Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Thankful for the Little Big Things :)

I haven't blogged in a long while. I'm neck deep in life. But there are many things about life that are so beautiful, I don't want to forget them so I must share them with you.

Tonight, while Matt and I were working out in the game room, Hannah was playing with a childhood toy of Matt's, a fire truck. Who was driving the fire truck? Why, it was Strawberry Shortcake and Mickey Mouse of course. Happy the dwarf from Snow White was saving the cat up in the tree, but he fell down...and Strawberry missed it all because she was "going out in the nude..." HUH??!!??




Here are some other little things that have brought beauty to my life:

This is Hannah and me at Princess Camp right before the coronation and after she got her glitter. 
What a blast!


This is my little Baby Emma, 7.5 months old, 15.5lb and ever so lovely.


A scary glimpse into my future! I'm not ready for driver licenses yet!


A friends new miracle baby, Evan. What a sweet little one!


Hannah's zinnias which look better close up than far away. I love my little camera!


For some reason braids make Hannah want to do the "scuba."


Look at these Twinkies!


I think it's safe to say...I'm in love.

I thank God for my blessings.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mommy Monday

I hear so many people say, though they love being a mom, the miss the "woman" they used to be. They say they miss being a person, forget who they are, and need some "me" time.

I don't disagree with this, certainly don't think it's wrong to feel this way, and can even partially attest to needing a break to do something I like to do, HOWEVER:

I can honestly say, I never knew who I was created to be until I became a mom. This is what God made me for and, although exhausting, my girls are the greatest gifts I could have ever been given.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Random Blog

This isn't a Tips and Hints Tuesday blog. I haven't blogged in forever. I have a lot to say, but no time to write it down these days...So, here's a LONG update.

Things have been a little crazy since my grandfather passed away. It's just sad. I look at pictures and I just can't wrap my brain about it. How could he have been here 3 weeks ago and now he's just gone. Where exactly is he? I mean, I know he's in heaven, but I don't really know where that is at the moment. It's just weird.

Last night, we had a Nexus staff meeting at our house. I guess if you really want a TIP for this TUESDAY here's one: Don't buy those gas fire pits. I borrowed my parents and the propane tank caught on fire. No one was injured, but my lawn chairs were abused and the three fire trucks disrupted my quiet street. We got some laughs out of the deal, though!



Hannah is home for the summer and I was so nervous she'd be bored all day. I know it's just been a couple of days, but I just adore my girls and love having her home! She is AMAZING with Emma! Sometimes I'm afraid I put too much on her, but I have been able to get so much done because Hannah entertains her, gives her a paci, puts the boppy around her so she doesn't fall over, and wipes her spit up with a burp cloth. She is just one swell kid!

Today we hung out in the morning, went to lunch with my mom and then headed to the park for an hour and a half. It was so nice! Then after coming home and putting Emma to bed, Hannah and I played the piano and sang together. So fun! I'm really enjoying teaching her how to play and sing with harmony. I don't care if I sound like I dork; if you could have seen that sweet face singing "You Lifted Me Out" with her eyes closed and her hands clasped together, you would have melted right a long with me.

Hopefull I'll be back soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spiritual Sunday

I'm just plain sad. 


For a couple weeks now, we've been watching my amazing grandfather prepare for his next adventure. Sometimes leaving for a trip with a one way ticket is hard - even if you're traveling to paradise. 


We are at the point now where we feel just a bit guilty for wanting him to be at rest. But we shouldn't feel guilty. It is a very unselfish thing to be willing to sacrifice our relationship with a beautiful man so that he can live in peace, in eternity, in wholeness. 


The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 5:4-8 (New International Version)

4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:4-8 (New Living Translation)

4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.


I included both translations because I can't decide which I like better. It's not that we WANT to die, but we WANT our new bodies. Sums it up just about perfectly doesn't it? 


Right now I feel like we especially "groan and sigh" watching such an amazing man suffer. Our hope is for him as he leaves us on his new journey. I will miss him. My heart aches. I love him. I'm going to miss him.


I'm so grateful for God's promises. Life is short. I will see him again soon. My prayer for today is that God will give my grandpap Carl peace and comfort during these last days and hours. Will you pray that with me tonight?


Pappap and Hannah Dec. 2005



Happy 80th Birthday! 2008


Christmas 2006 Hugs from Great Grandpap


Christmas 2009


Pappap with Baby Emma


Thank you God for the privilege of knowing such a beautiful man.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NEW RECIPE! Broccoli Chicken Muffins

It can be difficult to make bread for hot pockets all the time, so I adapted a recipe I found from food.com and it was a success!! These are less than 150 calories per muffin...and they're very yummy - great for freezing and throwing into your lunch box to thaw the night before. The recipe makes 18 largish muffins.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup buttermilk (or regular milk mixed with 1 1/3 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 cup finely chopped cooked broccoli
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.

2. Combine first six ingredient in bowl.

3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil and butter. Add chicken, broccoli and cheese.

4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix until moistened. Batter will be thick. Scoop into muffin tin

5. Bake 15 minutes.

Feel free to add extra seasonings such as garlic or onion powder, rosemary, chili powder etc. I'm using these in Hannah's lunches, so I chose to leave them pretty simple.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Money Monday - Some freebies and savings

I'm a sucker for a free sample. Emma is 3 months old and gets one bottle of formula a day. I'm STILL using up free samples!! If you're willing to punch in your address info and create an email address for junk mail ('cause they all ask you for one) then go to town on these sites. I get free granola bars, formula, shampoo, coffee (even though I don't drink it,) lotions, vitamins, bibs - you name it. I NEVER complete a free sample form where I have to select offers or pay money for something else. I have to filter through things sometimes, but the sites I give you are all totally free.

Here are sites I frequent if I have time:



Cheap Stingy Bargains This site is new to me, but it has a freebies tab that has some cool stuff!

Coupon Mom - This site has great printable coupons! I use it often.

Current Codes - I haven't used this site as I don't do much online shopping, but Parents Magazine suggests it has discount codes for 2000+  online stores including kid-friendly ones like Babies R Us and Gymboree. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

I think New Year's Resolutions are stupid. I never make them - but every once in a while, I get a burst of motivation to get my house organized or to lose weight.

When a friend suggested some accountability regarding eating, exercising, and drinking water, I was leery. I mean, I like pizza - and SUGAR! But once I got started and saw that scale drop a pound - I became motivated to shed these last few pregnancy pounds. I want to buy some new clothes (I have a gift card), but I refuse to do so until I get the rest of my weight off.

Now that I'm accountable to someone and have to send her a list of the things that I ate for the day - I'm much less likely to pound a bag of mini Cadbury eggs...but I'm still going to eat some after dinner! I can't deny myself or I'll binge completely.

I'm also trying to get back into drinking more water and exercising most days. I've gotten kinda lazy with both.

To keep track of my calories, water intake, and exercising, I've jumped on the "My Fitness Pal" bandwagon. I can see it annoying me by being too time consuming at some point, but right now, it's really helping me know how much (or how little) I need to eat to lose a pound a week. I hope to reach my goal weight by the end of the month. If you want to check it out - it's really quite easy to navigate. They even have a free iPhone app for it. Because I have never kept track of my calories, I find it quite interesting at the end of the day to see how many I've consumed. I'm realizing that condiments can ruin a meal calorically speaking!

Anyhow, I have 2.5lb to lose to get back to my pre pregnancy weight and 2 more pounds to get to where I'll be comfortable. It seems like such a little bit of weight to lose - but I'll remind you, I'm only 5 feet tall! 5 pounds is a lot on me!

So anyway - that's where my wellness is going right now. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Storing Towels

Alright - after I posted my tip on storing sheets in their pillow cases, my friend Michele asked me if I had any tips on towels.

I don't know if I have anything ingenious to report - but I was inspired to clean out my linen closet!

I was talking to another friend who agrees that there is only one way to fold towels.

1. Fold them in half from short end to short end.
2. Fold them in half again.
3. Then fold in thirds.

This ensures that you can store the most towels in the smallest area.

It's nice if you are able to store them so the smooth side is showing, but my closet is narrow, so in order to fit two columns of towels, you have to see the not-smooth side - which annoys me.

So here's my before and after...

Here is my messy bathroom closet.


Yes, that is a caulking gun next to toilet bowl cleaner, next to mouth wash...


Here's the finished product. My towels are old - and I bleach them all (colored or not.) I'm in the process of replenishing with new WHITE ones, but it'll take a while. You can clearly see where the new white ones are. Haha. It's obvious from the photo, that my recommended way to fold towels allows me to neatly store many of them. The bottom shelf holds bath toys mostly. The top shelf holds cleaning products. It's not perfect but, it will do.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Money Monday - Coming Back Around...

It is time...

I've been in a spending habit. I'm not a spender. I'm cheap. Very cheap...like, wear the same clothes I've been wearing since high school cheap. Like, probably spend more in gas than I save by going to 10 different stores for sales cheap...

Just lately -  shopping is...well, fun. We did the whole bedroom remodel thing. It's not like we spent a bundle. We did the entire room - linens, curtains, wall hangings, lamps, and furniture for a low price - and I don't regret it. But - we need to get back to a stricter budget. I just feel better when we're saving a little more.

When we became debt free (except for the house) we stopped doing something that was one of the main strategies used for our success.

PAYING OURSELVES FIRST....well second. We pay God first, but you get the point.

When we were getting out of debt - I would, on the day we got paid, put a huge chunk of money onto our school loans. That way - I couldn't say later in the month that we didn't have the money.

Now that we're trying to save for ourselves, I find excuses - "because I DESERVE it!" I think it's time to change that attitude - though I don't want to. I need to start depositing our money into savings on the day we get paid - no excuses. That will keep us from taking that money later when we want to go out to dinner or buy something for the house when we've already used up the money budgeted for it.

If you want to make a change, make a change. Don't they say, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?" I think it has to get a little uncomfortable.

We have an emergency fund that is just about complete, two cars and a new roof to save for.

So, while I'm totally in love with my new bedroom...


...and getting haircuts...


...and new clothes...

It's time to get serious again.

It was fun while it lasted. :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday - Light 'n Hearty Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Matt's Aunt Dee made this for us when we had Emma and it was AWESOME!

1 can reduced fat/reduced sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can reduced fat/reduced sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup of fat free milk, divided
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning
2pkg 16oz each frozen mixed vegetables thawed (broccoli/cauliflower/carrots)
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 1/2 cups reduced fat biscuit/baking mix (or a can of refrigerated low fat biscuits)

In a large bowl, combine the soups, 1/2 cup milk, thyme, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Stir in vegetables and chicken.

Transfer to a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

 In a small bowl - stir biscuit mix and remaining milk just until blended. Drop by 12 rounded tablespoonfuls onto chicken mixture (or place refrigerated biscuits on top.)

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and biscuits are golden.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday - Chocolate Oat Squares

These are delicious! I got the recipe from Taste of Home October/November 2000 issue.

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter - softened/divided
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp vanilla extract divided
3 cups quick cooking oats
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt divided
1 tsp baking soda
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, cream 1 cup butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and 2 tsp vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, 1 tsp salt and baking soda. Stir into creamed mixture. Press two-thirds of oat mixture into a greased 15x10x1in baking pan. In a saucepan, combine milk, chocolate chips, and remaining butter and salt. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. remove from the heat. Stir in walnuts and remaining vanilla. Spread over the crust. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Cut into squares.

Yield: 4 dozen

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Friday

Well, Matt's off today and I'm on day 5 of this silly cold. To be honest - I feel worse today than I have all week. I'm cranky, my house is a mess, and I'm wondering if all of my efforts to keep Emma from getting sick are going to work. So far it has.

I think Matt and I will go out to breakfast after Hannah goes to school and try to get this house back together. I decided to scrapbook instead of clean yesterday - and I'm paying for it today!

Anyhow - I have to say - I love watching my girls together. Emma is starting to become responsive to all of us - especially her big sister. She'll follow Hannah around the room with her eyes and coo and talk back to her. She'll even yell to get her attention. I just adore the two of them and nothing makes this mama happier than to see them loving each other - now I get that whole thing! The photo above totally captures their relationship. Hannah is such a little mommy to Emma - she cleans up spit up, reads her books and pulls her hands away gently when Emma tries to scratch her face. So sweet!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not-So-Well Wednesday

I'm not well today...on day three of cold and cranky. 

Sorry for the lack of insightfulness. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Making Your Own Bread with BAGEL RECIPE!

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I like to make my own bread, hamburger buns, and now... BAGELS!

Why though? It does take a long time to do (as I don't have - or want - a bread maker), it's cheaper (but not that much), and it takes a little practice to get down.

Well, for our family it's a better choice because:

1. IT TASTES BETTER! There's nothing like homemade bread from the oven!

2. NO PRESERVATIVES! This is a biggie for us. All three of us have stomach issues after eating processed breads and macaroni. Not so with homemade bread. Also - if you've ever had a loaf of bread that was still soft after a month of sitting on the counter - you know they're putting SOMETHING that just isn't right in it to make it last. A homemade loaf of bread starts to go stale in a couple of days and is done by a week. I don't know what they do to that bread to make it last so long, but I don't want it in my body!

3. IT FILLS YOU UP FASTER! Not quite sure why, maybe it's denser, but you're satisfied after eating it!

4. You can do whatever you want with it! Italian bread, pizza crust, hot pockets, honey oat, rolls, bagels, buns....be as creative as you want! I actually ENJOY kneading the dough!

Here's the bagel recipe I've been asked for. I was surprised at how easy and tasty they were!! I added some crushed rosemary and olive oil to mine.

TWO TIPS FOR THIS RECIPE:

1. Use hotter water than lukewarm when mixing your yeast.
2. 1/2 ounce = 1 tablespoon.

ENJOY!

TIP:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Money Monday - Refinancing, is it worth it?

I saw something cool in my Parents Magazine that gave guidelines when you're thinking about refinancing your mortgage. Interest rates are at 50 year lows and it can be difficult to know whether or not it's worth it to refinance. Sometimes, with closing costs (averaging $2654) and fees, it's better just to stay put. I've heard that, as a rule of thumb, you should stay where you are unless the interest rate is more than a full 1% below what you're already paying.

Two websites that will help you calculate whether or not it's worth the hassle?

bankrate.com

hsh.com

Also keep in mind:

REFINANCE IF:

• Interest rates are at least one full percentage point lower than what you already pay.

• Your current loan has a variable interest rate. Rates are only going up from here!

SIT TIGHT IF:

• The value of your home has gone down significantly since the economic crisis and you are unsure if you're qualify for a new mortgage.

• You plan to move in the next few years.

I must say, I was shocked to get a 4.25% interest rate when we purchased our current house last summer that. Our previous house was 5.1% and I really didn't think people got much lower than that. If you're financially prepared - now is the time to buy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday - Best Candy Ever

This past Christmas, a student named Ashley brought me some of the yummiest candy I've ever eaten...and I'm a candy snob! I had to get the recipe.

While I made one of these recipes already - I'm awful at dipping things in chocolate. Please tell me what the trick is!!! I get chocolate everywhere and the Bon Bons were falling apart! Help!

Anyway - here are the recipes that are SURE to please! They're GREAT for Valentine's day and don't have too many ingredients!

Thanks Ashley (and Ashley's mom!)

Graham and Peanut Butter Bon Bon

1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cup crisped rice cereal
12 oz. chocolate

(Ashley's mom uses Trader Joe's "Pound Plus Dark Chocolate" which tasted better than the semisweet chocolate that I used)

Set chocolate aside. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate for one hour.

Melt chocolate.

Form Crumb Mixture into balls and dip in melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper.

Let cool and set up.

Makes 44-48 bon bons...Ok, I got maybe HALF of this - which is probably why I had such a hard time. I made them huge!! None the less - they were DELISH! Make them...TODAY

Chocolate Fudge - Peanut Butter Balls

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup undiluted evaporated milk (or half and half)
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped peanuts

Melt chips with evaporated milk in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk in peanut butter until blended. Refrigerate until mixture is firm enough to shape into balls but still soft, about 30 minutes.

Spread peanuts on waxed paper. Shape scant tablespoons of peanut butter mixture into 1 inch balls. Roll in peanuts. Store in refrigerator.

Candied Walnuts

2 1/2 cups walnut halves or pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Place walnuts in a shallow pan. Heat in 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Cook sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt to a soft ball stage (236 degrees with a candy thermometer) without stirring. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir gently until the nuts are well coated and the mixture becomes creamy. Turn out on a greased platter. Separate walnut pieces as they cool.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Family Friday - Planning Conversation

Do you have any Valentine's Day plans this weekend? We don't really have anything going on as a couple. Matt and Hannah are going to a "Daddy Daughter Ball" tomorrow and I think that's just adorable.

Having a new baby and an older baby has definitely made it more difficult for Matt and I to have time together. We have to consciously make an effort now to be affectionate and have good conversation. I'm surprised that one little 10 pound baby can do that!

We're totally loving our family. I couldn't feel happier or more blessed, but let's face it folks - whether we mean it to or not, our marriage often takes a back burner to the kiddos. I am a firm believer that a happy marriage produces happy children. Therefore, you can't feel guilty about focusing more on your husband or wife.

That said - how many times - when we do get a minute alone with our spouse, do we talk about the kids the entire time? We do - and we love it. We enjoy our children; watching them grow, spending time with them, talking about the cute things they do, planning activities and discussing discipline strategies. But, I don't want "us" to get lost in that.

I saw this silly article in a Parents magazine (Feb. 2011 issue) titled "Date Night - A Cheat Sheet." It's basically a list of conversation starters when you and your love have time together.

It gives a disclaimer at the beginning (which you're all gonna think when you read this anyway) that it's kind of sad to need talking pointers when you're out with your spouse - but it's fun. Hopefully one of the questions spurs on a delightful conversation preventing you from finishing the list.

Enjoy!

PS: I'm not advocating drinking (unless it's pop) :), I just copied this out of the magazine.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - An Expensive Way to Beat Winter Blues

Last December 2010 - Pittsburgh

Last December 2010 - Disney World




I hate Winter. Why do I live in Pittsburgh??

Every year, around this time, I start getting a little down, claustrophobic, anxious....I feel like that gray sky is closing in on me!

Last weekend we were walking around Monroeville Mall and stopped in Brookstone. They have this really cool light. 


It's a "white" light that gradually increases in intensity based on when you set it for in the morning to help make it feel like the sun is coming up in your bedroom - thus making it easier to wake. I want one. I don't get up to an alarm anyway, but it still would be nice to have. But, at $100, it's a luxury!

What are some other...ahem...less expensive ways to boost your spirits?

Here's what works for me:

Spending time with friends - I have some pretty funny friends who make me laugh...a lot. Even chatting on the phone while doing mundane chores can help. 

EXERCISE - this is huge. I always feel better when I get in a little cardio. Even 20 minutes will help. Go out an shovel your driveway. Then you can get your exercise in while getting that annoying task accomplished. 

If it warms up to a remotely reasonable temperature and the sun is out - get outside! (This will save you the $100 cost of buying a lamp, ha ha)

Change things up - Have a picnic in front of a movie at dinner (we always sit at the table together,) have a dance party with the little ones, read a good book, play a game together, rearrange some furniture, search summer vacation spots on the internet...

Warmer days are ahead. A certain 5 year old groundhog fan told me so.


Hang in there and be useful during these yucky days. It won't be long before the blazing sun will have you pining for some cooler weather...but I'm not there yet!!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Storing Sheets


I've mentioned this tip before. I hate folding sheets. It really is a pain. Who in the world invented fitted sheets anyway? There's this famous "Martha's Stewart's way to fold fitted sheets" garbage that is stupid. I'm 5 feet tall and it is impossible to fold a deep pocketed queen size fitted sheet well.

So, I've resigned to doing my best to make it "look" like it's folded, when in reality, it's in a ball with a smoothed out top. So there.

But, that's not what this post is about. I can't give you a tip on folding sheets when I stink at it.

I do, however, have a tip on STORING sheets. After you wash your sheets fold them all except for one pillow case. Stack everything else and place the folded sheets inside the leftover pillow case and store in your linen closet.

It makes it SO EASY when you are going to change your sheets. You just grab the stack and go. No more - looking for that blasted fitted sheet or pillow case anymore.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spiritual Sunday - Feeling the whole world's against you?

If you feel like the whole world's against you, and you just can't do anything right, you're not alone! King David felt this way too, and he cried out to God who rescued him. That was so many years ago, thousands of years ago - and we can still call on the same God in the same way.


Psalm 3 (New Living Translation)


Psalm 3

A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.
 1 O Lord, I have so many enemies;
      so many are against me.
 2 So many are saying,
      “God will never rescue him!”
                         Interlude
 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
      you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
 4 I cried out to the Lord,
      and he answered me from his holy mountain.
                         Interlude
 5 I lay down and slept,
      yet I woke up in safety,
      for the Lord was watching over me.
 6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
      who surround me on every side.
 7 Arise, O Lord!
      Rescue me, my God!
   Slap all my enemies in the face!
      Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
 8 Victory comes from you, O Lord.
      May you bless your people.
                         Interlude

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Still Reeling


Pastor Donnie and me with the logos of the student ministry.

Me with Hannah and Matt


I have you all fooled....I'm not as great as some of you say I am, and certainly utterly undeserving of the celebration that I was surprised with last night. 

January 12 marked my 10 year anniversary on staff at Riverside Community Church. It's crazy how fast time goes. I'm thankful for the leadership that led me before I helped to lead.

I'm thankful for the beautiful and wonderful friends, family, students, those who gladly serve with me and for the effort that was put into making me feel special last night - for the cards, video, kinds words, and facebook-takeover. I will never forget the love I was shown. It will surely keep me going for another 10 years...maybe :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Shut it off!




A couple of facts for you:

Did you know that two thirds of American adults are overweight or obese?

Did you know that school aged kids spend an average of 7.5 HOURS A DAY in front of a screen?

Even BABIES log an average of 2 hours of screen time per day (even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for kids under 2.)

I have found that I can slip into these stats myself once I really start counting how many hours of screen time my five year old gets.

I can't help but feel that the facts listed above are connected. As a nation, we're fat and lazy. Kids hardly have imaginations anymore. I'm all for keeping them updated with technology, but we need to shut the televisions, computers, and gaming systems OFF sometimes.

Kids need to get off the couch and run around and play, create imaginary worlds, and build with blocks. They need to exercise their bodies, minds and motor skills without the aid of a screen to entertain them. By not allowing kids quiet time, studies show that the consequences are obesity, difficulty paying attention, difficulty making friends, lack of imagination, lower grades in school. and more aggression.

Furthermore, the quality of the television our kids watch disgusts me at times. I'll just say it (even though it's no secret to my friends who know me and love me anyway), I can't stand shows like Sponge Bob, Hannah Montana, and iCarly. They lack all educational value and throw stuff at our young kids that they don't need to be focused on, like dating, panty raids, and push up bras...all of which I've seen myself when watching.

Studies also show that kids who watched small amounts of EDUCATIONAL television were better readers and students in general. They also got higher grades as teenagers than those who watched television shows geared toward entertainment.

Ok, I'm on my soap box here...forgive me. We all raise our kids differently - I realize that. I allow my Kindergartner to watch PBS and the occasional Phineas and Ferb...maybe even Sponge Bob in a rare and weak moment. I don't want to shelter my kids so that they hate me and run off to do all the things that were forbidden as soon as they are smart enough to sneak around. That's why I try to compromise here and there. But, we've been shutting off the television more, talking about why we don't watch/listen to certain shows and music, and trying to focus on creative play.

The result? A much quieter and peaceful house.

My recommendation for the health of your family? Enjoy screen time. It's no secret I'm obsessed with my computer! But, put it away for a little while today. Try to cut back on the screen time while increasing your communication with your family. Really, nothing bad can come of it right?

Below is Hannah at around 10 months old! GUILTY! But at least it's educational!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tips And Hints Tuesday - The Witching Hour

Oh, if you have kids, you know what I'm talking about when I say "the witching hour." I refer to it as that time between after school and when your spouse comes home (or bed time.) It's that time when everyone is tired and cranky and hungry. Homework needs done, dinner needs made, kids need bathed and loved on and you're TIRED!

Last night was a prime example of this. My phone was ringing, Hannah was in the tub, dinner was on the stove, Emma's crying and my smoke alarms are blaring. Emma finally calmed down as Hannah ran in the room yelling something. Emma was startled and started screaming again. Hannah, who felt terrible that she made her sister cry, starts bawling too...and there go the smoke alarms again!

I had to stop, take a deep breath and calmly ask Hannah to move out of the way (after giving her hugs and telling her Emma was just cranky) as I grabbed a kitchen chair to one-handedly yank the stupid batteries out of the smoke detector.

Does this ever happen to you? Sometimes, when Matt comes home, I just want to hand both kids to him as soon as he walks in the door and go lay down in my bed and watch Food Network while someone else changes that leaking poopy diaper.

Planning ahead is huge in helping with this area. Sometimes, I'll do all my dinner prepping before I pick up Hannah (chopping, mixing, measuring.) That way, I can focus more on the kids and less on dinner and other things that need done.

This means deciding earlier in the day what you'll eat for dinner and taking meat out of the freezer to thaw. Once you do this, your afternoon will go so much more smoothly. I do my best to have a calm house for Matt when he comes home, and preparing ahead of time helps with that. It doesn't mean that our house is always like Donna Reed's (remember that show??) but it is so much more mellow.

So, what's for dinner tonight? Go ahead and get it started now. Toss it in the crock pot, or simply get your meat out of the freezer, your dishwasher ready to load and your recipe on the counter. You'll thank me later!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Money Monday - Hodge Podge•Home Repair/Updates/Etc

We have so many odds and ends that need done around the house (landscaping, attic floor, new light fixtures, refinishing hardwoods). It can be overwhelming financially. I also want to buy bedroom furniture, an entryway bench with storage, and wall art for the entire house....and all new bathroom towels!

So, in order to get this stuff done, we budget a certain amount per month towards home repair/updating. It has really helped me not to feel guilty spending money on that stuff.

Another thing that helps when budgeting for home repairs is - KNOWING WHEN TO CALL A PROFESSIONAL.

On Christmas Eve, I turned on our bathroom light and blue fireworks shot out at me! This was one of those cases that you shell out a few extra bucks for someone who is not going to burn your house (or themselves) down. Luckily, we had a very good electrician who only charged us $30 to fix the issue.


But, when you can do something yourself for cheaper, by all means! Matt just caulked our shower and I'm obsessed with how fresh and clean it looks. Although - please make sure if you do this job, you're safer than my husband.



 But I do think he's pretty cute.



UPDATE ON US:

Our savings goals for the year?

Our fully funded emergency fund should be complete next month and then we'll move on to saving for a car. Hopefully we'll get a decent new-to-us car by the end of the year!

Lastly, for my entertainment - here's the entryway bench I want....
Product Image Entryway Bench with 3 Baskets/Cushions - Black

What are your financial goals for the year?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Family Friday with a bit of Thankful Thursday added...

Remember the storm of last February! I guess I shouldn't complain about this!
It's the weekend, we're snowed in and Hannah's off school! I love snow days...however - I miss my Matty!

Matt was away all last weekend at Winter Retreat - then, Wednesday morning, he came home from work around 9:30am with a stomach virus. I promptly packed up the girls and myself and moved into my parents house - determined to stay healthy!

I do feel guilty and everything, abandoning the sweet love of my life when he feels so yucky and needs to be taken care of....but not guilty enough to put the girls at risk (and he feels the same way). I did make sure to leave him with a comfy space with crackers, gingerale, popcicles etc...so I'm not completely heartless.

So, we've had a fun couple of days having slumber parties with grandma and pappap, shopping, eating out, and making rice krispies treats...but I miss my Matty!! It looks like it might be a while before we see him too. Looking out the window, the roads seem impassable.

I'm so thankful we have a place to go when my neurotic, germ-a-phobe tendency over powers rational thought. It's such a weird feeling to be a grown up mom and a daughter to my parents at the same time. Parenting and being parented at the same time. I'm sure my parents are ready to have their privacy and mellow house back - but it was fun to switch things up for a bit! I do love my family!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - The Truth About Chicken

I'm a cheap-o when it comes to groceries. I buy healthy food, but I don't like to spend a lot of money. Recently, I've come to the conclusion that I'm sick of "gross" meat. You know - the chicken that's always on sale at the grocery store is untrimmed and full of those nasty red veins...and why are chicken breasts so enormous now? I can feed my family for 2 dinners on two of those things! So, I've resolved to start buying, grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free meat. I'm not going to snub my nose at the other stuff all the time, I just want to make a switch.


Anyhow, I've been reading a book my sister got me for Christmas called Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100 by Dr. Maoshing NiAfter making my decision about the meat thing, I read this:

"Commercial feed for animals is full of growth-stimulating hormones, [hence the huge chicken breasts] coloring agents, pesticides, and drugs. And that's not all - of the 140,000 tons [that says TONS] of poultry condemned annually as unfit to eat, mainly due to cancer, a considerable amount is processed into animal feed! More than 40% [40%?!?!?!] of the antibiotics produced in the United States is used as animal-feed additives. The ecological result, after we urinate and defecate the antibiotics, is the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains that can sicken or kill us."
Wow, I'm not a super-organic-health-nut type of person, but this freaks me out. Reconsider your meat...or SOME of your meat. A lot of times, meat doesn't have to be certified organic to be better for you. Look for the amish chicken if you have it in your area. It's usually hormone in antibiotic free, they just don't go through the expensive financial process of being labeled organic. 

And so, I leave you with pictures of my cute little Turkey from this past Thanksgiving.



Wellness Wednesday - Be Nice To Yourself


See these two sweet little girls? I happen to love them with every fiber of my being.

Having a 7 week old baby and a Kindergartner can be challenging. Maybe I'm a wuss or something, because I've found that, while I'm totally loving my life, I become very frustrated that I can't do "things" at the same capacity I used to do them. I can't clean as much as fast. I can't do as much in one day. I don't love the way I look anymore...not that I did before - but you know what I mean.

When I go out, I have to do so much planning. Sometimes it's just easier to stay at home. I have to nurse my baby in the car and plan outings around her schedule. And someone is always sick around here!

That said, when things change your plans, or you beat yourself up because you can't squeeze it all in, in a day, take a deep breath, take your time, and do what you CAN get done happily. The rest will wait until tomorrow.

I've learned to give myself a break. When I'm nursing in my tiny car, I look at it as a built in time to relax. If there are dishes in the sink - yes, that drives me crazy, but it's okay. Emma is only a baby once, and I could just sit and gaze at her ALL DAY. I love caring for her and Hannah.

So, from now on, I'm putting the following on my to do list...then I'll feel accomplished:

1. Play with kids
2. Change 400 poopy diapers
3. Change 200 outfits as a result of blowouts from aforementioned poopy diapers.
4. Feed Baby
5. Feed Baby
6. Feed Baby
7. Feed Baby
8. Feed Baby
8. Feed Baby
9. Feed Baby
10. Feed Baby
11. Find something for family to eat - even if it is Hostess donuts :) No wait, those are mine.

So today, take a deep breath, do something for YOU today and cut yourself some slack. You'll be in a much better frame of mind to do what needs done!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tips And Hints Tuesday - Hot Spots

Do you have a place in your house that's a dumping ground?

A table?

Desk?

Hall Closet?

Junk drawers?

We all have those places where we toss stuff - never to be seen again. Maybe you have multiple "hot spots" that need your attention.

You can eliminate these spots if everything has a specific place. If it doesn't have a place - get rid of it!

This is an overwhelming task to start. So, I'm going to help you!

First, pick one of your hot spots - let's say a junk drawer.

Remove EVERYTHING from the drawer.

Categorize like items - and try to find a specific place for them (even get a container or drawer organizer for those specific items.

Throw/Give away what you don't need (old candles, dead batteries, and that charger to the cell phone you had six years ago.)

Put away items that have another home!

Return items that belong in that place TO that place neatly.

Promise to keep it neat.

Repeat with other hot spots.

To show that I'd participate with you and follow my own advice, I chose to clean out one of my hall closets. This took about an hour with two sick little girls - one of them a crying baby! So, I believe it would have taken 30 minutes if I was "hands free!" Since we have a walk-in closet inside our garage door, that's where we keep most of our coats and winter gear along with toys. The upstairs closet usually holds lighter jackets and summer shoes. Here are my before and after photos.

Below: THE MESS. On the top shelf is a bunch of JUNK that gets tossed up there when we are lazy. There's a handheld vacuum, a Happy Birthday sign, a basket with our old video camera and tapes, a laundry bag, mesh shelves and a bunch of snow gear.

Hanging on the coat rack is a hanger with a bunch of reusable bags. How messy looking and what a waste of space!

On the bottom right our make-shift shoe rack is housing a stack of puzzles and there's a bag of books on the floor.


Here's the finished product. I actually hung up the the mesh shelves. Vertical storage is a great way to use space! Notice that most of the top shelf is empty and there is still space on the shelves. Try to leave yourself room to grow! I folded the reusable bags neatly, and put them in the largest bag and placed it on the bottom shelf. 

Odds and ends are in the white basket (rechargeable batteries, external speakers etc.)


We bought those Command hooks so that Hannah has a place to hang her coat and book bag after school. Remember, if everything has a place, there is no clutter.

I took the vacuum out of the closet and will store it in the laundry room for now. Once I clean out the basement closet, it'll probably fit in there. Take note that we're using repurposing an old, cheap TV stand as a shoe rack in this closet. I don't want our dirty shoes on the carpet. (That's a pet peeve of mine in general.)

So, let's hear about your progress. Take pictures. It makes you feel so accomplished!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Money Monday - FREE STUFF

I got these ideas from my Real Simple magazine.

For those of you who have Kindles or iPhones/iPad's with book downloading capabilities, you can download HUNDREDS of free E-Books like Jane Eyre and Little Women at the Gutenburg Project (gutenberg.com.) You can get a free e-book reader ap like iBooks or Stanza at iTunes.com.

Getting married? If you create your registry at JCPenny, you can receive a free engagement portrait session at their studio. Just make sure you ask for a manager to do the pictures. I worked at SEARS Portrait studio in high school and know that they'll let any Joe-Shmoe run those cameras!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spiritual Sunday

Well, I'm feeling a little out of the loop this morning.

Matt's been at Winter Retreat with 75 of my favorite teenagers all weekend, and I stayed home with my babies. I'm not resentful in the least - I enjoy being with my babies, but I do miss being there. I've only missed one Winter Retreat in the last 12 years and that was 9 years ago when my grandmother passed away. I love seeing pictures of our kids worshipping. That's such an inspiration, encouragement, and example to all of us - old and young alike.

I was going to venture out to take the kids to church this morning and to my sister's concert at IUP, but both girls have colds - so we'll be just hanging around the house today. Emma was up all night feeling yucky.

So what do you do spiritually when it seems as though the things that should recharge you are out of reach?

I believe you should rejoice.

Psalm 35:9 Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because he rescues me.

Psalm 97:12 May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name.

Phil. 3:1 Whatever happens dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

And rejoice I will because whether I'm in church or not, I can worship God for his love, salvation, and blessings on my life - and there are many. So I sit here today thankful and at peace.

Rejoice today!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Money Monday - Are you paying attention?

I'm always amazed when people tell me the don't balance their checkbooks or keep a transaction register. There is no way to tell what is in your account by looking online...NO WAY.

Anyhow, today I want to illustrate why I feel so strongly about knowing what kind of money is in your account.

I really don't like paying one-time bills online. I feel like I always have to deal with some error or mistake. However, I decided to pay some hospital bills ($368 worth, to be exact) online so that they would show on the 2010 tax year. I made my payment December 28.

Move ahead to last Tuesday. I'm balancing my checkbook and paying bills. After I reconciled, I went online to make sure I didn't miss anything (since we save our receipts - and sometimes those can turn up missing.) At the top of the statement I see a few transactions "in process." The hospital was taking out my $368 PLUS ANOTHER $730 that I did not have a bill for NOR did I authorize. $730!!!!!! I was freaking out! I called the hospital and they said they had no record of it and the bank said they couldn't stop payment. I HAD NO HELP.

I dragged my un-showered, still in pjs, baby-puke-covered self to the bank to file a dispute and transfer money over. Matt called the hospital billing department after my 6 calls landed me no success. He can be a lot more forceful than I am with this stuff. He got nowhere either.

We decided that, once we called, the hospital realized their error and the people there were scrambling to fix it.

And, three days later, we were right. The money was put back in the account and a representative from the hospital sheepishly called to tell us about the mistake but said ONE MILLION times that they put the money back the same day.

I was too nice to her. After making us feel like we didn't know what we were talking about, I guess her calling to say they made a mistake was good enough though. I didn't receive an apology (for the record.)

That said, if I hadn't paid attention to my bank account, that money would have come out, and who knows if something might have bounced.

It's so important to stay on top of your money because companies like this make mistakes all the time. I don't know about you, but I don't have the money to waste on the incompetence of a company who is already taking my money.

So today, go balance your checkbook!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Spiritual Sunday - Wisdom Trumps Age

Working with students, I often become frustrated when adults tell them to "wait until you get into the real world." As far as I'm concerned, today's teenager is more a part of the "REAL" world than any adult who goes to work and comes home every day. Teenagers make decisions that will affect the direction of the ENTIRE rest of their lives. If they can seek God's counsel and stay the course, they are truly heroes, guided by God himself and we owe them some credit.

I'm finishing up the book of Job and came across a verse that illustrates this well. Some of us old crotchety adults need to be reminded of this, the next time we think our age and experience trump youth.

Job 32: 8
But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday - Perfect Baked Fries

I have tried SO HARD to get home made baked fries to taste good. I don't need them to tasted exactly like the deep fried version, I just want them to be crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and flavorful.

I think I may have finally got it.

First, at the direction of my sister-in-law Doreen, I soak the peeled, cut potatoes in water for 30 minutes to an hour. I'm not quite sure what this does, but I'm going to assume that it removes some of the starch from the potatoes allowing them to brown.

Drain the water and pat the potatoes down with a clean, dry dish towel.

Then, here's the recipe I follow for 4 large-ish potatoes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl combine:

2tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tps paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder

Add potatoes and toss to coat.

Drizzle with 2 tbsp oil, tossing again.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on 2 baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray and bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

After MANY tries, this one worked for me.

Yum.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Family Friday - Lighten Up

Okay, it's no secret that I'm a little tightly-wound. (Go ahead, have a little chuckle and nod your head.)

But, I try to at least be aware of who and HOW I am, and lighten up every now and then. On New Years Day this year, we were all pretty miserable. Matt had the nasty cold we all passed around, the baby was STILL feeling fussy from it, and I was exhausted...and Hannah wanted to play.

For Christmas, she received a Fancy Nancy book about a spa day, "ooh la la!" Fancy Nancy creates a nice little pampering session for her mother and tells little girls exactly how to do it for THEIR mothers. She even, so thoughtfully, includes a recipe for a honey banana face mask.

  video

Enter Hannah, so excited to do such a "nice" thing for her mommy. I wish I had pictures. I had just gotten out of the bath tub and she had transformed her room. There were pillows and towels all over the floor, the "Cartoon Song" was on repeat to create a "relaxing" atmosphere. She made me put a towel on my head, put that goopey face mask on me, gave me a massage, painted my fingers and toes (in a rainbow fashion,) and she even made a "foot bath" with a container full of her gems as massage beads. HOW CUTE IS THAT??

I really had to get into the frame of mind to let her put that mask on my face (and I even gagged a little), but she was so excited to do it. She kept referring back to her book for instructions. We had such a fun time!

As I said, I'm usually pretty high strung and I've created a high strung daughter. I think it's important, however you are, to relax a little and have a good time. Make a little mess, get a little dirty. She'll remember this for a long time. Are my toes painted like rainbows? Yep, and she did a great job "staying in the lines." It's a reminder to me of a fun time we had together, and how much I love my Hannah.

So, today, lighten up. Get a little messy. And create some memories.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful for the basics: my beautiful family and our health. I'm feeling so blessed and grateful to God for taking care of my family and me as he has and pray that he continues to do so. I'm so enjoying being the mother to two sweet little girls. Every day I enjoy watching them grow and  learn new things.

I'm grateful for a husband who is more hands-on than any other man I know. He does such a fantastic job of taking care of all of us. He doesn't even complain when he's sick. He plays girly-games with Hannah, changes poopy diapers, and will get up in the middle of the night if I ever need help. He doesn't complain about what's for dinner, or if the house isn't clean, and actually listens to my incessant ramblings and musings about my day.

How could I not be bursting with thankfulness?

What makes you thankful today?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Money Money - Tax Time

When it comes to filing your taxes, are you one of those people who utilizes the late hours of the postal service on April 15?

Surprise, I'm not. I'm sure you knew that.

I want to get the taxes out of my hair ASAP!

During the year, I keep a folder called "taxes 201_" in our file cabinet. Anytime something comes in that I'll need for my taxes, I put it in that folder.

I also have documents on my computer where I log my unreimbursed business and medical expenses - receipts are filed in the drawer (because sometimes we can claim them - like this year!)

When it comes time to do our taxes, everything is organized and ready to go so we can get our refund ASAP. I create a binder with tabs holding all the documents I need for easy preparation for my tax preparer. We rarely have to wait longer than a week for it since we file so early.

So, get organized. Stop scrambling at the last minute. It actually COSTS you MORE money to have your taxes done when you're disorganized. I know people who have paid HUNDREDS of dollars more because they threw a shoebox full of receipts at the accountant. The following year, they had all their ducks in a row and paid much much less.

So today, save yourself some money by becoming organized so that you can use your refund to get your DEBT SNOWBALL started!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spiritual Sunday - Wisdom

In my journey through the Bible, I'm kind of stuck on Job. Honestly, I just don't want to read it. All that tragedy just gives me a bad feeling. I know I need to push through it - but that's how I feel.

Anyhow, I came to an interlude in the book on wisdom and how hard it is to find. Isn't that the truth?

In chapter 28, verse 23 it says, "God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells."

The chapter ends with, "The fear of the Lord - that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding."

After reading that last statement, I ponder what it is to truly fear the Lord and what biblical fear really is. It makes sense to me that if you're wise - you understand how huge and holy God is and you try not to "mess" with Him. And, in turn you show that you understand this by staying away from sin.

I suppose it seems logical - just a whole lot easier said than done!

Popular Posts