Monthly Archives: June 2010

Blueberries!

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We love blueberries! Love them. And we are so blessed to have a farm near us where we can pick them by the gallons. We look forward to it every year. And Saturday we finally made it out there again.
Carson’s First Trip to the Blueberry Farm

Besides the fun of having a family field trip, and eating ripe berries fresh from the bush, this helps provide our family with healthful, affordable snacks and breakfasts all year. The berries from this particular farm are pesticide-free and chemical-free. And by picking in bulk and freezing them, I insure that the berries I use in our baked goods were fresh and perfect the day they entered the freezer.

Saturday we arrived at the farm, geared-up with our buckets and picked for only about 30-45 minutes before the little guy was tired of being in the stroller. (And we were all hot and sweaty!) But by then Jeffrey, Maggie and I had picked a gallon of berries between the three of us. (Lilly ate all of hers.) We ate a lot of the fresh berries, and gave some away. I made whole wheat blueberry pancakes yesterday. And the rest were ready to be put in the freezer.

So while the kids slept today, I went through the bag of berries, inspecting them by the handful, and measured them out by cup into quart-size zipper bags.
I filtered out all the over-ripe or shriveled ones, as well as any debris in amongst the berries. And I was occasionally tempted by big, plump, perfect ones…
… which I ate immediately. I didn’t want the other berries in the bag to feel inferior with the perfect berries.
I packaged them by cup so that I can quickly pull out berries already measured for recipes needing a cup of berries. I put 13 cups in the freezer today. And we’re hoping to make one more trip to the farm before blueberry season is over to get another gallon of berries. And if I save 13 more cups to freeze, that will give me enough berries to make a double batch of whole wheat blueberry muffins, or a double batch of blueberry pancakes… each month… for an entire year! (Until blueberry season opens again.) Plus I’ll have a few cups of frozen berries to use in smoothies or yogurt or just by themselves – which is a delicious summer treat.
We’re so thankful for fresh blueberries… what are you thankful for?

Nine Years

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I just realized that 9 years ago today (June 22, 2001) I met my sweetheart! I can’t believe it’s been nine years! It seems like just a few years have passed since that day when I was on that short term trip to a small town in Southeast Asia.





And I met a tall, good-looking man.

Here he is with his partner, whom our son is now named after.




Who impressed me with his humble manner.

And his love for the Lord and willingness to follow Him to the ends of the earth.




Who took my friend and me to see the mountain glacier…

Only it was completely hidden behind a ridiculous amount of fog.

A tall, inquisitive, good-looking man.

Who pulled a Snickers bar and a small can of Pringles out of his backpack to share with us when we got to the top of the mountain… where we could gaze at the beautiful… fog.

A tall, funny, good-looking man.

Who took us to drive go-karts and shot me in the leg with an air-soft gun. (Did I mention this was the first time I’d ever met the guy?)




A tall, good-looking man, wearing the coolest hat I’d ever seen.

Who impressed me with his leadership skills and the purity of his heart.

Who made me laugh, and took my friend and me out for chicken schnitzel and chocolate-banana milkshakes (yes, in Southeast Asia, amazing, huh?)



A tall, good-looking, intriguing man.

Who introduced us to his cool teammates.

Who slyly acquired my email address.

Who showed a gracious, wonderful time, in a small town in Southeast Asia. And when the day was over and we parted ways. I looked back at him walking away and wished with all my heart that he would turn around and walk back.

Into my life.

Little did I know…. nine years ago today.

Thank you Lord, for this wonderful man.
(And thanks, Kels. I still have to think you were up to something.)

MIY Monday: Play Doh!

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Simple No Cook Play Doh

I began today needing something that would ‘kill two birds with one stone’. (Wow, how’s that for a statement that is probably no longer politically correct? Ha! Well, just in case you’re an animal rights activist, please be informed I do not go around killing birds. Often. )

 
Anyways, today I needed something that would 1) Be special and fun for my kids, and 2) Provide a helpful Make-It-Yourself Monday post.
 
And here we are. Or here I am. You are there. I am here.
 
I really shouldn’t write these blog posts at 11:00 at night…
 
So, here’s what I came up with: Homemade Playdough
 
I used a simple, non-cook recipe I found on the web, and altered it just slightly:
 
– 3 cups flour
– 1/3 cup salt
– 1 cup water
– 2 Tbs. cooking oil
– 1 t. cream of tartar (optional to add to elasticity)
– food coloring (optional)
 
I’ll show you what I did and give you my review of this method at the end of the post.
 
Step One:
Mix Dry Ingredients. Then add water and oil.
 
 
 
Step Two:
Knead. Knead. Knead some more.
 
C’mon, give it some elbow grease.
 
Step Three:
Separate into balls and…
 
 
 
 
 
Add food coloring to the center of the dough balls. You don’t want to get the dye directly on your hands. I’ll talk more about this at the end of the post.
 
 
 
 
Adding the coloring to the already kneaded doh gives the play doh a more ‘marble’ look. This isn’t what I was going for, but my kids didn’t care.
 
 
 
 
After they played with it for a while, the color looked smoother, as you can see in the ‘cake’ Maggie’s making here.
 
 
Every day is a birthday in her world.
 
My Review:
This method is pretty simple, but I think I’ll try a cooking method next to compare. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, I’d put the dough in there to knead – I really had to work with this for a while, but really liked the texture of it when I was done. I didn’t think of using my mixer to do my work until I had already finished. That’s what I get for talking to my Mom on the phone while I was working!
 
If I use this non-cook recipe again, I will mix the food coloring into the water first, to give a more smooth, all-over color. And I’ll use more dye to make a richer color. But this means I will only have one color of dough, because I will not be making separate batches for every color.
 
While I wanted more vibrant colors, I did like that no matter how much my girls mixed the colors together, it didn’t turn to an ugly dark brown-purple, like regular play doh does.
 
 
Pretty. I sealed it up to play with again another day.
 
Finally, I liked the texture of this dough. And it was easier to clean up than commercially produced play doh. Plus, you can add essential oils to the mix. I think next time I’ll add lavender… maybe it will have a calming effect on my children. Ha!
 
This did keep my kids happily occupied for over an hour, which never happens with the other store-bought stuff. I think maybe that’s because they watched me make it, and it was like bread dough I sometimes give them to play with – so it’s more ‘realistic’.
 
Have any of you made play doh – tell me what you think!
 
Bless you all – Happy Monday, everyone!
 

Menu Planning

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As you may have read about in my last post, I have enjoyed having extra time this week, without being chained to my kitchen for hours every day. This was made possible because I did a little planning, and spent a few hours in my kitchen over the weekend, preparing our meals for the week.


Over Saturday and Sunday, I made:
– Spaghetti Meat Sauce
– Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies
– Lentil Stew
– Tacos & Ranch Potatoes
– Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, and
– Chopped onion and veggies to go in Crockpot Chicken
– Bean/cheese/brown rice burritos

Well, it’s time to make my menu plan for next week, and I’m hoping to do most of the prep-work for meals stretched out over the weekend to make my week enjoyable and profitable again.

This morning, I found these cute down-loadable Menu Plans and Grocery lists that you can download for FREE.


As many of you may know, I LOVE school supplies and office supplies. And prettier is always better. I’m going to print these off and laminate them so I can write/wipe and re-use! If you love to be pretty and organized too, pop on over to Heavenly Homemaker’s site and download these out for free. And free is a very good price.
Enjoy!

MIY Monday: Making a Change

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Today’s Make-It-Yourself post is a little different, because…


Some time last week, I had an epiphany.

If I don’t change anything, then nothing will change.

And let me tell you, I’ve needed a change.

Warning: I’m going to be transparent here, so if you have no desire for that kind of honesty and intimacy, you can just go here to learn about making your own laundry detergent or here to see how to make a cute summer dress for girls. Now, where was I? Oh yes…
Needing a Change
Constantly behind on housework and laundry… getting dinner done at the last minute, with a daunting kitchen to deal with until late hours… being cranky and stressed about not getting it all done… clutter up to the sky… exhausted and overwhelmed…pawning my children off on videos or hours of ‘free’ playtime so I can {try} to get things done… You bet your bloomers, I have needed a change. (Oh, you probably don’t wear bloomers, huh? Nevermind.)

In the going-on-seven-years that I’ve been married, I have spent a good portion of that time trying to learn how to become a good homemaker. In the first month of marriage, I realized someone didn’t give me the manual – and I really needed one (Still do.)

Add to that 3 children in {almost} 7 years and I’m still trying to learn how to effectively and efficiently manage a home. You see, I spent a good portion of my young adulthood preparing for a career, not a home. But I’ll blog about that another time.

When I had my first baby, I agonized over not knowing how to get things done and have a baby. And I got so tired of other women telling me to just ‘let it go’ and enjoy my baby. I certainly agreed with them, but I don’t think these women understood that I wasn’t stressing over dusty ceiling fans or dirty windows or cluttered junk drawers – you know – those things that don’t really matter. I was just struggling to get meals on the table, keep clean clothes ready for us to wear, and keep clean dishes for us to eat off of – the basics.

I have learned a lot over the years (and learned to ‘let go’ of a lot), but I’ve become increasingly convicted by the Lord lately that things are not as they should be. I have felt Him drawing me more into prayer, more into His Word. I have known in my heart that He was leading me to spend more quality time with my children – and be less cranky with my husband! {Let me tell you, the Lord gets all up in my business sometimes!}

On top of that we have some family and ministry goals we are striving to reach, we are starting preschool work with the girls soon (I’ll blog some other time on that), and I am working on an eBook the Lord laid heavy on my heart some time ago. (Stay tuned – it should be available very soon!)

Most days I feel like I am running on the treadmill and getting nowhere. And then, one quiet morning last week, I realized…

If I don’t change anything, then nothing will change.

I decided to re-evaluate how I was doing things, and where I could make changes so that I could reach my goals, be less stressed, and spend more quality time with my family – and less time cleaning up the kitchen and folding clothes until late night hours.

Problem Areas
I realized my big time-eater every day was kitchen work: preparing and cleaning up meals. It was taking me hours every day b/c I was constantly being interrupted and having to stop what I was doing to make a juice cup, break up an argument, kiss a boo-boo, administer some discipline, help a Little One on the potty, clean up an art project…


… feed a baby, fix a snack, clean up a spill, answer a phone call, play a game…


… of hide-and-seek, re-fill a juice cup, switch the laundry, change a diaper…



…break up another arguent, feed a baby, etc. I also realized that I was running on empty – Spiritually speaking – b/c I was getting up just a half-hour before my kids, leaving me almost no time to spend with the Lord and get dressed and ready for the day.

My Gameplan
I decided on making a few changes at first, in an attempt to make the weekdays better for us. First, I decided to make some meals in advance, over the weekend. Then, with meals already prepped in the refrigerator or freezer, I could grab something easily in the evening and re-heat it, only having to prepare a side-dish. This should help with clean-up time as well.

So, this past weekend, I chopped vegetables all-at-once for several different meals, and I had 4 meals going at one time. Here’s what I prepared:

– Spaghetti meat-sauce
– Fried Tacos
– Ranch Potato Wedges
– Lentil Stew
– Chopped Onion & Potatoes for crockpot chicken
– Bean/Cheese/Rice Burritos (quick-grab for Jeff’s lunches)
– Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
-Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

I also decided that it would be best for me to rise much earlier in the morning, in order to prepare myself Spiritually for the day. This will also enable me do some much-needed exercise, and get a head-start on breakfast, for my two girls who wake up ready to eat!

Mindset
In doing this, the Lord has been reminding me that I am not powerless to make a change. Sometimes we (read: I) feel like we’re stuck in a situation and we have no choice in the matter, when in fact, we do. I asked God to show me where I needed to make some changes, and give me the courage to try. And sometimes, in choosing a better path, we have to say ‘no’ to some things, which I’m learning to do as well.

So today was not a perfect day. There were still arguments and messes. There was a whiny, teething baby. There were many interruptions. But I felt the Lord’s presence with us today. And I was able to spend a lot of quality time with my children, and work towards my goals, spending very minimum time in the kitchen! It was so refreshing – I even cleaned both the bathrooms!

So here’s your Make-It-Yourself Monday tip: maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your routine and make some changes. Ask the Lord to guide you. And if you want to share how it’s going at your house, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Shannon

MIY Monday: In the (Kid’s) Kitchen

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Welcome to another episode of Make-It-Yourself Monday!

Okay, so I do remember my promise about not doing any more MIY Monday FOOD posts for a while. However, I did NOT promise not to post about FELT food. Ahem.

Last Monday, I stayed up late making these felt bowtie pastas and ravioli…


to go with these cute little pots and pans…



for this adorable girl who was turning four-years-old the next day.


I used solely what I had on-hand and here’s how I did it: OH, first an apology: I’m sorry, these pictures were taken sometime before midnight last Monday night, in my dining room. So the lighting is awful. Did I mention I hate using the flash?

Okay, let’s make some felt Pasta!


As I stated before, I used the felt I had on-hand in my craft closet: some tan colored I used for chocolate chip cookies, some green & blue I had used for a train-table backdrop. Blue pasta? Why not?! Cut them into strips about an inch wide and however long you want.

Then cut each strip into (about) inch long sections. I should state here that I never once measured any of these. And as a result, my bowtie pasta are NOT all the same exact size. Do you think my preschoolers care? Nope. Oh, and notice that I used the pinking sheers to make sure the edges of the bowtie pasta were wavy, just like the real thing.
Pinch each piece of felt into a ‘W’. Then you may glue or stitch it in place. My kiddos are pretty rough on their play food, so I used a needle and thread. Voila! Farfalle anyone?

Next, the Ravioli.
Using the same tan colored felt, I used a round lid to trace circles…
Then cut them out with the handy pinking shears…
… placed a little stuffing in each circle (seriously, a tiny amount)…
… then folded over and pinned each ravioli. Aren’t they so adorable?
I could have easily used the sewing machine to finish these, but did I mention it was late? I didn’t feel like lugging out the sewing machine, so I stitched these by hand while Jeff sat and talked to me. It was nice and relaxing, actually. I should sew more often while we sit and talk.
Anyway, that’s how easy it was to whip up a special birthday present for a special girl. The pasta was a huge hit. It was served up in several different ways. The next morning, Maggie brought me one ravioli in a little cup and told me it was my tea with a lemon on top. Imagination at it’s finest!
Happy Monday, Everyone!!
Shannon