Sunday, December 7, 2008

Spiritual Sunday


Our church has been reading through "The Story," which is an abridged version of the Bible in chronological order. I've been so bad about reading through the Old Testament because it's boring and confusing. OR SO I THOUGHT!

Reading through this version (which only includes "the story" parts that are crucial leading up to the story of Christ - but is all Scripture) has made me feel like I'm reading the Bible for the first time! I'm finally GETTING the Old Testament in a really clear and exciting way.

I'm actually UNDERSTANDING all of the ancestry lists. Weird, I know. I'm understanding why God became so frustrated with the Israelites - and how much I, today, am just like them (scary).

I now get how Solomon had all this wisdom from God, the story behind it, and how the Proverbs are so divinely inspired.

Ok, I sound like  a 5 year old writing this, but you get my idea. The Old Testament isn't outdated. It CAN be exciting and new, no matter how long you've followed God. 

Very cool :)



Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scrumptious Saturday

I'm making these awesome cookies for a party today. They have the cheesecake taste without the expense of 8 blocks of cream cheese! It's also simple and most of the ingredients are things you have on hand! I almost never bring any home, and always get lots of comments.

I'm giving you the recipe with my adaptations. The original recipe is from Taste of Home: Grandma's Great Desserts.

CRUNCHY CHEESECAKE BARS

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (sometimes I throw a little more in)
6 tablespoons of butter
1 pkg, 8oz cream cheese softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla (sometimes I add a bit more since the original recipe also calls for lemon juice)
3/4 chopped nuts (I never have them, so I never use them in the recipe)

In a medium mixing bowl, mix flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. (I end up using my hands!) Set aside 1/2 cup for topping; press remaining crumbs into bottom of ungreased 8x8x2 inch baking pan. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; mix well. Spread over baked crust. Combine nuts  (if you're using them) with reserved crumbs and sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes more or until done. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Family Friday

I've been feeling so guilty lately for not spending enough time with my family. I can always tell when I'm not doing enough for my husband and daughter because they get cranky, which only makes the guilt worse.

My mom was so encouraging today and always has such good "mom" advice...I'm thankful for her (even though thankful Thursday was yesterday!).

To make it worse, everything on the radio was about spending time with your kids; how, if you don't they won't want to spend time with you when they grow up...and about how working mom's suck.

So after work, Hannah and I played Wiggles on the computer and we "Elf-ed" ourselves. We laughed and had fun for over an hour. Go here to elf yourself for amusement. She even got me to play Sesame Street figurines with her for a while. 

It felt really good to spend time with my little girl. Don't miss out on your family. I have to remind myself constantly. You won't regret the time you put into that. The time goes by too fast.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Sorry I'm a little late for the 3 of you who follow :)

For Thankful Thursday I must say I'm thankful for sunny days in the midst of cold, gloomy weather... figuratively and literally. 

Yesterday the weather in Pittsburgh, though cool, was very sunny and much warmer than it has been - a whopping 48 degrees. I had to go to work in the afternoon but Hannah needed some sunshine so I took her to the park. It was so nice to be outside in the fresh air and soaking up some vitamin D!

Someone RUDELY booby trapped the park with fishing line and dish soap, but that didn't stop us! What a great time getting refreshed!

I think I'm ready for spring!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wellness Wednesday

Exercise - I'll never like it. I've really been enjoying doing workout videos though - as much as you can enjoy them. 

Since I have been on this diuretic, I have no breath or endurance. So I stopped. I was doing really well for a while. I need to get back in the game. I am now reduced to just a small amount of diuretic a day and I'm packing on holiday pounds - so I have no excuse!

Today it's really hard writing about wellness, since my sister had me over yesterday and made all kinds of wonderful AMAZING food, and I sat on my butt all day and scrap booked! High calories and no movement make for a not very "Well Wednesday!"

The way to get started, is to just get up and do it. But, don't push too hard. You need to accomplish small goals to keep you motivated to accomplish more. When you begin by insisting you need to do an hour of cardio - you're setting yourself up for failure and a lot of pulled muscles. That alone will guarantee that you won't want to continue the next day!

Start with 15 minutes. There are 20 minute pilates videos and also 20 minute cardio videos. Or, take your kids for a walk. Heck, run up and down the stairs for a few minutes. Do what you feel comfortable with and only begin pushing a little harder when your body can handle the minimum. Don't beat yourself when you miss a day, just get up and do it the next morning.

My mom will turn 50 in 2009. She, for the first time in her life has begun exercising every day on an elliptical machine and lifting weights. I can't believe how amazing she looks! Her entire body shape has changed. She started with 15 minutes a day and now can do a FULL HOUR on the elliptical. I couldn't do it! I'm so proud of her. She's in the best shape of her life. That's how I want to be!! What an inspiration.

So,  my mom is showing me up. I have some work to do!! Get up and do it - you'll feel SO good when you're done...I'm in too! I'm gonna exercise TODAY!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tips and Hints Tuesday

Does cleaning with bleach products ever freak you out?

It doesn't really scare me, but I don't like to clean my kitchen counters and dining room table with it. I just feel as if my kids picks up a piece of food from there and eats it, she's eating poison. Maybe a little dramatic, I know. But, nonetheless, I've heard that bleach can seep into the plastic of baby bottles and plastic containers, so sometimes I think about it. Dogs have died from licking a kitchen floor cleaned with Lysol, because it tastes sweet.

Enter - PEROXIDE! It's the cheapest thing on the market and it kills bacteria! Hospitals use it because bleach fumes are so toxic. It's also good for the environment. So I went and bought two HUGE bottles at Sam's Club for $1.38. Cheap as dirt (no pun intended!) 

Do I still use Lysol and Bleach. Yeah. I do. But, I'm much more cautious about where.

Use peroxide where your family will be eating. It's just plain safer.

Oh and also! You know how funky your shower curtain liner gets??? Well spray it with peroxide and wipe. It's bubbles up (for your entertainment) and stays clean MUCH MUCH longer!

So save money, rid yourself of harmful chemicals AND toxic fumes. You can relax knowing that's one less thing you need to worry about!

One word of caution: be careful where you spray...It MAY lighten some fabrics when used in larger quantities.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Money Monday

Uh-oh is all I have to say. My friends and family tease us because we have no cable, no landline, no internet, one 8 year old vehicle, no clothing budget, we don't eat out, have a very small grocery bill, and keep our thermostat set at 60 in the winter. I'm CHEAP!!

We've done pretty stinking well so far. I can't complain...and I haven't - until TODAY.

You've all heard the commercials about how the last 2 people on earth who have rabbit ears on their tv (us being one of them) need those digital boxes so their tv will work. Well we got those a way long time ago - haven't really used them.

Tonight we hooked them up...The sad news? We get one channel on each tv. With our rabbit ears we normally get 5-7 channels on each tv and we've done just fine with that these first 6 years of our marriage.

So, can I just say WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

We still aren't getting cable. We just paid off Matt's last school loan and I'm more anxious than ever to be debt free. We begin attacking my school loan this month and hope to pay that sucker off by next September.

I refuse to let this recession hold me back...but I will continue to complain about the tv. I'm gonna be so addicted to cable when we get it!!

What have you had to sacrifice, if anything because of these tough economic times?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spiritual Sunday

I'm an anxious person. I think it runs in the family.

I have been prone to panic attacks and irrational thoughts and fears. Last November, when I was told I needed to start chemotherapy pills because my eye issues were so threatening, life came crashing down on me. I was sick, in pain, weak - I felt awful. I was devastated. I was told I had to wait to have more kids, couldn't be around people who were sick because my immune system would be down and I would be tired and sick for at least the next two years. Well, it's been one year of that two year span and God has been with me. I'm doing very well. He's kept me healthy and for the most part, my eyes are doing much better. I still have to take the medication until I'm 100% - which I pray is soon! We're looking at about another year.

I haven't asked God "why?" or gotten angry with him. This is life. But I have taken one Scripture that my brother texted me, and during my darkest times, I read it over and over and over. 

I have never felt so much peace from a Bible verse. I hope, wherever you are, that you find comfort and peace in it as well.

Philippians 4:4-11
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me [Paul, author] - everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

When you're feeling like you can't cope, and your mind starts to wander to all of the "what ifs." Read this - over and over. Find those pure and lovely thoughts and focus on them; and you know what you get when you do that? THE GOD OF PEACE! *Sigh* It's all I need.







Saturday, November 29, 2008

Scrumptious Saturday

Broccoli.

Yum!

What, you don't like it?? Ok ok, hear me out before you start deleting my posts for putting broccoli in the Scrumptious Saturday category. This recipe is tried and true. My 3 year old loves it (and as fought me on broccoli cooked other ways), my husband loves it, my friends love it - This simple recipe is spreading like wild fire!! Try it just once, if you don't love it - you can never read a Scrumptious Saturday post again - but you  have to read all the other days!

Ok, get out your pen and paper, this is a long one...

Ingredients:
Fresh broccoli (stems cut away leaving only the florets - or just a small stem)
Olive Oil (I've used Canola Oil and it tastes just as fabulous)
Salt
Garlic/Garlic Powder

Toss all ingredients together on a cookie sheet. Layout broccoli in single layer. I never measure amounts. Just put as much as you like!

Cook in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the florets are tender and begin to brown on the edges.

Remove from oven and eat.

This recipe is SO delicious even though it's so simple. I guarantee you've never had broccoli roasted like this before. You're family won't want it any other way after this. It has a nutty/sweet flavor that you just can't get from steaming. You can also try this recipe with cauliflower and brussels sprouts although I haven't tried it yet. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Family Friday






How was your Thanksgiving? Did you spend it with family? Was it peaceful and relaxing? Or was it edgy and full of irritating disfunction? We all have a little mix in our families don't we?

This year was different for us. We usually have Thanksgiving at my mom's dad's - Pappap Carl. But, he's recently started chemo for lymphoma and no one wanted to put the burden of a large dinner on him. I must admit, he looked fabulous though! That was
comforting. I love that man!

Anyhow, my Aunt Carol, my mom's oldest sister had dinner at her house. It was very nice. I missed my parents - They went to Houston to see my brother and his wife for the week. But my aunt was really sweet. She bought coloring books and crayons for the kids, set out special Thanksgiving plates for them, and made them hot chocolate with marshmallows. Why is it that when someone accepts your family, it really means so much? I was thankful for my aunt today. Dinner was fabulous. I seriously loved eating everything that was there...even the 3 pieces of pie I ate.

Well, I got caught up in helping do dishes and such and forgot to take any pictures. I guess, better late than never - I got a bunch of good ones at the end of the evening...But I'm not posting them all here - most of them are on facebook. You can see them there if you're my friend. I love taking pictures so I can remember things years from now!

Hannah was such a good girl in her cute little purple dress. What a sweetie. Matt does such a great job taking care of her. He's such an incredible daddy and a huge blessing to me.

Thanksgiving was uneventful, but probably one of the better Thanksgivings! I'm thankful for my wacky family; that my daughter will have the same happy memories I have from a kid...

And who the heck doesn't love stuffing?

I hope you were blessed with some family time yesterday. You might as well embrace it! Take some time today to reflect on the good times you've had with your family and smile to yourself knowing that we are all blessed in this uncertain life!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday


What a day to be Thankful. It's hard not to say I'm thankful for my family this year. I just love them so much. 

On Tuesday night I was putting Hannah to bed and something must have triggered her to think about her crib and how we used to put all of her many blankets on one at a time by naming them. She asked where her "other" bed was as well as the flower blanket (which was part of her crib set).

I explained to her that we put the crib away to give her this awesome big girl bed that used to be mommy's.

She asked "What's gonna happen to that bed?"

I told her that someday she was going to have a baby brother or sister who would need to use that crib. You see, right now we've been forced to put our "family planning" on hold because of the chemotherapy medicine I have to take for about another year. We've really done very well emotionally with the idea of waiting to add to our family, but I can't help but think about it sometimes. Not, in a sad way, but just day dreaming - like you do when you're a kid.

All of this going through my head, Hannah breaks into my thoughts with, "What's it gonna be? A brother or sister?" After going into my "whatever God gives us" speech, Hannah says, "I want a sister." Me too :) She asked about what we'd name the baby if it was a boy or a girl and repeated those names over and over (and even suggested Angela if it was a girl - so cute).

Hannah will do whatever it takes to stay up a little longer at bedtime. She knows when she's got my attention and will go with it. But once we talked for a while, I told her it was time for bed. She looked at me and said in that squeaky little voice, "And they all lived happily ever after." 

And it's true. I am living in my happily ever after. 

Life has its sadness, its mistakes, its flaws...that stuff that messes up your plans - like having to wait for another baby - or whatever it is you face. But God blesses us more than I can even fathom. I am so grateful for the husband and daughter he's given me. I don't deserve them or any of our family members or friends. I don't deserve anything, but I am so thankful today that God doesn't give me what I deserve, but loves me more than I'll ever know.

Find something to be thankful about today. If you look hard enough, I guarantee your list won't be contained to one sheet of paper.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wellness Wednesday

Well, it's no secret to those that know me that I'm on A TON of meds for chronic illness - Pauci-articular Junior Inflammatory Arthritis which causes uveitis and high intraocular pressure. SAY WHAT you ask? It's a mess. But, I've recently started to take supplements religiously for probably about the last 3 weeks or so. And guess what, it seems to be working!

Along with the 15mg of chemotherapy pills I take each week and a diuretic AND eye drops to keep my pressure down (which is SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than I was taking at this time last year) I have begun taking vitamins that are thought to reduce inflammation...since that's what seems to be my problem all around (joints, eyes, stomach etc).

I take:
2000mg of Fish Oil each day
2 Eye Health Vitamins 
4 Acidophilus Supplements

I've heard something called serraflazyme is also good for eye inflammation, but I can't find it anywhere!

After taking them for a while, my stomach feels much better, my eyes are very slightly better, I have more energy, those 2 extra pounds came off...AND  -  I'M MORE PLEASANT. 

Although I try to eat well, there is no way I can get all nutrients I need from food.

If you're feeling crappy, don't settle for a doctor shoving prescriptions down your throat. While I honestly believe that sometimes you NEED TO TAKE YOUR MEDICINE -doctor's aren't stupid, maybe there's some truth to the "an apple a day..." message. 

Take a look at what's ailing you and do your own research. Vitamins don't have to be expensive; they're just a pain to swallow every day! And, some of those fish oil pills are the size of my fist!! Nonetheless, I feel a difference and the benefits are far outweighing the hassle. It's worth a shot!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tips and Hints Tuesday

Today's Tips and Hints Tuesday revolves around an easy way to spruce up the oh so common brownie :)  (It should be in Scrumptious Saturdays but I've messed with my themes and it works just fine here!)

For some people it's coffee, for me, CHOCOLATE. It gets me through my day. Frightfully, while keeping a food journal recently, I realized I usually need chocolate 3 times a day!!! That's like having dessert after each MEAL!! Eek. 

Anyhow, what goes better with chocolate than PEANUT BUTTER? If you can handle the richness and sweetness that will leave you in a sugar induced coma for an unspecified amount of time, whip up this batch of peanut butter icing for your 9x13 tray of brownies, cookies, fruit, chicken---ok, no chicken :)

The other day, my husband promised to clean up after dinner AND buy and make brownies if I made made my peanut butter icing. Yes, this recipe holds THAT much weight. And, it's super easy!

FLUFFY PEANUT BUTTER ICING

beat together with an electric mixer
1/3 c. butter softened
1/2 c. peanut butter

beat in alternating sugar and milk (adjust milk to the texture you like!)
1.5 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk

You'll have extra to eat with a spoon whenever you need a jolt! YUM! My family loves this recipe! Let me know what you think if you make it!

Oh, and as a p.s. - I don't post the nutritional value of this recipe for a reason :) but the feel- good factor outweighs the health hazards! I promise!

Money Monday

Are you stressed about finances? Scared about how you're going to pay for Christmas? Well, here's some encouragement for you - that's NOT a get rich quick scheme. It's hard work - but it WILL work.

Well, anyone who knows me knows that I'm OBSESSED with Dave Ramsey - the money guy. Basically he has this program of baby steps that you follow and you get the HECK out of debt!! We've been at it for about one year and this Money Monday is just a testimony to how it works. You gotta know the plan we're following if you're gonna respect any opinions I have.

If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, take a look at daveramsey.com and find a radio station in your area on his site. You'll be hooked. You can get his books The Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace Revisited at the library. 

His baby steps are a lot of common sense, but follow them - and you'll be a happy camper, especially in this economy! No time like the present!

Before starting them, you must become current on your bills. What if you don't have enough money? Bite the bullet - get a second job, start selling stuff on ebay and craigslist, get rid of cable, internet, netflix, shut off lights, stop eating out, use coupons. Whatever. But, you've got to get mad enough to DO SOMETHING!

Then, you create a budget.

Then...

Step 1: Baby Emergency Fund $1000
Step 2: Debt Snowball - list debts from smallest to largest balance and pay all extra money to smallest balance while paying minimums on the rest. As you pay bills off add the amount you were paying to the next smallest balance and so on until you're DEBT FREEEEEE!!
Step 3: Fully Funded Emergency Fund - 3-6 months of living expenses
Step 4: 15% income into retirement
Step 5: College Savings for Kids
Step 6: Pay off the mortgage
Step 7: GIVE GIVE GIVE and build wealth!

How are we doing?? We started last June 2007 with $34,000 in school loans. That's it (but not including our house). We've never been into credit cards. As of today, almost a year and a half later, we've paid off almost $20,000! As of Friday, we'll have just about $14,000 left and my husband's last school loan will be paid off. All we'll have is mine left. THE PLAN WORKS!! You DO NOT have to make a ton of money to work the plan. Go, try it, listen to the radio show...do it...I dare you. What've you got to lose - except a bunch of debt??

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Break For Me :)

Girls night out! I'm so excited! I can't remember the last time I got to go out and scrap with the girls. I'm so looking forward to it. I always feel guilty because I really hate to leave my family, but it's nice to get a break sometimes.

I will say though, as I'm thinking about hanging out with the gal pals, that I don't like drama. And, sometimes, even when you're a big person, you can have a lot of catty drama. I'm glad my girls and I can hang out with three of us and have a good time. :) I'm so excited! Maybe I'll post some pics of what I get done!!

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