Monday, April 25, 2011

The Ultimate Cookbook

Life with two kids is busy. Life with two kids keeps getting more and more busy every day. I'm constantly looking for ways to cut corners in order to simplify our lives, but this is not always easy in the kitchen because I LOVE to cook. I've decided recently that I just can't spend hours upon hours (exaggeration, but you get the point) flipping through various cookbooks and recipes each week when I sit down to write out our menu. I'm determined to consolidate and I've found my go-to! The Ultimate Southern Living and the All New Ultimate Southern Living cookbooks are the most sure-fire recipes that combine mostly simple and relatively few ingredients, healthy options and dynamite dishes! I have yet to make a Southern Living dish that I haven't been pleased with and I have made MANY that I've just loved. And you can get the All-New version used on right now for a little over $7, including shipping (see link at the bottom of this post)!

Some more thoughts on simplifying your meal planning:
1. If you really like a variety from week to week, pick one cookbook per week to cook from. You'll get a variety, but you won't be overwhelmed by the options!

2. Make notes in your cookbook! You may already do this, or you may be the type that just can't bring herself to mark in a beautiful book. My advice to you - mark away anyway! Start a star system labeling your favorite dishes. Write down what you need to add for extra flavor, which family member really likes it, or whether it's best for a busy weeknight or a casual Friday night meal. The star system (or dog-ear system) will help you locate your favorites easily!

3. If you have your own recipe folder, go through it and remove recipes that didn't go over well with your family - they're just distracting you from the good recipes that are in there.

4. If you get really excited about trying new recipes, pick a couple of nights a week to try them and keep the rest of the week simple.

Happy planning!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worth the Work

I met with an amazing woman today. She has been married to her husband for 52 years and claims that the last 15 have been the most wonderful. She teared up when she spoke of her relationship with her spouse and had a glow in her eye and a smile across her face that becomes a newlywed. I want to pass along some of the advice she offered to a friend of mine and me.

*Ask him what he wants. Ask your husband which household things are most important to him - a clean home in the evening, a hot meal on the table, a little decompression time before letting the kids loose on him - and use this as a guide to set your priorities.

*The best thing she and her husband did for her children was to love one another.

*Know your husband. Know what he needs and doesn't need. Know how best to serve him and love him by taking time to learn these things. For example, if he struggles with stress and anxiety under certain circumstances, figure out what you can do to help alleviate some of his concerns.

*Reserve a couple of hours every week to have time alone with your husband.This woman and her husband have had Saturday morning dates since their eldest was 8-years-old. It was certain time together that they could look forward to and enjoy each week.

*Work at it. The last 15 - of 52 - years have been the most wonderful for them because they worked so hard early on - ironing the wrinkles out as they went. She said that patiently working through all of their differences, misunderstandings, and issues in the first part of their marriage has made this latter part "easy." They know each other so well and have been through so much that this season is one of calm, peace and immense enjoyment.

*Have a sense of humor. She said there were times in their marriage when they could have let pride take the reins, but they chose to see the humor in the situation instead. Not only do they love each other, but they have fun together, too.

These encouragements are not intended to be read as a "6 steps to achieving a perfect marriage" guide. The ultimate reason that they are so blissfully united after 52 years is due to the Lord's grace and their continual dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead them each step of the way. They have been through tough times, very tough times, but they endure because they recognize that their spouse should not and can not be their standard of perfection. He/she will never ultimately fulfill or satisfy them. Only the Lord can.

Marriage is not a mere social innovation, a piece of paper, or an outdated tradition. It is a gift of God from the beginning of creation. It is intended to reflect on earth Christ's love for His bride, the church, and the church's love for Christ. Constantly reminding ourselves of this truth should encourage and inspire spouses to love selflessly and completely.
If you know a couple who is older and still seem to be madly in love after years and years together, take time to meet with them and soak up all the advice they're willing to share.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday's Menu

Here are a couple of recipes that I've come across lately and they are both healthy and really tasty! Bon appetit!

Despite the name, this first recipe is so good! I will be making it frequently for my boys as the days get warmer and they need a little snack to cool them off. It's a also an ingenious way to sneak LOTS of spinach into their diet!

Green Slime Smoothie

This one is light, super easy and a nice change of pace if your menus usually revolve around chicken and beef!

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

from the Barefoot Contessa

Vegetable oil (just a little to keep pasta from sticking)
Kosher salt
3/4 pound De Cecco Capellini pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1/2 lemon, zest grated (if big lemons, use ½ a lemon…if small lemons, maybe whole lemon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx. 2 large lemons)
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

plenty of fresh-grated parmesan cheese

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, parmesan and toss well, and serve.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rest Up for the Sabbath

I've been having an issue during our church services as of late. I can not seem to stay alert during an entire service and I am 100% convinced that the problem rests entirely on me and not on external factors.

Because this is one of the most important parts of my week, I'm determined to resolve the issue pronto. I've decided that a major problem is how I spend my Saturdays. As I anticipate the coming Sunday as a "day of rest," I try to get as much as I can done on Saturday so that I won't have work to do on the Lord's Day (e.g. laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.). Let me just pause here to say this doesn't mean that I leave messes on the floor until Monday or refuse to go to the store if I notice that we're out of milk. It does mean that my family and I set Sunday apart as a day to participate in corporate worship and refrain from doing the "work" that we endeavor in all week long.

So back to Saturday...I shop, clean, anticipate needs that might arise on Sunday and spend time with family (which, with two little boys and an active husband, means physical activity). While these things may seem like legitimate undertakings, it wipes me out completely! By the time Sunday worship rolls around, my body responds to the long overdue sitting position (with relative quiet) by switching into a relaxation mode that just about knocks me flat in the pew!

Not only do I want to get the most out of worship as I possibly can, but I don't want to distract the pastor with my fatigued head bobbing as he preaches. My husband is a preacher and I am well aware that they see what's going on in the congregation from the other side of the pulpit!

Something needs to be done and here's my plan to make future Saturdays less hectic and exhausting, so that the Sabbath can be more restful and worshipful.

*I used to grocery shop on Saturdays, and now I'll try to go during the week.

*I often left house cleaning for Saturday and now I'm going to see that I get that done gradually from Monday to Friday.

*We're going to try our best to avoid Saturday night outings that will result in getting home late.

*I'm going to make sure I'm in bed at a decent hour on Saturday night.

You may not struggle with this same issue, but if you do, I hope this is helpful! And if you have any more ideas, please let me know! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your Local Library

I was never one to really utilize my local library, until now. Now it is one of my favorite stops in our small little town outside of Philadelphia. I've become increasingly impressed by all that our library offers and the following might just convince you to check yours out too!

*They will buy a book that you've requested if they don't have it anywhere in their system. The other day I went in looking for a particular Christian book on marriage. I knew it was a long shot because the book is relatively new, but we're trying to save money and I thought it was worth a try. They did not have the book, but they promptly offered to buy it on Amazon and will let me know when it arrives. This may not be the case for every library, but I imagine that if ours is doing it, then others are too!

*They offer classes on practical subjects - for free! I signed up for a class on starting your own vegetable garden. Sadly, I was not able to make it because our week got overbooked and something had to go, but I'll be on the lookout for more classes in the future.

*Take a look at the bulletin boards around the library's entrance. These can be filled with all sorts of information about events going on at the library and in your community.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Resurrection Eggs

My son brought a sheet home from preschool with this craft idea a few days ago. It is a sweet and simple activity that can assist in teaching your child about Christ's death and Resurrection. On Easter morning you can open the empty egg and celebrate the fact that HE IS RISEN!

1 egg carton
12 plastic eggs
Paper for Bible verses
Items for each egg

Number the eggs from 1 to 12 on one end of each egg. Place the Bible verse (written on small pieces of paper) and the symbol on each egg. Count back 12 days from Easter morning. Egg #12 should be opened on Easter.

Egg #1 piece of bread Luke 22:19
Egg #2 nickel Matt. 26:14-16
Egg #3 string John 18:12
Egg #4 purple cloth Mark 15:16-18
Egg #5 thorn John 19:2
Egg #6 toothpick cross John 19:17-18
Egg #7 nail Acts 2:23
Egg #8 piece of sponge John 19:28-29
Egg #9 toothpick John 19:33-34
Egg #10 gauze cloth John 19:40
Egg #11 stone Matthew 27:60
Egg #12 empty Luke 24:5-6

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cut It!

My dear friend, Callie, recently shared a craft idea with me that I thought was simple and brilliant - the kind of "craft" I can actually manage! She gives her precious (and I mean precious!) daughter old magazines and let's her cut out shapes or other objects. She can then paste them onto paper. She also suggested that your child can make a card with her cuttings, perhaps concentrating on images that remind your dear of the recipient - a nice alternative to the typical crayon or marker scribbled ones. :) Happy cutting!