Body of Christ and the lost. The family is central to the advancement of Christ's Kingdom, and God has clearly assigned roles to each member of the family, including the wife/mother, as a means to accomplish that end.

In Proverbs 31, we find a description of the virtuous woman:
10  Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12  She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13  She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14  She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15  She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16  She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18  She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19  She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20  She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21  She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22  She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23  Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24  She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25  Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27  She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31  Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
By focusing the vast majority of her time and energies on her family, she meets their needs by providing nourishing food and warm clothes. In addition to making their clothes, she makes enough to give to the poor, ministering generously to their needs on behalf of her husband and family. She also sells some of what she makes to supplement her family's income. Her husband is successful, in great part because of her ministry to him. He and their children are blessed to call her theirs, and they all "rise up and call her blessed." If our virtuous woman was gone 40+ hours per week for a job outside her home, she would undoubtedly be unable to accomplish much of what she does.

I know when I worked full-time outside the home for several months before Katie was born my day looked somewhat like this:

Wake up early and get ready to go, fix something for breakfast and then leave for work, usually leaving behind dishes to wash when I got home (unless we drove through Dunkin' Donuts and got a bagel on the way, which we did at least a couple times every week). At the end of the day, I'd come home tired, but I couldn't rest long because it was time to make dinner. Most of the time, I'd cook, though we frequently ate something ready-made or went out for dinner. After dinner, I'd clean up and have a two or three hours to spend with Ben before it was time to go to bed and do it all again. Though everyone's situation is different, I am confident this is how life is for the majority of women who work outside the home.

I had a relatively easy job working for my dad in his office and the extra income was really nice. However, Ben and I both realize now that it probably would have been worth it to forgo that income so I could have stayed home more. Sure, we would have had to sacrifice things to have been able to make ends meet on one income, but there is much that could have been gained as well. We would have been able to eat a lot healthier, I could have set aside time to exercise to have a healthier pregnancy, and I would have been able to focus more of my energies on helping grow Ben's business, among many other things. Even as just a wife, before any children came along, we now believe my time would have been better spent if I had spent more of it at home.

What do y'all think? Next week, we'll talk a little more about the role of the mother at home, specifically.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pregnancy Update, 32 Weeks

Baby Bump at 32 weeks. Excuse my hair--it was really windy!
 A whole four weeks have gone by since my last pregnancy update. I am amazed at how fast time is flying and can hardly believe we're due to meet our little man in just eight weeks! We had a check-up with my midwife yesterday morning, and everything looks great. I only have two more check-ups until I reach full-term status. Unbelievable!

Baby Benjamin is still head-down {yay!} and he seems to be growing well, based on my measurements. Over the last couple weeks, I've definitely felt his movements getting stronger and more frequent. I have also been able to feel him hiccuping as of late--I'm going to guess this is more fun for me than it is for him! The work the Lord does in knitting together each person in his or her mother's womb never ceases to amaze me. Just seven months ago, our sweet baby was smaller than a pinpoint. At this point, he is well developed enough that even if he was born in the next couple of weeks (which I hope he's not, of course), he would most likely do fine with very few long-term difficulties. Wow!

As for me? I think I'm doing pretty well for being seven and a half months pregnant. I'm definitely starting to feel BIG. I've noticed a slight waddle to my walk, and simple things like bending over and rolling over in bed are becoming more difficult. I'm so thankful for my sweet husband--he's always willing to help with things that are difficult around the house as I'm getting bigger, and he graciously puts up with my need to hog the bed sprawl out at night in order to be comfortable.

My blood pressure hasn't given any indication of being problematic like it was during my pregnancy with Katie, and we're hoping and praying it stays that way. If it does, everything looks like we'll be good to have a midwife assisted home birth sometime in 6-10 weeks!

How are you other pregnant mamas doing? Have any of you had your babies yet?

Febreze Wooden Wick Candles: Giveaway!

I like to keep a tidy, clean home (though it's not always that way!), but decorating and beautifying are not my strongest points. I think our house is pleasant (thankfully--since I spend most of my life here), but I'm just not terribly creative. However, candles are one item I do usually have around the house. I love the homey appearance a burning candle gives, and it's so nice to have a warm aroma wafting through the house. 

When MyBlogSpark contacted me a few weeks ago about trying out new Wooden Wick Candles by Febreze, I was excited! Here's what Febreze says about them:
No fireplace, no problem. Breathe a sigh of relief because the new Febreze Home Collection Wooden Wick candle has you covered. Bring the calming crackle of a burning fire into your home anytime of year with 80 hours of "ahhhhhhhh." 
Available in nine premium scents, these tranquil candles are specially designed with a wooden wick to recreate the ambiance and sound of a crackling fire indoors. Offering a brilliant range of everyday fragrances, Febreze Home Collection Wooden Wick candles can help inspire a scent and design transformation in your home.
Be sure to look for Febreze Home Collection Wooden Wick candles at your local Walmart in fragrances like Green Tea Citrus, Pomegranate Mango, Cranberry Pear, Orange Honeycomb, Rosewood Plum and Willow Blossom; as well as seasonal scents that include Anjou Pear Spice, Gingersnap Vanilla, and Yumberry Sangria.

They sent three candles for me to try (Rosewood Plum, Cranberry Pear, and Anjou Pear Spice). They actually do crackle a bit like a fire place when the candles burn, an especially pleasant sound this time of year! Though they all smell wonderful, I think my favorite of the ones they sent me is Anjou Pear Spice. 

Febreze and MyBlogSpark also sent me a $15 Walmart gift card to give to one of you so you can try this product out yourself! If you are interested, leave a comment on this post and tell us which scent you'd like to try. If you'd like additional entries, you can subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed, follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), and/or tweet about this giveaway. Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. This giveaway will close on Wednesday evening.
As a small side note, I forgot to announce the winner of the Motivated Moms Planner last week, though I did contact the winner by e-mail. The winner was Comment #5, Tara! For those of you who didn't win, you can try out the planner for the remainder of this year for just $2!

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday.

Disclosure: MyBlogSpark and Febreze provided me with three candles to try, as well as the gift card to give away. I was not compensated in any other way, nor was I obligated to post a review or giveaway. The opinions is this post are all mine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Plan, October 25-31

Cooler weather has definitely set in around here. We've already pulled out hoodies, sweaters, and boots out of hiding and they are getting some use! The time has officially come for nice, Autumny/Wintery meals (though in truth, my cooking does not change as much with the seasons as some folks'!). I am hoping to get my hands on some pumpkin soon, as few things say "Autumn" to me like the smell of something pumpkin in the oven!

Here's what we've got on the plan for this week.

Breakfasts: grits or whole wheat pancakes all served with scrambled eggs

Lunches: grilled cheese, quesadillas, leftovers

Monday~ Adobo Red Rice and pinto beans, salad
Tuesday~ Chili, cornbread (didn't get to this last week)
Wednesday~ leftovers
Thursday~ Shipwreck Casserole, green beans
Friday~ leftovers
Saturday~ Pizza, salad
Sunday~ at the farm

For lots of menu planning inspiration, be sure to head over to OrgJunkie

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Flexibility, Humility

I have been reading through an excellent book during my morning devotions this week. Part of what I read on Friday really stuck out and was an excellent reminder for this mama's heart.

"Our Wise Woman is steadfast in her faith and commitment to her Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58) and is, at the same time, flexible with His plan for her life (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Flexible, by definition, suggests the ability to bend without breaking, a willingness or predisposition to yield; pliable; or adaptable. It is the quality of being able to adjust to change and the capacity to modify our plans in order to leave room for God's plans (1 Peter 5:5-6). Humility is the underlying character quality that yields a flexible response."
 ~Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God, p. 90 (emphasis added)
To me, that was such an amazing thought and I read through it several times. How applicable it is to the life of just about every mom. When I complain about 'interruptions' to my day, it is out of pride! God is the one who ordains everything that happens during the course of my day, including the events that I (sinfully, pridefully) get frustrated about.

Every time Katie 'interrupts' what I'm doing to have me read the same book for the eighteenth time, every time she begs to 'help' me wash dishes when I just want to get it done fast and move on, when she wakes up half an hour earlier than expected from her nap, when Ben has something different in mind for our evening than I do, and even when I sit down at the end of the day and feel like I didn't get anything done for all the interruptions! All of these 'interruptions' are part of God's perfect plan, and rather than grumbling, I ought to exercise flexibility and humility, acknowledging that His plans truly are far better than my own!

Will you join me this week in seeking to exercise more flexibility and humbly submit to God's perfect plan without grumbling?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

Katie and I have already been back home for a week! The time has really flown. It has been nice to return to a somewhat normal routine, though Katie was still not feeling well for a few days of this week, so it wasn't completely normal. She needed her mama a lot more than usual!

As you may have noticed, blogging definitely got the back burner this week. Thank you all for sticking it out and being patient with me. I'm setting aside nap-time today to get some posts ready for y'all for next week. You can keep an eye out for the next installment in the On Coming Home series, a fun giveaway, and a few other posts. 

It's amazing how much effort it takes to get back into the swing of all my household 'stuff' after being gone for so long. I dragged my feet a little more than usual this week, but I think I'll be ready to go when next week rolls around. PLUS, we're getting our dryer fixed today. The thought of doing laundry and actually being able to use the dryer instead of hanging everything just about makes me giddy. Ha!

It has started to get pretty chilly here. In fact, last night I think we had our first freeze. We are really thankful for our wood stove. Ben fired it up this week for the first time this season, and I think it'll get plenty of use over the coming months. We do have central heat, but if we used it, our electric bill would be over double what our rent is for a month!

I reckon that's enough rambling for one Saturday. I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend with your families!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menu Plan, October 18-24

Katie and I arrived home on Friday morning. I was amazed at how COLD it was (in the 40s!). We had a really nice trip visiting my sister-in-law and then my parents, but Katie came down with some bug Wednesday night before we left, and has kept me pretty busy until today when she seems to be {mostly} back to her normal, sweet self! It is soooo nice to be home--that was definitely the longest Ben and I have been apart since we've been married, and I don't think I'll ever go away that long again if I can help it!

In addition to being very, very {did I mention I missed Ben a lot?!} glad to see Ben, it is nice to be back in my kitchen as well. Here's what's on our meal plan this week. Sorry it's a day late--Katie still wasn't feeling well yesterday and just needed her mama!

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with sausage and grits (we've been eating this just about every day--it's healthy, cheap and filling enough to keep a very pregnant mama out of the kitchen for a couple hours...ha!)

Lunches: Chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, leftovers, snacks

Monday~Spaghetti Pie, fried apples (we were supposed to have salad as well, but I didn't make it to Kroger 'til after dinner!)
Tuesday~dinner at the farm (a family friend is coming into town)
Wednesday~BBQ Chicken Sandwiches on homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies
Thursday~Chili, Cornbread
Saturday~Homemade Pizza, salad
Sunday~dinner at the farm

What are y'all fixin' this week? For meal planning inspiration, be sure to check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday every week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

So, I'm still in Florida and it isn't very autumny here yet, but I thought it was time to change my menu plan banner of choice anyway. Afterall, it's nearly mid-October! Katie and I will be flying home Friday morning, and I am so ready to see my hubby! I don't really have a great idea of what's waiting in the fridge and pantry for me when I get home, but Mom and I did sit down together last night and plan out meals to fix together the rest of the time I'm here.

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, cold cereal
Lunches: hot dogs (all natural, nitrate free, etc) with fruit, leftovers, ravioli with steamed veggies

Moday~curried beef with brown rice, steamed green beans
Tuesday~white chili
Wednesday~lasagna, salad
Thursday~Mom's beef stew

What are y'all fixing this week? For lots of menu plan inspiration, be sure to visit OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Motivated Moms Planner

For most of our married life, I have really struggled with managing my household chores well. I have tried all sorts of methods and schedules and nothing seemed to really 'fit.' A couple months ago, I went ahead and downloaded the Motivated Moms Planner after reading a review by Happy Housewife It is a printable chore list. There are various options you can choose (weekly pages, daily pages, large pages, small pages, etc.), but they all include chores that need to be done daily as well as various chores to keep your house clean througout the month. Monthly, seasonal, and annual tasks are interspersed throughout the lists as well.

Here is a sample of the tasks for one day:
::Change dishcloth/towel
::Change handtowels in bathrooms
::Clean middle shelf of refrigerator
::Vacuum main/public rooms or first floor
::Vacuum furniture in living room
::Clean toilets
::Replenish stock of toilet paper in bathrooms

I usually just go around the house and get the day's tasks done after I do my morning chores (clean the kitchen, make the bed, etc). Normally, I can get it all done in under half an hour, and it just feels so good to check everything off and know that my house is getting clean! When Katie (and Benjamin, eventually) is older, I'll probably assign one or two of the more simple tasks to her each day, but for now she just 'helps' me with all of them.

This planner has seriously done wonders for my home management. I'm a list person, and having a list (that someone else put together, at that!) I can check off really motivates me to get things done.

Deann of Motivated Moms has graciously agreed to give away the rest of 2010 as well as a full 2011 planner to one of y'all! You can choose any format you'd like. The giveaway will be open until next Wednesday evening, October 13.

To enter, just leave a comment on this post. For additional entries, you can subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS feed, follow me (@mrsmurch) on twitter, tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post (be sure to include @mrsmurch as well), and/or blog about this giveaway with a link back to this post. Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A little update and the giveaway winner

My absense this week has been because we made a trip down to Florida. My sweet sister-in-law gave birth to a precious baby boy last week, so my mother-in-law, my other sister-in-law, Katie, and myself piled into the minivan and came down to Pensecola to help out a bit. How fun it was to hold a sweet newborn boy in my arms! He is absolutely precious. Of course, seeing him made me look forward to December and meeting our sweet boy all the more! I'm in Orlando now visiting my parents. Katie and I will be heading home next Friday. Most likely, this will be my last trip down with just one baby in tow. Pretty amazing to think about!

In other news, selected comment #12, Janice, as the winner of the Tropical Traditions lotion giveaway. Thanks to all who entered! I have e-mail Janice. Stay tuned for another great giveaway later today!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Diaper Fail

I am somewhat notorious about not replacing our paper products before we run out, and unfortunately, diapers are no exception. I typically order a huge package of diapers from when they have a good coupon code out. I am quite partial to Pampers, and I've found I can get them cheapest this way. However, I haven't seen a coupon code for recently, so the past few weeks, I just bought packages of Comfort Babies diapers at Kroger. They're reasonably priced and work okay, but--they're definitely not Pampers (let's just say we've had more leaks than usual).

Recently, I've been hearing some buzz in the blog world about Amazon's new Amazon Mom program. You get 30% off of diapers and wipes, in addition to free Amazon Prime for 3 months, which gives you free two day shipping. It sounded pretty good to me, so when I started getting low on diapers, I finally got around to looking into it for myself. I finally decided to order a big box of 156 Pampers Baby Dry diapers, on Saturday night (the 18th).

This is where the big fail comes in. When I placed the order, I had fewer than 10 diapers left, and because of the timing of the order, my diapers weren't going to get to me until Wednesday, and FedEx comes around our house in the evening. I made a mental note to go ahead and get some diapers at Kroger when I did my weekly grocery trip just in case. However, since I didn't write diapers on my list, I forgot to get them.

A trip into town costs us about $5 in gas, and a package of 27 diapers at Kroger is $6.99, making the grand total almost $12 for 27 diapers if I headed back into town. When I did the math (especially consider I paid just over $18 for 156 Pampers after two $5 gift cards), I was determined to NOT make a trip to town to buy diapers. However, I faced the impossible task of making eight or nine Size 5 diapers last 3 whole days and night. Ha! I dug around in Katie's room and found some Size 3's, which she wore during the day, and I saved the 5's for nap-time and overnight.

By Wednesday afternoon, I had used up all my Size 5's and all my Size 3's, and FedEx still hadn't come. So, we did the unthinkable--we dug through Katie' closet and found some Size 2 Pampers Swaddlers from eons ago. They were pretty small but covered her up just enough to avoid disaster.

Wednesday evening, we had a pretty big storm and it got pretty late and FedEx still hadn't come. Major rain, wind, and thunder/lightening do not allow for great driving conditions, so I was really hoping they were just running late. Our power went out after dinner so we decided to drive 1/2 mile to my in-laws' farm and when we got in the car, the box was on the driver's seat. Ha! Only in the country. :o)

So, that's the epic story of the diaper fail. What in the world am I going to do come December when I have TWO in diapers?!

For more fails, by sure to pop over to Friday Fails at My Blessed Life!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Coming Home: An Introduction

I love being a homemaker. There is not a career I'd rather pursue, nothing in the world I'd find more fulfilling. Spending my days caring for my family and our home brings me great joy. However, I don't just stay home because I want to. I stay home because I, along with my husband, firmly believe it's the best place for women (especially mommies) to be. We believe it's where God has called me to be.

There was a time in my life when I had plans for a big career. I even once said when asked whether I'd like to stay home with my (future) children that, "I'd never waste my time staying home with my kids." Obviously, my perspective has changed quite a bit. I'm confident the radical change of mind I've undergone is the result of the Spirit of God renewing my mind through His Word.

The issue of whether women should be homemakers is a pretty controversial these days, with constant attempts by secularists to blur the distinction between the roles of men and women. I believe with all my heart that if wives and mothers would return to their biblical role of being keepers at home, it would do wonders for the state of the family in our day. Ultimately, the strengthening of the institution of the family is the only way to bring reform to the culture at large.

While being homemakers is only part of the big picture of God's design for women, it is a very important and central aspect, and one that is often neglected in our day. I'm planning to spend some time over the coming weeks discussing the issues surrounding the high calling of being a keeper at home including: reasons for coming home, how to make the transition happen, as well as some specific concerns many women have, like 'what if my husband doesn't want me to be a homemaker?'

I hope this mini-series is a great encouragement to y'all. It encompasses the heart of what Covenant Homemaking is all about--women fulfilling their God-given duties and bringing reformation to a lost and dying world in the process.

I'd also love to hear your input over the course of the series. If you have a post on your blog you think would fit well with the series, or if you'd like to write a guest post, please send me an e-mail and we'll see what we can do!

Tropical Traditions Lotion: Giveaway!

Tropical Traditions recently sent me a bottle of their Baby Silk Moisturizing Lotion to sample, and I have been thoroughly impressed. As with their insect repellent, the list of ingredients is short and completely free of any unwanted chemicals and additives. You could eat it and be just fine. When I use the lotion on my legs for several days at a time, I notice a pretty quick different in the way my skin feels even though it's not typically very dry. I think it will be great to have around during wintertime, and it's safe to use on babies! Katie loves in when I give her a little squirt when I am putting mine on.

Tropical Traditions has kindly offered to give a bottle away to one of y'all! The giveaway will be open until the evening of Wednesday, October 6th. As always, leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway.

For additional entries, you can follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), follow Tropical Traditions on twitter (@TropTraditions), tweet about this giveaway and include @mrsmurch and @troptraditions (and a link to this post!), subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter, and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed. Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pregnancy Update, 28 Weeks

Yesterday, at exactly 28 weeks

I simply cannot believe we are due to meet our sweet baby boy in just under twelve weeks! I know it is going to fly right by, especially with the holidays, and he'll be in my arms before I know it. I am really looking forward to welcoming Benjamin, Jr. into our family and having a sweet little newborn again (and here's hoping he's as good of a sleeper as his big sister was!).

We had a check-up with our midwife today and everything seems to be going great. My blood pressure had already started going up at this point in my pregnancy with Katie, and so far, it seems just fine this time around. She checked my hemoglobin and glucose and those were both good as well. And, Baby Boy is in the right position with his head pretty far down, but we know he could still wiggle into a different position before he gets head down permanently.

Aside from getting up every night to go to the bathroom (which didn't happen when I was expecting Katie) and the occasional leg cramp, I haven't really been experiencing a lot of the typical discomforts that accompany this stage of pregnancy. I do find I need to take it easier than I do when I'm not pregnant. If I don't, my back and feet are pretty achy by the end of the day.

I've only gained 8 pounds this pregnancy, bringing me almost up to what I weighed when I got pregnant, since I lost 10 pounds during my first trimester. Since Baby Benjamin appears to be growing just fine and I'm feeling good, we're comfortable with the lack of weight gain. I'm thankful that I won't have a ton of extra weight to lose after he makes his appearance, since I had a bit left from my pregnancy with Katie when this one started out.

I've been trying to go walking 4-6 times every week. When my Mother-in-Law joins me and pushes the stroller, we are able to go a little over two miles, but when I go by myself I only end up going about a mile and a half before I get a little uncomfortable--I guess pushing the stroller adds some extra strain to my muscles. Who would've known?

I'm so thankful to the Lord for keeping both Baby and me healthy for these 28 weeks we've been together, and look forward to meeting this boy soon! How are you other pregnant mamas doing?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

There's something about chocolate that just warms a pregnant mama's soul--don't you think? A couple weeks ago I got a hankering for chocolate and started flipping through my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for some inspiration. When I found the recipe for One Bowl Chocolate Cake, I knew I had to give it a try. Y'all--it did NOT disappoint! It was so quick and easy to put together and it came out really nice and moist. Plus, it's made of ingredients I pretty much always have on hand. When I made it a second time last week, I decided to snap a picture and share the recipe here, with my healthier tweaks. It's definitely a keeper!

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used organic unbleached flour, though I may try 1/2 whole wheat pastry next time)
1 cup Sucanat (regular sugar will work fine, of course)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

1) Preheat the oven to 350*. Grease and flour a 9x1/2 round cake pan or an 8x8 square pan (this is the size I used).
2) In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add milk, butter, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low just until combined, and then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the egg and beat for another two minutes (This is important! The second time I made the cake, I added the egg at the same time as the other wet ingredients and the cake wasn't nearly as moist). Pour into baking pan.
3) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until it tests done. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove it from the pan.

Once the cake is completely cooled, you can top it with this yummy glaze:
Melt 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 4 oz. coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate) along with 3 tablespoons butter over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and beat in 1 cup powdered sugar (don't know of a healthy alternative to this--you could use organic, though) and 3 tablespoons hot water.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! I'm sure I'll be making it many more times, as it was a big hit with my hubby--and Katie enjoyed the couple bites with shared with her, of course. ;)

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan, September 27-October 3

Here we are with another month upon us already! October and November will be our last months as a family of three (unless this little man decides to come 10+ days late--which I hope doesn't happen!). I can hardly believe it!

We have been enjoying some cooler weather around here--though we still have our share of warm weather ahead of us before fall really sets in. I am looking forward to crunchy leaves and cozy sweaters myself, and some nice warm soups and chillies over the coming months!

Here's what's on our meal plan for this week. What are y'all fixin'?

whole wheat blueberry pancakes (with real maple syrup...yum!), sausage (x2)
scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast or grits (x3)
Cheesy Potato Pie, muffins (x2)

sandwiches (grilled cheese or PBJ)

Tammy's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Brown Bag Burritos

Monday~hamburgers with whole wheat rolls, homemade fries, and fruit
Wednesday~chicken noodle soup, homemade bread
Friday~homemade pizza, salad
Sunday~at the farm

For lots of menu plan inspiration, be sure to hop over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Change in perspective

This morning, after getting frustrated about not being able to find someone to go walking with, I let my discontentment turn into a pity party about the fact that I serve people all day long every single day with very few breaks and nothing in return (not an entirely accurate picture I was painting in my irrational mind!). I was pouting to myself as I did my morning chores. There was music in the background, and part of me was trying to ignore it because I knew the words would be convicting, and the other part of me couldn't help but listen, and I was humbled.

The words caused me to think about how Christ died for His children knowing ahead of time all the horrible sins we'd commit against Him, all the times we'd carelessly violate His Law and think absolutely nothing of it--in effect spitting in His face, despite what He has graciously done for us. He humbled Himself to the point of a gruesome death on the cross out of His love for us. And there I was, pouting about people not recognizing all I do.

Sure, I spend a lot of my day doing things for other people, and perhaps some days it does end up getting overlooked. And so what? Ultimately, I do what I do because I love my family and love serving them, and this is what God has called me to. Doing it for His glory is what counts.

As Paul wrote in Romans 12, if we live every moment of our lives as a sacrifice to Christ, we are only doing what is reasonable and expected of us. We don't deserve commendation and applause when we do the bare minimum--and we don't even do the bare minimum, ever. Despite the fact that I am worthy of no recognition, I have the love and grace of the Almighty King, and the promise of eternity with Him when this life is over. And in this life, I have more blessings than I could even imagine.

It's amazing how conforming your thoughts and emotions to the truths found in God's Word can so radically change your perspective, isn't it? God has truly been so good to us!