Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tonight's Dinner: Beefy Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

About 5 o'clock, my sister-in-law and I decided we'd make dinner together for the whole crew. We initially decided on stroganoff, but by the time we got around to fixing it, the thought of stroganoff made me feel quite nauseous (ah, pregnancy). Hannah brilliantly asked me what I could think of that DIDN'T sound repulsive, and the list was short: a hamburger and fries. However, we didn't have enough meat on hand for hamburgers for the whole crew, so she suggested a cheeseburger casserole. All the recipes we could find had pasta, which had no appeal whatsoever (period). I finally decided scalloped potatoes sounded really good, so we just added meat to them to make a meal. And, it was just as good as I expected (the only upside to pregnancy food aversions--when something is actually good, it is really good.) Here's the recipe we came up with. It's pretty frugal, quite tasty, and fed the whole family of 10.

-1 stick of butter (8 T)
-6 tablespoons flour
-9 cups milk
-10 oz. grated cheese
-5 lbs. potatoes, washed and thinly sliced (we left the skins on, but you can peal if you want)
-1.5 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350*. Make a roux out of the butter and flour. Slowly add the milk; heat and stir until thickened. Stir in the grated cheese, and try not to let it boil. Season with salt and pepper. Grease two 9x13 baking pans and layer with half the potatoes, half the meat, and half the sauce. Repeat. Bake covered for one hour. Then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes.

We didn't end up eating dinner until 9 o'clock, but I thought it was worth the wait. :o) Did y'all eat anything delicious tonight?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

He loves me.

This pregnancy has been more difficult so far than my pregnancy with Katie. I have been more tired and more nauseous (and much more emotionally fragile!), earlier in pregnancy. I try to remind myself throughout the day that there is a precious babe in my womb and he or she is completely worth every moment of discomfort I have! Today makes 6 weeks of pregnancy, and the halfway mark of the first trimester.

I have been feeling somewhat useless lately (though, I guess since I'm growing a wee one inside me, I'm not completely useless!). When I look around and see yesterday's dishes, clutter all over, and I hardly feel like standing up, much less cleaning it all, it can be discouraging. When I have a "feel good" day or hour, it's hard to know what to tackle first.

I said all that to say (yes, I like using my words. ha!), I am so thankful for my sweet husband. He has been so amazing since the pregnancy symptoms have come full-force. He has put up with tears cried over nothing (and being snapped at a few times), a messier house, some complaining from his wife (ahem), and he has not uttered a single complaint. Instead, he has gone out of his way to help with Katie and around the house. Just this morning, he kept Katie for an hour and a half while I slept in. When I woke up feeling refreshed, I discovered he had also cleaned the kitchen. It was such a lovely surprise (especially considering what a wreck the kitchen had been!). :)

My husband's extra sacrifice during this early stage of pregnancy is so appreciated, and such a wonderful picture of Christ's love for His bride. What a blessing to be loved by both my husband and my Savior, and to have such a wonderful reminder of both loves during this season of life.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Menu Plan, April 26-May 2

I can already tell that for the next 6 weeks or so, menu planning is going to be rough. Nausea and food aversions have already come full force. Since the grocery store is 20 miles away,  I can't send Ben out every day to get my latest craving. Thus, having some sort of plan is imperative. We may end up eating at my in-laws' more frequently until I feel better about kitchen smells (and food in general), but here's what I can make this week assuming the thought of it doesn't make my stomach church when dinner time rolls around:

Breakfast: I'm trying to stick with a high protein breakfast of eggs, meat, and sprouted grain bread with butter most days. But, we do have some cold cereal on hand, and pancakes are always a possibility as well.

Lunch: We've been sort of just snacking at lunchtime. Leftovers, smoothies, fresh produce, cheese, quesadillas, etc...whatever sounds good and is decently healthy.

Snacks: yogurt, bread and butter or cream cheese, fruit (oranges are especially appealing as of late), carrot sticks

-Beef Stroganoff with brown rice and steamed broccoli
-Sloppy Cornbread, steamed broccoli (broccoli has been about the only green vegetable with appeal as of late, so I bought two big heads of organic broccoli this weekend at Kroger)
-homemade whole wheat pizza (with--you guessed it--steamed broccoli)

What are y'all eating this week? For a few hundred other menu plans, be sure to check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mother's Day Gift Idea: Folk Art Birdhouse

 I might be slightly biased, but my husband's handcrafted birdhouses are the most lovely I've seen. He has one up on ebay right now that would make a perfect Mother's Day gift.

He also has an etsy shop. We are still working on getting all his designs added, but we'd be thrilled if y'all wanted to hop over and check it out!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Losing It Challenge: To Be Continued in 2011

Since we got the news just over a week ago that our second wee one is on the way, I have to resign from this challenge early since trying to lose weight is not the best idea while you're pregnant and breastfeeding (Y'all--I have been soo hungry. And, drinking water like a camel.). However, I am thankful I was able to participate in the challenge up to this point (though I must confess I didn't make it the whole time without sweets *blush*), because I did lose some weight and I'm hoping I'll carry on in eating healthy and exercising throughout the pregnancy so Baby & I stay healthy for the next just-under-8-months, and so I have less weight to work off next year when I attempt to lose the weight from two pregnancies (since I'm starting this one with some leftovers from my pregnancy with Katie). 

While I was hoping to make it to the end of the challenge, it did occur to me that I may have had to quit early if I got pregnant before it was over (remember? I was hoping for another baby). And, I couldn't be more excited that I do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Giveaway: Live Green Together Prize Pack

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, Cascadian Farms is running a promotion on their facebook page. For every person who makes an eco-friendly pledge, they will donate $1 to the Organic Farming Research Foundation. While I personally disagree with a lot of the reasoning behind "going green" I certainly think they biblical principle of stewardship is very applicable. God has graciously given us this earth to care for and take dominion over and we need to honor Him by stewarding His gifts wisely.

To encourage y'all to participate, Cascadian Farms (through MyBlogSpark) is hosting a giveaway for one of you! The prize pack includes everything pictured below:

One of the only convenience foods we eat on a semi-frequent basis is cereal, so when I can get a great deal on organic cereal, I stock up. I prefer to make a hot breakfast most days, but some mornings (or evenings) cereal just fits the bill. We have been able to enjoy Cascadian Farms cereals and granola bars several times in recent months, so when I was contacted by MyBlogSpark about doing a review and giveaway, I jumped on the opportunity!

Cascadian Farms products are rich in whole grains and since they're organic, they are free from harmful pesticides and genetically modified foods. In addition to being a healthier option, all of the products I've had of theirs have been delicious! My only complaint is that they have soy, which we prefer to avoid most of the time. 

In order to enter to win the pictured prize pack, just leave a comment on this post! Easy enough, hm? :)

For bonus entries (be sure to leave a separate comment for each one!):
::Go to the Cascadian Farms facebook page and take the Earth Day pledge. Come back and tell us which pledge option you chose.
::Subscribe to my feed.
::Follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch).

The winner of the giveaway will be announced one week from today!

Disclosure: Cascadian Farms and MyBlogSpark provided a prize pack for me and will be providing the one for the winner as well. I will receive no other compensation.

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday and Femina Freebies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We made it!

Katie and I made it home safely yesterday, and we were both so happy to see Ben again! I think he missed us too. :)

We did have a wonderful visit in Florida. I am so thankful the Lord blessed me with a godly parents. I enjoy their company so much, and getting to spend time with them is really wonderful. The week flew by, and was quite eventful (especially this part!). In addition to enjoying a lot of extra time with my parents, I was able to spend time with a few good friends (including my sweet friend in the hospital), and really enjoyed catching up with them.

My sweet Katie. Mom took this picture while she was 
watching Katie outside the hospital while I visited Leah.

 By the end of our trip, I definitely felt pregnant. I got really nauseous yesterday at the airport and resorted to eating some of Katie's teething biscuits to calm my stomach. Then, I proceeded to walk the length of the terminal at the airport several times deciding what to get for lunch during our layover. My sandwich and fruit were $13--it was hard for my frugal self to fork over that kind of money for food, but I really needed to eat lunch and that seemed the healthiest and most appealing option. The nausea and food aversions have surprised me this pregnancy since neither really hit me with Katie until 7 weeks. While it's somewhat unpleasant, I am enjoying the symptoms at the same time. They are a reminder of the sweet little one who's inside of me right now--what a joy!

I am planning to lay low this week and get my house back in shape after a week of being gone (Ben didn't make any major messes or anything--it's just in need of a wife/mama's touch, I guess). This may prove to be more of a challenge than usual, and will have to be done between resting, snacking, and drinking water (with being pregnant AND breastfeeding, I have been feeling kind of like a camel lately with the amount of water I've been drinking!). I might pop in sometime later this week, but otherwise, I'll "see" y'all next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Details

So, for those of you who would like a few more details about our newest addition, here they are! By the way, thank you so, so much for all your sweet comments. I have just been on Cloud 9 today, and reading them has been such a joy! Onto the details...

The due date calculator on Baby Center says Baby is due on December 21 (exactly one week after my 21st birthday!). Katie will be just about 22 months old when the due date rolls around. I am 4 weeks & 2 days along, and baby is the size of a poppy seed (awww).

I am feeling really good, though that's not much of a surprise this early on. I have had a couple times over the past few days when I was nauseous briefly, and two or three mornings ago, I gagged when I brushed my teeth--that was a big hint for me, since that hadn't happened since early in my pregnancy with Katie! I just took the test this morning, and I really could hardly believe my little brown eyes when I saw the second pink line show up! I have just been floating around in newly-pregnant bliss all day. Since Ben wasn't here with me when I took the test, I told him over the phone. He is absolutely thrilled, too.

As I mentioned before, we weren't sure whether I'd be able to get pregnant before Katie was weaned, so knowing I can is such a blessing! It's so nice to not wonder in the back of my mind whether my continuing to nurse my daughter is prolonging infertility. I plan to nurse her until she weans herself, though I won't be tandem nursing, so if it gets close to the due date and she isn't weaned, I'll work towards weaning her.

What an amazing joy it is to have a second precious baby growing in my womb. I believe I have just as much wonder and awe and excitement as I did when I found out I was pregnant with Katie. Truly, children are a gift from the Lord, and we are honored that He would see fit to give us not just one, but two children, to raise up for His glory.

And then there were four...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Faith Like Hers

I had the opportunity to visit my sweet friend in the hospital late this morning. Today was the fourth day of her incredibly intense chemotherapy, and though she is feeling some of the effects, she remains in great spirits. How wonderful it was to talk in person, instead of on the phone, and get a few good hugs in. I really hope I can pop in again before I head home.

It's really hard to see someone I love so much going through something so difficult. I shed many tears while we talked in her hospital room. She is remaining steadfast and so faithful to her Lord, and the testimony she is to those on the team at the hospital caring for her, as well as some of her family who are not followers of Christ, is truly amazing and so, very glorifying to God. She said several times, "This is exactly what I want. I am honored to be used by the Lord." Though she would not have asked the God for cancer, she has asked Him for trials to refine her and to use in the lives of those she loves. She has asked Him to grow her faith and to humble her. And, she says He is faithfully using this circumstance to accomplish all these things. How gracious of the Lord to give His sweet servant such amazing faithfulness to endure and be steadfast in thankfulness to Him.

Truly, I cannot imagine being thankful for something so scary and life-altering. I have gotten well used to my easy going, country housewife life and don't really want it to change. I complain when Kroger doesn't print the catelina on my receipt, or when Katie's messy diaper leaks onto her clothes. And here my friend is with tumors in her body, facing eight months of intense chemotherapy, and she is consistently grateful to God and did not utter a single complaint during my visit. Seeing her go through this immense trial with such thankfulness is causing me to really step back andexamine myself, and her amazing faithfulness is truly encouraging me (and so many others) to be more faithful.

Through my tears today, I told her I wanted to be like her when I grow up. I want to be willing to do or go through whatever it takes for Christ to be glorified and His Kingdom advanced. Truly, at the end of the day, nothing else matters. Lord, please give me faith like hers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Menu Plan, April 12-18

The "plan" is different this week, as I'm going out of town tomorrow. However, I'm leaving some things behind for Ben to enjoy in my absence (which I didn't do last time, and he didn't eat very well!). It's not a huge variety, but there's always the option of sitting himself at his mama's table, as well. So, I'm confident he'll manage. Some of these are sort of tentative since my grain mill stopped working this morning (major bummer!) I'll have to see if I can get my hands on some flour today.

-Banana bread (a new-to-me recipe; if it's as good as it sounds, I'll let y'all know!)

-Brown Bag Burritos (he LOVES these, and I love a healthier, made-from-scratch convenience food!)

What are your favorite meals to make ahead? Have you ever gone away and left meals behind for your husband and/or kiddos? 

For hundreds of other menu plans, check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Savings for the Week

I wasn't really impressed with the sales at Kroger this week, so I just picked up a few really good mark downs, as well as a couple things to make some meals to leave behind for my sweet husband while I'm gone next week.

I snagged some organic butter that was marked down to $1.89/lb (can I just say, it makes my heart flutter to get a great deal on organic butter?), and also got a few bags of organic tortilla chips marked down to $0.99/bag. I especially like organic tortilla chips because they are made with non-genetically modified corn, which is rare in America these days! We were running low on olive oil, so I picked up a bottle of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil that was on sale. The Sobe Lifewater was on sale for $1 and I had two Buy One Get One coupons, so I got four bottles of that as well. On a second quick trip today, I got some organic red delicious apples on sale for $0.99/lb and some tortillas for brown bag burritos to leave in the freezer for Ben. In total, I spent about $20 this week, and Ben should have plenty of healthy, yummy food to eat while Katie and I are gone!  I'm going to spend some time tomorrow preparing some goodies for him.

Did you get any super deals this week?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Laundry Fail

Why do my fails always have to reflect poorly on my homemaking abilities? (Don't answer that, y'all)

Last week, I got behind on laundry. So, Monday morning, I sorted the huge mountain pile of dirty clothes and got a load going. It was a beautiful day, perfect for hanging out clothes (we don't have a dryer). But, Wednesday morning? The clothes were still in the washing machine. And, they smelled a little iffy, so I washed them again.

I am sorry (and somewhat embarrassed!) to admit that Friday afternoon, they are still there. *blush*

I could list all my excuses (how we've been away from home a lot this week, how I'm scared of getting stung by a bee at the clothes line...), or I reckon I could just admit that I was lazy with my laundry and failed big time.

The sun is shining beautifully this afternoon, so hopefully I'll only have to wash the same load one more time before I can hang it out to dry (and get the other 3 or 4 loads washed--and dried!). Katie and I are making a trip to Florida next week, and--ahem--we need to bring clothes with us, so I truly don't have much choice!

For more Friday Fails, head over to My Blessed Life!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seems like just yesterday...

I was looking through old pictures today and found this one. It was taken in early 2006,  the first time Ben visited me in Florida after we were officially courting. Doesn't seem like it was all that long ago, but my, my, how much has changed!

The Grace of God

Yesterday, one of my dearest friends (who was my Maid of Honor just a short two years ago) found out she has a rare form of Lymphoma. Hearing her news really shook up my little world. Suddenly, the fact that my house is a big mess, that I dropped our laptop last week and can't get it to work, that business is still slow...and whatever other problems I perceive I have, became very minuscule in my mind.

I talked with her on the phone last night for a few short minutes. She is facing eight months of intense chemotherapy--quite probably some of the hardest and most uncomfortable months of her life, and she was in better spirits than I was. She comforted me through my tears. She told me, very calmly, about all the tests they were going to run and what the doctors had told her. And then she assured me it was okay. She told me of the awesome peace she has in Christ, and the grace He is giving her to weather this storm.

I called hoping to encourage her, and instead came away encouraged. And I couldn't help but think what an amazing testimony she is to the power of the grace of God to change a person and give them strength in the face of even the most daunting and scary of circumstances.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Grandma's Kitchen: Chicken/Turkey Tetrazzini

My Grandma got this Tetrazzini recipe from a cookbook she and the other PTA moms put together when my dad and his sister were in school in Honduras a few decades ago. It is tried and true and absolutely amazing. My sister-in-law and I made some for the whole family tonight using leftover Easter turkey and stock made from the carcass. I just have to share the recipe with you!

-1 5-6 lb. chicken
-5 cups water
-1 carrot
-1 onion
-2 celery stalks
-1 clove garlic
-1 lb. pasta
-6 tablespoons butter
-4 cups broth
-4 tablespoons flour
-2 cups cream
-2 tablespoons sherry
-2 tablespoons parsley
-2 cups (1/2 lb.) cheese, grated
-1/4 cup pimiento peppers
-1/4 cup almonds
1/2 lb. bacon or chopped ham
-1 3/4 cup green peas

Bring the first 5 ingredients to a boil and cook covered until the chicken is tender. When cool, debone chicken and strain broth and set aside. Cook the pasta.

In another pot, make the sauce. Melt the butter and mix in the flour. Then, add the broth slowly. Remove from the fire and add the cream and sherry. Mix pasta with the sauce and chicken and stir in the remaining ingredients. Bake in the oven in a 9"x13" pan for 15 minutes at 350*.

The 10 of us plus Katie ate this doubled, with about one serving left over. As a note, we used leftover turkey meat from our Easter dinner, and used the carcass to make some stock. The amount of meat does not have to be specific, and you can use turkey or chicken. And, for that matter, you can use store bought broth if you want. We also left the peppers and green peas out of one of the pans for the pickier folks in the family.

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Preparing for Motherhood Guest Post

I did a guest post today over at Frugal and Simple Living about our experience with getting Katie on a schedule early on (a la Baby Wise), with some helpful tips on getting started as well. Head over and check it out! :)

Rachel is a really sweet blogger who I've gotten to know over the internet in recent months, and she is due any day with her sweet baby boy, Paxton! She's been doing a series in recent weeks called Preparing for Motherhood, and there are lots of great posts. You can find them all here.

A Lesson in Patience

As a note, I debated some about whether to share this, as I don't want it to come across the wrong way. I am not complaining, and don't want to sound ungrateful. I know there are many couples, even some very near to my heart, who are unable to conceive even one baby of their own or who conceive and cannot seem to carry their babies to term, and I can't begin to imagine how difficult and heart wrenching that much be. So please know what I've written doesn't come from a heart of ingratitude. I just wanted to share what's on my heart, in hopes of being real and perhaps encouraging some.

So that said, I have a confession. Motherhood has taught me so many lessons in patience, but the past few months, I have been learning a whole new sort of lesson in patience; that is, waiting to be a mother again. I have been struggling with waiting for the Lord to open my womb. It's something I've never experienced before, because I got pregnant with Katie just a few short weeks after our wedding. As most of you probably know, Ben and I are quiver-fully minded. That means we are planning to have as many children as the Lord will give us and we don't ever plan to prevent pregnancy. I guess since I got pregnant so quickly with Katie, I have always assumed I would get pregnant quickly for the entirety of my childbearing years.

I am still breastfeeding Katie four to five times per day, and I suspect that is part of what is keeping me from getting pregnant, but every month when "that time" rolls around, I start to get a little excited, and feel a slight disappointment when I find out there's not a sweet baby in my womb. I have toyed around with weaning, but for several reasons, I don't think that is the best option for us right now.

But, this mama's heart is still longing to have a positive pregnancy test, feel the sweet flutter of a growing baby in my womb, enjoy a cute, round pregnant belly (yes, I *loved* having a baby belly), and to finally hold a sweet newborn of my very own in my arms again. So, as I wait, the Lord continues to teach me a lesson in patience and trusting in Him that I've never learned before. It's easy for me to say we are trusting Him with our family size, but I am learning that I still have so.much to learn. As Scripture says, He is the One Who opens and closes the womb, and He is the Creator of life. And, even if He has ordained to never open my womb again,  I am so very thankful for the precious daughter the Lord has given us. Even one sweet baby is more than we deserve!

So, while I'd love to be pregnant, I am thankful for a chance to be taught a lesson in patience and trusting by a gracious, sovereign, and loving Heavenly Father. What a blessing and joy to know He orchestrates everything in our lives for our good and His glory!

Photo by Per Ola Wilburg.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Menu Plan, April 5-11

Amazing that another week has come and gone already! We had a busy week last week, hence my quieter-than-usual blogging week. I missed the blogosphere, but sometimes it's nice to step back for a week and have a break of sorts. :) I'm excited to hop back in this week, though!

Here's what's cookin' this week at the Murch house.

Breakfasts: eggs with sausage or bacon and toast, quiche, smoothies (coconut milk, yogurt, and fruit), breakfast casserole
Lunches: grilled cheese with tomato soup, Annie's mac and cheese with meat, pintos and cheese with cornbread, quesadillas, salad with hard boiled eggs
Snacks: fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt

Monday~My Grandma's Chicken Tetrazzini (look for the recipe this week!), steamed veggies
Tuesday~Chili, cornbread, coleslaw
Wednesday~burgers with homemade buns, fries, and coleslaw
Thursday~whole wheat pizza, salad
Saturday~brown bag burritos
Sunday~with family and the farm

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Coconut Oil Giveaway Winner

The winner of the coconut oil from Tropical Traditions is Tamara. I will be sending you an email with information on claiming your prize. :)

Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned for another giveaway soon.