Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's Hard Being the Big Sister!

Disclaimer: So this is a bit of a sappy post. And if family members are reading this post, you may (or may not) have heard my version of what happened). Again, I'm not looking for any kind of compliments/comments/etc, but I figured there MUST be others out there who know what I'm about to talk about, and hopefully can gain some comfort/reassurance/peace from this post. 

In my family, I am the oldest sibling. Well, not exactly. I'm technically the middle child, but a tragedy struck my family almost 30 years ago that, for a short time, left me with no living siblings. You see, when I was four years old, my family, which consisted of my mom, dad, older sister, Tuesday, and myself, went on a family skiing trip to the mountains of North Carolina. I had just turned 4 years old, and Tuesday was 8. After a fun day out on the snow, it was time to go home. Shortly after we got in the car, we had an accident which left me in serious condition (with my head split open) in the NC hospital, and my older sister didn't quite make it. Luckily both of my parents weren't severely hurt, but that meant one parent had to stay in the hospital with me, and one had to make the long trip back to Charleston, SC, to bury my older sister.

I distinctly remember that day. They say most children don't have good, solid memories until they are closer to 5, but I have some pretty hard core memories of Tuesday. She introduced me to Olivia Newton John. My favorite color was purple because her favorite color was purple. She taught me how to blow bubbles with my gum. And she was also the reason I was afraid of the dark for so many years (a little bit of sibling fighting that lead me to be locked in a dark room for a while...scary!) But she was my best friend. I looked up to her more than anything else in the world. So it's no wonder that those moments between talking to her in the car before the accident and waking up in the hospital without a living sister that I had "a moment" with her between this world and the next. I will never forget the bright, BRIGHT light, the intense feeling of peace, and my sister looking beautiful as she told me she had to go to Heaven. She spoke words of advice to me and gave me a specific job to do (one that I will not share here, but for those who personally know me, I will be more than happy to share it with you). When I woke up in the hospital room, my mother, who chose to stay with me, told me of Tuesday's death. Looking back, I fear my mother thought I didn't care because of my response, but honestly, I was at peace with the situation. I knew where she was...I practically walked her there myself!

My parents made the decision to have another child, my little sister, Jill. and I suddenly had big shoes to fill.

If you know anything about birth order, the oldest child typically tends to be the more mature, responsible one. The one that is goal-oriented and focused. The middle (or last child) tends to be a little more carefree, outgoing, imaginative, and creative. (Now don't get your feathers ruffled. There are always an exception to the rule). At the core of me, I am that middle child. If you know me personally (especially if you have known me since childhood), I am outgoing, creative, and all those other things that are typical of the middle or last child. So when my older sister died and my parents had my younger sister, I was suddenly cast into a role that goes against who I am. I suddenly had to be the responsible one. I had to be the one who was the guinea pig of my parents, and I had to learn to lead by example.

To this day I struggle with being a natural leader to my younger sister. As a typical baby of the family, I just wanted to spend as much time with both of my sisters as possible. When my younger sister came around, it was only natural for me to take her with me everywhere. And not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Jill seriously went everywhere with me (as all of my ex-boyfriends would say...she went on almost all my dates with me). And because I was a "spirited" child and young person, I don't think my sister really minded all that much. I was always looking for ways to include her. But as we got older, and our lives took different paths, my sister wasn't always so inclined to be with me as much. And it is times like these that I wish I had my older sister back to give me advice, to set an example, and to tell me which things to fight for and which things I need to back off on.

So on this day, Tuesday's 37th birthday, I reflect on sisterhood. I reflect on my sisters. I evaluate myself. Am I being a good sister? Would I do Tuesday justice? Do I take my job too seriously? When do I back off and let my younger sister do her thing? and When do I step in?

Society, today, has so many mixed families where a child can go from an only child to one of many (in the case of remarried parents). As much as there is no set line anymore for what a typical family looks like, there are many of us who are suddenly put in a position that goes against what our birth order says about us. I ask that you parents recognize that struggle and be patient. I ask that the other siblings (who may not be affected by the change) also be considerate. It seriously is hard to fill shoes that we originally weren't supposed to fill!

Tuesday (on right) and Me 

Jill (on left) and Me 

PS: I know that some may want to respond: "God planned for you to fill that new role", and I totally agree. He knew I could handle this task. But there are days/times (like wedding days when your sibling is not there to be a bridesmaid) when it hits hard that there used to be another role for you. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Food: Single Serving Chicken Pot Pies (in a muffin tin!!)

A few months ago, a friend of mine had a baby. I wanted to bring her family some food as she transitioned from being a mommy of 1 to a mommy of 2. So I googled and "pinterested" (yup, I just made that into a verb) recipes to make that would provide single servings. I wanted to give it a shot making all kinds of things that the mom could pull out one at a time and reheat as needed. It worked GREAT, and here is the link to my list if you are interested. One of things on that list were mini-chicken pot pies. Since then I have made these a few times, and they have become a family favorite.

But I was ready to do my own recipe for CPP. I began searching all kinds of recipes, old and new, looking for what seems to be working for people, and what was not working. I combined quite a bit of the recipes to make my own Single Serving Chicken Pot Pies. These little do-dads are great! You can freeze them individually or pack them into a large freezer container to pass on to someone who is sick, just had a baby, or just out of the kindness of your heart. I hope you give these a try!

Single Serving Chicken Pot Pies (much of this was captured on camera! Yay!)


  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded carrots 
  • 1 cup green beans (pictures shows them french cut...how sweet my honey got those for me)
  • 1 cup sweet peas 
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced 
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed (normally I would do this on my own, but I had two cans of chicken, so that's what I used)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided 
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp *Chicken Roast Rub (my personal recipe...see below) 
  • 1/3 cup butter, plus 2 Tbsp melted 
  • 2 BOXES of pre-made pie crust (like Pillsbury, but I use the cheap brand just as much) 

  1. Pull out your pre-made pie crust from your freezer ('cause that's where you store it too, right?) and let it defrost while you are getting the filling prepared. (**What do you do if you forgot to defrost it and it's time to use the crust?! See below.) 
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  3. In a large pan, dump in your potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, garlic, chicken, and 2 cups of chicken broth. It should be enough to cover your veggie/chicken mixture. Bring to a boil, cover, and let boil on med-high heat for 15 minutes. 
  4. While the chicken mixture is boiling, prepare the next part. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, Chicken Roast Rub in a small bowl. Have the other two cups of the broth and the milk ready. 
  5. Once it's been 15 minutes, drain the chicken mixture, BUT SAVE THE BROTH. I used a colander over a bowl to save the broth. 
  6. Melt butter in the same large pan over medium heat. Stir in the onion powder. Slowly add the flour, milk, and both broths (the one you just poured into a bowl and the two cups). Gently whisk until it thickens. If necessary, add 1 Tbsp of flour at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Remove from heat. ***(You can start with 2 cups at first and see if you need more...see below what to do if you have broth left over)
  7. Mix together the chicken mixture and the thickened sauce. 

Draining the broth

Just the right consistency. 

  1. Get a paper towel, a pencil, scissors, and a cylinder container that will fit inside your muffin tin. Push the paper towel in one of the muffin tins and put the cylinder on top to hold the paper towel down. Take the pencil and trace the edge of the top of the muffin tin. Remove the container (and put it back where it belongs!!) and the paper towel. Cut out the circle you made. This will make measuring the dough so much easier. I don't know why I hadn't done this before, but I do know that trying to eyeball it has caused a lot of heartache in the past. NEVER AGAIN! 
  2. Unroll one pie crust. Place the cut out circle near the edge. With a sharp knife, cut around the circle, leaving about 1/2 inch to make sure it goes over the edges of the muffin tin. SPRAY THE MUFFIN TIN, LIGHTLY, WITH COOKING SPRAY. Insert the cut out dough. 
  3. You may have to take the scraps and arrange them around the dough to get another cut. When you place the cut out circle (paper towel) on the dough, press gently to press the seams together. Each pie crust will get you a little over 3 circles (for a large muffin pan....if you are using regular size, you may not need more than just the two pie crusts). 
  4. Prepare the top pieces so they will be ready to go on after the filling. 
Measuring the paper towel. 

Cutting the paper towel. Yeah, I got this great idea AFTER I had already sprayed my pan. 

Cut the dough, adding an extra 1/2 inch. 

  1. Dough in a sprayed muffin tin. 
  2. Add equal amounts of chicken mixture in each muffin tin until it just goes over the lip of the muffin. 
  3. Put the last of the cut circles on top of each pot pie. 
  4. Using a fork, gently press the top and bottom pie crust edges together. Then do a crisscross pattern on the top to let the steam out while cooking. 
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are a golden brown. 
  6. When they are done, brush the tops with melted butter and SERVE! 
See the dough? Looks good, huh? and See how much I fill each pie? 

Gently press the edges together. 

::sniff:: Beautiful! Simply Beautiful! 


*What is the Chicken Roast Rub? I have this mixture set aside to rub on chicken before putting it in my crockpot on Sundays (or whenever). I just mix it with a little butter and rub all over. I'm sure it's good on beef, too, but I use it for my chicken. 


2 Tablespoons EACH of the following (all dried): 
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram 
  • Sage
2 Tsp EACH of the following: 
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper 
Mix all and store in an air tight container. When using, place a small amount in a separate bowl and then add butter or olive oil before adding to your chicken. NEVER, ever, ever put your hands in the container with chicken juice on your hands. You will contaminate any spice you don't use. 

Super Duper Friends, right there! With their powers combined, you've got...Chicken Rub! 


**Oh no! My muffin tin is HUGE and I thought one box of pre-made pie crust would be sufficient, but I was quickly finding out it wasn't. So I pulled out the other box from the freezer. That dough was frozen SOLID. And I needed now!! I googled and found this site. I tried the microwave method, and it WORKED! I wanted to pass this on just in case you get in a bind like I did. 


***What do you do if you didn't use all your broth? I started with the 2 cups of broth, and found it was enough for me...so I had about 1 1/2 cups leftover. So... Freeze it!! Pour it in an ice cube tray specifically for broth, freeze, then remove and put in a zip lock bag to use for later. 
Yup. Going to use later for maybe some chicken bog or something. Yum! 

PS: If anyone has a HEALTHIER version of Chicken Pot Pie, PLEASE share the link. As much as my family likes this, I don't want to fix this too much. I would love a healthy option. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Devotion: I'm the Fat Friend in the Group...and I'm okay

"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be." 1 Corinthians 12:18
Photo Credit 

I lean in close to the bathroom mirror to add a little eye shadow. Pulling back to assess my handiwork, I take in the entire picture. And tears spring to my freshly "painted" eyes. I can remember a time, before kids, where I was slim and trim. I had beautiful, long hair, and I could wear pretty much anything I put on. After having kids, my waist got larger, my stomach got rounder, and I got plump, well, all over. In some major effort in the past 3 years since the birth of my last child, I have worked hard to get my body back in some kind of shape besides round. But nothing really works.

In the past few weeks, my daily devotions, prayer-life, and serious one-on-one sessions with God have all helped me get a little bit closer to my Creator. And Satan does not like it. Not one bit. When Satan doesn't like you getting close to God, he cranks it up to pull you away. My three areas that get me the most are (and are not limited to):

  • my weight
  • my friendships with other women
  • my mothering skills 
The closer I get to God, the more I get discouraged in all those areas. I want to lose weight. I want to develop meaningful relationships with the women in my life. I want to raise my children in way that will encourage them to love the Lord, love each other, and to treat others with respect. So when my daughter called out (loudly and in public) how big I was...or when I was going to have a baby...or how large my chest is...I couldn't be more mortified. And it just happen to come during a time that I was struggling with feelings of being left out of activities with my female friends AND during a time when I was working on breathing and speaking softly to my children rather than lashing out with my words in anger. 

Then God spoke to me. 

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 talks about the Body of Christ. It explains that each of us have a purpose in serving the Lord and serving each other in His name. No matter what my weight is, God has a reason that I just can't seem to lose weight right now. As tempting as it is to not eat (which is how I stayed a size 4 in high school) or take pills to drop the weight, I know that as long as I honor Him by just taking care of my body and eating well, then He knows why I am larger than most of my friends. Instead of sulking, I should recognize the blessing my weight can be. 

For example, I have a dear friend who just had a baby. He is cuuute. I love that little boy, and I most definitely love to hold him and love on him. His mama is one of those blessed ladies who barely looked pregnant her entire pregnancy and less than a week after having her baby, she looked like she did before she ever got pregnant. She is one of multiple friends I have like that. And as much as that is a blessing they do not have to suffer the severe difficulties that comes with struggling to lose that baby weight, Satan can use that fact to discourage "well-rounded" girls like me. Those ladies cannot help it. The blame and my insecurities should never be put on them. So when I was holding the little boy the other night, God whispered  to my heart "use what I have given you to serve others." The baby was being fussy, and I could see his mama getting frustrated. I offered to help, and it worked! I wasn't doing anything special or, really, anything different than what she was doing. The only thing I could think of was that my body is like one big pillow to that baby. Who doesn't like sleeping on a comfy pillow? I know I do! 

When  Satan wanted to use my excessive weight to discourage me, God was using my plumpness to serve others. And maybe this weight just happens to be holding on long enough for me to serve others. Maybe after this season, God will reward my hard work, and I will spend my later years fit and trim once again. And maybe he won't. Either way, it so important for me to remember that God is using me, every part of me, to serve others and be a blessing to others. When I live in His Glory and serve Him, I will be blessed. Extra weight or not. 

This is me years ago, when I was at my smallest (which is, at times, where I wish I was again). But I was a bit anorexic then. see my hip bone sticking out the side? Yeah. Too skinny. 

And this is me at my sister's wedding a little over a year ago.  I'm about 8 pounds lighter now, but not daring enough for a full body shot yet. :) 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crafting: Cub Scout Themed Birthday Party

Six months ago, the day after my daughter's birthday party ("Star" theme), little Abi was already planning her birthday party for next year, the ever-so-popular Lady Bug theme. Not to be left out, my sons wanted to go ahead and plan their birthdays as well. Jed was finally going to get his "Spiderman" party (which I have no picture for...the decorations were...compromised....before I could get my camera out) and J wanted a Cub Scout party. Cub Scout party?! Yes! My brain immediately started flowing with ideas. I could totally do this! At that time, my son had been in Cub Scouts for about 5 months, and I used to be camp counselor for Girl Scouts at Camp Low Country. J was getting to the age where he didn't have to invite all his friends and family anymore, and having one that was Cub Scout themed would limit it to just boys. AND he had been begging for a party where his friends camp out in the back yard. This was going to be fun!

So the planning began. About 3 months ago, I began sitting down and brainstorming what could be done at such a party, and decided the boys could work on getting "badges" for various events. The guest gifts would be easy enough (which, by the way, the list of things I wanted to give them dropped drastically as we had to make adjustments to our budget, but we what ended up doing was sufficient). The food would be simple but fun. The games would be perfect for the boys to do on a bright almost-summer day. I already gave you a brief peek at the birthday party when I talked about my schedule and the food, but now to address putting it all together. It really was a fun party, and I am happy to share it with you!

Cub Scout Birthday Party
The birthday boy! 

Joseph wanted to camp, and it made sense to have the party outside. I was going to do my backyard, but I thought having off site would be fun, too. One of Summerville's little secrets is Givhan's Ferry State Park. They have two large picnic shelters, camp sites, 3 large fields for activities (already set up for volleyball, baseball, or just activities in an open field), a 1.5 mile hiking trail, and access to the water for swimming, fishing, boating. I chose the smaller of the two shelters, and it was HUGE. For $28, I was able to get a great space, with plenty of parking (right at the shelter), it overlooked the Edisto River, and it was across the road from a huge field. And since the weather was cooperating, it was truly the best spot!

Games and Badges:
So since it was a Cub Scout party, what better way to organize it than to have them "earn badges" for playing around. The boys were all in good spirits about this, and seemed super excited to get their Gold Stars. And since I'm such a teacher (and a mother of 3), it was only natural for me to make a schedule of events. What Cub Scout camping experience is complete without one? Here's the schedule:

And the events were:
Marbles Badge: Playing a Game of Marbles

Sports Badge: Football Drills 

Game Badge: Dizzy Izzy

Archery Badge: Target Practice 

Here's a picture of the bulls eye I made for the Archery Badge
 Next badge...NO PICTURE
 (I was preparing the next badge activity and didn't get back fast enough to take a picture)
Water Badge: Water Balloon Toss 

Chef's Badge: Making Ice Cream 
If you look closely in some of the above pictures, you can see the boys have a key chain with notecards attached. That was how they got their badges recorded. I cut colorful notecards in half, punched a hole in the top, attached a key chain, and then wrote on the cards (in order) the events. Once they completed an event, they came back to me to get a gold star (that I drew on the back of the notecard with a metallic gold pen). Because it was on a key chain, they were able to carry them around to each event. When the entire party was over, each boy got to take the key chain home as part of their guest gift.

I wanted to make the food pretty simple and be a little "campy" as well. When most people camp, hotdogs are normally involved, and although there was a grill at this picnic shelter, I (wisely) didn't think there would be time to grill them for the party. So I popped them in my crockpot, and thery were ready (and perfect) for the party. All I had to do was cut up some veggies and watermelon, add some chips, and make cupcakes (see food post for details). It turned out to be the perfect amount of food and it tasted great!

Guest Gifts:
I was going to have the boys make their own survival bracelet as part of the event and as part of their guest gift, but we couldn't get a hold of the paracord in enough time, so I decided to do water balloon toss instead. J had made a survival bracelet in Cub Scouts, and I thought it would be fun, but alas, it didn't happen. I was also going to get each boy a boy and arrow, but that didn't happen either. BUT I did end up getting each boy a water bottle and a key chain. And it seemed to work out just fine. They were able to use their gifts all during the party. It worked out great!

After the party, some of the boys piled up in my car and headed to my house for some tent camping. We made s'mores, jumped on the trampoline, and really just had a blast.
Roasting Marshmallows! 
Cinnamon Rolls in the morning...and my poor husband who slept in the tent with the boys. 
 This party was a hit! The kids had a ton of fun, and I think the adults did too! I think the party cost (overall, with the price of the picnic shelter, the food, and the guest gifts) maybe $100. Not too shabby!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food: Birthday Party and Father's Day (review on what I did)

If you have been following my posts lately, you can tell that this past weekend was a BUSY one for me. And it was also one where I needed to provide food for 4 "events": a Young People's Fellowship, a Cub Scout themed birthday party, breakfast for a bunch of tent sleepers, and Father's Day BBQ. Because I was so busy, I wasn't able to really come up with my concoctions of wonderfulness, but I was able to find some great recipes and ideas (thanks Pinterest) that made me look like I knew what I was doing. Since I did so much, I'm just going to break down what I made, pass on the source where I got my inspiration, and then review. So here goes:

Young People's Fellowship:
Menu: Lasagna, Caesar Salad, French Bread with Pesto, and Angel Food Ice Cream Cake


  • Honestly, I got the recipe off the back of the box from the Wal-Mart brand lasagna noodles. The only thing I did differently was I nixed the meat, my sauce was leftover from spaghetti sauce I had made (a LOT of) the day before that had fresh chunks of my garden's squash and zucchini in, added more cheese, a little garlic powder, and a sprinkle of home-dried rosemary in between layers. Okay, so I guess I didn't really follow the recipe, but I followed the gist of it. 
  • Review:  It turned out great! They had seconds (and some had thirds)...a true sign they liked it.
Caesar Salad and French Bread
  • Both were store-bought. I know, I know. I was going to make bread, but it just didn't happen. I didn't have time (see yesterday's post if you really want to know why) 
  • Earlier in the week I had made some fresh Pesto. See here for the recipe. 
  • Review: I was really nervous about this one. My husband is so sweet, and will tell my begging eyes that it tasted lovely. The true test, in my belief, is testing it on young people. Two of them had never had pesto before. Did they like it? YES!! They did!! I was so excited (and nervous) for them to try it, but they kept going back for more. 
Angel Food Ice Cream Cake
  • This is a GREAT last minute recipe that my Nana taught me years ago. I'm not sure where she got it from, but I do know that this is one of my favorite summer desserts. (Hmm...now that I think about it. I might do this as one of my mason jar recipes for the 4th of July!! What a great idea, Jana!!) Ingredients: Angel food cake, sherbet ice cream, 1 small container of whipped topping. Directions: cut the Cake in half. Take one half and tear it to pieces. Put on the bottom of your trifle bowl (or whatever container). Spread about 1 1/2 cups of sherbet ice cream on top. Spread about 1/2 container of whipped topping on top of ice cream. REPEAT. Put in the freezer for a minimum of an hour. You want the ice cream and the whipped topping to harden before serving. 
  • Review: Again, this was some good stuff. It's very light and refreshing, and as far as desserts go, it's really not all that fattening, if you use the reduced fat ice cream and whipped topping. (Sorry I don't have a picture of it. It went faster than I had a chance to take one. :( 
Cub Scout Themed Birthday Party (for a bunch of 7 year olds) 
Menu: Hot dogs, chips, veggies and watermelon, homemade ice cream, and mason jar cupcakes 

Hot dogs
  • So I happened to see (on my favorite website for crockpot recipes) a recipe for hot dogs. She said it was super duper easy and that they turned out great. Soooo, I bought all the hot dogs my little BOGO free heart could get, shoved them in my crockpot, turned them on LOW for 4 hours, and ended up with juicy hot dogs. No water was needed! 
  • Review: I don't like hot dogs. Nope. Do not, Sam I Am! Buuut these were actually good. Just as the website promised, all the moms were "oohs" and "ahhs" over this. For my next little get together, I'm doing this again, especially if it's a summertime get together or one where there are going to be tons of kids. This was too easy
Chips, veggies, and watermelon
  • So no review here. I just bought them and then set them out. Done. Easy peasy. 
Homemade Ice Cream
  • Found this recipe on Pinterest about 2 months ago. I decided that this would be great as something to do at a kid's party. Have the kids add fruit or chocolate candy to the bags, pass them around while they mash, knead, and roll around, then voila! Ice cream for the party. Since my son's birthday party was Cub Scout themed, all the guests earned "badges" for each little event we did. The last "event" was the "Chef's Badge" where they made their own ice cream to go with their cake. I added blueberries to one, strawberries to another, and left one vanilla to add M&Ms to at the end (didn't want the colors of the candy to melt in the making process). 
  • Review: I had the boys sit around a circle and every other boy had 30-45 seconds to "churn" the ice cream before they passed it on. That way all their little hands would not freeze. It was a fun little game, and took about 10 minutes (total) to do. The moms (again) were in awe of how well this worked. And the ice cream was good, too! 

Mason Jar Cupcakes
  • Since I was having the party off site and at a park and all day, I wanted something easy to do with the cake. I began searching for ideas. And since I love mason jars so much, I decided that would be a great way to store and transport the cupcakes AND it would be easy to pass out without having to have another plate. I ended up seeing posts about freezing cupcakes to add icing on the day of the party. So I did that. I found this recipe for homemade cake and icing (since I wanted to save money and not buy a box and stuff...I wanted to use what I already had at the house), froze the cupcakes about 2 days before the party. The morning of the party I pulled them out of the freezer, sliced the cupcakes in half, and then began layering them in little mason jars (cupcake bottoms, icing, cupcake top, icing, mason jar lid). I packed all the jars back into their case and transported them to the park. 
  • Review: YUM! They were cool looking, and the kids liked it with their ice cream. The only thing I would change is next time I would put them in the new plastic mason jars instead. That way if one gets dropped on a concrete patio, I wouldn't be so worried glass got into the icing..or if someone had to leave early, I could send them home with a cupcake and not worry about if they are going to return the well-loved jar. 

Father's Day
Menu: BBQ and French Bread Rolls (well, that was my contribution. We had a pretty good amount of good stuff). 

  • Ingredients: BBQ Meat Rub (my favorite AND I had enough leftover to give as little gifts...in mason jars, of course...to my dad, my uncles, and my granddaddy), a LARGE pork roast, and just a little olive oil. I rubbed the meat down and put it in the crockpot Saturday night on LOW. When I got up in the morning, I shredded the meat, removed the bone, and set it on LOW for a few more hours (for a total of about 15 hours).
  • Review: YUUUM. I was seriously nervous about this. My uncle is known for his BBQ. And since it was Father's Day AND since he will be BBQing a HUGE pig for my dad's retirement in two weeks, he didn't make any for Father's Day. So I was super duper nervous to present my measly little BBQ to the man who is known for his food. He loved it, though. He kept asking how I did it...so I'm taking that as a compliment. 

French Bread Rolls:  
  • I use this recipe pretty regularly for my rolls. If you haven't tried it yet, you really, really should. I doubled the recipe to make sure I had enough for 20 people. And I did. :) 
  • Review: This is my family's favorite recipe for the bread I make. When I brought it the Father's Day meal, people kept going back for more. This stuff is GOOD. Try it. I mean it. You won't regret it. 

So that's it. I hope this helps if you are going to be making a lot of food in a short amount of time just like I did. 

Happy Cooking, everyone! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Devotion: Managing My Time

"Yet I am always with you; You hold me by your right hand." Psalm 73:23

Last Thursday morning, I got up, took a deep breath, and faced a new day. I pulled up my boot straps, drank another cup of coffee, and looked at my schedule. For the next few days, I was going to be busy. Not just "busy", but BUSY, busy. Circumstances worked out that I had something to do (or plan) almost every moment Thursday afternoon through Sunday night. My friends laugh when I say I have a busy weekend. The comment "When do you not have a busy weekend?" gets said to me at least once every other week. I often tell former students (who ask me if I am ever going to go back to teach) that I am more busy now than I ever was teaching. And that is saying a lot. Let me give you an idea of my schedule (and just so you know, I enjoyed every bit of it and do not regret doing any of it).

NOTE: I'm just giving you my schedule for this weekend. You can skim it or skip it...there IS a point at the end of all this. 

10 am: Get carpets cleaned (I gave the carpet cleaners a jar of pear butter because they worked a miracle on my carpet!) 
11 am: Pick up groceries and final birthday party items for the weekend.
Noon: go visit a dear friend in the hospital who just had a baby. 
2 pm: Make lasagna, salad, and dessert. 
415: pick up tea and bread (was going to make bread, but it didn't happen)
430 pm: Set up food for the young people at our church for a fellowship 
5-830: Young People Fellowship (a fun time!)
9:00: Make cupcakes and icing to put together for my son's birthday party
930: Finish putting together guest gifts for my son's birthday party
1030: Write party schedule and get last minute stuff ready. 
1100: Prepare cinnamon rolls for Saturday morning. 

7-9 am: Finish cupcakes (see blog post on this...to be posted later this week), putting together items for party, packing up car. 
9-10: Pick up pool noodles and ice, then head out to Givhan's Ferry State Park for the party. 
10-1230: Set up party site, prepare all games, set out food
1230-130: REST (What?! I got an hour to rest?! Well...sort of) 
2-5: Birthday party. 
5-10 pm: Bring boys back to our house for camping in the backyard, roasting marshmallows, and jumping on the trampoline
10-1130: entertain daughter since she wanted to sleep in the tent with the boys...we popped popcorn, painted our nails, and watched I love Lucy

630: Put cinnamon rolls in the oven and pick up the trash the boys left strewn all over my backyard before heading to the tent for the night...oh, and they were all awake when I went outside. 
7-9 am: Feed boys, help them pack up, do the dishes. 
10 am: Target to pick up new leotard for Abigail for gymnastics 
11-12: Abigail's gymnastics class (SO impressed with how much she has already learned!!) 
12-1: Pick up lunch and head to California Dreaming to get on a boat with my parents and sister. 
1-6: Boating in the Charleston Harbor (I seriously wanted to sleep at this point, but I was afraid of getting sunburned or fall off the boat). 
7 pm: Pick up pork roast and cokes for tomorrow's Father's Day and prepare it (used the first meat rub from this site...delicious!!!) 

7-8 am: Check on BBQ and set to cook just a little bit longer, prepare breakfast, get myself and children ready for church. 
830-1230: Church 
1245-145: Make rolls for Father's Day lunch (French Bread rolls from this site
230-5: Father's Day lunch with family at my parent's house
5-630: Visit friend who is still in the hospital
7pm: Go home, clean, and then crash.

So what was the point of all that? If you look closely, you can see that squeezing in time to just rest in the Lord was not scheduled. As much as I love serving my friends and family, serving the Lord should also be a priority. I have a hard time saying "no" to people. I want to be seen as reliable. I want to be reliable. But by Sunday afternoon, I was running on fumes. I was reminded to eat, and I was starting to shut down. Someone else had to fix my daughter food because the moment I sat down, I was having a hard time getting back up. I had burned both ends of my candle. The comfort I can take, though, came to me this morning in my quiet time.

I am currently going through a Bible study on the Proverbs 31 wife (through Good Morning Girls). Last week's verses were about how the Prov 31 wife's oil was burning all night as she provided for her family. The important thing I needed to remember was that Wife didn't neglect her family. She does not do all that work to receive glory from others. She does it because she loves the Lord and her family. God carries her. The Lord sent me a set of scripture verses through another devotional I follow in the mornings (Proverbs 31 Ministries...can you tell my desire is to be the Proverbs 31 wife?)

It was a good reminder that no matter how busy my schedule gets, no matter how many chores need to be completed around the house, no  matter how many meals I have to make, and no matter how many times I sit by my friend's hospital bed, God gives me the strength, and I must make sure I set aside time daily to receive God's wisdom, love, and grace.

The rare moment I got to rest this past weekend. I should really do this more often. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Make Your Own...Honey Vanilla Body Wash

In my quest to save money, and show my kids how cool their mama is by making our own products, I have made a list of items I want to attempt to make. So as occasions have arrived, I have made Bath Fizzies, Ant Killer Shaker (a serious life saver for my ant-infested yard!), Watering Can, Hair Detangler, Cold Remedy (yuck!), Laundry Detergent (my number 1 post of all time and favorite thing to make over and over again), Hand Scrub, and Dishwashing Detergent. I'm far from completing my list, but I have had a blast experimenting with the different homemade stuff.

So when I was looking at my list of things I still want to make, I saw "Body Wash" on the list and decided to tackle that next. I found a few simple recipes and I'm excited to share my own version of body wash. When I buy body wash, I almost always get "vanilla-scented" body wash. I love, love, LOVE the way vanilla smells. So when I decided to make my own body wash, I knew I wanted to add a little something-something to make it vanilla-y. AND I love honey. My parents are beekeepers. It has been a family tradition for GENERATIONS, and I want to honor my family by also adding a little honey to the body wash. My mother makes incredible items such as limp balm and hand cream that includes honey, and I cannot tell you how good honey is for the skin. (NOTE: always get local honey. It tastes better and is much better for you). Adding a little honey to something that is going on your skin is for sure the way to go.

So without further ado:

Honey Vanilla Body Wash


  • 2 bars of soap (I had some Ivory soap left over from Making Clouds and an extra bar of Dove Moisturizing soap that I tried to use in making the clouds. DO NOT use Dove for the clouds. It STINKS. ) 
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Finely grate soap. 
  2. Mix soap and the rest of the ingredients into a pot and stir continuously over medium-low heat until all the soap has melted (about 5-8 minutes) 
  3. Let cool slightly. 
  4. Pour into large containers (of your choice...I'm eventually going to transfer mine into an old body wash container) using a funnel and then let cool completely. 
  5. When using, pour no more than a quarter size onto your sponge or poof or whatever it is you have and use like normal. 
I had enough to make two 16 ounce mason jars (love my mason jars!!) before I transferred it to the old body wash container. So pretty, huh! 

Love it! It's so creamy and smells lovely. I'm super excited to use this and continue to make this (and save so much money too!) 

Happy "Homemaking", yall! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just Grab What I Have Lemon-Basil Pesto

It's one of those evenings when my husband is going to be working late. That means, in my house, that dinner needs to be small. I have three kids whose tastes are very different. So making dinner on nights like these can really be a challenge (unless I just give in and order pizza). So when I ran across this recipe for Baked Pesto Chicken, I thought, "Eh. Why not? If it fails, at least I will have good leftover chicken for sandwiches for me later on." What really got my attention about this recipe (except for how incredibly easy it was to make) was how she went on and on about her homemade lemon basil pesto. Since I've got some herbs all growing in my yard, and I like to use pesto (see here), I figured I would give this a shot.

One problem, though.

I didn't have all the ingredients. And it was POURING outside. So a trip to the store to pick up pine nuts and fresh parmesean was not in the plans. I improvised, though, and it turned out GREAT!!! Check it out!

(My Version) Lemon-Basil Pesto (adapted from this recipe)


  • 1 PACKED cup of fresh basil 
  • 1 cup of fresh lemon-thyme, oregano, and rosemary mix (I didn't have enough basil to make 2 cups) 
  • 3 LARGE (or 4 regular) garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (again, I didn't have 1/2 cup pine nuts, but these two friends worked just fine)
  • 3/4 cup parmesean (whatever kind you get your hands on...I used the grated kind you put on pizzas and spaghetti) 
  • 1 lemon, juiced 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste 
  1. Wash and dry all your herbs. I don't have a salad spinner (yet), so I used paper towels...and my hands. (Lots of shaking and squeezing...I really need a salad spinner). 
  2. Pack all your ingredients into a blender and blend. Blend those ingredients until they are creamy smooth (took me about 3 minutes). 
  3. Use immediately, refrigerate for SOON-to-be-used purposes, or freeze (in ice cubes trays) for future use.
This made me about 1 3/4 - 2 cups. I needed 1/2 cup for the Pesto Chicken mentioned above. 

How did my picky children like it? Oh man! They loved it. I mean, the kind of love where they asked for seconds and then licked the plate. For Reals, they really did. I don't know if it was the chicken recipe (which, btw, I used feta instead of mozzarella...delish!!), or if they were just starving, but they liked it! 

I served it with some steamed mixed veggies and this Whole Wheat Couscous I got from Big Lots (LOVE this stuff and am now using it instead of rice) 

And I liked it too. I'm a bit of a picky pesto person. Sometimes it's just too "green" tasting to me or too salty or just "eh". But I liked this. I'm looking forward to comparing it to the original recipe soon! 

Happy Cooking, everyone! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Working Vigorously...So You Can Enjoy the Rewards

"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." Proverbs 31:17

Scenario 1: With a sigh, I looked around my kitchen. The coffee pot wasn't prepped to brew a cup for me or my husband by the time we got up. There were dirty dishes in the sink. Someone forgot to wipe down the counters. A plate of now-stale biscuits still sat on the table from last night's dinner. I had no clue what I was going to make for breakfast...or lunch...or dinner. And all I want to do crawl back in bed. My work space was not ready for a full day of activities, cooking, organizing, and teaching. Looking at my kitchen puts me into a funk that affects the rest of my morning.

Scenario 2: With a sigh, I looked around my kitchen. I reach for a clean coffee cup and immediately pour myself and my husband a fresh, hot cup. Leaning back against the counter, I glance out the window to see the first rays of sunlight filter through pink, purple, and orange clouds. And I smile. I am able to pull my chair up to my computer to read my devotion for the day and to spend some quality time with the Lord writing in my prayer journal. The house is quiet. My kids are still asleep (or at least quietly playing in their rooms), and I know what I'm preparing for breakfast because I prepped it last night (the pancake batter is waiting patiently for me in the fridge) and I have no worries about dinner because I made my menu plan for the week last night. Looking at my kitchen gives me joy to work through the rest of the day for my Lord and for my family.

I kid you not, those two scenarios happened this past week. And as I was reflecting on God's blessings as I prepared my heart for worship yesterday at church, those two scenarios ran through my mind. Then this morning, as I was going through this morning's devotion and Bible study, the theme was evident: hard work pays off. I am currently going through a Proverbs 31 Bible study (by Good Morning Girls and Women Living Well), and this week's verses are Proverbs 31:17-18 "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night." I talk often of how when God speaks to me, he sets before me appropriate scripture time and time again until my brain realizes that He is saying something specific to ME. And this was what He was telling me, "Take care of your home. Do the dishes before you go to bed, prepare the meals for tomorrow, and take care of your family. Do all these things in a timely manner, and you will find rest. You will be blessed." And He is so right! Those mornings that are like Scenario 1 really affect the rest of my day. I end up working hard to catch up just so I can provide good meals for my family and good educational activities for my kids. Those are the days when my temper is on a short fuse. Those are the days when I forget to show grace to my kids. Those are the days that I am not proud of the food I set before my husband. Those are the days I truly hope my children don't recall when later in life are asked about their childhood memories.

But those sweet, sweet mornings that are like Scenario 2 are the ones that are blessings. Those are the days when I can start  by taking a deep, refreshing breath and know that I can handle today's tasks without having the burden of first finishing yesterday's tasks. Those are the days when my children see a nicer mommy, and when I send my husband off to work with a fresh, hot cup of coffee, a portable breakfast (an egg and bacon biscuit), and a lunch. Those are the days when I can truly enjoy a morning of devotion without getting frustrated with children or the dogs or just morning itself. Because I chose to prepare the house the night before, God is blessing me with a bright and fresh day. And that is the example I want to set for my children, and hope they remember all the days of their lives.

And I cannot tell you how incredibly true this is. Saturday night was a crazy busy night for me. We were invited to spend the evening at a friend's house for swimming and grilling. I made a chocolate meringue pie right before we left, which meant when I came home late Saturday night, with a full tummy and exhausted children, I had a messy, messy kitchen to tackle. I opted to just sit on the couch and watch a little Gamecock Baseball, but my heart was nagging. I didn't want to have to fight through those dishes Sunday morning. So I got off my lazy bum and cleaned the kitchen. And what a blessing it was Sunday morning to get up and not have to have just one more thing to do before we left for church (at 8 am!).

BUT Sunday night, after spending the day fixing things around the house, making lunch for after church, going to home group (what a blessing THAT was!!), and then making pickles with the cucumbers from my garden, I opted to not clean up the kitchen...I was just too tired (ie, lazy!). And this morning I was faced with Scenario 1.

If I had just chosen to work vigorously last night, like the Proverbs 31 wife, I would have woken up to Scenario 2. Verse 18 says "her lamp does not go out at night." To me, that means she spends the evening preparing for the next day. Sometimes that means doing the dishes at 11 pm. Sometimes that means getting that pancake batter or cinnamon rolls or grits prepared for tomorrow's breakfast. Sometimes that means setting out the meat and preparing the marinade for tomorrow's dinner. And sometimes that means preparing for tomorrow's activities so the kids can have a full day of educational and fun activities.

And when we women, who were given the task of being managers of the home (yes, you working moms, you know that we are also responsible for managing the home as well...I have been there, I know), take the time the night before to work vigorously, we are blessed the next day. Our husbands are blessed. Our children are blessed. Our friends and families are blessed. And God reveals Himself in all things, great and small, and we are prepared to see His blessings with a clear mind and a calm heart. May you join me in the task of preparing our homes each evening for the next day so our families can be blessed!

PS: By the way, God's message to me this morning has inspired me to take a look again at my New Year's Resolutions. Each week I think about it, but not with the vigor that I did for the first 2 1/2 months. I will do a mid-year update this week in hopes that it will encourage me to pick the important resolutions and begin again. No one says I have to give up just because I failed at them the past few months, right?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Prayers for Their Future

I was sitting on the back porch of a beach house facing the ocean as the sun slowly melted into the ocean. I scarcely noticed the other members of my youth group who were scattered around the porch, down the boardwalk, on the beach, on the couches in the living room, and on the floor in the kitchen as I clutched the blank, white notecard in my hand. Like most 15-year-old girls, I had spent of the weekend youth retreat trying to convince the youth group's "bad boy" that I was a perfect choice for a girlfriend. But looking at that notecard, I had a moment where I knew that what I wrote on that card would change my "dating" scene forevermore. We were given the task to write down all the characteristics we could think of that would describe our future spouse. We were told to be prayerful about it; to think about what really matters to us when it came to someone we would be bound to in matrimony as long as we live. It was as if God was whispering to me through that ocean breeze how very important that list would be. I began to write: "loves God", "knows what he wants to do in life", "likes children", "must be at least as smart as I am", "gets along with my sister", and so on and so on. I left out physical attributes, wisely, because I didn't want to put a restriction on who God had in store for me. I tucked that notecard inside my Bible next to my, then, life verses: Song of Songs 3:3-5, underlining verse 5: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." 

Photo Credit 

Fast forward 5 years. After countless boyfriends who "didn't fit the list" (honestly, if the relationship was getting serious, I would check the list. If the guy didn't fit, I parted ways), I met the one my heart loves. Not only did he fit all the characteristics on my now faded card, but he exhibited qualities in a future husband I had not thought of. I knew, without a doubt, that God had His hand in the midst of my journey to find my husband from that moment on the beach to even now. 

So it was no wonder that as soon as I found out I was pregnant with each of my children, I had a desire to pray for their future: for their desire to come to know Jesus, for their desire to humbly serve Him in a way that would be inspiring to others, and for their future spouses. I pray for my future daughters-in-law and my future son-in-law, and for their parents. I pray their relationships with my children will be one that encourages others. 

I cannot stress how important it is to pray for your children. Every few months or so, I follow this calendar of "Praying for Your Children". When praying for your children, remember to keep in mind their future. Pray for their spouses. Pray for their marriages. Pray for their future ministries. And you will be amazed at how God will hear your prayers and bless your family. 
My 3 crazy kids 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two-Minute Headband

It's summertime, and I get hot when it's 80 degrees outside. So you can guess that my hair is up in a ponytail most of the year, in my beautiful state of South Carolina where the climate is subtropical (ie, HOT and humid most of the year). And because my hair is chopped "short" in a way that doesn't always keep the hair in the ponytail, I tend to use headbands, scarves, wraps, etc to keep it back, and I try to look somewhat fashionable (because, honestly, I'm inspired by the creative beauty of my friend Kristen...check out her blog and you'll see what I mean). So when I whipped up something yesterday just moments before I left for church, I had no clue how many people would say how much they liked my hair. I mean, I had on jeans, flip flops, a white t-shirt, and a headband, and I had 5 people tell me how fancy I looked. Uh...okay (can you tell I'm the type that doesn't know how to handle a compliment?). I decided to share how I made my cute little headband. It literally took me two minutes to make, and these would work well on really any age, ladies young and old. This is so easy, it will blow your mind! :)

Two-Minute Headband

What You'll Need:

  • 1 inch wide ribbon (I like my base to be a sturdy ribbon, so none of that satin or sheer stuff for the base)
  • 1/2 inch wide ribbon (now here is where I add the fancy stuff)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • A small bottle of liquid stitch (no sewing machine required!!!) 
  • 1 bobby pin 
  1. Using the measuring tape, measure the length of your head where the headband will be. 
  2. Cut a strip of your base ribbon to the measurement you just got. 
  3. Cut a strip of the "fancy" ribbon the measurement you got PLUS 6-10 INCHES. You want this part to be longer. How much you want to hang from the back is how much you cut. If you don't want much to hang, then just cut "Measurement + 6 inches". 
  4. Fold the base in half to find the center. Lightly mark the center with the pencil. Do the same for the "fancy" ribbon. (You can mark the inside of the fancy ribbon if you are afraid someone will see your pencil markings). 
  5. Put the centers together, with both ribbons facing UP. Hold with the bobby pin. 
  6. Use the pencil to mark where the base ribbon ends on your fancy ribbon on both ends. 
  7. Pull one side up and apply the Liquid Stitch from the center of the "fancy" ribbon to the marked end. You don't want glue to go over the end of the base because it will then stick to your hair...or table. Gently lay the ribbon flat down the center of the base ribbon and smooth flat. 
  8. Repeat on the other side. 
  9. Go apply lipstick or pull your hair up in a ponytail or something to give the ribbons a few seconds to dry. :) 
  10. Then tie the ribbon around your head. 
Simple. Easy. and Beautiful! You can make one of these for really any occasion. You can make the ribbons larger or smaller as well. I have a small head, so any ribbon larger than that just looks ridiculous on  me, so 1 inch is about as big as I'm going to get. You could also add a little something-something to your ribbon if you like. My friend, Meredith, makes these AMAZING Felt Flowers for your hair. One of those would look just lovely attached to the ribbon as well! 

Here's the headband that got all the attention at church last night...don't mind the tank top.  I'm about to tackle the garden and mow the lawn. :) 

Here's the headband I just made. Representing my team in Garnet and Black. Go Gamecocks!! 

PS: for the 4th of July, I'm thinking of a Blue Base, Red insert, and then (yes! a third ribbon!!!) a star sheer ribbon in the center! I will try to post a picture of it as soon as I buy the ribbon to complete it. :) 

Happy Crafting, everyone!