Saturday, October 31, 2009


Remember the old me? The crafty, sewing, baking me? She's still around here somewhere, it's just that she doesn't come out to play as often as she used to. This, though, is one of those times! Let's talk about all the goodies that I've been putting in the freezer....

Firstly, I'd like to say that sometimes cooking in my kitchen is like being on one of those FoodNetwork challenge shows. You know, the ones where the contestants are given some 'mystery basket' full of items and asked to use them in a dish? What with the gifts of various groceries from family and friends or the donations of someone cleaning out their pantry, sometimes the name of the game is trying to use up what I've got, but I think I've been up for the challenge! Lasagna Spirals was one of those recipes. I loved this idea of individually portioned servings of lasagna and it freezes beautifully!

One of my stand-by recipes is Taco Meat . That recipe is nearly similar to the one I use, except that I make my own taco seasoning packet, and really only try to make it when I can find the ground beef on sale for about 99-cents a pound. Did you know that if you rinse your ground beef, even if it started out as the fattiest cut (let's say 70/30) it will be leaner than even one of the leanest cut you can buy?! I just told my 83-year-old grandma about that little trick the other day. Since I was feeling adventurous, in this last batch I used some store-bought Habanero Salsa. The taco meat is so scorching spicy, I think we'll have to eat about 20% meat, 40% sour cream and 40% cheese in each taco! Better than throwing it away, I 'spose.

Another family favorite is Swiss Chicken. The recipe I've always used has white cooking wine in place of the water/broth & I just usually use whatever condensed soup I have on hand or that someone has given us. I bought a big bag of seasoned stuffing on clearance awhile back & have been using it for this recipe ever since. A bit of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter in place of the real butter helps to lower the calorie content too.

A new recipe that I tried last weekend was these Jalapeno Cheddar Scones. I served them with some easy homemade Chili (destined for the freezer!) and they were super delish. A friend just happened to have some jalapenos on her kitchen counter, so I helped myself to a couple. I froze a few of the scones and passed on a few to a friend with a new baby. These are so yummy and are a great change-up from my usual cornbread-with-chili menu. Next time, I'm making a bigger batch! The blog that this recipe came from is a MUST READ. I have been away for far too long & look forward to drooling on my keyboard catching up with all the yummy recipe goodness. ( I think next week, on our week off of school, we will be diving into some of these Apple Cider Donuts!)

And I've saved the best for last. I have successfully frozen little patties of cookie dough from the recipe The Whole Jar of Peanut Butter Cookies. I *love* being able to whip out a homemade dessert on a moment's notice. We are able to have a tasty treat after supper on many occasions, since the dough is already prepared. I think a nice homemade sweet treat also makes us all feel special, regardless of our severely reduced income and grocery budget. I simply follow the recipe, chill the dough, use a cookie scoop to portion out, dip a fork in sugar to make the classic criss-cross design, then flash freeze and bag up. Bake 'em at 350° F for 13 minutes. Or, you could just eat them straight out the freezer, with your husband,  and the freezer door still wide open, pretending that this-is-perfectly-normal-since-they-do-sell-ice-cream-with-cookie-dough-in-it, all the while saying "Mmmm. Mmmm. Good."

Not that I'm saying I've ever done that.

Nope. Not me.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into my freezer. Got any goodies in yours?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Ole Ben

Excerpt from Exploring American History about Benjamin Franklin:

 He kept a little book in which he wrote down his faults. If he wasted half an hour of time or a shilling of money, or said anything that he should not have said, he wrote it down in his book. He carried that book in his pocket all his life, and he studied it, as a boy at school studies a hard lesson.

Can you even imagine? I would hate to keep track of my own faults for a day, let alone for my entire life AND to study them. Ever since we read this as part of our History lesson last Monday, it has rattled around in my mind. What would we learn about ourselves if we committed to this practice, even if only for a day? Even though part of me shudders at the thought, the other part of me has been chalking up mental tally marks every time I err or waste something or say the wrong thing. Quite a lesson, I tell ya.

And what did Good Ole Ben learn from this practice? Our history book says that his lessons were three: Do the right thing; do it at the right time; do it in the right way. And honestly, it seems like pretty sound advice. Now that I've read about the lessons he had learned, I am analyzing the things that I do or that others do that just don't seem to be quite right and have found that they usually fit into one of those three categories. Either I did the completely wrong thing or maybe my husband had good intentions but his timing was off or perhaps my friend was trying to do the right thing but her message got lost because of an inappropriate delivery. It's no wonder Ben went on to help pen the Declaration of Independence.

Amazing what God can use when we are listening. Like a third-grader's history lesson about Benjamin Franklin.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If Every Day Were an Aldi Day

It all started with an envelope in the mail.

Inside were two Aldi gift certificates and a card with simple but powerful words: Your heavenly Father knows. Thank you. You know who you are.

And then there was an email from another friend asking if we would like another Aldi gift certificate. Thank you. You know who you are.

Guess God owns some serious shares of Aldi stock!

During my first Aldi run, the man behind me was using a gift certificate, but only had about $15 worth of merchandise for his $25 certificate.

"Sir, I can't give you any cash back and you still have $10 left on the gift certificate."

"Well, I don't want any cash back."

"But Sir, why don't you just go buy yourself some meat or something?"

"Nah...... Hey! Can I just give the lady behind me the rest of the certificate?"

"Uh...." Calls the manager over. "This guy wants to give that lady the rest of his gift card. Can we do that?......No, Sir. We can't do that."

Everyone stands around looking at each other.

Well, I couldn't help myself, now could I?

Me: Well, how about if you just ring up that lady's groceries along with his and just let this guy go on his merry way with his groceries?

The manager smiles. The cashier smiles. The guy smiles. The lady smiles. I smile.

And then I nearly start crying. I guess because I witnessed a simple act of goodness that almost didn't happen. Then, while I was still joyful about that random kindness, as I was loading my groceries into my van, a hippie man came up to me and wanted to take my cart. Upon seeing my 40 lb bag of softener salt, he kindly said, May I? Then proceed to load it up for me.

If every day were an Aldi day, we'd give out of our abundance to those who are in need. We wouldn't need unemployment because those making extra would give generously to those not having enough. We wouldn't buy more just because we could, but we'd pay for the person behind us just because. If every day were an Aldi day, we'd help one another without thinking about how we might be inconvenienced.  

And we'd do it with a smile.

Monday, October 19, 2009

11 and Counting

appropriately subtitled, "How I spent my anniversary"

Just because we are low in the funds department did NOT mean we had to keep our anniversary celebrating to a minimum! Last Friday was the actual anniversary day, which coincidentally, we were also married on a Friday so it was neat to see the days line up perfectly! I loved being able to say "At exactly this time eleven years ago we were.....". I served Lasagna Spirals for our family lunch and was planning on making some Chinese food for the Hubs and I for dinner, but on the spur of the moment, we decided to take our Chinese on the road and share it with some friends.

Remember the days when you were still dating and you would just up and decide to go here-and-there or drop by a friends' house or just stay up late hangin' out or playing games?? Well, it kinda felt like that. It was great! Both of our families put our wee ones to bed and then the grown-ups played a mean game of Phase 10, while the other chitlins played Uno and watched movies. When we realized that it was already 10 pm, it was time to head out and put our munchkins to bed. Next time, we're doin' a sleepover ya'll!

Saturday saw our kids head off to grandmas to give Mom and Dad some much needed alone time. We used a Red Lobster gift card (with coupon!) to enjoy our selves a quiet lunch. We did some window shopping too: JoAnn's for me and Guitar Center for him, then browsed at Target, picking up a couple of gifts with gift cards as well. We hit the library right before closing time to get ourselves a couple of free movies, which we enjoyed with some late night pizza from the freezer and IBC root beer (my favorite!) that had been stashed away in the fridge. We went to bed early *grin* and slept in late...well, at least I did.

So, we spent hardly any money to celebrate our 11th year of marriage. But really, you can't put a price tag on great conversation and buckets of laughs. There's been lots of ups and downs these last eleven years, especially this last year.

But ya know what else is priceless?

Knowing that there's no one else that I rather be on that roller coaster with.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Praying for YOU

In honor of Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day

I am thinking of and praying for YOU today.  

YOU, who have no living children, yet have the heart of a mother.  

YOU, who while pregnant after a loss, have a heart of fear; loving your child within yet still longing for your child in heaven.  

YOU, who feel you have been robbed of the innocent joy that a pregnancy can bring, knowing all too well that sometimes things don't turn out the way you plan them.

YOU, who are still suffering in your grief after the death of your child.  

YOU, who heard the words, "I'm sorry. We can't find a heartbeat." 

YOU, who had a baby shower, decorated a nursery, picked a name, yet did not bring a baby home from the hospital.

YOU, who don't know how to answer the casual question, "So, how many children do you have?"

YOU, who have part of your family living on earth and part living in heaven.

And while I pray for YOU, I pray for ME at the same time. And I thank Him for YOU, for being my friend and for walking the hard road with me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missing for Five

I think this quote I stumbled upon says it best:

For a short time, I had your body in my body.
I carried your belly in my belly.
And now, though I have your heart in my heart and feel your soul in my soul,
I will never have your hand in my hand.
I miss your life in my life.

I have been missing Olivia for five months now. Missing the way she would've fit into our lives, the way she would've been growing, the joy she would've brought, the sleepless newborn nights and endless warm snuggles. Missing her life in mine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's next, Lord?

I am still here. Trudging through life. And I want to explain why. Why it's difficult to post as much as I'd like to.

I should probably start this post by turning the calendar back a few months. It was about mid-August and the Husband was merrily driving a dump truck for someone else and was approached about a job opportunity for our small business. After much debate, prayer and wise counsel, we decided to accept this opportunity to do staffing and management for heavy machinery operators for a short-term project, with the hope that more short-term projects would follow. We felt, and still do, that God was leading us in that direction and that His blessing was on our decision. Unfortunately, "short-term" has turned out to be much shorter than we were led to believe and have had only one great month of work.

It was a exciting, sometimes stressful, logistical roller coaster that we have been on, going from the Husband as our only employee to a team of about twelve. I went from crafty, homeschooling, full-time mom, to being the newly crowned CFO of our little company. We were so blessed to have been able to provide work for others who needed it and for that, I am grateful. Now, though, the roller coaster has come to a screeching halt. The job progressed faster than expected. The weather has been rainy here, not conducive to the type of truck work that we have been involved with. So we waited for the ground to dry up. And waited. And waited some more.

Today is the first (partial) day of work for the month of October and the month is nearly half over. No work means no money. We are both scared. We are selling off personal possessions now and the Husband gave his first plasma donation last week. Even amidst much prayer, I have that heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's so difficult not to worry, even though I know that it won't add an hour to my life. I shake my head in disbelief that after all we have gone through already this year that God would still ask more of me. I already feel so beaten down by life and to even think about losing the home that I cherish seems like just more than I could handle. Grief is particularly taxing on a marriage, not to mention the added stress of our job situation. To put it nicely, it just makes things not-so-pretty around here sometimes.

All of that job tumult makes it hard to post about other things. Things like new recipes, what a great privilege it is to be a mom, how much I love fall, the blessing of great friends, the amazing adventure we call homeschooling, and the goodness of and wrestling with God through all these struggles.

Lately when the people that love me casually ask, "So how are you?", I have come up with my own version of an honest & clever answer: Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to say 'fine' just so you can be comfortable?

The Husband has his own answer:

Life is rough, but God is good.

I think I like his better.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Trisomy 21

Lately I have found myself thinking a lot about Trisomy 21 and wishing Olivia had IT, instead of Trisomy 18. What would she be like, what would our life be like, if only the 21st chromosome were affected instead of the 18th? Do you know the common name for Trisomy 21?

Down Syndrome.

Is it a coincidence that out of the last handful of books that I have read, two of them (The Memory Keeper's Daughter & Just Beyond the Clouds) have centered around children/people affected by down syndrome? I have been privileged to read about the special lives that that T21 families lead, like Emmie and Bennett , and I've followed a journey through the NICU for Fiesty Kaelyn. For some strange reason, more and more, I am feeling a kinship with families like those and others who have been touched by Down's. Maybe because, although Olivia is in heaven, our lives were touched by a Trisomy, albeit not the exact same one. In honor of October being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I've added a button to the sidebar of my blog. If you feel so inclined to raise awareness, you can add one to yours too, but visiting this post. Stop by some of the families I've mentioned and show them some love too!