Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Food: Waffled Crepes with Tropical Sauce

Last night for Meatless Monday I made some of my Waffled Falafels. And since my waffle iron was already out this morning, I decided to check out The Waffleizer website to see what kind of breakfast ideas could be found. Lo and Behold! I found a recipe for crepes. I have not made crepes since my French class in college (where I was dubbed the best crepe maker in the class!!) They were incredibly easy to make, but I was afraid to try them again without my French professor making sure I had the right technique. But when I saw the recipe for Waffled Crepe Batter, I figured it wouldn't hurt trying out crepes in my waffle iron. I tweaked the recipe just a tad to make it a little healthier, and I added a "tropical sauce" for the top. I think if you were to try these, you would be pleasantly surprised.

Waffled Crepes with Tropical Sauce

For the crepes: 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 cup 1% (or less) milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Turbinado sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
So notice I have regular white sugar here in the picture? Yeah, I quickly changed it to Turbinado sugar. And look at the flour in the small measuring cup. See the wheat on the bottom and the all purpose on top? Yup, That's how I roll! 

For the sauce: 
  • 2 cups of frozen tropical fruit (pineapples, mangos, peaches, and strawberries) 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 


For the crepes: 
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. 
  2. Add salt, sugar, and flour and whisk until smooth (the original recipe said until slightly lumpy, but I got a little carried away, and made my smooth, and it worked just fine) 
  3. Set aside for 30 minutes 
Take this time to get your waffle iron ready and your tropical sauce prepared. 

For the sauce: 
  1. Put the fruit into a blender. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to defrost just a little. You don't want to burn  your motor out trying to blend rock hard fruit. 
  2. Pulse until the fruit is pretty much chopped up. 
  3. Add the vanilla to the fruit and blend until creamy or slightly lumpy. 
To Make the Crepes: 
  1. Pour the batter in the waffle iron. I filled mine just enough to cover the little squares. Because it is eggs, it's going to expand. You don't want it too big. PLUS, crepes are meant to be kind of thin and light. 
  2. Close the lid and watch the steam. When the steam is starting to slow down, check your crepes. If they are golden brown, take them out. 
  3. Add a spoonful (that's an official measurement) on top of each waffled crepe. 
  4. OPTIONAL: add a slight dusting of powdered sugar on top. 

These little beauties are filling. I gave my kids two squares each, and they were full. I really, really love the tropical sauce (which I think is basically fruit sorbet, but I'll have to do research on that). Try these and let me know what you think! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Devotion: Everyone has a Story

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, 'Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from  your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up." Daniel 3:16-18

Photo Credit

This past week I was given the honor of teaching the Bible stories during Vacation Bible School at our church. Little did I know, God fully intended for me to learn so much from those stories. One story in particular that resonated with me so loudly was the first story: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Those three young men were faced with a life or death situation: either worship the golden statue of the king or face being thrown into a fiery furnace. They had to decide whether it was better for them to follow God's laws of not worshiping other gods or to just follow the rest of society so they won't risk their lives. Their choice would be hard for most anyone who calls himself a believer. Not only were they given a hard test of their faith, but they were also given the opportunity to be an example to the rest of society. If you read the key verse above, you will see how they responded. They chose God. They chose, essentially, the fires. They were thrown into a furnace that was so hot that the heat from the fires killed the soldiers who opened the furnace doors. And the best part of their story?

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire" (Daniel 3:26)

The king, his officials, and all else who were there examined these three men and found that the flames they were thrown into didn't even touch them. They did not even smell like smoke! (Daniel 3:27) Their story is real. This actually happened! God had a specific purpose for those men. He had their story laid out to where they were in the right place at the right time in order to be glorified. Was it cool that they had to go through that situation? Uh, no. It's not exactly a position I would want to find myself in. But for those men, it was their story. It was how God planned on using them.

So I got to thinking about this story as I was teaching the kids and realized that my story was not that far from theirs. No, I have never, literally, had my life threatened for my relationship with God (I've had it threatened for other things, but that is another story), but I have been faced with my own fires. We all have. The Bible talks about fire quite often, using it as an example to explain how we, as His people, are refined in order to reflect his love and glory all the more. They day after I taught this story, and a few days following, God opened my eyes to quite a few opportunities where some people were being "forced through fire" in order to be refined. Quickly, here are some of their stories:

1) A dear friend of mine was talking to me about her struggles in disciplining her 3 year old. My friend said to me, "I can see the sins *Susie is struggling with now, and it makes me worried." (*the name has been changed) I told her that Susie's sins are a part of her story. God allows for us to experience these types of struggles in order for our story to develop. Think of Jonah. That man ran from God, and it took being swallowed by a large fish for him to really see his sins and turn back to God (read his story here).  As long as my friend continues to pray for her daughter and train her in the way she should go, the rest is in God's hands (Proverbs 22:6). If Susie has to struggle with her sins for a little while, there must be a reason, and it is part of her story. AND it's part of my friend's story, too! There will come a time when she will be able to share how she handled this chapter in her life days, weeks, months, or even years down the road.

2) That evening I sat down at my computer only to find that I had been attacked. I generally stay away from commenting on political or major social issues. But recently Facebook has been blowing up with all kinds of disagreements. I never really posted anything myself, but I "liked" a few things from other people's pages, and reposted a blog with a general statement that said it was an interesting read and point of view. I then received some mean-spirited emails. Someone took it personally, (still not completely sure what "it" is, but nonetheless, they did) and took it out on me, calling me names and being just truly hateful. I didn't know how to respond, and it made me sick to my stomach with worry. Was I reflecting God's love? Do I have the right to "like" whatever I want on Facebook...even if I do should I? I couldn't figure out why I was suddenly being attacked, especially by someone I had not said anything about personally. What I do know for sure is that this is my story. How I react to this situation and how God is glorified through this situation may affect the next chapter in my life. This chapter is not completely over yet. There has not been a clear resolution. I do know, though, that God has made this conversation a part of both of our stories. I was forced to walk through verbal fire, and whether or not I have scorch marks or smell like smoke will still be seen.

and finally...

3) Saturday night, at 1 am, my husband comes bursting into the bedroom (he fell asleep in his chair). I sat up quickly and asked him what in the world was wrong. "The water heater broke, and there is water everywhere," he replied. I quickly jumped out of bed. While he was trying to figure out how to turn off the water, I was grabbing every available towel and blanket to kind of "sandbag" the flow of water so no more of our personal items would get damaged. For the next 3 hours, he, 2 of his friends who were kind enough to come over at 2 am, and I were working on cleaning up the water, carrying all our belongings outside, to the kitchen, or our living, and throwing away what could not be saved. Later my husband and I were talking about how to look at these little "interruptions" in our life. My husband did not plan on spending early Sunday morning cleaning up a huge mess. Matter of fact, we planned on being out of town. What a blessing it was we had an "interruption" that kept us home. Not only did God arrange for us to miss out on a boy scout camping trip, but he also gave us an opportunity to get some things done we had been putting off. Part of my New Year's Resolution was to clean and organize my craft room and pantry/laundry room. I had been putting it off, thinking this was going to be a resolution that will be carried into 2013. But nope. God had a different direction for my story. The fires of being up late cleaning up a horribly wet mess lead me to organize those two rooms in a way that is so exciting!! What could have been seen as something horrible, God turned it into a blessing (Genesis 50:20).

So what about you? Where is your story taking you? Where has your story been? How has God developed you into what you are today...who you will be in the future? When others act out against you, remember God also has a story for them as well. Make sure your role in that story is glorifying God, and you will come out of the fires unscorched as well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Food: "Healthy" Homemade Oreos

I posted a short note about Homemade Oreos a little while ago, but promised I would return with my "healthier" version. I jumped right on it!

So, for those of you who missed it. I got the original recipe here, at Pennies On a Platter. The steps on how to make the cookies are pretty much the same, but the ingredients are different. Just want to make sure credit is given where it's due.

"Healthy" Homemade Oreos


For the cookies:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (Make your own butter here!) 
  • 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp flax seed
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup skim or 1% milk 
For the icing (the part everyone likes to lick!): 
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites 

For the cookies: 
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. 
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until well blended. 
  4. Slowly add milk. NOTE: the mixture is going to be the consistency of play-dough. 
  5. Separate the dough into two logs that are rolled to be about 1 1/2 inch thick. 
  6. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerator for a minimum of an hour. 
  7. When ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  8. Take one log out at a time. Thinly slice (about 1/8 inch) the log. Make sure you try to make an even amount so you aren't tempted to eat the leftover cookie *wink* Put on a cookie sheet with parchment paper OR use a stone. Then do the same to the other log. 
  9. Place the sheets in the oven and bake for 8 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. 
  10. Let the cookies rest for 5 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling rack. 
For the icing: 
  1. Beat egg whites until they are fluffy. Set aside. 
  2. Mix together the butter and vanilla. Slowly add 3 cups of the powdered sugar. Mix well. 
  3. Add the egg whites until the icing is creamy. 
  4. Add about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar at a time until the icing is good and thick. For me, my perfect consistency was a little over 3 1/2 cups (TOTAL) of powdered sugar. 
To Assemble the OREOs!! 
  1. Place the icing on top of one chocolate cookie. 
  2. Put another on top. 
  3. Repeat until done. :) 
  4. I put mine in a freezer, but I would at least recommend storing them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. 
For me, I made about 40 cookies. That will last...oh...1 day in my house. My kids and husband LOVE these, and these cookies are great for me to satisfy my sweet tooth. And now they are a little healthier, I won't feel quite so bad popping one or two of these while I blog. :) 

Check out the pics! 
Roll the logs until they are a little larger than a quarter. 

Use a serrated knife to slice those cookies! 
That's a LOT of cookies! 

Let them dry (see my coffee smoothie there? That's my breakfast! Try this recipe!
While the cookies are baking, make the icing. It really only takes a few minutes, so by the time you are done with this, it should be time to pull the cookies out. 

Ice those cookies!! 
Oh, yeah! Yum! 

Look at my kids loving these! Yours will too! 

Food: Homemade Oreos (A REVIEW)

This is going to be a quick one. I have VBS this week, and so I haven't been able to experiment like I want to in a timely fashion to share with you. I do want to pass along a little recipe I found (and no, I didn't find this one on Pinterest....I good ole fashioned "googled" it!)

I have been on this kick to try and make my family's favorite snacks from scratch. My latest find were Homemade Oreos. These. Are. GOOD!!! Buuuuut they are not exactly healthy. I mean, Oreos in general are not healthy, but these just remind me why I get "WhoNu?" Oreos instead. I found the recipe on Pennies On a Platter. Go there. Try them out. 

This is what mine looked like when it came out: 

If I can get my ducks in a row today, I'm going to try a little healthier version of these. Be on the lookout!

I made a "healthier" version of homemade oreos. Go here "Healthy Homemade Oreos" for the recipe. You won't regret it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Devotion: Strengthening Our Core So We Don't Lose Our Balance

"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:26-27. 

I watched my daughter try out new moves on the balance beam in gymnastics practice. My 3-year-old daughter stood on her tip toes and carefully walked backwards on that block of wood that is only 4 inches wide. Later on she told me she was scared.

"Why?" I asked.
 "I didn't want to fall," she replied. I reminded her that if she fell, she would land on the big blue cushioned mat below the beam.
 "Does it hurt to land on that mat?" I asked her.
 "That's because it's meant to be there to catch you when you fall. You can trust your teachers to make sure you are safe, but if you fall, you can trust that mat to protect you."

A little while later, I found myself in front of my computer watching, in horror, a YouTube video of a grown man trashing the Bible in front of a group of teenagers. He went on and on explaining how he believed those who call themselves Christians were following racist, sexist, bigoted, outdated laws. He was misquoting the Bible, with hatred on his lips, and clearly didn't have any understanding how someone could believe the words that come from scriptures. As the man was spewing words of hate to these teenagers, many of them got up and left the conference hall, only to be further ridiculed by the speaker. It made my  heart hurt watching that video.

And then, a day later, I was listening to my preacher go through the first part of Acts 10, where Peter was given a vision to go to the house of Cornelius, a gentile centurion (who also received a vision to send someone to get Peter). What really stuck was when my pastor was explaining the extreme racism between the Jews and the Gentiles of that time. He went through a list of things both groups did in order to make sure they had nothing to do with each other. Despite all that racism, though, Peter did what no Jew would ever do: go into Cornelius's house and explain the gospel of Jesus. That one act of breaking down barriers is what  began the spread of Christianity to anyone who would hear of God's love, mercy, and grace.

As my pastor explaining these truths, I was also thinking about that video I saw. These days claiming to be a Christian is getting to the point where it can be dangerous. When you have speakers impress on young minds that Christians are following archaic, racist, sexist, bigoted laws, you are encouraging them to spread that hatred and reject the gospel. I am seeing more and more young people struggle with whether or not to take a stand to cling to their faith or take a stand with the world's views in order to not be shunned by pop culture.

And as a result, I began to realize that such struggles will make stronger Christians. In a world where it is becoming dangerous to boldly speak the gospel, why would anyone want to put their faith in something that was written hundreds (even thousands) of years ago? Why would anyone want to study scripture that goes against what society is claiming to be the norm? One thing I advise my Sunday School class of teenagers and college kids is that we know who wins the war. We know that those who choose to stand for the gospel, and build their house upon the Rock will continue standing strong when the battlefield's dust settles. We know "the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:14). Studying scriptures builds strong hearts. Studying the culture when the scripture was written builds strong minds, as we understand why rules were given. Studying the settings builds understanding, so we can understand regulations put on the church, such as why women were asked to not speak in churches (note: it was generally stated for women to not speak because their gossip and harsh words were creating tension in the church, not because they were women and just couldn't speak...a common misinterpretation by today's society).

All that studying builds a strong, firm foundation, a Solid Rock. When you build your home, your life upon that Rock, you are going to still be standing when the waves of hatred, temptation, and society die down. The rains will come down; Christians will struggle. But when your feet are firmly placed on the Solid Rock, you will find your balance, and you will be still be standing. Placing your home, your heart, your desires on the sand of what society holds as true will only lead to you crashing down. You will sink. You will not find your balance.

And just like that blue mat under my daughter's balance beam is there in the chance she falls, Jesus is in place to catch us every time we stumble, every time we lose our balance in the waves of society's rejection. Practicing every day, through Bible study and daily devotion, is going to strengthen our core and help us to continue standing strong all the days of our life.

My future Olympian. USA Gymnastics team 2024! 

"The Solid Rock" 
by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saving Money in Groceries by BOGO and Perimeter Shopping

A few weeks ago, I posted on my facebook page a question: Would anyone be interested to see how I do my grocery shopping?" I got an overwhelming "YES!"

You see, I don't do the coupon shopping. Well, let me rephrase that. It's not that I don't do couponing, I just don't do it all the time. I honestly just don't have time to sit down in front of the computer and the papers to get all the coupons I need. We don't get the newspaper at our house (you can get it all online, now), so every Sunday I made a point to run to the store to get a paper. And that didn't always happen...and I began to get frustrated with the coupon thing. AND to top it all off, when I did do the coupon thing, I either forgot the coupons at home, I bought things I didn't really need (or want), or I would forget I had a certain coupon until it was too late to use it. So couponing just wasn't my thing.

I had to come up with something else. 

I decided to try BOGOF (Buy 1 Get 1 Free) shopping. And THAT works for me. Not only do I get what I need, but I average between 30-50% in free groceries. I love it, and am proud of how I save my family money. Check it out:

Step 1: Pull out the circulars of the grocery stores you actually go to...and the ones that you have a customer card for. Rack up those savings, greenbax, fuel perks, etc. Make a list of all the BOGOF you actually need or will use. Be firm in your choices. Yes! It does look like a good deal to get two apple pies for the price of one, but do you really need those two? Unless you are going to a party, or are seriously craving apple pies, I'm guessing no. So choose wisely. 

Step 2: Make a list in the order of the stores you are going to. If the circulars have the price of the "what you are saving" put that on the list as well. That will give you a general idea of what to expect in what you are spending. NOTE: I also put on my list things that are Buy 2 for $3 or similar to that, but only for things I really, really need. AND I also put on my list items I need from specific stores. For example, I get my milk, fruit, and meat from Piggly Wiggly (they sell local...really local...produce, meat, and milk. I want to make sure I support my local farmers). So when I am making my list, I know to go ahead and put those items on the  list with The Pig, even if Bi-Lo is having a great sale on apples (where the produce is not always local).

Step 3: Go shopping. If you have not heard of the envelope system, check out Dave Ramsey. My husband and I fought this at first. We just didn't think the envelope thing was for us, but since have started using it, it has really helped us save money. I have an envelope for grocery/dining and one for major expenses (like birthday gifts, doctor bills, etc). After I go to each store, I record how much money is pulled out to make the grocery purchase. This also helps me to determine whether or not that BOGOF bag of chicken nuggets is really necessary at the next store.

Step 4: Assess your groceries and grocery bills. How much did you spend? How much did you save? Did you load up on meats this time? If so, maybe next time you don't need to get so many packets of BOGOF shrimp next time. When I unpack my groceries, I immediately make a list of all the meats, and put possible meal ideas next to each item. This works great for 3 reasons: 1) I don't have to rummage through the freezer to see what I have; 2) If my husband decides to make dinner/breakfast one day, he knows what we have and can surprise me...hint, hint; and 3) I can determine if my next shopping trip needs to include a few meat items or not.
Once we have used the meat/meal/coupon, I mark it off the  list. 
Here are a few examples of my BOGO grocery trips:
Over $100 of this was free (and about 50% of my total bill)

On this trip 40% of my groceries were free 

On this trip, 30% was free. The only reason why this was so low was because I needed all those storage items to redo my kids' room. And although they were not BOGOF, they were pretty cheap at Big Lots. 

So it's Wednesday here, which means the circulars are in the mail. If it is the same where you are, give BOGOF shopping a try and see if it works for you! I would love to hear your savings!

A note about Perimeter Shopping:

If you have stocked up on your groceries but run out of milk, bread, and fruit as much as I do, try perimeter shopping. I do BOGOF shopping every other Friday and Perimeter shopping on the other Fridays. I pick two stores (Piggly Wiggly and Publix) for my milk, eggs, bread, and fruit. Make sure you stay on the perimeters. Don't go down the aisle unless you really, really need to. Otherwise, hold off until the next week.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

Make Your Own: Scented Room Spray

As part of my Make Your Own series,  I attacked the task of making my own Scented Room Spray. I got the idea from Under the Table and Dreaming, and frankly, I didn't change anything about it to make it my own recipe. I even used the same kind of bottle she used (an old Victoria Secrets body spray bottle). So none of this is mine, but the review at the end is entirely mine. :)

Scented Room Spray (this recipe is good for one VS bottle)


  • 4 ounces of Distilled water (not sure why it has to be distilled, but it was only 1.00 at Wal-Mart for a gallon, so I didn't complain) 
  • 2 ounces of Witch Hazel 
  • 1 Tbsp of Scented Oil (I had some left over from when I made Heating Pads for Christmas last year)

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients. I used a whisk. 
  2. Put a funnel in the bottle you are going to use and pour in the scented mixture. 
  3. Decorate the bottle...or not...
  4. To Use: One or two squirts of the bottle will do....seriously. 


I couldn't believe how well this worked! I immediately put it in my boys' bathroom (out of reach, of course) to use when guests come over. Boys are something stinky, so I thought that was a perfect place. 

Will I do this again? YES!! And I am possibly adding this to gifts for Christmas this year. These would make great last minute gifts, something for teachers, or to go in a goodie basket for a newlywed. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recipe: "Mediterranean" Quesadilla (a Pinterest-inspired Spin-off)

Each Monday, as part of my New Years Resolutions (yes, I'm still working on them), I try to have a Meatless Monday. Some days I just whip up a meatless spaghetti or loaded baked potatoes (try this one...without the ham). Other days I really try to think outside the box. Check these out:

So yesterday I was determined to do a Meatless Monday Meal. I have been seeing this recipe for Spinach Burgers a LOT on Pinterest lately, and decided I wanted to give it a try. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the proper ingredients, and I didn't have any buns (me without bread?! I know, right?) and I didn't want to make any buns. So a little digging in my freezer and in my fridge brought out some ingredients that I thought would make a good spin-off of that Spinach Burger, and I must say, it was GOOD! My husband ate it up, and then said, "You don't always have to do something fancy. I'll take a meal like this any time!" Oh yeah! It only took a few minutes to make and was oh-so-yummy! 

"Mediterranean" Quesadilla 
Looks a lot like the Spinach-Feta Calzone, huh? But it's not! 

  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves 
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used white cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp *Mediterranean spice rub
  • 1 package FlatOut Flatbread (if you have not seen this yet, you need to get it! Go here to see what I'm talking about)  
  • Cooking spray 
  1. If you are using a griddle, preheat it to 300 degrees. If you are using a pan, then just wait until your mixture is ready, and then heat to med-high.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flatbread (and the cooking spray, obviously). I used my hands to make sure the spinach leaves got good and mushed up (that's a technical term right there). I tried to make sure, though, the chickpeas did not get all squished. 
  3. Once the skillet or griddle is warmed, spray both sides of the flatbread with the cooking spray and lay it on the griddle. Spoon a portion onto the flatbread on one side. Fold the other half over the mixture, much like you would do with a quesadilla. Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes, or until a golden brown. 
That's it!! Stinkin' simple, and can be ready in 15 minutes (for a family of 5). I paired it with some steamed carrots and sliced bell peppers from my garden. 

And here's a free one: I'm big on rubs. I have all kinds filling up my pantry shelves, and one of my favorites is my Mediterranean one. You can put it on chicken, pork, potatoes, or mix it in something you want a little kick to. 

*Mediterranean Spice Rub

In a small jar (mason jar!!!) mix together these spices: 
  • 3 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt 
Mix together and use! :) 

Monday, July 16, 2012

July's Blog Challeng: #11-13

If you have noticed on my blog challenges lately I've been combining a few pictures at a time. I was trying to catch up, but my schedule is so stinkin' busy that I don't always have time to snap a picture and then blog about it. My friend, Kristin, over at Kinder Words, who is also doing the blog challenge with me, had a similar problem. She has a more noble reason than mine: she wants better quality pictures. :)

So we compromised. We decided that instead of trying to post something every day, we would do Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I'm going to go ahead and post the next three picture challenges, and then Wednesday I'll do #14 and possibly #15.

Here they are! (and instead of saying "Day __", it will henceforth be "Number ___")

Number 11: Silhouette

Number 12: Sun flare

Number 13: Reminds you of childhood

What does this all say about me?

1) I had a hard, hard time trying to decide the best way to get a silhouette. I had all kinds of ideas in my head about some awesome pretty things to do, but they didn't turn out. So the picture of my son and his shadow (the dog was supposed to be in the picture as well, but she got distracted by a squirrel) was the best I could do.

2) I wasn't sure the "sun flare" picture was going to turn out, but I like it! What I like a LOT is the reflection of the the trampoline in the picture as well. It looks like I took the picture behind a screen, but I didn't!

3) I loved, loved, loved my trampoline as a kid. I spent hours and hours on it. So when we found one for a great price, I bought one for my kids. Not only have we jumped and jumped on it, but we have also lain on it  and watched the first stars come out; we have slept on it; and we have read books on it while soaking up the sun. All things I did as a kid that I'm passing on to mine.

Devotion: The Church is Not a Building

"I thank my God for you every time I think of you" Philippians 1:3

This past weekend was a whirl! It was another one of those weekends where I left one event to go to another, and then another, and then another. As fun as some of that was (parties, fellowship, etc), the underlining theme of this weekend was "Goodbye". I don't do goodbyes well (see here on how I struggled with saying goodbye to a great friend). As I mentioned in that post, I'm an ugly crier, so saying goodbye usually means I put on a good face and then make saying the words brief. This was another friend of mine from church that I had gotten to know well, and I looked forward to seeing at least twice a week. And because of a job, this friend of mine was leaving my church and my town to start a new chapter.

As I was preparing to say goodbye to my friend, I started thinking of all of my friends whom I had gotten to know and love through my church. God places some real special ladies in my church, here in Charleston, that I love to learn from and grow with. And because so many of those ladies have husbands who are in the military, every couple of years or so, God chooses to move those ladies and their families somewhere else to be a blessing. But something special hit me: my friends were not leaving the church, they were just expanding it. And this thought was tingling in the mind as I settled down Wednesday night at church to study God's word. The preacher (and God through him) mentioned this as well. We were studying Matthew 16:18, "...on this rock I will build my church...". God was reminding me, again, that just because someone is moving away from my church, the building, doesn't mean that person is leaving the church. I love how Paul considers his church family to be all the believers, not just those who are at his home church. Look at all the ways Paul greets fellow Christians: 

  •  Romans 1:8 "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" 
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4 "I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus"
  • Ephesians 1:15-16 "For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and you love for all of God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
  • Colossians 1:3 "We always thank God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2 "We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers" 
The church is not the building, it is the body of believers. Paul could have easily have said his goodbyes as he left one church, and resigned himself to not still consider them personal friends and family members through Christ. He could have thought his job was over once he left those towns, but instead, he kept in constant contact, encouraging, teaching, training, and so on with those he had come to fellowship with at one time or another. I was reminded that my job, as a fellow believer, is to keep up with the other believers God has placed in my life. I need to continually pray for them. I need to keep up with what is going on with them. In those verses above (and in so many other letters Paul wrote that I did not mention), Paul not only encourages them through prayer, but he keeps up with them. If you read on in these verses, you will see he has "heard of their good works". He is not only keeping up with his church family, but writes them, contacts them, giving them encouragement. 

And that is the lesson God is revealing to me this week. Just because a good, dear friend in Christ moves away does not mean that my job of encouraging, praying for, and learning with is over. My church family has expanded from Charleston to Pennsylvania (Adina), Florida (Kristin), North Carolina (Charity), California (Deb), Nevada (Stephanie), Romania (Renee), and so on. I have done a poor job encouraging those friends as they have moved away, but this renewed spirit is now an encouragement to keep up with those friends and to continue to grow with them until God brings us together again. 

May you remember those fellow Christians who have moved away from you. Contact them. See what is going on in their lives, and encourage them, lift them up in prayers, and work on continuing that friendship that God felt necessary for your life. 

Not truly farewell. Just "Until God brings us together again" 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July's Blog Challenge: Days 7-10

I'm participating in a blog challenge with another blogger friend of mine (and kindred spirit, if I say so myself) for the month of July. It's really been fun! Since Kristin and I both don't blog on Sundays, we decided to double up on Mondays...but the past two Mondays are starting to look like my busy day again. So today you will be getting the blog challenge results from Saturday to today (Tuesday).

If you missed days 1-6, go here for a link to access all of those.

Day 7: High Angle
This is from the top of my son's bunk bed. This is also what they are doing in the morning. They are not allowed out of their rooms until 8 am (their alarm clock is set), so if they wake up before that, they have to quietly entertain themselves in their rooms. This morning, I found them all doing art. As long as it wasn't markers or paint, I really don't care. :) 
DAY 8:
This was at about 8:30 last night. We don't get much of a sunset view from our house. SunRISE, YES!! Sunset, not so much! 

This was at 9 pm. Not much different, but this was the best I could do. 
DAY 9: Fresh Fruit
These were fresh about 5 minutes before this picture. I made these yummy figs into a Low-Sugar Fig Jam
DAY 10: Animal
She got caught digging to China. This is our newest addition to our family, an 80 lb puppy. 

This is the old lady in our house (and our first child). She's going on 13 years, and I love her oh so much! 

No commentary today on these pictures.

Tomorrow's challenge: Silhouette....hmm....

And go to Kinder Words to see my friend's pictures on the same blog challenge.

Recipe: Low-Sugar Fig Jam

I can remember summer mornings at my grandparent's house on North Rhett (North Charleston) climbing a tree, reaching high, high, high up, and grasping a small, brown, pear-shaped fruit from the tree. I loved getting figs at their house. A few years later, my dad carried on the tradition of planting a fig tree in his garden, and I would spend summers climbing that tree and filling up on this tiny treasure. And now, in my own yard, I have planted a fig tree in hopes of carrying on the tradition for my own children. Not only do they provide little moment of joy in eating its fruit, but they can also make great climbing trees for my kids. My dad heard a rumor that if you plant a tree on the Southeast side of a brick building, it will make your fig tree HUGE (here's a link I found that suggests the same thing). So my dad planted a tree for kicks on the Southeast side of his brick home, and now, 3 years later, the tree is over 2 stories tall! So guess where my fig tree is planted? 

Anyway, this year provided my dad's HUGE fig tree with an abundance of figs. If you know anything about figs, once they start to ripen, you really only have a few days to pick them and then eat them before they turn bad. So, I grabbed my HALF-GALLON mason jar and made my way to my parents' house to pick me some figs. I ended up with about 2 gallons (we filled the jar twice and one gallon-size zip-closed bag). That is a ton of figs! So what do you do with all those figs? Make jam! 

My grandmother had the best jam. I later found out that it was actually my great-grandmother's recipe (her name was Tincy, isn't that a great name?!). When I was talking about it with my dad, he reminded me of how incredibly sweet the recipe was. And as much as I loved that sweet, sticky jam growing up, I can't quite handle the amount of sugar now, nor do I want to give that to my children. So I made some adjustments to the recipe, researched a few other recipes, and came up with a really simple, slightly sweet recipe to share with you. 

(Please see note below the recipe for some commentary) 

Low Sugar Fig Jam (takes about 1 1/2 hour and makes 3 half-pint jars) 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup Turbinado sugar 
  • 30 figs 
  • 1/2 orange, thinly sliced, with peel still on
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  1. Gently wash the figs in cool water, and then place them in a bowl of cold water. Let them sit for about 20 minutes. 
  2. While the figs are sitting, mix the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Stir, pretty consistently, until all the sugar is dissolved to make a syrup. 
  3. Add the figs, orange slices, and cinnamon to the syrup. Bring to a boil. Let boil hard for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring. 
  4. Gently pour the fig mixture into a blender, put on the lid, and pulse a few times to combine all the ingredients together. Be careful doing this. The heat from the hot syrup causes a good deal of steam inside your blender. When you pulse the mixture, the force of the steam can be enough to pop the lid off the top of the blender. 
  5. Ladle the jam into 3 hot, sterile mason jars and seal the jars. 
  6. Give them a 10 minute hot bath. 
Super, super easy! 

I reduced the amount of sugar by almost 3 cups, so I wasn't sure if it was going to jell into a syrup. But it worked out great! 

Notes about the ingredients: 
  • Turbinado Sugar: this is my new favorite sugar. I feel that I can use much less of this, still get that sweet taste, and it is not processed sugar. You could use regular sugar, but it will change the taste, and you may need to add more (about 1/2-1 cup more). 
  • Orange Slices: I made two batches of this stuff. The first batch, I cut up an entire orange. Although it still tasted great, it had kind of an orange-marmalade with a fig aftertaste. I kind of liked it, but I wanted to try a half orange the second time and got the kind of results I was looking for: more fig, less orange. 
This jam turned out really well, and I was so excited about it, that I'm going to be making another trip soon to make some more to store for later. 

Suggestions for Fig Jam: 
  • On top of vanilla ice cream
  • Mix a little with oatmeal
  • On biscuits
  • Spread over pancakes or waffles
  • On toast 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Devotion: Learning to Speak Wisely

"She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26

I like to type so much more than writing, but only because when I type, my fingers  tend to move about as quickly as my thoughts (generally...this morning, not so much). Words fly across the screen even as they are forming in my head. When I have to write something, I think about it, write it, and reread it often. But typing, oh man! That's where it's at if I want to get my point across, and get it across quickly. 

That's actually why I write out my prayers every morning. I do a little 10-15 minute devotion, and then write my praises, prayers, struggles, and frustrations out to the Lord (I also do this in cursive so I don't lose that skill). This morning's Bible study on the Proverbs 31 wife was specifically about the above verse: the perfect wife chooses her words wisely and speaks wisdom.

This devotion got me today. I mean, it backed me up in a corner and pointed its finger at me. So many times I find myself saying things, and, in mid-sentence, realize maybe I should have thought it through a little more. I have become a little better at this on social networks...thinking before speaking...but when it comes to social settings, my brain is just a whirling away with thoughts. I crave being a part of a conversation, and so many times I can hear my wisdom side telling me to just chill out and let others talk. And for me, that has always been so hard! I've always said teachers make the best actors, and that is because we are required, for 180 days to stand (or jump, or dance, or sit criss-cross) in front of 180 students (at least for high school teachers) and perform...act...talk...be the facilitator of all conversations. But even in that sense, I spend months in advance planning what I'm going to say each day. I am prepared to share wisdom. The only time I fail at it is during day-to-day conversations. I have such a tendency to have "foot-in-mouth" disease (see post here), and God is constantly reminding me to just let him do the talking, so my words reflect HIS wisdom.

I remember a time I was actually tested on this. I was a CIT at Girl Scout camp (yeeaaarrrsss ago), and our leaders had left the campsite during quiet time for a meeting. This wasn't unusual, and for the most part, we girls would just hang out for an hour, chit chat, read, or sleep. I remember one particular day they had left the campsite, and the emergency bell rang. I was the self-designated leader, and told the rest of the CITs we should wait until our counselors came back before we headed to the designated area. I didn't want to get in trouble for leaving without them. Another girl was insisting we go ahead and go. We stood there and argued until our counselors showed up. Our entire group got reprimanded for not taking charge of the situation and going to the designated area on our own. It was a test to see if we could be mature enough to do the right thing....and furthermore, I found out later it was a test made specifically for me. I was pulled aside by my leader, Cooper, and told that the other girl I was arguing with was put in charge of the group while they were gone, and she was given specific instructions to lead the rest of us during the emergency drill. They knew I could be a good leader, but not only did they want to give another girl a chance to lead the group, but they also wanted to see if I could be a good leader when it came time to follow someone else. It was a lesson I failed that day, but I remember it so often when I am put in leadership positions. Instead of listening to the wisdom of the girl (get to safety first, and then find our leaders), I was too busy letting my words get in the way of seeing the truth of the situation.

Many times speaking words of wisdom comes with practice of waiting, watching, evaluating, and then speaking. In my journey to be a Proverbs 31 wife, I am struck with how wise this woman is! I want to be so much like her. I want to glorify my King with all my actions, thoughts, and words. I also want to teach my children to learn to speak wisely, and so many times I am reminded that they should learn that skill from their parents.

This week my goal is "to be quick to listen and slow to speak" (James 1:19). I want to develop "a mouth of righteousness" (Proverbs 10:11), and "to use my words to build others up" (Ephesians 4:29). I pray that God will grant you wisdom to think, evaluate, and then speak, as I pray I pass that skill to my children by leading through example.
Photo Credit 
How many times am I going to repeat this verse to myself today? I surely need the reminder! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

July's Blog Challenge: Day 6

Here it is, DAY 6 of the blog challenge, my friend Kristin, over at Kinder Words, and I are doing. If you have not caught up, here are the links for Days 1-5:

1) Day(s) 1-3: Self-Portrait, Shoes, Hands
2) Day 4: Clouds
3) Day 5: Breakfast Today

....and now, presenting....

Day 6: Books 
Abigail reading a book to herself! ...well, sort of. 

My son (the one in the over-sized yellow shirt) is searching for a book. He is like his daddy and likes the Atlas. They have a GREAT one at this store. 

Jed LOVES this book. It's a really cool flip book on dinosaurs. 

Storytime at our very own little book store, A Very Little Bookstore  (find them on Facebook!) 

Shelves and shelves of books next to our fireplace (and see the pile next to the bookshelf?) 

And another bookshelf packed with books (and see the books next to it?) 

The current book I'm reading. I LOVE this author, Tracie Peterson, and am reading through whatever books the Summerville Library has! (and this is a Christian novel, so it's more about developing Godly relationships than about the stuff that is oh so popular right now) 

A little embarrassed to show you this picture, but this is the boys' bookshelf. They also each have about 4 books on their beds that they are too lazy to put back in their proper place. 

And as a former English teacher, I can't really say that I have a favorite book, but I can say there are some books I just love to teach. These books are some of my absolute favorites!! 

What does this say about me? 

1) My family really, really values reading. Every day I have my children enjoy FOB time (feet on bed). They can read, color, or sleep for a minimum of an hour each day...on their beds. No talking, no music, and most definitely no tv. And each evening, we allow the kids to "stay up late" reading. Just in the past year, I had to put a stop to buying books. We were spending TONS of money on books, so we started going to the library around twice a month. We started with small books and audiobooks (my kids loved listening to Magic Treehouse books), and now my kids get all kinds of books, comic books, music, and movies at the library.

2) I really need to clean my bookshelves. About once a year or so, my husband and I go through our books looking for books to take to goodwill or to pass on to someone else, but we have such a hard time. I just can't let them go...hence the library now.

3) My personal favorites are mostly from British Literature. Not only do I love it, but I taught it for 6 years. I would also add to that basket of books Beowulf, Canterbury Tales,  and Pride and Prejudice. This coming school year will be my 3rd out of the classroom, and talking about these books makes me really, really, really miss teaching. ::sigh:: Well, sometimes life has chapters we would like to revisit, but I think that is only because we don't really, truly understand the value of where we currently are in our own book. I can't wait to look back on my current chapter to see how I have developed in character.

Okay, that's it for today.

Tomorrow's challenge: High Angle

Uh...ok. Well, check back tomorrow to see what I come up with...because right now, I've got nothing. :)