Wednesday, November 28, 2012

There's no place like home..

We're 3 months into our new home and it's starting to feel like my home. Just this week, I've put out pictures and done some decorating. Seeing these familiar pieces that have been in our past homes (we've lived in 6 in the 8 years we've been married!) has just made things feel better. Oh, it's still a mess and a work in progress but I'm starting to feel the warmth that comes with making a home. Christmas is also coming and I adore Christmas decorating! I see decorating for Christmas just a big part of the celebration that is Christ' birth! It builds the excitement and creates lasting memories in the minds of our families. I have fond, fond memories of Christmas in my childhood home and I pray my boys will have the same.

"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."
~ Thomas Moore

I've always said that I am not good at decorating. And admittedly, it doesn't come naturally! But I do enjoy it. And guess what? It can be done inexpensively, too! That is a huge bonus for me! My desire is to make my house a home and in doing that, a part (even small) of my job is to work on creating a place for my family to live. I want it to evoke feelings of comfort and security for my family. I want my boys to feel safe and happy here. I want my husband to come home and know this is his place of rest and I have made it for him. Will it always be spotless? Ha! I have two boys and one on the way. You can figure out that one on your own! But I can work at creating a lovely place that is ours.

"God made woman to be a maker, to open her empty places and let life be knit from within her. Creativity, it’s good theology; it’s what God did in the beginning." Ann Voskamp

I've found a lot of great frugal, decorating ideas on Pinterest.  I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I think the concept is great but I think that, as women, if we aren't careful we can leave Pinterest feeling completely discontented. So, I share this tip and at the same time to say, be careful! Guard your heart against discontentment! I've also been attempting to look around my home and see if there are things that we have that I can use in decorating. For instance, I love jars and typically keep any that I get (especially my honey jars!). So, this week I thought, "Hey, I can use that!" Here is what I came up with:

Obviously, these are for Christmas but you could fill them with anything and use any type of ribbon for year round decoration. I got the ornaments, ribbon and candy all at the dollar tree and the jars were already mine! I know this kind of thing comes easy for some but not for me! I think they will look great sitting on an counter or an end table!

Once I get the house decorated, hopefully, I'll have more pictures to share! I'm still trying to come up with some creative ways to decorate our hall bath. I'm thinking about letting the boys do some art on a few canvases! Is that crazy!? Maybe, but it will be fun! I also have an idea of what I want to do on the back wall of the homeschool (den) area. It's a little bit of a bigger project and one I'm going to need some artistic help with! Oh and I am having a baby (28 weeks today!) so his room is kind of a priority too! It's all a work in progress!
May we seek to glorify God in all we do, the big and small, the glorious and the mundane! Let it be all for Him!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pumpkin Bars


Up until Thanksgiving I had been without refined sugar for 4 weeks! I was going to definitely have some dessert on Thanksgiving... and turns out, the day after too (I'm weak!). But today that ends, until Christmas! These little beauties are sort of legal because they don't have refined sugar, they have sucanat! It's still sugar, yes, so you should enjoy in moderation. I have quite a bit left from Thanksgiving (I made two pans!), so I'm putting what I have left in the freezer for the boys for treats (and maybe I'll have something when I'm craving something sweet). I thought they were great and the boys really liked them! I made them to take to both Thanksgiving meals and I'm wondering if anyone knew they were made with whole wheat flour and sucanat. If so, no one told me! You of course can make them with all regular ingredients.

Pumpkin Bars
(adapted from this recipe)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sucanat (If using regular sugar, I would use half brown sugar to give it a deeper taste. Oh and when I make them again for us, I'm going to lower the sugar amount some. It's just what I do. I like to see how low I can get!)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add spices and salt and mix. Next, add eggs and pumpkin puree and mix well. Last, add flour and mix just until combined. Fold in pecans. The batter will be thick. Spread batter into pan evenly and bake for 30-35 minutes. They should start to brown slightly on top and the edges should start to pull away from the pan. Let cool and cut into bars.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Dutch Pancake with Sauteed Apples

A while back I posted that I was trying to get away from my kids eating cereal every day for breakfast. While I choose healthier cereal options, I wanted to try some new things to get away from that box! So, here is one of our newest, easiest breakfast options. I came across this dutch pancake when I was going through my cookbooks. I found a Sesame Street cookbook that I had received from WIC last year. It actually has some really good recipes in it! I changed the recipe up a bit to avoid bad oils, low fat milk and white flour. It turned out really well and the boys loved it! The boys even helped me mix it up and enjoyed watching it puff up in the oven.

Dutch Pancake with Sauteed Cinnamon Apples

2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour*
2 tablespoons of sugar (I used sucanat, and did a scant 2 TBS)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 large apples, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8 or 9 in cake pan (I used 8 inch). Mix together eggs, melted butter and milk. Add flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir until smooth. Pour batter into cake pan. Bake the pancake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350. Bake another 5-8 minutes. I actually baked mine another 10 minutes. The smaller pan and whole wheat is more than likely what caused it to need extra time baking. I took it out and tested it with a knife to make sure it was cooked through! While the pancake is baking, add butter to a large skillet. Add apples and cinnamon (I didn't measure, just sprinkled) to pan and stir. Cook until apples are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Slice pancake like a pie and serve apples on top! Easy and delicious!

*Here's a tip that I've probably said before but I always sift my whole wheat flour before measuring. WW flour is heavier than white flour so I whisk it in the bag before measuring it. It seems to help make things come out better. In the past I've used King Arthur White Whole Wheat but I recently have been using Hodgson Mill because it's GMO free. It's heavier than the white wheat but it's working!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Happy 26 weeks today! I'm thisclose to being in my third trimester. Most say it starts between week 27-28. I have people constantly ask me how I'm feeling so I thought I'd tell you! I feel great! Honest! I have been blessed beyond measure with great pregnancies in the past and so far this one has been the same! Other than some hip pain during sleep and a little sciatic nerve pain late in the evening (which I just take as my body saying "sit down"), I feel wonderful!! I'm so thankful! 

Jude is growing! I can tell because I am growing! This past week is the first week I've felt literal growing pains. I can feel my tummy stretching and have had some round ligament pain. Again, nothing big, but I can feel it! He's very active late at night and early morning. That should be fun come February! I'm still going no refined sugar (3 weeks tomorrow!). Although, I have had small amounts in cereal. I do sometimes crave a bowl of cereal! It's Kashi Island Vanilla (so good!), which is organic sugar and much lower than most other brands but it's still more refined than I'd like. So, I'm not really counting those 3 or 4 bowls I've had as a snack! It would be different if I were eating Lucky Charms or something. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving because I am having dessert!

I have finally picked out a nursery theme. I'm excited about it and hopefully we can start working on everything soon! Since we moved two and a half months ago, that room has become the storage room and so we're slowly going through it all! We've got a baby coming in 3 months, so we've got to get it ready! Although, it's a little silly as all my babies stay in my room until they are several months old. I like to have my babies close and well, they like it too! We're using white, crimson and gray for his room. When we get it finished I'll share pictures!

Speaking of the house, we're still working on getting every done! My mom has been helping with the trim work and it's getting close to being finished. The Hubs and my father in law moved the TV again and we rearranged the living room. It looks much better but now there is more painting to be done from where the TV was moved! The next projects (I hope) are to sand and stain the table and cabinet for the den. This is where I will store much of my homeschool stuff. I'm praying for a nice day to get that done outside! My job has been sorting through things. I've been working on it in small amounts, going through stuff and getting rid of what we don't need! I've also been doing some organizing and today I'm heading to the Dollar Tree to see if I can find some plastic baskets to help organize the bathroom drawers and cabinets. Growing a baby, teaching a 1st grader, feeding and cleaning for a family doesn't leave much time for anything else! But I love it!

Some things you can pray with me about concerning the pregnancy: a doula. Goodness, they are expensive. My Dr wants me to have one for labor and I'd like to have one. But the money is the problem. So, I may be doing this labor on my own and that will be okay. My prayer is that God will provide if it's something I should have. I'm trusting that if it's not, He will see me through! Secondly, continue to pray that this labor will happen naturally and the VBA2C will be successful!

 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19


Monday, November 12, 2012

Battling the List

We are reading through the book of Romans in our Thursday night Bible study at church. I am enjoying it so much. The Word truly is bread and I am filled when I leave on Thursday nights. I think book studies are great, in fact we just started Lord, I Want to Know You by Kay Arthur with our ladies. But I don't think there is enough deep, genuine study of God's Word alone. God's Word alone is sufficient. So, we're taking a portion of scripture, observing it, getting correct interpretation (There is only one interpretation and that is the correct one!), and then applying application.

Two weeks ago, we went through Romans 7:1-6. The verses are speaking about being bound to sin and the law and then being bound to Christ, which brought up a great discussion about legalism. Legalism. Such an ugly word. What is legalism? My favorite definition from those that I've read is this one: "the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws." So, how did this apply to me? I have personally struggled with legalism and admittedly, still do on occasion. In my past, in churches I have been to, it seemed that there were certain sins spoken of often in sermons or in teaching. It seemed that those sins were 'worse' than others. Some of them were what you would expect but some were not. Some weren't even really sins but more of opinions about what was right or wrong without biblical backing, which is scary, dangerous stuff. This lead to thoughts that if I was doing these things, God was not pleased with me. If I didn't do these things, God was pleased me. It also lead to thoughts of "if I do this, God is not happy with me, so He will punish me." What terrible, wrong thoughts about God! And it still plagues me to this day. I'll explain later more of how I fight those thoughts.

At the same time, there were also things that were spoken of often about what I should be doing. I needed to be at this, this and this. I also needed to be doing this and that at home. Oh and I needed to make sure I was doing this too. And if I wasn't, God was not pleased. If I was, God was happy with me. So mentally, in my mind, I had a check list. If I did all of these things, I was a good Christian. If I didn't do them, I was backsliding or a 'carnal Christian' (which is not even a true term).  So, my check list of what to do and what not to do decided whether or not God was happy with me. Essentially it decided whether or not God loved me. My list became my idol and my relationship with God was pretty much non-existent. My outward walk became more important than my heart for God, my worship of God, and my relationship with God. It took me a while to even realize what was going on! It was such a part of my life. I was living for others. Unfortunately, this can also cause us to become very judgemental of others and even begin to think highly of ourselves when we are doing more or seemingly doing better than someone else, on that 'list'. Oh, isn't it so horrible?
It sounds a lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18!

Let us remember this, "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”

So, how do we stop this? For one, it's very dangerous to speak against specific sins from the pulpit. When preaching a text, of course, preach the text. But to pick and choose specific sins to harp on is just dangerous. Also making laws about what you should be participating in and such is the same. Personally though (since I'm doubting many pastors are reading my blog! Ha!), what can we do? My answer: Preach the gospel to ourselves. Remind ourselves of grace.

Grace. Christ came to cover our sins. Because of my trust in Christ's sacrifice for my sins, God sees me as His. He loves me because of the blood of Christ. It's His righteousness, not mine! Because I am in Christ, I am reconciled with God. My standing with God does not change! Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation! What a glorious thing! So, I remind myself of grace. I remind myself of His love. I remind myself of what He did for me.

So now, let's ask the same question as Paul did...  "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1) and then his answer.. " By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (verse 2). What a great question! Do we keep sinning because of grace? Of course not! We can never justify our sin because of grace! We have died to sin and come alive in Christ! Will we sin? Of course, we will battle our flesh until we are out of this earthly body! But grace, the gospel, compels us to love Him. J.C Ryle writes, "If we love a person, we like to please him. We are glad to consult his tastes and opinions, to act upon his advice and do the things which he approves... Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!" When we dig deep and know grace, our heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. And when we love Christ deep, the only way to love him, we desire to obey Him!

So, my friends, let go of those chains of legalism and live your life in the grace you're already covered in! Erase that mental check list and just spend time with your Father. Ask Him to help you break down those walls. It is still a fight for me. He is always faithful to remind me of His grace and I know He will do the same for you! He loves you abundantly!

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beef Tips and Gravy Over Rice

I try to always plan my menu's but on tight budget weeks sometimes it's just whatever I can come up with! This past week was one of those! I had some chopped stew meat in my freezer. Typically I make beef stew with this but I didn't have any potatoes. A quick search on the internet landed me at a crock pot beef tip recipe. Well, I didn't have time to use my crock pot at this point and was missing some ingredients but it gave me enough motivation to come up with something! The recipe turned out so good! Eli cleaned his plate and that rarely happens! It's easy and very frugal since stew meat is one of the cheapest meats you can buy!

Beef Tips and Gravy Over Rice, Serves 4

1-1.5 lb stew meat
1 onion, sliced thin
3-4 TBS soy sauce*
3-4 cups of water*
1/3 cup flour, plus 3/4 cup water
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Oil for cooking (I used refined coconut oil)
Salt and pepper
Cooked Rice (I used brown)

Heat oil in stock pot. Add beef stew meat with the sliced onions and brown (I peppered them lightly, be careful with the salt though, especially if you are using beef broth or full sodium soy sauce. I didn't salt mine at all until the end!). Once the tips are browned add 3 cups of water, plus 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook on low for 1.5-2 hours or until tender. I added one more cup of water with soy sauce at about the 1.5 hour mark, so just watch your liquid. It wasn't absolutely necessary but it made more gravy, which we like! :) Mine took right around 2 hours. Once the beef tips are tender, add in your parsley and garlic powder and turn the heat up to a low boil. Make a slurry with the 1/3 cup of flour, plus 3/4 cup of water. What this means is to mix your flour and water together with a fork until the flour is incorporated. Once your beef mixture is at a low boil, add in your slurry stirring constantly. Continue stirring until you get the thickness you desire and to cook out the flour taste (about 5 minutes). You may have to add more slurry if you want a thicker gravy. Taste to season, add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over cooked rice.

The Hubs doesn't like rice so I made these whole wheat drop biscuits for him to have with his! They were really yummy, too! I'm sure the first part of this recipe could be made in the crock pot and then thickened right before dinner. I haven't tried it yet but will soon!

*Soy sauce sounds weird but I read a tip somewhere that if you don't have beef broth (and I rarely do!) you can use 1 cup of water and 1 TBS of soy sauce. It doesn't taste like soy sauce, but gives it that deep flavor. You can certainly use beef broth if you'd like. I use MSG free, low sodium soy sauce!

Let me know if you try it!" >
" />