Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Coming Home: An Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tropical Traditions Lotion: Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pregnancy Update, 28 Weeks

Yesterday, at exactly 28 weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan, September 27-October 3

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

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

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

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

sandwiches (grilled cheese or PBJ)

Tammy's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Brown Bag Burritos

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

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Change in perspective

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan, September 20-26

I am feeling a wee bit way uninspired and blah with my meal planning this week. Do y'all have any great recipe recommendations? I could use some fresh ones, for sure! Since we stick to hormone and antibiotic free meats, we mostly eat whole chickens and ground beef because it can get SO pricey to buy quality meats!

Despite my lack of inspiration, we still need to eat! So, here's what I have planned for the week. What are y'all eating?

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, pancakes with sausage, grits (found organic grits for a great price on Amazon--made from non-GMO corn!) casserole with fruit, Cheesy Potato Pie with muffins

Lunches: grilled cheese with tomato soup, beans and cornbread, Brown Bag Burritos, leftovers

Monday~ Homemade Pizza, salad (we usually only have pizza once every week, but I took a crust out of the freezer yesterday and we ended up eating at the farm, so I need to use it up!)
Tuesday~Chicken Pot Pie, salad
Wednesday~Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, steamed veggies, fruit
Friday~Spaghetti and meatballs, salad
Saturday~Homemade pizza, salad
Sunday~dinner at the farm

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tropical Traditions Insect Repellent Winner!

Random Number Generator selected commenter #6, Amy, to receive the Tropical Traditions Insect Repellent! I have contacted Amy about collecting her prize. Thanks to the rest of you who entered. We'll have another great giveaway from Tropical Traditions in a couple weeks, so keep your eyes peeled!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Including Toddlers in Housework

When Katie was a smaller baby and took several naps every day, I usually just did my cleaning while she was asleep. However, as she's gotten older and gone down to just one nap a day, I've found it works best for our family if I include her in the chores as much as possible. It has been amazing for me to watch her learn how to do various tasks around the house (and for now, she really enjoys it!). Getting her involved in the chores keeps her out of trouble while I do housework, and allows us to spend fun, quality time together while still getting things done.

My sweet helper!

These are some of the ways I've been able to use Katie's help while cleaning:

::Emptying the dishwasher. This was one of the first tasks Katie started helping with, and so far, we haven't broken any dishes. She unloads the bottom rack and hands the dishes to me to put away. This has been especially nice since my belly is getting bigger and bending over repeatedly isn't as easy as it once was. She's getting tall enough to reach the items in the top rack, too! It does take a little longer this way than if I just empty it myself, but it keeps Katie occupied and she's learning to help!

::Laundry. Katie helps me sort the laundry. We're still working on colors, so she needs quite a bit of guidance in this area, but as I'm sorting the clothes to wash, she picks up items and I direct her to the proper pile. She also comes out to the clothes line with me and hands me clothes to hang. This is nice because I don't have to bend over as much, and it keeps her close by while we're in the yard.

::De-cluttering. As I straighten up the house, I often hand Katie an item and tell her which room it belongs in. She happily RUNS it to the right room. Sometimes, she even puts things away if she can reach the item's home.

::Washing dishes. When Katie 'helps' me wash dishes, she mostly just stands on a stool at the sink and plays in the water while I wash. But, she loves every moment of it, and hopefully will be able to wash dishes all by herself one of these days!

::Cooking/Baking. Recently, I've started letting Katie "help" with cooking.  She pours ingredients in, stirs, and has also helped with kneading bread. It is a little messier when she 'helps', but she really enjoys it and I think she is learning valuable lessons. Plus, it keeps her busy so I can get our food made without needing to come to the rescue somewhere else.

With other chores, I usually just keep her busy nearby. When I clean in the bathroom, Katie often plays with water in the tub. When I make the bed, she plays in my room and hands me the pillows when it's time. When I run the vacuum, she usually runs away from it--it used to actually scare her, but now she gets a real kick out of it. Sometimes if she is having an off-day or if I'm super busy with outside commitments (which, by design, is very rare--and we love it this way), I will set her up with toys or a DVD to keep her occupied while I get the housework done. Typically, though, having her help with chores works for me!

I know every child is so different, and I only have experience with one, so I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you include your toddler in the chores, or do you do them while (s)he sleeps/plays?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hoosier Blueberry Cake

Remember the blueberries we picked?  I just had to make this cake with some of them. My mom has made this blueberry cake for years and years and we all love it around here. I hadn't made it anywhere but my mom's kitchen before, so she kindly e-mail me the recipe, and I wanted to share it with y'all. :)

1 pint (2 cups) fresh (or frozen) blueberries
¼ lb. of butter (1 stick)
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
3 cups of flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla or lemon extract

1.    Preheat oven to 350*. Cream butter and sugar
2.    Add eggs, one at a time – beating after each
3.    Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt)
4.    Add dry ingredients alternately with milk and vanilla mixture to batter.
5.    Fold in blueberries into batter
6.  Spoon batter in greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake for 1 hour.

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Saturday, September 11, 2010

When it's over

Recently, I was listening to a CD I haven't listened to in a long while and one of the songs has played over in my head many times since. Some of the words really caused me to pause. The song is called "It's Over Now" and it is from the perspective of a father speaking to his son at the end of his life.

My son, my life was all poured out, like water, water, water on the ground...

My son, in the grace of God be strong, for you must go on like a soldier...

My son, the race was long and hard, and I stumbled, I stumbled all the way. 
But by His mercy, by His mercy I stand...

Ooh, and now there is for me a crown, a crown of righteousness
Which He will give me on that day...when I see His face.

(for the full song, listen to #10 on this CD)

How I long for the same words to be true of me at the end of my life. I want to be able to look back on my life and know that, while I certainly stumbled through, the mercy of Christ sustained me and He saw fit to use me. I want my children and grandchildren (and great grandchildren, if the Lord allows me to meet some of them!) to look at my life after I'm long gone, and be encouraged to continue to run the race that is set before them. And ultimately, I want to stand before Christ and hear those blessed words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

As Christians, we are called to pour our lives out in service to Christ, and to use the entirety of our lives to advance His Kingdom and bring Him glory. And as Christian wives and mothers, specifically, we're called to do this primarily out of our homes; to be helpers to our husbands, that they can better serve Christ in what He has called them to, to disciple the children the Lord has entrusted to us, and to make homes that nurture our families and any others who enter them. While the everyday tasks you do as a wife, mom, and homemaker may seem mundane to you, they are blessing your family and, by God's grace, they are creating a legacy that can influence many generations to come for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom--what an amazing privilege!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All Natural Insect Repellent Review & Giveaway

Recently, I had a chance to try out some of Tropical Tradition's All Natural Insect Repellent. We went blueberry picking twice when we visited my Grandma a couple weeks ago. The first time, we went with no insect repellent, and Katie and I both got chewed up terribly by mosquitoes. The second time, I made sure to apply some of this product and it made a world of difference! I carefully applied it all over Katie, including her face, and she escaped the mosquitoes completely. I used it, but wasn't as careful to apply it thoroughly. I only got bites where I didn't have insect repellent. 

I read the ingredient list, and there isn't anything in this stuff that you couldn't safely eat! It's completely natural and safe to use on your face, and you can use it to protect your sweet babies from bug bites without hurting them with nasty chemicals.

Sound good to you? Tropical Traditions has kindly agreed to give away a bottle of this wonderful insect repellent to one of y'all! To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post telling me you'd like to be entered. Easy enough, hm? For bonus entries, you can follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch), follow Tropical Traditions on twitter (@TropTraditions), tweet about this giveaway and include @mrsmurch and @troptraditions, subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter, and/or subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS Feed. Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

The giveaway will be open until Wednesday of next week!

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

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A few glimpses of what we've been up to

Playing with Great Grandma Katie

Enjoying Grandma & Grandpa Gardner

Picking (and eating!) fresh blueberries

Trying on cool shoes ;)
Remembering a loved one who has gone before us
Enjoying family
Happy Wordless Wednesday!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Birth Stories Galore at The Finer Things in Life

If you're anything like me, you love a good birth story (or 25...or 60)! Amy over at The Finer Things in Life is having a Labor Day Birth Story Link-up today. I linked up Katie's birth story, and thought y'all might enjoy heading over a reading some of the other ladies' stories.

Hope y'all are having a wonderful day with your families!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Menu Plan, September 6-12

Here's what we're planning to eat this week. One change we've made lately is making sure to have a protein-packed breakfast every day. Ben and I both find that if we have just pancakes or just oatmeal without any eggs or meat on the side, we are dragging our feet by late morning, whereas a protein breakfast carries us all the way until lunch time with plenty of energy.

What are y'all fixin' up this week? Are you doing anything fun tomorrow?

Breakfast~sausage and scrambled eggs, toast, fruit
Lunch~'clean out the fridge'
Dinner~Labor Day shindig at my in-laws' farm

Breakfast~blueberry pancakes, turkey sausage links
Lunch~grilled cheese, tomato soup, carrot sticks
Dinner~BBQ Chicken sandwiches (with shredded chicken from the fridge), homemade fries, broccoli salad

Breakfast~sausage and scrambled eggs, toast or muffins, fruit
Lunch: Salad with hard boiled eggs
Dinner: Burgers, Creamy Mac & Cheese (this recipe is *amazing*), Glazed Carrots

Breakfast~blueberry pancakes, sausage
Lunch~leftover mac & cheese, steamed veggies
Dinner~Peppy Pizza Pasta, salad

Breakfast: sausage and scrambled eggs, toast or muffins, fruit
Lunch: Salad with hard boiled eggs
Dinner: leftovers

Breakfast: Cheesy potato pie, fruit
Lunch: Grilled Cheese, tomato soup, carrot sticks
Dinner: Homemade pizza, salad

Breakfast: leftover Cheesy Potato Pie, fruit
Lunch: snacks
Dinner: at the farm

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be back next week (for real!)

In addition to trying to get caught up from being away from home and having company and trying to take it easy per midwife's orders,  Ben's brother who we only see a few times a year is visiting the farm, so I'm taking just a few more days off during this blogging hiatus. Just wanted to give y'all a heads-up and let you know that, Lord willing, regular posting really will resume next week!