Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Relish the Charms of the Present

Say what? It's September already? Holy heck, that happened fast! There are approximately 10,463 thoughts, ideas, insights, lessons learned, etc. that I could share with you from my summer, BUT that would be boring, even if I thought they were all life changers (and they're not). Instead I leave you with just one sweet picture that kind of sums up how I feel as I bid the summer of 2012 adieu.

 I found this awesome photo on this blog: Lay Baby Lay

Doesn't that just say it all?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Necklace Rack

Do you have this problem?

Me too! (Obviously). I didn't have a good way of organizing my necklaces so this is what they looked like, a big old mess! I was starting to get a little frustrated with the whole things so I decided it was time to come up with better system.

So this is what I did. I bought a blank canvas, painted it (excuse the quality of the artwork, I'm not exactly an artist!), screwed hooks into the wood at the top, added a ribbon to hang it with and Voila, a necklace rack. :)

I had a blast painting the canvas (Cameron helped me out, she painted a butterfly next to me while I worked on my beautiful ;) flower montage). Plus it was really easy screwing in the hooks. So there you go, a simple, easy and fun way to get a little more organized.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Popsicle Stick Puzzles

Cameron has gotten a few cards lately that she absolutely loves. How could you not...they're "Mouse" her favorite thing in the whole world! I really didn't want to throw them away so I had the idea of making puzzles out of them. (Ok, so I actually got the idea from Pinterest, but still.) Here's how I did it. 

These are the things you'll need:

Greeting card
Large popsicle sticks
Masking tape
Exacto knife
Spray glue 

Cut the front side of your card off. Line up popsicle sticks to the width of the card. I used a straight edge to make sure the popsicle sticks were lined up evenly.  

Place strips of masking tape along the popsicle sticks to hold them in place.  

Flip the card over and go crazy with the spray glue.

Press the card onto the popsicle sticks immediately to ensure a secure bond.

Let dry according to the glue bottle instructions. My glue said to let sit for 1 hour.

 Flip card and sticks over, remove masking tape and use the exacto knife to separate the sticks. 

 Then you're done.

Wrap a rubber band around the sticks and you have a small little puzzle to go. Great for entertaining kiddos on airplanes, at restaurants, etc.

Friday, March 2, 2012

An In-The-Moment Mom

This was the cover of this month's Parents magazine...

And you know what caught my attention? The headline "Be an in-the-moment mom". To be honest I haven't even read the article yet, but just the concept really got me thinking. An in-the-moment mom. That is what I so desperately want to be, but what I so epically fail at every single day. I so badly want to cherish every moment I have with my girls. Really focus on them. Interact with them. Laugh with them. Appreciate them for who they are at that exact moment. Because tomorrow they will be one day older, one day wiser, one day closer to being all grown up.

But then life gets in the way. I get sucked into cleaning up the house, working on the computer, making my grocery list...all things that are important, but not nearly important as the little girls who are by my side begging for my attention. The worst part of it is I find myself getting mad. Mad at them for constantly interrupting my train of thought, mad at life for giving me a never ending list of things to do, mad that money doesn't grow on trees so I could hire people to do all the "stuff" and I could spend my time at the park, playing boo, etc. Unfortunately that's not the way it works.

I remember reading the results of a survey that asked a whole bunch of grandmas what they would have done differently if they could do it all over again. Almost every single one of them said they would spend more focused time with their kids. A messy kitchen, dirty laundry, a dinner of mac and cheese from the box, those are all things that are forgotten over the years. What remains are the memories. The moments.

So I'm challenging myself. Challenging you. Let's be in-the-moment moms. Let's let things go, redirect our focus, put the unimportant things aside and make our kids a priority. When my girls are grown I want to look back and say, "Boy that was fun, we raised some really great kids" not, "Boy, was my life neat and tighty all those years".

Are you with me?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Frozen Cookie Dough Balls

Everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe, BUT I swear this one is the best! They're Mrs. Bowden's Chocolate Chip Cookies and they are mmmm mmmm good. Mrs. Bowden was my 6th grade English teacher and she would use cookies to bribe us in class, and it worked! When we graduated from high school she invited us all back for a party, a small reunion of sorts. She baked us cookies, showed us pictures of ourselves as awkward little 6th graders and sent us home with the recipe to make the cookies ourselves. Ever since then this had been my go to cookie recipe. 

Mrs. Bowden's Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 - 1 cup oatmeal
1 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugars, shortening and vanilla. Add eggs and blend. In a separate bowl combine salt, baking soda, flour and oatmeal. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 - 11 minutes.

So this is my system when I make cookies lately.

1) Gather the ingredients.
2) Mix up the stuff according to the recipe.
3) Make the dough balls, BUT instead of cooking them all, I prep one cookie sheet for the oven and the other for the freezer.  

4) While the cookies are baking, I put the rest of the dough balls in the freezer so they can harden.

5) When the cookies are done baking I put them on a rack to cool, then I put the dough balls in a zip block bag and return them to the freezer...and of course I sit down and eat a cookie (or two or three)!

I love this system because 1) I don't chow down on an entire batch of cookies in a day and a half, 2) I have cookie dough all ready to go, so if I want to cook up just a few cookies it's super easy and 3) cookie dough is mighty good to snack on (although you probably shouldn't do that because there are raw eggs...but still).   

The other idea I just got from Pinterest: package the dough balls up nice and pretty and give them as a gift. Genius!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Giving Away Blessing Bags

Found this photo on this website.
I did it! I gave away some of my blessing bags this week... and it was really awesome!

The first opportunity came last Thursday, which was an extremely cold, windy day. We were driving to meet my mom for lunch and I saw the guy sitting on the corner. He was hunched over, clutching a sign, and obviously freezing. My heart jumped when I saw him, this was it. I was a little nervous, but I pulled the car over, jumped out, handed a blessing bag to the guy and ran back to the car. As I drove away I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him digging through the bag, then I turned and he was gone... and I cried. I have no idea why I cried. For all I know he could have looked in the bag and threw it away. But for some reason, watching him look in the bag made my heart hurt. I have no idea what happened that lead him to the corner that day, but he had hit rock bottom and that made me sad.

But that's not where the story ends. I met my mom in the parking lot and we went into the restaurant, ordered food and sat down to eat. About halfway through our meal, as I was explaining to Cameron why we don't eat macaroni and cheese off the floor (awesome!), a man walked in and sat at a corner table. He looked pretty rough, freezing and probably homeless, but I couldn't tell for sure so I watched him for a couple minutes. When no one else came to join him and I saw him blowing into his scarf to try and warm up I decided that my gut was probably right, he was homeless. At that point I wasn't thinking about the fact that it was probably the same man from the corner, but in retrospect it probably was.

After a few minutes of debating what to do, I made up my mind. I went up and asked him if it would be ok if I bought him a sandwich. At first he was a little hesitant. I think he was worried I was going to try and get him thrown out of the restaurant. But when he realized I was trying to help, he took me up on my offer. He said a sandwich would be nice and maybe something warm. I ordered him a sandwich and a hot chocolate. Then Cameron and I went over to deliver the food to his table. He seemed very thankful. I introduced myself and shook his hand (which was FREEZING) and asked for his name...it was Mark.

I have no idea if we made an impact on Mark or not. But I hope we did. I pray he saw Jesus in us and I pray that we gave him a little sense of hope. Most likely I won't be making a habit of buying homeless people meals, I think this was just a way for God to catch my attention that day. But you never know...

Saturday I had another opportunity to give away another bag. It wasn't as much of an ordeal, I barely had time to get the bag out the window of the car before I had to turn, let alone ask the man his name. But I was thankful that I had something to give him.

So long story longer :) the blessing bags were awesome! The money I spent was definitely worth it and I plan to continue to keep my car stocked so I can be prepared when I run into homeless people in the future.

Go make some bags. I promise it will be worth it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

4 Meals to Take to Friends

When my girls were born a bunch of friends and family brought us meals...and it was awesome! Not only was it fun trying other people's recipes, but it was such a relief not to have to plan meals and go grocery shopping. Now whenever friends have babies I like to make it a point to take them a meal, because I know how much I appreciated it when they did if for me.

Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, making meals for friends can get a little overwhelming. I know, I've been there. Life is pretty crazy and getting meals on the table for my own family can be a challenge some days, let alone getting food prepped and ready for a friend. But through trial and error I've learned it doesn't have to be like that.

Here are a few tips that can help simplify the process of taking meals to friends.
  • If you've offered to coordinate meals for a friend, make it easy on yourself. Use a website like TakeThemAMeal.com to setup the schedule. Create a page and send out the link, then you're done.  
  • Plan what you're going to make ahead of time and do your shopping before the day of. That way you're not trying to fit too much into one day. 
  • Pick a dish that's easy to make, easy to transport and easy to reheat (check out some of the meals below). 
  • Make double so that there is enough to feed your family for dinner too.  
  • Drop your food off earlier in the afternoon so you're not interfering with dinner time (yours or theirs).
  • If you want to visit when you drop the food off, leave your kids at home. You don't want to cause any additional stress for a friend who is adjusting to life with a new baby.

Here are a few meal ideas. These recipes have gone over pretty well when I've taken them to friends.

A Mexican Style Feast... 
Mexican Lasagna
Cilantro-Lime Rice
Black Bean and Corn Salad

Mexican Lasagna
(courtesy of my mom-in-law)

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 package of flour tortillas, cut into strips
1 can ranch style beans
1 can of chilies and tomatoes (Rotel)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Fry ground beef, onion and chili powder. Drain if necessary and set aside. Mix chilies and tomatoes and cream of chicken soup and set aside. Spray a 9x13 pan and layer 1/2 the tortillas, 1/2 the meat, ranch style beans, cheddar cheese, 1/2 the tortillas, 1/2 the meat, chilies, tomatoes and cream of chicken soup mixture, and finally top with monterey jack cheese. Bake 45 - 60 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

Cilantro Lime Rice
(Courtesy of our friend Kaye)

1 cup dry white rice
1 onion, finely chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper

Cook rice according to the instructions and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in the olive oil until the vegetables have softened. Add rice and heat thoroughly. Shortly before serving, add the cilantro and lime juice. Stir thoroughly and add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
(Courtesy of Rachael Ray)

1 can (14 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot sauce (Tabasco)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand at least 15 minutes for corn to fully defrost and flavors to combine, then toss and serve. Makes 4 servings.

For the Italian lover...  
Baked Ziti
Garlic Bread
Green Beans

Baked Ziti
(Courtesy AllRecipes.com)

1 lb dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted. Makes 10 servings.

I don't really have a specific recipe for the Garlic Bread or Green Beans. I cook them a little different every time I prep them.

For the vegetarian...
Tomato-Basil Soup w/ Ricotta Dumplings
Beer Bread
Spinach Salad

Tomato-Basil Soup w/ Ricotta Dumplings
(Courtesy of my little sis)

Soup Ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil

Dumpling Ingredients
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/3 cup all purpose flour

For soup, combine oil and garlic in a saucepan, cook and stir over medium heat 1-2 minutes, or until garlic begins to turn light golden brown. Immediately add tomatoes, chicken broth and basil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, for dumplings, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg white, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well. Add flour, stir until just combined. Roll ricotta mixture into small balls and add directly into simmering soup. Cook until dumplings float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Makes 2 servings.

Beer Bread
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

3 cups self-rising flour*
3 tablespoons sugar
1 can (12 oz) beer
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375. Spray or butter a loaf pan and set aside. Combine flour, sugar and beer and mix well. The mixture will be sticky. Pour mixture into loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes. At the last 3 minutes of baking, remove the bread from the oven, brush the top with butter and return to oven.

*To make your own self-rising flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt for ever cup of all-purpose flour used.

Spinach Salad

1 lb spinach, rinsed and torn into pieces
1 green apple, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
Shredded Parmesan

Combine spinach with apple, walnuts, cranberries and Parmesan. Toss with dressing before serving. Makes 8 servings.

A little home cookin' goodness...
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Veggie of Choice

(Courtesy of my momma)

2 lbs ground turkey or beef (or a combination of both)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup oatmeal
2 carrots, shredded
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, bread crumbs, oatmeal, carrots, onion and ketchup. Add meat and and mix thoroughly. Add pepper to taste. Spray a 9x13 pan and form meat into a loaf shape in the middle of the pan. Cook for 45 - 60 minutes. Makes 6-8 servings.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water for approximately 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Drain. Add butter to warm potatoes. Warm milk in the microwave for 30 seconds and add to the pot of potatoes. Mix thoroughly. You can add more butter and milk/cream if necessary to get the potatoes to the consistency that you like. Add grated Parmesan, and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Veggie of Choice
Cook up a veggie (zucchini, squash, beans, broccoli.etc), and you've covered all the important food groups.


Add a dessert (cookies, brownies, dirt cake)  to any of these meals and you're all set... yummy!