Thursday, June 6, 2013

Devotion: Jump As Far Away from Trouble As You Can

"My child, if you have done this and are under your neighbor's control, here is how you get free. Don'g be proud. Go to your neighbor and beg to be free from your promise. Don't go to sleep or even rest your eyes, but free yourself like a deer running from a hunter, like a bird flying away from a trapper...You cannot carry hot coals against your chest without burning your clothes." Proverbs 6:3-5, 27

We all watched my sister's hand, holding our breaths, waiting. At first, there was nothing. No movement at all. Then suddenly the small, dried bean jumped. On its own. My sister was completely freaked out by it, she dropped the bean and ran screaming from the room. You see, my son was given a pair of Mexican Jumping Beans from his Sunday School teacher. None of us had actually ever seen one before, so it was a great source of entertainment for our family for days.

If you don't know anything about Mexican Jumping Beans, which, honestly, I didn't think were real, is that they truly do jump. Without going into the science of it all, basically if they get hot, they are designed to jump in order to get away from the heat. It's a survival technique for them. And it's really fun to warm up your hands, and then watch them jump around.

So this morning as I was reading today's Proverb {I'm going through and reading a Proverb a day}, I happen to see out the corner of my eye one of the beans, which was near my coffee cup, twitch. It was somehow fitting with this morning's devotion. The title of Proverbs 6, at least in my Bible, is "Dangers of Being Foolish." As I got to verses 3-5, God set upon my heart how important it is to get away from bondage, to be relentless about it. God hates sin and the hold it has on our lives. Verses 3-5 say to not even rest until you are free from the bondage. Don't put it off. Don't like pride get in the way of you apologizing to someone and don't let it stop you from turning away from activities that lead you to sin. I love how it says, "like a deer running from a hunter." You know that deer isn't stopping to eat some berries or refusing to leave its home because a hunter is coming. That deer RUNS and runs as far away as possible.

Verse 27 serves as a reminder that there are consequences to sin. Holding sin close to your heart is going to get you burned. Even if you do flee from sin, there are still consequences. The faster you get away from that sin, the less you are going to get burned. We are going through Hosea during church, and chapter 5 talks about how God will punish Israel for turning away from him and embracing sinful nature. Verse 15 says, "Then I will go back to my place until they suffer for their guilt and turn back to me. In their trouble they will look for me." Just as my children must face the consequences of their disobedience at home, we, children of God, must also face the consequences. We must understand that holding that sin close, whether it is pride, anger, gossip, jealousy, lust, or whatever else that replaces God in our lives, is going to affect your days to come. It's going to leave marks on you.

And I just love how much God desires so much for us to recognize our sins, release them, and turn back to him. Hosea 6: 1-3 says, "Come, let's go back to the Lord. He has hurt us, BUT He will heal us. He has wounded us, BUT he will bandage our wounds. In two days he will put new life in us; on the third day he will raise us up so that we may live in his presence and know him. Let's try to learn about the Lord; he will come to us as surely as the dawn comes. He will come to us like rain, like the spring rain that waters the ground." God loves us. He desires for us to be free from sin, from the bondage that holds us, from the burns that will be left on us because of our selfish desires. Just like those Mexican Jumping Beans are constantly testing the temperature and jumping as far away from the heat as possible, we, too, must always be assessing our lives, and jumping as far away from the heat and sin as possible.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Don't Let Your Thoughts Lead You to Destruction

"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." Proverbs 4:23

I was running, keeping a steady pace, training my body to run further and further. My heart was pumping and my feet were beating out the rhythm of the music I had pulsing through my ears. I felt great. Well, I felt great physically. My heart felt a little heavy. I was motivated to run, but there was no passion; it was just "get through this run, get through this run." It wasn't until I was on the "walk cycle" that I realized what the problem was. My thoughts were not pure. You see, I chose a "Workout Station" on Pandora, in hopes that it would give me upbeat music that would help motivate me to keep up a pace. And although it did help me keep pace, the words were making my heart heavy. All the songs coming through my ear buds were laden with words and behavior that is not part of my lifestyle. At first I thought the feelings were because I didn't know the songs, so I wasn't able to sing along in my head. Then I started listening to the words as I running. The talk was all about who someone was going to "hook up with" or how much that person was going to party until they didn't remember a thing. And so on. It was NOT my cup of tea. But I kept running, and I kept listening.

When I switched over to my "Sovereign Grace" station near the end of my run, I honestly felt a peace. Not even kidding; it was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My thoughts began to focus on the beauty of the early morning. I was able to think, clearly, about things I needed to do that day, and my heart was reminded of people I needed to pray for. I recognized, in that moment, that the words of the songs in the "Workout" station had my heart going down the wrong path. Proverbs 4 is FULL of warnings about making sure wisdom leads you. Verse 27 says, "Don't turn off the road of goodness; keep away from evil paths." I, essentially, turned off the road of goodness by allowing the music direct my thoughts. I could have kicked myself for letting worldly things distract me from enjoying a morning a jog to its fullness.

As I was turning the last corner {and, at that point, the dog was dragging me home}, Philippians 4:8 came to mind. "Brothers and Sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected."  God was giving me that gentle nudge back onto the right path. The peace that filled my heart, the burden that was lifted, it was all orchestrated by Him, the one who can give peace and joy. Would that "workout" music have made me into a sinful heathen thrown far, far away from God? Most likely not, but it would have taken my eyes off Christ, even for just 30 minutes. And my desire is to keep my eyes on Him. I know now that when I go on my jog, the music I let push me that extra mile needs to be filled with words that are going to lift me up, bring me closer to Him, and set me on a better path for the rest of the day.

What things in your life, whether innocent or intentional, pull you off the path? Have you been on the road of goodness long enough to recognize you are heading down a dangerous area? It is never, NEVER too late to stop and enjoy the freshness and joy and peace that comes with going down the right path. You've got to just "switch stations" and plan in the future to keep it there. Don't let the temptations of the world trick you into a path that may be full of struggles.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gifts to Buy or Make for a Male Teacher

My middle child is a spirited one. And as well as he did in kindergarten with two, lovely ladies, I felt that he needed a male teacher to reign him in. Lucky me, the only other male teacher left in the school was a 1st grade teacher. So I made petition to get No. 2 into that class, and HE MADE IT IN

No. 2 had a wonderful year with lots of growing and learning on all our parts. Then Christmas came along...and then Teacher Appreciation Week...and, finally, End of the Year. Those are all typical times students bring in gifts to their teachers showing them the love and appreciation they so much deserve. 

The problem is when you have a male teacher, getting a gift card to Target or buying a potted plant may not necessarily be something a male teacher would want. And not all male teachers are in to gardening or tools, either. 

So if you have been or are going to be in the same boat that I was in the past year, let me share a few things I did for No. 2's teacher this year. 

First thing, find out what the teacher likes

One thing I really love to do at the beginning of each year is have the teachers, male or female, fill out a little survey. I give this at the end of the first week with a "You Made It Through the First Week" care package {complete with sticky notes, pens, tissues, tylenol, glue sticks, tape, and a small gift card to Starbucks or Sonics}. I use this information all year long for ideas on gifts for the teachers. And, if I happen to have the emails or contact information of the other parents in the class, I share that information with them as well. 

This is one of my favorites to use for teachers. Find it HERE
For the male teacher, I actually gave him a longer list, since I was sure I was going to need more information to pull from through the year. Here are the questions I sent him. I used the survey above to get me started on this list. It's not in any cute format, but you get the gist. 

When is your birthday? 
Where do you like to get a quick lunch? 
What is your favorite restaurant? 
Where are your favorite shopping spots? 
What is your favorite soda? 
What is your favorite candy? 
What is your favorite color? 
What is your favorite place to get a gift card from? 
What is your favorite meal? 
What is your favorite Starbucks, DD, or hot drink? 
What is your favorite sport and team? 
What is your favorite music? 
Who is your favorite musician? 
What is your favorite scent?
Do you collect anything? 
Name one place you would like to visit. 
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? 
What is your favorite type of book? 
Who is your favorite author? 
What are your hobbies? 
If you could choose 3 gifts at or under $25 each, what would they be?

Second, Share with Others and Enlist Help 

At this point, you should have a decent amount of information to choose from. I would recommend smaller gifts for holidays such as Christmas and Valentines, and larger gifts for Teacher Appreciation and End of the Year. For the larger gifts, join in with a couple of parents. OR, if you have access to all/most of the parents' emails in the class, share the list above and make a large gift basket {or bag or bucket or cooler} for your teacher. This does two things: 

1. Helps cut down the cost for YOU on getting a large gift for the teacher
2. Can make everyone in the class feel like they can contribute to a gift. 

As a former teacher, I know that there are so many students that can't afford to buy cute little gifts for the teachers. I normally ask if parents can send in 1.00 to go to a gift from the class. If you have 30 kids, you can get all kinds of things to fill up a bag for the teacher. 

Third, Choose When You Want to Give a Large/Small Gift 

During the school year, there are quite a few times when your child may want to bring a gift for his/her teacher. It is important for you to know ahead of time when you are going to give a gift. I like to check out the survey at the beginning of the year and start planning immediately so we can budget AND so I don't have duplicates. It can get expensive if you get a large gift for each event during the year. Here are some days you may want to give a gift to a teacher: 

1. The first day of school
2. Christmas
3. The 100th day of school
4.Valentine's Day
5. Teacher Appreciation Week
6. End of the Year

Gift Ideas for Male Teachers

Here are some of gifts I got for my son's teacher this year and some ideas that I picked up from other parents along the way: 

  1. Classroom Supplies
  2. Basic supplies for teacher-use only {sticky notes, bathroom passes, etc}
  3. Books, books, books {OR a gift card to a bookstore}. If your teacher sends home those Scholastic book order forms, see if your teacher is registered on the Scholastic website. You can actually buy books for teachers there as well. If he makes a wish list, you can actually purchase books, many times at a discounted rate, any time of the year. 
  4. Snacks. 
    1. Teachers need snacks through the day. For my son's teacher, I gave "manly" snacks, such as beef jerky or cans of nuts {check for allergies first}. 
    2. Many times teachers may have snacks for students who forget to bring snacks {if their class has one}. A teacher would definitely love if you got one of those LARGE containers of snacks for the class, such as animal crackers or pretzels. 
  5. "Handy" tools, such as flashlights or a small "fix it" box that has small screwdrivers in it. I actually used those in my classroom quite a bit...you would be surprised at what suddenly needs to be unscrewed or tightened up. 
  6. Gift cards
    1. Food
    2. Entertainment, such as movies
    3. Sports gift card. I got a NFL.com gift card one year for a male teacher who LOVES Green Bay. 
    4. Retail stores such as Outdoor stores {REI} or Sports stores {Dicks} 
    5. Education stores 
    6. Book stores 
  7. Meat Rubs. This is my most popular gift to get a guy, ANY guy, for ANY special events. Here's a great website to find some meat rubs. Get those really small {4 oz} mason jars, fill 3 or 4 of them, wrap some twine around them, and give those in a "rustic" looking bag or container. 
  8. "Themed" Gifts {these may depend on what your teacher likes...refer to the survey} These are GREAT GIFTS for the class to chip in together:
    1. Fishing Weekend: Small tackle box, tackle, fishing line
    2. Beach/Lake: Cooler, sunscreen, sodas, bug spray, and snacks 
    3. Movies: Fandango Gift Card, bags of kettle corn, sodas, a popcorn bowl 
    4. Ice Cream: Ice Cream bowls, ice cream scoop, sprinkles, hot fudge, and a gift card to Publix to get ice cream {thanks, Betsy, for such a great idea} 
  9. Coffee
    1. Gift Cards
    2. Coffee cups
    3. Coffee cup that is actually a single serving French press 
    4. Coffee {if you have a local brewer, this is a GREAT way to support local businesses} 
    5. Coffee accessories {sugar, cream, InBru, etc} 
  10. Board Games 
    1. Educational board games he can use in his classroom
    2. Games for his family
Here are some pictures of gifts I got for my sons' teachers: 

Homemade strawberry jam with homemade biscuits 


Found this printable HERE. I have paired this with sticky notes that are shaped like apples AND I attached one of these to an apple pie. 

This goes great with a coffee cup filled with those single serving instant coffee packages. Go HERE for the printable. 

Here are some websites that have printables that can be paired with gifts: 

  1. Crazy for Crust 
  2. How Does She 
  3. Moms By Heart
I sure hope this helps. Supporting teachers and getting gifts to show our appreciation is so very, very important. Teachers are overworked and underpaid, but they love your kids. They need reminders of why they are there: for the kids. Whether your child's teacher is male or female, I pray this helped you when you are looking to purchase gifts for your child's teacher in the years to come. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Alphabet Days Summer Curriculum

If you have young children and are blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with them all summer long, you may be craving for a way to entertain and educate your child all while having fun and saving money. When it came to the summer when my boys were turning 3 and 2, I decided to come up with a schedule of sorts that did all of the above things. I was able to use this curriculum, with slight changes in activities or food, for three summers.

Since I was still teaching, I only had about 80-90 days to work with, which is around 12 weeks. I always try to give a buffer of at least two weeks after school gets out and before school lets back in. I needed time to decompress from 180 days of constant educating, and I would need a few weeks before school started to get geared back up, finalizing lesson plans, making copies, setting up my classroom, etc. So when I decided to do "Alphabet Days" with my kids, that gave me about 5 weeks, Monday-Friday of little activities. Most of them were either FREE or inexpensive. I focused on going to places around my area of Charleston, South Carolina. I also tried to include making something {food or crafts} at least once a week. I also try to make my first week around the Fourth of July, so we can do something with "F"lags.

So if you need some ideas, please see my list. If you are from Charleston or the surrounding areas, this will apply to you. BUT if you are not from this area, please use this list as ways to create your own list of places and activities in your area.

Each day we focus on a letter of the alphabet. We started this week (June 29th) and will be doing this on the week days. Each day is focused on an activity (whether we go some place or do something at home) and then focus on a food that starts with that place. If you would like to come or have ideas for letters (keep them local and cheap, please), let me know. 

A: Angel Oak Tree, applesauce
B: Bee City, banana split
C: Chalk drawing, cookies
D: Dip in the pool, donuts OR hot Dogs at Perfectly Franks 
E/F: Fourth of July Events and crafts, Exercise Fun
G: Cypress GARDENS, grapes 
H: House of Bounce {This is one of those bounce castle places} 
I: In-house movie, make your own Ice cream 
J: Jam day (pick blueberries and make some jam)
K: Kites and Krispe Kreme
L: library and making Lemonade
M: Children's Museum and Moes
N: Northwoods Mall play area and nuts {Make nut butter, almond, peanut, etc}
O: Outside all day (probably the park) and oranges
P: making Pizza, make Pottery {out of playdough}, make Pancakes  
Q: quiet time and Quiznos 
R: Racoon (I have a friend who raises them) and raisins
S: Swamp (Beidler Forest) and Spaghetti
T: Turtles at Charlestowne Landing 
U: Umbrellas in sprinklers 
V: sounds of Violins, make onion rings out of Valdalia onions, study Venus fly traps 
W: Water and watermelons
X: Pirate Cove (for X marks the spot, thanks, Kim for the idea) and making Xylophones
Y: York Town 
Z: End it with the ZOO!!

Here are some pictures of the kids doing "Alphabet Days" through the summers: 

Making "H"ouses 

Homemade "D"onuts 

Reviewing "K"

"P" shaped "P"ancakes with "P"inapple pieces 

Making "P"izzas 

If you noticed with the "K" day, I also had worksheets for them. I have two sites I LOVE to use when looking for worksheets. Please check them out: 

1. Hubbard's Cupboard 
2. 2 Teaching Mommies 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Debney's Summer Curriculum 2013, "Discover SC"

Summertime is coming, and as a mother of three children, I have to have some sort of order and organization in place while my kids are home for the summer. For the past few years, I have done quite a variety of curriculum with my kids, my most "famous" being the "Alphabet Days" where we take a letter each day and explore our area, make something, and practice writing words that start with that letter {example, pick 'B'lueberries on 'B' day}. When my kids were younger, this was GREAT.

Then last summer I realized that my kids were getting older, and trying to convince my 7-year-old that "it's fun reviewing words that start with 'E' while we are making boiled 'E'ggs" was just not cutting it anymore. So I created a themed curriculum and schedule for the summer. See HERE for my "Summer Schedule 2012".

This summer, I am faced with a rising GATE {kind of like honor classes for elementary school} 3rd grader, a rising 2nd grader, and hopefully a rising preschooler. I wanted to do something that would not only teach them through the dog days of summer, but give them something to learn and be proud of. As a proud South Carolinian, and an avid festival-goer, I decided on a curriculum that would teach my kids about the very different parts, cultures, and history of the Palmetto State. I want to share it with you, in hopes that 1. if you are from SC, you will join us in discovering the state, and 2. if you are not from SC, you will either come visit or use this as a springboard to discover your own state.

I spent a lot of time searching my favorite SC website, sciway.net for festivals, activities, restaurants, accommodations  and so on in order to decide what I wanted to cover this summer. At first I thought about going through two or three counties per week, and then at the end of the week we visit one of the counties. Then I listed all the festivals that were going on throughout the summer in our state. There are a TON. And I decided this would be the way to go for this summer. So here is what we Debneys are doing this summer:

Here's my "Organization Door":

Discover SC, Summer 2013 Curriculum

I am giving my children a two week buffer after school gets out and two weeks before it starts again so they get a bit of a mental break. Although, I will do a brief overview of the state flag, dance, song, bird, animal, drink, etc. We also will be working only Monday-Friday, unless we decide to carry the festival over into Saturday as well.

Here's a close up of how I keep up with what we are doing for the month and each week:

Basic Weekly Outline:

Monday: Make something Monday {This will serve as a review of the previous week, and hopefully we will make something after we have learned more about it at the festival}

Tuesday: Teach Me About It Tuesday {This will be the day I introduce the area, theme, culture, etc that we will be learning about that week}

Wednesday: Where are we going Wednesday {This will be our research day. We will go to the library, the internet, and the various books my husband and I already have about SC to learn more about where we are going}

Thursday: Think About It Thursday. {We will make something that represents either the area, the festival, or the culture we are going to visit}

Friday: Field Trip Friday. {To the festival we go}

Specific Weekly Outline: 

June 17-21:

  1. Monday: Review all the state's "things" {flag, birds, drink, etc}
  2. Tuesday: "What is the Carifest?" 
  3. Wednesday: Caribbean Culture in SC
    1. Raggae/Soca music
    2. Dancing
    3. Food
  4. Thursday: Create a "festival" mask
  5. Friday: Go to the Carifest in Charleston, SC
June 24-29
  1. Monday: Caribbean Festival Party for lunch 
  2. Tuesday: What is Carolina Day? 
  3. Wednesday: Revolutionary War in SC
    1. June 28, 1776
    2. Fort Sullivan
    3. Moultrie
  4. Thursday: Create a SC map of all the Revolutionary Warsites
  5. Friday: Carolina Day on Sullivan's Island
July 1-5:
  1. Monday: Make the different flags, especially SC flags, of the Revolutionary War {Make Flag t-shirt for the 4th of July}
  2. Tuesday: Lexington Peach Festival
  3. Wednesday: Research peaches
    1. What is the best weather? 
    2. What types of peaches? 
    3. When is the best time to pick? 
    4. What are the "best" peach recipes? 
  4. Thursday: Create a chart of the benefits of peaches for the human body
  5. Friday: Lexington Peach Festival
July 8-12: 
  1. Monday: Make Peach cobbler, peach pie, and/or peach preserves 
  2. Tuesday: BBQ and Blues in SC
  3. Wednesday: The history of BBQ and Blues in SC
    1. What are the different types of BBQ in the state? 
    2. Where did the Blues thrive in SC? 
  4. Thursday: Make BBQ seasoning and sauce
  5. Friday: Go to the Festival of Discovery in Greenwood, SC
July 15-19: 
  1. Monday: BBQ cookout dinner
  2. Tuesday: Beaufort
  3. Wednesday: Discover the importance of Beaufort, SC
    1. What role did all the waterways play in the history of SC? 
    2. Research the importance of Beaufort's culture
    3. Research the lighthouse 
  4. Thursday: Water experiments {make clouds, rain, snow, and ice}; the benefits of all of it. 
  5. Friday: Beaufort Water Festival
July 22-26: NOTE: this week is still in the works. I wanted to go to The Palmetto Tasty Festival, but still deciding. 
  1. Monday: Create boats
  2. Tuesday: 
  3. Wednesday: 
  4. Thursday:
  5. Friday:  
July 29-August 2
  1. Monday: Can tomatoes and make tomato paste. Use some tomatoes to make pasta sauce for dinner. 
  2. Tuesday: Gullah and Geeche Heritage 
  3. Wednesday: Learn about the Gullah language
    1. Where did it come from? 
    2. Is it still spoken? 
  4. Thursday: weaving and storytelling
  5. Friday: Gullah and Geechee Festival in St. Helena 
August 5-9
  1. Monday: Create a Gullah Cuisine dinner 
  2. Tuesday: Review and reflect on what we learned during the summer. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Recipe REVIEW: Homemade Chocolate

There comes a time in every girl's life when she has to put aside all distractions, phone calls, family members, facebook, and well, everything else just to grab a 30 second vacation. There's just something about slipping a piece of smooth, creamy chocolate into your mouth that can't take you away better than Calgon ever did. There's just something about chocolate that makes a girl's heart happy. Even my 4 year old daughter has a special place in her heart for chocolate.

So when I came across a recipe for homemade chocolate, and it came during a time when I needed some chocolate, I was excited to see the ingredients were in my pantry and the steps to making the chocolate were easy. Two very important things for this busy mama.

I have been attempting healthier, carb friendly, Paleo-tastic recipes for chocolate lately, and I haven't been too impressed. I tried making chocolate pudding the other day that didn't involve an avocado, and it just wasn't doing it for me. But this recipe, the one I found for homemade chocolate was great. I changed the ingredients just a tad, mostly because I didn't have specifically what the recipe called for, but it came out great. I then decided to expand the recipe a little bit. And I'm super excited, now, to share with you how you, too, can make chocolate that is going to hit the spot and not leave you sad when you jump on the scale a little later.

Please, please, please check out the original recipe and so many other wonderful tasty treats at "In the Kitchen with Amy Jo." She is a girl after my low-carb, Paleo heart.

Here's my adapted recipe:

Homemade Chocolate

* 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder {Her recipe called for raw cacao powder. Here's a link to a discussion about the difference between cocoa and cacao powders
* 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted at room temperature {coconut oil will do this on its own in hot weather}
* 1/3 cup raw, local dark honey. If you use light honey, you can go up more. Dark honey, to me, is super strong, and I didn't want the sweet to overpower the chocolate.
* salt, just a pinch will do

That's it? Uh huh. That is it. For reals. 


  1. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder and the salt. Use a fork to make sure there are no clumps. 
  2. Stir in the melted coconut oil. Stir until smooth. 
  3. Stir in the honey. Stir until smooth. 
  4. Pour into a parchment lined bowl or container. The thicker you want the chocolate, the deeper the container. 
  5. Place container with the chocolate in it in the freezer. Freezer for at least one hour. 
  6. Once solid, break into chunks and store in the freezer. Grab a piece when you just really need one. 
  1. To lower the sugar intake even more, melt 1/3 cup of coconut sugar in the melted coconut oil. Add mixture to dry ingredients, pour, and freeze. 
  2. Add other ingredients. The second time I made this I did a few things differently. 
    1. I poured the mixture into two clean ice trays. 
    2. In one ice tray, I added some other ingredients before freezing. 
      1. I chopped up a Tbsp of coffee beans and put into four compartments in the ice tray. 
      2. I put a few craisins in four compartments in the ice tray. 
      3. I added a tsp of peanut butter into six of the compartments in the ice tray. 
      4. I ran out of dried strawberries, but that will go in the next time I make the chocolate. 
My "Official" Review
Now this is the part where I tell you if it was easy to make, if I liked the taste, and if it made me full. This isn't a meal, so I obviously can't answer the last question, but since this is a review, I'm going to answer these anyway. 

Was it easy to make? Yes, Very easy. It takes only a few minutes to mix together the ingredients. The hardest part was waiting. Oh the torture. 

How did it taste? So. Very. Good. I was surprised. All the other "healthy, homemade chocolate" recipes really had me going, "Eh, I mean, it's okay." This? No, this was instantly a winner. 

Did it make me full? In a sense, it did. When I need chocolate, it's not like I need a TON. Most times if I can just get a little piece, it can hold me over for a good while {unless, of course, I'm having a really bad day, and in that case, two or three pieces will do}. I like that I decided to use the ice trays. That keeps me honest. If I keep running back to the freezer to grab another piece of chocolate, I feel convicted an awful lot sooner than if I were to just keep hacking away at chunks. 

Check out below the pics of my chocolate experiments, and give it shot yourself. You won't regret it. 

Serving sizes 

I don't think this one mixed very well. That shiny stuff is honey. Still edible, though. Yum. 

From left to right: Peanut butter, craisins, and coffee beans 

Store those girls in a freezer ziplock bag and put them away...well, after you grab one or two first. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Devotion: Storing God's Word on Your Internal Hard Drive

It's an early Tuesday morning, and I'm trying up upload my grocery list onto my phone. As I'm typing in "milk", my phone freezes. Now, this is not unusual. When I'm trying to run too many apps at one time on my personal pocket computer, it tends to freeze, shut down all apps, and lets me try again. It's a little frustrating, but I know it's my fault for trying to do too many things at once. 

So when my phone shut down that Tuesday morning, I thought nothing of it. Until I tried unlocking my phone again. Nothing happened. The screen wouldn't let me swipe my code, answer a call, or send a text. Luckily for me, it was time for my phone upgrade, but today just wasn't the day for it. I had a party I was supposed to be taking my daughter to; I had an appointment to meet someone; I had groceries to pick up; and what was on my calendar for that evening?! Why can't I remember?! I can't access all my information on my phone! Panic was beginning to settle in. When I suddenly had a need for all the information on my phone, I couldn't access it, and gone were the days of memorizing everyone's number. I quickly ordered a new phone, but I couldn't pick it up until the end of the day. I was going to have to use my husband's phone; his old, not-so-smart phone. 

When I got my new, and even better phone, I was hit with yet another "horror." None of contacts were saved online to transfer to my new phone, and my new phone didn't have a SD card, so all of my pictures were also stuck on the old phone. I essentially lost everything and had to start from scratch. I sent out an "all call" on Facebook asking for people to text me their contact information. I had to search through the new apps to decide which ones I used on a regular basis, which ones I really didn't need anymore, and which ones my new phone has that my old phone didn't. I had to reevaluate my dependency of my phone. I had to save all my information in 5 different places so I wouldn't lose all my information, calendars, and contacts again. 

As I was constantly updating my contact list, I starting thinking about the days when we memorized our friends' numbers. If I needed to call a friend, that information was neatly tucked in my brain, and I could access it anytime. Even today I can recite a long list of phone numbers from my friends 20 years ago. This all reminded me about memorizing scripture. Proverbs 6: 21-22 says, "Keep their words in mind forever as though you had tied them around your neck. They will guide you when you walk. They will guard you when you sleep. They will speak to you when you are awake." I am so lucky to live in a culture when I can have the Word of God at my fingertips at a moment's notice. I have my Bible, well-worn, and filled with notes. I have my computer where I can access specific scripture or various translation of my beloved book. I have my smart phone {well, most of the time} where I have devotions sent to me so I can read while sitting in car line or in stand-still traffic. But in so many countries, having any scripture at all can be dangerous. Those people must rely on memorizing verses so they may recall them in times of danger, when they need to be comforted, or when they need to just be reminded how much God loves them. The Bible speaks over and over again about the importance of memorizing scripture. Our minds are designed to recall things that we took the time to memorize; very much like a filing system inside our heads. In danger? Boom! Psalm 91. Need peace and rest? Remember Matthew 11:25-30. Need Christian assurance? Think about Romans 8:1-30. Seeking happiness? Think about what Paul said in Colossians 3:12-17

Although it was not cool at all that I lost all of my contacts and "vital" information on my phone, it sure did serve to remind me how important it is to store God's Word on my internal hard drive. He gave us such strong brains, where we can memorize long passages and recall in times of need. If I'm ever in a situation where I need to remember scripture, or to use certain verses to encourage others around me, the first source I should go to is scripture I take the time to memorize. Luke 13:8 reminds us to "fertilize" our hearts and minds. Doing so will help us produce FRUIT. One of the best fertilizers God gives us is the opportunity to memorizing scripture. 

Join me in making a point to memorizing at least one scripture a week. You may never know when you need to access it. 

Need additional verses about memorizing scripture? Go HERE

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Recipe REVIEW: Paleo Pizza

As I continue to work on changing my eating habits to include less carbs and more protein, one of my favorite Facebook Pages to follow is "Just Eat Real Food". This page posts two-three recipes for each meal each day, and this is where I found a link to Humble Foodie's No Scrubs: Paleo Pizza. The picture that was posted with the recipe was so beautiful, full of bright colors and yummy, yummy veggies. I instantly put it in my meal planner on Ziplist.com for Monday night.

Below I will be posting the recipe as I did it as I had to triple the recipe to feed my family of 5, and then check the bottom of my "Official Review". Please go HERE for the original recipe.

Paleo Pizza
* 1 1/2 cup almond meal {You can make your own by grinding raw, unsalted almonds into a powder...but don't grind too much; You'll get almond butter.}
* 3/4 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 tsp EACH of dried basil and oregano
* 3/4 tsp dried thyme
* 3 tsp olive oil + extra for oiling pan or stone
* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup tomato sauce
* pizza toppings {See note below for my preference}
* Optional: parmesean cheese

Note: My pizza toppings included: 
* 1 cup fresh baby spinach
* 1 green and 1 red bell pepper
* 1/2 cup mushrooms
* garlic powder
* pepperoni slices
* 1/4 cup feta cheese 


  1. Preheat oven to 325. Oil parchment paper or a baking stone {my preference}
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine almond meal, salt, seasoning, olive oil, and eggs. 
  3. Spread the dough onto the parchment paper or on the stone until it is very thin. 
  4. Bake for 10 minutes
  5. While baking, saute any toppings you desire. I sauteed half of the peppers and all of the mushrooms in  1 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of oregano, 1/2 tsp of rosemary, garlic powder, and thyme. 
  6. Remove crust from oven, add sauce and then toppings. Bake for 15 minutes or until pizza is crisp. 
Note: Here is how I layered my pizza after crust was precooked: 
* 1/4 tsp garlic powder
* sprinkle with parmesean cheese and feta cheese
* tomato sauce
* 1/2 tsp oregano and rosemary 
* baby spinach
* sauteed veggies 
* pepperoni
* rest of raw veggies 
* sprinkle with parmesean and feta cheese, oregano, and rosemary 

Because I LOADED up my pizza, the cooking time was 20 minutes. 

My "Official" Review

Was it Easy to Make? Yes. It was very easy to make. I would almost dare to say it was easier to make than regular pizza dough. I started making it at 5pm and we were ready to eat by 545. I'm sure that time would be shorter if I hadn't piled on 10 layers on my pizza. 

How Did It Taste? Very, very good. I warned my husband ahead of time that it wasn't the normal pizza I make. When I do that, he normally politely eats a small amount and then about 30 minutes after dinner gets himself a bowl of cereal or something. Not only did he eat his share, but he got seconds. All but one of my children got seconds. I also got seconds, but I put my seconds on top of about 1/2 cup of fresh spinach. The only reason I did this was so I could save some pizza for the rest of the family. When I came back to see how much I needed to put away, it was all gone. So, yeah, this went over well with my family. 

Did it make me feel full? Yes, but not the "pop the top button of my shorts" full. It was sufficient. I could have added a salad with it, and I sort of did with my seconds, but it wasn't necessary. 

If you are looking for a good pizza recipe that is not going blow your carbs out of the water, I would suggest this recipe. Very good and very easy to make. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits

Yummy Ready-To-Go Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits for those busy mornings. 
 There are just some mornings when getting up before the rest of the family to cook a well-balanced meal isn't exactly going to happen. And on Sunday mornings, when my family has to be leaving the house at 8am for church, many times I found myself tossing a granola bar to my kids as we sprint out the door. I made a "Spring-Time Resolution" not too long ago that I was going to be more proactive about having breakfast ready for the family that didn't involve them rummaging through the snack box for something to hold them over.

So when I saw a post on Pinterest about a great idea for egg biscuits, I smacked my forehead and realized I could make a delicious meal for my family ahead of time that would be easy to grab and go on those mornings I just can't be a perfect mom. {Quick note here, before writing this post, I tried to go back to the website I found to give credit for the idea. I couldn't find it. I then looked at Pinterest and found similar websites, but not the one that sparked the idea. So, just letting you know, this was not my brain child}.

The biggest problem I have had in the past with making egg biscuits is that the eggs are normally too big for the biscuits, and making scrambled eggs is really just out of the question. I have 3 kids. I'm not going to attempt that. The key to this entire recipe is to use mason jar lids. That's right, the lids. Once upon a time, I tried a biscuit cutter, but it just didn't work out. When I saw that lids might actually work, I was beyond excited. I have an entire shelf of mason jar lids, so I could really do an entire batch of biscuits all at once. So. Stinkin'. Excited. And it worked like a charm.

Here is what I did:
Step 1: I made some biscuits. I used my recipe for Homemade Biscuits Like Grandma Made. Instead of rolling them out 1/2 inch thick, I did 1/4 inch so I would have enough to have a top and bottom for each biscuit. 

Step 2: I sprayed the inside of each lid with cooking spray {important} and placed it on a griddle on medium heat. Gently crack an egg into each lid. The lids where the egg is running out from underneath are the ones where I just cracked and dumped. After the eggs are in, add a small bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Let cook until the egg is almost completely settled. 

Step 3: When the egg has almost completely set, it's time to flip them. Very carefully, and with mittens on, if you don't have cumbersome ones like I do, remove the lids from the eggs, and gently flip. Now, if the lid does not remove easily, then you have some egg that has cooked to the bottom of the lid. There are TWO ways to solve this problem. 1. Take the back side of a spoon and gently try to push the edges of the egg off the lid. If that doesn't work, then 2. Flip the egg and lid over. Gently scrape the egg off the lid. Flip the egg and lid back over and remove lid. Then flip the egg so the other side can cook. All three methods were used on the eggs above.
Step 4: Once the eggs are cooked all the way through, remove from griddle and begin cooking your sausage. Try to make your sausage as round as possible, unless you are using those little sausages that are already formed into patties. Also, remember that the patties will shrink a little once cooked. Try to make your patties a little larger than the biscuit so when it's fully cooked, it will fit just right. 

Step 5: Assemble your biscuit. I used those little snack cheeses as our cheese, but you could most certainly use a slice of cheese here as well. If you use a slice, you may be able to split the slice in half and layer differently or use one slice of cheese for two biscuits. This is actually how I am leaving the biscuit until the morning. When we are ready for breakfast, I will heat up the biscuit, and the cheese will melt slightly at that time. 
Step 6: [Optional] If you made these ahead of time, wrap them in foil and place in a freezer zip bag. You can freeze these and pull out what you need when you need it. Or you can wrap them and put them in the fridge for the morning. When you reheat these {and melt the cheese in the process}, leave the foil ON and place in a toaster oven. 

These sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits are not only delicious but also incredibly easy to make. I set aside an entire evening to make these, and really, it didn't take long at all. These would also make a great gifts to give to someone who just had a baby, who experienced a death in the family, or even for someone who has family in the hospital. Make a dozen, wrap and put in a freezer bag, and pass on to those you are trying to serve. Either way, families are going to be blessed and good food will be had by all. 

Happy eating, everyone.        

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Devotion: Just Chill Out! I've Got This!

In Christ we were chosen to be God's people, because from the very beginning God had decided this in keeping with His plan. And He is the One who makes everything agree with what He decides and wants. We are the first people who hoped in Christ, and we were chosen so that we would bring praise to God's glory." Ephesians 1:11-12 

Photo Credit 

Blue lights flashed behind me. "What in the world did I do?" I was practically frantic. I was going under the speed limit; I turned my blinker on; I did everything I was supposed to do. So when the officer came to my window making me aware of a busted tail light, relief flooded through me. That is until I reached for my proof of insurance. It wasn't there! My heart rate immediately went sky high. Instead of a basic warning, I was actually going to get a ticket. So for three weeks my stomach ached at the thought of going to traffic court. All I had to do was show proof of insurance, and I was going to be let go. But all that kept floating in my head was that the last time I got a ticket, 15 years ago, the officer said the same thing, but then basically called me a liar in court, in front of a judge, in a room full of people. I had to pay the ticket anyway. I was just terrified that was all going to happen again. 

The morning of my court date I was a mess! I couldn't eat. I couldn't drink. My hands couldn't stop shaking. I know this sounds crazy, but I never get in trouble. I work real hard to do what is right because getting in trouble literally makes me sick. My husband, who takes everything in stride, was trying to calm me down. I begged him to come with me. "Why?" He said, "They aren't going to talk to me." I needed his presence, someone with me to give me a bit of confidence. I was on the brink of a panic attack when I shakingly told him, "I just need you there! I don't know where to go! I don't know what to wear! I don't know what to say that won't get me in more trouble!" I nervously alternated drinking my cold coffee and biting my nails. "I'm freaking out because I feel like everything is out of my control, and I can't get a solid hold on anything!" As those words came out of my mouth, realization dawned on me. Those words were so true! Everything was out of my control. I received a gentle nudge from God at that moment. He was in control. Whether I was going to be released of my ticket or not, He was in control of the entire situation. I needed to get my confidence from Him, and not myself. There are going to be circumstances in my life where there is absolutely nothing I can do anything about. I have to have faith that God knows what he's doing. When we pulled up to the court house, my husband and daughter prayed with me. Peace washed over me. I took a breath that for the past few hours I could not take. The Lord was going to take care of every little aspect of my life. 

We all go through circumstances in our life where we feel out of control. Some may be minor incidents like mine. You may get a ticket; your dinner party isn't coming together like you wanted; everyone cuts you off on the way to work on a morning you are already late. Or the circumstances may be major. Your daughter is sick and in the hospital; your finances are a mess and the debt collectors have your number on speed dial; you lost your job. The important thing to remember is God is in control. Of EVERY circumstance. His plan is greater than ours. One thing my pastor said the other night at church is this: "God does not cause bad things to happen. But he does allow things to happen in order for a purpose." He quoted scripture from Exodus. Joseph as sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of a crime, and was moved all over the place, away from his family. God's purpose was to have Joseph be the 2nd in command in Egypt when the time was right. The Israelites needed him to be there when the drought raged through Egypt. 

Maybe God's sole purpose for my ticket and anxiety was for me to be reminded how much I needed to rely on Him. I needed to remember that I'm not in control. Letting anxiety overcome me was a stumbling block for me, and I needed to get back on track with my Lord. If anything, I can do what the key scripture says and "bring praise to God's glory." 

My you find peace in the Lord today, trusting in His plan for your life. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Devotion: Are You Truly Forgiving?

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

As yet another election season rolls around, we see a mixed group of people lining up for a coveted office. Some have very little experience with politics, but are great business leaders in the community. Others are running under the shadow of famous family members. And then there are some who have had experience, on multiple levels, working on government. As much of an emotional struggle this past Presidential election was, this was more of an emotionally spiritual struggle for me. You see, one of the candidates running for office was highly endorsed by most of the members of my church, and many of my friends {let's call him Phil}, and another candidate {let's call him Bob} held another position a few years back, and who really worked hard to make our state fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, though, Bob made one crucial, very public mistake that almost blacklisted him from ever serving the constituents he loved so much.

As the election approached, my heart began to hurt for Bob. He messed up. He embarrassed our state with his actions. His sins became nationally known, often the topic of comedians and political commentators. And instead of trying to pass the buck, as so many other politicians do, he confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness. Not only did he ask for forgiveness for those he hurt personally, but he asked forgiveness from his constituents. I have even heard of stories where he would personally speak to those who once supported him, asking them to forgive him of his actions. At the time he was asking forgiveness, he was most definitely not running for office again. Fast forward a few years and an opportunity came up for another office he could run for. In his campaign, he did not bring up his last, very public sin. He didn't make it an issue, but be sure other people did. His campaign signs were defaced with hateful words spread across them; social media trashed him for the stupid, stupid thing he had done in the past. And my heart hurt for Bob. People refused to forgive him. As good as a politician he was at the time, the one dumb thing he did at the end of term was apparently unforgiveable, even though it didn't affect his constituents personally.

What really frustrated me the most was the people I saw who refused to forgive him. As a believer, if someone asks you for forgiveness, you are supposed to forgive AND forget. It is not our place to sit in judgement of whether or not he really meant it. Our job is to love him and forgive him. What if I were to sin? Would you refuse to truly forgive me, too? Bob's sin was so very public, and I can't imagine the emotional struggle this has to be for him. He will never be released, fully, from this sin, at least in the eyes of those around him. I can totally understand nonbelievers refusing to forgive him. But for those who constantly work at walking in the Light of God, His love should shine through our words, thoughts, and actions. Matthew 18:21-22 says, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" And this is for how many times this person sins against you, not how many times you should forgive and re-forgive someone of the same sin. It is not our place to hold his sin against him. It is not our place to refuse forgiveness.

I don't really care if you vote for Bob or for Phil, or, for that matter, Susie, Jack, Mary, or Stephen. But what I do care about is how your words and actions as a believer reflect my Lord. We are to be his ambassadors here on earth, loving, caring, and forgiving each other and those around us. No matter what, no matter who you vote for, I ask that you pray for Bob to find peace, to soak up in God's love. If he gets voted into this new office, remember that was God's will. And if he doesn't, I pray it was because you believed someone else could do a better job, and that Bob can know with confidence it wasn't because people refused to forgive.

Here are the words of one of my current favorite songs. I ask that as you read the words, and even, if you like, see the video, think about those around you whom you have held forgiveness. Who are you hurting with your stubbornness. And if you realize you are sinning in your unforgiveness, maybe you should be asking for forgiveness as well.

And just a little side note. There have been times I have held forgiveness from others. I'm not just pointing fingers here. This entire situation has helped me to remember that I need to practice forgiveness more often, and show God's grace to everyone, whether their sins are great or small.

"Forgiveness" by Matthew West <----Click here to see a video
It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just to real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge 
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness