Friday, December 23, 2011

Homemade Breadsticks


  • 2 cups Bisquick*
  • 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. salt (I used garlic salt)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine Bisquick, cheese, oregano, basil, and pepper.
    Add 1/2 cup water and stir until just moistened.
    You may need to add an additional 1-2 tbsp. of water if necessary.
  3. Divide dough into 12 portions.
    Sprinkle clean work surface with Bisquick, then roll each portion of dough into a 12-inch strip.
    Place strips onto prepared baking sheet, one inch apart.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tsp. water.
    Lightly brush egg mixture over breadsticks, and then sprinkle with (garlic) salt.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
    Cool on a wire rack.
  6. Makes about 12

    *Check out my post on how to make your own Bisquick mix here -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eat at Home Challenge - Week 3

This week was pretty good. I ate out a couple of unplanned times but all in all it was still better than usual. We spent about $59 eating out this week.

Monday - Crockpot Chicken Noodles

Tuesday - Crockpot Chicken Stew

Wednesday - CHURCH Meal

Thursday - Chicken Stuffing Casserole (Ashley MNO)

Friday - Leftover Chicken Stuffing Casserole

Saturday - Pizza Takeout

Sunday - Baked Ziti

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Great Tip for Meal Planning

When I made/prepped all of our meals for the month, I had to decide how I would know what to eat each night. I am usually not good at saying, "We will eat _______ the 3rd Thursday of the month." What if something comes up or we aren't feeling that meal that night? So I decided to make a tentative schedule in Microsoft Excel:

28 29 30 1
Ginger Chicken Stirfry & Rice Pot Roast CHURCH DINNER - Meatloaf, Potatoes, & Green Beans Brown Sugar Chicken, Rice, & Veggies
2 3 4 5
BBQ Chicken Pizza Spaghetti Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Fajitas
6 7 8 9
Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes, & Veggies CHURCH DINNER - Chicken Salad & Fruit Salad Leftover SS, MP, & Veggies (for Lee) - A,L,N to Greensboro Chicken Pot Pie
10 11 12 13
Lasagna Leftover Lasagna Crock Pot Chicken Noodles & Veggies Chicken Stew
14 15 16 17
CHURCH DINNER - Spaghetti MNO for Ashley - Eva's Chicken Casserole & Veggies for Boys Spaghetti & Meatballs BBQ Chicken, Rice, & Veggies
18 19 20 21
Italian Balsamic Chicken, Rice, & Veggies Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, & Veggies Chicken Parmesan Honey Soy Chicken, Rice, & Veggies
22 23


Baked Ziti

I tried to spread out similar dishes (ie Italian, beef vs chicken, etc). I didn't print it. I just go to the computer and check the planned meals each day. I know what I am planning to have and if I decide to make something different, I can just cut and paste and move things around. I have done this many times this month as various things have come up. I love it because I don't stress as much about sticking to the exact plan and don't have to erase and mark out stuff. Yes I am a perfectionist about certain things.

I hope this helps!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Mix Together:
3 cups sweet potatoes (if you do canned do a big can and drain off syrup 1st)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Put in Pan

Mix Together:
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter, melted

Sprinkle on top

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Add mini marshmallows.

Bake until brown.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eat at Home Challenge - Week 2

This week went pretty good. I threw in a couple of unplanned fast food stops (lunch for me, breakfast for Lee and me) that was about $11. The playdate was more than I planed (man those places get you on the food). So eating out was around $38 this week. Between last week and this week we did about $55ish.

Monday - Chicken Fajita Burritos w/ black beans and cilantro lime rice

Tuesday - Salisbury Steak w/ mashed potatoes and veggies

Wednesday - Church dinner

Thursday - Lee ate leftovers; we went to my mom's

Friday - Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday - Crockpot Lasagna

Sunday - Leftover CP Lasagna

Hoping this week is good. Have a moms' night out this week. Hoping to not spend much more than that and dinner at church. Hoping to be around $30 this week.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Borax, Where Have You Been All My Life?

So when I ventured out to make my own laundry soap, I came across something I had never used before...borax. It is a huge box and I was done with my laundry soap, so I wondered, "What else could you do with this stuff?" My awesome friend, Jessica, is all about organic living and she told me that she uses it for cleaning purposes such as bathrooms.

I decided to give it a try today when I cleaned my kids' bathroom. Now I hate to admit that it was pretty dirty. It needed a good scrubbing. So I got out the borax and put some in the toilet bowl per Jessica's recommendation. I scrubbed and the toilet bowl was flawless. I put some on a sponge and scrubbed the old yuckiness and it looks brand new again. WOW! I love that especially living in a house full of boys if you know what I mean. I decided to try it in the bathtub also and the tub looks brand new.

I am in love and his name is Borax. :)

Do you guys have any ideas for using borax?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Frozen Waffles and Pancakes

We love waffles and pancakes in our house, especially my 1st born son. He requests them nearly daily. While I enjoy making them, I don't always want to pull it all out and make a mess. So what I do is make a ton one day and freeze them. I let the extras cool and then I lay them flat on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can put them in a freezer bag. Then you just put them in the toaster and they are hot and fresh that morning. It is like having those Eggo waffles all ready to go without all of the additives. I personally think they are better the 2nd time because they get crunchy around the edges.

Any tips for cutting down on time for breakfast?

Baked Potato Soup - Tastes Just Like Outback's

I LOVE OUTBACK! It is in my top 5 favorite restaurants. Lee used to take me there all the time when we were dating and had way less expenses (ie kids, mortgage). My favorite thing there isn't the steaks even though they are is their baked potato soup. It is awesome!

I thought it would be fun to make baked potato soup since I had a ton of potatoes. I got this recipe from Crock Pot Girls (they are great). It was just like Outback's. This could be a problem. LOL!

Here is the recipe:

Baked Potato Soup


6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, diced
2 cans (14oz) chicken broth (roughly 4 cups)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut up into cubes
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 cup milk, cream, or half and half
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Put potatoes, onion, chicken broth, butter, salt, and pepper in crock pot.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low 8 hours.
Mash the potatoes.
Add milk, cream, or half and half and cheese and stir until combined.
Garnish with extra cheese, bacon (bits), and/or sour cream.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eat at Home Challenge - Week 1

This week went great. We ate at home every night except for the planned night at church and one quick trip from me through McD's drive-thru for breakfast on my way to setup for a church event. So we spent $18 eating out this week. YAY!!! That is awesome.

Here's what we had to eat this week:

Monday - Lunch: Chili, Dinner: Ginger Chicken Stirfry
Tuesday - Lunch: Chili, Dinner: Pot Roast
Wednesday - Lunch: Leftover Pot Roast, Dinner: Church Dinner
Thursday - Lunch: Tacos/Quesadillas, Dinner: Brown Sugar Chicken, Rice, & Veggies
Friday - Lunch: Tacos, Dinner: Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza
Saturday - Lunch: Leftover BBQ Chicken Pizza, Dinner: Spaghetti
Sunday - Lunch: Family Get Together, Dinner: Homemade Pepperoni Pizza

This week I am looking forward to being around $20-25 for eating out. I know we are doing church dinner and a playdate at a jump place (Groupon deal and it includes pizza and drink so I will probably buy Nathan and myself something there).

What are your tips for eating at home more?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cracker Barrel Coca Cola Chocolate Cake

I had this cake at Cracker Barrel and it was insane. I was messing around on Pinterest (my new obsession) and found a recipe for it. I thought I would try it. It turned out heavenly. Here's the recipe:

Cracker Barrel Coca Cola Chocolate Cake

Ingredients for Cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Directions for Cake:
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease (AKA Crisco) a 9x13 baking dish.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a big bowl.
In a pot melt butter, cocoa powder, and Coca Cola over medium high heat until it boils.
Remove from heat and add to flour mixture and mix well.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Add to baking dish.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Don't overbake. It's done when a fork comes out clean.

Ingredients for Icing:

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup Coca Cola
4 cups powdered sugar

Directions for Icing:

When the cake is almost done, start the icing.
In a pot melt the butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola over medium high heat until it boils.
Remove from heat and carefully whisk in powdered sugar.
When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the icing on while it is hot and spread evenly.
Let it cool.

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough

I attempted to make my usual pizza dough recipe but something must have been up with my yeast. The dough had a funky smell. So I found a pizza dough recipe using Bisquick and water. Figured that I would try it. It turned out great.

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough

2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup warm water


Put Bisquick in bowl and form a hole in the middle.
Add the water and mix until dough forms.
Put in the pan and top as you wish.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract)
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Red food coloring

Beat butter in mixer until blended.
Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
Add egg, vanilla, and salt and mix scrapping sides as needed.
Add flour and mix until done.
Divide dough in half and put white in container and into fridge.
Add red food coloring to the other half and mix until blended and right color.
Chill dough 20 minutes.
Divide each dough into 6 pieces and put on cookie sheet.
Chill dough 20 minutes.
Roll dough out into 12 inch strip.
Chill dough 20 minutes.
Twist dough into candy cane shapes.
Chill dough 1 hour.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes until firm but not brown.
Let cool.

Snowball Tree Sugar Cookies

Snowball Tree Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Green food coloring


Beat butter in mixer on high for 30 seconds.
Add sugar and beat until combined scrapping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add milk and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add flour and beat until combined.
Remove 1/2 cup of the dough to use for tree base.
Add green food coloring to the rest and mix until well blended and the color you like.
Let doughs cool in the fridge to be easier to work with.
Roll green dough into small balls.
Put 4 balls, 3 balls, 2 balls, and 1 ball in order to make a tree and gently push together.
Add the base of the tree and gently push together.
Bake at 350 10 minutes on the middle rack and 2-4 minutes on the top rack.
Let cool.
You can drizzle with some icing and decorate to make them prettier. I am not that brave.

Peanut Butter Bite Cookies

I love baking cookies!!! It is my favorite dessert to make. I am always on the prowl for a new one to add to my recipe binder. Here is a great one that I made today for a cookie swap I am going to tomorrow night.

Peanut Butter Bite Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened*
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
Miniature peanut butter cups, halved**
**I used Reese's peanut butter baking chips and Hershey's chocolate baking chips (I put 2 of each in the middle)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a mixer, combine butter and peanut butter and beat for about 30 seconds.
Add sugar, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined scrapping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add egg and vanilla and and beat until combined.
Add flour and beat until combined.
If dough is too soft to work with refrigerate a bit.
When dough is ready to work with, roll into 1 1/2 inch balls.
Press the balls flat and put the chips/candy in the middle and wrap the dough around.
Put them on a baking sheet and flatten a bit.
Bake 8 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack.

*To soften butter sit on counter for a little while or put in microwave on defrost for roughly 15-20 seconds checking every 5 seconds so it doesn't start to melt.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brown Sugar Chicken

1 lb chicken breasts or tenders
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp pepper

Mix BS, WV, garlic, SS, and pepper.
Pour over chicken.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

I put the chicken in a freezer bag and poured the marinade in and froze it. I let it thaw today and baked it. IT WAS YUMMY!!!

A Month of CHRISTmas

I love CHRISTmas!!! We celebrate CHRISTmas for an entire month. Here's what we do:

#1 - We are doing a Jesse Tree this year. Each day you read Scripture, pray, and make an ornament for the tree. This is new for us this year. I will be sharing as we go. Last year we did The Advent Event which was similar and we loved it. Keeping CHRIST in CHRISTmas is big to me. We enjoy winter stuff and Santa stuff, but CHRIST is the reason we celebrate this season.

#2 - We have at least one fun activity to do each day of the month. I was going to plan them out and have a way for Luke to pick one each day, but then thought it would be stressful if we couldn't do the thing on the sheet each day. Instead I have a major list of what I would like to do and some plugged in on specific days.

Here are some of the things we are doing:
December 1st - Make countdown to CHRISTmas
December 2nd - Make cookies for cookie swap
December 4th - Family CHRISTmas get together
December 6th or 8th - Jump house playdate
December 9th - Go to Children's Museum and see Santa at the mall
December 10th - CHRISTmas musical at church
December 11th - Family CHRISTmas get together
December 13th - Homeschool day at the museum
December 17th - Serve homeless people downtown
December 18th - CHRISTmas caroling with church
December 23rd - CHRISTmas Around the World party
December 24th - CHRISTmas at Meemaw's house
December 25th - Santa at our house, CHRISTmas at Granddad's, CHRISTmas at Grandma's

Also on the list:
Write letter to Santa (before December 9th)
Make homemade ornaments:
Reindeer handprint ornaments -
Salt dough hand/footprint ornaments -
Make gingerbread house from a kit
Make snowflakes out of popsicle sticks -
Make snowflakes out of qtips -
Make snowflakes out of gumdrops and kabob skewers -
Make popsicle stick snowmen -
Make marshmallow snowmen -
Make handprint mittens -
Make a gift for Jesus
Have a birthday party for Jesus
Act out nativity
Go on a CHRISTmas light drive
Have CHRISTmas movie night with popcorn
Read CHRISTmas books each night
Polar Express - give out ticket, wear PJs, read story, drink hot cocoa -, do crafts, watch movie -
CHRISTmas shop for various people

What are you doing with your kids for CHRISTmas?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best of CHRISTmas Posts

Here is a post from this year first:

Preparing My Heart for CHRISTmas -

Here are the best CHRISTmas posts from years' past:

Here is a list of links to posts on holiday baking:

Baking Tips -

Organized CHRISTmas Baking -

Favorite Cookie Recipes -

Paula Deen's Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Recipe -

Awesome Apple Pie Recipe -

Here is a list of how to organize various things for CHRISTmas:

Organized Present Giving -

Organized Traveling -

30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge - COMPLETE

Every year on Facebook, there is a challenge to do 30 Days of Thankfulness. I decided this year to put them all in a Word document so that I could keep it for years to come. I thought that I would share it with my readers. God has truly blessed me. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Day 1 - I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ. Although I have walked with him for over 8 years, I don't think I've ever been closer to Him than in the past year. He has revealed Himself to me in such a real way and shown me how much I need Him every hour. He gave His life for me. It is my prayer that I live my life for Him.

Day 2 - I am thankful for my husband who honors the Lord in everything he does, loves unconditionally, and works diligently to provide so that I can stay home with our kids. I am thankful that he understands my passions and lets me follow them. I am thankful that through all we have been through, the Lord just seems to strengthen us. I am thankful that my kids get to have him as their father, a responsibility and privilege he doesn't take lightly. I am thankful for his quiet strength, big heart, and sweet smile.

Day 3 - I am thankful for my son, Luke. His name means "bringer of light" and he is perfectly named. From the day he was born he has brought light into our life. It is my prayer that he takes the Light (Jesus) into the world and does great things for God's glory. Thank You, God, for gifting me with this awesome person. I can't wait to see what You do in his life.

Day 4 - I am thankful for my son, Nathan. His name means "he God has given," which is amazingly perfect for Him. I know that all children are gifts directly from God, but Nathan is most definitely special. He is my little miracle baby and being his mom has helped me get through the toughest time of my life to date. He brings so much happiness. My friend says he has double smiles. I think she is right. :)

Day 5 - I am thankful for my daughter, Alexis Faith. Her name means "defender of faith," and WOW! it is so accurate. Before my loss of her I would wonder, "Lord would I have faith if life wasn't so wonderful?" I now know that there is nothing we could go through in this life that God cannot get us through with our faith in Him. Alexis has shown me that life and memories can happen in just 35 weeks, that our love for our children isn't based on time, but depth, and that we should cherish every second and make the most of it all because we aren't promised anything.

Day 6 - I am thankful to be a stay-at-home wife, mom, homemaker, and homeschooler. This is definitely not the life I had planned 10 years ago when I was just dating Lee, but God has different and better plans for our lives. I love being able to pour into my children a Biblical foundation and motherly love. I love being able to make our home a place of fun, rest, and a safe place to land. I love being able to watch cartoons in PJs and snuggle. I love being able to teach Luke (and eventually our other children) Biblically, academically, and life skills. It is an amazing ministry and I am thankful that God has placed me here.

Day 7 - I am thankful for the 3 integral people who raised me, my mom, my grandma, and my grandpa. My mom taught me strength, courage, and perseverance. My grandma taught me self sacrificing commitment to family, confidence, and "a place for everything and everything in its place." My grandpa taught me integrity, hard work, and loyalty. It has always been my heart to make each one of them proud of me. This post in memory of my grandpa who went to be with Jesus November 7th, 2000.

Day 8 - I am thankful for my sister and her family. Growing up we drove each other crazy, but as adults, we are best friends. God definitely restored what the locusts had eaten. She is the best sister, friend, wife, and mom. I love my brother-in-law so much. He is the greatest BIL and uncle anyone could want for their kids. I love my neice and 2 nephews. Being an aunt to them is one of my greatest joys. I miss them all so much but am thankful that we can connect on trips and with technology.

Day 9 - I am thankful for my "little" brother. He is like a foot taller than me, but he is still my little brother. I am thankful for the man he is growing into everyday. I am thankful that he has found his wonderful fiance to share his life with. I am thankful that they love our children and look forward to the day (many many moons from now) that they bless our family with more kids.

Day 10 (A Little Early) - I am thankful for my church. A church is not a building, but the people inside. My church has some of the most amazing Godly, loving, serving people you will ever meet in your whole life. The hearts of the people are just amazing. With all we have been through in the past couple of years, it is so awesome to have people who have/are praying for us, sending us cards and words of encouragement, bring us meals, and just love on us so much. It is my heart to be able to pay it back and forward as much as possible. Specifically, I am thankful for our pastor who brings the whole word of God and nothing but the word of God to the pulpit. He stands for what he believes in and never apologizes for it. He is a true man of God in his pastor role, marriage, parenting, and all that he does. Every church needs a preacher like him. Specifically, I am thankful for my moms' group which is full of ladies who love the Lord, love their husbands, and love their kids. All of these women are walking examples of Deuteronomy 6. I am so thankful each time I am with them we encourage and edify one another. Wednesday night Bible study is one of the highlights of my week. I enjoy our dinners out and nights in at someone’s home. It is just an amazing group of women. These are women I have been praying to have in my life for years.ourage and edify one another. Wednesday night Bible study is one of the highlights of my week. I enjoy our dinners out and nights in at someone's home. It is just an amazing group of women. These are women I have been praying to have in my life for

Day 11 - I am thankful for our veterans who do what most couldn't and wouldn't do to defend and protect our country. Freedom isn't free. There is a price and I am thankful that they are willing to pay that price. I am thankful for their families who give up holidays, birthdays, and everydays with them so that we can have our safety and freedom. HAPPY VETERANS' DAY!!!

Day 12 - I am thankful for my mother and father-in-law who have taken me in ever since the very first time that I met them nearly 10 and 1/2 years ago. I am thankful for the Godly wisdom and love that they pour over our family. I am thankful that Becky prayed for me before I was even born. I am thankful that they love our kids and take them for the night so that Lee and I can have date nights. I am truly blessed with my in-laws.

Day 13 - I am thankful that I can come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) because of Christ's death on the cross. I am thankful that God's compassion never fails and that His mercies are new everyday (Lamentations 3:22-23). I am thankful that if we confess our sins that He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse (1st John 1:9). I am thankful that as far as the east is from the west, He has removed our sins (Psalm 103:12). THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR TAKING MY SIN DEBT AND PAYING IT IN FULL ON THE CROSS. THANK YOU THAT ONE DAY I WILL HEAR "NOT GUILTY."

Day 14 - I am thankful for intercessory prayer.

Day 15 - Today I am thankful that after a week and some change of Luke waking up at 6:30am (an hour + earlier than normal) because of the time change, that after a few tricks, he woke up at 7:45am. I was able to get up at almost 7:30am and spend time with the Lord, get a shower, do my makeup, fix my hair, and get dressed before they needed me at 8:00am. I know this seems small, but getting up so early has been rough on all of us. THANK YOU, LORD!

Day 16 – (Part 1) I am thankful that even though I burnt the bacon which in turn burnt my overeasy eggs, that my toast wasn't burnt. I am also thankful that I have bacon and eggs to burn. So many people don't have any food.

Day 16 (Part 2 - after reading the news) - I am thankful that there will be a day when we will no longer hear stories of INNOCENT children being beaten, abused, molested, and/or murdered. "There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more...WE'LL SEE JESUS FACE TO FACE."

Day 17 - I am thankful for my homeschool co-op. It is awesome that Luke gets to do 2 classes a week outside of our regular school time to learn about things that fascinate him - building things and inventors. It is nice to be able to serve in various capacities and to have a bible study with homeschoolers to talk/learn about this journey of homeschooling. :)

Day 18 - I am thankful for MOMS' NIGHTS IN at various friends' homes. We get together at 8:00pm on the last Friday of each month in someone's home and share food, laughs, games, prayers, our hearts, and fellowship. It is the best group of gals in the world.

Day 19 - I am thankful for Papa John's when I don't feel up to cooking. Praying I feel better.

Day 20 - Today I am thankful for answered prayers and God's faithfulness. 2 years ago on Thanksgiving Day I miscarried our 2nd pregnancy. It was devastating to say the least. I went through a brief (thank God) period of being angry with God and feeling an injustice had been done. Sometime around the end of December or beginning of January, I went to the altar and surrendered my hurt, my pain, my selfishness, and my pride and completely gave my future (or lack thereof) children (biological or adopted) to the Lord. Within a month, I found out that I was pregnant again. God answered my prayers with Nathan. I have been struggling again (not with anger, but more with fear). Today my pastor reminded me that God is always faithful and that even at a crossroads or a crisis, He will go through everything with us. I know He is faithful and can’t wait to see what He does next.

Day 21 (Part 1) - I am thankful that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). So many people say that "Time heals all wounds." I disagree. Have you ever seen people that are still hurting, angry, or unforgiving 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years later? I truly believe that God is the only One who can completely heal the brokenhearted. I know that is true in my life. I am thankful that He heals my broken heart.

Day 21 (Part 2) - I am thankful for God's Word. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12 - Also thankful that I live in a country where I am free to own my Bible, read my Bible, and share the truths of Scripture without fear of being arrested or worse.

Day 22 - I am thankful for my son, Luke. I know that I already shared my thankfulness for him on Day 3, but I am just reminded today how much God is working in his life. I am thankful that God is pulling him toward Himself more and more everyday. Hearing him pray is just awesome. I am thankful for his servant's heart and how much he loves his little brother and helps me out with Nathan and around the house. I am thankful that he works hard in school and is learning so much Biblically and academically. I am thankful for his energy and excitement about pretty much everything. I can't wait to see what God does with his life.

Day 23 - I am thankful that my mother-in-law and mom are cooking our Thanksgiving dinners and all I have to bring is apple pie. No stress, no mess. Get to enjoy the day with my boys in our PJs watching movies and playing. Tomorrow we get to eat with my in-laws and Friday with my side of the family. Can't wait to see everyone and eat that yummy food. :)

Day 24 - I am thankful for a day when everyone really stops to think about what they are thankful for. We have so much to be thankful for.

Day 25 - I am thankful for the excessive meal I am going to have tonight at my mom's house - turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mac n cheese, green bean casserole, veggies, potato salad, deviled eggs, and a bunch of desserts. This is the meal that I wait all year for. :)

Day 26 - I am thankful for Yellow Butterflies, the ministry that God has placed in my heart to reach those who have lost babies to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. I am thankful that He has carried me through my own losses to be able to potentially help others. I am thankful that He is turning my pain into beauty. God truly is amazing in the ways that He works! I am thankful for all of those who support this ministry as well. :)

Day 27 - I am thankful that I got to hear 13 little kids make a joyful noise to the Lord and hear what they were thankful for. I am also thankful to friends for making instruments for us. What a clever idea. Working with children teaching them Scripture and how to praise the Lord is such a blessing. Children are a blessing from the Lord. I them!

Day 28 - I am thankful that our family is such an amazing team. We all work together to make things run smoothly. Lee is such an awesome provider and works hard, but when he is at home he gives his family 100%. No task is beneath him or not in his "job description." Luke helps me out so much with Nathan and household tasks. Nathan does his part by being super cute. ;) It is nice working together and having one another to count on. Thank You God for each one of them.

Day 29 - I am thankful for the trials of life. "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." - Romans 5:3-5

Day 30 - I am thankful that even though I don't know what the next year(s) will bring, I know that God is in control, He works all things together (Romans 8:28), and He will be with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eat at Home Challenge

We are on a tighter budget this year due to unforeseen medical expenses so I am challenging myself this month to eat at home more. Now I know a lot of you probably already do this, but we still eat out quite a bit even on a budget. My challenge for myself is to cut our estimated eating out budget down significantly this month so that we can put some of that money into CHRISTmas presents.

I decided to get together a list of 25 meals (we are eating at church 3 nights and I did it up until the 23rd) to have this month. Then I decided to go ahead and buy everything we would need for those meals. After doing all of the planning and shopping, I decided to go ahead and freezer prep/cook as much as I could to make life even easier the next 4 weeks since we will be so busy.

What I Did:
I prepped Salisbury Steak - I will only have to thaw and cook and add some rice and veggies.
I prepped Meatloaf - I will only have to thaw and cook and add some potatoes and veggies.
I cooked a pound of meat for Meaty Pizza - I will only have to thaw and toss on the pizza.
I cooked a pound of meat, peppers, and onions for Crockpot Lasagna - I will only have to thaw and toss into the lasagna in the crockpot.
I cooked 2 pounds of spaghetti sauce for Spaghetti and Baked Ziti - I will only have to make the pasta and toss in the sauce (add some cheese to the BZ).
I cooked 4 pounds of chicken for Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Stuffing Pie, and BBQ Chicken Pizza - I will just have to put everything together and bake.
I prepped a bunch of different marinades for chicken - I will only have to thaw and bake and throw together with some rice and veggies.
I prepped a few pounds of plain chicken for a few other recipes.

I am super glad that I won't have too much to do. Most of these things will go in the crockpot or oven and require a few things. NICE.

I will update on how it goes.

I would love to hear your favorite ways to save time and money on recipes. Do you freezer cook, crockpot cook, and/or cook for the week? I would love to hear some great recipes. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Black Friday Shopping for Me this Year

For the past 2 years I have been one of the crazy people (I mean that in the best way) that gets up early or stays up late and hits up Walmart for the deals to be had. The first year we got up and went around 2am and got in line for TVs. Last year we went before midnight and got in line for various outdoor play toys. We snatch up some other great deals while we are there.

This year I didn't do Black Friday because we were at home and I didn't have my mom and sister to go with. It is always more fun (and safer) to go with someone. I was a little bummed but quickly got over it when I was in my PJs and in bed for the night by 11pm and slept until 9am. Thanks kids!

I still hope to grab some good deals over the next few weeks (probably will be shopping on Cyber Monday). It is always nice to stretch those dollars as far as you can and bless your children. My husband and I make a budget and try our very best to stick to it. We generally pick one big item and then do smaller things as well.

I would love to hear from those who went Black Friday shopping and your experiences and what deals you got.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Delegating to Children

I know that I have posted on this topic before but I cannot express enough how important it is for children to help out in a household. Kids need to have a role in a family and chores is another way of giving them that. I think it gives them a great feeling when they serve others. Maybe Luke is different but he actually likes helping out. He feels part of the team.

At 5 years old he:

1) Makes his bed daily. We probably started having him make his own bed around 3 1/2 to 4 years old. WARNING: When you start having your kids make their bed, it won't look great the first time, or even for months, but eventually they will do it better and better. Don't go behind and fix it or it will squash their feeling of independence and helping out.

2) Removes his sheets and brings them to the laundry room to be laundered once a week. He doesn't put the fitted sheet or pillow case on yet because he can't seem to get it to work, but he does put his comforter back on his bed.

3) Puts all dirty clothes in his hamper daily and brings the hamper to the laundry room to be laundered once or twice a week. He can fold some clothes. He takes the clean clothes and distributes them in his dresser and closet.

4) Cleans the sinks in their bathroom. I give him a Lysol wipe and he scrubs the sinks and counters.

5) Cleans up all toys. He started cleaning up toys around 18 months. I absolutely refuse to clean up toys.

6) Sets the table. He climbs up on his stool and gets the dishes, paper towels, and utensils. He sets the place settings. He also helps take over other things as I need (ie condiments, food that is ready).

7) Clears the table. He brings over the dirty dishes to me so that I can wash them and load the dishwasher.

8) Wipes down the table and chairs. I give him a clean washcloth and he wipes everything down.

9) Sweeps up the crumbs. He has a little dustpan and brush and he goes around getting up the crumbs. This is one of my favorite things that he helps with.

10) Dusts. I give him a Swiffer duster and he goes to town.

I think it is great teaching our kids in phases to help out. A it gives me less to have to do and more time to spend playing with them. B it gives them a sense of responsibility and teaches service and hospitality.

What do you have your kids do?

Baking Tips

With Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas upon us, I thought that I would share some of my favorite baking tips. I LOVE TO BAKE!!! I love getting in the kitchen with all of my supplies and ingredients and just baking away. I also (obviously) love to be organized with it. ;)

Favorite Baking Tips:

#1 - Keep a good supply of baking needs (flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla, cinnamon) on hand. Stock up around the holidays because that is when they put stuff on sale the most.

#2 - Have a few sets of measuring tools (tsp, Tbsp, cups) and bowls so that you can bake more efficiently.

#3 - Use the same dry measuring tool as much as you can to cut down on washing. For example, if you need 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour, just use the 1/2 cup measuring cup for both.

#4 - For consistency in baking, measure everything. When I make a batch of cookies, I use the same sized spoon to make equal sized cookies.

#5 - Invest in good supplies. Wilton has the best cookie sheets (I got my set with a 40% off coupon). I also like Pampered Chef tsp, Tbsp, and measuring cups. They are gradual so you can measure lots of things in the same spoon.

#6 - Enjoy yourself. Put on some music. Have a beverage or snack to keep you going. Get your kids to help where they can.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great Fall Dish

Even though it isn't cold today (YAY!), I decided to make a hearty dinner of Salisbury Steak, rice, and veggies. I am really getting into using my crockpot more so I can prepare dinner in the morning/afternoon and do very little around dinner time (AKA "crazy hour"). So today I made the Salisbury Steak using this recipe:

I decided to just brown the patties on both sides and threw them in the crockpot with a couple jars of the beef gravy on high (probably could have done low) for a few hours. They finished cooking and got very tender so I just diced it all up and it was a great mixture to throw on top of rice. Around dinner time I just cooked some green beans and some rice in a bag. Easy peasy to quote Rachael Ray. ;)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Preparing My Heart for CHRISTmas

I know that we haven't celebrated Thanksgiving and this post is not to jump over Thanksgiving. I LOVE THANKSGIVING as I said in my previous post. It seems like the hustle and bustle of CHRISTmas seems to start November 1st. We prepare our CHRISTmas present list (whether it be for presents we will be buying or ones that we desire for ourselves), cards we need to send, foods we are going to make. We fill in our calendar with what seems like a never ending list of activities. We get our homes all decorated. As we prepare our lists, our calendars, and our homes for CHRISTmas, let's not forget to prepare our hearts.

What in the world am I talking about? Well, CHRISTmas is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and remember that the little baby in the manger was/is the Savior of the world. He is also the 33 year old man who lived a sinless life and died an unfair, unjust, unmerciful death on the cross to take away the sins of those who would believe in Him. He is also the King of Kings who sits at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. And He is the Lord of Lords who is coming again. We think back on the past, are thankful for the present, and are hopeful for the future we have in Christ Jesus.

I will share a few things that we do in our home/family in case anyone is interested and I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR WHAT YOU DO IN YOURS.

#1 - We celebrate Advent for the 25 days of CHRISTmas. We use a very cute program called The Advent Event - *I did not get paid to endorse this program.* Each day you read a story working your way through the Bible and the kids color an ornament. Last year we just taped them across the wall in sequential order. It is a great way to show how Jesus is prevalent throughout the whole Bible. In the Old Testament people were waiting for Him and in the New Testament He arrives. We finish by talking about how we are waiting for Him to return again.

#2 - We get an Angel Tree child and shop for him/her. Before the twins were born we would just pick a child, but now we get one the age Alexis would have been and do it in memory of her. It is a sweet way to remember her and bless another child.

#3 - We go CHRISTmas caroling with our church. It is so fun to go with a big group and sing CHRISTmas songs and bless people. It is so much fun.

#4 - We go to our church's CHRISTmas musical.

#5 - We do a countdown to Santa. We draw a Santa and put the numbers on his beard. Then we glue a cotton ball each day to show how many days until he will be here.

#6 - This year we will write a letter to Santa since Luke knows how to write better.

#7 - We make homemade ornaments. The last 2 years we made dough ones and baked them and Luke painted them. It is really fun because he gets to make the dough and cookie cut and paint.

#8 - We make homemade cookies. I love to get Luke in the kitchen and bake batches of cookies. We have so much fun and make a mess but turn out some yummy cookies.

#9 - We make a gingerbread house. We use a kit and it is really easy and fun. You can find these on major sale after CHRISTmas.

#10 - We watch CHRISTmas movies and eat popcorn.

My goal this year is to have an activity to do every day until CHRISTmas. I am still coming up with more ideas.

I would love to hear things you do.

Italian Chicken Subs

I am always looking for good lunch ideas. I am not a big sandwich girl, unless it is a hot sandwich or at least the bread is toasted. Today I came up with one really quick and it turned out delicious. Best part, it is really easy.

Italian Chicken Subs

1 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
1 small can tomato sauce
More Italian seasoning
Shredded Italian cheese
Hoagies/sub rolls

Cook the chicken in a pan with a little olive oil and Italian seasoning.
Add the tomato sauce and more Italian seasoning.
Let simmer about 10-15 minutes.
Put on warm hoagie/sub roll.
Add some cheese.
I tossed it in the microwave to melt the cheese.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Preparing for Thanksgiving

I LOVE THANKSGIVING!!!! It is one of my favorite holidays. I love taking time out to really think about what I am thankful for and I am all about any holiday involving yummy food. As much as I love to cook and bake, I don't host Thanksgiving. We are going to my in-laws' house on Thanksgiving Day and my family's the day after. The only thing I will be making is homemade apple pie. Pretty easy.

I really like to take time to think about what I am thankful for. Each year, I write up a list of what I am thankful for to see God's provision that year as well as anything new that has happened. I love going back and reading them to see what awesome things God has done in my life. I encourage you to put to paper what you are thankful for as a way to sort of journal your life each year.

I also like to spend time with my family talking about what we are thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving, but the days leading up to it. It is a great way to really think about what we have and it cuts down on complaining about what we don't (or even things we do).

I would love to hear your Thanksgiving traditions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Dish Detergent

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup citric acid (or unsweetened lemonade packets)

Mix all together.
You use 1 Tbsp per load.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

3 Ingredients:

Soap: A whole bar of Ivory soap.

Washing Soda: Found on the laundry aisle - Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. THIS IS NOT BAKING SODA!

Borax: Found on the laundry aisle - 20 Mule Team.

1 bar Ivory soap
½ cup washing soda
½ cup Borax powder
2 gallon sized bucket

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan.
Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts.
Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved.
Remove from heat.
Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket.
Now add your soap mixture and stir.
Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.
Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.
You use ½ cup per load.

I also found another one that I haven't tried yet:

Same ingredients.
Grate the soap.
Add the Borax and washing soda.
Shake well.
You use 1-2 Tbsp per load.

Homemade Pumpkin Cake

This is a tasty and easy recipe for pumpkin cake. I LOVE AUTUMN and anything pumpkin.

Homemade Pumpkin Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 can (15oz) pumpkin
1 cup oil
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together really well.
Grease and flour (or spray with PAM) 13x9 pan or bundt cake pan.
Pour batter into pan.
Bake for roughly 1 hour or until done (I did like 45 minutes - my oven is fast).
Let the cake cook.
You can put icing on it, but I like it without.
You could do a cream cheese frosting or light icing.