Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ask Mrs. Clean

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed one of my best friends, Shiloh, about how she keeps her house immaculate at all times. But I forgot to encourage the readers to ask her some questions about keeping a clean home. So, here is your chance! Ask Shiloh whatever questions you have regarding cleaning and homemaking and she will do her best to answer as she has opportunity in the next few days. She will be answering in the comments section of this post. However, if she goes into labor, your questions will go unanswered ladies!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Delicious Dinner Recipes

Black Bean Veggie Casserole tastes like a Mexican lasagna
I wasn't going for beautiful folks, but no matter how it looks, it tastes good!
Topped with fresh, homemade salsa, it is unbelievable!!

Here are two of my favorite current recipes!

Black Bean Veggie Casserole

1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium zuchinnis, grated
1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
11/2 C. frozen or fresh corn
1 t. ground cumin
1 packet of taco seasoning mix
1/2 t. salt
12 corn tortillas, quartered
1 19-oz can enchilada sauce (green or red, mild or spicy)
11/4 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13 with cooking spray.

I chop my zuchinnis and onion in a food processor to dice them quickly. Once the onion and zuchinnis are diced, heat the oil in a nonstick skillet and add the onion and zuchinni and cook for about 5 minutes until starting to turn brown. Then add beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally untilt he veggies are heated through.

Scatter half the tortillas in the baking dish. Top with half the veggies, half the enchilada sauce, and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer. Cover with foil.
Bake the casserole 15 minutes. Take off foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and cheese is melted (about 15 more minutes).
Lora's Baked Tomato Spaghetti
Sorry, no photo of this! But I can assure you it is delicious!
1# spaghetti (can use flavored noodles for extra nutrition if desired)
2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (plain or flavored)
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 stick of butter cut into 1/2 inch slices
1. Cook the spaghetti in boiling water until it's a little chewy and drain well. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a baking dish.
2. Arrange a third of the spaghetti in the baking dish and then top with a third of the tomatoes, a third of the cheese, and a third of the butter. Continue layering with reamining ingredients, ending with the butter.
3.Bake 50 minutes until the top is very well browned and crusty (yum!)
Serve with a salad and bread and you have a simple and frugal meal!
I have not experimented with cutting down on the butter but perhaps you could substitute some olive oil for the butter or cut down on the amount to make it a little healthier!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Best Goal of the Year

Of all of the goals I made for 2009, the best goal I made by far was to read through the Bible in a year. I had done it once in high school and had gotten through most of it in OT and NT classes in Bible college, but had not done the thru-in-a-year plan since being married and becoming a mom.

I receive the Desiring God blog entries into my e-mail inbox every day (another huge spiritual encouragement) and found out about this plan, which after comparing to other similar plans, looked like a great option for me because it covers 4 sections of Scripture at a time and gives you 5 catch-up days each month, which I really need!

After one month I was blown away by the amount of Scripture covered. I had read as many chapters in a month of the Word as I had digested in the entire year of 2008! Apparently having a plan and committing to it, and publishing it on my blog and telling others about it as a way of staying accountable, really works with my competitive nature!

The reason I feel this goal was hands down the best of the whole year is because it's so easy to get caught up in the unimportant and forget the main thing. So what if I met my goals of having a garden, being frugal, being hospitable, covering academics with my kids if I wasn't being daily renewed and changed by the very words of God? What is truly lasting and eternal? Why haven't I made it a priority in years past?

I'm not writing this here to guilt-trip anyone into thinking they are a bad Christian if they aren't reading through the Bible. I am here to encourage you to try this or at least to make the Word a huge priority in your life even if you are just taking one book at a time. You won't regret it! With my new ESV study Bible, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE I have enjoyed wrestling with and studying some of those hard texts that I had forgotten about because of my tendency in recent years to read my favorite books and stay mainly in the New Testament. My study Bible has cleared up a lot of questions I had on different passages.

A Question of Priority

Some of you may say, "But I don't have time!!!" It often feels that way, especially with little children underfoot all day long. A young mom friend of mine started a month and a half behind, has 3 little kids, homeschools, babysits twin 3 month olds 4 full-days a week, and has suffered through two incredible losses and health issues recently and still makes the time. We were both sharing at our women's study how much our one-year plans have impacted our lives and the other women were saying they felt so convicted, because most of them have no children or grown children and have much more time to do it than we do. Why does my friend make the time? Because when life falls apart, when she is overwhelmed, when she is crushed with grief, when it really boils down to what matters, she clings to the words of God that sustain her and support her. I may have less time to read fiction nowadays, but so what? I'm reading the lifechanging Word of Life! And it really hasn't taken that much extra time to read 5-7 chapters of the Bible a day. We all spend time doing stuff we could cut out each day. And if you don't have any time during the day when the kids aren't awake, then read the chapters aloud to them and you'll both benefit!

How it Pans Out for Me

Another friend of mine has done the one-year plan every year for many years. She's one of my wisest friends! We were talking about it and discussing which is the best method. There are some who go straight through, some who read a chronological Bible, some who break it into 1 OT and 1 NT reading a day and some who do four passages at a time like my plan. Here are the ways I have found for it to fit my own lifestyle:

I don't actually read the 4 portions a day most of the time. This is how it breaks down for me:

Listen to the OT on CD while doing dishes, kitchen cleanup or folding laundry. This is when the kids are in bed and happens 2-3 times a week. I usually listen to 10-20 chapters (1-2 hours) at a time to catch up. I started doing this in Leviticus and Numbers when I was getting hopelessly behind and struggling to read these long and historical parts of Scripture. I make sure that I am paying close attention and if my mind wanders I go back and listen to that chapter again. I have always loved listening to sermons, broadcasts, Adventures in Odyssey, etc. so I do well with auditory learning and get a lot out of it even though I'm not reading. I go back and read portions that caught my attention that I feel I need to study further. This habit has also improved the cleanliness of my house as well! I know I need to get chapters read so I'll clean the kitchen a lot longer than I normally would so I can get my chapters listened to!

The kids often beg me to read from my Bible after Daddy reads their nightime Bible story from The Jesus Storybook Bible. So, I will read my Psalm of the day to them and a chapter of the Gospel I am reading through (Matthew or Mark so far). I also read Genesis and most of Exodus to them at the beginning of the year, which they enjoyed. We also read our chapter of the month nightly that we are working on memorizing. They've memorized Psalm 23 and now we're doing 1 Cor. 13, which is a bit harder and may take longer than a month.

The other segment of the NT (so far I have covered Acts, Romans and 1 Cor.) I cover on my own throughout the day or in the morning when I rise before the kids and have a little time to read and reflect. It's usually only 1 chapter a day.

I enjoy the variety and don't have trouble remembering what was going on in a certain passage but for those of you who want to keep things very simple, reading straight through or reading a chronological Bible may be the way to go. I love the 5 catch-up days where there are no readings scheduled because I often have some chapters to catch up because of busy days where I didn't get much, or any read.

What about Quality over Quantity?
I have heard, and used, the argument that you can study a passage further if you take one chapter a day instead of several. This may be true. However, you lose out on a lot by not examining and becoming familiar with all of Scripture. And then it's all too easy to just get behind or to only read a chapter when you have time to do a huge research process on it, which may end up being never or one day a week! Reading a quantity of Scripture doesn't mean that I don't do in-depth study. I'm part of a Bible Study and both in this study and in church we cover passages in an exegetical way and also when there are passages that I feel I need to understand from my reading I pull out commentaries and books on them. We would all agree that kids need both quality and quantity time with their parents. I think this applies to the Word as well. Just zooming through chapters, letting your mind wander, or doing it to please someone else or feed your pride isn't good, but neglecting it by never reading or having trouble sticking with a plan isn't either. Lots of Scripture combined with very in-depth study of some Scriptures make for a great combo!

The Discipliship Journal Printable Version

I'd love to hear what you have found that works for your lifestyle when it comes to reading God's Word!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The BEST of COF--Penny Pinchin' Tips and Frazzled Mommy Spa

Due to temporary scarcity and rising postage costs, I have ceased sending out my newsletter, The Circle of Friends. But every Saturday I'm sharing some of the best recipes, tips, and contributions from it so you can all enjoy it!

Penny Pinchin' Tips
To stretch shampoo, pour out half into an empty bottle. Fill up both bottles with water and you now have twice as much!
Make your own flexible ice packs. Pour 3/4 C. water and 1/4 C. rubbing alcohol in a ziploc bag and seal. Put in another ziploc bag and seal. Freeze. You now have a slushy bag of ice for whenever you need it.
Nearly everything can be cut in half. A dryer sheet, a cotton ball, and the amount of detergent you use. Try it! You'll likely find there's no difference in using less!
Save plastic milk containers and freeze full of water for camper iceboxes. You can also use them to freeze colored water or juices for adding to punchbowls.
Don't throw out extra coffee. Put in an icecube tray and freeze and then when you just want a cup you can thaw some cubes in the microwave or you can use in mocha slushies on a hot summer day.
Frazzled Mommy Mini-Spa
At the end of an especially hard day, give yourself a mini-spa at home. Fill your baby's bathtub with hot water and bubble bath or Epsom Salts. If you have lots of marbles you can add these in; my friend says they feel really good on the feet. Soak your feet and apply a masque to your face while your feet are soaking. If you don't have a masque cream oatmeal or egg whites work nicely! After you are done, moisturize your face and rub baby oil over your feet. Amazing how a little tender loving care can give you a boost after a long day of serving!
These tips were taken from the June 2006 issue.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fun With Friends

Jer and Carsen have the same shirt! We didn't realize it until yesterday!

Pulling each other around in the wagon with the fourwheeler

Exploring a stick house

The kids got tons of exercise

Little buddies

Cute Kennedy is anxious to be a big sister. Her mama is due with a little girl in two weeks!

Hey, back off, those Nilla wafers are mine!

Fun Family Pics

Arianna and Alathia play princesses
Look, no hands mom!

We have one set of grandparents always giving our kids candy and one set giving our little children horsepower!!!

Jerby is so proud of himself now that he can ride the fourwheeler by himself. He rides around with a huge smile and tends not to watch where he is going, but instead looks at his parents as if to say, "Look at me! Are you watching me? I'm a big boy!"

My guys

Baby Archer Malachi, at 11 days old. The youngest one at the Clothing Swap! What a darling boy!

Everyone got what they wanted and we ended up with 4 garbage bags for a nearby crisis pregnancy center.

My friend Lora graciously hosted the event since it snowed that day and our house is small.

Justus on his 8 Month Old birthday (April 16th)

Arianna, a friend's daughter whom I babysit once or twice a week, adores Ali and looks up to her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Surprise Package---Happy Mail Day!!!!!!!!

I find it incredibly ironic that the week I do the poll question about what we would prefer to be blessed with and the poll results say that the majority of folks would like a surprise package, I received a surprise package from a blogging friend, themomma! We were outdoors Monday night after supper and we saw it sitting on the doorstep, something I had overlooked when I checked the mail that afternoon. I have to wonder about the line "our little family." If themomma's family is little, then my family is miniscule! She is the happy homeschooling-on-the-farm momma of 8 blessings, one who's married and expecting, and lives on the other side of the USA. She found my blog through a Frugal Friday post long ago and learned to make ribbon socks and leather shoes.

Lots of green tulle. The kids are quite curious.

Five fancy little packages all wrapped prettily. How did she know I love polkadots?

Ali opens a little dress. It just so happens that a few hours before we got the package, I visited her blog and saw her little girl Lily wearing a dress exactly like this and thought it was so cute!

It's a reversible sundress and the seams are perfect! She's obviously been sewing for a couple of decades! I am anxious to figure out how to make these but having never worked with elastic binding, I'm unsure. I'm hoping themomma will share her secrets with us!

Three sets of lovely earrings for me! How did she know I love dangly earrings like this? I wonder if she made them....

You know you've been reading this blog too much if you see my hubby downtown and say, "Hi King Jo!" It really was cute to see this on the package!

At first he thought it was just an ice-cream tub full of paper shavings. Then he discovered a $5 bill in it!

Someone never stops moving for a pic!

Up the nostrils! Pure joy on this girl's face!

Her hair is always a'flyin'

I wish I could find fabric this cute in our town!

Jeremiah is beyond thrilled to see a couple of new racecars in his package. I don't think he's let them go in the 24 hours since he opened them!

Justus got some little cars too! He loved chewing on them when his brother and sister weren't trying to take them away!

What is this funny green stuff Mom?

Ali wanted to sleep in her sundress. She also proudly wore it to preschool and wanted to tell her teacher about it. Miss Jenny said I'd probably have six sundresses like this made by the end of the night! First I have to figure out how to make them. I've also concluded that you just can't get cute fabric in this town!

It was fun to tell the kids that Miss Tracy who sent the package has two boys named Jeremiah and Josiah. They looked at pics of her family on her blog. She has a sweet new baby, Lexi Faith, who is exactly 3 months old as I'm writing this post and as cute as a button!
I love her post showing all the bright cloth diapers she made hanging out to dry on the clothesline.

You haven't seen beautiful baby girls dresses until you've witnessed the circle skirt dresses Tracy made for Lily and Lexi for Easter this year. Where does she find the time?

Six of her children (even the two little guys) have blogs, as well as her husband and it's clear to see that they are a loving family of faith! I love this post her husband wrote about her, as well as this post he wrote to her to thank her on Mother's Day.

I have been blessed by her wise and positive comments here even when I write really dumb stuff that I later regret. She is like a mentor from afar! Lots of poignant wisdom comes out in her brief posts as she has lots of experience in life. I am glad we met through the blogworld and I want to give a big shout out of "Thank You" to themomma and her wonderful family!!! Thank you Tyler, Tracy, TJ, Tony, Lana, Brandon, Jeremiah, Josiah, Lily and Lexi!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday--Best Dishes!

My tip for the week is:
If you don't have a dishwasher CORELLE is for you!!! I recently snagged some Corelle at Wal-Mart for less than half off! I had been wanting some for a couple of years and was thrilled! Sure enough, after a couple weeks of using them, I have found them to be everything I'd dreamed of and more!
My observations of them:
*They wipe clean easier than other dishes, even without soaking
*Dirty dish pile looks smaller because they are so thin and lightweight
*Can fit about 3x more dishes in my dish drainer, meaning less drying with a towel!
*Take up less than half the space my other dishes took up in the cupboard, making a small kitchen more functional
*More sturdy for young families with small children or clutsy adults
*Easier for the kids to set the table
*I trust the kids with them because the small plates and bowls are easier to handle and they are break-resistant
*I am excited that when we have large crowds over, everyone will have a nice, matching plate
*The bowls all come with snap-on lids to store kid leftovers and small amounts quickly, efficiently, saving me plastic wrap and helping the environment (there's my green plug!)
*They make our table look more polished and neat (this is my opinion of course)
*Because they are so easy to clean I am more likely to do dishes in the snatches of time I have throughout the day and stay on top of the dishes better
*They air-dry much faster than my old dishes, meaning that after I've filled the strainer, they're practically dry so I can put them away quickly and fill the strainer again with pots and silverware
*I'm less likely to use paper plates now that I have Corelle. It seems so fast to wash them that I am excited to use a Corelle plate and don't even worry about buying paper plates anymore! I don't groan when my husband pulls out a plate for a light snack and don't hesitate to use plates when I'm cooking.
I could go on and on but I'll stop now and let you all decide for yourselves!!!
For more Kitchen Tips visit Tammy's Recipes today!

Family Fun

Every now and then we get tired of trucks and racecars and embrace our feminine side!
Resurrection Eggs that Ali made in her preschool class
A page attached to the front tells what each thing symbolizes. The kids love looking at these and I plan to go over them several times with them this month.

The unleavened bread

The sponge

The guaze

The little growing pot kits were in the dollar section of Target. The kids had fun planting them with me and after only a few days they've already sprouted! We're trying to grow chives and basil. The Target dollar section had tons of neat gardening tools/projects for kids.

Grammy gave the kids this sugar cookie kit. The kids had great fun with their friends Carsen and Kennedy making snake and snowman cookies with brightly colored dough. I didn't get pics of their cookies though!

Having fun with the paint pages Grammy gave her

Just wet a Q-tip or a sponge and paint your page!
I think my mom found these at Hobby Lobby in Billings.

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