Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seasons of Change

If you're the mother of little ones, then you're no doubt finding yourself in a season of continual change. You can go through days when you feel like you're climbing Everest - with multiple kids on your back - and others that are more like drifting slowly and steadily down the Guadalupe (okay, there are probably far fewer of these). You can go through seasons when a new baby, a big move, or the death of a close family member or friend can throw your life into such upheaval that you can no longer easily discern which way is up. Our family has been through many fairly dramatic changes recently and I have been extremely encouraged by the following books and audio on change.

*Seasons of Change, Seasons of Grace, by Georgia Settle
This book is written by a woman who has clearly experienced many seasons of change herself. Through much wisdom and insight she challenges Christians to remain positive even through life's toughest trials because when everything else around us changes, our good and gracious Father remains the same.

*All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson
While this book does not explicitly speak about change, it is a wonderful reminder - in the midst of change - that, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

*In Every Season of Life (mp3), Carolyn Mahaney
This is a fabulous message for young moms who seek guidance in how to be intentional with this season of life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Addendum (Only Really Helpful for Those With Little Boys)

I spent the afternoon in Toys 'R Us by myself. The plan was for me to look around and (potentially) purchase birthday and/or Christmas gifts for the boys. I couldn't resist adding this post to share what we got for them.

For our soon-to-be three-year-old:
We got a Hot Wheels track. He's obsessed with cars and we think he's going to love it.

For both boys for Christmas (ages 1 and 3):
We got a table top foosball table (see link below). It was only $25 and while it's recommended for ages 8-10, we think they're going to have fun just knocking the ball around with the little players.

If you have any ideas for little ones, or adults even, please feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear!


I recently heard about a website that will provide you with 7-day dinner meal plans for 4-6 people or a 5-day meal plan for 2 people. If you dread coming up with menus each week and want to simplify this area of your life, then you've hit the jackpot with e-mealz! There is a small fee of $1.25/week, but the savings of time and money could definitely be worth it for you and your family!

Here's an excerpt from the e-mealz website:

"E-Mealz has been created to provide a kid-friendly and family-uniting meal planning resource for busy Moms and frugal family cooks. Each meal plan is based on the current sales at the grocery stores, with plan options categorized according to store and/or weight management strategy. The recipes are delicious, simple and easy to follow. Each plan is new every week and has a corresponding aisle-by-aisle grocery list. Almost every week includes a crock-pot recipe and easy dinner ideas. There are meal plans for two people, for a low fat diet, a low carb diet, and for those who are following a point system, as well!"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shop Now and Save (Your Sanity) Later

Next week is November and while it is VERY, VERY hard to believe, the holidays are right around the corner. Before the stores get too hectic and the traffic gets too bad, beat the crowds and save yourself some time and avoid the headaches that can often accompany holiday season shopping.

What to do now:

1. Make a list. Keep a list of all of the people to whom you will be giving gifts. Start brainstorming ideas and use this as a reference when it comes time to buy. This might even give you time to think outside the box! For example, instead of giving your dad another tie, you could give him a "gift certificate" for a day with you. Treat him to lunch and then take him to a movie or to play golf.
2. Take your children to a toy store and let them roam around. Watch closely and note which toys they are most drawn to. Make a list and go back to the store later to purchase the items.
3. Tear out pages from magazines with gift possibilities. Organize these in an accordion folder with a section for each family member and/or friend.
4. Capitalize on the opportunity to give. Instead of thinking of giving as a chore, take advantage of the chance you have to show someone that you really put some thought and effort into their gift. Thoughtfulness goes farther than money spent!

Gift ideas for little ones (ages 1-4, approximately):

*Nerf dart launchers (Nerf N-Strike Maverick Blaster)
*Wooden or plastic table and chairs
*Sensory ball
*Books (make it a tradition to give each child a special book every Christmas)
*Toy medical kit
*Little People
*Toy cash register
*Sit 'N Spin (Playskool)
*Puppet show stage and puppets
*Grocery cart with groceries
*Magic kit
*Accessories to an item that they already have (e.g. for a train set or doll house)
*Scooter and helmet
*Dress-up costumes
*Melissa and Doug toys/puzzles
*Leap Frog
*Tent and tunnel
*Playdough activity kit
*Easel and art supplies
*Pet fish
*Bean bags
*Tool box
*Soccer goal/ball, basketball goal/ball, golf set, etc.
*Musical instruments
*Board games: Hungry Hippo, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland (even if your child is younger, you can modify the rules until he/she is older)

Where to shop:

*Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Steinmart, Tuesday Morning
*Dollar Store
*Kid's Consignment Shops

**Don't forget to look for coupons on-line before you shop. Keep them in a small accordion folder in your pocketbook or your car so they will be accessible whenever you're able to get to the stores.

Buy now:

These books are great for preparing yourself/your family for the Christmas season. Or you can give them as gifts!
*Treasuring God in our Traditions, Noel Piper
*Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Nancy Guthrie
*The Christmas Lover's Handbook, Lasley Gober (This is a shameless plug for my mom's book that is no longer in print! I've found it on in recent years though, so it's worth a try!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disciplining Your Darlings

Whether you're cuddling with your newborn or running around chasing your toddler, you've likely thought a lot about how you will raise your children. If you're looking for literature to help guide you in this endeavor, I've got a few recommendations (see below). But the one that I'm focusing on today is Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman. Her book couples wit and wisdom to assist you in your heart motivation and actions as your child's primary disciplinarian.

To save you some suspense, she doesn't condone the "count to three" method. Instead she uses and, I think, brilliantly applies Scripture to train her children. After all, Plowman reminds us, "God uses His Word in order to convict His children. Therefore when our children sin, we should use God's Word in order that they might be convicted." Do you beat your kids over the head with the Bible? Absolutely not. Rather, she encourages you to study Scripture so that you will be equipped in the "heat of the moment" to apply the appropriate Biblical response. The goal is that your child will gradually learn how to respond on his/her own, thereby living out the apostle Paul's prayer for the church in Phillipi, "That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ." (Phil. 1:9-10)

*"Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman
*Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
*The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau
*The New Dare to Discipline by Dr. James Dobson
*Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Recipes

Here are some easy and delicious recipes - one for each course. Bon appetit!

South Georgia Caviar
This is the perfect game-day snack, but it can be used as an appetizer or side as well.

2 cans black eyed peas
1 can black beans
1 can Rotel tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes
3/4 of a green pepper
small bunch of green onions, chopped
2 small cans of shoepeg corn or 1 big can of shoepeg corn
Italian dressing, to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve with chips.

Roasted Winter Squash
This is a seasonal side that tastes great with just about any main dish.

Prep: 10 min. Bake: 35 min.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3 lbs. butternut, acorn or spaghetti squash
1 T. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 T. honey
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Remove stem from squash. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds. Cut each half into 4 wedges, and place on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan. (If using spaghetti squash, cut each half into 2 wedges.)
Stir together butter and honey until blended. Brush squash evenly with butter mixture; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.
Bake at 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until tender, turning once.
Cut skins from squash wedges and discard.

Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage
There are a lot of ingredients in this one, but it is delicious and should provide several meals.

2 cups white enriched rice, prepared to package directions
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. chicken tenders, diced
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced (3 thighs)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 t. poultry seasoning
3/4-1 lb. andouille sausage (4 links, with casings removed), diced
3 T. butter
3 ribs celery from the heart of the bunch, chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
2 T. cayenne pepper sauce (optional)
3 T. flour
1 qt. chicken stock or broth
2 cups chopped okra, fresh or frozen, defrosted
1 can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
2-3 T. fresh thyme leaves (several sprigs), chopped
5 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle

Preheat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 T. oil, twice around the pan, and the diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of poultry seasoning. Brown on all sides, about 2 or 3 minutes. Chop your veggies while it’s working. Add the andouille to the pan and cook another minute or two. Transfer chicken and sausage to a dish.

Return pan to heat and add butter. When the butter melts, add chopped celery, peppers, onion and bay. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce. Cook 3-5 minutes to begin to soften veggies. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Add okra to the broiling broth, then return the meats to the pot and stir in tomatoes and half of your fresh thyme. When it’s bubbling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes to combine flavors, then adjust your seasonings.

Scoop cooked white rice into the center of bowlfuls of gumbo using an ice cream scoop. Setting the rice on top of the gumbo will keep it from getting too wet. Top with remaining chopped thyme and lots of chopped scallions.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
This recipe will produce two loaves of autumn delight! If you're really ambitious, you can use real pumpkin instead of canned!

3/4 c. butter
2-1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 lb. can pumpkin
2/3 c. water
3-1/2 c. unbleached flour
2 t. baking soda
1-1/2 t. salt
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 pkg. Ghirardelli chocolate chips (You can use other brands. This is my mom's recipe and
she's partial to Ghirardelli.)

Cream butter and sugar and add one egg at the time, beating thoroughly. Mix in pumpkin and water. Combine remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Mix well. Stir into pumpkin mixture, blending thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips to even distribution. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour (until toothpick comes out clean). Cool 15 minutes in pan.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Method for Prayer

If you're a busy mom, then you might be finding it difficult to make time throughout the day to pray. And if you do pray, it's more likely one-liner supplications here and there (I'm drawing from my own experience here). If you desire to be more intentional with your prayer life (using more Scripture and praying through various parts of prayer - adoration, confession, petition, intercession, etc.), I've found a wonderful resource that will e-mail you a Scripture-filled prayer daily!

You can go to the following site to sign up!

Here's an encouraging quote that you'll find on the sign-up page:
"Praying the thoughts, concerns, and language of the Scriptures back to the true and living God who breathed them out: What a great way to root your heart and mind in truth as you begin each day!"

Looking to Lose a Little?

If you're still trying to shed some post-baby weight, or if you're just a very busy mom who would like to lose a few pounds, here are some tips that could help:

1. Eat from a smaller plate. Some plates are being made bigger now to accommodate our large appetites. We often feel compelled to fill our plates, regardless of the size. So if you start with a smaller plate (use a salad plate instead), you can usually get plenty to eat without consuming more calories. Also, try using smaller ice cream bowls for dessert.

2. Cut out drinks. Opt for water. Other drinks add calories to your diet and leave you hungry.

3. Make your snacks count. A handful of almonds (unsalted) is a really healthy and filling snack. You can make whole wheat couscous and add craisins, almond slivers, green onion and cinnamon. Oatmeal, apples, bananas, or Greek yogurt with granola and a touch of honey are other healthy options.

4. One Dove Dark Chocolate. Buy a bag of these and eat just one (I know, hard to do) to satisfy your craving for sweets.

5. Save dessert for after dinner. Try sticking to one dessert (or none) a day and wait until after dinner to have it. This keeps you from indulging in cookies or other snack foods periodically throughout the day.

6. Don't cut out everything. If you cut out all "treats," it will likely leave you more frustrated than motivated to stick to your diet (I use this term loosely). Enjoy the foods that you like, just enjoy them in moderation. While cutting down, start slowly. You could plan to eat dessert every other night instead of every night or you could plan on having dessert only on the weekend.

7. Exercise. Next week I'll devote an entire post to this, but make sure that you're making time for exercise. Don't just pick one or the other - diet or exercise - being healthy requires both!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just Add Cinnamon (Sticks)

One of my favorite things about fall and winter is the variety and potency of the season's smells! One in particular involves little effort, but packs a huge aromatic punch that will please any and every nose that enters into your home!

Buy cinnamon sticks at your local grocery, gift or craft store. Place in cooking pan on the stove and cover with water. Bring to a slight boil on medium high, then turn the heat down to low. The aroma creates an instant sense of warmth and coziness that will make you want to stock up on cinnamon sticks all season long.

*If you want a little more spice, add orange rind strips, a couple of whole cloves, and a palm full of whole allspice.

**Water will evaporate so keep an eye on the water level to make sure the pan doesn't burn.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Listen While You Work

We've all heard the old saying "whistle while you work," and while that may be fine for Snow White and the seven dwarfs, I've craved stimulation beyond trying to carry a tune (which I'm not very good at anyway) as I try to get things done around the house. Fortunately there are ways to engage your mind AND get all of the laundry, dishes and dusting done! I have loved listening to sermons, talks and even on-line lectures (via iPods or listening on the computer). These can be easily found on various internet sites, but I've included some recommended listening below in case you're interested!

*Carolyn Mahaney on being a woman and a mother:

*Susan Hunt on discipleship and women in the church:

* has a huge collection of sermons and talks from just about any category, including Theology, Gospel, Bible, God, Christian Life and Hot Topics.

*For free Reformed Theological Seminary courses visit:

* For more than 350,000 free lectures from universities all over the world go to iTunes U:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easy Meal for the Week

Crockpot Chicken

Put two chicken breasts (thawed) in the crockpot. Add one can of black beans, one can of yellow corn, and one can of diced tomatoes. Peel and cut four carrots into small rounds and add to pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. That's it! So unbelievably easy!
The best part of this meal is that you can eat it any way you like and it can last for most of the week!

Possible serving options:
1. Spread avocado and fresh salsa on a tortilla. Add crockpot mixture and cheese. *This is my favorite!
2. Serve over rice or pasta.
3. Serve on a hamburger bun or a large roll (just make sure you serve with a slotted spoon and let liquid drain so the bun doesn't get soggy).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen

If you have any inclination to "go organic," but just can't afford to go all the way, then the following chart (compliments of Martha Stewart :)) might be helpful.

The CLEAN 15 (these foods have some of the lowest amounts of pesticide residue):
1. Onions
2. Avocados
3. Corn
4. Pineapples
5. Mangoes
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet peas
8. Kiwifruits
9. Cabbages
10. Eggplants
11. Papayas
12. Watermelons
13. Broccoli
14. Tomatoes
15. Sweet Potatoes

THE DIRTY DOZEN (These have the greatest amounts of pesticide residue):
1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Bell peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Imported grapes
11. Carrots
12. Pears

Because I think I'm likely to have trouble keeping these lists straight, I'm going to write the above on a notecard and keep it in my pocketbook so I'll always have it on hand at the store. If you have any organic tips, please share in the comment box!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Verse Memorization

I recently attended a Bible study where the teacher, a grandmother of three, exhorted us to, “memorize while you are still young.” She said that she attempted to memorize Psalm 119 –the longest chapter in the Bible, mind you- a short time ago and just couldn’t do it. I was convicted that I, a young woman, haven’t even tried to memorize short verses lately! I could insert several caveats here – I am the mother of two very busy little boys, I clean my own house, cook full dinners almost every night of the week, etc., etc., etc., but I’m not going to. I’m not going to because, if I did, I would be prioritizing these (precious things) above learning and meditating on the very written Word of God!

Here are some simple suggestions to get you started:

1. Write a verse on a notecard and tape it to the mirror in your bathroom, the space above your sink, your car's dashboard or wherever you know you will be spending some time during the day. Leave it up for a week or two, and then replace it with another one.

2. Keep a Bible by your bed. Mark a verse with a bookmark and read it when you wake in the morning and before going to bed at night.

3. If you need accountability, memorize with your husband or even your kids.

The Lord promises us through His prophet that, “My Word shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11. This is God's promise (and a good verse to memorize :))! And as He has been faithful to fulfill ALL of His promises, you can rest assured that He will fulfill this promise as well!

Not sure where to begin? Here are some that I've chosen in the past:

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23-24

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Any Plans for Dinner Tonight?

If you're reading through this blog and have no idea what you should cook for dinner tonight or even this week, here are some delicious and EASY recipes:

Easy pasta (Just got this one from a friend. Thanks, AA!):
*Cook 1-1/2 lbs. Rigatoni, Penne or Fusilli pasta as directed.
*Drain pasta and place in the bottom of a 9"X9" or 9"X13" casserole dish.
*Toss with olive oil.
*Add one jar (about 1 1/2 cups) of pesto and mix with pasta.
*Top with 2 cups cooked (and diced or shredded) chicken (to make it really easy, I use a Rotisserie chicken).
*At this point there's flexibility. Add cooked onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, zucchini (all chopped) or whatever you have on hand.
*Top with mozzarella cheese (cover lightly or dump a mound on, your choice) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup:
*Cut butternut and acorn squash in half and place on foil lined baking sheet, scoop out seeds and pulp, and top with olive oil or butter, honey, salt and pepper.
*Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a knife easily slides through the thickest part of the squash.
*Let cool and cut off skins. Dice the squash into one-inch chunks.
*Pour four cups of chicken broth into a big pot. Add squash, one medium sized onion (diced), two or three cloves garlic (crushed), 1 t. nutmeg, 1 t. cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste.
*Cook on medium heat for an hour.
*If desired, put soup in a blender and puree for creamy consistency.

*Tips: make the squash the day before. For the chicken broth, take all of the chicken that you can off a Rotisserie chicken and throw the remaining carcass (sorry, couldn't think of a better description) into a large pot. Cover with water, add half an onion, two cloves garlic and celery if you have it on hand. Boil for an hour and drain, reserving the liquid for your broth. You will probably also find small pieces of chicken in the pot and you can certainly add those to your soup as well -delish!

I'm planning on including an easy recipe every week or so. Please feel free to leave recipes in the comments section if you have some you'd like to share!

Saving for a Rainy Day...

My two-year-old recently replied to my husband's proposition that he save his money for a rainy day with, "No Daddy, then it would get all wet!" Rainy days are inevitable and so is stir-craziness unless you get creative with how to spend them. Here are some rainy day activities for which you don't have to save any money!

1. Don't plan many activities at all. Don't we all wish for days amidst our busy schedules when we can have very little, or even nothing at all planned? Capitalize on this opportunity to stay dry and cozy inside and allow for hours of free-play, reading together in bed, pulling out old games and puzzles or whatever your kids enjoy.

2. Go to the mall. We have lived in several different cities now and even the smaller towns have malls with something exciting for the kids. Some are extremely kid-friendly with duck ponds and carousels and other might just have escalators and elevators. If nothing else, it's a covered place to allow your kids a venue to blow off some steam before heading back home.

3. Barnes and Noble. Every Barnes and Noble I've been to lately has a Thomas the Train train table and my boys love it! Play with trains, read books and sneak a coffee or hot chocolate from the bookstore cafe for yourself!

4. Go to the library. If you often bemoan the fact that you can't seem to carve enough reading time into your schedule, head to the library for a morning or afternoon surrounded by shelves and shelves of new books.

5. Daily Candy. Check out this website,, for kid's activities in your city.

6. Bank of America's Museums on Us. If you have a Bank of America credit or check card, you can get free entry into many museums around the country. It only works on the first full weekend of every month, but it's definitely worth looking into.

5. Cook. What kid doesn't love to get messy in the kitchen and have a sweet treat afterwards? Pick a simple recipe - muffins, cookies, etc. - and cook together. I did this with my one-year-old last week and he ended up a floured mess, but we had so much fun. If your kids are old enough you could even try to get them to help with dinner!

6. Clean Together. This may sound crazy, but I've been amazed by how much my boys like cleaning, well using the cleaning tools anyway. You can make games out of it and hopefully instill an appreciation for keeping things tidy (haha).

7. Crafts for the Non-Crafty. I was so pleased when my child came home from preschool the other day with a craft. That's one reason why I send him - to get a chance to do things that I never think of doing with him. Here are some simple crafts that anyone can do! Finger paint, grab a paper bag and decorate with markers, cotton balls (bunny?), dried beans, cut pieces of gift wrap, ribbons, or whatever you have on hand. Grab various shaped objects - empty and rinsed out milk or oj cartons, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, two paper plates stapled together, etc. and put dried beans in them to make musical instruments. Use foil and a rubber band to secure the ends of the rolls. Let the kids decorate them and then parade around the house.