Monday, May 23, 2011

Favorite Pics

I've been doing lots of photo shoots recently to get some practice with my new camera.  I'm having so much fun doing it!  It truly is a passion of mine.

My little brother Grant and his girlfriend Jesse.

My little boys

A friend's new baby, Carsen

Carsen and his 3 big brothers.  So adorable!

Some senior pics I did for a friend of the family, as a graduation gift for him

I drove around town looking for good photo backdrops and found tons!  Rock walls, river beds, old trains, rusty cars, etc.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Keeping Kids Fed--Monday's Project

During my pregnancy and the stage of having a new infant I purchased bread because I just didn't have the extra energy to make it.  But lately, I've been feeling energetic again and have noticed that quality bread has gotten VERY expensive in our town.

So, on Monday, I decided to make up a week's worth of bread for my menu plan.  I took my favorite recipe and multiplied it by 6.  I'm thankful for my enormous tupperware bowl that I got at a yard sale for 25 cents because it is big enough to mix it all in.

If I had been making 1 loaf, I would have used my trusty bread machine.  But this batch was far too big for that.

I set it on the porch in the hot sunshine for a while and it rose very nicely.  Am I the only one who uses her van to raise bread sometimes in the spring, summer, or fall?  Cars sitting in the sunshine are always nice and toasty, perfect for raising bread dough.

The recipe x 6 ended up making 3 pans of homemade hamburger buns, 1 pan of breadsticks, 3 smaller loaves and 2 large loaves.

We ate the breadsticks with ravioli later in the week.

We shared a couple of loaves with friends who came over for Pray and Play one morning.

We used the buns for BBQ chicken sandwiches one night and Ham and Cheese Melts another night later in the week.

Would you believe that every bit of this bread was gone by Thursday night after dinner?  That means from Monday afternoon, when we had some for snack, to Thursday night, we ate 6 large loaves worth of bread!  If we hadn't shared with company it may have lasted a day or two longer, but still, that means our family can easily eat 6 large loaves a week! 

In a perfect world I would make this much bread every Monday.  I'm going to try to continue to do so on Mondays in the future, but I'm not opposed to being flexible and buying bread as I need to if my schedule doesn't allow for it.  Do you bake your own bread or find it cheaper/easier to buy it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Superwoman is a Myth

Sometimes we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others.  Each of us has different gifts and interests, and sometimes we feel inadequate because we don't have the same talents that our friends or favorite bloggers do.  Bloggers often showcase the things that inspire: cute crafts we've made, beautiful photos, great mom tips, fun vacation pics, homemaking wonders like bulk cooking days or new recipes, etc.  Sometimes when we see this tiny slice of someone's life we forget that they are real-life, gal-next-door folks that have challenges, struggles, bad days, hurts, fears, sins, and weaknesses.

Though I am the first to admit that I'm the farthest thing from perfect with my in-real-life friends, sometimes my blog readers or facebook acquaintances can get the impression that I "do it all" or am some kind of superwoman.  Every now and then I write a blog post to debunk the myth.  I'm just like you....only probably worse.  I often have my priorities out of whack, often fail to be patient and kind with my little blessings, and often choose my own way over God's way.  I long for a perfectly clean home, but I've discovered that I cannot have a good attitude, a clean home, and four kids simultaneously.  I often struggle with keeping the balance, and just keeping up with the simple chores.  Yes, I organize, yes, I bulk cook, yes, I sew once in a blue moon, and yes, I love taking pics, but that doesn't mean that I can do everything at once and do everything well.

 Plants that I meant to plant a few days ago and haven't gotten to.  They are also pretty desperate for some water.
 The homeschool table this morning....
 Katrielle's laundry often goes straight from the basket to her body, and back to dirty laundry without ever making it into her dresser drawers.....

A far cry from a stylish, polished mommy hair-do, a ponytail is usually all I have time for in the beauty department....

 Can you tell I hate folding socks!  Oh how I look forward to summer when sandals and Crocs will eliminate the need to match 60 sets a week!

Oops!  The weekend movie we rented never got returned so we'll have a late fee.....

When the kids are driving me crazy and I absolutely have to get something done or have some time to relax, Dora is a lifesaver!

Getting breakfast as a mommy of four is a challenge.  Some mornings I don't get any, and most mornings I get it a couple of hours after my kids do.

All too often I look to my good friend Chock Lutt for energy....

My kids have an innate ability to destroy everything and cause messes everywhere.  This occurred right as Pray & Play (my weekly Bible Study/Playgroup with friends) was starting and a day after mopping the kitchen floor and shampooing the carpet in this exact spot....

I worked my buns off to clean and tidy up the house for a whole day, not stopping to take breaks or rest time.  I was so happy that most of the house was clean and neat even though I was so pooped I could hardly say a word at dinner, only to realize at the end of the day that the kitchen looked like this once again.....

And I don't have pics of the thank you notes I have yet to fill out and send that are long overdue, the phone call to the eye doctor Josiah had to make because I kept forgetting to make us an appointment, and the packages I've been meaning to send to some military guys in our church for the last two years.  Or the medication and vitamins I have to take to combat postpartum depression that I've been battling for a few months.  Or the times I say stupid, or hurtful things to others, or am selfish, controlling, or angry.

I'm a work-in-progress just doing the best I can.
I realize only God gets His to-do list done everyday.
The endless work load brings me to my knees and reminds me that:
*This world is not my home
*This life here will never be easy or perfectly neat and tidy
*A perfectly clean home is the sign of a wasted life
*No one has "it all together"
*We all struggle, have trials, and sin in many ways
*I can't do it without the Lord and His grace for my sins and His strength in my weaknesses

I hope this post was an encouragement to you today!

Monday, May 16, 2011


When Monica from Homespun Heart mentioned the devotional Jesus Calling, I thought it sounded perfect for me.  I was not disappointed when I bought it.  This little book is chock full of amazing truths in small bites, perfect for my stage of life right now.  Almost every single day, I am blown away by how God speaks to me through this book.  Here are some favorite quotes from the last week that have touched me:

"Begin each day anticipating problems, asking Me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter.  The best equipping is My living Presence, My hand that never lets go of yours.  Discuss everything with Me.  Take a lighthearted view of trouble, seeing it as a challenge that you and I together can handle."

"Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride.  Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses.  Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me.  I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes.  Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do."

"Do not resist or run from the difficulties in your life.  These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth.  Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them.  View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on Me.  When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me.  Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me.....thank Me for the fifficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance."

"Instead of trying harder to help people through your own paltry supplies, become aware of My unlimited supply, which is accessible to you continually.  Let My Love envelop your outreach to other people.  Many of My precious children have fallen prey to burnout.  A better description of their condition might be "drainout."  Countless interactions with needy people have drained them, without their conscious awareness.  You are among these weary ones, who are like wounded soldiers needing R&R.  Take time to rest in the love-light of My presence.  I will gradually restore to you the energy that you have lost over the years.  Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and you will find rest for your souls."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Berry Granola

My sweet friend Heather sent me an encouraging card with Scripture verses and this delightful recipe.  I felt very "crunchy" eating my parfait made from homemade yogurt (with a little Truvia and vanilla extract in it) and homemade granola (sweetened with agave nectar).  Thanks Heather!

Berry Granola

1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/2 sunflower seeds
1/2 C. agave nectar (or 1 cup brown sugar)
1/2 stick of melted butter
2 t. cinnamon
3 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cardamom
4 C. rolled oat flakes (or you can use barley)
1/2 C. wheat germ
dried berries (I used cranberries)

Mix all ingredients except berries and toast on a couple of cookie sheets at 350 for 10 minutes.  Stir and toast more until golden brown in 5 minute increments.  Cool.  Add berries.  Use in parfaits, eat by the handful, or use as breakfast cereal. 

It makes the whole house smell like cinnamon rolls are baking when it is in the oven, just as my friend Heather promised it would!  Yummy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Tea Party

I've been wanting to do a tea party for Alathia and her friends for months and just haven't gotten around to it.  So, I was thrilled when the local library had a Mother's Day tea in the courtyard for moms and daughters age 5 and up.  I think our local library ladies are the best in the world! 

All of the little girls were dressed so beautifully in their fanciest dresses. 
The library ladies had laid out a craft for the girls.  They decorated CD cases with puffy paint.

A friend from Pray n' Play, Rebecca, attended with her daughter Iliana.
Rebecca's three kids are exactly the same ages and genders as my 3 oldest kids so we have lots in common!  It was fun to have tea and treats with them!

A wonderful Saturday "mother-daughter date!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

Picnic Packs

It's that time of year again!  We're spending LOTS of time at the local park up the street.  Most park days end up being picnic days too.  On top of getting all of the kids sunscreened-up and ready to go and packing everything we might possibly need for a day in the sunshine, it can be a pain to try to throw together a lunch for my kids who eat like packs of wolves.

So, on my last grocery shopping trip, I grabbed a bunch of picnic lunch stuff that was on sale and made up several "Picnic Packs."  Now, all I have to do is make some sandwiches and grab some fruit and throw them and some drinks into the cooler with a Picnic Pack.  It will save this Mama some precious time!  What's in a picnic pack? Chips, teddy grahams, granola bars, napkins, plastic bag for garbage, fruit snacks, etc. Not the healthiest lunch, but I'm tired of my kids always wanting my friends' food and complaining about the leftovers I bring to the park. Since we'll likely only be picnicking a couple of times a week, I'm okay with a less-healthy lunch for the price of convenience!

*Sorry for the poor photos!  My camera was on the wrong setting and I didn't catch it until they were already loaded onto the computer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bulk Cooking when You're a Mama

 Since my kids eat like animals (AKA inherited their Daddy's appetite), I decided that it's high time I jump back on the bulk cooking wagon.  I haven't bulk cooked since September when I stocked the freezer for having a baby!  I just don't have the time these days to carve out an entire day to bulk cook.  There are little people who would not survive if I did!
I decided to do an afternoon of bulk cooking since I found that to work well during my pregnancy with Katrielle.  It truly is amazing how much cooking one can accomplish in just a few hours when you are focused and motivated!
In the morning I put a crockpot full of pinto beans on to cook and also a rice-cooker full of brown rice.  In the afternoon, when the two little ones were down for a nap, I got started on my main cooking.  I pulled 6# of roasts and chicken breasts from the freezer and seasoned them and put them in the oven.
Then I called my little helpers, Jeremiah, Ali, and Arianna (a 4 year old friend I babysit on Thursday afternoons) and had them come to the table and make banana muffins.

Being that my husband calls me Mrs. Monk I'm a little OCD about germs and cleanliness while cooking, I told myself that I wouldn't worry about what the kids did while they made the muffins and I just would avoid eating them.  I want them to learn to cook and being uptight about everything won't help them to be joyful about cooking so I thought it was a great solution for me.  And of course Jer licked the raw egg fork.....ick!

When the little helpers were done with their double batch of muffins, I popped them in the oven and they ran outside to play.  I then made a quadruple batch of whole wheat pancakes (NEVER AGAIN!!!!  I may not have to make pancakes again until September!!!!) and cooked 100+ of them up and froze them.  The baby woke up sooner than I expected so I loaded her onto my back in my backpack and she proceeded to pull my ponytail and suck on it the rest of the afternoon.  I put the 14 C. of cooked rice and 6 C. of cooked beans in the freezer in small containers, took the meat out and let it cool before chopping it into small pieces and freezing in meal-size portions, and cooked up 2# of macaroni.  I made a fruit salad (for a dinner I was attending that evening), and some mock Devonshire cream and hazelnut chocolate scones (for a Royal Wedding Party with my girlfriends that evening), and cleaned up the kitchen.  When the muffins were done I fed the kids a few each and then froze the rest for handy snacks for the coming week.  I was hoping to get to Berry Granola and Whole Wheat Graham squares but I was pooped and my kids needed me to make them dinner so I saved those two items for later in the week, as well as a crockpot of homemade yogurt.

Here are my best tips for cooking with kids around:

1.  If possible, swap an afternoon of babysitting with another mom or utelize a mother's helper or Grandma so that you can get more accomplished and have fewer interruptions.  If that is not an option:
--Let the kids watch an afternoon movie while you work
--Put them to work.  It may be a little more work but it will keep them busy and someday they will actually be more help than hinderance so it's good practice for them!
--Spend extra time with the kids in the morning and if possible, wear them out on the playground or in the yard so that they will be happy to do quiet activities or nap in the afternoon while you cook.

2.  Planning and preparing is crucial to the success of bulk cooking.  Do your planning, organizing, and shopping the evening before WITHOUT the kids so you are totally ready to go the next day.  Don't forget to buy ziploc bags or containers to freeze your foods in if you need them.  (Ask me how I know this......)

3.   Figure out what your top food needs are and make these things. I don't mind making dinner every night but our family constantly seems to be out of snack foods and I'm not a morning person so I find it hard to make pancakes first thing in the morning. So, I made sure to make up a bunch of pancakes and a bunch of snacks (muffins, graham squares, scones) and a few things that would make meal prep faster in the evenings (rice, roast, chicken breasts, pinto beans, macaroni).

4.  Put your "servants" to work.  I used my crockpot, rice cooker, oven, griddle, dishwasher, and most of my cooking pots simultaneously!

5.  Don't over-do it!  Plan to stick with your time-frame of 3-4 hours and allow yourself some time to sit down and browse a magazine and eat some chocolate for a little break while things are baking.  I wanted to do a lot more than I did, but at the end of the day, I had to admit my limitations and realize that it's not the end of the world if I have to buy bread on sale than trying to make up 20 loaves of homemade bread to freeze.

Camera Practice

Practicing with my camera...... so much fun when you have.....

......a little princess..... your photography model!

"Princess Kate" as she is called by her sister ever since Alathia heard me talking about the marriage of Prince William and Princess Kate, is 6 months old and very healthy.  She sits up by herself, loves to babble, drools a lot, and enjoys fruits and vegetables!  She's giggling more now too and is a real sweetheart but also has a wild streak like her older sister!
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