Friday, December 30, 2011

Spaghetti Sauce

It sure does smell yummy in our house right now.  Today I made a batch of homemade spaghetti meat sauce.  This is my second time to make the sauce.  The first time I followed my dear friend Jodi's recipe, but today I made some changes as I seem to do with all recipes.  The following is what I did:

2 large onions
1 bunch of celery
2 green bell peppers
5 cans of mushroom pieces
4 large cans of tomato sauce
1 large can of diced tomatoes
3 lbs. ground beef
3 pkg. of homemade spaghetti seasoning mix

Chop onions, celery and bell pepper in food processor--saute.  Brown meat and drain grease.  I combined everything into my big roasting pan and cooked all afternoon--I just turned it off. 

Homemade spaghetti seasoning mix
1 T dried minced onion
1 T cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 T dried parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil

Mix all together.  Makes one pkg. 

Once my sauce cools I will be putting it into quart freezer baggies.  I would love to can the sauce in glass jars it would be better for the environment, but I can't justify buying all the canning equipment just to can sauce.    This summer I would like to make this recipe again with fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market and fresh mushrooms if they have any.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Proud Mommy

Do you ever wonder if your parenting is good, or if your kiddos hear anything you say?  I sure do. 

Last night the boys and I had a moment where I felt like I was doing something right.  As I was putting the boys to bed I asked each of them what was their favorite thing about Christmas this year.  Jeffrey said, "giving you my present."  Jeffrey gave me a ring ($9.99 from Target) this year.  He has been so excited about the gift all week and kept wanting me to open it.  How awesome to know that my little four year old gets that it is not about getting, but giving.  Jackson answered my question with, "getting together with family."  He didn't say the Hotwheel race track from Uncle Matt and Aunt Liz, but he realizes as a six year old that seeing grandparents, uncles and aunts is more valuable than "stuff." 

Don't think my kiddos are perfect because they are not.  We differently had some bad moments during this Christmas season.  I love my boys during their good and bad moments, but I treasure the good moments because it sure does make me a proud Mommy. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Life

"And this is the testimoney: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:11-12

Do you have life?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Remembrance

This morning I attended a funeral service for a man in our church.  That makes two funerals in four months--no fun at all.  Any death makes me think of Jamie and well it still hurts a lot. 

Anyways, earlier this week as the boys and I were praying I prayed for the Alvarado family.  Afterwards the boys asked why.  I said, "remember I told y'all Mr. Alvarado was in the hospital."  They nodded.  I continued, "he died and is now with Jesus, but his family is really sad so we need to pray for them."  Jeffrey said, "when someone is going to die just take a picture and write their name on it so you won't forget."  I laughed a little and told Jeffrey you could do that as I thought you never know what a 4 year old will say.  And I didn't think anything else of his comment till today.  When you die do you want people to remember what you did, what you said, how you looked and your name?  Or do you want people to remember the love, joy, peace, & grace that flowed through your life from God?  When others remember my life I want them to think of God's love and the name of Jesus.  Isn't that what life's all about? 

This also makes me think of Christmas.  When your children are grown and think back to their childhood Christmases do you want them to remember all the gifts or that you celebrated Jesus's birthday?  We do several different things to keep the focus on Christ.  We bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  This year Jackson decided with a little help from Jeffrey that we would bake a chocolate round cake with white icing and sprinkles with a baby Jesus on top.  We read scripture each night during Advent.  We give the boys three gifts just like Jesus received.  We read the Christmas story for the book of Luke on Christmas morning.  And we talk a lot about why we celebrate.  Our carpool buddy (4 yrs. old)  now gets in the van saying I already know why we celebrate Christmas because she knows it is going to be talked about.  These are simple things that help your kids and all of us remember Christ.  It is not to late to change your focus from "stuff" to Christ.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lost Mittens

Both boys this week lost their gloves.  No surprise from Jeffrey this is his second pair this season, but Jackson never loses anything.  The night both gloves were missing Jackson said, "Three little kittens lost their mitten and didn't have pie.  Three little kittens found their mittens and got pie."  So, I said if you find your gloves I will make a pie.  They both found them on the same day--so we had pie.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent

What is Advent?

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.

During this time the faithful (Christians) are admonished to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love, thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

I got the above explains off line not my words.
Last year to celebrate the Advent season we used a Jesse Tree.  The boys colored paper ornaments that we hung (taped) onto the tree each day.  We then read the scripture for the day. 
Look behind Jeffrey and you will see the Jesse Tree hanging on the door. 

This year we made a paper chain with the scripture passage for each day written on each link.  The boys this year will take turns cutting off a link each day and then we will read the scripture.
The paper chain got knocked down very quickly so I decided to hang it over the backdoor blinds.  Jackson got to cut the first link last night because Jeffrey got to put the star on the Christmas tree. 

This is such a busy and stressful time of year for us all.  I am going try my best to slow down and remember and teach the boys what we are really celebrating--Jesus Christ.  I pray that you and your family will do the same.

Fall Cooking

Over the last couple of weeks we have done some baking.  Jackson had to take a small pumpkin to school for a math activity and when he brought it back home we baked it and made our own pumpkin puree.  It was very easy to do.

Pumpkin Puree
Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet and roast in an 425 degree F oven for about 1 hour.  The bigger the pumpkin the longer the time.  Once the pumpkin is roasted let cool.  Slice the pumpkin in half and scape out the seeds.  Spoon out the pumpkin flesh into a food processor or blender.  Process till it looks like the can pumpkin you can buy.  Store in fridge for a couple of days or freeze.

With our pumpkin puree we choose to make pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pancakes.  For the muffins I used my mother-in-law's pumpkin bread recipe and found a pancake recipe online.

Pumpkin Bread
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c oil
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 2/3 c flour
1 c nuts--optional
Combine eggs and sugar; mix well, add pumpkin, oil and water; blend thoroughly.  Add all dry ingredients.  Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.  ***For mini muffins bake for ~ 10 mins. For large muffins bake ~ 20 mins.
Jeffrey and his friend helped me make the pumpkin muffins one afternoon.  We had a lot of fun and got pretty messy. 

Martha Stewart Pumpkin Pancakes
For a spiced breakfast treat, whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes 8 to 10.
Jeffrey and Josh liked the pancakes a lot.  Jackson did not and I thought they were OK.    I would like to make them again because the first time I put in to much nutmeg.  Lesson learned that morning is not to try a new recipe when you are running late.

Thanksgiving Day I made the green bean casserole to take to Josh's family dinner.  I choose a healthier recipe I found in Southern Living magazine instead of the dumping can recipe I have made before.

Home-style Green Bean Casserole
makes: 8 serving
hands on time: 25 min.
total time: 55 min.
1 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 T butter
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 c nonfat buttermilk
1 T Ranch dressing mix ( I made my own)
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp. butter
1 (8oz) package sliced fresh mushrooms
vegetable cooking spray
1 c French fried onions, crushed
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover in a Dutch oven 4 to 6 minutes or to desired degree of doneness; drain.  Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.  Melt 2 T butter in Dutch oven over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth.  Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 c milk; cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat, and whisk in buttermilk and next 4 ingredients.  Melt 1 tsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add mushrooms, and saute 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.  Gently toss mushrooms and green beans in buttermilk sauce.  Place n a 13x9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Combine french fried onions and next 2 ingredients; sprinkle over green bean mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Serve immediately.  ***I baked this the day before and warmed on Thanksgiving day and it was just as good as the time I served it immediately.

For our weekend with my family I baked a sweet potato pound cake from Southern Living and Cranberry muffins from allrecipes.com. 

Sweet Potato Pound Cake
makes: 10 to 12 servings
hands on time: 25 min.
total time: 2 hr. 40 min.
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 c cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with a heavy duty electric stand mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.  Add sweet potatoes, and beat well.  Stir together flour, next 3 ingredients, and if desired, cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Spoon batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).  ***About half way though the baking time I covered with foil to keep the outside from browning to much.

Cranberry Muffins
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c sour cream
2 c flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 c chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
Topping:
2 T sugar
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.  Fold in sour cream.  Combine flour, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and salt; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened.  Fold in cranberries.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two thirds full.  Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over muffins.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until muffin test done.  Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack.

Not sure what I will be baking and cooking for the Christmas season, but I will be sure to post the recipes. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forgiveness

As, I read my Bible and a devotional book this morning I thought how perfect God's timing is.  With Thanksgiving tomorrow and many more holiday gatherings in the near future we all need to be reminded of

"And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ." Ephesians 4:32

I don't know about you, but family time can be difficult.  I am feeling stressed with having Josh and the boys home all week and then you add extended family and my patience's is low.  A tip from my devo book:  "when someone else becomes angry or upset, you'll tend to become angry and upset, too.  Resist that temptation.  Keep your cool, even when everybody else is losing theirs!  By not fanning the flames, you'll help extinguish the fire."

So, as we enjoy family and eat way to much tomorrow let show some compassion and forgiveness and be thankful that God, through Christ, has forgiven us!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thankful Jar

This year for the Thanksgiving season we made a thankful jar.  Each evening we write or draw on a piece of paper what we are thankful for and drop it in the jar.  Last year we had a thankful tree and we wrote/drew on leaves.  The year before I believe we had a turkey and wrote/drew on the feathers.  What will you do this year to teach your kiddos about thankfulness?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mission Field

This morning as I drove home after dropping off Jeffrey and our carpool friend at preschool I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the mission trip I took to Romania in March of 2010.  I began to think about the trip and how I would love to go on more.  I was sad because it doesn't seem like another mission trip will happen for me anytime soon.  I said to myself stop thinking about what could be and just focus on today.  So I mentally make my list of things to get done today.  Then as I sat at a stop light it hit me.  I am in my mission field.  My mini van is a mission field.  Because, I drive a van and have room for many I am usually the mom to drive and there are more kids than my own with me.  And this will only increase as the boys get older and more involved in activities.  We have several rules in the van and one is no batteries allowed.  Which means no video games, movies, etc.  This forces us to talk and fight with each other.  If I am intentional I can share Jesus each and every time we are in the van--friends or no friends.  What I choose to play on the radio can make a difference as well.  I still have a desire to help those far away, but I must remember that God has given me a huge mission in raising God boys and influencing those I am around daily.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Kinds of Thoughts

Howdy my blog friends.  It has been to long I know since I have posted--sorry.  Almost daily I think of something I would like to share on my blog, but it doesn't happen and then I forget what I wanted to say.  So this post is going to be fulled with all kinds of stuff.

First this morning I actually got up when my alarm went off and it was pretty amazing what I got done when I am not rushed to get everyone out the door on time.  And then the morning got better because I had to wake Jeffrey up.  Now waking Jeffrey up doesn't always go smoothly, but this morning he was so cute.  He was laying in his footy PJ's with his bottom stuck up in the air breathing so peacefully.  So I layed next to him for a little bit and rubbed his back and he started to grin.  What a precious moment. 

My two superheros!!!

 We had a great Halloween weekend.  Jeffrey's preschool held there annual fall festival on Saturday, which the boys love and Josh likes the big soft pretzels.  On Sunday was our church's annual trunk or treat.  Josh along with other men in our church cooked 1200 hot dogs for dinner.  There were about 30 cars/trucks for the kids to treat or trick to.  And several bounce houses, a train ride, a fire engine, cotton candy, snow cones and a cookie walk.  It was great family fun!  Then on Monday the boys treat or tricked in our neighborhood for the first time.  But what they enjoyed the most was handing out the candy to those who came to our house.  It makes me smile to see their eagerness to give and make another child smile. 

Jackson lost his first tooth on Oct. 19
 This is so yummy, even Josh really liked it.
 Baked Tomatoes, Squash, and Potatoes
2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 med. yellow summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 med. Yukon gold potato, sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used sweet potato and baking potato slices)
salt and pepper
1 T fresh thyme leaves (I used dried)
2 T freshly grated Parmesan
Heat oven to 375.  Heat oil over medium and cook onion until tender and lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes.  Arrange the onion on the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish. Overlap tomato, squash and potato on top of the onion.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and Parmesan and drizzle with oil.  Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake until golden, 30 minutes more.

Several months ago I posted about trying to live a more waste free life.  One way we have been doing that is composting.  Below are our three compost containers.  Two or getting pretty full and the third has lots of room.  It is pretty amazing to see how much we dump in these containers daily and they never get full because it all breaks down.  We have not actually used any of the broken down compost yet, but I look forward to it this spring
You can compost anything that was once alive.  Fruit and veggie scraps, any food really except meat products will smell bad and attract animals.  Items made of wood, cotton (like old socks or underwear just cut up really small first), grass, leaves, twigs,etc.

One last thing and then I must get some other things done.  Saturday afternoon we went by a friend's place to pick up some coolers they had left out for us.  Josh would be using them at church for the hot dogs.  When we got there they were so very dirty.  These coolers had been sitting out for much longer than just the night.  I immediately start complaining about my clean van getting dirty and having to more car seats and all that to get these two large coolers in.  Jackson is so like me and he also was upset by these events, but Jeffrey said in a very happy sweet voice, "Mommy you will only have to clean the back."  It made me stop and think that we get upset when God puts things in our lifes that are messy, but these messy things have a purpose just like the cooler had a purpose.  So today don't let the "dirty coolers" get in the way of seeing God work in your life. 


Friday, September 23, 2011

MY BOYS

Dirty, smelly, rude noises.
BOYS
Hitting, fighting, shooting.
BOYS
Running, jumping, climbing.
BOYS
Grunts, one word answers, mumbles, pointing.
BOYS
No aim, need I say more.
BOYS
Feet stomping, eye rolling, mouth spitting.
BOYS
No, I won't do it, I don't want to, I can't.
BOYS
I can do it, can I help, look at me mommy.
BOYS
Big bear hugs, messy kisses, snuggles.
BOYS
Smiles, giggles, belly laughs.
BOYS
Kind, compassionate, helpful.
BOYS
Mommy I love you more than two outer spaces!
BOYS

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baking With Jeffrey

Earlier this week Jeffrey and I did some baking.  We made a loaf of regular old bread and a loaf of Cinnamon raisin bread. 

Dough recipe
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 pkg. yeast or 2 tsp. from a jar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 T oil
~5 cups of flour (white, wheat or both)
1 egg
Let yeast set in warm water for about 5 minutes.  Add everything else and mix well.  Use the dough hook on you mixer.  Knead dough on a flour surface.  Place back in bowl, cover and let rise until it doubles in size.  Once the dough as risen return to the floured surface and knead once again. Split into two. Place one in a greased loaf pan, cover with a dish towel and let rise again. Take the other half and round out flat.  Sprinkle cinnamon over dough, add rasins, honey and butter.  I don't measure anything just put some on.  Roll up and place in a loaf pan and let rise.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.  See photos below for examples of kneading and rolling. 












Isn't he a cutie?  I have also replaced the rasins with pecans--now that is good!

Birthday Dinner

Here are the recipes promised from my birthday dinner last week.

Artichoke Tossed Salad
I omitted the celery (it is a texture thing) and used more artichokes because they are o so yummy.  All I had was Dijon mustard and that worked fine in place of the brown spicy mustard.  Josh loved this salad because it had bacon!

Chicken, mozzarella and basil panini (Parent Magazine March 2011)

4 ciabatta rolls or 8 slices of other good quality rustic bread ( I bought what was on sale at HEB)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I totally ignored the environment and bought pre-cooked and packaged sliced chicken I found with the lunch meats--it was good)
4 oz. thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
1 tomato, sliced ( I like Roma tomatoes)
8 to 12 fresh basil leaves (I used dried bottled basil)
Kosher salt ( I forgot the salt)
2 T. olive oil

1. Slice the rolls in half.  On the bottom half of each, layer 1/4 of the chicken, a slice or two of the cheese, a slice of tomato, and 2 to 3 basil leaves; sprinkle with salt.  Put the top of the roll on the sandwich and press down gently. 
2. Put the olive oil in a skillet large enough to hold all four sandwiches, turn the heat to medium.  When the oil is hot and shimmers, put the sandwiches in the pan, put another pan or large heat-proof plate on top of the sandwiches, and press down (you can also use an electric sandwich press or waffle iron for this step if you like).  When the cheese has melted and the bread begins to crisp on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes, remove the top pan or plate, flip the sandwiches, press down again, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. 

I totally skipped step number two and just put the sandwiches on a cookie sheet in the broiler oven. 

Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream cake is what I made for dessert.  It was heavenly!  I don't have the recipe at this time.  I got it from Southern Living and loaned it to a friend, but I can tell you the basics.

Bake a devil's food chocolate cake in to two round pans.  Purchase some mint chocolate chip ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies.  I actually made my own whip cream using heavy cream and sugar.  I also made my own wafer cookies, because HEB doesn't carry them and I wasn't going to drive all over town looking for chocolate wafers. 

Chocolate Wafers
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cocoa ( I use dark chocolate)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use 1cup)
1/2 cup plus 2 T room temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Method
1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven, Preheat to 375
2. In a food processor, or bowl of an eclectic mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.  While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg.  Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart.  With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.  Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking.  Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

Now this makes more than you need for the cake.  So you will have to make some filling and then you have homemade oreos.

Filling
1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional-gel dye

Back to method
4. To make the cream, place the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.  Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.  (Optional: Blend in a ting bit of gel dye until you reach the the desired color).
6. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie.  Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie.  Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream ( I don't use a pastry bag.  A spoon works fine.).  The Oreo recipe came from mybakingaddiction.com

OK, back to my birthday cake. 

Once the cakes have cooled place one layer in a spring form pan (cheesecake pan) layer ice cream, wafer cookies.  Then another cake layer and more ice cream.  Place in freezer fro 10 to 12 hours.  About 1/2 hour before serving take out of freezer it will be easier to cut if it thaws some.  Top with a mixture of semi-sweet chocolate baking squares melted in the microwave and whip cream (this has a name, but I can't remember it).  The recipe said to use immediately so I did and well when hot meets cold you get a mess.

Not exactly like the picture in Southern Living, but very YUMMY!!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Birthday, Sept. 13

The morning began late.  My alarm didn't go off!  But I didn't let that get me down 15 minutes. late is not bad and I needed the sleep.  As I am dressing I can hear Jackson and Josh looking for something through out the house.  I think, "they are trying to find the bday sign and they can't remember where it is and they have been told."  In a few minutes Jackson comes and  ask where is the sign?  They get it hang, Jeffrey wakes up and Josh is off to work. The boys and I begin our morning routine.  As I am trying to get a load of laundry going Jackson has a huge fit about something small.  The situation escalates and Jackson gets two stickers taken away, which is a big deal for Jackson.  The morning is a little crazy, but my mother in law calls to say happy bday and tells me a story about uncle John going to school in PJ's after a slow morning.  I laugh and remember to enjoy the time I have with the boys.  Once Jackson is on the bus Jeffrey and I decide to walk to a neighborhood park--a little exercise for me and some outdoor playtime for Jeffrey before it reaches 100 degrees.  Not such a fun outing when yellow jacks have built a nest on the playground equipment.  We head back home.  As we are walking home I decide I have time to do a workout video when we get home.  Didn't happen.  Jeffrey and I are stopped by a neighbor and we talk for about 30mins.  Now, I love interruption of my day that allow me to catch up with a friend or neighbor.  Because isn't that what life is about --relationships?  Quick shower, change out the laundry and head to HEB.  Jeffrey has fun driving the car shopping cart and I find everything on my list--successful trip. Head back home to unload the groceries.  Shortly after Grammie arrives to take us out for a bday lunch.  We enjoy a nice lunch at Alica's--yummy!  Back at the house I quickly finish up the laundry as Josh showers and changes.  Josh and I are going to a memorial service.  Not exactly what one plans to do on their bday.  But it was such a moving and well done service honoring a wonderful lady that I am glad we went.  At the service a past coworker of Lin's said, "Lin always shared stories of her family so that other would know that life isn't perfect, but family loves and forgives one another.  And I guess that is one reason I share.  My bday was just an ordinary day of grocery shopping, laundry, kids, etc nothing super special yet it was perfect for me and maybe it can show someone that joy doesn't come in perfect days, but from our Lord Jesus Christ. 

In our family the bday girl or boy gets to pick a restaurant for dinner.  Josh and Jackson on their last bdays choose Spring Creek BBQ and Jeffrey choose CiCi's pizza.  I choose to stay home and make my own dinner.  I will share the recipes at a later time. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

God's Perfect Plan

Once upon a time I fell in love with a boy, Josh, and he loved me back.  We dated and finished school.  We made plans and were married on July 12, 2003.  We worked hard and planned to start a family.  We bought a house, got a dog, paid off all our debt and had our first baby boy, Jackson on September 1, 2005.  Our plans were right on track.  Then God began to change our plans.  When Jackson was just 7 weeks old we moved from Dallas to Houston.  This move was not in our plans.  It was a hard move, but turned out to be wonderful.  I got pregnant with number two, but miscarried days after finding out we were expecting.  Once again I was telling God this wasn’t the plan.  At the same time I had the miscarriage we were also building our house an hour away.  I would once again be leaving friends one short year later.  This move turned out to be the perfect thing for our family.  I was starting to see that God knew what He was doing ever if I did not like it.  With help from our loving extended family we move to Cypress.  And about a month later we were pregnant with number three.  Jeffrey was born on August 22, 2007 health and strong weighing in at 9 lbs. 12 oz just like his big brother Jackson.  Life could not be better: close to extended family, great neighbors and friends, great church, two sweet little boys, nice house, two cars, a dog, nice job for Josh and staying at home with the boys for me.  What else could we ask for?  Another baby!  Josh wasn’t fully on board about having another baby.  So I tried to wait patiently for Josh to be ready.  Finally after what seemed like forever Josh was ready to starting trying.  I got pregnant with number four in the winter of 2009.  It was such an exciting time.  The boys wore big brother shirts on Christmas Eve to announce to our family a baby was on the way.  Everything was going well until March 2010 when we found out that baby number four had turner’s, hydrops and was a girl.  We named our sweet, sick little girl Jamie Elizabeth.  She lived within me for 24 weeks and 1 one day and then Jesus choose to take her home.  Once again this was not in our plans.  I was not ready to give this gift that God had blessed us with back.  How do you tell your four and two year old boys that they will not get to hold their baby sister?  About a year and a half later I finally came to the point that I could say to God, “Whatever You want I am ok with.  If we get pregnant I will rejoice, if we are to adopt open all the right doors and if our family is done I will be content.”  Several months later I miscarried baby number five.  What is the deal God?  How can so much pain be part of Your plan?  Back when Josh and I were going through premarital counseling in 2003 we talked a lot about what we each saw in our future.  One of those topics was children.  Josh said he wanted to have two or three kids and I wanted three or four by the time I was thirty.  And you know what God gave me what I asked for.  I will be thirty-one in a week and have five children.  Even though I will not get to know three of my children until I reach heaven I have received five blessings of life from God.  Isn’t that what it is all about?  Being a willing vessel for God to use for His glory.  In all the joy and pain, laughter and tears God gets the glory.  

August Heat!

We have had record heat for the whole summer practically.  But the heat I have been feeling is different.  In the book of Daniel Shad’rach, Me’shack, and Abed-Nego refuse to worship the false god made of gold.  These men are taken to King Nebuchadnezzar because the decree says that anyone that does not bow down will be immediately thrown into a fiery furnace.  The King likes these men so gives them one last chance to worship the god made of gold.  The men replied to the king, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)  At this the king became furious and had the furnace heated up seven times.  I feel like I am in a furnace that had been heated up.  August 2011 has been difficult.  Within about a three week period I had a miscarriage, our house was strike by lighting, someone close to my heart is having relationship troubles, I got a virus that caused an itchy rash, Jeffrey turned four and Jackson started kindergarten.  Now I know birthdays and school are happy occasions, but my boys are growing up and I just want them to stay cuddly and little.  Have you ever experienced a lighting strike?  It is scary!  When our house was strike it was loud and we smelled burning.  After Josh ran around the house to make sure it wasn’t on fire we began to take a look at what was damaged.  We had no phone, internet or TV service for some time and still are having problems with the phone.  The garage door opener did not work (it has been fixed now).  Our central vacuum turned on and would not turn off so we just had to unplug it in the garage (I never really like the central vacuum anyway, but I don’t have another vacuum.  And a clean carpet is a happy carpet as Josh would say).  The alarm system is messed up.  A week later Josh discover the sprinkler system was not working not good in the heat it too has been fixed.  Our one TV now only has one working speaker, but that’s ok we just turned up the volume.  My sewing machine will not turn off so it is just sitting unplug and I had a creative moment the other day and could not do any sewingL.  Josh has been told that we will continue to find more and more things that the lighting strike affects.  We must be thankful though that our house did not burn down, that our new washer is fine and that our deep freeze, which is now full with a steer, is working.  Earlier this summer I told God, “it is all up to You, whatever You want for our family is ok with me.  I give You complete control of my life.”  Now this has been a daily pray, because well I like to be in control.  Once I came to that point is when everything heated up.  Just like Shad’rack, Me’shack and Abed-Nego said they would follow God no matter if it meant death and thinks heated up for them.  It feel like once I gave control over to God Satan said let’s see about that.  Shad’rack, Me’shack and Abed-Nego made it through the fire.  They came out alive without any burns.  They didn’t even smell like smoke.  I know God is with us through this fire and we bring is out as well. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bye Bye Hair

This past Saturday I had my hair cut short.  The shortest I have ever had it cut.  Months ago I decided I wanted to grow out my hair to donate.  I did this once before in college.  What got me thinking about this again was the fact that I do not donated money to cancer research because they do embryonic stem cell research, which I do not believe in.  I wanted to do something to help those who suffer from cancer and thought of hair.  I found that there are two place to donate hair: locksoflove.org (must have 10 inches of hair) and pantene.com/BeautifulLenghts/ (must have 8 inches of hair).  I choose pantene because I had just enough to make 8 inches and not go any shorter.  When I donated in college I cut off more than a foot and choose locks of love.  I forgot to have a before picture taken so the first photo is from earlier in the year.  The second photo is my new hair style. 


Get Your Finger Out of Your Nose!

We go through ALOT of tissues in our house.  We all have seasonal allergies that seem to be year round.  And until last Dec when Jackson had his tonsils out he was sick more often than not.  Several weeks ago Jeffrey asked how do you make tissues?  I said I did not know, but we could find a book at the library.  Jeffrey said you need to look up a recipe so we can make them.  I told him we couldn't make tissues, but handkerchiefs were also used to blow your nose and we could make some.  A week goes by and one night I can not sleep.  So I get up and decide to make some hankies.  I found an old piece of cotton fabric and get started.  But after the sewing machine woke Jackson up at 1am I had to stop for the night.  Below is a picture of the first handkerchiefs I made.
These did not turn out as well as I expected.  Although the fabric is cotton and soft to the touch it is not soft to one's nose.  I looked online for some advice.  I found several other moms that had used flannel.  Great, I just happened to have an old flannel sheet set not being used.  My second set of hankies were much softer and very absorbent. 

Not only are we helping out the environment, but Jeffrey thinks it fun to wipe his buggers on the new hankies.  This makes me very happy as Jeffrey always has his finger in his nose.



Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade mayo, ranch & more.

One way I have reduced our trash is making homemade seasonings, condiments and such.  I don't know if this is cost less or not-- I have not done the math, but it is good for the environment and you control what goes in your food.

Taco Seasoning

1/4 cup chili powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Mix all the ingredients above in a small bowl. Keep fresh in an air tight container for up to 6 months. Double or triple recipe as needed. To use: substitute 2 rounded Tablespoons for 1 packet of taco seasoning. **You can also kick up the heat a notch by adding in 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes!!**

Onion Soup Mix

2/3 cup dried, minced onion
3 teaspoons parsley flakes
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a jar, then give the jar a good shake. I’d recommend shaking the jar to mix the ingredients well before each use.  Use 4 Tablespoons Onion Soup Mix in a recipe in place of 1 packet of onion soup mix. Store this in a dry, cool place.

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. buttermilk ( I use regular milk & not as much.  I just pour and stir until it looks right.)
2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dill weed

Whisk together & store in the refrigerator. Tip: If you stick a paring knife in the opening of the squeezie lid from store bought salad dressing bottle and pull straight up, the lid will come off and you can refill the bottle with your homemade dressing, then replace the lid.

***This is not Hidden Valley Ranch, but it is good.  Josh and the boys eat it up.

Mayonnaise in a blender

Ingredients
2 whole eggs
10 fl oz (285 ml) of vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp of white wine vinegar
1 tsp of dry English mustard powder
1 crushed clove of garlic
salt and pepper

Method
1. Place the eggs into the blender or food processor, along with the mustard, garlic, salt and pepper and blend together.
2. Pour all of the oil into the blender in a steady stream whilst the machine is operating, so that it is immediately whisked into the egg yolk mixture.
3. Switch off the machine and taste the mayonnaise. Add the vinegar and any extra seasoning to taste and whisk together one last time.

***I use this mayo to make our ranch dressing.

Cream soups

2 cups milk (can use powdered milk as well)
2 heaping tsp. corn starch
chicken bullion to taste
some onion flakes and thyme

Whisk all together and heat on stove top until desired thickness. I usually leave a little runny as it will thicken as it bakes/absorbs into veggies/meats. You can also add cooked/pureed/diced veggies or meats to make it into Cream Of ____ Soup

***I have only made cream of mushroom soup and it was great!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Source: Leslie Sarna
(Yields about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cheese)
1 gallon of whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup distilled white wine vinegar (or regular white vinegar will work!)
Directions:
Pour the milk into a large stock pot and heat at medium low slowly so it doesn't burn.  Stir frequently. Heat the milk till it reaches 180 degrees.  Off heat and pour in the salt and vinegar. It will begin to curdle immediately.  Give it a gentle stir and cover. Let sit covered for 2 hours. When the time is up, place a strainer over a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the solid pieces from the milk. Let drain for another two hours. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. *The leftover liquid is called whey, and can be used for a variety of purposes! A good use of it is as a substitute for any liquid in baking. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

***Yummy in lasagna

Hummus

1 15-oz can of garbanzo beans (drained) [I bought dried beans and cooked them first]
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh chopped basil (or 1/2 tsp dried basil)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor; blend into a smooth past consistency. Add a small amount of water if it seems too thick. Spread onto bread or crackers. 1/3 cup of this hummus has 170 cal, and this recipe makes about a cup.

***This is so easy and so good.  You can put in whatever you have around.  No lemons use limes.  Change it up for your taste.
 
I have tried several ketchup recipes, but haven't found one a like enough to share.  My boys eat a lot of ketchup so I hope to find the right recipe soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm washing my hair.

Have you ever seen in a movie, read in a book or said yourself that you could not go out on a date because you were washing your hair?  I never understood that comment since it takes me no time at all to wash and dry my hair.  That is until last night.  Before I tell you about last night lets go back a few months.

In part of my becoming a better steward of the environment in April I decided to try the "no poo" hair cleansing method.  When using this method you don't use regular store brought shampoo you cleanse your hair with baking soda & water.  For a conditioner I used apple cider vinegar & water.  I did this for about a week and my hair did not feel clean or look good.  So I broke down and used some good old shampoo--it was the Saturday before Easter so I wanted my hair to be nice for Easter Sunday.  You can look up "no poo" online to get more details.  Some people have great luck with this method.  I believe it didn't work for me because of our hard water.  I may try it again and boil the water first or used distilled water.

About three weeks ago I ran out of shampoo so I decided to make some.  The recipe follows.

Herbal Shampoo Recipe for Every Hair Type
1 cup distilled water ( I used tap)
3 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp lemongrass
2 tsp tea tree oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Castile liquid soap

Heat the water in a pot and bring to a boil. If you have a strainer, place the rosemary and lemongrass in it. Place the herbs in a container that can hold boiling water. Pour the water over the herbs, and mix the herbs around a bit. Cover the pot, with the herbs inside, and let the mixture seep for 20 to 30 minutes.

When the time has elapsed, take the cover from container, and mix the herbs around a little more. Then remove the herbs from the container. If needed, strain the water to remove any floating bits. Mix the tea tree oil and vanilla into the water.

Mix the soap into the infused water, and make sure the soap dissolves completely. Because you're mixing oil, water and soap it's important that you mix very well, spreading the oil out as much as possible.

Pour the mixture into your container, and you have homemade herbal shampoo. Let the shampoo cool, and then place the top on tightly. This recipe makes about 12 ounces of shampoo.

For the first week it was great.  My hair felt clean, health, and had a little more shine.  Week two and three were not so great.  My hair began to feel heavy and very rough. 

Last Night:

I did some research and found that castile soap drys out your hair.  Thus, I decided that my hair needed some deep conditioning.  I looked up homemade conditioners online and decide to put homemade mayo in my hair and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Afterwards, I showered and washed my hair with my homemade herbal shampoo.  My hair felt great!  I was so excited!  Josh and I then sit down to watch a movie--a nice date night in.  The two hour movie took much longer because two little boys did not want to stay in bed.  Once, we finally finished the movie I realized my hair was still really wet, which is not normal it should have air dried by then.  I went to dry it.  After several minutes I realized it was not wet, but oily.  I then tried putting corn starch in my hair.  I had read that people with oily hair can used this dry cleansing method to cleanse their hair.  It did not work.  I then boiled some water, let is cool, mix in some baking soda to try the "no poo" method.  It did not work.  It was around 11:45pm at this point.  I told Josh I had to go buy some shampoo.  So, I drove to CVS when I pulled in the parking lot I noticed a sign that read "open til midnight"  it was 11:53pm.  I rushed in forgetting my shopping bag, brought some kwiklime V05 shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles and paid with  my debt card (it was less then $2--I really don't like using my debt card for small amounts).  Not environmental at all, but my hair felt so GREAT after I once again shampooed it.  It is now soft, smooth, shiny and smells good too.
 
I am not giving up on making my own shampoo and conditioner.  The lesson learned is to always have some store brought shampoo on hand until you find the homemade one that works for you. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cracker Recipes

One way we have cut down on our trash is making food from scratch.  The boys and I love to try new recipes and have a lot of good quality time in the kitchen together.  I love to be in the kitchen it is a stress release for me.  There is just something about taking simple ingredients and mixing them together and creating something yummy it calms me and helps me find balance in this fast paced world.

Homemade Saltine Crackers
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, then stir in the milk. Round into a ball and knead for few strokes. Divide dough into several pieces and roll out very thin on a floured surface. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Lay on ungreased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Graham Crackers
12 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (aka graham flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on top

Beat butter, honey and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs and mix.  Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix to combine.  refrigerate dough for one hour (or longer).  Heat over to 350.  On a well floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 thickness (If you go any thicker, your crackers will seem more like cookies after they bake).  Cut out crackers with cookie cutters or cut into squares with pizza cutter.  Place on greased cookie sheets.  Using a pastry brush dipped in water, lightly bush the tops of the crackers.  Using a fork, poke holes in the crackers.  Sprinkle cinnamon & sugar over the top of the crackers.  Bake for 10 mins.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  The longer these sit, the more cracker-like they become, so they're best eaten after about 30 minutes, if you can wait that long.

Homemade Wheat Thins

Recipe from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Cookbook

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 T sugar
1/2 tsp. salt, plus extra for topping
1/4 tsp. paprika
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup water ( you might need to add a little more)
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat over to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or grease.  Set aside.

Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender (I use a fork), mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly.  Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup or bowl.  Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.  If the dough is still dry add a little more water.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with a towel so they don't dry out.  Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle.  Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it's not sticking.  You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it's 1/16 inch thick at most.  If you want all of your crackers to be perfect, trim the edges of the dough so you have a rectangle with even sides.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.

Transfer to prepared baking sheets.  You can place them close together because they will not spread.  Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. 

Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes.  Keep a close eye they can burn quickly.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Gifts

Recently gifts have been on my mind a lot.  We have had attended several birthday parties and the boys' birthdays are coming up soon.  My thoughts have been: how can we give gifts that are good for the environment, what items will truly be a treasure to the child and not just thrown in the toy box to be donated next spring cleaning, can a gift not come in a package, and what about giving one's old stuff or buying at a resale shop?  I read about one family that doesn't buy new items for themselves or others if possible--for environmental reasons.  I don't know if I could buy a gift from a resale shop for just anyone--close friends and some family won't mind.  I also don't want others to think I am cheap.  If you know me well you are most likely laughing now, because I am cheap, ha ha ha ha!  I guess the bottom line is about your motive and heart.  Tomorrow the boys and I are taking a friend of theirs to the children's museum for his birthday gift.  This came about one day when I asked Jackson what kind of gift he would like to buy for his friend.  He did not have any ideals and all my suggestions were things that the friend already had.  Isn't that the case with most of our children.  Thus we came up with the ideal of an outing.  The boys first said the zoo, but that is just to hot for summer.  I am excited about this birthday gift outing.  It will make memories that last a lot longer than a colorful noisy plastic toy.  Note: if you are every thinking of giving Josh, me or the boys a gift we would be just fine with gently used items.  It would be great for the environment and the boys think it is fun that some one else played with the toy first and that when they are done they get to donated it to other kids.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Savings

Do you have a saving account, 401K, IRA, college funds for your kids?  Many of you have at least one of these accounts and some have all of them.  A friend and I were discussing yesterday how much money is enough.  Once your savings or 401K or which ever account reaches a certain point should you stop saving?  Does our saving hinder our giving?  Should we save more than we give or give more than we save?  We did not come up with any firm answers.  I then brought the topic up with Josh last night and he said, "when you make a choice to save money for yourself instead of helping someone in need that's to much."  Here is an example: say you get a bonus at work.  You decide to take your family out to dinner and save the rest even though you know there is a need you could meet with that bonus then that is not right.  So it is not really about a number, but about your heart.  If I can give to those in need and still provide for my family everything they need not want but need than I will give. 

Since we are on the topic of saving I am currently reading Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette.  This book is written to students in high school and college and their parents.  It discusses how one can graduate with a 4 year degree debt free.  I haven't read much, but it is good.  I recommend you check it out at your public library (that is more eco-friendly that buying a copy).

I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on saving for retirement and college so leave a comment. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cleaning House

Tuesday was house cleaning day for me this week.  With the boys at my parents' I thought it would go faster, but it didn't, but at least it is done. 

Over the past few months I have changed the way I clean to be more environmental and to be a better steward of our money.  The following are the products I used to clean the whole house.

Homemade soft scrub

3/4 cup baking soda

1/4 cup castile soap (I found my bottle in the health food area of HEB)

1 Tablespoon water

1 Tablespoon vinegar

In a bowl, combine the baking soda and castile soap. Add the water and stir.  Lastly, stir in the vinegar. The mixture will fizz a little. Stir to make a nice soft, paste-like, consistency. (This is important – the vinegar must go in last or else the scrub will be like sludge instead of a creamy paste.)  Scoop out the scrub with a sponge and start cleaning.

I am sure you can half or double depending on what you need to clean.  The above recipe cleaned five bathroom sinks, three toilets, one stand alone shower, one tub, one tub/shower, one kitchen sink and there was a tiny bit left over.  I did try and save some the other week.  It dried out a lot, but I just added water and it worked fine. 

Note: if you plan to use this scrub to clean the toilet get a new toilet brush.  I read that is best not to mix the leftover chemical cleaners on your old brush with this scrub.

Citrus Floor Cleaner

1 gallon hot water

2 tablespoons liquid castile soap

15-20 drops sweet orange essential oil

8-10 drops lemon essential oil

Pour soap and essential oils into a large container (I use the kitchen sink.).  Fill with hot water and stir.  Pour some into a spray bottle to keep for cleaning the counter tops.  This cleaner does not need to be rinsed off.

This cleaner smells great!!  I really don't like to mop, but this makes it almost pleasant.  I also use this for counter tops in the bathroom and kitchen.  I basically use it like 409.  The essential oils are a disinfectant. 

I haven't finished my can of pledge yet so I did use it to dust.  I do have a furniture polish recipe to try.  I will let you know if it works once I run out of pledge.  It is like the nearer ending can. 

One last cleaner that I use daily is vinegar and water mix together with a 1:1 ratio.  I keep this in a spray bottle in the kitchen.  It is great for all the mess the boys make, I use it as a fruit and veggie cleaner, to clean the microwave, etc.  I use this one also like I used to use 409 (I never used 409 on food!).

It feels so nice to use only a few cleaners and they are all safe for your health and environmentally friendly.  As you run out of your normal cleaners I hope you will try these.  And since there are no chemicals you can feel good about putting the kids to work with these.  Happy cleaning!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stewardship

What is stewardship? Webster defines a steward as a person who manages another’s property or finances. For a Christian stewardship is accountable to God. Are you a good steward of what God has given you? How do you spend your time, money and talents? Do you use your time wisely or is it wasted playing Free Cell on the computer? Where do you spend your money—helping others or getting more stuff for yourself? What about those talents and gifts God has so graciously given each of us do you share them with others for His glory? These are some very hard questions I ask myself. And I don’t like the answers to most. My goal is to simplify my life and be a good steward of all God has given me. I plan to blog about the changes I am making and hope you will join me in this endeavor.
One area that I have been working on for a few months now is living waste free as in less trash. Here are so things that have allowed our family to take the trash out less.
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Recycling everything, not just cans and paper. Check with you city or county and see exactly what you can and cannot recycling.  
  • Paperless billing: I am still working on this one. I had all bills paperless expect one and then I started getting the paper copy again. 
  • Reusing instead of buy more: gift wrapping, bags and tissue, cleaned out food containers for food storage, kid’s art project and games, etc
  • No more paper: cloth napkins, rags instead of paper towels for clean up, real dishes –no paper plates. We do get the Sunday paper, but I reuse it for cleaning glass and windows and then recycle it.
  • We get tones of junk mail so I use it to print on the back side for things like coupons. I just signed up online to opt-out of junk mail. You can go to these sites http://www.dmachoice.org/. http://www.optoutprescreen.com/  http://www.catalogchoice.org/  Not sure how well it works since I just signed up.
  • No more sonic every week. This one has been easier than I thought. There was a time where we went to sonic at least once a week if not more for a cherry limeade or slush. One day it hit me how wasteful we were being—trash, gas, money, time. We now make our own special drinks and the boys choose each month were to donate this money we have saved. 
  • Now for the biggie. I make homemade products and food from scratch. This has cut our trash the most. I will share recipes in the future.
  •  Compost—fun and surprisingly easy more to come on this one as well.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hearing God

Questions:
Do you long to hear from God?  Do you need guidance in your life?  Do you feel like God has just forgotten about you and your family? 
Answers:
We all have a God shaped whole in our hearts.  We all need help and guidance at some point in our lives.  God has not forgotten you.  He created you and loves you dearly.  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;"  Jeremiah 1:5.  "But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8

A few days ago I was reading in Daniel chapter 9 and this verse stuck out to me.  "Now I (Daniel) was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin. . . and presenting my supplication before the Lord. . ."  Daniel 9:20.  This made me think of John and Nehemiah.

I (Nehemiah) was fasting and praying before the God of heaven."  Nehemiah 1:4

I (John) was in the spirit on the Lord's Day. . ."  Rev. 1:9

These three men heard from God.  Why?  Because they were spending time with Him.  If you want to hear from God spend time praying and reading His word and don't forgot to be still and listen. 

If Your Happy and You Know It

"For thus says the Lord God: 'Because you clapped your hands, stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain  for the land of Israel, indeed, therefore, I will stretch out My hand against you , and give you as plunder to the nations, I will cut you off from the peoples, and I will cause you to perish from the countries, I will destroy you, and you shall know that I am the Lord.'"     Ezekiel 25:6-7

I read these verse just a little bit ago and couldn't help, but laugh.  Do you see the humor or is it just me?  In my mind I was picturing grown men sing your happy and you know it and dancing.  In this passage God speaks through Ezekiel to the Ammonites basically saying your done.  Not really a laughing matter, but I'm still laughing.  

What can we learn from this?  If you are dancing and rejoice make sure it is for the Lord. 

Side note:  Notice the time this was published.  Yes, I had my morning bible reading around 11am.  Thank you Grammie and Granddad!!!  The boys are at my parents and I slept in :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blessed Day

Yesterday, was such a blessing to me.  I visited a friend (I hesitate to type friend because I have only spoken with this wonderful lady a handful of times, but she prays for me and I for her so we are friends and sisters in Christ) who has cancer.  She is at home now enjoying family and friends.  The doctors have done all they can.  It is amazing to me to visit someone going through such a hard time and leave feeling encouraged and blessed.  I can't wait to visit again soon. 

After my visit I went to the farmer's market and learn how to pick out a mango:)  I then headed to HEB and the checker was so nice and friendly she made me smile and isn't that great when you have just paid to much for food, ha ha ha.  Have y'all noticed the prices going up?

Look for the blessing today that God has for you and maybe bless someone else as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Apologies

First, I would like to say READ your BIBLE!  This morning I read the first two chapters of 2 Kings--interesting and a little strange, but an example of God's power.  I love that every time I open God's Word it is like reading a book for the first time.

Second, have you noticed signs for yoga lately.  I see them everywhere.  One I saw on Saturday read "where is your peace?  Tip: look inside yourself."  Totally wrong!  Peace comes from the Prince of Peace!!!  One can only find peace through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now to what I really want to share today.  This morning after dropping the boys off at preschool camp (side note: you may wonder after by blog a few days ago if the boys are involved in any summer activities.  They have taken swim lessons, attended VBS and are currently at preschool day camp at church.  I am not against any activity I just think we all need to slow down some and enjoy life.) I heard on KSBJ a question the morning show is asking listens.  How effective is an apology?  There was talk about how an apology is more meaningful to the one saying it than the one receiving it.  One person said apologies used to mean more than they do now.  It was also said "I'm sorry" is powerful for a relationship.  I agree with these statements, but also think it is important to ask for forgiveness.  I have taught the boys that I'm sorry is to be used when an accident happens and you ask for forgiveness when you choose to do something wrong.  For example if Jeffrey is not watching were he is going and runs into Jackson he says I'm sorry.  If Jeffrey chooses to throw a toy truck at Jackson he will ask Jackson to forgive him for throwing a truck and hurting him.  Asking for forgiveness is hard to do, but if you stop and think about what took place and then ask for forgiveness you are less likely to do the offense again.  Practicing this also reminds me that I am forgiven through the blood of Christ and thus should also offer forgiveness to others.  Praise God for His forgiveness!!!!

I hope this all makes sense--I don't sleep much last night so don't look to closely at the grammar and sentence structure.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Princess Cake

With two boys I never thought I would bake a princess birthday cake, but I did last Friday.  Grammie's (my mom) birthday dinner was Saturday.  I asked the boys what kind of cake Grammie should have.  Jeffrey said, "a princess cake cause that's what girls like." 


Lots of icing!!!!

 My shirtless helper.  Notice the farmer's tans:)




Happy Birthday Grammie!!!!! 


Josh had a little fun with the doll after the cake was cut.