Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finer Things Friday: More Blessings Than I Deserve

Last week for "Finer Things Friday," I posted a list of 12 blessings in my life. Today I would like to continue that list with this week's blessings.

(13) My sweet smiling Cora crawling for the first time this week (She's got to keep up with big sis!)

(14) My too-smart-for-her-own-good Kate recalling from memory FOUR Bible verses that we hadn't practiced for several weeks (post to come!)

(15) Watching netflixed Modern Family episodes with Daniel and laughing hysterically together (well, it's mostly me laughing out loud)

(16) Seeing God's great mercy and love for me in my study of 2 Peter at CBS (Community Bible Study)

(17) Being in the presence of some wonderful Godly women at CBS who encourage and inspire me every week

(18) My wonderful mom taking time out of her busy life to take me to Sam's (and paying for more than she should have!)

(19) The strawberries from Daniel's parents' patch from last year that I used to make 5 pints of jam with

(20) King's Kids: The Mother's Day Out program Kate attends every Tuesday & Thursday for all the Bible songs and stories she is learning and for the much-needed break it affords me

(21) Writing this blog: I know I'm writing to myself for the most part, but I feel blessed to have an outlet to express myself again as well as a space to record our family's milestones

(22) Watching the birds build a nest in the winter wreath still up on our front door (now I have excuse not to take it down!)

(23) The tulips, forsythia, dogwoods and other beautiful flowers and trees in bloom, showing me that Spring is here even if the weather is still reminiscent of winter

(24) Watching my girls grow in love for each other and praying that they will always be the best of friends

How has the Lord blessed you this week? If you sit down and think about all your blessings, could you REALLY be down?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Starting the Garden

Yesterday while Cora napped Kate and I ventured outside and set to work planting the garden. Hoe in hand I made four very crooked rows and then Kate scattered plant food in the rows, around the rows, and everywhere! She wanted to help. Then, we planted about 40 onion bulbs and two rows of bibb and buttercrunch lettuce. Kate picked flowers while I covered the bulbs and seeds with the soft dirt. Then, we both watered the garden: Kate with her watering pail and I with mine. Of course, Kate spilled most of the water on the way from the house to the garden.

Still, hopefully working in the garden together now will develop a love of planting in the future. I remember my parents making my brother and me work in the garden: planting seeds, watering, weeding, and picking vegetables. I didn't like it at the time because I didn't see the point, but now as an adult, I am glad they made me do those things because now I know how to grow my own food. That is a life skill that I want our children to have too.

Next week I plan to fertilize the seeds/bulbs and will take some pictures of the progress. Also, I will transplant the lettuce and onions from the starter pots that I planted last month. Below is a picture of the pitiful looking onions.

Kate threw a fit because she adamantly did NOT want her picture taken. We've already hit the teen years and she's only 2 1/2! So this is all I got, but notice the beautiful lettuce!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of March 27th

Sunday: Cheese Stuffed Shells with Chicken & Mushroom Sauce with Garden Salad

Monday: Big B Salad (The "Bs" stand for Bacon, Bleu cheese, Black Beans, Blackened chicken Breasts, and Buttermilk herb dressing) with Biscuits

Tuesday: Jambalaya with Smoked Sausage and Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday: Pinto Beans, Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic, and Cornbread

Thursday: Beef Fajitas with Flank Steak, Pico de Gallo, and Refried Beans

Friday: Pizza night!!

Saturday: Chili (with leftover pintos)

Finer Things Friday: Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One By One

It is so easy for me to compare myself to other people...usually other moms...and find myself inadequate. Everyone does it, I know, but for me, envy is a horrible problem that leads to self-pity. It's a thorn in my flesh and I'm praying about it a lot lately. My mom has always told me that when I'm down I should count my blessings and see all the good things God has given to me. Focusing on the blessings helps me to see how good I truly have it.

Here are some of this week's blessings:

(1) A few precious hours with family--Kate playing with Lacey, Ellie and Robbie and dragging poor Mema Jean around plus time with Gram-Gram and Papa.

(2) Cora trying her first foods--carrots and bananas--and loving them!

(3) A loving father and husband who finds opportunities to relieve me (i.e. taking Kate with him on his bike ride)

(4) Beautiful sunny weather to play outside, blow bubbles and kick the soccer ball

(5) Popcorn on the stove and watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Kate for the millionth time

(6) Reading books on the couch and smiling to myself as Kate "reads" along with me

(7) Finally setting up my new sewing machine (it's only been two months since I got it!)

(8) A full pantry and refrigerator

(9) Quiet time with the Lord as the girls nap

(10) Kate telling me she wants to take Cora with her to Mops's house (I love how much she loves her sister.)

(11) Cora scooting around and only 5 months old!

(12) Coming home after a night away and realizing how much I love my husband

We are blessed beyond words!! Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chicken & Pasta Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing

This is the pasta salad recipe that I mentioned earlier. If you like pasta salad, this recipe is delicious and super easy. Plus, I was able to make it with the ingredients I had on hand. So you can leave out the veggies you don't have and add whatever you do have. This recipe was adapted from The Big Book of Potluck cookbook by Maryana Vollstedt. Serves 6.


8 oz. (2 1/2 cups) rotini, cooked and drained (I used a whole 13.25 oz. box and it was perfect.)
1 tablespoon oil (I used EVOO)
3 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced green onions (I didn't have any so left this out.)
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley

In a large bowl, toss pasta with oil and cool slightly.

Add chicken, peppers, onions, celery, black olives and parsley.

Mix with enough dressing (recipe below) to coat.

Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours. The longer it sets the better it will taste.

Creamy Garlic Dressing


3/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup light sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until well combined.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup.

The recipe made a huge bowlful, but this is all that's left. Even Kate likes it! Enjoy!

Menu Plan for the Week of March 20th

One of our Christmas presents from Mom and Dad this past year was beef from a grass-fed cow. We split a whole 1,100 pound cow with them and my brother and his family, so we have beef for quite a while. I'm super excited!!

Here is my menu plan for the week:

Sunday: Shredded beef in the crockpot (from above-mentioned cow) for tacos with salsa and beans

Monday: Barbecue beef, baked four-cheese macaroni, and broccoli

Tuesday: Festive chicken, black bean, and tortilla casserole with salad

Wednesday: White beans and kale (from the garden)

Thursday: Paella with shrimp, Italian sausage, and chicken on saffron (yellow) rice

Friday: Pizza Night!!

Saturday: Leftovers

I also found a great new pasta salad recipe that I made for some friends who last a loved one and a dear friend of ours and will make some more this week for us. I will try to post the recipe on here later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Want To Want To...

Inspired by Amy, writer of The Finer Things in Life, I'm listing my own things "I want to want to" do: things that I probably should be doing but either can't because I've got two small, dependent children or won't because I'm just too tired. As you can tell from the above picture, I could definitely use a trip to a beauty salon or spa or just a shower and some sleep. Here they are:

I want to want to clean the filthy pigsty that is my house. There are cobwebs in the corners of the walls that I should knock down not only because they look horrible but also because they fill Kate with dread that a spider might be near. But I just despise cleaning house and dusting will probably not be a regular chore until Kate is old enough to do it for me.

I want to want to not want sweets ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I'm like a junkie with my cravings. But Daniel put his foot down and said no more! So, there are no sweets in this house right now except for some Kashi cookies (I might as well eat sawdust!) and yucky conversation heart candies that are Kate's potty treat. Lord, help me!

I want to want to exercise every day...or even every other day...or even one day a week, but honestly, I am exhausted and thoughts of movement and getting my heart rate up are enough exercise for me. Maybe when Cora is older.

I want to want to be able to encourage and inspire others, namely my children and husband, but most days I can't even persuade myself to do what needs to be done.

I want to want to read, write, and study like I did a few years ago when I was working on my doctorate, but my mind just doesn't work that way anymore. I tell Daniel I'm dumber now, but really I guess I'm just using my brain in different ways.

I want to want to take a nap right now while the girls are sleeping because I know as soon as one or both wake up, it's over and I'll regret that I didn't catch a few winks. But I lie on my couch and my mind races and I can't sleep. So I write.

I want to want to be and do A LOT of things--things I should do and be-- but right now either it just isn't that important or I just don't have the energy. But maybe in a few more months...or years. Right now what's important is loving on my babies and taking care of Daniel. Everything else will fall into place in its own time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of March 13th

This Thursday is St. Patrick's Day, and in keeping with my Irish heritage and the annual sale on corned beef, we will be eating some corned beef and cabbage this week. Here is my menu plan with some links to recipes I want to try out:

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Taco Salad (ground beef) with homemade refried beans (from last week's leftover pintos)

Tuesday: Chicken Caesar Salad with homemade buttermilk Caesar dressing and my quick rolls

Wednesday: Cuban black beans and Colcannon (yummy mashed potatoes with cabbage)

Thursday: Slow Cooker Corned Beef with potatoes, carrots, and cooked cabbage and some kind of "green" dessert

Friday: Pizza Night!!

Saturday: Reubens with leftover corned beef and sauerkraut

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Finer Things: Quiet Time for Mommy

I read A LOT of mommy blogs, and my favorite thing on Fridays is to read the "Finer Things Friday" posts where people write about something that happened during their week that was really special. It can be anything, even something as simple as a freshly-made bed or finding a new favorite recipe. For example, The Diaper Diaries, one of my new favorite mommy blogs, wrote this great post that inspired me to attempt to make "Finer Things Friday" a part of my weekly repertoire as a way to look back at my week and assess where we've been and where we're going.

Looking back over this week's events, I feel like life is returning to normalcy (or at least as normal as it can with a 2-year-old and 5-month-old). Cora is settling more into a routine at night, sleeping 6-9 hours at a time, which has certainly improved my own nighttime rest, and most days takes three decent naps. As long as she is well-rested and has a full belly, Cora is the happiest child, cooing and smiling. But when she is tired or hungry, watch out! Her cries sound like she's being violently attacked, which is embarrassing when you are at the grocery store or doctor's office, and everyone is staring at you like you must be pinching her. (By the way, both events occurred this week.) I don't think a day has gone by since she was born that one of those terror-inducing screams hasn't escaped her little lungs.

With Kate we are constantly struggling to rein in her strong will and independent spirit without stifling her. Some days I feel like I am spanking or sending her to her room all day long. Still, when she isn't being stubborn and bossy, she is a fun, happy kid who loves reading, learning new things, and doing everything HERSELF. On Wednesday while Cora napped, Kate and I went outside to fly her Buzz Lightyear kite. Well, that was a fiasco! She wanted to fly it by herself and ended up getting 3 feet of string wrapped around her legs and feet and consequently throwing a temper tantrum because of her frustration at not being able to do what she so desperately wanted to do.

Despite the craziness of my life right now, I am blessed because at this very moment I am sitting in the peace and quiet of my house doing exactly what I love most: writing. And the best part is that both of my girls are sleeping at the same time! And that is definitely a "finer thing" in my book!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of March 6

I love Sundays for many reasons--worshipping God, spending time with my family, and planning our week. So, I was excited when I opened the Kroger ad and saw split breast chicken on sale for $0.99/lb. I stocked up and spent these evening while Daniel and Kate went to church (Cora HAD to go to bed) roasting and shredding chicken. I also made chicken salad for lunches for the week. I use the Sonoma Chicken Salad recipe in the Whole Foods cookbook my wonderful sister-in-law gave me. It is THE best recipe for chicken salad I have ever had. Yum!

So, here is our menu plan for the week:

Sunday: Today Daniel made us sour cream pancakes and sausage on the griddle for breakfast and for lunch buffalo chicken paninis. Yes, we like chicken.

Monday: Chicken enchiladas with black beans and pico de gallo

Tuesday: Fish and chips, coleslaw, and hushpuppies

Wednesday: Pintos and buttermilk cornbread

Thursday: Spaghetti with ground turkey, steamed broccoli, and garlic bread

Friday: Pizza Night!! (I discovered Philadelphia Cream Cheese's cooking cream with Italian herbs and garlic, which is DELICIOUS mixed with pizza sauce.)

Saturday: Leftovers

French toast (freezer)
Cereal and fruit
Oatmeal and fruit
Eggs, toast, and jam

Chicken salad sandwiches
Soup and grilled cheese
Black bean nachos

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Unfading Beauty

When I first found out I was having a girl, my immediate response was joy. I know girls. I am one, right? It shouldn't be too hard to raise a little girl. But as I look at the females on T.V., the movies, and even around me, fear creeps in. And one of my biggest fears is that my daughters will question their beauty, that they will compare themselves to Hollywood standards of beauty and find that they come up short. In short, that they will think they are ugly.

Growing up I never felt beautiful. I still don't, even though Daniel constantly tells me how good looking I am. And while I don't remember comparing myself with Hollywood stars when I was in grade school, I did wish I looked more like some of the popular girls in my classes. I would gladly have traded my red hair and freckles, buck teeth and baby fat for blonde hair, straight teeth and a tan, thin body. To look like everyone else. That is the goal when you are young and faced with pressure to fit in.

So when I came across this scripture recently, my heart smiled:

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Here Peter is instructing women to develop their inner beauty rather than worrying about their external appearance. Far more important in winning over others is having an inner spirit of Godliness.

More than anything I want the beauty God values, to have "a gentle and quiet spirit" that never fades, that will only deepen as I age and the wrinkles and crow's feet appear. And I want my daughters to value and have this beauty, that they can cling to it during the tumultuous middle and high school years when their physical beauty is called into question.

Raising girls is more of a challenge than I had initially expected because it means coming to terms with myself and my own insecurities. I know God gives us our children for a reason, and He blessed me with two girls to help me grow and develop in areas where I personally struggle. I think that is why He gave me two girls and not two boys or one of each. How is God using your children to grow you?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sowing Seeds: Getting the Garden Started

The weather has been incredible here lately. Sunny, warm, breezy: the perfect weather for being outdoors and the ideal climate for planting lettuce and onion seeds. I picked up some seeds, starter cups, and a bag of potting soil a few weeks ago, so while Cora napped this afternoon, I hightailed it outside and planted ten cups of onions (on the right). Last Saturday I planted ten cups of lettuce (on the left), and already there are some little sprouts in the cups.

While I was outside, I noticed that my apple mint is trying to make a comeback. Mom was right; you can't kill that stuff! I dug up the plant and separated the dead from the roots with green leaves on them, which I replanted. I also sowed some lettuce seeds in the pot.

Hopefully, in a few weeks, we'll have some lettuce and onion sprouts to transplant to the garden. I guess we need to get the garden ready. So excited about homegrown veggies and even more pumped about warmer weather...