Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday's Menu - Appetizers

There's so much food to be eaten over the holidays, which, as we well know, include not only the end of November and December, but every week in between. With all of the eating that you'll be doing and menus that you'll be making, opt for an assortment of appetizers instead of heavy main dishes.

Cocktail Saltines

2 sleeves unsalted saltines
1 heaping t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. cayenne
1 package dry ranch dressing
1 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients in a gallon zip lock bag. Add oil and mix thoroughly. Carefully add the saltines. Seal the bag and gently turn to coat crackers with oil mixture. Marinate at least two hours and overnight if possible. Lay crackers on a paper towel to absorb extra oil. Put in a new bag or airtight tin.

Recipe from Nancy Mansfield

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

3 T. unsalted butter
6 T. fresh rosemary, finely chopped (use a food processor or coffee grinder)
1-1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cayenne, or to taste
3 c. cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter, add rosemary, salt and cayenne. Pour butter mixture over nuts, tossing to coat. Bake the nuts on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Grits Toast with Creamy Mushrooms
Makes 48 toasts.

3, 14-oz. cans chicken broth
1-1/3 c. quick-cooking grits
1/2 c. grated Parmesan, plus 1 cup
1/2 t. salt
2 T. butter, melted
2 c. mayonnaise
8 oz. Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2, 2.8-oz. cans French-friend onion rings

Spray 2 mini muffin pans (24 muffins each) with PAM.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until grits are thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in ½ c. cheese and salt. Remove from heat. Spoon grits evenly into pans to make 48 mini muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm. Cool and serve.

Saute mushrooms in butter until soft. Cool. In a bowl, stir together mayonnaise, 1 c. Parmesan, mushrooms, and onion rings. Top each grits round evenly with mushroom mixture. Broil 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through.

Mini Lemon Pork Sandwiches

Makes 24-30 appetizer servings.

6, 11-oz. pkgs. frozen dinner rolls (Sister Shubert’s, for example)

5 lbs. pork tenderloin

1 c. vegetable oil

½ c. fresh lemon juice

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

¼ t. ground red pepper

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise

2 c. mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. lemon juice

¼ t. chopped tarragon leaves

¼ t. salt

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Rinse tenderloin and pat dry. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients in a large zip-top freezer bag or shallow dish: add tenderloins and seal or cover, and chill at least 4 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade.

Grill pork to 160┬║. Assemble sandwiches with mayonnaise and pork. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Mommy Vest

I had to include a short post on one of my favorite mommy items because thanks to Cyber Monday it's on sale for $20 + free shipping (today, Nov. 29th, only!). It's a Lands' End Women's Regular Down Vest, regularly $34.50.

Here is why I have made this a staple in my mommy wardrobe:

1. Keeps your core warm while leaving your arms free to grab, hold and hug.

2. Deep pockets for mommy essentials like keys and cell phone.

3. Comes in a variety of colors.

4. Wind resistant and water repellant, guarding you against inevitable spit-up or spills.

5. Keeps you warm - at least your core - in temperatures as low as 5-25 degrees F.

6. Versatile - wear it over a lightweight long-sleeve top or over a sweater on especially cold days.

There are more fashionable versions of this piece, but for the price and Lands' End quality, I think this is a steal!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Devotions

There are only so many hours in a day, and as a mom there often seems to be even fewer. If meditating on the truths found in Scripture is difficult for you to do on your own, and you want the time that you do set aside for meditation to be more focused and directed, try one of these devotional books:

For the Love of God, 2 vols., D.A. Carson

Daily Light for the Daily Path, Samuel Bagster

Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon

Voices from the Past (Puritan Devotions)

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Day by Day with JC Ryle, edited by Eric Russell

Tabletalk Magazine, Ligonier Ministries (https://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk/subscribe/)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Virtual Gift Exchange

If you're looking for a way to give family or friends a thoughtful gift, but are working within a tight budget, or if you just want to mix things up this year, consider a virtual gift exchange. Determine your group - immediate family or extended, neighbors, church friends, playgroup friends, etc. - and draw names. Each person will need to write (and perhaps describe) their gift on a card to be presented to the individual whose name he/she drew. You can create your own guidelines. For example, there can be a monetary limit - $5 to $10,000. The present can be a trip, tickets to an event or a valuable item - get creative and enjoy the opportunity to give whatever you'd like while ignoring the price tag! My family did this is lieu of actual gifts this year (we decided to celebrate over Thanksgiving when we were all together) and I truly think everyone had more fun! The presentations will provide easy entertainment and priceless, in every sense of the word, memories!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Puritan Prayer of Thanksgiving

"O MY GOD,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joy of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity."

From The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

Give Thanks...

...for dirty diapers, wet sheets, early risers, tantrums in your home, tantrums outside of your home, spills on white sofas, runny noses, skipped naps, picky eaters, messy eaters, back and neck aches from carting 30+ pounds up and down stairs multiple times a day, toys to trip over, loud noises, bruised knees, bumped heads, endless dishes and laundry and ...

...for diapers to get dirty, sheets to get wet, children rising healthy and happy in the morning - a reminder of the Lord's mercies, teachable moments to talk to our children about their sinful nature and the forgiveness, hope and life that is theirs in Christ, sofas to spill on, kleenex for runny noses, napless afternoons that afford extra time to tangibly love on them, food options to be picky about, abundance of food with which to be messy, working bodies to hold and carry our little ones and homes to carry them around in, toys for their enjoyment, joyful noises, knees to bruise, heads to bump, dishes and laundry that remind us of all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon our family.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." James 1:17

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday's Menu

With Thanksgiving coming up later this week, you're probably wanting to minimize the thought and time that go into your meals Monday-Wednesday. If you're in need of some quick ones, try these:

Monday:
Crock-pot BBQ Chicken
Place chicken (one breast per person) in crockpot and cover well with your favorite BBQ sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Remove chicken, shred and return to crockpot. Cover with remaining sauce and keep on warm until you're ready to serve. Tastes great by itself or on a bun!

Green Beans and Onions (make enough for Monday and Tuesday)
Sprinkle green beans with salt and pepper and steam until tender. Meanwhile, saute one medium onion and add half to green beans before serving (reserve half of onion for rice recipe below).

Rice, Onions and Cranberries (make enough for Monday and Wednesday)
Cook rice as directed. Add half of sauteed onion and halved cranberries (or Craisins) while still hot.

Tuesday:
Turkey Burgers
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Seasoned-Turkey-Burgers/Detail.aspx

Green Beans and Onions (leftovers from Monday's dinner)

Sweet Potato Cubes
Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and nutmeg. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so (done when you can easily stick a fork through).

Wednesday:
Salmon
When purchasing salmon, ask them to slice the skin off the bottom. Cut salmon into serving portions and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle generously with Emeril's Original Essence Seasoning. Drizzle olive oil on grill pan to prevent from sticking and turn stove to medium-high. Place salmon on pan once stove is heated (you should hear a sizzle). Cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until cooked halfway through, and flip. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. When salmon is finished, it should flake easily when a fork is pressed into the fish.

Crockpot Apples
Cut three Granny Smith apples in half. Place in crockpot and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Rice, Onions, and Cranberries
Use leftovers from Monday's recipe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Written Prayer

I'm going to assume something about you. Please forgive me if I'm wrong, because I may very well be! I'm going to assume that it's easier for you to write a to-do list than to pray. You may even prioritize the former over the latter. I have done this and I can easily pinpoint at least one reason why. I'm a doer. I love tasks. I love being active. There is a lot of activity going on around me and I get swept up in it and do, do, do most of the day long. One thing that falls by the wayside due to all of my busyness is concentrated prayer. I pray on the fly a lot, but rarely do I sit down for any extended period of time to be still and pray to the Lord in a thorough and intentional way.

I've been advised numerous times throughout my Christian life to keep a prayer journal, but I'm not much of a journaler, so I usually brush that idea aside. The idea resurfaced recently, however, because I knew that I needed to find some way to discipline myself in this area and trying to sit and pray in my mind usually resulted in drifting off into my mental list of the day's to-dos.

Writing my prayers down has not only kept me focused as I pray, but I can re-read the prayers that I have recorded and see how the Lord answers them over time, according to His good and perfect will. I pray that you will find this to be as much of a blessing in your spiritual life as I have!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surviving the Check-Out Line

I have a gift. I don't mean to brag, but it's remarkable really. I can always find the slowest line at the check-out. I end my shopping trip by scouring for what seems at the time to be the quickest line, and then, almost inevitably I stand and watch as customer after customer in the lines adjacent to mine breeze through. Now it's possible (probable) that this observation has more to do with my perception of the situation than the reality of it. After carting and chasing kids through the store while trying to make sure I've covered everything on my list, I'm ready to get out of there. The check-out line is the last hurdle we have to get over before we head home, so any hindrance can, and frequently does, cause major frustration. Although it's a mundane little task, I've found that I need to start preparing myself for check-out time prior to our arrival.

Here are some things you can do to make it a more pleasant experience:

1. Bring something for your kids to eat. Try to find something that will take a long time to eat. Perhaps something in a bag that they have to reach in to get. You can play a game to see if they can pull out one piece at a time.

2. Hand songs. Depending on their age, this could keep them amused for a short while.

3. Tell a story that will keep them in suspense.

4. Make it a learning opportunity. Sing the alphabet, practice counting to ten in Spanish or French, or count to ten backwards.

5. Pray for the cashier. Confession: this post is a result of multiple experiences I had in stores this past week. Instead of trying to make the most of my time in line, I spent it thinking of all of things the cashier was doing to inhibit me from getting on my way. I'm determined to pray for him/her now instead - a far more productive and loving way to fare the wait in line.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Humility by C.J. Mahaney

Well, the Mahaney family continues to blow me away. I plugged a book by Carolyn Mahaney recently, a must read, and I meant it - life-changing and definitely worth purchasing! The same can be said of Humility. Carolyn's husband, C.J., shares his wife's gift for writing passionately about topics that are Biblically and theologically substantial in content and practical in life application. Humility: True Greatness will knock you down flat, but you'll be thankful for the beating. Mahaney doesn't knock us down with harsh words and stern reprimands, but he gently and persuasively reminds us that we can only be truly humble when we recognize just how sinful we really are and how holy God really is. He encourages us to study and meditate on Christ's life and death, God's attributes, and to find evidence of God's grace in the lives of others. C.J. Mahaney clearly has years of training under his belt in the pursuit of humility and, by God's grace, much wisdom to share with us. So while this book was not written directly for parents, we all know that parenthood is a wonderful training ground for learning humility and this is a great manuel for battling sin in our calling as wives and mothers.

Here are some excerpts:

"At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend" (p. 29).

"As sinfully and culturally defined, pursuing greatness looks like this: Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification. Contrast that with the pursuit of true greatness as biblically defined: Serving others for the glory of God. This is the genuine expression of humility; this is true greatness as the Savior defined it" (p. 44).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emergency Kit for the Car

You may not have an "emergency stash" in your car, or you may have one but haven't repacked it in weeks, months or even years. We've all found ourselves in those unfortunate binds when we're out and about and need something and we need that something fast! Without it, kids will be crying, or even screaming, messes will get messier and an otherwise pleasant car ride will turn into the longest ten minutes of our lives. Okay, I'm exaggerating on that last point, but it's definitely no fun to have to deal with the consequences of not having a key item when it counts. To make life much easier and car rides much more enjoyable, start packing (or re-packing) your emergency bag with these key items.

1. The bag. First, you need "the bag." You can certainly use any bag, but I would recommend that you switch out the plastic grocery bag for a real bag with a zipper. This will keep everything contained and you won't have to worry about items falling out and rolling under seats so that they're just out of reach when you really need them.

2. Medical supplies. Even if you've never had to use medical supplies while you're out, having the contents will be worth it if a medical emergency (however minor) arises. Band-aids, Neosporin, Cortaid, Antiseptic, gauze, latex gloves, tweezers, and hand sanitizer. It may sound way too intense to keep all of these supplies, but you never know when you, or someone else, could use them. To simplify the gathering process, you can always just buy a first-aid kit.

3. Change of clothes. Pick out an outfit for each child (don't forget socks) and stick them in the bag. Your young children could have accidents, get sick, step in puddles, spill food or drink and...Again, you may never have to use these, but let's be honest, with young kids, chances are good that you probably will.

4. Snacks, snacks, snacks. I don't really need to elaborate here, do I?? Haven't we all found ourselves stuck in traffic or running errands and cutting it way too close to dinner time when the kids get hungry? Make sure to choose the emergency snacks wisely. Perhaps something that is somewhat healthy - so that if it spoils their dinner, at least it will provide some nutrition - and something that doesn't crumble or will be easy to clean up if it does spill (we love raisins, Kix cereal, and granola bars covered with yogurt).

5. An extra blanket (or two or three). These don't have to fit in the bag, but an extra blanket for each child is a great thing to have. Use them for warmth, drying off or laying down on the ground for picnics. If you're looking for versatility, pack towels, which can keep them warm and dry!

6. Miscellaneous essentials. A large box of wipes, paper towels, sunscreen, bug spray, plastic fork, knife, spoon, extra pacifier, bottle or sippy cup.

7. $5. You probably don't like the idea of leaving money in your car, but 5 dollars could come in real handy someday. This could buy food or drink for the kids, pay a toll or cover an emergency grocery store run for one or two items.

**It's a good idea to stick a small bottle of instant hand sanitizer in the drink holders of all the car doors. That will help you remember to wash off the germs while you're strapping the kids, and yourself, in.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Edible Christmas Gifts

If you're looking for a little gift to give to family, friends and neighbors for the holidays, here are some recipes for treats that you can make in bulk, package in festive bags, tins or other containers and hand deliver (all in early December so you won't be stressing over it closer to Christmas!).

*SHORTBREAD (**with Hershey's Kisses) - I have wonderful memories of my mom making these every Christmas. They're my dad's favorite!

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. rice flour
2 1/4 c. unbleached flour

Cream softened butter with sugar. Sift rice flour into mixture and stir well. Gradually add remaining flour, stirring until dough no longer sticks. Knead with hands and spread on greased cookie sheet, flattening dough until it is about 1/2" thick. Prick with fork tines for decoration and bake at 325 degrees until golden (about 20-30 minutes). Cool on pan for five minutes and cut into small squares. If adding Hershey's kisses, stick on top of squares before cooling.

**Optional, but highly recommended.

*CHEX MIX - My grandmother makes this between Thanksgiving and Christmas and our family devours it so quickly that she ends up having to make several extra batches each year!

6 oz. pretzels
1 lb. of mixed nuts
1 small package rice cereal
1 small package wheat cereal
1 small package corn cereal
1 small package oat cereal
(We use Rice, Wheat and Corn Chex and Cheerios)
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
1/4 cup Worchestershire
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. onion salt
1 T. celery salt

Bake at 225 degrees, uncovered. Stir thoroughly every 30 minutes until crisp.

*CAKE BALLS - Paula Deen's recipe for this bite-sized (or maybe a couple of bites) treat will look beautiful and taste even better!

http://www.smithfield.com/recipes/recipe/paulas-cake-balls

*LACY COOKIE CRISPS - These delicate cookies will be the perfect complement to your favorite cup of coffee or tea!

3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light molasses
2 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. vanilla or bourbon
1 1/2 c. sifted unbleached flour

Heat butter, sugar, molasses, and ginger in a heavy saucepan until butter melts, stirring to blend. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring and flour. Drop one tablespoon of dough on greased cookie sheet, allowing room for spreading to 3" cookie. Bake about 4 cookies at a time at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will bubble and become lacy in texture. Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes. Lift off cookie sheet with spatula, quickly rolling around the handle of a wooden spoon, before cookies become crisp. Cool on rack and store in airtight container.

*SAUSAGE-CHEESE BALLS - These are easy to make and are great for hors d'oeuvres, but can certainly be enjoyed throughout the day!

1 lb. sharp cheddar
1 lb. hot sausage
3 cups Bisquick

Mix well and shape into small balls. Bake at 350 degrees until well-browned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Delighting in the Lord

If you're seeking a memory verse for the week, try this one from Psalm 37:4:

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

I memorized this verse when we were trying to get pregnant with our first child. It did not take us long, relatively speaking, but it wasn't immediate either. As many of you know, the waiting game can become consuming. And so I became consumed; just waiting and praying for my heart's desire to be fulfilled.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring good things and praying that the Lord will grant you those desires. It's easy to lose perspective though and focus so much on getting the gift that we forget the nature and promises of the One who gives. We forget that "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17). And that God declares, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9). That "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all good things" (Rom. 8:32), things He knows we truly need.

In this instance, I was craving the benefits stated in the second part of Psalm 37:4 without adhering to the first part. Once I realized this I still had to wait a little while, but the waiting period became marked less by anxiety, impatience and irritation that things weren't working out as I would have planned for them to, and more by peace and trust in the Lord's goodness and perfect plan for our family.

We should delight in the Lord at all times and in all circumstances, rooting ourselves in Christ to such an extent that we ultimately desire only what He, in His holy wisdom, deems beneficial to give.

From the Time Management and Organization Queen!

Here's a guest post from my dear friend who has taught me tons, by example, on time management and organization. Enjoy!

I often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. My day starts early when my son wakes up and I get him ready for school before I head to work. The morning brings a hive of activity. I am usually scurrying around, racing the clock hoping I can squeeze in all the things I need to do before I leave the house. By the end of the evening, I fall into bed after a full day.

I am definitely a planner, but I am constantly trying to hone my organizational skills so that I feel like I am using my time wisely. I have found that I am intentional about the way I spend most of my time these days. As a working Mom, I want to spend quality time with my family, have a productive day at work, and handle all of my other responsibilities at home. Here are the top ten things that help me feel like I am able to keep up with the quick pace of life these days:

1. Prioritize - I love keeping a "to do" list. I keep it in my planner and remind myself to have realistic expectations for tackling a little bit at a time. This helps me at work and at home by allowing me to order the importance of the tasks at home. I recognize that I cannot do all the things on the list each day, so I choose what I feel is most pressing that day.

2. Do your work at work - My job can be intense during the day, so I try to practice healthy boundaries by going home on time each day and leaving the issues of the day at work once I head home. After all, everything at work will be waiting for me the next day!

3. Tag team - Come up with a way to split up your responsibilities at home so that you are not taking on too much. While you are at home, you want to be spending time with your loved ones, not slaving away over an unreasonably long list of chores. Divvy up household responsibilities with your spouse or give your older children different chores if they are able to help.

4. Cook with a Slow Cooker/Crockpot - it is wonderful to arrive home to the smell of the tasty dinner you have already prepared simply by plunking ingredients into a slow cooker on your way out the door.

5. Wash clothes at night - Before I go to sleep, I start a load of laundry. When I wake up, I put the clothes in the dryer and try to fold them when I get home from work that evening.

6. Get plenty of rest - Enough said!

7. Catch up on phone calls in transit - Keeping up with family and friends is very important to me, but it can be difficult once I get home and begin my son's bedtime routine. I like to catch up on phone calls while I am inching along in traffic. Of course, this only works if you can drive safely and talk at the same time!

8. Take time for yourself in the evenings - At the end of the evening, take time for yourself to wind down from the day. I love to read each night before I go to sleep. It is a relaxing way to end the day.

9. Use the weekends to recharge - Don't over-schedule your weekends so that you have time to recover from the week. Feel comfortable saying "no" to social invitations and ensure that you will be able to enjoy some free time before your busy week starts again. Take time to enjoy resting and spending time with family and friends!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

I don't know about you, but I have often gone through seasons when my prayer life is dull and aimless. I can feel so overwhelmed by the tasks of the day and the pace at which life moves that my prayers come out more like afterthoughts than a heartfelt, intentional conversation with the Creator. If you share these struggles, I would highly recommend Bryan Chapell's book Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name. Chapell walks through the Lord's Prayer - backwards - and offers practical and helpful tips on ordering your prayer life not around yourself, but around the one to whom you pray. One reviewer explains that the author hopes readers of the book will "pray believing in the power and the goodness of the One who hears, and thus to pray boldly, expectantly, and persistently." It's an easy read and will undoubtedly direct and enhance your prayers to the God who hears us in Jesus' name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dads and Donuts

With dads who work long hours during the week and don't get to spend as much time with their little ones as the mommies do, it's important that we help them carve out some daddy and son/daughter time.

Here's a short list of potential activities:

1. Dads and Donuts - My sister-in-law told me that most Saturdays her husband will take the kids to a park to meet up with other dads and their kids. The dads rotate picking up donuts for everyone to enjoy.

2. Putt-Putt - My brother takes his 3-year-old son to play putt-putt on Saturday mornings. It's precious one-on-one time and it's hard to tell who has more fun - the father or the son!

3. Yard work - The kids can play outside with dad while he does yard work. They'll likely even offer to "help." While this won't be the most efficient way to get the work done, they'll have fun being together!

4. Basketball court - If your husband loves basketball, he could take the kids to a public court. They will all have a blast chasing and bouncing balls and your husband may even get to practice his jump shot!

5. Ice cream date - All daddies and kids love ice cream (right??) and this is a sure-fire way to make some sweet memories! Check your local ice cream store for kid's nights. Baskin-Robbins usually has a kid's night where you can get a kid's cup for $1 each!

6. Bath time - My husband will often give the kids their bath. This has proven to be an incredibly sweet time because the boys stay (somewhat) contained. Because they're always up and moving, I usually don't get this much face to face time and I'm with them for most of the day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organize the Chaos

I am by no means (the boldface and italics are necessary to stress this point) "Miss Organization." Martha Stewart would balk at many things in my home and quite frankly, I'm okay with that. There are a couple of things that I have found to be really helpful though and I wanted to share them.

1. Keep a basket by the door. I'm trying to impose a new rule in my home that we take off our shoes when we come in the door. The rule was initially in response to the fact that I was having to vacuum our carpets daily. The carpets are now cleaner (well at least a little bit), but an even greater benefit is that I always know where my boy's shoes are when we're heading out the door. This truly saves me about twenty minutes of searching time a day and we're no longer late to events because we can't find one shoe! You can also keep an extra pair of socks for each child, hats, mittens, or anything else that might be useful!

2. Toss (or store) some toys now. With the holidays coming up, you're bound to be receiving more toys for your little ones. Now is a great time to sift through the toys they already have and get rid of (or store away) some of the ones that don't get much use. Try not to hold on to things that only receive attention once or twice a month. Don't feel bad about taking things away, you may be surprised that they're actually pleased to have fewer options!

3. The ultimate toy container. There are many different containers that you can use to keep toys "contained." I have found one that I love. It's actually a pop up hamper and you can choose from a variety of colors and styles in the storage and organization section at your local Target (or other home goods stores, I'm sure). We are currently holding all of our blocks in one, but you could use it for dolls, cars/trucks, stuffed animals, or whatever toy your child has an abundance of. It could also be a catch-all container for easy clean-up. I've found that they actually enjoy cleaning up when they get to throw things in the hamper. Another use is to be able to efficiently transport favorite toys to a grandparent's house or a vacation destination.

4. Hang up the best outfits in their closets. We have all had kid's outfits that have gotten shoved to the bottom or back of a drawer and when we finally uncover them we find that the season changed or our kids have outgrown them (this is tragic when it's a really cute outfit!). A friend of mine once told me that she hangs up most, if not all of her children's clothes. You can view them more easily this way and they're far less likely to slip through a season unnoticed. If the closet that you have for your child is small, you can hang up just the favorite and nicer outfits.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Being Your Own Advocate at the Doctor

I think that many of us treat doctors more like mind-readers and magicians than we should. We assume that if we just show up at the doctor's office and sit silently on the crinkly white paper that they will magically deduce anything that might possibly be wrong and, with a wave of their wand, or stethoscope, all will be fine. It's sometimes easy to forget that doctors are fallible creatures who have hundreds and even thousands of patients and they just can't, and don't have the supernatural resources to, cover it all. This is why we need to step in and serve as our own advocates.

Consider these:
1. Be aware of your symptoms and keep a journal so that you can have as much information as possible when you visit your doctor. What does it feel like? What time of day are you most affected? Is it worse after certain activities? Writing everything down will ensure that you don't forget anything when you're seeing the doctor.

2. Get blood work done routinely and insist that you receive a full report ASAP. If you have any questions about the results, ask your doctor if you can meet with him/her to discuss them. Having your blood work done periodically can help doctors detect conditions before visible symptoms arise and it can be helpful down the road in determining whether a condition is chronic or acute.

3. Don't be afraid to ask. I have made the mistake numerous times in the past of not asking my doctor enough questions because I was too afraid that I was going to come across as an annoying, time-consuming or ignorant patient. You have every right to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable about your health. If your doctor seems annoyed and makes you feel as though he/she doesn't have time for your questions, find another doctor!

4. Seek the best doctor possible. We often need to see a specialist and just consult the yellow pages or call the hospital to find the first available appointment with whomever will see us. When you need a doctor, for a routine visit or otherwise, putting in some extra legwork on the front end can be well worth it. Ask family and friends if they know of anyone who has experience with a doctor in that field, or if they know anyone at the hospital who could find out which doctor is most highly regarded. Or look on-line to see if you can find credentials and patient's reviews.



Monday, November 8, 2010

A Must Read!

I usually include a book recommendation on Fridays, but I couldn't wait until the end of the week for this one. Here's why:

1. I could be hindering you from saving time this week!
2. I've actually found something redeeming about Daylight Saving Time!

The book is a very easy read. It's called Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters. I really expect that the wisdom proffered will transform my daily life - and with eternal implications (hence the immediate post)!

The subtitle is "How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed," and the theme verse is from Ephesians 5:15-16: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." The Mahaney girls cleverly use the shopping metaphor to encourage us to be intentional "shoppers of time." They devised five tips - rise early, sit still, sit and plan, consider people and plan to depend - with Biblical and practical support that will not only "buy" you time, but will help you make the most of the time you have.

So, what does it have to do with Daylight Saving Time? You'll need to read chapter 2 for more details, but they encourage you to rise early - specifically before your children do (which could be really early for some of you, I know!) - to spend time reading the Bible and in prayer. You can also use this time to plan your day, get the house in order, get yourself dressed, etc. before the "little bees" wake up and swarm around you. Now is the perfect time to start this habit. We're all getting to "sleep in" an extra hour and if instead of enjoying that luxury we continue to get up at the time our bodies are used to, we've just scored another productive hour of the day! I've been doing this for a little while now and it's not always easy, but I have always found it to be worth it!

Here are some excerpts from the book:

*"We can actually do all that God has called us to do." (p. 13)
*"We must look around. We must develop keen eyes. We must examine our lives. We must evaluate our present manner of living and consider how to prepare for the future. We must walk circumspectly through each and every day." (p. 18)
*"In the end, our highest goal each day is not flawless execution of our plans or increased productivity. It's our relationship with God, walking in dependence upon Him throughout the day. We should not be more consumed with the completion of our to-do list than pleasing and glorifying the Savior." (p.90)

Quick link to purchase:
http://www.amazon.com/Shopping-Time-How-All-Overwhelmed/dp/1581349130

Monday's Menu

I was never really a meat-loaf fan until I tried this! The dish is an Italian-southern combo and the result is down right delicious!

Italian-Style Meat Loaf

1 1/2 pounds 92% lean ground beef
1 cup fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) preshredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine beef, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl. Shape beef mixture into an 8 X 4-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush remaining 1/2 cup pasta sauce over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 12 slices.

My aunt is a culinary genius. She pulls together recipes from all over the place and then adds her own twist to create combinations that will satisfy just about any palate. Here's an easy and delicious side to go with the meatloaf.

Roasted Marinated Vegetables

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Vidalia (or sweet) onions, cut into slices
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal
2 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pkg. Portobello mushrooms, sliced

Whisk together the vinegar and garlic. While whisking, drizzle in the oil to make a smooth dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the vegetables with the marinade. Refrigerate for several hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place vegetables on a roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes.

This next recipe is one that my sister-in-law makes every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is so popular that you'll be looking for excuses to make it long past the holiday season!

Toffee Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
4 ounces chocolate-covered toffee bars (about 3 bars)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of a 9-inch pie crust with chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars. Combine eggs, corn syrup, butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour mixture over broken chocolate-covered toffee bars in pie crust. Bake 50-55 minutes or until done.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Test Before the Rest

Have you ever wondered why no one consulted moms before they implemented Daylight Saving Time? Did no one consider that it might be easier on the kids (and therefore the moms) if they gradually changed the time over the span of a week or even a month? Well they didn't and, if you're anything like me, you're wondering if it's really okay to get in bed at 8 tonight because it's so dark outside that it feels more like 10 and the fatigue is setting in after just one day of dealing with the DST repercussions.

Even a trial such as this, like all trials great and small, is a part of our "testing" period as Christians. Scripture tells us that we are "pilgrims on the way," so to speak, wandering through our own wilderness during this earthly life, and yet led by the sure and sufficient Word and Spirit of God. According to God's wise design, these moments force us to walk in the footsteps of our Savior, who suffered before entering into glory, and therefore are a necessary part of our journey towards the ultimate rest God has promised to all who are in Christ. God uses these trials to refine us, conforming us more and more into the image of His Son. This should encourage us - our sufferings are not in vain! Rejoice in the hope, dear moms, that a day of rest will come and that, in the meantime, the tests of this life are nothing compared to the riches that are to be ours in our eternal home with Christ Jesus!

Paul prays for the Ephesians, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints." 1:17-18

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christmas Cards

Now is a great time to get your Christmas cards ready. While you may want to wait until early December to stick them in the mail, you can do plenty now to make it a breeze then!

1. Create a list of Christmas card recipients or update one that you already have.
*Switchboard.com is a great tool for finding people's addresses. It's basically the White Pages on-line!
*Don't be too quick to take people off your list. If you're working with a tight budget, it may be necessary to cut your numbers down. But if you can, use this opportunity to send a reminder to those you haven't kept up with throughout the year that you still think of them and that you hope they'll have a very Merry Christmas!

2. Pick out a family picture or schedule a photo session so that you'll have your picture (if you choose to use one) ready with time to spare.
*If you are so inclined, you can even pull some Christmas decorations out of the attic and decorate your mantle or stick a wreath on the front door to use as your backdrop. This will provide a Christmasy feel and no one else will know that it was shot in early November.

3. Buy stamps.
*Ask to see the assortment of "Forever" stamps at the post office. Choose from Angel with Lute or Holiday Evergreens if you want to add a festive touch to your envelope.

4. Pick out your Christmas card.
*Even if you're not ready to order, go ahead and figure out which card you'd like to use.
*If you are ready to order, take advantage of the "early bird" deals. For example, Shutterfly is now offering free shipping on orders of $30+ (Promo code: SHIP30). Plus save 20% on cards until Nov. 17th. Snapfish is offering 25% off cards (only mail-order purchases, not in store pick-up). The promo code for that is MERRY2010 and the offer doesn't expire until 12/31.

One benefit of getting the details taken care of in advance is that you might be able to squeeze in some time in December to write a quick sentence or two to personalize each card.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember to Put Him First

As young moms, we often find ourselves consumed with our children. It is easy when our little ones are so dependent on us to put them in first, second and even third place (even if we only have one child!) in our home. What we forget when this is the case is that our relationship with our husbands, aside from our relationship with God, is the most important here on earth. We can read numerous parenting books at a time, but do we ever read anything about marriage? We can pray and pray for our little ones throughout the day - that they would know Jesus and walk humbly with Him, for their health and safety, that we would be patient with them, that we would have wisdom in how to best love them - but are we praying for these same things for our husbands?

This is a unique season in our lives and we should not beat ourselves up for giving our children extra attention - they need and demand it - but we would do well to keep in mind that our primary calling, over being a mother, is being a wife. The Lord calls us to love our spouse by doing and saying things to encourage him and build him up. Seek ways to love your husband and to remind him, and yourself, that he is your first love.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Toddler Time!

If you're not quite ready to put your child in preschool, or if you're just looking for another activity during the week that is more structured than a regular playgroup, you might want to think about coordinating a "Toddler Time" with other young moms in your area. Some friends of mine started a "Toddler Time" this fall and apparently it's been a hit for kids and moms alike! One of their catch lines sums it up: "Because breaking out the art smock is a lot less scary when we're doing it together!"

Here are some excerpts from the flier they sent out to moms in their area:

Every other Wednesday: Oct 6, 20, Nov 3, 17, Dec 1
9:30-10:30ish
Calvary OPC, Glenside, Fellowship Hall
Moms and toddlers ages 1-3

Parents can help by:
1. Contributing $10 for art supplies for the whole fall
2. Bringing a snack to share with the group
3. Leading one of the activities listed below, every meeting or alternate with a friend

Schedule:
9:30- Circle Time Welcome (Lead the group in new or familiar songs and introduce a theme while everyone arrives)
9:40- Story or Finger Play (bring a book from home to read or teach a song with hand motions
9:50- Creative Movement (lead a gender-neutral dance/movement activity to music)
10:00- Craft
10:15- Free Play and Snack (sign up to bring a snack to share)
10:25- Good-Bye Song (Lead a good-bye song...we'll use the same one every week)
10:30- Dismiss and Clean Up (Sign up to clean up)

Fall Schedule:
COLORS!
Oct 6- Red/Leaf Printing
Oct 20- Blue/Painting Sticks, Pumpkins and Acorns
Nov 3- Yellow/Playdough
Nov 17- Purple/Tissue Paper Collage
Dec 1- Green/Bubble Wrap Printing

Of course you can change up the activities to gear them toward your children's ages and interests. For example, you could stick to themes such as sports, music, nature or cooking.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Working a Work-Out into Your Day

As young moms our days are so full of activity, but the activity is usually centered around the kids and not us. There are certain things that we inevitably have to cut out - tv, long phone conversations (while the kids are awake), etc. - but one thing we shouldn't cut out is exercise. I recently went to the doctor and when questioned about how much exercise I was getting she responded to my answer with a mere, "okay good, that's what you should be doing." I was shocked because I exercise about six days a week, which I assumed was more than average. It struck me that what I was doing for joy (I really love to exercise) was an essential component to staying healthy. So while this may not be a season when you can spend hours a day training for a marathon (you may hope that you're never in that season!), there are plenty of things that you can do to stay fit. And let me encourage you that anything is better than nothing!

1. Chase your kids around. If your kids are old enough, take them to an open field. Bring balls or other toys with you and run around the field with your little ones. Play Red-Rover (run hard until you get to them), baseball, soccer, Simon Says (Simon can require push-ups, running to a tree in the distance, etc.). If you don't love to exercise, this is a great way to combine fitness and fun and you may be so distracted that you won't notice you're actually getting a work-out in!

2. Let your kids play in the middle of a field while you run up and down the field or run around a track surrounding the field. You might have to modify this depending on your children's ages. Bring some toys and place your kiddos in the middle of a field. Jog or sprint up the field (one length) and then walk or slowly jog back to the other end. Try to do this at least ten times. You don't have to do it consecutively either. Stop and play with your kids every couple of lengths. You can even try to "race" with your older kids to keep them content and get them involved, too.

3. Walk early or late with a friend. One of the best ways to fit in exercise and (much needed) adult interaction is to meet up with a friend at a particular time of the day or week while your husbands watch the kids. You can hold one another accountable and it's a wonderful way to begin or build-up a friendship.

4. Exercise videos. There are tons of them out there and you can do it in the morning before the kids get up, during naptime, or after they go to bed at night. If your children are more independent (mine are not), then they could play around you while you work out.
Here's an example of a pretty intense one: PX90 http://www.extremebodyworkout.com/p90x-products/p90x.php

5. YMCA. Most YMCAs (and other fitness centers like them) have child-care now. Your children can play while you workout. If (and only if) they like this, everybody wins!

6. The Couch-to-5K. I have a dear friend who is doing this now. She has three small children about 18 months or less apart in age, and she loves it! It is a lot of interval training, which, I believe, is the best way to slowly ease back into running. Check it out here: http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml

7. Sign up for a race. Another great motivation is to have a goal to shoot for. Sign up for a 5K in your area. You can choose a fun one (on a holiday or with bands or other entertainment) or one that supports a worthy cause. This will give you incentive to stick to your running/walking plan. I recommend that you pay for the registration early. Then you'll be less inclined to drop-out during your training period.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Muffins and a Meal

If you like to bake, but don't have much time, muffins are some of the easiest to make and most versatile of baked goods out there! Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Morning Glory Muffins
Makes: about 1 1/2 dozen Prep: 20 min. Bake: 23 min. Cool: 6 min.

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 (15.2-oz.) package cinnamon streusel muffin mix
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 (8-0z.) can crushed pineapple in juice
3/4 cup grated peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 small apple)
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup raisins
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
1/2 t. grated lemon rind (optional)
1 to 2 T. fresh lemon juice (optional)

*Whisk together first 3 ingredients until blended.

*Remove and reserve streusel packet from muffin mix package. Stir together contents of muffin mix package and cinnamon in a large bowl. Make a well in center of mixture. Add egg mixture, pineapple, and next 4 ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

*Place baking cups in muffin pans. Spray with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full. Sprinkle evenly with reserved streusel packet.

*Bake at 425 degrees for 18-23 minutes or until golden. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

*Stir together powdered sugar, lemon rind, and lemon juice until smooth, and drizzle over tops of muffins, if desired.

Poppy Seed Muffins
Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Makes: 1 dozen

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 T. poppy seeds
1 (8-oz.) carton sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 t. vanilla extract

*Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine sour cream and remaining 3 ingredients; add to dry ingredients; stirring just until moistened.
*Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans immediately.

**Muffin recipes are both compliments of Southern Living.

MENU OF THE WEEK:

Taco Soup
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 (16-oz.) can pinto beans
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans
1 (16-oz.) can golden hominy
1 (17-oz.) can cream-style corn
1 (14-oz.) can diced stewed tomatoes
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with chilies (optional)
1 envelope ranch-style dressing mix
Tortilla chips
1 cup (4-oz.) grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Brown ground beef and chopped onion; drain. Add taco seasoning; mix thoroughly. Add, without draining, the cans of beans, hominy, corn, and tomatoes. Stir in dry ranch dressing mix. Simmer over low heat until bubbly. Serve over tortilla chips and top with grated cheese. Serves 4-6.

**Recipe compliments of Coastal Cuisine.

Side: green salad with Craisins and almond slivers.

Appr├ęcier!