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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Celebration Giveaway

**Congratulations, Lynne!  You're our winner!

Last week A Nest in the Rocks hit a milestone - we crossed over the 100 Friends mark with Google Friend Connect!  (I'm not forgetting about those of you following in other ways - it's just fun to see that nice, round number pop up on my screen.)

So I did a bit of shopping, and here's a little summertime package for one of you.  It includes:
  • the book Finding Our Way Home, a fun friendship read
  • strawberry recipe cards
  • strawberry cupcake/muffin liners
  • a stamp that says "From Our Home to Yours"
  • a Ghirardelli milk chocolate and caramel square (that I forgot to put in the picture - but I'll mail it - I promise)
  • I wanted to include a nice strawberry smoothie with all of that, but I haven't figured how to mail one of those ......
I'll mail this package out to one of you next week.  Want to enter?  Here's how:
  • Leave a comment sharing your favorite summertime treat!  Strawberries, chocolate, a good book - or something else?
  • Follow A Nest in the Rocks in some way - whichever way you'd like.  One entry for each way you keep track of this little blog.  Share in a comment for each.
  • Share about this giveaway however you'd like - and come back and tell me you did so.
That's it!  We'll randomly draw a winner (usually this involves me cornering somebody and testing their math skills with "Choose a number between 1 and 25" or whatever) on Thursday and email the winner.  Be sure to leave an email address!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ten Ways to Stay Cool (Adult-Style)

I need to run errands today, and it just so happens that we're facing record temperatures here in NC.  With a heat index projected to hit 115 degrees, being out and about in a hot car is not my favorite way to beat the heat.

So naturally I started listing all the things I'd rather be doing in this kind of weather.  Although I really am excited about knocking out this part of my to-do list.

When it gets hot (and my definition of 'hot' begins around 85 degrees) I like to:

  • Go swimming.  My favorite version of this involves a fun floaty and a good book, but any sort of cool water will do.
  • Make smoothies.  I made this Sweet Strawberry-Watermelon Smoothie yesterday, and it really hit the spot!
  • Eat ice cream.  My waistline really doesn't need it, but it sure tastes good on a hot day.  If you want to make your own, you can find a fun recipe to make with your kids here.  
  • Find someplace cool to read.  As far as I'm concerned, there's not really a bad time to read a book, but when it's crazy hot all around you, being transported somewhere in the Artic or to a refreshing beach works for me.  If you're doing that physically in front of a fan or with your feet in a bucket of water, so much the better.  Need some recommendations?  Check out my book review page!
  • Go see a movie.  We don't see many movies, but most theaters have great AC units.  While exploring a nearby town during another heat wave a few days ago, my husband and I decided to visit a second-run theater.  We saw a movie that premiered a few months ago for only $4/ticket and spent some time together cooling off after our hike around town.
  • Visit a book store.  One of my errands today involves a book store, and after speaking to an employee on the phone yesterday, she advised me to be prepared to stay a while.  Me?  Spend a few hours amidst stacks of books?  Yes, please.  :-)  Many stores encourage 'extreme' browsing, and some also have coffee shops or snack bars where you can treat yourself to something cool or chocolatey while you browse.
  • Turn off the oven.  I love to cook, but when it gets hot, cooking happens either in the toaster oven or outside - I refuse to heat up the house any more than necessary.  Who wants to eat when it's 115 degrees, anyway?  Serve fruit salad and granola bars or a fresh green salad with some grilled meat and call it a day.  :-)
  • Take a bath.  This feels uber-indulgent to me now, but when we were kids and it got hot, my mom would run a cool bath and let us play.  It felt like I'd be in there for hours, playing with boats when I was little and then reading (of course) as I got older.  Why not try it now?
  • Unplug the hair dryer.  This may sound wacky, but I hate drying my hair.  No matter how nice and cool I feel after a shower, drying my hair always heats me up and makes me sweaty again.  In this kind of weather, I'm happy to pin all my hair up in a clip or a pony tail.  It may not be super fashionable, but it keeps me cool longer, and I'm all for that.
  • What about you?  What's your favorite way to stay cool in a heat wave?
Come back soon for our favorite ways to stay cool as a family!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quick & Easy Ways to Earn SwagBucks

Yesterday I told you how I purchased my new Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner for only $17 using gift cards earned with SwagBucks.

I thought I'd share my favorite ways to earn SwagBucks with you today.  (Did I mention you earn 100 Bonus SwagBucks if you join today?  It's free to sign up, as always, too!)

It's not even 10 AM yet, and I've earned 31 SwagBucks already today.  Here's how I hit an average of 30 SwagBucks each day:
  • Do the Daily Poll.  It's located under the 'earn' tab on the SwagBucks homepage, and it takes about 2 seconds to do.  You can earn one SwagBuck for doing this each day.  That's 365 SwagBucks a year - nearly enough for an Amazon gift card right there.
  • Sometimes you'll be prompted after the poll to watch a short video.  Hit play and then go make your breakfast - the videos are short and you earn a few points for letting them play all the way through.
  • SEARCHING is by far my favorite.  Usually I'll snag between 7 - 11 a few times a day just for searching the 'Net for the things I want to do anyway - checking the weather, reading the news, or pulling up my favorite blogs.  I've even gotten as many as 50 at a time this way - though that's more rare, and usually on Fridays, when the SwagBuck rewards are higher.
  • Check out the Special Offers.  These often include more of those super short videos that you can play through and earn a few.  Today an offer included signing up for a major company's newsletter.  I sent it to my extra email account and earned 23 SwagBucks in literally seconds.
All of these are quick to do and earn SwagBucks, which you can then trade in for gift cards to lots of places - my personal favorite being the Amazon variety, since I can buy about anything there.  I've gotten books for Bible study, digital camerals for Christmas gifts, scooters for birthday presents, and, most recently, my new vacuum cleaner.  It may not seem like 7 here and 11 there is very much, but they add up quickly!

These are my favorite ways to earn, but there are oodles of others, like printing coupons from the SwagBucks website and redeeming them when you shop.  Check it out and see what works best for you!

**You can also earn matching SwagBucks up to 1000 by making a referral.  There are lots of ways to refer others, but it's important to know that TODAY ONLY you can earn extra referral matching Swag, so if you have a friend who hasn't joined, tell them about it today and you could earn your first SwagBucks gift card REALLY fast!

*The above links contain my referral link.  If you join using it, I'll earn matching SwagBucks from you just like you would if a friend signs up from you - but I receive no other compensation from telling you about this - I just love the program!  (I also have my eye on a new bread machine for the family ....)  Thanks for using it.

"Five Miles South of Peculiar" by Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar Cover

Five Miles South of Peculiar is the story of the three Caldwell sisters and how they mature in their relationships with each other and with God.  Darlene is the happy homemaker type, a pillar in their small Southern town of Peculiar, and she rules the inherited family estate with an iron hand.  Her twin Carlene, a Broadway singer, decides to visit the family home after experiencing a personal tragedy and stirs up lots of past issues - especially jealousy from Darlene.  There's also Nolie, who lives a simple life with her dogs and her flowers, sewing personalized aprons for everyone in town - but will she ever recover from being jilted at the altar and move on with her life?  Throw in a boyfriend/mayor, a jealous daughter, a fired hunk of a pastor-turned-handyman and 17 puppies, and you've got one creative story!
I really enjoyed this novel.  Hunt's characters are quite creative, and their depth makes each story especially unique.  They're easy to relate to - I could totally understand why Darlene would be upset when Carlene tries to move her furniture and why Nolie would choose to stay with her simplified lifestyle despite everyone's urging to leave the nest.  They're all fun and unique women with the same kind of crazy issues that the rest of us have, and that makes you want to run next door and invite them over for chocolate.  
Hunt wrote primarily about what was happening now to each woman, but she also explored how their past affected their ability to deal with their present and their futures.  This added depth to the story, but it also added a great deal of mystery as we didn't learn about the special way that Darlene and Carlene's pasts are entwined until near the very end.  While I thought I had a pretty good idea of what had happened, not knowing the details - or even if I was right - kept me guessing about how the women would handle this issue when it was revealed.
Romantic entanglements added fun drama to the story, as well.  While it was pretty obvious who would be paired off, this lighthearted element sweetened the mood of the drama and made for a very happy ending - and who doesn't love that?  
All things considered, Five Miles South of Peculiar is definitely a cut above your dime-a-dozen romance novels.  Full of spiritual truths, the kinds of family spats we've all experienced, and summer romance, Hunt has penned a great read.
I received a free copy of Five Miles South of Peculiar from Glass Road in exchange for an honest review.

With nearly 4 million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, includingThe Tale of Three Trees,Don't Bet Against MeThe Note, and The Nativity Story. Her nonfiction bookDon't Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She and her husband make their home in Florida with their dogs. Learn more about Angela

Angela Hunt Photo 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Dirt Devil for $17!

When we moved to this house over seven years ago, we bought a new vacuum cleaner.  As it's aged, issues have popped up - and my husband has diligently kept it running.  He's taken it apart, cleaned out tubes, replaced belts, etc.

But this time, nothing will keep it going.  The bottom part doesn't have any suction left - and the tools work through a cracked hose.

So the time came to choose a new vacuum cleaner.

After doing some research, I chose a Dirt Devil.  I found a particular model with great reviews and all the features I wanted - except the price.

Now, I realize that $89 isn't horrible for a sweeper - there are many models that cost many times more than that - but I didn't want to pay more than I had to.

So I checked on Amazon.  After all, I've been stockpiling my SwagBucks for a while now, so I began to turn them in for Amazon gift cards.

On Friday they all arrived in my inbox.  I checked the Amazon price of the sweeper, and it had gone on sale for $17 less than the first sale price that I saw!  After adding my gift cards via SwagBucks into the equation, I was now paying $17 - plus $16.50 for shipping.

Then I saw that if I signed up for an Amazon Prime trial membership, I could save that shipping fee AND my sweeper would arrive in two days instead of five.

So yesterday my brand new Dirt Devil was delivered to the house - all for only $17.  Sure beats that original $89 + $16.50, doesn't it??

If you're new to SwagBucks, it's a great way to earn points for online searches you would do anyway - and then trade them in for gift cards.  Check it out here!  New signees get extra points right now, so it's a great time to join.

**The above links are my affiliate link.  If you join using that, I can earn matching SwagBucks for your first 1000.  There is no other benefit for me.  Thanks for sharing!

Patriotic Cheesecake Tarts

With company in town and a friend's birthday this weekend, I made desserts more than usual - and this was a fun one!

These tarts can be made in just minutes after baking the shells, and with blueberries in season, they have a really bright, summery taste.  I added sliced strawberries to some of them, and the super sweetness of the strawberries definitely added another dimension.  Between the creaminess of the cheesecake filling and the crisp flakiness of the shell, these were a hit at our house.  I can't wait to make them for our next picnic!

To make Patriotic Cheesecake Tarts, you'll need:
  • mini phyllo dough shells
  • 1/3 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1-2 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • fresh fruit to arrange on top
To pull your tarts together, ....
  1. Bake the phyllo shells as directed on the package.  Allow to cool.
  2. Mix the powdered sugar (to taste) with the vanilla and cream cheese.  I used about a tablespoon.  The sweetness of the fruit adds a lot, so the cheesecake part didn't need to be super sweet for me - but then I don't eat many sweets.  :-)
  3. Wash and prepare your fruit.
  4. When the shells are cool, fill them up!  I put the cheesecake filling into a small sandwich bag and cut off the corner, then piped it into the shells.
  5. Top with fruit.
  6. Chill until it's time to serve.
I'm seeing so many possibilities for these little shells and so many flavor combinations for cheesecake ideas.  What are your favorite cheesecake flavors?

Shared at:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Free Tickets

Last summer my husband and I each received two tickets for free day passes to a local park I'd never heard of - Wheels' Fun Park.  Since I haven't lived here that long and never looked for that sort of venue, I wasn't surprised that it was new to me.  It sounded like lots of fun, but trying to find an open day + good weather didn't happen.

Until Father's Day.  After checking out all the things the park had to offer, we were a bit worried that the kids wouldn't be allowed to participate in everything, but we decided to go check it out.  If nothing else, they'd love the mini golf and the three-story indoor playground, right?

So since Father's Day dawned clear, sunny, and all-out gorgeous, we ate at a favorite restaurant - outside on the patio.

Then we headed to Wheels'.  First, we tackled mini golf.  

Then we went for a go-kart ride.  I'd never done that before.  Kinda scary at first, riding around so close to the ground in those shaky things, but the 1/4 mile course was fun.  Of course, Daddy won.  

Since the kids weren't old enough to ride on their own, our ride driving them didn't count, and we got an additional ride.  The single go-karts were a bit easier to drive - though I still couldn't get a picture of them.  All hands on the wheel, you know.  ;-)

The batting cages were next, and this put My Little Man in all his glory!  He LOVED this and tried out different pitching speeds and types of balls.

Our Big Helper wasn't too enthralled with the idea of having balls thrown at her - well, across home plate, but she was afraid they'd be at her - but she tried one round.  She happily passed off her second token to her eager brother.

I'd never been in a batting cage before, either, and it was fun.  It's been a long time since I had the chance to bat - at least, at a ball not thrown by a five-year-old or one not made of foam.  

After another round of go-kart rides, we headed for the roller-skating rink.  Our Big Helper suddenly got the hang of skating after a few laps around the floor, and then she was eager to teach her brother.

I've never been a very good skater, so it was hard to go at their speed - but especially to stop.  The rink is cool in that they play music videos on the walls and have disco-ball lighting, but there are also no walls to the skating floor.  Since I never learned to stop, that was a slight problem for me - and I crashed badly while trying to reach the Big Helper at one point.  I think I need more lessons with that toe thingy, but it was fun!

After a stint in the huge playground - the kids loved the many ball pits and slides - we headed out.  We all had a favorite activity at Wheels' and some that weren't personally our thing, but there were also things we all liked, and the best part was that we could do it all together.

We never would've tried this park without the free tickets, but it made for a great afternoon in the sunshine.  They were a great gift - and it made for a really great day!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - June 25, 2012

It's super quiet around here.  The kids are off visiting grandparents for the week, so it's just the husband and I.  We have lots of projects to work on, and with it being just us, I'm going to keep meals pretty simple.

So, here's the plan:


- cereal or leftover Hearty Breakfast Casserole for the husband

- fresh fruit and Cinnamon Almond Granola for me

- leftovers or quesadillas for the husband
- fruit and peanut butter or leftover veggies for me

- Grilled sausage and pepper sandwiches, green beans, watermelon
- Fried chicken, grilled potatoes, sweet corn, blueberries
- Chicken and black bean quesadillas, salad
- Date night - not sure yet
- Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers, Watermelon
- Crab cakes, Crashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, fruit salad

- Taco won-tons, salad

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Win a Nook Color from Shannon Dittemore (@ShanDitty)! "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and Facebook Party {6/26}

Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

Find out what readers are saying here.

One "angelic" winner will receive:

  • A Brand New Nook Color
  • A copy of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends atnoon on June 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Angel Eyes" Author Chat Facebook Party on 6/26. Shannon will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Angel Eyes and join Shannon on the evening of the June 26th for a chance to meet Shannon and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see youon the 26th!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our First Race

Today we ran our first race.

Our first race.

I really like those words.


While we couldn't train together - scheduling issues, distance issues for kids - or even run the exact same course today, we all ran.  My husband stood at the starting line where the kids and I were lined up, holding hands, ready for the blast of the gun signaling our start.

Since we didn't want to send the kids off on this race by themselves, through the woods, out of our sight, I signed up, too, and together we moved up the road, ran through the woods, past the lake.

We crossed the finish line just in time to high tail it back to the starting line, where we again heard the gun and cheered for Daddy as he began his first 5K - with more than 100 other runners.

While we couldn't all run together the whole time, there was something important about being there for each other's beginning and ending.  About knowing that hard work and lots of training and good food choices had made this all possible.

Truthfully, as I held a little hand in each of mine, as they watched the gun nervously and then began darting up the path, it was hard not to cry.  Knowing that they were excited to be outside, doing something physical, that we could do this as a family, all made me excited for their futures.  Sure, they might hit eighteen and become candy bar addicts, but we're doing the best we can to be a healthy family, and today's race gave me hope that we'll continue to fight against the heart disease and diabetes that's so prevalent in our culture and so genetic in my family.


We all finished this race excited about the next one.  My Big Helper, who could probably have gone much faster, wants to run a 5K next time with her Daddy.  She shows signs of being a good runner, too - maybe someday she will.  I couldn't help but wonder:  what might my time have been if I'd been able to run the longer race, too?  Daddy is determined to train more and beat his own time for the next one.


WE were in a race!  US!  ME!  The girl who could never run a mile kept up with the kids easily - and really would've liked to have run more of it.  The kids - they respected each other's needs and walked when someone needed to walk, but My Little Man determined early on to set the pace, and he choose to run big parts of it.  It was fun to see their determination when tripping over a root as they hopped up and kept going, or when walkers ahead of us gave them permission to pass and they charged ahead, taking the lead.  While our main goal for the little ones was to finish, Daddy says that not many people finished in front of us.

As for Daddy - he did really well, too.  He's now accomplished his goal of running a 5K and is setting a new goal for next time.

I can't believe there's going to be a next time.

I can't wait for next time.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - June 18, 2012

Yep, last week turned out pretty crazy, and this week is going to be that way, too.  With more day trips, company a few times, and hot weather arriving, I think the grill will come in handy.

My favorite breakfast continues to be fresh peaches with Cinnamon Almond Granola.  My Big Helper has asked for that this week, so with the hot weather and an abundance of fresh fruit, we'll probably eat lots of parfaits.  I'll throw a Hearty Breakfast Casserole in the oven to go with it this weekend when we have company.

Lunches will be our usual leftovers or sandwiches with sliced fruits or veggies and fresh fruit.

- grilled fish, On-the-Grill Cheesy Potatoes, corn, steamed broccoli

- Pizza (same recipe, not grilled), carrot sticks, watermelon
- Make-Your-Own Nacho bar with all the toppings, watermelon
- Dinner out for after a day trip

- Our first Shish-ke-sketti of the season! with fruit
- Grilled chicken quesadillas with veggies, cheese, and fruit
- Grab it and Growl

I'd like to get some cookies made for our trip.  This dough freezes really well, so I'll probably just bake a few for us to take and freeze the rest of the dough to be baked later.

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Anniversary Waltz" by Darrel Nelson

The Anniversary Waltz

Just home from fighting the Nazis, Adam meets Elizabeth Baxter, the town beauty, and is instantly drawn to her.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth is going steady with Nathan Roberts, Adam's high school rival, and the man who holds the mortgage on his family farm.  Adam expected the war's end and his homecoming to signal a return to peace, but will anything work out the way he hopes - or will he lose the girl and the farm?

Sweet.  That's the most fitting word I can think of for this story.  Nelson's layering of love story over national turmoil draws you back to a time when farm boys and young marriages weren't just possible, but common.  To a time when you didn't need stuff or guarantees, just love and determination.  The sweet sacrifice and determination of Adam's love makes for a fairy tale kind of romance - almost.

Just as fairy tales aren't real, Adam's romance with Elizabeth isn't problem-free, and this adds a veneer of truthfulness to the story.  While the ending of Nelson's book may be predictable, there are many twists and turns that add drama, interest, and reality to the story.  Rarely does our first idea of anything ever turn out as we hope, and neither does Adam's dream of Elizabeth.

In fact, I really liked this 'troublesome' element to the story.  At first, as Adam and Elizabeth were sharing glances, it felt as if their hearts were becoming more involved than should be after only a few chance meetings.  How believable is that, really?  I couldn't help but wonder, and yet as these opportunities layered and then issues were thrown in, what began as a sweet love story had leapt off the page and danced with a beautiful reality right in front of me.

A book like this one can either leave you longing for that kind of fairy tale romance or make you determined to live it out.  Many people in our culture today are choosing the former and walking away from reality in search of it.  For many of us, The Anniversary Waltz reminds us that we've already got our fairy tale within reach - we just have to grab hold and dance it out.

I received a free copy of The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Treasures of Healthy Living" by Annette Reeder & Dr. Richard Couey

Treasures of Healthy Living: A Journey Unveiling God's Plan for Ultimate Health and Relationships  -     
        By: Annette Reeder, Dr. Richard Couey

I haven't been this excited about a book in a long time.

For the past few years, I've been trying to learn about healthy eating - what God wants us to eat and why.  Mostly, I've wanted to know how to help my children make good food choices so that they can avoid my family history of heart disease and diabetes.

Treasures of Healthy Living has all the information that I need - and much more - for this journey, all in one handy-dandy book.

Annette Reeder's family was suffering from lots of aches, pains, and other medical issues when someone suggested that she find out what God had to say about food.  That launched her family's healthy eating journey, and this book shares what she learned.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of being healthy - a food group or issue - like proteins, sugars, or stress - and then breaks each topic down into segments of Bible study, short stories, and scientific explanation.  The information is very easy to understand but clearly shows both the Biblical basis for the information and  the science behind it.  It's rare to find both.

This book is super detailed and yet concise - the information is broken down well so that it's easy to find the information that you need, and yet Reeder's explanations are full of scientific information so that most laypeople will learn a lot about each topic.

Following Reeder's plan for a healthy lifestyle in American culture would not be easy; chemicals, preservatives, and fake stuff are all around us, from our clothing to our food to our cleaning products, but whether you follow every step or make the changes that you can, you'll find many ways to become healthier in this book.  Addendums in the back of the book make it easy to assess where you are in your health living journey and help you to reflect about what steps God might wish you to take to become healthier.

My only issue with Treasures of Healthy Living is that there is apparently a nutrition manual which is meant to go alongside this book.  It is referred to occasionally throughout the book, and I would have loved to explore that, as well.  There is also a Healthy Living class, but I don't have any information about it.

All in all, I love this book.  I've already shared it with several people and plan to show it off to several more. If you have any interest at all in living a healthy lifestyle, this is a must-read.

I received a free copy of Treasures of Healthy Living from Glass Road Public Relations in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ready-in-a-Minute Hearty Breakfast Sandwich

Sometimes, there's just not a lot of time to make breakfast.  Others, you need something that will keep you satisfied and undistracted throughout a busy day.  Or, you might be like my husband and want your favorite biscuit flavors - only healthier, so you can eat one more often.

If you ever find yourself in any of those situations, this is the breakfast - or lunch or dinner - for you.

This sandwich takes literally a minute to cook, and if you have the ingredients on hand, you can assemble it in the same amount of time.  With crumbled sausage and cheddar cooked inside the eggs, this hearty sandwich is ready to be eaten on the go.

My husband was so excited to be handed one of these yesterday while working on the deck that he asked for another one today.

Maybe we'll make these for Father's Day Breakfast!


  • 1 or 2 eggs (above sandwich made with 2)
  • 2 T. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 whole grain sandwich round
  • 1-2 T. cooked sausage, crumbled (I keep some of this in my freezer for just these sorts of dishes - also good in Guilty Good Green Beans)
Here's how to make your own Ready-in-a-Minute Hearty Breakfast Sandwich.
  1. Find a microwave-safe bowl that is the same size as your sandwich round.
  2. Spray the bowl with cooking spray.
  3. Crack your egg(s) into the bowl and whisk.  Adding a second egg will make your sandwich taller and bigger to appease a bigger appetite.
  4. Sprinkle the sausage and cheese over the top.
  5. Microwave until the egg is tall and fluffy.  One egg takes 1 minute in my microwave, and 2 eggs takes 1.5 minutes..  Microwaves vary, so be sure that the center of your omelet is firm and not runny.
  6. Slide the egg mixture out of the bowl and onto your sandwich round.
Wrap in a napkin or waxed paper if you plan to eat this on the run - if it lasts that long!

What are your plans for Father's Day breakfast?  Do you make anything special?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

GratiTuesday: Demolition Man; er, Make that 'Reconstruction Man'

For several years now I've been worrying about our deck.  In slight need of attention when we bought the house, it just needed to be treated, but the time just never seemed right.  With infants and 118-degree-days, with damp fall days and clumps of wet leaves lying on the wood, with piles of springtime pollen collecting in all the cracks, when could I treat it?  When could it be dry and not have something falling on it?

With dishes and laundry and storytime calling my name, I ignored the call of the wood.  

Until a few months ago when I noticed that those furthest back, most leaf-collecting boards weren't just rough anymore - they were starting to splinter apart.

With the back of the deck nearly a full story off the ground, this is a big problem - and not the kind of project we could tackle just anytime.  The deck was built with benches included in the sides and the whole thing built on top of the deck boards - to remove a single board, we have to remove all surrounding sides, leaving the edges open for someone to fall off.

So when we began making plans for my husband's week of vacation, I knew what I wanted should ask for.

With a minimal amount of grumbling and an extensive amount of researching and measuring, my husband began to demo the deck.

The deck is actually built on top of a sloped driveway, under which the previous owner built a sketchy enclosure for his dogs - hence the plastic roof you see under the beams.

So this is what it looked like earlier today - but already, after two days of hammering and carrying away lumber, with bleeding knuckles and sore wrists and even with a reinjured back, my husband has begun to replace the floor.  A few boards have already been screwed into place, and his plan for the rest of the week is to replace all the rest.

I know that this isn't how he wanted to spend his vacation.  His work hours chop up his days and make it difficult to complete household projects or to spend the time he wants with us, and so he really looks forward to his vacation time as big family time - but this week it's both.  We have a few evening activities planned, but his days are dedicated to rebuilding the deck - and then sealing it to prevent this from happening again.

I'm proud of my husband for spending his time out of the office with the power tools he's not fond of - and so grateful that soon our deck will be in fantastic shape.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - June 11, 2012

This week we're having a working stay-cation.  My husband has the week off, and with some much-needed projects to be done around the house, we're staying pretty close to home (though we might incorporate a day trip or two in there somewhere).

With the Big Helper out of school, the husband home but busy, and the Little Man determined to continue his volcano unit, I'm not sure what's happening this week.  I think that simple is the best plan for us right now - and healthy, too; we're all running in races on Saturday!

So here are some meals that I might make this week, assuming that there are people here around mealtime each day to eat them.

Now that we may be home a bit more, breakfasts might be less intense for the summer.  The kids need serious protein on days when they have to be out and about, but when we're home and lazy, or just plain out in the heat, we go for simple.


- fresh peaches with Cinnamon Almond Granola (I discovered this over the weekend - the perfect breakfast!  The peaches I bought were sweet and juicy and complemented the granola perfectly.  I've found my new favorite summertime breakfast!  It's almost like eating a peach cobbler.)

- Grandma's biscuits with sausage and egg inside, fresh fruit on the side

- Whole Wheat Strawberry Muffins

- scrambled eggs, toast, and Sweet Strawberry-Watermelon Smoothies
- fruit, yogurt, and granola parfaits

Lunch will be whatever anyone grabs.  I'm serious about simple this week, so that usually means some kind of sandwich or leftover with fruits, veggies, and cheese.

- Crock Pot mac 'n' cheese with salad (carry over from last week)
- Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza, salad, watermelon
- dinner out during a day trip
- hot dogs, baked beans, carrot sticks, campfire cones - campfire night!
- Make-Your-Own Nacho Night
- Something grilled in honor of Father's Day - maybe steak, potato skins, corn, salad, Ice Cream Cake?
- Dinner out for Father's Day

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"After All" by Deborah Raney

After All, Hanover Falls Series #3

Susan Marlowe is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel after the tragic death of her firefighter husband David nearly two years before.  The fire that took his life took several others, as well, leaving few people in town unscathed.  Busy getting a homeless shelter up and running, Susan sees romantic possibilities and new friendship in Fire Chief Peter Brenneman.  Peter has also caught the eye of Fire Inspector Andrea Morley, who desperately wants to find home, hearth, and children.  With Susan's adult son back at home still dealing with the loss of his father, new information about her husband's activities, and clashes with the community, can Susan find a way to move forward?

Susan doesn’t seem like the cheerleader type.  She didn’t have the perfect marriage, she struggled as a parent, and she gets too focused on her work.  Yet despite her tendency to see only the rosy side of people, her situation draws you in like few others could – because she seems real.  As a reader, you can identify with her issues and want to know how she resolves them; you just might have the same things happening in your own home.  With the added stress of the firefighters’ jobs and the mystery man who keeps turning up, you’ll be turning pages as fast as you can to race Susan to the end.

I really liked the way that Raney didn’t spill the plot all in the first chapter.  Really great books have a hook, some information that the author withholds to keep you reading until the end; but Raney kept back more than the usual whodunit.  Without even knowing exactly what the mystery was, she drew you into Susan’s world, which at times looked incredibly bleak, but always gave you a shred of hope and a glimmer of what could be.  

After All is inspiring and encouraging with a sense of reality that is hard to find.  I'll definitely be reading more Raney in the future.

I received a free copy of After All from Glass Road Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Sweet Watermelon-Strawberry Smoothies


So this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge is all about smoothies - and I found the perfect one!  This Sweet Watermelon-Strawberry Smoothie from One Frugal Foodie is healthy and delicious.  It tastes of summer - sweet, simple, wholesome, and it comes together very quickly.

My husband is the smoothie maker in our house, mostly because he's good at fixing my flubs.  This time I froze the watermelon as well as the strawberries, and that left the smoothie without enough juice to work in the Ninja.  My husband added watermelon and got the mixture all going again - and I'm glad he did!  This made a very refreshing evening snack.

So to make your own Sweet Strawberry-Watermelon Smoothie, here's what you need:
  • 1 c. frozen strawberry halves
  • 2 c. watermelon chunks, not frozen
  • a few teaspoons of lime juice - adjust according to your love of lime
  • 1 packet of Truvia
To make your smoothie, just:
  1. Start with the watermelon chunks.  Blend them until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth.
  3. Pour into your favorite fun glass.
  4. Enjoy!
Thanks, One Frugal Foodie, for a fabulous smoothie!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

GratiTuesday - Sleepy Mornings, Here We Come!

Last August 27th our schedules got a lot crazier when our Big Helper headed back to public school for first grade.  Suddenly there was another lunch to be packed, a person to wake up each morning, to rush to pick up each afternoon, and then to work on homework with afterwards.  In between the morning and afternoon rush life was fairly calm.

Except for those few minutes just before dropping her off or picking her up - especially on days when My Little Man was still asleep.

My husband usually drops our girl off at school, and they love that time together, but on certain days of the week his work schedule doesn't allow it.

Enter the Little Man and I.

Since it's not every day, his body doesn't adapt to it.  Since it's not every day, I hate make him get up early every day for those few.  Since he's not in public school right now, I try to afford him those few small freedoms - and sleeping in occasionally seems reasonable, especially for a young five-year-old who rarely naps.

So on those early mornings, I wake him up just in time to trundle him off to the car for the ride to school.

Sometimes he perks right up, eager to see his big sister before she leaves for the day.

Sometimes he's not nearly ready to be awake and the tears fall.

But after tomorrow morning, I'm done waking him.  We're done with random early mornings.  WE'RE DONE WITH FIRST GRADE!  I can't wait to have my Big Helper home again!

I'm so looking forward to settling into our summer schedule together, and while most of our summer plans will be happening in the next few weeks, after a few special activities, we'll be able to establish our own summer routine.

Where I don't have to wake anybody up.  :-)

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers

Monday, June 4, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - June 4, 2012

We're in the home stretch now!  School ends on Thursday, and there are big things happening there every day in preparation.  My Little Man and I are also trying to squeeze in a few special things while it's still just us, and my husband's work schedule looks crazy this week.  We've also got an end-of-youth-group party, an end-of-school party, and an anniversary happening.  With all of that in mind, we're keeping meals low-key around here - I have no idea when we'll really be here or not!

So, here's the plan:

- pancakes, fruit

- Cinnamon Almond Granola, fruit
- scrambled eggs, toast
- strawberry muffins - recipe coming Wednesday!

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

- Turkey taco salad, baked corn, watermelon
- Pizza @ a Youth Group Party
- Grilled steak, baked potato bar, roasted carrots, fresh fruit
- Pancakes, fruit (these pancakes will be part of a school lesson - stay tuned!)
- Crock pot Mac 'n' cheese, salad, fruit
- Chicken nuggets, cucumbers, cubed cheese, watermelon
- Grab it and Growl

The weather forecast is calling for a fantastic week.  I may try to bake a few things and get them into the freezer before the heat returns.  Maybe some chocolate chip  pumpkin brownies?

What are you planning to eat this week?

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie!

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Brush of Angel's Wings" by Ruth Reid

Rachel Hartzler is not your typical Amish maiden.  With a less-than-excellent reputation in the kitchen and all thumbs with a needle, Rachel prefers more active pursuits outside, and her father accepts her help - until he hires Jordan, an Englischer with an Amish mother who's trying to find his way.  As he grieves for his mother after her passing, he takes a job with the Hartzler family until he can plan out what to do next.  With his presence comes pressure for Rachel to accept a more traditional role, which doesn't go down smoothly.  As Rachel and Jordan dance around their attraction for each other and struggle to find their place, tragedy strikes the community.  Will death ultimately throw them together - or forever apart?

Rachel is not a typical Amish girl, and this is not your typical Amish book!  While the Amish vs. English romance has been done before, the drama that Reid writes into the story takes this book far deeper than most. What really makes it stand out, however, and what kept me up late reading is the parallel story.  The Bible says that we do not fight against what we can see, and Reid makes this evident through paragraphs inserted into the action of this story that describe what is happening in a more celestial realm.  An angel named Nathaniel and a demon named Tangus are each fighting for Jordan and Rachel, and these asides make this story much more thought-provoking.

Brush of Angel's Wings alone is a great story with likable characters and exciting action; but the addition of Nathaniel and Tangus take this book to a whole other level.  You won't want to miss this story.

I received a free copy of Brush of Angel's Wings from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.