"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Monday, January 30, 2012

STOP IT!!! (Yes, you!!)

....this is what I have to tell myself.


Like, 100 times per day.

I am going to explain. But first, if you didn't catch this video from one of my first blog posts, you MUST watch it. It's hilarious, true, and very appropriate for this post:

Ok, so for 2012, my goal has been to be a more thoughtful, less critical, more loving, content, happy person. I have been daily reading Matthew chapter 5 (The Sermon on the Mount). Here is a link to the chapter in the ESV version: Matthew 5, and also Luke 6:27-36:

Love for Enemies
    27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
   32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Guess what? 

That's not easy. 

My problem is this: I purpose myself to act a certain way, (Or NOT to act a certain way...), then guess what happens? Three minutes later, I am doing the very thing I was trying not to do!!

So I end up telling myself, "STOP IT!"

.....over, and over, and over........ 

Here are some of my STOP ITs, maybe you'll be able to relate....

Stop...... being passive aggressive. If something is important enough to be upset about, it's important enough to talk about honestly.

Stop..... being angry when life isn't fair. Really, if it WERE fair, none of us would be going to heaven.

Stop..... trying to manipulate the outcome of situations. Just do the next right thing, and live your daily life with integrity.

Stop..... dwelling on things people have said that make you feel hurt/sad/angry. Unless you enjoy feeling hurt/sad/angry, it's really purposeless.

Stop..... holding on to things people have done against you. Forgive them and move on. You don't need to keep score. That's not your job. It's God's. He doesn't need your help.

Stop..... wishing you had someone else's life. If you had their life, you'd be wishing for something else. Be content.

Stop..... applying the bible verses you read to everyone around you, and apply them to your own life.

Stop..... expecting to be happy after your "wish list" is checked off. Be happy now.

Stop..... gossiping.

Stop..... taking about the things that annoy you about other people, and start praying for those people instead.

Stop..... using the excuse of "venting" to just slander other people to make yourself feel better.

Stop..... focusing on what other people do, and focus on what YOU do.

Stop..... hating people. Even the ones who deserve it.

Stop..... judging people who do things you don't understand. Pray instead, to understand, and if you can't understand, to love them anyhow.

Stop..... thinking you have an inexhaustible amount of time in which to be different. Life is short. Be different NOW.

Do you have your own list? Does it look anything like mine? 

I have my work cut out for me. So I will take a deep breath, and do the next right thing.

Press on, friends. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Freezer Cooking Day 1/20 Recipes and Photos

I don't know if you feel this way, but I have this weird connection between a full fridge/pantry, and a feeling of satisfaction.

....it could be because I love food. But something about opening the pantry and seeing it full of neatly organized cans and jars and baked goods, and seeing the fridge stocked makes me happy. 

Same with the freezer! When I look inside the freezer and see frozen meals stacked up in there, well, I feel more prepared. I like that.

Freezer cooking is NOT difficult. If you want to do it inexpensively, it can be a bit time-consuming, because you'll need to shop around to different stores for the best deals. I could have been even better on this freezer cooking day if I would have cooked the pinto beans myself instead of buying canned, and made the tortillas from scratch. But it was one of those weeks where each of us spending an extra $5 on those items was worth it to me- it was just too busy!

I freezer cook with two girlfriends, and to be honest, if you have a regular stove and kitchen, I would say three people is the maximum. Tripling a recipe is a lot of food to cook at once and I wouldn't want to try a larger quantity. 

Here's a post to get you started if you've never freezer cooked before- there's info about packaging and storage- Freezer Cooking 101

So on this freezer day, here's what we made!

Minestrone Soup- I love this soup! I like to serve it with homemade bread and a little bit of Parmesan cheese on top. We substituted potatoes for the beans. (Wade, sadly, is not a bean fan.)

We made Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas- I like to make them into two 9" square pans instead of 1 9x13, because I serve them with rice and beans and a salad, so we can get two meals out of one recipe. Also, these are DELICIOUS!!

We also made Chicken Noodle Soup- I forgot to add the parsley during the cooking, so I just threw it on top since we're going to reheat it anyhow. 

We used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for the above two recipes. This saved $10 over using the on-sale boneless/skinless chicken, and I think this tastes better. But it is a bit more work.

I was RIDICULOUSLY excited about this recipe- make your own Frozen Burritos! They turned out SO good- and the recipe ended up making 10 burritos! So for our family that's 2 dinners plus lunches!! The pinto beans taste awesome! I wrapped them in Saran Wrap, and to reheat, just unwrap and microwave for 3 minutes! They rock!!

..mmmmmm pizza.

So, that ended up being 8 meals for me- Each of the soup batches made two large containers of soup (I serve salad and fruit with nearly every dinner, plus bread or other side dish) so that's 4 meals, plus two trays of enchiladas, plus two large pizza crusts. We each payed $30.55- so that's a great deal. If you figure on the cost of having to eat out at the last minute- even fast food- $30 is only enough for maybe 2 meals, and that's if you are careful with what you order! It is so nice to have meals all ready to pop into the oven when you arrive at 4:00 in the afternoon and realize that you have nothing planned for dinner. Also, I've used my freezer meals to bring a friend a meal if they are ill or needing extra help during the week. 

Even if you do a smaller amount of food, give freezer cooking a try! If you have any questions, feel free to comment on the thread and I'll do my best to answer them! 

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baking Day 1/23 Recipes and Photos

So, yesterday was a crazy busy day!! Not only was it baking day, but I totally slacked off on the weekend and did not get any chores done. So I had stacks of laundry (ugh my worst hated chore) plus a lot of tidying up to do.

I am SO glad today, though, that it is done. Now I can be on regular chore rotation without adding extra things today. (Aside from the stuff that gets added because "life happens"....)

Here's what I made yesterday!

I bought some White Whole Wheat flour to try in my wrap breads and some of my other baked goods.... tried it in the wraps and loved it!!

I made a dozen Homemade Smuckers Uncrustables... it is nice to have these in the freezer for those days when I don't feel like making lunch. 

I sliced and bagged bananas for smoothies. I have been loving this one and this one.

I made some Homemade Croutons for salads and soups this week. (And apparently, for the kids to sneak and snack on while I am baking....)

I made a double batch of Soft, Chewy Wrap Bread with the White Whole Wheat flour. I had to add a LOT of extra water, so if I was going to do it again, I would probably start with a 1/2 cup less flour than the original recipe calls for. They turned out AWESOME with the flour, tasty and still soft and chewy. We use them for pizza crusts, to dip hummus, and for turkey or veggie wraps.

I made a batch of Rice Krispie Treats and individually wrapped them for lunches. I am a huge fan of individual packaging. Easier, and built-in portion control...

I also made a batch of  Southwest Three Bean and Barley Soup to have for lunches this week. I LOVE this soup, it's cheap, easy, and very tasty!! 

I also made some Chex Mix and bagged it up in Ziploc snack-sized bags. The boys have been craving salty snacks lately, and I hate buying chips because they are so expensive. So I figured this would be good to have on hand for lunches and snacks. I just used one type of Chex, and broke up some pretzels I had on hand to make it more cheaply.

Lastly, I made a batch of Homemade Energy Bars. Wade has been having one for breakfast every day, and Christopher loves having one for a snack. So we have been going through them quickly!

I was really pleased with how the wraps turned out with the White Whole Wheat flour, and I plan on trying several other recipes to see how we like them! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn- Crazy Good......

This is one of those recipes that you probably have nearly everything on hand in order to make it! Which is too bad for you, because then you'll go running, eat a healthy breakfast and a nutritious lunch, and then TOTALLY blow it by stuffing down huge handfuls of this popcorn and not being able to stop eating it.....

.....oh, wait. Maybe that was me. I couldn't help it!! It's so good!!

Here's what you need to make some:
  • 12 cups popped popcorn (I popped mine from kernels, and it takes 1/2 C. kernels to get 12 cups. Or you could use microwave popcorn, but use the kind with no butter or salt)
  • 1 C roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Karo syrup (or honey if you don't do corn syrup)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 squares white candy coating

First, pop the popcorn and put it into a LARGE bowl (I used my giant Tupperware fix and mix bowl. You want a really huge bowl) Then mix in the pecans.

Preheat the oven to 250. Line a large jelly roll pan or two 9x13 pans with foil and spray with Pam.

Next, get a large microwave-safe bowl (I used a 2.5 qt. Pyrex) and put the brown sugar and the cinnamon into the bowl. Use a fork or a whisk, and combine the two.

Then add the butter, cut up into chunks, and the Karo or honey:

Microwave for 30 seconds to soften the butter, then stir together to combine. Then microwave for 2 minutes, stir. Microwave for another 2 minutes. It should look bubbly like this:

Stir in the baking soda and vanilla. It will foam up a bit. I would have a picture but I was trying to move quickly and didn't take one. Pour the caramel syrup over the popcorn/pecans and stir well to make sure all the popcorn is well-coated. then pour into your prepared pan(s) and put in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10. 

Now at this point, I dumped the popcorn out on wax paper to cool. Then, melt the white candy coating and drizzle over the popcorn with a fork. Let the candy coating harden, then break into pieces.

And eat them.

...all of them.

I gift-wrapped some for my Mother-in-Law, because it was her birthday!! :) She loved it!

This wasn't difficult at all, and makes a really awesome treat for the family, or a GREAT gift! 

I got this recipe from Our Best Bites

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Almond Cream Cheese Pound Cake

So Wade's mom has a birthday coming up. I asked Wade a week or so ago what he thought his mom's favorite dessert would be. I am a big believer in making someone their favorite dessert on their birthday. If that happens to be birthday cake, then great!! If not, stick candles in a pie/cookie/whatever-dessert-they-like!

....one year, Nicholas wanted a COFFEE CAKE for his birthday cake! The little kids at his party were like, "uhhhh.... what's up with THIS?? Where's the cake??" Christopher chose a Triple Chocolate Trifle three years in a row.... you get the point.....

Anyhow, Wade said his mom loves Pound Cake with berries. Hence, this cake. (Of course, Wade told me, "And don't make some fancy pound cake. Just make a plain old regular one.")

So if Wade asks, this is actually called Plain Old Regular Pound Cake.

What you need:
  • One box "Butter Recipe Golden" cake mix- sometimes it's called "Butter Recipe Yellow"
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature (or, if you're not going to remember to set the cream cheese out ahead of time, like me, microwaved until soft, about 30 seconds)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

I bake this cake in the above pictured Pampered Chef Stoneware bundt pan. (Ok, seriously, isn't "bundt" a funny word?? ...or is it NOT that funny?? I DO hang around with kids all day, sometimes my sense of humor gets skewed.....)

P.S.- Don't judge me for using cake mix. 

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the snot out of the bundt (hee hee) pan and flour it lightly. If you've never floured a pan before, you put a small amount of flour into the pan and knock the pan around to distribute the flour. OR, you can use the Pam for baking spray, which already has flour in it..... Either way, make sure it's thoroughly greased. There is nothing worse than having a cake halfway out of the pan and realizing the other half is going to remain IN the pan....

In the bowl of a mixer, put all the ingredients. Blend with the mixer on low for 1 minute. Scrape the mixer well. Blend with the mixer on medium for 2 more minutes. Pour into the snot-greased-out-of-it bundt pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took 45), or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with your finger. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack, then invert the pan onto a serving platter. 

This cake is a kajillion times better if you make is at least a day ahead. It gets all moist and dense and perfect. Of course, then you smell it, and can't eat it for a day. See?? It's double-duty. You can bake and work on your self-control skills all at the same time. Multi-tasking rocks. (Or also, you can slice the cake up and serve it in slices on a platter and act like that is how you meant to serve it.... fyi- if I ever bring a dessert to your house that's already sliced and NOT served in the pan, it's because I've eaten some and didn't want to look like a pig.) (Except just kidding, it's really because I'm thoughtful and don't want anyone to have to go to all the work of slicing up the dessert. Yeah. That's it.)

Happy baking! 

I got this recipe from www.cakemixdoctor.com 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wifely Check Up

The beginning of the year always causes me to take stock of certain aspects of my life.

My budget, for one. My schedule, how I spend my time. The relationships in my life.

One important relationship stands out the most. My relationship with Wade. More specifically, what I am doing to be purposeful in that relationship.

When something is important to me, I like to, fairly consistently, evaluate what my level of engagement/commitment is and define my goals/direction in regards to that thing. Therefore, every so often I do that with my marriage, and sort of evaluate my wifely progress. I like to look at where I've come from, how I'm doing, and how I can improve. Occasionally I do this because I am having an issue with something (Usually my own attitude), but I also run a wifely check up as a "preventive maintenance" type deal at times as well. Here's how I do it:

Read things that cause me to think:
I usually start with getting out my bible and reading Proverbs 31:10-31. Slowly. Stopping to think about each verse, and how it pertains to me and my role as a wife. I have several journals I've kept over the years and I like to read my thoughts about Proverbs 31, and how they've changed and been refined over the years. This year, I also read the blog entries I wrote about being a wife. (I know that may seem weird, reading my own writing, but it really convicts me and makes me want to live up to the standards I profess to hold.) Here are those posts:
Wifely Duties
Wifely Contentment
Wifely Battles

...after I'm in the right mindset to think seriously about my goals as a wife, there are three main areas that I consider when I think about how to be an excellent wife to Wade. Here they are:

Tangible, Practical Support:
These are all of the things I do, on a day to day basis, to take care of Wade. Making his lunch, making sure he has clean clothes, making phone calls or running errands..... these are all practical ways I help him. As I think about this area of my life, I like to make sure I have enough time during the week to consider ways that I could be of assistance to Wade, and make sure I am asking him, at least once or twice a week, if there's anything I can do for him- pick up items at the store, make a certain dinner he's craving, run something to the cleaners...etc.... Often he won't need anything, but I know he feels cared about when I ask.

 I also try and consider how things are going for him at work, and set aside time to allow him to recharge in the manner that's best for him (Which just so happens to be the opposite of my way). For example, if he's had a long day at work, I know he likes the house tidy and fairly quiet/calm when he gets home. (I am not quiet, normally, so I have to muzzle myself.) If he's had a stressful week, sometimes being home with just our family is what he needs. There are times when I have to think about that, because I love doing things with friends and tend to pack our schedule full of outings.

Another practical way I fulfill my role as a wife is to make food that is (At least somewhat) healthy and appealing for Wade. He feels so much better (Like we all do) when he is eating nutritious meals. Making sure he has something quick but healthy for breakfast, packing him a filling lunch, and consistently making good dinners are ways I tangibly show my care for him.

Spiritual Encouragement/Prayer:
Sometimes my prayers for Wade get pretty darn sad. They turn in to my own request list, in prayer form. As I thought through how to best be praying for my husband, lots of things came to mind. Integrity and good character at work. Wisdom in leading our family. Clarity for creating balance in his life. The list got quite long. As I pray for him every day, it helps me to think of him more clearly as his own person, and not just someone who is in my life to make things easier for me. Does that make sense? Sometimes I get very wrapped up in the things Wade could do/not do that would make my life simpler or more enjoyable in some way. I lose sight of that fact that he is a man that God is working in and through for His glory and purposes. Praying purposefully and thoughtfully for Wade helps me to focus on how to best encourage him in God's will for him.

Another way I encourage Wade spiritually is to give him lots of credit and support when he is shouldering tough moral choices. Whether it's a situation at work, something with a family member, or a big decision for OUR family, I can help by being a good listener and giving my honest opinion, as well as doing my best to understand where he is coming from even if we don't agree.

Emotional and Physical Needs:
I had to chuckle when I was typing this title, because Wade would object to me saying he has emotional needs. He would think that sounds too girly.

...but He does. Even if men don't express their emotions the same way that we chicks do, they need a interested, attentive, uncritical partner, and sometimes a bit of bolstering up. You will have to figure out what that looks like for your guy- I am sure it's different for each of them. It's worth the investment to determine how to give emotional support to your husband. They'll appreciate it. Also, they'll look to you for it, and that's a great compliment. Being needed by your husband is really wonderful.

Another need that I make sure I am taking care of is in the physical department. I address this in my "Wifely Duties" post- but to give it a quick summary- sex is important. Make time for it. Initiate it sometimes. It's fun. That is all.

..to sum it up, our role as "Wife" is very important, and worth taking the time to run a "check up". Be purposeful about how you choose to spend your time, and make sure you are investing enough energy in being an excellent wife. I know, for myself, my priorities can't just be a list, or a statement, they must be reflected in how I spend my time. They have to shine through in my choices.

That won't happen by accident. So be a good wife. On purpose.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baking Day 1/9 Photos and Recipes

Isn't it tough getting back into the swing of things after the holidays? I have to admit, even though I have to drag myself through our routine the first week, I thrive upon routine, so I like getting back to a schedule and a predictable day.

Baking day over the holidays consisted of making a jillion pans of cinnamon rolls. That was fun. (Well, until you step on the scale after the holidays....)

Here's what I made Monday...

Then packaged them into snack-sized Ziploc bags for lunches. 

I think there are still a few bags left in the fridge- the guys LOVE these!!

I made a double batch of Soft Chewy Wrap Bread. We use these for (obviously) wraps, but also eat them with hummus as a snack, or as pizza crusts for small lunch-sized pizzas!

I made two batches of energy bars, one batch of Homemade Energy Bars, and one batch of Pumpkin Seed, Cashew, and Almond Butter Energy Bars. I love having these in the fridge as a snack or a quick after-workout refuel option. Wade likes to take these for breakfast.

I made some Quinoa and Black Beans for lunches- I am obsessed with this stuff right now, I have been eating it every day for lunch with sliced avocado. Sometimes I'll use it as filling for a burrito. It is GOOD!

I seeded some pomegranates that my friend Mickey gave me from his tree- these seeds are so good in salads or just plain for a snack!!

I made a batch of Kettle Corn and packaged it up in Ziplocs for snacks. In case you haven't noticed, I like to package things individually, or in single-serving sizes. This is good for two reasons- first, for portion control, and second, I think the boys find it easier and more appealing to eat things that they can just grab and heat or eat.

I also hard-boiled some eggs for snacks, and sliced, bagged, and froze some bananas for smoothies!

It feels so good to have food all ready to go for the week, I am glad our "normal" routine is back.