Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Plan, September 26-October 2

Apple Baked Oatmeal--a favorite in our house!

I'm saving up for a meat purchase next week, so we're going to be mostly eating from the pantry this week. I also borrowed a canner from a friend, and I'm planning to make up a bunch of applesauce with some of the apples we have left from the two bushels I bought earlier this month.

Here's what I've got planned.

Apple baked oatmeal (soaked)
Huevos Rancheros, black beans
Applesauce bread, scrambled eggs

Snack-y lunch
Smoothies (Peanut Butter or yogurt/fruit)


Potato soup
Rice and bean burritos with cheese, salsa, lettuce, sour cream
Salmon patties, baked potatoes, salad
High protein alfredo sauce, pasta, salad

What are y'all fixing this week? Please feel free to share in the comments. I'm always keeping an eye out for tasty new recipes!

This post is linked to:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Visionary Womanhood Gatherings eBook Review & Giveaway

We live in a society completely and utterly obsessed with self. All too often, people bring children into the world just because that's what you do. They have no desire devote themselves to the great work of children rearing and they lack vision. My husband and I have decided to have as many children as we're able to for the purpose of raising them up to be used in Kingdom advancement. My goal is to use these years with my children at home to pour my life into them so that in 20 years or so, they'll go out and do the same. Our vision is not just for the here and now--it's a vision of generational obedience to Christ, that His gospel might be believed and His law obeyed in our descendants and in all the world.

Thankfully we are part of a faithful, very like-minded church. Outside our tiny congregation, though, it's not every day we come across people who share our vision. And when we do, it makes my heart flutter with excitement. When I stumbled across Visionary Womanhood a couple weeks ago (this post, actually), I was thrilled to not only find another very like-minded woman--but one who blogs. Yes! And, when I saw she had an eBook coming out this month, I jumped at the opportunity to review it.

This week, the Visionary Womanhood Gatherings ebook was released. Reading it was a breath of fresh air. Walking this road of counter-cultural, Christ-centered parenting is not always easy. Having others who are walking alongside you, going through the same things you're going through is a great blessing.

The first part of the book is an explanation of Visionary Womanhood. It is full of biblical truth and sweet encouragement. The second part of the book explains what Visionary Womanhood Gathering is--basically, it's a gathering of like-minded women to worship, pray for their posterity, and be edified together by solid, biblical teaching. The third section of the book gives you the tools, including a complete two year curriculum, for starting a Visionary Womanhood Gathering in your area.

Even if you don't feel like starting a group is something you want to do, I highly encourage you to read this eBook. You'll certainly be encouraged--and who knows? Maybe you'll change your mind.

To celebrate the release of the eBook, Natalie is offering a discount of $2 when you check out using the code LAUNCHWEEK, bringing the price down to just $2.99. After today, the price goes back up to $4.99.

I'm also excited to announce that Natalie is giving away one copy of her ebook to one of you all! To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post sharing what resource has been the greatest source of encouragement to you as you strive to be a godly woman.

For bonus entries:
:: Like Visionary Womanhood on Facebook.
:: Subscribe to the Visionary Womanhood RSS feed.

:: Like Covenant Homemaking on Facebook.
:: Follow me on twitter (@mrsmurch)
:: Subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS feed.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry! The winner for this giveaway will be chosen Wednesday, September 28--so get your comments in before then!

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this ebook to review. No other compensation was provided. Sales links in this post are affiliate links. If you order through them, I receive a small kick-back. Thank you for supporting this site!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

54% off natural/organic groceries and more at Abe's Market

Abe's Market is a natural/organic grocery website. They also carry natural household products, cosmetics, and items for children/babies. Today on Eversave, you can get a $50 voucher to Abe's Market for only $25. If you open an Eversave account for the first time, you'll get an automatic $3 credit, bringing the total down to just $22. Abe's Market offers free shipping on all orders over $49, so if you use the whole voucher, you'll receive free shipping with your order.

I purchased this deal and am excited to try out some new products (and pick up some items I buy that are harder to find on sale!), and wanted to pass it along to y'all as well.

Disclosure: This is my referral link. If you purchase the deal through the link, I will receive a small kick-back. Thanks for supporting Covenant Homemaking!

Thawing baby food quickly without a microwave

I usually feed Benjamin a little bit of whatever we're eating for dinner (typically a cooked veggie), but occasionally when there's nothing to share with him, I take a couple cubes of homemade baby food out of the fridge. Obviously, it's ideal to think of this in the morning so they can thaw out. But, if you're like me, you won't always remember.

I wanted to share a quick tip with y'all for thawing out homemade baby food quickly without the microwave.
I have a set of small stainless steel prep. bowls that we received as a wedding gift. Last night, we had pizza braid and salad for dinner, so there wasn't anything to share with Benjamin. I put two baby food cubes in one of the small bowls, and placed the bowl in a pan of water on the stove. I let the water boil for a just few minutes, and it thawed the food out and warmed it up.

Easy, no extra clean-up, and no microwave. :)

Here's a photo. Sorry it's so blurry! There was steam coming up from the boiling water.

For more kitchen tips, check out Tammy's Recipes' Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan, September 19-26

We've had a short burst of fall weather the past few days, but the weatherman is saying it's not here to stay and things will be back up in the 80's this week. As I write this, it seems to still be chilly out, so we'll see. I love cooler weather, but truly--I don't like that it means winter is right around the corner. Having grown up in Florida (yes, I wore flip-flops in January!), the cold Virginia winters have yet to grow on me.

Here's what I have in the plans for this week of almost-fall-but-not-quite weather. You'll notice LOTS of apple recipes, as we're still making our way through the two bushes I bought last weekend. They are still nice and crisp, but I think I'll need to start putting them up this week. I'm planning to make some apple butter and freeze the rest using this method. Any of you all have a great apple butter recipe to share?

What are y'all cooking this week?

:: Soaked baked oatmeal with apples
:: Soaked oatmeal pancakes with homemade apple topping
:: Soaked apple coffee cake (new recipe), scrambled eggs

:: Leftovers
:: Smoothies (Peanut Butter or Yogurt/Fruit)

:: Pizza braid, salad
:: Taco corn fritters, watermelon
:: Salmon patties (I haven't tried this particular recipe before, but thought it sounded really good), fruit, salad
:: Rice and bean burritos (make some extras for the freezer)
:: Italian Cream Cheese Chicken Casserole, salad, homemade Italian braid loaf bread, Slab Apple Pie and vanilla ice cream

For lots of other meal planning inspiration, check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday and Keeper of the Home's Plan It-Don't Panic Challenge.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just Mommy & me

I usually make great efforts to see that Katie and Benjamin go down for naps at around the same time in the afternoon because, let's face it, even though I love my babies to the moon and back, it's nice to have a little bit of quiet in the middle of the day in order to avoid insanity. ;)

Some days, like today, it just doesn't happen--and I try to go with the flow when things don't go according to plan. Benjamin went down for his nap at about 12:30, and Katie didn't seem tired so I let her stay up for a while. We had a grand time. We worked on learning the alphabet with magnetic "ABC's letters", and we built towers with blocks. And of course, she had a blast knocking them over. It was especially funny when the tower fell on Mommy. ;)

When it was naptime, Katie ran in Benjamin's room and woke him up. I think it was a (lame!) last-ditch effort on her part to avoid naptime. Needless to say, it didn't work. So, she went down for a nap just as he got up. After I finished up a couple things in the kitchen, I had some time to play with just Benjamin. We tickled and played with toys just us.

This may all seem pretty ordinary. However, most days I don't get to spend extended time with each child one-on-one. That's not to say there's no one-on-one time; it's just we are mostly all together. I was amazed at how their sweet little personalities shined through when I had opportunity to play with them individually. I guess when I'm with both of them all day it's easy to think of them as a pair of children ("the kids"), rather than two unique individuals. Katie loves to play with puzzles, blocks, dolls, and her "ABC's letters" and gets so excited when the opportunity prevents itself. Benjamin really likes to chew on things and roll around--and he sure is ticklish!

Will I change the routine so this can happen every day? Probably not. But, for the afternoon not going according to plan, it was a fun opportunity to "get to know" my children as individuals just a little better.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This week's grocery trip: Kroger

As I mentioned in this week's menu plan post, I took some time yesterday to overhaul my coupon binder, and I picked out the right week to take care of it!

Kroger's current Buy 10, get $5 off sale has several healthier (or perhaps, less unhealthy?) items that I was able to get at really good prices. I also got some great prices on dairy that was reduced for quick sale.

This may not appear to be a very balanced bunch of food, but please bear in mind we already had lots of items on hand (produce, dairy, meat, grains, etc.).

Here's a breakdown of what I purchased, along with applicable coupon links.

10 Item Sales Event
:: 4 bags (one isn't in the picture because it was already eaten at Ben's brothers' house last night) of Boulder Canyon Natural chips--$0.49/bag with this coupon
:: 1 package of Oscary Mayer Selects angus hot dogs--free with coupon (also eaten last night)
:: 2 boxes Barbara's Bakery natural cereal--$1.49/box with this coupon
:: 2 Prego pasta sauce--$0.99/jar with a coupon from the Sunday paper
:: 1 Marzetti Simply Dressed natural salad dressing -- $1.49 with coupon from the Sunday paper

Other Items:
:: Diapers for Katie--$4.99 with Kroger eCoupon
:: 2 packages Lifeway BioKefir -- $1.15/package using coupons from
:: 1lb. Gunnoe's Sage flavored country sausage (the only sausage at "my" Kroger without MSG!) -- $3.49
:: 1 pint organic half and half -- $1.79
:: 3 6oz. cups Stoneyfield Organic yogurt -- $0.50 for all three after a coupon from the Stoneyfield site
:: 6 oz. package sliced Muenster cheese -- reduced for $1.29
:: 3 1lb. packages fresh whole milk Mozzarella -- reduced to $1.90/lb. (this is a GREAT price for good quality Mozzarella!)
:: 32oz. container Stoneyfield Organic whole milk plain yogurt -- $2.59 after coupon from the Stoneyfield site
:: 2.09lbs grapes -- $2.05 (also eaten last night)

Do y'all use coupons? Did you get any great deals this week?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu Plan, September 12-18

We had a nice time visiting with family for the second part of the week last week. We left Grandma's house way too early Sunday morning to get Dad to the airport on time, and then headed to church (we got there 15 minutes before the service started, which definitely felt like a success!).

Pretty exhausted from the trip, I slept in this morning (thanks to my sweet husband!) and we ate simply today, including hot dogs for dinner. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things tomorrow (and perhaps I'll get through the pile of dishes waiting for me in the kitchen!). I did take some time today to overhaul my coupon binder after a couple months of allowing it to collect dust, and I had a pretty successful grocery trip that I'll share more about tomorrow!

I got two bushels of low-spray apples from an orchard near Grandma's house for about $0.35/lb, so I'm excited to delve into canning for the first time. Any tips for a newbie?

Here's what I have planned for our meals this week:

Soaked apple cinnamon muffins, scrambled eggs
Oatmeal pancakes with apple topping
Soaked baked oatmeal  (probably with apples!)

Smoothies (yogurt and fruit, or peanut butter)

Hot dogs (all beef; nitrite/nitrate/by-product free), grapes, potato chips
Braised rosemary chicken and potatoes in the crock pot (new recipe), green beans, salad
Marinated chicken over brown rice, green beans, salad
Baked spaghetti, salad, green beans, rolls

What are y'all fixing this week?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lessons from a lousy day

To say that the first half of today was not one of the highlights of my mothering career would be a major understatement. The children and I are a few hours of home visiting my grandma with my Dad who flew in Thursday from Florida.

Last night (to make a long story short) we started the bedtime routine at 8:00 and about 11:00, Katie finally went to sleep and Benjamin was still crying. Benjamin was up before 4:00am, and ended up spending the night with Katie and I in the double bed.

Needless to say, I was an exhausted grump when it came time to get up. I was impatient with both of my children, and grumbled my way through the morning and early afternoon. Then naptime came, and Katie went down great--and then got up about five minutes later. The get up, get disciplined, cry and go back to bed pattern continued for quite a while.

In between cycles, I was trying to read my Bible. Knowing I needed a major attitude adjustment in my attitude toward my children, I started reading Psalm 127 and 128.

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD; and the fruit of the womb is His reward." (Psalm 127:3)

"Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.  For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD." (Psalm 128:1-4)

God has been gracious to give us children. They are a reward and a precious blessing from Him. Mothering Katie and Benjamin in a way that glorifies God is one of my foremost callings in life (second to being Ben's help meet), and like anything God calls us to--there will be trials along the way.

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:2-5)

Repeated disobedience may not seem like much of a trial, but I'm sure you other mamas know that when you're exhausted and grumpy, it can really be hard to keep your cool when children just disobey over and over again for (seemingly) no reason. So for me, on this day, it was a trial--even if a small one. And, this trial (and any trial) is for the purpose of refining me.

Since I became a mother, I have known that our children were mine to bring into submission to Christ. But, I hadn't ever really thought about the fact that not only was I given to my children for that purpose in their life, but they were given to me to accomplish that purpose in my life as well.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Memories Suite Review & Giveaway!

Before my first child was born, I had grand plans to make beautiful, elaborate scrapbooks for my children. Then, reality hit and I find I do well to actually move the pictures from the camera to the computer. {Please tell me I'm not the only one!} 

I was recently contacted by Liz, from My Memories Suite, about reviewing their digital scrapbooking software. After browsing their website, I very excitedly accepted their offer. I have spent some time playing around with the software and have been really happy with it!

I think my favorite thing about My Memories Suite is how easy it is to use! I was able to create a digital scrapbook of some of family's main highlights from last year (9 pages with photos, embellishments, and captions) in just a couple of hours. It was my first time using the program, so there was definitely some learning to be done, but once I clicked around a little bit I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I was really pleased with how my little digital scrapbook turned out.

The My Memories Suite software comes with several ready-made templates, background papers, embellishments, and layouts--which I really like! For the more creative, you can definitely create a huge variety of layouts. And, for those of you who want something more straightfoward and simple, there are plain photo layouts you can choose without any embellishments. In addition to the things included with the software, there are several FREE templates you can download from the website, as well as templates you can purchase starting at just $0.99.

For me during this season of life, I think My Memories Suite is a great way to save our memories (I have big plans for using the software to make a yearly scrapbook for each child!). It's much more affordable than buying all the scrapbooking supplies to make a traditional scrapbook, and there's no mess to drag out and clean up again (and no little pieces of paper for little hands to drop all over my house!).

In addition to digital scrapbooks (which can be shared online), the software can be used to create calendars, printed photo books, and DVD's. The possibilities are endless!

The My Memories Suite software is $39.97, and can be purchased as a download or a CD to install. If you use the exclusive promo-code STMMMS78748 at check-out, you'll get $10 off, making for an even better deal.

The giveaway!
Even better than $10 off is getting to try this great software for free! My Memories Suite has offered to give away one copy of this software to one of y'all!

In order to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post.

For bonus entries:
::Visit the My Memories site, and come back and tell us what your favorite digital paper pack or layout is.
::Subscribe to the My Memories blog.
::Like My Memories Suite and Covenant Homemaking on facebook.
::Follow me (@mrsmurch) and My Memories Suite on twitter. Then, tweet about the giveaway, tagging both of us and linking back to this post.
::Subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS feed.
::You can also blog about this giveaway or share it with your facebook friends and link back to this post.

That makes for 7 possible entries. You must leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will be open until next Wednesday, September 14.

The winner of the Tropical Traditions Powdered Laundry Detergent giveaway was Domestic Diva! Congratulations! I've sent an email with information on claiming the prize. :)

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the software to review, and I receive a small kick-back if you order using the provided promo-code. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and all opinions in this post are mine. 

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My home management system, pt. 7: Remember the goal

We have come to the final post in this little series on my home management system. So far, we've talked about:

::The Daily Docket
::Managing Weekly Chores
::Menu Planning
::Having a flexible routine
::Rising early
::Keeping up with laundry

Whenever we put our hand to a task, we should consider our motive for completing it. We shouldn't strive to maintain our homes for the sake of getting a Susie-homemaker award, but rather to glorify God.

Here are a few goals to consider when seeking to manage your home:

::Blessing your husband. Most likely if you are a full-time homemaker, it means your husband goes out every day and works hard to provide for your family. What type of atmosphere does he enjoy coming home to? If you know he'd love to come home to a hot meal on the table, but doesn't really care whether all the toys are picked up off the floor when he walks in, make his preferences your priority. Obviously, it's good to make dinner and have the floor picked up, but sometimes we can't do everything and must prioritize. You honor God when you seek to honor your husband.

::Creating an atmosphere conducive to teaching your children. I don't know about you, but when our house is really messy, I have a hard time focusing on anything. The mess is a distraction for me, and I'm sure it can be for children as well. Keeping an organized, clean home will provide a calm, distraction-free atmosphere for training your children--and they are more likely to maintain orderly homes as adults if you teach them the necessary skills when they're young. As a mother, the training of your children is one of the main works God has called you to, and creating the best atmosphere you can for them is glorifying to God.

::Showing hospitality. Biblically, hospitality is not optional. Maintaining an orderly home not only makes you more likely to invite people over (I know I'm not the only one who stresses about the mess when we're expecting company!), but your home will be a much more inviting place if it's not a wreck. Creating a relaxing haven for your family and any guests who enter your home is an important reason to manage your home with excellence.

::Properly stewarding what God has provided. God has provided everything we have, and called us to be good stewards. Obviously, if we let our homes fall apart, we are not obeying that command. 

Despite all these, there are seasons of life when your home will be less-than-perfect. Right after your have a baby, the higher priority is clearly caring for your newborn and focusing on allowing your body to heal. If  your children or husband are sick, taking care of their immediate needs is more important than most housework. Early in pregnancy when you're exhausted all the time, you have to focus on resting up and growing a baby. During these seasons, it's important to use your time wisely and prioritize so at least the most important tasks get done (for example: washing the dishes or having clean laundry is a more immediate need than decluttering the whole house).

I hope y'all have found the posts in the series an encouragement to you in your homemaking endeavors. Maintaining an organized and orderly home is a noble goal for any homemaker to have. Just remember, having a clean home is a means to an end--not the end itself.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Menu Plan, September 5-11

We had a really nice holiday weekend, and I hope y'all did too! I'm trying to get back in the swing of things today. It's always hard to get back to normal household stuff after a relaxing long weekend! I found out Sunday that my Dad is going to make a quick trip up from Thursday to Sunday, so the kids and I will be picking him up at the airport Thursday morning and we'll head to Grandma's from there. I'll drop him off at the airport Sunday morning and then come home (I'm hoping we'll still be able to make it to church). So, it looks like it's going to be a busy and fun week.

Here's what I am planning to cook.

::Soaked baked oatmeal 
::Soaked homemade bread (from the bread machine), scrambled eggs
::Free breakfast at Chick-Fil-A

::snacks (yogurt, fruit, veggies, etc.)

::Homemade pizza
::Chicken and cornbread dumplings (a crockpot recipe), green beans
::Bachelor's hash (with fresh green beans instead of canned)

What are y'all cooking up this week?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Simplifying the toy stash

A project I had on my mental to-do list for quite some time (at least 6 months!) was to de-junk our toys and books and pare down to only the ones the children really enjoy. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Hannah, who helped me with this project for several hours yesterday, it's done! And I am so relieved.

We have toys in two cabinets in the living area--toys and books in one, and puzzles in the other, as well as toys in Katie and Benjamin's room. Before de-junking, Katie's room was always a total wreck because the toys were everywhere and the task of picking toys and books up off the living room floor was literally never ending.

In the end, we got rid of a big garbage bag full of toys plus a few books (I didn't get rid of many books--just ones that we have been given that didn't mesh well with the worldview we want to teach our children), and we threw a handful of items away--ones that were no longer really fit for use, but for some reason had been sticking around for who knows how long.

The bulk of the toys we got rid of were stuffed animals. We started off with a "keep because they're sentimental" pile, a "maybe" pile, and a "no" pile. The sentimental pile was so big (all the "friends" you'll see next to Katie's bed below) that I just got rid of everything else. I think she has plenty!

I am so pleased with how things worked out. There are definitely still an abundance of toys, but I am happy knowing the toys there are ones the children use and love and there aren't excess toys adding unnecessary work to my day!

Here are the toys, books, and puzzles we have in the living room:

And, here are the toys in Katie and Benjamin's room:

I also have a two baskets of smaller toys on top of their dresser--one for Benjamin that has rattles, teethers, etc. and one for Katie that has her threading shapes/ropes, a set of paper dolls, among other things. Katie is so happy to have her room all organized, and she's been great at putting the toys back where they belong when they're finished with them, with very little prompting from me!

This was our first time clearing out the toys since Katie was born. What are your methods for staying on top of the influx of toys that come in your homes throughout the year? Please share in the comments!