Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Multitudes on Monday - October 31, 2011

This week has been a bit calmer than last (though it turns out that the blender melted last week right after the microwave died - not my month for appliances, it seems).  There have been so many good things, though, and here are just a few:

- time spent with My Little Man, assembling his very first Lego kit - Mater

- My Little Man's very best dentist behavior ever - and a good check-up, too.

- watching my son become more excited about working with letters, so much so that he uses all sorts of materials to write.

- a finished project (voting is still open!)

- being able to make a birthday cake for my mom - and to celebrate with her

- a wonderful hike in Little River Regional Park with my parents and kids. We also had pictures taken by Noelle Hayward Photography taken while there.  I can't wait to see them!

- seeing my kids do their nightly devotions with my parents.  I love hearing them talk about Jesus!

- My Little Man's first horse ride.  He loved it!

- My Big Girl got a haircut.  Bye-bye, split ends!

- Last but in no way least, a story:
My Little Man had a revelation while cleaning up his room. My husband found him spread out on his bed, laying there quietly. When he asked My Little Man why he wasn't cleaning up, our son replied, "I'm praying." A few minutes later he came running out to tell me that he had to thank God for all of his toys - and did I know that you could pray to God every minute, every hour, every day, all year?  Then he came running out to My Big Helper to tell her that she really is a princess - Jesus' princess, he said - and that he is Jesus' prince. I'm not sure how he got all that from cleaning up his room, but I'll take it!
What blessings have YOU received this week?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - October 31, 2011

We have a calm week this week - yay!  I'm so excited to have a regular schedule again. With temperatures in the mid-sixties and no crazy evenings, we're back on track.

Here's our plan:


- perfectly pumpkin pancakes
- doughnuts and bananas - a treat from grandparents!
- scrambled eggs and oranges X 2

- Spiced applesauce bread X 2
- baked pumpkin doughnuts, bananas

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or sandwiches with yogurt or cheese and fruit.

- dinner out after a trip to the museum
- Honey sauced chicken, rice, steamed broccoli
- Black bean and corn potatoes
- Ham and cheese calzones, salad
- Broccoli cheese soup, French bread
- Breakfast casserole
- Grab it and Growl

What are YOU making this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

S'Mashed Italian Potatoes

I learned to make this dish from a friend of a friend in college.  They're easy, versatile, full of flavor, and yet different from your everyday mashed potatoes.  Best of all, they can be prepared three different ways, depending on the time you have for serving.

I once made them in a slow cooker to serve after my son's baptism.  Several of our guests actually asked to take home leftovers - you know they must be good!  Here's what you do:

Wash and dice six potatoes.  I usually use your basic Idaho.

Boil until soft.  Drain.

This is where the three different endings come in.  You can prep this dish on the stove top, in the oven, and in a slow cooker.  Each is very similar, but the timing is a bit different.

A)  Oven:  Put the drained potatoes into a 9 X 13" pan  (spray first for easy cleanup).  Add a minimum of 6 tablespoons of butter, one packet of Good Seasons Italian salad dressing seasoning, and enough milk to come halfway to the top of the potatoes. Stir to combine well.  Sprinkle with 1/2 c. of mozzarella cheese and stir again.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Top with a 1/4 c. more mozz and serve.

B)  Slowcooker:  Put the drained potatoes into the slow cooker  (spray first for easy cleanup).  Add a minimum of 6 tablespoons of butter, one packet of Good Seasons Italian salad dressing seasoning, and enough milk to come 1/3 of the way to the top of the potatoes. Stir to combine well.  Cook on the low setting for 3 - 4 hours.  Top with a 3/4 c. more mozz, stir, and serve.

C)  Stove top:  Put the drained potatoes into a dutch oven.  Add a minimum of 6 tablespoons of butter, one packet of Good Seasons Italian salad dressing seasoning, and enough milk to come 1/3 of the way to the top of the potatoes. Stir to combine well.  Sprinkle with 3/4 c. of mozzarella cheese and stir again.  Serve when the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Disney Do's and Don'ts: Use TigTagz! - and a Giveaway

** This giveaway is now CLOSED!  Laura, you're the winner!  You'll receive an e-mail from me shortly.

I've always been afraid of losing one of my children.  I'm not a big fan of crowds, either, so the thought of heading to four major Disney theme parks in one week with a six-year-old and a four-year-old did not exactly thrill me at first.

As the months passed, I grew more excited about our trip, but I continued to worry about those things that might happen should their hands slip out of ours or we got separated in a line.  I tried teaching both children my cell phone number, but while they are both fairly good with our home number, the cell was difficult - and not sticking in My Little Man's brain.

How would we find them if we got separated?

With that question constantly on my mind, I was thrilled to learn about TigTagz.  A form of identification bracelet created by a mom, these bracelets are affordable - but best of all, they are created specifically for YOU.  You personalize what you want it to say, the pictures that are on them, and can even include important medical information.

I ordered a set of TigTagz (12 self-sticking, paper bracelets for $10) and packed them for the trip.  Each morning that we headed to a crowded place, we placed the TigTagz on their wrists and reminded them what to do if they couldn't find us: find a park employee or a mommy and show him/her the bracelet.

Fortunately, we left the parks at the end of the week never having used our TigTagz.  Better safe than sorry, right?

But we did use one before leaving Florida.

While pushing a luggage cart piled high and leading both children off the elevator by myself, the elevator doors closed - and the kids were still inside.  They didn't know how to operate the elevator, and we hadn't been to our room yet.  They weren't sure which floor we were staying on, but they had their TigTagz on.

When a family entered the elevator at its next stop, My Big Helper showed the mommy her TigTagz.  The woman immediately helped her dial my cell number, and within minutes we were reunited.

My Big Helper was proud for remembering how to use the bracelet and for finding me.  I was relieved that they were back with me so quickly - and thankful for that kind woman who helped my children.

Would you like to win a set of TigTagz?  

For an opportunity to win your own set of personalized TigTagz, do one or more of the following before Wednesday, November 9 at noon.  Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win.  A winner will be chosen randomly from the comments below and your contact information passed on to TigTagz.

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me where or how you would use your TigTagz.
  2. Visit the TigTagz store and share in the comment section of this post which set is your favorite.
  3. Share this giveaway in some way with your friends (phone call, blog post, email, etc) and leave a comment sharing what you did.

This giveaway was sponsored by TigTagz.  Thank you, TigTagz, for this giveaway and this amazing product!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Great Pinterest Challenge #3 - Antique Window Picture Frame

My husband bought me an antique window mirror for a wedding gift, and I love it.  So when I saw this chalkboard window on Pinterest, it made me curious.

How else could I use an antique window?

I started working on that idea.

While on our Creeper Trail vacation this summer, we found several antique windows, and I bought two.

I decided that this space above The Big Helper's bed would be the perfect place for one window.  I found some great photographs of castles and thought it fit her room perfectly to "frame" a poster-sized castle photo with the window.

Unfortunately, getting the printing rights to the photos wasn't easy - and then I had another brainstorm in Disney.

What better photo than Cinderella's castle?

To make the frame, first I washed the window and painted it white.  (To make this job easier, I cut up scrap paper and taped it inside.

At a balmy 79 degrees, it was too warm to be inside - and so My Little Man and I took the window to the grass and added brackets for hanging.

Making the picture fit inside wasn't easy.  Because my camera is rather elderly, my photo couldn't be enlarged enough to fit the window.  It took a friend, two poster prints, and several hours of cutting and measuring to make it all work out.  (I'm not exactly a precise person - and if your photo were big enough, you could have this project done in a snap.)

Voila!  The finished product.  Because my Big Helper was already asleep, hanging it will wait until tomorrow.  Doesn't the white frame (the woodwork in her room is also white, matching her other windows) pop?

the pinterest challenge

** Voting for the Great Pinterest Challenge opens on October 28th.  I'd appreciate your votes.   Thanks for the inspiration, Ruffled!

"The Doctor's Lady" by Jody Hedlund

Called to be a missionary in the far-away land of India, Priscilla White eagerly awaited her first appointment.  Dr. Eli Ernest had spent a year exploring the wilds of Oregon, meeting the native Nez Perce and establishing support for the first Christian mission in the area.  Both were devastated ed when their backers refused to send them to the mission field unmarried.  With few choices and their calls urgent on their hearts, they quickly marry and set off overland for Oregon.  Yet faced with a rigorous six-month journey never before faced by a white woman, will their vision of a mission ... their marriage ... will they survive?

As a huge fan of the old Oregon Trail computer game and women's history in the American West altogether, I devoured this book.  I couldn't wait to find out what would happen around the next bend in the trail!

Periodically I would wonder just how realistic it was to marry someone after only a few brief discussions and travel across a continent to begin something new, yet I realize in that time women were forced to do just that.  Still, I was shocked when I read the author's note at the end and found that this book was based upon the very true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman!  Not only did Hedlund's characters seem real, but they were.  Their trials, tribulations, and victories were true, and yet I never felt as if I was reading from a history text.

I loved Hedlund's tapestry of fiction, truth, and history.  I can't wait to read more!

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

If you want to read more, you can!  Visit Bethany House's website to read the first chapter for free.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Great Pinterest Challenge #3 -Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

It's time for the next Pinterest challenge!

I decided to make these Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps from The Other Side of Fifty.  I'm so glad I did - they are savory and sweet all at the same time.  The crispiness of the bacon sets off the tenderness of the chicken perfectly.  I served this as the protein part of our dinner one night because I just couldn't wait any longer to try them - and now that I have, they'll be a regular part of our party menu.

These wraps are super simple to make, and if you are making them for a party, you could have them prepped ahead and in the fridge, ready to pop in the oven when your guests arrive.  

Here's what I did:

Cut a pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders into one-inch square pieces.  Cut 1/2 pound of bacon strips into 1/3s.

Wrap each piece of chicken with a strip of bacon and 'pin' with a toothpick.  (I also stuck a small sliver of onion into each.  It tasted great, but I think it would've been better if I had caramelized the onions first so that the texture would be more similar to that of the chicken.)

In a small dish, combine:

2/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. ground red pepper
1 t. chili powder
dash of freshly ground black pepper

Dredge each appetizer in the brown sugar mixture and place on a baking rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet.  (I used a broiler pan, which kept most of my meat out of the grease.)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.


** Voting for the Pinterest Challenge opens on October 28th.  I'd appreciate your votes - and be sure to pin these wraps.  They're wonderful!  Thanks, The Other Side of Fifty!

the pinterest challenge

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Monday, October 24, 2011

GratiTuesday - A Family Visit

I've lived in North Carolina for ten years now, and one of the hardest parts of being here is that most of my family can't come visit.  \With a family as large as mine, there are many relatives out there - but I've always been closest to the older ones, and they are not always up for the lengthy car trips that it takes to get here.

This weekend was different, though.  

After months of planning and working out details, my grandmother and great-aunt came for a visit this past weekend.

I so wanted everyone to have a good visit.  With health issues on their part and a small house and active kids on our end, there's a lot to coordinate - but I think it was a pretty great weekend.

They came bearing gifts of all sorts, which is always exciting.  The kids loved working on this activity atlas with Aunt Marie!

Meme bought a crafty set for Andi, and it was great to see all three of them, heads together, making dolls with zany outfits.

My Big Helper loves to have an audience while she reads - and she often found a captivated one while they were here!

We hit up a local ice cream shop for dessert Saturday afternoon.  As a kid, I remember having special ice cream treats at Meme's, and it was fun to turn the tables and take her out.  

It was just a bit chilly Saturday, but we enjoyed some playtime at the park before hardcore shopping.

Meme got some of the kisses she was missing ...

and we all got to go to church together.  

We got pretty silly together, too.

So today, I'm thankful for the opportunity to see my children enjoying time with my grandmother.  Thankful for the aunt who drove and made the visit possible.  Grateful for everyone's flexibility and the sunny weather that allowed us to get out a bit.  

My children got to spend a wonderful weekend with their great-grandmother.  How cool is that??

Multitudes on Monday - October 24, 2011

What a crazy week we had!  Our usually routine schedule went a bit haywire when the playroom flooded, the microwave kicked the bucket, and my new cell phone went missing in the middle of Little River Regional Park.  In the middle of the craziness, however, we found these blessings:

- Beautiful foliage during our hike at Little River

- Good friends and great weather for a hike!

- Strong, curious little boy hands - ready and eager to explore

- a beautiful blue sky

- Picnic lunches with good friends - and silly faces able to smile!

- A night out with a good friend to see a Taste of Home Roadshow

- Ice cream cones with their great-grandmother!

- Crafty time with Meme and Aunt Marie

- I have wonderful memories of attending church with my great-grandmother.  On Sunday, my kids got to do the same!

- Learning how to balance with one foot - on hills, no less!

- Determined to figure out balancing on his big sister's scooter - and looking just like his Pappy Clouser while doing it!

- Sleepy kittens on a warm fall afternoon.

What blessings have you found this week?

Menu Plan Monday - October 24, 2011

We had a wonderful weekend with company, and we're looking forward to another fun fall week before more family arrives!  As our family plans changed last week, I adjusted meal plans to match.  With a (possible) date coming up this week and a Fall Festival at the Big Helper's school, this is the plan:


- leftover Perfectly Pumpkin Pancakes from the weekend
- Buttermilk blueberry breakfast cake X 2
- Scrambled eggs and oranges X2
- Apple cinnamon coffee cake X2

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or sandwiches with sliced veggies and yogurt or cheese.


- Roasted chicken, smashed Italian potatoes (recipe to come this week), green beans

- Dinner date? = simple meal for the kids  :-)  probably leftover spaghetti Bolognese!
- Baked ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted carrots, applesauce (skipped this last week)

-  Ham, green beans, and potatoes (skipped this last week)
- Pizza made with leftover Bolognese sauce - the best!
- Campfire dinner with family - maybe hot dogs, baked beans, sliced veggies, roasted marshmallows?
- Grab it and growl

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!