A Little of This and That

First of all, I want to say thank you for the feedback via Facebook on my last post.  I'm thrilled that a few of you took the time to read my riveting thoughts! Glad to know that there are a few more of you out there working on the meal planning business.  If there are hints or tricks that you have discovered that make it easier, I'd love to hear them.  Next week, I will post a few recipes that I have found to freeze well. So, stay tuned. 

This weekend, we will be celebrating the 60th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. A milestone for sure.  One that we don't see often enough.  I am thankful that God has blessed them with so many years of marriage and that I have been able to witness that example of strength in relationship.  I am especially looking forward to time with family--I love seeing the littlest cousins together.  Four generations in the same place is something that my kiddos don't get to experience nearly enough. But that means I need to finish packing, so I better keep moving! 

Have a great weekend, Everyone!   


I've Got a Plan!

Psst.  Wanna know a secret?

Although I really do enjoy cooking--baking especially, if you haven't noticed, but meal times are tough for me--specifically the evening meal.  Supper?  Dinner?  The terms are interchangeable around here, but other places not so much.  Anywhoo, I digress.  Lunch is easy for me.  We typically have sandwiches or work on the leftovers.  But the evening meals?  It's our only meal of the day that we are all together.  I want it to be a nice meal--maybe not super elaborate and certainly not gourmet but more than the same PB sandwich the kids and I had for lunch.  Not that there is anything wrong with that--we've had our share of PB sandwiches. But ideas are scarce for me when it comes time for preparing something.  I guess you could say I am not good under meal planning pressure. The only way I have found to counteract this is to do meal planning.

I first started doing meal planning after The Little Man was born.  It was a good way for me to balance the meals that our friends were bringing, the food I had pre-made and placed in the freezer pre-baby as well as the cooking I occasionally felt up to.  It was a God-send for me to just look at the calendar, go to the freezer and essentially pull out the evening meal.

And I have tried to continue with the planning.  Some months are better than others, but when I don't meal plan it's bad.  I get horrible idea block, I never have the right ingredients in the cupboards and we eat out way more than we should. Thus spending way more money on food than necessary.

I resisted meal planning for a long time.  My big argument was "how am I suppose to know what is going to sound good two weeks from Tuesday?". The crazy thing is this--when I have it scheduled out, it nearly always sounds good.  And if not, I can easily switch it with another night's meal from later in the week or month.  If we end up with dinner plans with friends or we end up not at home at meal time, it's fine.  I just flex the planned meal to another night.  I also plan a meal or two out--and that goes into the monthly budget.   The other added benefit of meal planning it that we have less waste.  I PLAN to re-purpose leftovers or make full recipes and freeze half so that I have a quick meal for another time. 

What I do is this--I print out a blank calendar and plan out 3-4 weeks at a time.  I use meal plans from previous months for ideas, as well as my cook books, websites like allrecipes.com and ideas from blogs that I read.  I coordinate the meal plan (main dish, veggie and usually one other side) with the grocery ads and coupons that I have so that I can get the best deals. And I try to do one new recipe a month. I generally do one or two (at the most) big grocery shopping trips a month.  I make my grocery list as I do the planning.

I just re-read that last paragraph and it sounds like I have this big, complicated process.  It's not. I promise you. To plan the whole month, it usually takes me less than an hour TOTAL and I don't usually get it all done in one sitting.

So, what's been on the plan so far this month?

Cheese Enchiladas
Chicken Broccoli Braid
Homemade pizza
Roasted Chicken
Beef Stroganoff
Spanish Rice
Chicken Stir-fry

And yes, my kids eat it all. Some meals go over better than others, of course--just like at any one's house! 
I am always up for new recipes and open to new ideas for the process. Are you a meal planner?  If not, what's holding you back?  If you are a meal planner--how does your process vary?  Do you have a "go-to" recipe or family favorite?


One More Fall Favorite

 The last favorite fall recipe that I am going to share is for a quick bread that is on my list to make again this weekend.  It freezes super well so I almost always make a double batch--one for now and one for some day when I am completely unmotivated and need some thing "different" for the family breakfasts.  It always hits the spot! 

Pumpkin Bread
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. solid pack pumpkin (approx. 1/2 of a can)
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of each-ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x5x3in. loaf pan.  (Yes, I use the spray with flour.) In a large bowl combine all ingredients.  Beat until well mixed; pour into prepared pan. Bake approximately 45-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes.  Loosen edges; remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes 1 loaf. 


Not Now

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about our decision to put our home on the market in hopes of moving closer to DH's job and our family. We had prayed about it considerably and the timing felt right.  I just KNEW that it was right.  Winter faded into spring and spring into the warmth of summer.  Now the crispness of the morning air lingers more with each passing day.  And the nearly barren trees witness the house off the market and us waiting. Shows how much I know!

The decision to cancel our listing had been coming for some time.  There were moments when we were ready to pull the plug, and a small flicker of hope would glimmer and a tiny flurry of sudden activity would catch us by surprise only to see any possibility wane. I have been left frustrated, not necessarily because of the process or the economy but because it is obvious that God is saying "Not now."  I've cried many tears in prayer begging for understanding.  I know what a considerably shorter commute for DH would mean to our family.  It breaks my heart when Princess Pigtails declares that she wishes we had "more time  (with Daddy) at night", because my soul is saying "amen".  I feel caught and twisted in the guilty reality that we are truly blessed and yet some how I long for more.  We have a beautiful home, my husband has a fantastic job which he loves and God has blessed us beyond measure.

The life of faith calls us into a trusting of the Unseen in all circumstances.  To rest in faith is to know that God is in control and is able to "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).  So I suppose it is the sinful nature of my humanity that causes the desire to lie on the floor and pound my fists, to ask why our home couldn't be the one to sell for full asking or before even hitting the market, why couldn't our home have been the one for XYZ family.  There are examples all around me...and yet when I take a deep breath, when I can begin to get my head and my heart on the same page I know it is because God is saying "not now". Not "never" but "not now".  I know that God's timing is perfect and so the struggle continues. 

With each day I have to consciously give it over to God--to literally acknowledge that "this is in YOUR hands".  I have struggled, cried and done all that I can only to find myself at literal definition of the phrase "out of my control". When the questions begin to come, I am learning to turn that into prayer.  Because there is only One with the answers to the questions that bubble out. I wish I could say that the answers have been revealed, that daily I feel the disconnect shrinking between my brain (what I know the Gospel says, what I know to be true from experience) and my heart (my manic emotions).  But the gap is still there.  I choose to be thankful that the Lord covers that void.  With each day I choose to believe the promise held in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." That give me hope for today and it is enough. 


I've Got Dreams

I've got some lofty holiday baking goals.  Yes, I do.
Check that out.  It makes the regular bag look like a fun-size bag!  Love it.
So, what's on your holiday baking list? 


Challenge of the Day

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Definition of Yummy Goodness

Here's another favorite of mine that always, always fits the bill when the weather starts changing.  It's great with milk for breakfast, over yogurt or on fruit, and even tasty sprinkled over ice cream. I'll warn you now--you will either need to do a half recipe, split the recipe across two 9x13 pans or use a roasting pan (which is what I use).  A full recipe is a lot of yummy-ness--but you could share! I've been known to share with friends and neighbors as gifts...It is so fantastic!   Here you go:

8 C. Regular (not quick cooking) Oatmeal
1 C. sweetened coconut flakes
Spread in a large pan (see above recommendations).  Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.  Stir every 15 minutes.

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 C. honey
2 tsp. vanilla
Heat until brown sugar dissolves.  Add vanilla.  Pour over dry mixture; stir well.  Bake 20 minutes.  Add 1 C. wheat germ. This is where you would add anything else you want--raisins, slivered almonds, pecans,craisins, other dried fruit...  Stir every 10-15 minutes as it cools.  If you fail to stir it frequently as it cools (like I did the first time I made it...) you WILL have one giant piece of granola!  :)  If that happens, just pop it back in a warm oven and let it warm the sugar once more and then it will be soft enough to stir!  Enjoy! 


A Fall Favorite--on Friday!!

There are so many things that I love about fall--the colors, the visible change in the landscape, the excitement of regular schedule and routine starting, the anticipation of what the school year will hold, the dull roar of farm machinery, the crispness of the air, and the motivation that I find once again to get back into my kitchen. 

Fall also brings to mind a couple of dishes that are family favorite and always on my list to make at least once as the leaves change.  I will share a few recipes over the next couple of days that are on this list.  First up today my grandma's Apple Crisp.  I have had bites of a few apple crisps in my day and hands down this is my absolute favorite. Of course, I may be biased, but go ahead try it. Maybe add a scoop (or two) of cinnamon ice cream. You will not be disappointed.  I guarantee it. 

Apple Crisp
8-10 medium to large apples, peeled & sliced
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
Mix and place in an 8x8 inch baking pan.  Add topping.
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. butter or margarine (I use salted butter.)
1/8 tsp. salt (I skip this since I use the salted butter.)
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
Cut together with fork or pastry blender.  Place over apples.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes-one hour, or until apples are tender.
I do usually make a recipe and a half of the topping--just makes it that much better!  :)


The Scent of Memories

Do your favorite memories smell?  What scent invokes nostalgia?  For me, one of the strongest is the link between the aroma of diesel and sweet recollections of times spent with my grandparents as a child.   Tomorrow is my grandpa's birthday and I am taking time to be thankful for all these years I've been blessed to have both my grandparents in my life.  They are amazing people, the only grandparents I've ever really known (my paternal grandmother passed before I was born and my paternal grandfather when I was a preschooler).  I have learned many things from their lives, their example and I am full of gratitude for those lessons. My life is more full because of them. I have a more clear understanding of what our Heavenly Father designed families to be. And for that I will be forever grateful.  Happy Birthday, Grandpa.  Love you.


I Got My Vote On, Did You?

I love our country.  Truly.  I am so very thankful and blessed beyond a shadow of a doubt to be able to call it home.  I love days that give me opportunity to have a real-life Civics lesson with our kids.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I know that our right to vote and our freedom has not come easy or free.  And I am never more mindful of that sacrifice than when I go to vote.  It is literally a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes experience for me.  Every single time.  Yesterday was no exception.  I loved being able to stand in that line with my husband and children.  I loved holding the hand of my daughter and showing her the ballot. I loved the precious conversations that we had about how voting works and how important it is as citizens to exercise that right.  Yes, she is only five, but to have these conversations now--Gives me hope that our children will begin to understand the importance of our civic responsibilities.

And this morning, the election process is winding down for the moment. (Well, unless you live in Minnesota, like me.  Then, who knows when we will have a certified result in the Governor's race. But I digress...) Checking Facebook this morning, gave me pause as I reflected on the many status updates with a political message.  Some voicing frustration with the results.  Others, excited by the hope of things to come.  The emotion of the results is powerful and the future pregnant with possibility regardless of the side on which you fall. 

One thing most can agree on, however, today is great day in that the political ads have ceased.  I for one was strangely starting to miss good old regular commercials.  Did I really just type that? 

I hope that you voted, that you participated in the process and that you took a moment to really reflect on it. Thank you to those of you that have fought to protect our freedoms.  I know that our country is truly "The Home of Free BECAUSE of the Brave".  May God continue to bless America. 



Five years have passed too quickly by.  
  • In five years I've learned what it is like to have your heart live outside your chest. 
  • I've learned the fine art of kissing boo-boos.
  • I've learned how to operate a nail clipper while wrestling a small, flailing body.  
  • I've learned that no matter what time a small child goes to bed, they almost always get up at the same time. 
  • I've learned that there is nothing more sweet than a smile on the face of a sleeping child.
  • I've learned the human body can function surprisingly well with substantially less sleep than most doctors recommend.  
  • I've learned that ketchup is great on everything.
  • I've learned many things, but most importantly, I've learned that just when you think you can't love any one more, God blows you away.
 Happy Birthday, Princess Pigtails.  I love you so very much. 


A Small Gap

Okay, so seven months break from blogging?  Hmm...I'm back.  I think. 


Update on My Mom

Just a quick update on my mom. The surgery went well. She has been moved to a rehab/PT facility and we are hopeful that she will be discharged home soon. God is so good. I just keep praying that each day will be a little easier for her, that she will have energy and determination to work through the pain and that her care givers remain compassionate and encouraging.


From a Distance

Saying loads of prayers for my mama (and her medical team) this morning. In about 45 minutes she is going into surgery. Out of respect for her privacy, I will just say that it is a fairly common procedure, but I'm still nervous for her. I'm hoping to head down there today. I've been trying to get there since Monday but with the recent snow storm, the roads were just not good enough to make the trip with the kids and dog in tow. So, I will have to pray from here. Which is enough. But I so wanted to be there with my dad today. I wanted to be there ahead of surgery to help my mom and so the kids could see her outside of the hospital. It didn't happen and I need to let the disappointment go.
My prayers are equally effective from here. I know that. I just wanted to be with my mom.

"16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16 (NIV)



I am not even sure where to start. It has been a long time since my last post and to be honest, posting is something that I have been putting off. So much has happened since I posted last. Many things I'd rather not try to wrap into words and yet I feel compelled to get back at this. It is my prayer that somehow by getting back to blogging that it will once again have a therapeutic quality for me. A healthy way for me to some how sort through things as well as document this crazy life that I have.
Today. Today was a good day. God is so very good.