Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Plan, February 1-7


I am a little bummed because I've been avoiding sweets the last couple of weeks hoping that would help me get rid of some of my remaining pregnancy weight but it did absolutely nothing, so I'm going to go ahead and really try this week. Per the "real food" weight loss program, Eat Fat Lose Fat, I am going to try taking coconut oil before every meal in addition to really cutting out refined/processed foods and see if that helps. I'm also hoping to try and do some sort of exercise every day this week as well.

That said, here's what we're eating this week:

Breakfasts:  
Soaked Oatmeal w/ butter, apples, (a little bit of) sucanat, and milk
Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Toast w/ butter
Giant Breakfast Cookies (from the freezer) (Sunday morning)

Lunches:
Pinto & cheese quesadillas w/ sour cream & salsa
Grilled cheese sandwiches, apples and carrots
Leftovers

Dinners:
Pinto Beans w/ ham, cornbread
Chili w/ cornbread
Spaghetti (homemade sauce over brown rice pasta) and steamed broccoli
Homemade whole wheat pizza (crust from the freezer) w/ Cesar salad
Leftovers
Sunday dinner at the farm

For hundreds of other menu plans each week, visit Org Junkie!

2010 Goals: February Update

We are snowed in today and our church service is canceled, so I am taking some time to review my goals for this year since the first month of the year is over after today. I have progressed in some, others not so much. I am going to work on planning for each of them today in hopes to do better in February.

::Daily devotions & Memorizing the Book of John: These have not gone as well as I had hoped. I have about half of John 1 down (which I already had memorized--I've just reviewed), and I am way behind in reading through the Bible in 90 Days. I have written out a schedule for my self and hope to start afresh tomorrow. It should leave me with an hour for devotions/Scripture memorization every day before Katie gets up. I find it's just best to get it done before she's up--once she's awake and the day is going, it's hard to find time to set aside.

::Complete a Home Management Binder. Not long ago, I finally printed out some lists from ListPlanIt and have written out a daily schedule for myself, as well as a cleaning schedule. I am implementing them starting tomorrow (Lord willing!). This month, I am hoping to add to my lists with some to help me with menu planning and blogging. I will be reviewing ListPlanIt at the end of the month, with a giveaway! Stay tuned!

::Lose weight. Definitely didn't do well in this category this month. I gave up sweets for the last couple weeks (mostly--I had sweets twice) hoping that would help, but it did nothing. So, this week, I'm going to eliminate all white/processed foods (not just sweets), and start exercising. I'm also planning to start taking Coconut oil before every meal, ala Eat Fat, Lose Fat.

::Improve the quality of our food. The only thing we are using raw sugar for still is Ben's morning coffee. Aside from that, I have only been using natural sweeteners in homemade foods. I am hoping to begin making more things from scratch that have sugar in them. I am going to dive into soaking our grains this week. We have been eating mostly venison for meat and I've been buying organic free range (as opposed to cage free) eggs at our grocery store. I heard about a good, local source for eggs and am hoping to look into it soon. As for milk, I am going to begin trading my in-laws a few loaves of homemade bread per week for a gallon of fresh, organic raw milk from their grass fed cow. When she starts producing more after she has her calf, we are going to begin experimenting with making our own butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.

::Finish 6 classes. I am close to finishing two, leaving me with four more to finish this year.

::Get on a budget, set aside an emergency fund, pay off debt. We should have our $1000 emergency fund fully funded by the end of this week (thanks to the tax return we are expecting ;), and will begin focusing on paying off debt.

How are y'all doing with your goals for this year? If you have a post, feel free to leave it in the comment section as I'd love to check it out!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Super Savings Saturday

 

God was gracious yesterday when I went grocery shopping and really stretched my grocery money farther than I was expecting! Kroger is running a lot of good sales right now and coupled with coupons,I was able to get some great deals. Some of the highlights:

::2 8oz. blocks of cheese, $0.99 each
::2 bags Chex Mix, $0.49 each
::2 5 packs of BPA Free Ziploc containers, $1.75 each
::Steamfresh broccoli florets, $0.99
::Steamfresh Dinner for 2, $3.49
::Toaster Strudels, $0.49 each
::Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters, $0.99 per bag
::3 Boxes of General Mills cereal, FREE 
::Giant Hershey Bars, $0.50 each
::2 cans Hunt's whole tomatoes, $0.49 each
::Organic Bananas, $0.59/lb.

Total Spent: $45.73
Total Saved: $54.35

A lot of the items on the list are things we would not normally buy (like Toaster Strudels, Hershey Bars, and Chex Mix!), but I was able to get them very inexpensively, and we are OK with the occasional not-so-healthy treat as long as most of our diet is made up of nourishing, healthy foods.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

How to have a great date night at home


Aside from the fact that we live on a pretty tight budget, we live about 15-20 miles outside of "town," making evenings out very infrequent for us. While I do enjoy some time out with just Ben, I often find an at-home "date night" equally relaxing. It's cozy and quiet, it's inexpensive and we don't need a babysitter (though, with 6 younger siblings-in-law half a mile down the road, plus a Grandma and a Papa, babysitters aren't all that hard to come by!).

Two things that really make an at-home date night enjoyable for me are putting Katie to bed early so I can focus on Ben and straightening up before we get started. It's sort of stressful to "relax" amidst clutter. I like to have the kitchen cleaned up and the house straightened up before our "date" starts. It's much more enjoyable for me that way.

Now, for some fun at-home date night ideas:

::Prepare a nice meal. You can make a delicious, restaurant quality meal at home for a fraction of the cost of going out to eat. In fact, if you have a favorite restaurant meal in mind, you can likely find a "copy cat" recipe online and give it a try. One website to check out is CopyKat Recipes. If you do some of your prep. work and cleaning earlier in the day, it will make it more simple and give you more time to spend with your hubby! Of course, instead of making something fancy, you could always make something fun and simple like burgers or homemade pizza. Sometimes we even pick up a pizza from the deli for $6 or $7. It's better than a frozen pizza and cheaper than takeout. Plus, you can doctor it up if you want.

::Have dessert. We don't do much dessert at our house, so this is a fun treat. Brew some coffee to go along with it if it won't keep you up all night! Honestly, I'm not a coffee person myself, but Ben LOVES it!

::Watch a movie. Ben and I love to snuggle up in our bed and watch a DVD on the laptop. We have done free trials of Netflix and Blockbuster Online. The free trials last two weeks and they send you as many DVDs as you can watch during that time frame. You get one in the mail, watch it, return it, and they send another one. Don't forget to cancel the subscription before the two weeks are up or they'll charge your credit card. However, both of these services are pretty reasonably priced and are something to consider if you watch movies frequently. Another option for movies is RedBox. Their rentals are $1 per night. If you have to make an extra trip to get the movie and return it, it's not as good of a deal as it sounds like. But, if you're already going to be out, it works out well! Just don't forget to take it back--we paid $7 for a movie one time!

::Play a game. My hubby's not a big game person, but there are a couple of games we enjoy playing together. A little friendly competition is always fun. :)

::Do a puzzle. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoy puzzles. Plus, it's an activity that lends itself to conversation, making it a great activity for a 'date night.' You could keep the puzzle and pieces underneath the glass on your table to keep them from getting misplaced if you don't finish it in one sitting. There is also puzzle glue you can buy at Michael's to keep your puzzle stuck together once it's done. If you really like it, you could even frame it and hang it somewhere in your house. :)

::Just talk. It is so easy to get bogged down with everything and not set aside time to have a quality conversation with your spouse. When we were courting long distance, we spent hours on the phone every week and sometimes, I miss those long hours of just talking with my man. Perhaps the best "date night" you could have at home with your husband is dinner and a nice, long talk. After all, I would guess one of the reasons you married him is because you enjoyed his conversation!

Those are just a few basic and obvious ideas, but be creative! Just because your budget doesn't allow for expensive nights on the town doesn't mean you can't enjoy a nice evening with your husband. Whatever you and your hubby enjoy doing together at home, set aside a "date night" and do it! Enriching your marriage by spending quality time together is so, so important!

What do you and your husband do to spend time together without breaking the bank?


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Freezer Cooking Plan

After yesterday's disposal of some freezer fails from past months, I will admit some slight hesitation about joining in freezer cooking again this month. I think for now, I am going to shy away from main meals, and focus on filling our freezer with some baked goods and cooked ingredients to help make meal prep faster. I am also going to begin experimenting some with soaking our whole grains, since that is one of my goals for this year. With that in mind (and assuming our power doesn't go out in tomorrow's expected snow!), here is a list of recipes I'm planning to try this time around:


Breakfast Items:
::Giant Breakfast Cookies: If my husband doesn't mind having cookies for breakfast, I think these would be an easy, healthy breakfast to eat on the way to church on Sunday mornings. We're always in a hurry, so it would be nice to just pop it out of the freezer and go! I'm going to soak the grains in this recipe overnight.

::Chocolate-Fresh Cranberry Scones: I still have some fresh cranberries in my freezer that I scored for about $0.60/bag and some organic chocolate chips I got way reduced, so I'm going to give these a try. They look delicious, and I think Ben would really enjoy them with his morning coffee! I'm going to use freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour instead of self rising white flour, though.

Main Meal Items:
::Homemade Soaked Tortillas: I have been wanting to try my hand at homemade tortillas for weeks and just haven't done it. So now, I'm going to! I don't have a tortilla press, so I'm going to have to hand roll them. I guess if it becomes something I do regularly, I'll probably look into getting a press.

::Pinto Beans: I am going to cook up a few pounds of pinto beans and freeze them in meal-sized portions. I have a ham bone in the freeze to include in the pot while they cook, so that should add some nice flavor. I'm going to freeze some beans with ham, to serve with cornbread, some plain to go in queadillas and chili, and season some with chili seasoning to use in the place of spicy chili beans in Fiesta Taco Casserole.

::Pizza Dough: I tried freezing pizza dough recently and it worked great! Just take it out of the freezer in the morning and it's ready to go by supper time. :)

Breads:
::Soaked Whole Grain Bread: I am going to try this recipe with a combination of wheat and spelt. I don't have any dough enhancer, so it probably won't turn out quite the same, but I bet it will still be good.

::Corn Muffins: Not much to say about these--hubby loves them and it's so nice to pull a couple out of the freezer and pop them in the oven to go with lunch or dinner, or even to have as a snack topped with some butter!

So, that's it for me this time around. I'll post some pictures Monday of the results!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday Fails: Kitchen Blunders


I am pretty frugal and try to use our grocery money wisely. I am also guilty of not throwing away things I should, whether it's leftovers left too long or something we just plain don't like. Unfortunately a couple of the dishes I chose for November and December freezer cooking just weren't good. One was the turkey tetrazzini. I didn't know to cook the pasta less time than the package called for, so once I baked it, it was mushy. In fact, just thinking about the consistency makes me want to gag (I think my memories of it are worse than the actual experience of eating it, truthfully).

Today, I was able to score a lot of great deals at Kroger (NOT a fail! :). But, this required getting rid of the freezer fails to make room for good stuff in my freezer. Plus, February's freezer cooking is right around the corner and I'm hoping to fill my freezer with some "fast" food. So, as painful as it was, I had to throw away 3 quart bags and 1 gallon bag of food from my freezer and (ahem) the leftovers from my freezer fails that were STILL in my fridge. And yes, I did just say that out loud. Keeping it real, folks!

And, then there's the pot full of water in my bathroom (not THAT pot). I thought it had been washed when Ben and his brother helped me clean up after a family gathering at our house. When I went to put it away a few days later (fail #1), I took the lid off and the lovely stink told me I was mistaken about the state of its cleanliness. It's my big stock pot and it's too big to wash in my kitchen sink, so I rinsed it in the bathtub and put the lid on. And left it there (fail #2) and (ahem) there it sits.

At least I never claimed to be a perfect homemaker, and since one of my original desires in this blog was to share both my struggles and my triumps, there you have it. Just keeping it real folks!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The birth of Katie Lee Murch, February 26, 2009

My sweet Katie turned 11 months old yesterday. I can hardly believe it! In honor of her upcoming birthday, I decided to repost the birth story I wrote a few days after she was born.

My contractions started in earnest on Wednesday, February 25. For most of the day, they were 5-10 minutes apart and lasting pretty close to a minute each, some much longer. Not active labor, but progress! My parents live closer to the birthing center than we do, so Wednesday evening when it appeared as though things were not going to slow down, we packed up and went to my parents' house to be close by when it was time to go in. At my parents' house, we were joined by my dear friends Leah (who was the Maid of Honor in our wedding) and Jen. Around 7 o'clock, my contractions were still coming, so we decided I should take some Tyelenol PM and try to get some sleep while I could since I would likely be in labor through the night.

I was not able to get to sleep, so at about 11 o'clock Ben and I met Robyn, my midwife, at the birthing center so she could see what was going on. I was 3cm and 80% effaced. She gave me some stronger Benadryl-type medicine and sent me home to try and sleep. I was able to sleep but was awakened throughout the night by increasingly strong contractions. Finally at around 3:30 or so, I noticed that they were coming at about every 5 minutes. While everyone else slept, we got the laptop and went to contractionmaster.com to time the contractions. Sure enough, an hour went by and they were within 5 minutes of eachother, lasting at least a minute each!

I decided to go ahead and call Robyn at about 5; after speaking with her, we decided to meet at the birthing center at 7 unless anything changed. As soon as we got off the phone, I had a bunch of contractions that were only 2 minutes apart. Ben called and Robyn said we should go ahead and come in. On the drive over, things seemed to slow down somewhat. When we arrived, Jennie, another midwife, checked me and I was still at 3cm. She suggested we head home and walk or get some rest, so we headed home and I parked myself on the sofa where I labored for a number of hours. As the contractions increased in intensity, Ben started timing them again. By that time, it was early afternoon. We called Robyn again, and she said we should go ahead and come in so she could check me and see what was going on.

I was feeling somewhat discouraged at this point, because I was concerned that things weren't progressing. However, when Robyn checked me, I was between 5 and 6cm and Katie had dropped more. This was quite an encouragement! At that point, we drove home to grab some lunch, gathered everything up, and headed to the birthing center. At the birthing center, I got comfortable in a rocking chair in "the blue room" (this was the room I had decided to use for my labor and delivery) and settled down with a big glass of ice water, my beloved husband, my parents, and my friends and enjoyed their company between contractions. Thus far, everything was looking good, including my blood pressure.

At about 4 o'clock, Robyn decided to check me again and I had progressed another centimeter. That was good news! However, when she checked my blood pressure, it was at 140/88--a little high for comfort. Robyn gave me a few homeopathics and I got in the birthing tub, in hopes of getting it down. About half an hour later, she checked my blood pressure again and it was 140/94. It was at this point, she began talking about transferring me to the hospital if it didn't come down. Five minutes later Michelle, the student midwife attending my birth, checked it again and it had continued to rise. So, we got ready for an unexpected transfer by ambulance to the hospital.

Michelle came with me on the ambulance so she could check Katie's heart rate regularly on the drive over and Ben followed right behind us, with Jen and Leah behind him. Upon arriving at the hospital, we were able to get right into a labor and delivery room because both the doctor and Robyn had called ahead of time to tell them to expect me.

Once in the delivery room, it was all business. The nurses asked me lots of questions, and then I overheard them say the doctor's orders were to start me on magnesium sulfate (this prevents seizures when your blood pressure is too high) right away. Robyn told me that this would likely be what would happen, but she had said that Dr. Edwards mentioned the possibility of trying an epidural to lower my blood pressure before we tried the magnesium sulfate. I did not want either, but an epidural is preferred over the other, so I asked the nurses. They told me it was unlikely that Dr. Edwards would change his orders, but they would check. Sure enough, he said yes! But, before they could start the epidural, they had to wait for labwork to come back.

At 7 o'clock, there was a shift change and my new nurse came in to introduce herself. Missie was certainly a Godsend! I could not have asked for a better nurse. She certainly made the hospital experience much better than I had expected.

By the time my labwork came back, my blood pressure had stabalized on its own and there was no need to do the epidural or the magnesium. Praise the Lord! It was certainly tempting to get the epidural, because at this point, the contractions were getting amazingly intense. Missie asked me how I had been laboring at the birthing center, and was kind enough to get me a ball to sit on rather than having me lay down in bed. At about 8 o'clock, I was feeling incredibly exhausted and really considering getting an epidural so I could get some rest. Missie checked me and said I was right at 7cm, and the baby had dropped considerably. She told me that because of Katie's position, she would not be surprised if I was pushing within an hour, so she encouraged me to stick it out another hour without the medicine and then if I hadn't started pushing, we would talk.

After a few unbelievably intense contractions and a few "I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE"s from me, I got the urge to push at about 8:40! Mom ran to get the nurse who checked me and said I was at 9+ and the baby was way low. She told me I had to wait to push until Dr. Edwards got there and said that when I got the urge, I could breathe like "hee hee hoo." Right at that moment, I got the urge to push and said I couldn't wait--so I pushed and my water broke just as Dr. Edwards walked into the room. To make a long story short, about 10 minutes and 4 pushes later, Katie Lee was born screaming at 9:01pm!

When my water broke, there was meconium in it, so they had to take her right away, instead of giving her to me, to make sure she was okay. After a few minutes of poking and prodding and measuring (she was 8lb, 1oz and 21" long), I got to hold my precious daughter for the first time. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

Katie and I the morning after she was born

So, my birth did not go quite as I had expected, but it was certainly the most amazing experience of my life. Each time I hold my daughter, I am amazed at the grace of God upon a wretch like me. All I deserved was His wrath, and He has given me blessings beyond measure. Not only did He save me from the depths of my sin, but He has made my dreams of being a wife and momma come true, and I can never thank Him enough.

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Blissdom Thoughts

As of yet, I don't have plans to attend Blissdom (a women's blogging conference in Nashville, TN, for those of you who don't know) but my twitter has been filled with buzz from other bloggy friends about all things Blissdom-related the past several days, since the conference is next week.

There have been a few a lot of times in the past months I've wished I could go. I first started blogging when I was 13, on a Xanga (and no, you may not have a link!). It was more like a journal than anything, and I don't think anyone really read it (besides maybe my good friend, Lauren, who is now my sister-in-law as well :).

I have had several blogs, and I guess they've sort of grown with me. What started as a simple hobby when I was a kid has become something I really enjoy. I would love to one day be able to earn an income through blogging, but in the meantime I have been blessed to have been able to get to know a lot of really great lady bloggers through social networks. I think wanting to get to meet them in real life and grow those friendships is just about the number one reason I'd love to go to Blissdom. Aside from that, though, I would love to be able to learn more about writing quality content and growing a blog.

Blissfully Domestic is giving away a ticket to Blissdom, and while I'm not going to hold my breath, I figured it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and enter. :)

HAVA Sling Review & $10 off coupon code

When Katie was a couple months old, I bought the cheapest baby carrier I could find at WalMart with a gift card I had received. It was not terribly comfortable and she didn't absolutely love being in it, but it worked. I didn't use it very often, but when she was 6 months old, I used it for a trip to the mall with my Mom, who was excited to "wear" her granddaughter. :) About half an hour into our walk around the mall, I looked down at Katie's leg, and it was taking on a slightly purple color from the carrier cutting off her circulation! Needless to say, we haven't used it since.

I am definitely not into "attachment parenting," but I can see definite benefits to babywearing. It's good for babies to be close the their moms. I absolutely love snuggling with Katie, and the love is mutual (in fact, as I'm writing this, my big baby is asleep in my lap :o). When Mom wears Baby around, Baby has the opportunity to be part of whatever she's doing. Baby can watch Mom clean or listen to adult conversations, and I think these are great opportunities for babies to learn. Of course, it benefits Mom to be able to have baby close by and safe and still have use of both hands.

I went without a usable infant carrier for a month or two, but then my parents were kind enough to give me the baby sling of my choice as a gift. I researched various options, compared prices all over the web and ended up ordering the HAVA Sling by SlingEZee from Nurtured Family.

I chose the HAVA for several reasons:
::It's not bulky. I wanted a padded sling I could fit in my diaper bag. This is perfect for that!
::It has a zippered pocket in the tail. This is great for the grocery store (stick debit card and list in it and go) or the airport (handy for ID, boarding pass, etc)
::It has a good reputation. Everything I read about it was good!
::It is pretty. I chose the Elle fabric, myself. :)
::It comes with an instructional DVD, a must for a babywearing novice like myself.


Me wearing Katie while my sister-in-law and I did up
apples for baked apples last night at my in-laws' farm.

 
I was beyond thrilled when the package arrived at our house. I watched the DVD within a few minutes of opening the box, and started "wearing" Katie right away. The HAVA definitely did not disappoint. It's very comfortable and I love being able to carry Katie around while having my hands free. I have used it while cleaning, doing some things in the kitchen (carefully...no knives!), at the airport, going for walks, and all sorts of other situations.And, Katie loves it, too. When I wear her, she's on my hip and usually stays as happy as can be, even when I wear her for extended amounts of time. :)

I also really appreciated the customer service at Nurtured Family. They were incredibly great with responding to my emails quickly, and with a low price guarantee and free shipping on orders over $75, I couldn't find a better deal on the internet. As a treat for my readers, Nurtured Family has agreed to give all of you $10 off your purchase of a HAVA from their website from today until February 10! Just enter the coupon code HAVA10 at the checkout to get your discount. You really won't find a better deal for the HAVA, so I would encourage you to take advantage of this offer while you can!



Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write this review. However, this post does contain affiliate links.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Grilled cheese with kielbasa and onions



Not long ago, my younger sister-in-law and I decided to "amp up" a regular grilled cheese sandwich by adding sauteed kielbasa and onions to it. To make it, we sauteed onions and kielbasa and added the combination before grilling the sandwich. It has quickly become a family favorite for lunch. Topped with some spicy brown mustard and served with a fizzy glass of seltzer water, this sandwich really makes for a nice lunchtime treat!

What are you having for lunch?

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Menu Plan, 1/25-1/31



Here's what's on the menu at the Murch house this week!


Breakfasts:
Cranberry Apple Muffins with sausage and scrambled eggs (x2)
Apple Baked Oatmeal (x2)
"Country Boy"-hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and biscuits (x1)
Biscuits & Gravy (x2)

Lunches:
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with carrot sticks (x2)
Pinto Cheese Quesadillas (x3)
Leftovers (x2)

Dinners:
 Monday: I'm responsible for bringing snacks to our church's monthly ladies' gathering. I am planning to fix a veggie tray (carrots & cucumbers), white/dark chocolate covered pretzels, tortilla chips & Southwest Dip, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and fruit

Tuesday: Pinto Beans w/ Ham and Cornbread

Wednesday: Fix dinner with my sister-in-law at the farm. We usually decide the day of what we're making, based on what they have.

Thursday: Fiesta Taco Casserole

Friday-Sunday: We usually have all our weekend dinners with my in-laws. :) What can I say? We really enjoy their company and they're about one minute away!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ergo Baby Carrier giveaway at Happily Domestic

I came across a great giveaway today I wanted to let y'all know about. Happy Domestic is giving away an Ergo Baby carrier with a retail value of close to $200! I don't own an Ergo but have tried one out and they are incredibly nice and comfortable for both Mom & Baby. She has several opportunities for entry. If you are interested, head on over to her blog. The giveaway is open until February 1.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thank you so much!



Yesterday brought the Help for Haiti drive to a close, and I just wanted to thank all of you who participated! What a blessing it was to see those in the blogging community come together to make a difference in the lives of those in Haiti who have suffered this horrible catastrophe. With the death toll upwards of 200,000 now, many families have lost what money can in no way replace. But, it is my hope and prayer that the little bit so many are doing will bless them greatly and provide a way for the glorious gospel of our Lord to be brought to many who may have not heard it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mexican Rice Casserole

Tonight my sister-in-law and I tweaked this recipe tonight for dinner for the whole family, and it turned out to be an easy, yummy and healthy pantry meal enjoyed by all! We doubled it and our family of 10 (plus Katie who had a little bit) ate almost all of what we made.

2 cups brown rice, uncooked
1 pound ground meat (we used a combination of fresh beef & venison)
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Sucanat
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (you can use more or less depending on your taste)

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 can each of corn and black beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheese

Combine the brown rice with 4 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, cooking for 40 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Note: if you want to soak the rice before cooking, combine rice, water, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and leave out for 7 hours before cooking. Next, brown the meat and flour and seasonings. Add in corn and beans Stir meat mixture into rice, pour into a 9"x13" casserole dish, and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

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Breastfeeding & my breast pump

I absolutely love breastfeeding. It started off a little rough, but once Katie & I got into the swing of things (by about 8 weeks), nursing became one of the highlights of this mama's day. Mama's milk is the absolute best nourishment for my little girl as it provides her with valuable antibodies to keep her from getting sick (and, true enough, she has only been sick for a total of about 4 days so far) and lots of fat and cholesterol for her growing brain! And, being "forced" to snuggle with my baby several times a day is a definite perk. I sure do love it! An additional benefit to breastfeeding is the huge savings. Formula feeding your baby can cost around $2,000 per year. Breastfeeding is absolutely free (aside from the extra food mama consumes ;).

I know there are certain circumstances that make breastfeeding impossible, but I think every mom should make an effort to give her baby breast milk for at least a year, if not longer. Since Katie's birth, I have become somewhat of a breastfeeding advocate. I love to see other moms have success with breastfeeding their babies.

With my love of breastfeeding has also come a disdain for most formulas. I know there are some more expensive, high quality organic ones, but even those don't compare to breastmilk. And, most formulas (even the "best" you can buy at a typical retail store) are far from quality nourishment. In fact, I recently received a sample in the mail of a popular formula and the first three ingredients were nonfat milk powder, vegetable oil, and corn syrup solids. Honestly? I think it's outrageous for companies to sell products intended for babies with those ingredients and I know they could do better.

So, what's a mom to do when she has to be away from her baby when the baby would normally nurse? This is why I love my breast pump!



I was given this model, made by Medela, for Christmas a couple months before Katie was born, and I have been able to use it quite a bit over the past 11 months. It has a two-phase expression technology, designed to mimic baby's nursing patterns. The first phase is the "Stimulation phase", designed to get milk flowing, and the second phase is the "Expression phase", which causes milk to come out in higher quantities faster. And it really works. I also love that the bottles I received along with my pump are BPA free and dishwasher safe! And, they come with slow-flow nipples to use early on to prevent any nipple confusion. :)

Over the past semester, Ben and I were taking two classes on Tuesday nights at our church and Katie was staying with my in-laws. As soon as I got home from class each week, I would pump for about 15 to 20 minutes and have a bottle full of my milk in the freezer for her to drink the following week. When we lived in Florida, I did the same thing so I could go to the lady's Bible study on Wednesday nights and leave Katie with Ben. While I much prefer nursing Katie myself, I love knowing she can get the best quality nourishment available even when I'm away from her!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tips for flying with a baby




Katie and I made it home safely today, by God's gracious providence. We really enjoyed our trip, and thankfully the travel aspect was pretty uneventful. This was not my first time navigating a busy airport by myself with Katie. We flew down to Florida once in August and once in September. Over the course of our trips together, I have learned a few helpful tips for traveling alone with a baby.

::Pack light. I only had one small carry-on and checked a medium sized suit case. I brought the following with me. I traveled with only the essentials and the day after I got there, Mom and I went to the grocery store and got some food for Katie, and some extra diapers. Traveling with a baby, it would be easy to bring the whole house along with me. But, I personally find it worth the extra expense to get some baby supplies when I reach the destination rather than dealing with traveling with more stuff.

::Check your suitcase. I have never actually carried my suitcase on, even in my pre-motherhood days, though I have often heard it recommended. Having a baby to juggle, it is much easier to wait around at the baggage claim than it is to deal with a suitcase on the plane.

::Wear your baby. I brought my sling with me, and it was really helpful. You have to shuffle a lot of paperwork (driver's license, boarding pass, etc) and it helps to have your hands free. Plus, if your baby is anything like mine, being snuggled up to mama keeps her pretty happy most of the time.

::Choose your seat strategically. I usually sit in the aisle with Katie. There tends to be a little more room, which is helpful for nursing a bigger baby. Today, though, I ended up sitting in a window seat. Katie was tired and hungry, so I knew I was going to have to nurse her right away. I asked the flight attendant if the plane was expected to be full, and when she said yes, I decided to sit by the window. I didn't want to get settled in nursing Katie in an aisle seat and have to stand up and move so someone could get in the seats next to me. Thankfully, a nice lady sat next to me, who didn't mind having her space somewhat invaded by a cute baby. :)

::Nurse on the plane. There are several benefits to nursing on the plane. The baby gets antibodies from all the stuff you're exposed to in that very enclosed space. The swallowing helps keep baby's ears from hurting, and it gives baby something to do while you're on the plane. Having Babywise leanings, I do not usually nurse Katie to sleep. However, doing so on the plane is quite convenient.

::Travel with baby on your lap. With most airlines, if your child is under 2, (s)he can travel on your lap for free. As far as I can tell, there are no safety benefits to baby having her own seat and it seems probable that baby will end up in your lap anyway, especially if your flight is a longer one. At most airports, you will have to have some proof of your child's date of birth. A letter from your pediatrician, a copy of shot records, a letter from the doctor or midwife who did the delivery, or a copy of the birth certificate will do.

I'm sure there are many more things to consider when flying alone with a baby, but those are a few tips I have found the most helpful in my experience!

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Arepas: A Tutorial

Arepas are a Venezuelan corn cake. They are made from pre-cooked cornmeal, sold as P.A.N. It can be found in the hispanic foods aisle in most grocery stores.  They are very simple (and inexpensive) to make and can be served any time of day with a variety of toppings--really, whatever suits your fancy. My favorite is sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese. They can be made larger for a whole meal or smaller for a side or appetizer.

All you need for arepas is the P.A.N., salt, and water.




First, preheat the oven to 350*.

Then, measure out 2 1/2 cups of luke warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Next, add 2 cups of the Arena Pan. Stir it all together. At first, it will be really liquidy, but the cornmeal will absorb the water pretty quickly. The dough should be moist and workable. Now, you're ready to shape the arepas. Get a handful of the cornmeal mixture and make it into a ball. Then flatten it out a little bit. You want it to be thick enough to cut in half to make a sandwich out of it.




Next, heat up a skillet. Cast iron works best, but you can use any skillet. Oil it, but spread the oil around with a paper towel so it's not "standing" oil. To tell whether the skillet is hot enough, sprinkle a little bit of water. If it sizzles, the skillet is ready. Reduce the heat to medium and brown each side of the arepas until they're golden, 3-5 minutes. You want them to have a nice crust on each side. They should look somewhat like this, though darker is fine.




Once they're browned, put them in the oven directly on the rack for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the time. When you take them out, they should feel hollow when you tap on them. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for a minute or so. Then, slice in half and put whatever toppings you want. They can be eaten at any temperature.




One recipe makes about 6 arepas. It doubles well. I recommend refrigerating them to extend the shelf life. Also, make sure they are completely cool before storing them to avoid condensation in the container.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menu Plan, 1/19-1/24


I am still at my parents' house. I'm thoroughly enjoying my time with my parents and friends in Orlando. What a blessing this trip has been! I am getting ready to see my beloved again, though! I will be heading home Tuesday afternoon, so my menu plan starts Tuesday instead of tomorrow. I am also going to be focusing on eating healthfully, because I am determined to get back to my pre-baby weight. Katie is almost a year old and I still have quite a bit to go!

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs w/ toast, baked oatmeal, cranberry apple muffins

Lunches: leftovers, quesadillas w/ homemade tortillas (didn't end up making the homemade tortillas last week)

Dinners:
Tuesday: dinner at the farm
Wednesday: pinto beans w/ cornbread
Thursday: chili w/ cornbread
Friday: beef stroganoff, brown rice, steamed veggies
Saturday & Sunday: dinner at the farm

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Three Generations




I am really enjoying this time in Florida with my Mom. We had lunch with a very dear friend today at Panera (with coupons!) and she was kind enough to take a picture of the three of us. This visit, I have really just been thinking what a blessing it is to have a godly mother. She brings such joy into our lives, and it is so wonderful to see her with my own precious little girl. God really has been so very good to me.

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Help for Haiti




I'm sure by now, you have all heard about the disastrous earthquake in Haiti on January 12. Watching the news and seeing the devastation has been absolutely heartbreaking. The latest reports have the estimated death toll at around 50,000. I cannot even begin to fathom what the survivors are going through. We are so very blessed. My very biggest worries and concerns pale in comparison to what these people are facing right now. While I sit comfortably wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, warm and cozy with a refrigerator (and pantry!) full of  food and my baby asleep in the next room, they are sleeping outside on the ground, wondering where their next meal will come from, wondering if their mothers/fathers/husbands/wives/sons/daughters are alive, wondering if their wounds will cause an infection to spread through their body before they can get medical care. This is serious stuff.

In an effort to help, I am joining the blogging community in a "Help for Haiti" drive, headed up by Crystal at Money Saving Mom. I want to encourage my readers to do something to help these people who are suffering so much right now. If you want to help, do something, post about it, and come back here and link up. Many other bloggers are doing something similar, so be sure to check out Money Saving Mom's list of those participating so you can link up a their sites, too! For each of you who participates between now and January 21, 2010, up to 120 people, my husband and I will be donating $0.25 to Compassion International's Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief. Compassion is a trustworthy, Christian organization. They will be meeting the Haitian people's physical needs as well as bringing them the hope of the glorious gospel of Christ. If you are interested in making a monetary contribution to help the people in Haiti, I would highly encourage you to consider going through them.

Perhaps you aren't in a position to give money, but you still want to help. Here are some ideas:
  • Pray. The Haitian people need to be lifted up in prayer. Pray for comfort, for provision, and for God to be glorified.
  • Jessica at Reflections of a Princess shares how you can help Haitian orphans get home to their American adoptive parents quicker here.
  • If you are in KS, Numana is looking for volunteers to package food today and tomorrow to be sent to Haiti. All you have to do is show up. You don't need to call ahead. For more information, go to their website.
  • Contact your local Red Cross to find out about donating goods or time.
If you have any other suggestions, please comment and I will add them to this post. Let's glorify Christ together by helping these people in their hour of greatest need.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Simple & Yummy Broccoli Salad

I feel like I'm failing in my Blogging Goals for this year, as this is my second recipe this week without a picture. In my defense (at least for today's lack of a photo), I'm on vacation. ;) In any case, my sister-in-law and I tripled this broccoli salad last night to go with dinner for the whole family, and it was great! I found the original recipe here, but we were lacking some ingredients and did a little improvising. It was delicious, my husband liked it, and I think it would go in my permanent recipe file if I had such a thing (which I should).

1 head of broccoli, stems removed & flowerets cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (was at the in-laws' house without any Sucanat, so I'm not sure how well it would work, but I'll probably give it a shot when I make it at home)
salt & pepper to taste
Optional: crumbled bacon, raisins, onions, cherry tomatoes

Combine broccoli, cheese and any optional ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix up mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over broccoli and toss.

Easy enough? Not to mention a delicious way to get in a few servings of fresh vegetables!

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Checking in :)

We left home this morning at 10:02, only two minutes behind schedule! The airport is just about two and a half hours away, so we arrived a little under two hours before my flight was scheduled to leave. Everything went off without a hitch...got through security fast, Katie did great on the plane (which landed 15 minutes early--thank you, Southwest Airlines!) and I'm really enjoying the time with my parents.

There was a ladies' fellowship at church tonight, and it was so much fun to see everyone! I'm really looking forward to the weekend and spending lots of time catching up with friends and enjoying some very edifying teaching. But, that doesn't start 'til Friday. On the agenda for tomorrow? Spend the day with my mom and my baby girl, go to Chipotle (we don't have one near home in Virginia and it's one of my favorite places to eat), and watch Food, Inc.

God really has been so good to me in giving me such wonderful, godly parents. What a joy it is to be able to spend time with them! Hopefully, I'll have some pictures up in the next couple days, but for now, I think I'm going to type up a recipe real quick and then get some sleep!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cranberry Apple Muffins

I have made about 7 dozen of these muffins in the last three or four weeks. And that's not including the four dozen my sister-in-law and I made today. Hubby loves them. I love them. Katie even loves them, so much, in fact, that she ate two by herself tonight! And, they're so healthy it was fine with me! :) They are absolutely full of fruit and make for a nice, hearty, and pretty filling muffin. As always, I got the recipe from someone else and healthified it and changed it a bit for our taste.

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup Sucanat
1/2 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground soft white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large or 2 small baking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
1 cup cranberries, washed

Combine butter, egg, sugar, and milk in a small mixing bowl. Combine dry ingredients in a larger bowl. Add the wet ingredients and the fruit. Stir until well mixed, but don't over mix. Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake at 350* for 25-30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. You might as well double it, because they'll be gone in a flash. ;)

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PS: I will try to remember to add a photo next time I make these!

Inflatable Duck Bathtub


I was given this inflatable duck bathtub by a lady from church at my baby shower before Katie was born. It ended up in the back of the cabinet in Katie's room and I forgot about it until after we moved to Virginia. That was fine, because Katie couldn't really sit up on her own until then anyway. The first time I put her in it, she cried. I guess it scared her. But eventually, the cute little yellow quacking (yes, on ours, if you squeeze the beek, it quacks) fellow rubbed off on her and now she loves it.

It has some nice features. A circle at the bottom that says "HOT" if the water is too warm. Though, I find its temperature preferences to be much lower than necessary.The other benefit is its portability. It deflates quickly, and blowing it up by mouth doesn't make you completely lightheaded. ;)

But, it has become much more than just a bathtub. Katie plays happily in it in the bathroom while I take a shower. And, she doesn't try to escape even though she definitely could. Of course, there's a bit of peek-a-boo and frequent checking on her. But, so far so good. Its other use? Promise not to laugh? What to do with baby while you go to the bathroom and there's no one home to watch her? It works out quite well. ;)

When I received this tub, I thought it was cute but a little silly. But, really? It was a great gift and has worked out really well for us. Thanks, Rose! :)

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Clean up as you go along



Ever since I started experimenting in my parents' kitchen several years ago (around the same time I became interesting in the wonderful guy who is now my husband...correlation, perhaps? :), my Mom constantly impressed upon me to clean up as I go along in the kitchen.

As soon as an ingredient is used, put it away. When you finish with a bowl, pan, spoon or other item, put it in a sink of water to soak for easier clean up later. And, use spare moments (waiting for something to simmer or while you're browning meat, for example) to go ahead and start washing. It's amazing what you can get done in just a minute or two!

It's such a simple concept, but it has saved me so much time in the kitchen!

Thanks, Mom. :)

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Super Delicious, Healthy Pumpkin Bread



This is the pumpkin bread recipe I have used for several years, with some slight tweaking on my part. I originally got the recipe from this cookbook. I have changed it some to make it more healthy, and suited to our taste.

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground soft white wheat)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
1 1/4 cup Sucanat or Rapadura (honey also works. And so does sugar, but I avoid using that)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup mashed pimpkin
1/3 cup water
optional: 1/2 cup nuts

Grease loaf pan. Stir together the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sweetener of choice. Add the eggs. Stir in the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients and the water and stir until smooth. Turn batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350*.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan, 1/11-1/17



Last week, I stocked up on all kinds of odds and ends. Our Kroger had a lot of exceptional Manager's Specials on natural/organic products and I decided to take advantage (you can see some of what I got here). I used a good portion of the grocery budget for the month, so I am coming up with meals from the pantry this week. I am also leaving for a trip to Florida on Wednesday, so Ben will be eating some meals with his family after Wednesday at lunchtime. I am going to try to make things he can enjoy left over while I'm gone, as well.

Monday
Breakfast: cranberry apple muffins, scrambled eggs w/ sausage and cream cheese
Lunch: broccoli cheese soup
Dinner: pinto beans w/ ham, cornbread

Tuesday
Breakfast: pumpkin bread (look for this recipe with a photo on Tuesday), scrambled eggs w/ sausage and cream cheese
Lunch: quesdillas with leftover pinto beans & cheese (made w/ homemade tortillas)
Dinner: Poor Man's soup

Wednesday
Breakfast: biscuits and gravy
Lunch: quesadillas on the road to the airport

And then it's off to Florida for Katie and me!

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Super Savings Saturday: Manager Specials

I absolutely love our local Kroger. They consistently have great markdowns/manager specials on organic & natural products, including produce. My only regret for this week was that I didn't have coupons to go with the markdowns. ;) I was able to get several really good deals this week. Today, we are at my in-laws' farm because our pipes froze and we have no running water, and I forgot to take a picture before we left, so you'll just have to picture the lovely deals in your mind's eye.

The highlight of the week was 12 pounds of organic apples for about $0.60/lb. We have enjoyed some fried apples, as well as some yummy muffins (recipe to come). If you have any great apple recipes, please pass them along!

Some other good deals:
$0.89 for naturally sweetened, whole wheat graham cracker crusts
$1.29 for a can of organic pumpkin
$1.79 for boxes of organic, free range chicken broth
$1.50 for aluminum free baking soda (didn't know regular baking soda had aluminum until recently!)
$0.49/bag for fresh cranberries (this actually wasn't this week; it was over the holidays, but it was such a good deal I wanted to mention it!)
$0.69 for all natural (no hydrogenated oil) white chocolate coating (going to make chocolate covered pretzels for a lady's gathering Monday)
$0.99 for all natural chocolate coating 
$1.79 for a bag of flax meal
$1.09 for a large can of diced tomatoes
$1/can for organic cream soups
$0.69 for a can of organic kidney beans
$2.79 for a 14 oz. jar of organic coconut oil

It was a lot of fun to go through the carts of natural products and finding things we could use, including some fun treats, for such reasonable prices! I might have to be creative to use some of these items, so be on the lookout for some new recipes int he coming weeks. :)

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Lessons from Up

Last night, Ben and I rented up the Disney/Pixar movie Up. Yes, we're adults, and no, we don't have children old enough to watch movies. ;) But, I had heard good things about it and thought it looked like a nice movie, and I was in the mood for something light and fun. I really enjoyed it.

I liked the beginning. I loved how the main character and his wife met and how their relationship was developed. I was sad when they lost their baby. I loved watching them grow old together, and I cried when the wife died. My heart broke for poor Carl, left alone after his childhood sweetheart died. I felt bad for him that his cozy home was surrounded by a huge building project.

I loved the character, Russel. I really enjoyed the interactions between Carl and and Russel and loved watching how Carl really ended up becoming a father figure to him. It was all very "real." And, I was excited when Carl's plan worked and they headed to Paradise Falls. At that point, the movie became more "cute" and less charming, but we still enjoyed it.

The other part that made me cry (I wasn't really planning to cry while watching a cartoon, but alas...) was when Carl was looking back through Ellie's "Adventure book" at the photos of their life she had put in it, and the sweet note she left. Again, I was thinking about Ben and I. Through my tears, I said to Ben, "One day, one of us will be all alone looking through old pictures."

And, it's true. I was thinking about us and our life that I have grown to love so very much. I love being Ben's wife, and the thought of it one day being over, and having to say "good-bye" broke my heart. Just like Carl and Ellie's entire relationship from childhood to old age didn't last more than 20 minutes on the screen, I'm sure time will fly by and we will look back and wonder what happened to the 15 and 20 year olds we were when we first fell in love and be shocked that our time is up already.

Up was charming, cute, silly, funny, and very enjoyable.  I loved how marriage was portrayed as marriage should be, and how children were viewed as a blessing. I loved the way the characters interacted and the way all the relationships developed. There were some things I didn't love, like the talking dogs and the "bad guy", but overall, I think it was worth watching.

I came away with a renewed urgency not to waste a moment. I don't want to get to the end and be filled with regret. I want to speak wisely and kindly, love tenderly, submit joyfully, and do everything I can to make our life together the best and most Christ-honoring it can possibly be, and teach my daughter to do the same. Life is just far too short and far too sweet to waste.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Run2Win Women's Conference


Lord willing, Katie and I will be flying down to Florida this coming Wednesday so we (I) can go to the women's conference at the church we went to before we moved (the one my parents still go to). This will be the third year the conference is held. Two years ago, we were two months away from being engaged. Last year, we were one month shy of having my baby. And this year, my almost-11-month old will be at the conference with me. :) How life has changed in such a relatively short span of time!



Susan Heck will be the speaker, and she is one of my absolute favorite women in the entire world (seriously!). In fact, I want to be like her when I grow up. ;) I have gotten to know her at the past conferences, and we have emailed back and forth several times as well (and, you can look for a guest post from her here in the coming months!). She is a pastor's wife. Their children are all grown, and her life is now devoted to fulfilling her Scriptural calling as an older woman to teach younger women. Not to mention, she has written two wonderful books and has almost the entire New Testament (and large portions of the Old Testament) memorized! The past two years, I have come away encouraged and convicted, and I expect this year to be the same.

Though I'm going to miss Ben terribly , I am getting excited about our trip. In addition to the conference, I am definitely looking forward to catching up with wonderful, godly friends and spending some extra time with my amazing parents. The only thing that can possibly make the trip to Florida better (besides Ben being there--a given!) is that it's practically free! My Dad was kind enough to use some of his Southwest Airlines points and our roundtrip was paid for in full, besides $5 in taxes. I'm just hoping Katie doesn't get whatever I've had the last couple days. I've never traveled with a sick baby before, but I can imagine it would put a slight damper on things!

As a side, if you are in the Central Florida area and are interested in attending the conference, you can register on their Calendar of Events page on sermonaudio.com.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sick day

I had the slight sniffles yesterday, but when Katie woke up at 2:30 this morning to eat, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck.

Okay, not really.

But, I was pretty uncomfortable! Sore throat, stuffy nose, swollen glands, slight headache...and when it hadn't gone away after sleeping in until 9, today was deemed a sick day. I really don't like being sick, but I did enjoy taking a day "off" and just enjoying time with my two favorite people. :) Ben stayed home and hung out with me (one of the benefits of his self-employment!) and helped with Katie. A few thousand miligrams of vitamin c, 4 tablespoons of Sambucol, my twice-daily dose of Juice Plus, and 12 hours later, I am feeling quite a bit better!

Without overdoing it, since I'm still not 100%, I'm hoping to get some cleaning and other things done tomorrow. And perhaps a blog post or two. I suppose the only downside to a day "off" (besides being sick, of course) is my to-do list doesn't work on the items by itself if I'm unavailable.;)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cherish every second

Ashleigh at YLCF has an excellent post up today called "Because Then They are Big". I really think it's one every mama of young children could benefit from reading. She wrote it when reflecting on the second birthday of her oldest son. Here's an excerpt:
I know when this little guy is tall enough for me to rest my head on his shoulder, I’ll be thinking back to his sweet little smile and when he said, “Yes man!” instead of, “Yes ma’am!” I’m praying I don’t look back and regret spending too much unnecessary time at that stove or running errands or, most definitely, on the computer. That I have plenty of memories of books read, crafts and messes made, times of training, and lots of those great big smiles.

Going into my oldest’s third year of life, I’m realizing that what every parent has always said is only too true–time does indeed fly by. So I’m going to make the most of this next year with my little guys, cherishing every little second. Because there’s nothing I would rather do.
What she says in this post definitely rings true to me. Even though I don't have a little guy, and my one little girl is just 10 months old, the principles behind what she says remain. I would hate to look back when these precious years of raising my girl are over and wish I had spent more time with her and less time doing other things.

When good things get in the way of the best things (like mothering my precious gift from God), they are idols. May God engrave this truth on my heart so I too will cherish every little second with my daughter. Because, like Ashleigh, there's really nothing I would rather do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Freezing sweet potatoes


Katie enjoying a sweet potato. 
She LOVES feeding herself, and the cleanup really isn't as bad as it looks. ;)

One of Katie's favorite foods (and yes, I let her eat it with her fingers!) is sweet potatoes, and organic sweet potatoes have been priced decently at our local Kroger for most of the fall. I prefer not to bake just one at a time, but depending on the size, she only eats half of one. My Grandma told me they freeze well, so I tried it and have had much success. I bake up several (425* for about an hour). Once they cool, I cut them in half, wrap each half in foil, and place them in a freezer bag. If I take one out in the morning, it's thawed out in the fridge by afternoon, and I can pop it in the oven for a few minutes to reheat it for her and it tastes just like a freshly baked sweet potato.

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Health Insurance Alternative: Samaritan Ministries

Shortly after Katie was born, we made the decision to switch from a very pricey health insurance policy to Samaritan Ministries for our health coverage. Samaritan is a Christian health sharing ministry. The way it works is that everyone who joins is responsible for a monthly share (our share for a young family is $249/month). Each month, we get a newsletter in the mail with the name and address of the family our share is supposed to go to, along with information about the need they submitted.

Everyone who joins has to have a form signed by their pastor to certify they are regular attendees of church, and that they are not involved in sexual immorality, drunkenness, etc. Routine care (check ups, mammograms), medicines for chronic conditions (like asthma inhalers), and pre-existing conditions are not covered. And, abortions and birth control pills, patches, etc. aren't covered either. We love knowing our money is not going towards helping others disobey God's law. Other than those things, most medical expenses over $300 (their deductible) are covered.

Being as young as we are, we assume (Lord willing, of course) that for the next decade or so (and hopefully longer than that!), prenatal care/childbirth will probably be our greatest medical expense (we are hoping and praying for a house full of little Murches!). That being said, their excellent maternity coverage (far surpasses any health insurance policy I've seen!) was very attractive to us. After the $300 deductible, the rest of the pregnancy-related expenses are paid for in full. And, if you opt for a home birth, the $300 is waived. And, the price per month does not go up when you have more children.

While we have not yet had to submit any needs, I know of several folks who have had wonderful experiences with their needs being met. Kim from Life In A Shoe is one. You can see her post about it here. Another blogger you may be familiar with whose family has been blessed by Samaritan is Gretchen Acheson from Young Ladies Christian Fellowship. She talks about their experience in this post.

Our experience with Samaritan so far has been wonderful, and I would highly encourage you to look into it as a health care option for your family. If you go to their website and request it, they will send a packet of information free in the mail for you to review. While we have not been on the "receiving" end yet, it has been a great blessing to us to be able to bless others within the Body of Christ.

And, as a side note, Samaritan has a wonderful referral program, so if you do decide to become a part of Samaritan Ministries, please let them know I sent you. :)

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Apple baked oatmeal

Oatmeal is a delicious, healthy, and frugal breakfast and really hits the spot on cold mornings. But, I don't really care for oatmeal as just a hot cereal. Enter: Baked oatmeal. It has a more cake-like consistency as opposed to mushy oatmeal cooked on the stove. I originally got the recipe from Crystal Paine, but have changed it for our preferences.

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup Sucanat 
2 eggs
3 cups oats

2tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk 

1 cup chopped apple, peeled if you want (I usually just use 1 medium apple) 

Combine all ingredients and pour into a greased 9inch cake pan. Bake at 375* for about 30 minutes, until top browns slightly. I spread some organic butter on mine! This can also bake in an 8x8 square baking dish. If you double it, you can use a 9x13 or 2 cake pans.   

As a side note, this recipe can be made the night before and refrigerated until morning. It also reheats nicely.






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Monday, January 4, 2010

Viewpoints giving away copies of Norton 2010 for review

I just got an email from viewpoints.com saying they have copies of Norton Anti-virus 2010 to give away for review. For more information on this particular review product, go here. If you are interested, I suggest you hurry since quantities are limited.

I have received several free products and free product coupons in the mail from viewpoints. If you haven't signed up, I highly recommend you do.

2010 Blogging Goals



My goal in starting this blog was to be an encouragement to other wives and mothers, as well as keep a record for myself of our family life, and to eventually turn my blog into a business (I'd really like to have a bookstore eventually, but that's a ways off). I have set some specific goals for 2010 to further accomplish my original goals.

::Use more pictures. I really enjoy reading blogs with lots of pictures, so I'm sure my readers would enjoy that as well. I am the worst about remembering to photograph anything! But, this year, I am purposing to include a photo with the recipes I post, and more photos in general.

::Post more about our family life. This is more for my own sake than anyone else's (besides maybe my parents in Florida who miss their granddaughter so much!). I am planning to more frequently post about events in our life with photos, especially of my ever-growing and changing baby girl (over 10 months already--where has the time gone?)! I want to remember this precious season of life.

::Set time limits. My calling in life is to glorify my Savior by being a godly wife and mother and keeping my home with excellence. It is all too easy to waste away time at the computer to the neglect of what ought to be higher priorities. In making a workable schedule for myself in the coming weeks, I am going to schedule in time for internet "stuff", and when the time is up, I'm off!

::Link more. There are a lot of excellent blogs out there with a lot of wonderful, encouraging content. So often I read a post I know my readers would really enjoy. I am hoping to begin linking to them more liberally. In addition to my readers enjoying them, I would love to send some extra traffic to my bloggy friends. :) In addition to linking more, I want to more frequently leave productive comments on the blogs I read often (speaking of which, if you have a blog leave me a link, as I'd love to get to "know" my readers better!).

::Plan ahead. I want to take some time at the beginning of each week to plan my posts for the coming week, and to write ahead some if I have opportunity. That way, I consistently have quality content coming up and hopefully save myself some time. I'm sure there will be some posts written off the "cuff of my sleeve" still, though. ;)

(Edited to add)::Build readership. Specifically, I would love to be averaging at least 500 visitors per day by the end of the year. I'm not entirely sure if this is realistic or not, but I guess we'll see!

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