Thursday, December 23, 2010

We wish you a merry Christmas....

Can you believe Christmas is only days away?  It's hard for me to realize that sometimes.  My sister mocks me because I usually have most of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving... not this year.  This year I STILL have one more thing to get.  In my defense it's actually a gift I'm picking up for my mom, not something I'm buying, but still.  I feel like I'm not finished.

We've had fun enjoying Christmas parties for work and with our small group.  I've baked and baked until my oven told me to back off for awhile.  Spencer and I have exchanged gifts and we had an early Christmas dinner last night.

We've looked at Christmas lights a few different times, watched two Christmas programs, seen every Christmas DVD we own, and set up the trees, lights, and decor around the house.  It looks and feels like Christmas.

In the midst of all of these wonderful things though, I can't help to imagine what it would've been like as a teenager, pregnant and unmarried, riding for months on a donkey to a city you've likely never been to.  Arriving only to discover every single hotel is full.  To add to your already tricky predicament you're ready to give birth and there is no place to stay. 

New parents are used to a slew of people coming in to see their new baby, but angels?  Shepherds?  Kings?  I can't imagine what that would be like.  God's plan truly was one of a kind.  I'm so grateful for his gift to us.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tis the Season

Tis the Season to bake cookies fa la la la la, la la la la la.  So I've been making cookies and I decided to try a new kind of cookies (I tend to default to chocolate chip).  I found a recipe on P-Dubs website that she linked from another website: two peas and their pod.

They sounded irresistible so I figured I'd give them a try.  I am SO glad that I did.  These cookies are one of the best things I've ever had...ever.  They are the kind of cookie you would take with you if you had to pick just one to eat on a deserted island for the rest of your life.  This is the cookie that you want to eat alone so no one can watch you lick every ounce of caramel off of your fingers.  This is the "why are you talking to me while I'm eating my cookie" cookie.

Are you ready for this one?  Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt.  Oh my goodness!

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
5 T butter
7 T unsweetened cocoa
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. plain yogurt (I didn't have any so I used low fat sour cream)
1 t. vanilla
Soft caramel rolled into little balls (I heated mine up in the microwave to make it more pliable)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat cookie sheets with non-stick spray.  Mix flour, soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Melt butter and combine with cocoa powder and sugars.  Mixture will resemble coarse sand.  Add yogurt (or sour cream) and vanilla, stirring to combine.  Add flour mixture, stirring until moist.  Wrap the chocolate dough around the caramel balls.  Place balls on cookie sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until almost set.  Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm.  Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

I had to experiment with how to cover the caramel.  I found the best method was to flatten a ball of dough.  Put the caramel in the middle and then cover with another flattened ball of dough, pinching the sides closed.

These are.... oh so good!  Give them a try!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shutterfly... free cards!

Before I do a post about the 30 day giving challenge, I want to post quickly about Shutterfly.  Several of you already use Shutterfly.  I saw on the MoneySavingMom.com blog an offer for 50 FREE Shutterfly cards (which I would LOVE to use for Christmas).  I get these cards just for posting about Shutterfly.

I've used Shutterfly a few different times and love it!  The calendar that I've got hanging in our kitchen shows pictures from the past year for each month.  It serves as an awesome reminder of the things that were happening last year during the exact same time.  I've also received a Shutterfly calendar from my youngest sister before.  She made all the dogs in our family pose for each month.  It was hilarious!

When Spencer and I were dating I made a Shutterfly book of our first year together.  It told our story and showed pictures of all of the things we've done together.  I'd like to do another one that has our wedding, one of our first year of marriage, and another of our trip to the UK together.

To see the link for the calendar click here: http://www.shutterfly.com/calendars
For the Christmas cards click here: http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/holiday-cards
And to see other photo cards click here:  http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery

 If you want FREE cards too follow this -> Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly, follow the arrow à  http://bit.ly/sfly2010 

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Day Giving challenge

I wanted to add this button to my blog but I'm too technically challenged for that.  So click here: 30 Day Giving Challenge

Moneysavingmom.com is a part of this 30 Day Giving Challenge which challenges anyone who wants to participate to give to anyone and everyone each day of November.  The challenge is to find different ways to give each day.  It may be to a total stranger and it may be to someone you know.  You can give to a mission or organization and you can also give to a neighbor.  I LOVE service projects and serving others.  After all gifts is one of my love languages so naturally I love doing it.  So starting today and every day of November, I'm accepting this challenge.

I'm excited to see how God uses me through the month of November.

Wanna join?  I'd love to know how you're going to give to others each day this month!

Stay tuned to see what today's BIG GIVE is!

Monday, October 25, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things... vacations!

Every other month or so it seems that I catch the "travel bug".  I suppose this is better than catching the flu bug but it's also more expensive.  I've never been the kind of person who thinks "home" is the best place to be.  I've loved traveling for as long as I can remember (my parents have distant memories of me screaming in the car seat for hours).  Since my dad is an immigrant my parents never felt bound to keep us home either.  Praise the Lord.  I traveled without my parents to 3 different mission trips (2 in Mexico and 1 in Romania) all before I turned 19.  My parents were wonderful to let me go so far away.

I've had the privilege of visiting a few different countries and several states as well.  So my "favorite things" list of places I've been so far from best to good are:

1.  Trinidad and Tobago- I have NEVER been to a more beautiful tropical place than T&T.  Think white sand beaches, palm, mango and banana trees everywhere and shark sandwiches right on the beach.  The weather is beautiful and water is turquoise!  If I were "getting away" for a relaxing vacation the first place I would stop is T&T.

2.  Scotland/England- this is definitely my favorite "tourist" vacation.  You can do anything you could think of in London from shopping, to museums, to the arts.  There are many sporting events and castles and natural landscapes to see through the UK.  The food is delish and the views are stunning.

3.  San Diego- I figured I had better choose at least a few stateside options.  I got to go to San Diego in high school and loved it.  The city is beautiful.  Coronado Island is straight out of a movie.  I loved everything about it from the people, to the shopping, to the accessibility to great shops and restaurants.  I think this is a great place to go.

4.  Chicago- Chicago is my favorite US city to date.  I know people who hate it.  I think they're silly (unless of course you hate it- you're not silly, you just haven't seen the light yet).  Chicago is bustling (which I love)!  The view at night is incredible and there are SO many museums to visit.  A great weekend getaway= Chicago.

5.  Colorado- nothing says RELAX like my great home state.  I'm partial to the Cuchara Valley area as that's where my aunt and uncle live and where my family has vacationed in cabins for years and years.  It is quiet, undisturbed, and simply serene. 

What are your faves?

Monday, October 18, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things... at Christmas

I know, it's only fall and I have definitely and will continue to revel in that.  It's beautiful, but today's post is about my favorite things at Christmas.  I'm trying to narrow it down to 5 but seriously how is that possible with Christmas?

So, I'm going to be generic.

1.  Christmas music:  I like almost all shapes and forms of Christmas music.  I like the old Perry Como classics as well as that insanely powerful vocals of Mariah Carey's Christmas album and acoustic sets such as Chris Rice's Christmas Living Room Sessions.  The truth is, at Christmas time I pretty much listen to it all day every day.  And "at Christmas time" starts whenever I decide.  Sometimes it's in October, or November, or maybe even September.

2.  Christmas gifts/shopping:  We did the 5 Love Languages study in small group last year (loved that) and it turns out that I had a two way tie.  One of my top two was gifts so naturally I love shopping for people at Christmas.  I will spend more than I budgeted and buy anything I see that someone might like.  It doesn't stop there though, I love wrapping them and insist that the only wrapping paper I buy matches the colors or theme of my trees.  Lame?  Maybe.

3.  Christmas cookies: of all colors, shapes, and sizes.  I LOVE sugar cookie cut-outs, gingerbread men, anything really.  I'm like an old woman because I really do love cookie exchanges.  I love getting Christmas goodies and I love giving them too.  Yum!

4.  Christmas trees:  I have two but really want one of those tall, skinny, forest-y looking trees for the dining room this year.  I keep checking craigslist and clearance but haven't found one yet.  I like each tree to have matching theme/color ornaments.  I love going to Christmas home shows and seeing how people with lots of money decorate their trees.

5.  Christmas decor:  My favorite things come from craft shows... another attribute of old women, I know  but I can't help it.  I really love them.  My friend Brianna's mom makes stuff for craft shows and I've gotten a few (very few) things from her and love that stuff.

So there you have it.  Even though it's only October, here are my favorite Christmas things.

Side note: I got to baptize one of our church girls yesterday morning.  So awesome!  She is such an awesome girl.  I've enjoyed getting to know her so much and have loved watching her family come to know the Lord in the last year.  Congrats Mandy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things... blogs and websites

I'm an internet junkie.  It's true.  I spend my lunch break (like right now) reading blogs and interesting websites and such getting motivated to try new things etc.

So today my list is of some favorite blogs and websites.  You all probably know and use some of them yourselves.  But maybe you'll find some new hidden gem of a website that you never knew about.

1.  pioneerwoman.com- Secretly I wish I was this woman.  Living on a ranch, making homemade deliciousness everyday, traveling all over the US on book tours and BlogHer events; does that not sound fantastic?  I love her sarcasm, genuine nature, and most of all her recipes.  She has a great technique of using pictures to explain a recipe.  Each step is documented in photos which makes it easier to tell if what you're doing is turning out right.  Some of my favorite PW recipes include: Chicken Parmigiana, Enchiladas, Cinnamon Rolls, and Fried Chicken.

2.  thriftydecorchick.blogspot.com- This lady is so up my alley.  She buys things at Goodwill, garage sales, and Hobby Lobby clearance and makes things that look "Pottery Barn" worthy.  She has all sorts of tips and tricks up her sleeve.  I've started using some of them and can't wait to try more.

3.  ana-white.com- This lady gives "homemaker" a whole new definition.  Not only is she super mom, she also makes most of the furniture in her house.  Her website offers plans and prices for every piece of furniture she shows.

4.  heavenlyhomemakers.com- This is another fun one.  This gal actually lives in York, NE with her 4 boys and husband.  She homeschools, is super active in her church, is hostess with the mostest, AND cooks only organic, whole foods.  She shares recipes, menu plans, homeschool advice (which of course doesn't apply to me), and gives away lots of freebies.  Oh did I mention she also wrote her own preschool curriculum that our church bought and uses?

5. moneysavingmom.com- Again, I'm not a mom but this lady knows how to bargain shop.  They purchased their home WITH CASH, are devout followers of the Dave Ramsey way, they are minimalists in both wardrobe and lifestyle, AND she puts together all the store+coupon deals each week so I don't have to.

There you have it, my top faves.  What are yours?  I do LOVE a good blog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things.... in my kitchen

I think we all have favorite things in the kitchen.  Some people LOVE their appliances.  Some people LOVE their cabinets, or flooring, or dishwasher or, I don't know but they love their kitchen.  Well my kitchen is the size of a walk-in-closet.  I mean that.  It is! So the things I love in my kitchen are not big things. 

1.  Kitchen-aid Stand Mixer- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  Spencer bought this for me the first Christmas we were married.  We went out to look at Christmas lights and came home and it was just inside our apartment door.  Thanks Brett and Nicole for hiding it from me!

2.  Huge wooden spoons- I'm not talking about those $1 off-brand wooden spoons that can only be used to stir but not to sample because they are too shallow.  I got the most fantastic Paula Deen wooden spoons.  The "spoon" part of them is huge!  I got a long one (for big pots of sauce and soups) and a short one for smaller amounts of sauces and hamburger etc.  I don't even know what I'd do without those things.

3.  The "Stuffing Bowl"- When my Grandma died almost 3 years ago we all got to choose something of hers to keep.  I had requested the stuffing bowl from her long before she even got sick.  The stuffing bowl doesn't look like anything special.  It's a huge ceramic antique bowl.  It's the stuffing bowl because each Thanksgiving Grandma would make homemade stuffing (which I don't even like) in this massive bowl.  I think I love it for the memories most.

4.  My Dishes- I know that seems lame.  But I have a set of the most fantastic hand-painted dishes (dinner plates, salad plates, cereal bowls, and mugs) that I got from this little boutique shop at home.  They were all wedding gifts.  I can't get enough of them.  They have the most fantastic Tuscan colors and just make me feel warm and fuzzy.  Did I just say that about my dishes?  Yes, yes I did.

5. Glass Pitchers- I don't know what it is about glass pitchers that I love, but I do love them.  I've got 4 glass/ceramic pitchers.  One holds all my big utensils, one is decorative, and the other two are used for festive drinks like lemonade and punch.  I never would've bought them myself but am so glad to have them now.

What are you favorite "kitchen" things?

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

So... this is a SERIES!  of my favorite things.  For a little while anyway I plan to blog about a different set of "faves".

Today's topic: a few of my favorite deserts!

Zucchini cupcakes with caramel frosting- I found these on a website and had just purchased a fresh zucchini at the Farmer's Market.  I made these insanely good, bakery-worthy, cupcakes.  They were so fantastic that I made them again the next week.  The caramel frosting is enough to make me never want to eat frosting in a can again.  I make a little extra so I can clean out the bowl with a spoon.  I'm telling you... it'll change your life.

Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting- I love these!  I don't know what is so wonderful about pumpkin bars but they are fantastic.  And cream cheese frosting?  Hold me back!

Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies- When it's cold, when it's hot, when I'm traveling, or when I'm staying home, nothing will beat warm chocolate chip cookies.  My mom's are better than yours.  Really they are.  And you can't write down her recipe because it changes every time.  There are some basic components but the flour is all about how the dough tastes and feels.  When its right, you just know it.

Cheesecake- I certainly have some favorites.  Homemade lemon is killer.  Although I love coffee cheesecake with a chocolate crust.  Spencer's favorite my fake Oreo cheesecake.  You don't even bake it.  It's easy as pie... well cheesecake... you get the point.

Fudge- Obsessed.  I'm obsessed with fudge.  I love all different kinds of fudge.  I can't go to those cutesy little towns with their precious little fudge shops without stopping by for a little sample... or a big sample if it turns out that I LOVE that flavor.  Fudge, plain and simple.  Love it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pumpkin update and Small Blessings

Ok pumpkin is back!  Evidently many pumpkin fields flooded this year causing a smaller harvest.  But Walmart and HyVee have pumpkins and pumpkin puree in stock again and hopefully will throughout the season.  Just in case they run out, I stocked up!

Also I thought I should note that I've had a CRAZY week.  On top of having a ridiculous amount of work to do this week (I worked some on both of my days off) I had some sort of short-lived stomach flu Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.  I'm a children's pastor.  We have Wednesday evening program.  That was the first thing I said to Spencer after getting sick the first time.  So as I said my week was... crummy in part.

Then I got two phone calls that really turned my week around.  One was just a phone message from a former professor and beloved friend.  He just asked me to call him back sometime and let me know he'd been thinking of me and praying for me.  I don't know why that made such a difference, but it really did.

Then the same day a gal from another church in town phoned to let me know that her pastor had attended our Trunk-or-Treat event last year and had loved it.  The pastor had asked her to phone and find out how they could serve US during the event this year!  I couldn't believe it.  They offered money, volunteers, food, whatever we needed.

It just reminded me how simply things like a phone call to let me know I was being prayed for and a phone call from a church willing to serve made all the difference in my week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pumpkin Problems!

The day was Thursday, last week.  The time was after work.  The mission: grocery shopping.

I'm a planner.  I plan menus.  I make lists.  I "research" where to get the best coupon+store sales= deals.  On the menu for this last week was pumpkin apple muffins for breakfast.  Now I have had some trouble finding pumpkin at Walmart and Target in the past month or so but I figured that since it was fall (well pretty much) stores would have it in stock.

I did my grocery shopping at Target this time and... no pumpkin.  So I ran to Walmart (it's right across the street and I had to grab ground turkey anyway).  No pumpkin.  I went to HyVee to get Honeycrisp apples (because I love them so much and have to have them as soon as they are in season).  No pumpkin.  I even went to the "health market" side.

I grabbed my apples and went to check out.  The check out woman asked if I found everything ok and I told her about the elusive pumpkin.  She asked her manager and it turns out (attention please) THERE IS A NATIONAL PUMPKIN SHORTAGE!!!  I'm not even kidding.  He said they won't have it til mid-October.  MID-OCTOBER!!  I can't wait that long to eat pumpkin-y things.  No I can't.  What about pumpkin bars and pumpkin apple muffins and other delicious pumpkin things?

My friend Hannah bought a pumpkin and is going to make her own pumpkin puree Pioneer Woman Style but I can't even find pumpkins... this is the worst!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Hannah requested this... Here it is.  Please note that I intentionally did not tell you how many calories are in each slice.  I do know the answer.  It's just not pretty.  Eat the pie and thank me later ok?

Caramel Apple Pie
  • 2-1/2 cups shredded peeled baking apples (I use Granny Smith)
  • 35 caramels (or one pkg of caramel balls already unwrapped and ready for melting.  Find them by the chocolate chips in the grocery store.  Your fingers will thank me later.)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (9 inches)
  • Place apples in a strainer to drain. Place caramels and water in a double boiler or metal bowl over simmering water; heat for 10 minutes or until caramels are partially melted. Cover and set aside, keeping caramels in pan over heated water.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, flour and eggs. Squeeze excess moisture from apples and stir into egg mixture. Add peanuts. Add melted caramels and stir to mix. Pour into pie shell.
  • Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until set. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The two of you that read this know that fall is absolutely, most positively, my most favorite time of the year.  One by one the leaves on the trees start donning fabulous colors, the mornings are cool and crisp, and the evenings are a mirror image of those.

Fall just makes me want to wake up and make a nice hot, nutty, brown-sugared breakfast.  It makes me want to exercise more.  It makes me want to eat heaping bowls full of chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes or homemade pot pies.

I love love love watching football with my VERY enthusiastic hubby, having friends over for gamedays and bragging about the Husker wins!

I love the prospect of the holidays and knowing that family time is just THAT much closer.  I love long sleeved t-shirts, sweatshirts, and having to pile extra blankets on the bed at night.

But one of the things I love the most of all are caramel apples.  Don't know why.  Not good for me or my teeth but every year I HAVE to make them... or I'll die... I will.

Tonight there was no time for that.  So in loving memory of the caramel apples yet to come I cam home and made homemade caramel apple spice cider.  Delish!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So close I can taste it!

Life... is tumultuous as times.  There have been, and continue to be all sorts of changes the last few weeks.  Some good, some just ok.  But, it's been fun.


Our Back to School BBQ at church was a hit!
     I was glad to get home for a chance to just sit.
    
I went to the dentist... first time in 2 years
      I get to go back (cavities) here's hoping to no tears!

First Husker game is in exactly  9 days
     Can't wait to see Cody Green and his great plays!


Tuesday we had our sump pump put in
      Now my house needs cleaned... I don't know where to begin.

Best part of all? Fall is in the air
     It's the best season of the year... nothing can compare!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cooking

So this past week I've been on a cooking kick.  I LOVE to cook.  Sometimes I take the time to actually try new things or to do things the right way... from scratch.  This last week was one of those weeks.

I bought some beautiful blueberries and decided I'd make homemade muffins.  I found a generic muffin recipe and added a few things that sounded good to me.  Then I threw in the suggested amount of fruit.  I folded in those berries and it just didn't look like much.  So I doubled it.  The result? Blueberry explosion muffins!  It's like pie in a muffin.  They turned out to be Spencer's new favorite breakfast food.  I'll be making them again!

Monday I made thepioneerwoman's chicken parmigiana.  Oh-my-goodness!  To DIE for.  The sauce had to reduce for like 30 minutes.  I had to keep "sampling" it just to make sure it still tasted as good as it did the first time I tasted it.  Spencer ate all of his and what was left of mine.  This was insane.  I WILL be making it again.

Tuesday night I made red wine braised lamb medallions.  I made this one up all on my own and it was .... so good.  I LOVE lamb.  Must be my Brittish heritage but really it is so good.

Friday I got to make dinner for one of the preschool teachers who just had the most adorable tiny baby, Molly.  I made easy, classic things: Spaghetti pie and Texas Sheet Cake and HOMEMADE breadsticks! I forgot how incredible the simple things taste sometimes.  I love that cake.  Then we got to have a "dinner party" with some new friends from church.

That's the thing about food, it is incredible how versatile it is.  You can make crazy good muffins, complex chicken, figure out your own way to do lamb, welcome a baby, and make new friends, all around the dinner table.

Perfect life? The one where I make meals from scratch all day long, my dishes do themselves, and there is an abundance of chocolate cake!

Delish!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

S-U-S-H-I

So last night I went out to Baby Blue with some of the small group ladies for my first Sushi adventure.  Sushi is a strange thing.  Strange enough to blog about.  I learned many things about Sushi and will now educate you all.  Note my really awesome acronym below.

S- Sashimi is a slab of raw fish on a plate.  It costs the most money I think.  I would never EVER eat Sashimi.  I like my meat cooked!

U-  Uncooked?  Not always.  Last night I tried sushi that had cooked meat inside.  Crab I think.  I do love crab!

S-  Sweet chili sauce covers the roll that was my favorite... the crunchy LA.  Yum!

H- Hot crab and mango rangoon.  YUM!  I probably could've finished the plate of these myself.  H is also for Happy Hour- the time of the evening when you get cheaper food.

I- Ick!  Micaela's opinion of each piece of sushi she tried and my opinion of the Cali Roll.... not a fan of that one.

There you have it.  My super fancy Sushi acronym.  Ask my anything about Sushi.. I probably know the answers.  Ok I really don't but it was fun to try new things and I had a great time with those gals!

Friday, July 30, 2010

That dog needs a job!

So two weekends ago Spencer went back home to Cheyenne Wells and left me here with only the dog to defend me from robbers, creepers, and the like.  Sampson and I spent all weekend together.  We really do love each other.

I noticed in all my time with my long-legged beautiful boxer that he was scratching his ears an awful lot.  So much to his disdain I started looking into his ears... no really looking INTO them.  He hated me right then.  But, I knew something was wrong.

So when Spencer returned home I told him he had to call the vet and tell them that Sampson's ears were bothering him.  Sampson went into the vet Wednesday of last week.  He had a yeast infection.  Yes, you heard me correctly, a yeast infection in his ears.  Don't ask me how this happens to dogs, it just does.

They had to sedate him and give him medication etc.  Spencer brought home a nearly drunk dog.  Poor thing couldn't even stand up without leaning on a wall.  I'm serious.  Look at this picture of him!  He couldn't even close his mouth!  Precious dog.
Today is Friday.  Today I went out to run errands and came home to discover that same precious dog and thrown up on the carpet.  I wasn't happy.  Then he went outside and threw up 2 more times.  He had thrown up 3 times in 2 hours.  So, being the overprotective "mother" I am, I called his vet.  They said to bring him in.  I did.

2 shots, 2 prescriptions, and $68.00 later and this precious thing is back home with me again.  Sleeping on the floor.

I told that dog that after last week and this week, he's going to have to get a job to pay for his medical bills.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pumpkins and Apples

My friend Jenny wrote on her FB the other day how much she was looking forward to fall.  I am too and have totally been feeling the same way.  This Colorado girl wasn't cut out for such high humidity partnered with such high temperatures!

I can feel them coming though, the days of fall.  Summer is winding down and soon we'll be in the heart of the best weather, smells, and colors.

I spent all of yesterday writing the curriculum for our preschool fall programming.  Talk about leaving your desk feeling accomplished and yet totally exhausted!  I'm there...  Doing these things helps me to know that fall is indeed on it's way.

I've been making muffins for breakfast in the morning.  Nothing like a convenient breakfast I can eat in the car.  I used to be better about getting up and eating cereal or toast or something.  Summer has gotten the better of me.  I'm doing all I can to actually be out of bed by 7:30 in the morning.  Anyway... I decided to make my FAVORITE homemade muffins, Pumpkin Apple muffins with streusel topping.  These are SO good.  Bakery worthy even.  The two I had for breakfast have left me wanting more all day.  Here's the thing about pumpkin in the summer.  Apparently stores are under the assumption that pumpkin can only be purchased and used in the fall and winter.  I went to Walmart and got everything I needed for my scrumptious muffins, but they didn't have any canned pumpkin.  So I ran across the street to Target.  No pumpkin there.  You know I was determined because I drove to Hy-Vee looking for it.  FINALLY!  It was even on sale for $0.89 a can.  Yay Hy-Vee.

Also, speaking of apples.  My fam is coming to our house for Thanksgiving this year.  I'm totally excited.  This will be my first time to host a holiday.  Here's the deal though.  I can't make pie.  Well I mean I can if I buy the crust frozen.  I've determined to start making apple pies until I get it right.  Any guinea pigs?  My grandma showed me ONE time how to make a good pie crust.  Evidently I'm not a fast learner.  How can I host Thanksgiving and not be able to make a good pie?  I've gotta get this figured out.  Any pie makers out there with great pie crust suggestions?

So Jenny, I agree with you... it's about time fall arrived.  Until then, I'll keep eating my muffins and practicing my pies!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Travel Aspirations

Spencer and I are taking a weekend (when I say that I mean Friday night and Saturday) "away" to Kansas City next weekend.  We're excited to have time away together.  We're also excited to have time away from home.  As much as I love being home and making my home what I want it to be, I also love traveling to new places.

I grew up taking family vacation every year.  Some years it was some place far away (California) other years it was ... Iowa.  It didn't matter where we went we always had a great time.  Spencer grew up going on vacation like three times.  Twice was with his family to Montana and once was with family friends to Hawaii.

We have these huge travel ambitions.  We want to go places and see things.  I've been more places than he has and want to show him where I've been.  He's been to Hawaii and wants go there with me.  I doubt we'll ever get to do all the things we want to, but I'd like to visit several places in the next few years.

Some of the places we really want to go are:

-NYC at Christmas time (to do all the things you see in the movies "Rockefeller Center", Macy's, etc
-Chicago (I've been and LOVED it, Spencer's never been)
-Washington State/Oregon (coastline)
- Myrtle Beach (Neither of us have been)
- a cruise (to anywhere tropical)

Hopefully we'll find the time/$ to go soon.  Until then, we'll just keep planning these ultimate "dream" vacations from home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipe Showdown

So I've been working some interesting hours this summer at the church.  We have had 4 different summer camps (all at night and last between 4 and 5 days).  These camps are every other week 7 weeks in a row!  I've been pooped!

There are two things that have always been great stress-relievers for me: playing piano and baking. When some people encounter stress they freak out, break out in hives, become irritable, or shut down.  I bake. So, I got this new "Best of desserts" magazine.  It's full of cakes, cheesecakes, pies, crumbles/cobblers, cookies/bars, and ice creams.  Yum!  So I've begun baking my way through my new magazine.

The first recipe I tried were brownie crackles.  DELICIOUS!  These are soft chewy chocolate cookies with chocolate chips, rolled in powdered sugar!  Sugar overload?  Yes!  Delicious?  Yes!  These are really easy to make but a bit time consuming (the rolling them in powdered sugar part is).  So make sure you have some time to make these:
1 package fudge brownie mix (13x9 in pan size)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. oil
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, beat the brownie mix, flour, egg, water, and oil until well blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Place confectioners' sugar in a shallow dish.  Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls into sugar; roll to coat.  Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
*These smelled so fantastic we couldn't even wait for the to cool and ate them hot while still gooey in the center!

Next, I tried making Marble Brownies.  These were super easy homemade cheesecake brownies.  The cheesecake toping was good but the brownies were a bit dry.  I was supposed to make them in the microwave but that made me nervous so I baked them, which might be why they were dry.  Next time, I'll try them the way the directions say.
5 T butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
CHEESECAKE LAYER:
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter and chocolate.  Cover and microwave on high for 30-60 seconds; stir until smooth.  Beat in sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Combine the flour and baking powder; gradually add to the chocolate mixture until blended.  Spread into a greased microwave-safe 8 in square dish; set aside.

In a large microwave safe bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Beat in the sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth.  Spoon over the brownie batter; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Cook, uncovered, at 70% power for 8-10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cook on high for 1 minute longer.  Remove brownies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in the refrigerator.

Finally, I made a recipe I won't share with you.... it was that bad!  I don't know how it made it into the magazine: Potato chip Cookies.  I liked the concept- salt and sweet (butterscotch chips).  I figured the crunch of the potato chips would be awesome with the butterscotch.  I baked the first batch for the suggested amount of time.  They were MIGHTY crunchy this way.  So then I baked them until they were done they way I like.  These spread out a LOT on the cookie sheet and didn't have much "girth" to them.  I don't like a thin flimsy cookie and that's what these were.  Spencer and I each ate one, gave one to the dog, and threw the rest out.

Oh well, these cooking messes and successes somehow revitalize me and renew me for more 12 hour days in the office.  Thank goodness for baking!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like....

Every year, at some time during the summer, I can hung up on this Christmas peg.  I don't know what it is. Maybe I just need an escape from the bugs, humidity, and heat.  But at some point each summer I pull out the Christmas music and spend a few days listening.  It gives me the warm fuzzies for some reason.

I know why this started.  My mom was the music director at my home church for 12-14 years (something like that) and she led a great church choir.  Each year she'd have to pick out a new musical for the choir.  All of the music samples always came out in late June/early July and she'd put them in at home and we'd all listen to them all afternoon.  Or sometimes we listened to them while on the road driving to vacation.  So it's really all Mom's fault that I love Christmas in the summer.

Two years ago (2008) is the year we got married.  I hadn't heard much/if any Christmas music that summer for whatever reason.  A day or two before the wedding I was getting ready to set up the fellowship hall for the reception by myself.  Mom had done something to her back and couldn't lift over 10 lbs and Dad had pnumonia.  Marah was at work and so was Spencer and clan so it was me and like 25 of those heavy old school round tables.  Then, here comes my mom with my favorite Natalie Grant Christmas CD, a CD player, and a tub full of chocolate chip cookies!  Aren't moms the best?  She knew that I was stressed and treated me to some of my favorite things!

This year, I'm listening to Christmas musicals again... trying to find one that the kids at StoneBridge could do.  That's all it took.  Now I sit here typing my blog while Natalie belts out another good Joy to the World!

So Merry Christmas to all and to all..... a GREAT summer!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ingredients for a great Saturday

1.  Sleeping in!  It doesn't happen super often and is precious when it does.

2.  Doing laundry- knowing that you have company coming!

3. Making parts or all of almost all the meals we'll eat in the next two weeks.  Gotta love freezer day!

4.  Baking a new cookie recipe and finding out how delicious they are!

5.  Making a spaghetti sauce recipe that's been passed down for generations.

6.  Refining the budget.  Ok that part isn't fun, but knowing we'll have more money available is!

7.  Having my precious dog follow me everywhere around the house while I do laundry and cook.

8.  My husband getting to go to a movie with his friends.  Because I know he loves that.

9.  A day off!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Everything you need to know about our trip to the UK

So we're back.  We've been back.  I didn't even think to blog about this until my friend Hannah told me she was waiting for my post.  So I'll try to hit the highlights.

Spencer and I spent 5 hours at Denver International Airport sitting in between terminals right in between 4 college hippies trying to recruit people to "save the whales".  I'm not joking.

We finally met up with my family.  My dad ordered my international plane ticket in my maiden name.  I'm not joking.

I cleared check-in, checked luggage, security, and sign-in at my gate without anyone noticing my ticket didn't match my passport.  I'm not joking.

We spend 9 hours in a plane to England.

We hang out in London for 2 1/2 days doing all the sight-seeing things.  We rode the London Tube (city subway) for 2 hours every day (one hour to our destination and one hour back).  I got separated from my WHOLE family on the tube, by myself.  Yeah we were getting on in rush hour.  I stepped on first and the doors close.  Nothing like an elevator where they open if they hit something.  Nope!  The doors close and you better not get stuck in the middle.  I rode the subway to the next station and got off to wait for my family.  It's a good thing I knew where we were going!  My mom freaked out that I had gotten "lost".  I'm not joking.

We went to Scotland and spent a few days with my Granny.  We went shopping, to a museum, to Granny's church (the preacher told us the Holy Spirit was a woman) I'm not joking.

We stayed in a trashy motel there.  Not kidding.  29 UK pounds a night= $45.00.  First night- good sleep, nothing happened.  Second night- I had blown a fuse in our room trying to use my electrical convertor with my straightener.  We asked for maintenance to fix it, got to our room around 11:00pm and had NO power.  So at 11:30pm we have to swap rooms.  We get situated in our new room, fall asleep, and then at 2:00am a whole bunch of teenagers pulled the fire alarm.  The ENTIRE hotel has to evacuate until the fire brigade arrives.  I'm not joking.

We spent the next 4 days at my dad's cousin Peter's estate.  Peter is a millionaire- for real.  We stayed in his 8 bedroom 8 bathroom house.  His private chef made our meals every day.  We went hiking, played tennis on a grass course, went out on Peter's boat, touched Winston Churchill's slippers, and enjoyed EVERY minute of our time at Glenstriven.

We went back to the London airport to fly out.  At check-in the lady notices that my airline ticket does NOT match the name on my passport (remember my Dad booked it in my maiden name).  I find out that if I can't find something with my maiden name on it we will have to buy another ticket to get me home.  I dig and dig and find my original driver's license.  Phew!  We go through security.  No problems.  We go through the second check point.  The lady notices that my passport doesn't match my ticket.  Problems.  Then she tells me to go.  I got out fast only to find out she wasn't supposed to let me go.  She never came to find me.  I go through the 3rd check point... that guy doesn't notice.  Praise God!  I finally got on the plane.

We flew into Denver.  Our plane to Omaha got delayed 3 times.  We arrived an hour an a half after we were supposed to.

We had an incredible time.  I can't believe all the things we got to do and see.  I just wanted to tell you all the funny, stressful, and unusual things we got to do!

Wanna see pictures?  Facebook.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When I have kids I vow...

I have worked in 2 different day care centers, an after school program, done 3 children's ministry internships, volunteered at an elementary school, and been around kids for a long time.  This has given me a lot of material to make a list with.  So here's the start of my "When I have kids I vow not to..." list.

When I have kids I vow not to... ever say "I don't believe in making my children do anything they don't want to do."  Really?  You make them go to school don't you?

When I have kids I vow not to... overload their schedules.  Does your child really need to have their life booked for them?  Whatever happened to play time?

When I have kids I vow not to... give them empty threats.  If I tell them to put it down or they'll have to sit out for awhile, then they'll have to sit out for awhile.

When I have kids I vow not to...let them spend hours in front of the Xbox.

When I have kids I vow... not to stop them from trying new things.

When I have kids I vow.... to put them first.

When I have kids I vow.... to have family night!

When I have kids I vow... to give them chores.  I tell you what, kids these days (don't I sound like I'm 79?) don't have to do anything for themselves.

This is just the start of my list.  I'm sure I'll think of more things to add to this with more experience...
And no.... I'm not having any kids right now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The last 72 hours

The last 72 hours have been a roller coaster.  We're had some great uphill rides, some sad downhill rides, and a few unexpected turns.

Sunday 9:30am- Host at church.  For those of you that don't attend StoneBridge this basically means that I facilitate the transitions during the service from songs to announcements, to greeting, then back to offering etc.  Not totally stressful usually, but Sunday it was for some reason.

Sunday 11:00am- Second service of church.  Lots of crying kids.

Sunday 6:00pm- Last service of church.  Led large group time for the kids.  Exhausted!

Monday 10:00am- Growth Team Meeting (until 11:30ish)

Monday 7:30pm- Visit Jeremy and Brielle at their place to say goodbye.  They're moving to Kentucky on Monday. :(

Monday 11:00pm- Go to bed.

Tuesday day: Good.

Tuesday 7:00pm- Go to small group.  Good study tonight on prayer with super cheesy man on video who is trying to coin the phrase WJPT? (Would Jesus Pray That?)

Tuesday 9:30pm- home from small group.  Play with dog.  Dog (Sampson) cuts open skin over one of his nails on a heat register.  Looks awful.  Lots of bleeding.  Feel like bad owners.  Finally call animal emergency hospital.  They tell us to pack it with corn starch until morning.  We do.  I feel awful.

Tuesday 11:30pm- finally get to bed.

Wednesday 7:00am- Wake up and wait until 8 so I can call vet.

Wednesday 8:01am- Call vet.  They say to bring him in.

Wednesday 8:30 am- Take Sampson to vet.  He has to be sedated and get stitches and then wear the cone of shame.

LONG 72 HOURS!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ready, Set, Go!

Well, almost.  We went to Walmart yesterday and got the electrical converter (the UK, well most countries for that matter, don't use the same plug-ins we do), got the travel sized toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  We have enough socks and underwear to make it 12 days.  Spencer has new Khaki pants, a new shirt, and I have new tennis shoes.

We're getting there.

Today we got to go to the Nebraska Christian College and see some of our great friends (Alyse Wulff, Katie Dunlap, Brett Ricley, and Drew Meyer) graduate.  This marks an exciting and saddening change all at the same time.  Alyse and Brett are staying in Omaha.  Katie is going back to New Hampshire (such a LONG ways away) and Drew has accepted the youth ministry position at my home church.  I'm SO excited for Drew and Alyssa and for Lamar Christian Church to be getting them, but at the same time I am SO sad to be losing some of our very best friends.  People in Lamar had better love on them like CRAZY!

Well this week is an end and a beginning.  It's the end of our Wednesday evening program.  It's the last week before we leave.  It's the last time we'll hang out with Drew and Alyssa while they live here.  It's my last chance to get everything in order before we head out.  It's also the first time Spencer will ever have visited another country and it's our first BIG trip together.

Can I ask for some prayer?  Many of you know that my grandpa B is not a Christian.  I've just really been praying that God will be preparing his heart for what we have to share with him when we get there.  Please pray with me that he will choose to accept Jesus as his Savior.  Pray also for my Granny who just had a knee replaced last week and is a bit slow to recover.

Thanks!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Counting Blessings

Remember that old hymn, "Count your blessings name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done."?  I don't remember the rest of the words to that, but I've been really blessed by some great things lately and wanted to share.

Blessing 1:  Last week I came home to find out Spencer and Preston had cleaned the whole house since Spencer's parents were coming.  I didn't EVEN ASK.  These were also on the table.... for no reason.

Blessing 2:  Last week our microwave broke.  It hummed.  It grunted.  It clicked.  It died.  Spencer's parents came to visit us last weekend and bought us this awesome brand new microwave.  Thanks in-laws!


Blessing 3:  My mom-in-law also bought me these beautiful flowers and helped me work on my flower bed (which I was horrified to do by myself after seeing not one, but two snakes in/on my flower bed).

Blessing 4: (I have no pictures of this.)  I got to be a very last-minute part of a fun women's ministry event @ StoneBridge called Sweet Treat.  It was very fun.  I got to play piano for worship.  That was the first time I'd done that at StoneBridge.  I was glad I could help my friend Lisa by doing this.

Blessing 5:  We have found a cheaper insurance agency and will be saving money!

I have been blessed in so many ways and just wanted to share a few of these blessings with you!  Bless and be blessed!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Was any one else in suspense?

One of my dear friends from small group (shall remain nameless) read my blog post from yesterday and immediately tried to figure out what I had learned at small group.  She then jumped to the conclusion that possibly I was pregnant- I'm not of course.  This has given me a chuckle all day long.  Can you imagine discovering you were pregnant while at small group with like 14 other people?  What a shock that would be!

I'll tell you what I really learned at small group.  We read Luke 8:1-8 which is the story of the persistent widow.  This widow had a problem and went to the judge.  The judge was unfair.  He didn't want to deal with her and kept sending her away.  Time and time again that persistent widow returned the judge.  Eventually she wore him down and he granted her what she had asked for.  (Read it for the more accurate version.)  I've been in a situation lately where it seems that there is just no way to get the "unjust judge" to understand what I need.  I felt encouraged after reading that passage that if even the unjust judge in the parable had compassion on the widow, maybe my "unjust judge" will eventually have compassion on me.

Next topic- Fun things I saw today:
     3 kids jumping in a puddle at Target while their sweet mom hollered "wa wa wa wa waaaaaiiiiittt!"  Her hollering did not work.
     Several staff members in superhero costumes (come to the volunteer appreciation event May 6 to learn more.)
     (This one's from last night.)  The overly excited face of a precious 8 year old girl as I baptized her!
     The most beautiful rain.
     My grocery bill... $15 under budget!

G'night!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here we Come!

This is such a fun time of the year.  Spring has sprung and summer is creepin' this way one sun-shiny day at a time.  I spend each day with the windows open loving the scent of spring as it blows through my curtains.

I spent last weekend planting a few bulbs and now have daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips in full bloom.  Beautiful!

I think it's called spring because it just make you want to spring into action.  Spencer and I went and got a quote on redoing our kitchen, cabinets and all, last week and were shocked at how inexpensively we could do all this.

We sprung into action when it comes to actually figuring out what we want to do with the family room.

We are springing into action to finish collecting money and figuring out the final details of our trip.

It just seems that there are so many things to be excited and joyful about this time of the year.

My friend Heidi wrote on her facebook way back at the beginning of the year that she was choosing to believe that 2010 would be a year of joy.  A month later she found out she was pregnant!  I'm positive 2010 will be a year full of joy in their family.

I think when we choose to have a positive outlook its easy to realize all of the ways God blesses us each and every day.

I also learned something really cool at small group last night... I'll share that next time.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trading in the cow for the turkey

I'd say you can safely assume that the large gaps (particularly this one) in my blogging also mean slips in our healthy eating goals.  Now we haven't fallen off the wagon completely, but we haven't necessarily been counting each calorie either.

Here's the struggle.  Once we revamped all of the foods we already loved by giving them a healthy makeover, it was hard to count the calories because we knew what we were eating was good for us.  It's not bad to NOT count calories, it is bad to not care about what you're eating.  That's a learning thing.  We still don't really eat beef.  Yeah I know!  Maybe I never mentioned that before but we pretty much gave up red meat.  We'll eat it on occasion but not even weekly.  We much prefer the protein rich, light on fat poultry options that chicken, turkey, and even ground turkey provide us.  And no, it isn't any more expensive to eat this way... trust me.

We've already begun to think and make some decisions about how we'll eat over seas.  While in London we want to taste the local fare, visit the pubs, and grab fish and chips from a local stand on the street.  Knowing good and well these will not all be healthy things, we want to really take in the culture while there.  For a portion of the time that we're in Scotland we'll be staying at Dad's cousin's place.  He's loaned us his chef (yeah you read that right, he has his own chef) for the few days we'll be there.  We had to send off a list of foods we refuse to eat.  I tried not to be too overbearing knowing that I'm much pickier than most (I simply listed that I won't eat cheese, pate'- chicken liver ground up, pickles, or bananas).  I've decided that I'm at least willing to try anything else.

Speaking of our trip, we both got our passports in now.  We owe mom and dad a little more money (they've bought our tickets for everything and we've been paying them back) and then we just need to get Spencer some new clothes that actually fit, pack, and fly out!  It's going to be very fun.  We'll take lots of pictures and I'll do my best to post some of them here.

In other exciting news we got a "new" car.  We traded in our Element for a Civic which we like much better.

The weather is nice, the sun is shining, it's my day off... what a GREAT day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another low-cal recipe just for you!

Chris, Spencer's mom makes this really great Taco Casserole.  Unfortunately if we follow the recipe it's really not that great for you.  We love this dish so much though that we weren't willing to give it up.  So after some experimenting we came up with a much lower calorie way to enjoy this yummy dish.

1 lb. ground turkey
1 can rotel
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 c. fat free sour cream
1 c. reduced fat cheddar cheese
3 c. of BAKED tortilla chips, broken up

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.  Brown the ground turkey.  Pour the can of rotel and the taco seasoning into the meat and mix well.
3.  Mix together the sour cream and the cheese.
4.  Break 2 c. of BAKED tortilla chips in your hand and toss onto the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
5.  Spread the meat mixture on top.
6.  Spread the cheese/sour cream mixture on top of the meat.
7.  Top with remaining 1 c. of baked tortilla chips, broken and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the chips start to brown.

Total calories per serving: 255 calories (6 servings per casserole)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remember when I asked you about the family room?

Well, here's the idea I found online and really like.  Swap out the wallpaper for just a brown painted wall (not sure I'm brave enough for wallpaper) and the white couch for our light brown one.  What do you think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recipe day!

Here I am, another week has past and I'm just now posting.  This is what happens when you're busy and need to come home to rest instead of blog I suppose.

Spencer and I had the first weekend since starting this healthy eating kick that we allowed ourselves to eat a whole bunch of unhealthy things.  I felt terribly guilty.  Spencer reminded me that we still ate better this weekend than we ever used to.  I don't think hearing that helped.

Yesterday's meals consisted of a total calorie count of: 1259.
Breakfast- Honey Nut Cheerios w/ skim milk + 2 cups black coffee.
Lunch- Healthy Choice Tuscan Chicken, baby carrots, mandarin oranges, and sugar-free jell-o
Afternoon snack- chocolate and marshmallow Easter eggs (yeah I know right?)
Super- Chili

I want you to know how I was able to keep my calorie count SO low and still eat 2 chocolate marshmallow eggs.  I made a chili called Texas Soup.  It is only 122 calories per 8oz (1 cup) serving and contains veggies.  If you're interested in making this, the recipe will be listed below.

Today, we had an area minister's meeting... this means eating out.  So, for
Breakfast I had 1/2 of a bagel w/ cream cheese, cantelope + 2 cups of black coffee (292 calories).
Lunch was a beef brisket sandwich with steamed veggies (approx 500, had to guess a bit here)
Snack was a tall non-fat caramel macchiato (140 calories) this is proof that you can still get your latte and not worry so much about calories!
and a chocolate marshmallow egg- 100 cal (I'm hoping to eat them all this week so I don't have to deal with this anymore!)
Supper was honey chili chicken with asparagus and an Izze (162 calories).
Small Group Eileen came... you know, from Eileen's Colossal Cookies?  I ate a snickerdoodle... hard to pass up= 199 calories
Today's total- 1483


Texas Soup
2 (15 oz) cans of diced tomatoes (I buy low sodium)
1 can of corn
1 can of Bush's medium chili beans
1 lb. of lean ground turkey
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg ranch dressing mix

Brown the turkey in a pot.  Add the entire can (juice and all) of the corn, tomatoes, and chili beans.  Add in the ranch and taco seasoning.  I let this simmer for about an hour on a low-medium setting.  Super great and only 122 calories per cup!


Honey-Chili Chicken
4 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 c. honey
1/8 c. (2 T) sherry vinegar- i don't have that so I do 1 T sherry and 1 T vinegar
3/4 c. chicken broth
1/8 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 onion, diced
Olive Oil

1.  In a skillet on medium heat, drizzle some olive oil and cook the onions until they are fairly transparent.
2.  Add in the honey and sherry vinegar.
3.  Add in the cumin, chili powder, and chicken broth.  Stir together.
4.  Bring to a boil for 5-10 minutes then reduce heat to low.
5.  Reduce sauce to 1/2.
6.  In a non-stick skillet cook the chicken breasts on a low-medium setting.  Pour a little chicken broth in the pan to keep the chicken from getting stuck to the pan.  This will "steam" or braise the chicken.
7.  When the sauce has reduced, pour it over the chicken and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.  One chicken breast in the sauce = 141 calories.

*This one takes about an hour to make.  Make sure you set aside enough time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome Spring!

     Yesterday Spencer took down my precious homemade little "Let it snow" front door decor and told me it was time to encourage spring to show up.  We've had a beautiful week with sunshine and warmer temps. Snow has been melting and for the first time in 3 months I can see 80% of the grass in our front yard.  This is seriously exciting.... trust me.  So, I made a "Welcome Spring" door hanger now.  Hopefully it listens and shows up.


     With spring coming I'm thinking about our trip overseas and about the fact that it will be shorts and tank top weather soon.  This is good.  It just means that I really need to continue getting in shape so I don't look like a jiggly blob in a tank top.  So far so good.  One guy at work calls me the "Calorie Nazi".  So be it!  I will continue to count calories and I will look good!  PS: My hott hubby hasn't lost much more weight but is inches smaller again.  The new jeans he bought a few weeks ago barely stay around his waist!  So exciting.   I've been excited to hear from several of you who have lost weight and inches as well!  Keep it up!  We're doing it together.

     So spring cleaning.... I want to know.  How many of you do it?  The reason I ask is because I have been wanting to really deep clean our house, you know wipe down baseboards, clean light fixtures etc.  I read an article last night in the April edition of my Everyday with Rachael Ray mag that gave a great layout for spring cleaning.  I'm thinking it's about time that I picked a day to do these things.  Not sure Spencer will be thrilled but we'll see.

     One more poll.  Spencer would really like to paint the family room a different color.  When we moved in he told me he wanted cool tones down there.  So we painted a blue/teal color and accented with burnt orange and brown.  He hasn't liked it since we did it.  He decided that what he really likes is a warm toned room with lots of cool toned accents.  So I've been looking at rooms on HGTV.com for inspiration and found kind of a copper/brown colored paint that seems nice.  I've also really been liking warmer grey tones.  We have a medium brown colored sectional and espresso brown wooden furniture.  What do you all think would be good?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eating without being miserable

Hey everyone,

     Not blogging much today since it's Wednesday and I have tons to do.  I just wanted to let you in on a website that I found last week.  Since my attempt to eat healthier it has become harder to eat out unless I'm going to Subway.  I ran across this website last week that is operated by licensed dietitians.  www.healthydiningfinder.com.

     Enter your zip code.  The website will then pull up all the restaurants in/near your zip and show you the items they have deemed the healthiest for you to eat.  It shows you calories and tells you how to order that item.  I think this is really helpful.  It won't list locally owned restaurants (that I know of) just chain restaurants.  Thought it might be helpful to those of you who are eating out and trying to do it in a healthy way.

    Hope you all enjoyed Tuesday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Jammed Out

I spent this weekend attending Winter Jam with our 4th and 5th grade students.  We had a GREAT time sledding on the best sledding hill I've ever gone down, ice skating, playing games, watching the Olympics, sleeping in a cabin etc.  I had the opportunity to speak one night of main session and really enjoyed that.  I hope our kids got something out of the weekend.  I had a great and exhausting time.

I jumped right back into life at noon when we arrived back the church yesterday (just in time for me to help clean up classrooms etc).  My great hubby went to JJ and got us sandwiches for lunch.  I ate as soon as I got home and then fell asleep for a 3 1/2 hour nap.  I was SO tired.  I woke up and went to our service @ 6 and then came home to get ready for bed again.

Today was a busy day at work.  I need to finish writing the preschool curriculum for Mission: Possible by Wednesday.  I'm not sure if it'll happen or not.  We've got a staff meeting/lunch tomorrow.  There's a pretty good chance that I'm going to stay and work instead of going to lunch so that I can get things done.  

I desperately need to work out tonight but already feel no desire to do so.  Maybe after the Bachelor!

Here's my calorie count for today.
Breakfast= 2 muffins- 220 cal.
Lunch= 1/2 an orange (35 cal), a turkey sloppy joe (287 cal), mashed potatoes (100 cal), sugar free raspberry jell-o cup (10 cal)- 432 cal. 
Snack= mini kit kat, 2 Starbursts- 80 cal.
Dinner= taco casserole and mandarin oranges and 2 choc. chip cookies- 355 cal.
TOTAL for the day: 1007 calories  

NOT BAD!

It's been awesome to hear from many of you of your weight loss success, getting fit success, and of you achieving your goals.  Keep it up!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Never quite catching my tail

Have you ever watched a dog run in circles in an attempt to get their tail?  My dog does this every once in awhile.  And I feel like I've been doing that the last two weeks as well.  Ok I don't really have a tail (obviously) however I've been constantly running in circles in an attempt to get all sorts of things done only to see that my to-do lists are just as long as always!  I have 4 lists at work right now.  I've accomplished nothing.  Maybe next week right?

Besides the fact that things have been busy we've been doing really well.  Today I slept in (LOVE IT) and then awhile later headed out to meet with the girl I mentor from the college.  We had a great time chatting and catching up.  It was very fun.  Then I got to see my friend Alyssa and pick up a few things from them. She and her husband Drew are moving to Lamar to take the youth ministry position there.  I think Lamar Christian Church is super lucky to have them and that they are super lucky to be there!  I went and got a smoothie at Scooter's, went to the library, and drove around town enjoying the sunny day after that!

I also spent some time thinking of some goals to accomplish:
1.  Repaint family room (color suggestions would be helpful, readers).  Spencer wants a warmer, darker color.  We have a dark tan sectional down there.

2.  Have dinner with a whole bunch of friends.

3.  Re-design kitchen and price that plan out.

4. Finalize payments and plans for our trip overseas.

5.  Buy a dark-wood trimmed round mirror for our bedroom.

6.  Get a pair of sweats like Alyssa was wearing today.

7.  Get new clogs.

8. Go bowling.

9. Keep working out (my legs are still killing me from plyometrics on Tuesday).

10.  Do something really special for my husband (suggestions are welcome here too).

One last thing,  I've written some about all the snow we've gotten and how much I've loathed it sometimes.  And then today I remembered this verse from Job 37:6-7 "He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'  So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Weekend

Well after making it through Thursday it was nice to have a Friday.  We got our taxes done and were happy to find that we'll be making the big bucks.  Hurray for being students and buying a house all at the same time.  HUGE tax benefits.

We broke our "healthy" eating rule for one time to celebrate Valentine's Day together.  We went to Cold Stone and got ice cream.  Probably our only Valentine's celebration and we had a great time.  We also watch the Olympic opening ceremony last night which was really cool.  I loved it.  Spencer kept falling asleep!  Haha oh well.

Then today our friends Nick and Hannah (from Manhattan) came over for lunch.  They didn't drive all the way here just for lunch but they actually needed to pick up Hannah's ring (it was being sized) and get measured for tuxes.  We loved seeing them and showing them our house.

Today we've had more snow, cleaned the house, done laundry, played with our fantastic dog, and chatted with friends.  It's been a fun time.  I hope that you have a great weekend and enjoy your time with someone special!

PS: I've lost 2 more pounds!  Yay!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catching UP

Sorry for my absence or delay of post or whatever.  Do you ever have one of those days?  Yeah me too.  Well, it's been one of those weeks.  I was literally only in the office for an hour today.  The rest of the day was spent in meetings.  Basically my brain is scrambled and I'm tired.

We went to small group on Tuesday.  I also made homemade beef stroganoff.  I meant to take a picture.  I forgot.  I ate 1360 calories on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I got to see my friend Nicole.  We had lunch and talked about ministry etc.  We went to Jason's Deli.  It was my first time there.  I would've loved to have had a huge awesome sandwich but stuck to eating the salad bar instead.  I ate approximately 1000 calories yesterday.  Yes, I'm not kidding.  I ate that salad for lunch, a Kashi bar for breakfast, chili, 100 calorie crackers, a fruit cup, and a chocolate for dinner.  I went to bed hungry, just to be honest, but it was late enough that I didn't care.  I didn't work out yesterday because I had to go into work earlier than normal.  When I got home from work last night, Spencer and Preston were already working out.  It took them until 11:00.  I would've been up till after midnight to do it.  I just couldn't.

Today I had Life Cereal for breakfast= 160 cal.  Then I went to work and had a meeting for our annual Easter Egg Hunt.  Then I went to a lunch meeting.  For lunch I had a french dip sandwich and fresh fruit at a restaurant=  668.  Then I went to an afternoon area CM meeting.  They had cake.  Wedding cake I might add.  NO, no one got married.  They just had it for dessert.  Are you kidding?  So good.  I split a piece with a friend.  Probably 300 calories.  YIKES.  Did I mention how fantastic it was?  For supper I had 2 hard shell turkey tacos and brown rice= 388.  So today it looks like I've eaten a grand total of= 1516.  HOLY SMOKES!  I most definitely should NOT have had that wedding cake.  However, If I averaged today and yesterday (yes, I'm making myself feel better) then it's only an average 1258.  Not SO bad I guess.

I also would like to make an announcement!  My jeans are super loose AND I finally lost weight!  It's hard to imagine that after 5 weeks of working out I'm just now losing weight but I had 0 muscle mass and probably spent much of that time building muscle.  I've only lost 4 pounds but for goodness sakes I'll take it where I can get it.

Also in even more exciting news, Spencer has lost 25 pounds now and even got to buy new jeans yesterday in a smaller size!  He's doing so well.

How are you doing at achieving your goals?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekend oh so Fun

    I had a great weekend!  GORF was this weekend and Spencer was a sponsor.  I got to go to one of the main sessions on Saturday morning and see some great people (Like Mike, Cody, and Cristina).  It was so nice to see my "fam" again.
     Then Sunday I got to see my great friend Hannah and her fiance Nick at a Super Bowl party at our church.  So that was great again.
    I don't know if I had a terribly successful eating weekend or not.  I did great on Saturday.  I think it totaled 1240 for calories or something like that.  Yesterday was kind of tricky with the Super Bowl party and all.  I ate Life Cereal for breakfast and then had lunch with Spencer at Applebees after church (Garlic Herb Chicken=370 calories).  For supper I had some Super Bowl grub (one piece of pizza, 1 slice of summer sausage, 1 chocolate chocolate chip cookie, a teeny tiny frosted brownie, and 1/2 an orange).  I also had a fruit cup when I came home.  Calories for Super Bowl Sunday= 1248.  That's right!  It was a good day!  I rocked the Super Bowl Party!
     Today was so super busy.  I was in meetings from the time I got to work until almost noon.  I ate lunch while working and kept going strong all afternoon.  I felt like everytime I started a project I'd think of something else I needed to do and get started on something else.  I'm a task-finisher.  Dr. Leman (look him up) says in his book "Birth Order" that it's part of the characteristic of a first-born child.  So spending a whole day starting stuff and not finishing anything is VERY hard for me to tolerate.  I had no choice.  I was feeling good about how much I was getting done.  Then Sandy said, "oh crap it's 3:00".  I couldn't believe I only had 2 more hours of work.  I worked really hard for the last 2 hours and left the office feeling a bit encouraged.
     Today my eating was so-so.  I probably felt like I could reward myself for having good self-control at the party yesterday.  Not actually a good excuse.  So breakfast- Life cereal= 140 cal.  Lunch chili, tortilla chips, 1/2 an orange, a chocolate chip cookie (they were sitting in the office and I didn't resist) and 2 tiny chocolate chocolate chip cookies= 598 cal.  For supper we had Fiesta Lime Chicken (SO GOOD) w/ rice and baby carrots, (I also had a mini cheesecake... see reason for that below.)= 649  DAILY TOTAL= 1387.  For eating all the CRAP I ate today that's not the worst but it's def. not where I should've been.

     Ok about those precious cheesecakes.  We are making them for all of our children's ministry volunteers for Wednesday and Sunday as a Happy Valentine's Day/We Appreciate You Gift.  We were trying out a recipe to see how it went.  I had to make sure it was alright.  It was.
     Well I hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Desert Song

"All of my life.  In every season.  You are still God.  I have a reason to sing.  I have a reason to worship."

I can't get these lyrics out of my head today.  I've heard the song a lot of time and yet for some reason today these words really stick.  It just amazes me that no matter what happens to us, around us, and in this world God is still God and that is reason enough to worship Him.  How great is it that we have been given the honor of praising Him?   Just a thought.

Found out today that my Grandpa B is in the hospital.  His heart stints slipped somehow.  Sounds like they'll need to be replaced sometime tomorrow.  This isn't a big deal medically.  But my grandpa is over 80 and on his own in Scotland (his sisters all live at least 7 hours away).  Please pray for him to handle surgery well.  I also ask that you ask God to continue to soften his heart.  My Grandpa is not a Christian.

Well not much to report today.  I worked all day.  It snowed another 5 inches (yes you read that correctly). My husband's at GORF.  StoneBridge took 100 junior highers which is awesome!

I made pancakes for dinner.  I should explain.  I came home from work and couldn't get in our driveway.  The plow and taken care of the road but in doing so it left a large pile of snow in front of our drive.  So I parked in front of the neighbors, put my boots on and went out to shovel.  30 minutes and a lot of sweat later the driveway was good and I could pull the car up and into the garage.  However, all this hard work made me want comfort food... breakfast food.  So pancakes it was.  Since it's just me and Sampson I made him two pancakes as well.  I even put peanut butter on them.  He loves me.

Calories DAILY TOTAL= 1371  Supper- 2 pancakes + 2 pieces of turkey bacon + 1/4 c. blueberry syrup= 586 calories.  Lunch- Healthy Choice meal+ fruit cup+ 2 brownie minis= 530.  Breakfast- 2 muffins= 240 cal.  Popsicle to cool off after scooping snow= 15 cal.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday Blog FAIL

     Well, if you actually read this every day you already know that my effort to blog daily failed Wednesday.  I have a feeling this trend will continue each Wednesday until we're finished with our regular Wednesday programming.  I'm just beat by the time I get home at the end of the evening.  We have an awesome program on Wednesday nights where our kids learn to serve others through a variety of projects. They do an outstanding job.  This week one of the group surprised Sandy and I by making chocolate covered pretzels for us.  Not great for the diet, but I will admit they were some of the best chocolate covered pretzels I've ever had.  Way to go Cooking Team!
     I feel like I'm in the middle of a time where I have so many things on the "to do" list and none getting done.  Part of it has to do with our trip.  If you don't know yet, Spencer and I are traveling with my entire family to England and Scotland at the end of May for almost 2 weeks.  We are very very excited about our trip.  Trips like this don't just happen though.  There is much to get done and that's where I'm getting hung up.  We've got to go get our passports.  However before I can get mine I have to go get my name changed on the social security registry.  Yeah, never did that when I got married.  Then when that's done I can do the passport thing.  I've still got to pay my dad for our plane tickets from London, England to Glasgow, Scotland, we've got to buy our tickets from Omaha to Denver (where we'll meet the fam) and we've got to save for all the fun stuff we want to do there as well as the cost of housing and food.  It'll be so fun, it's just a little overwhelming right now.
     Another thing I have to do is file our taxes.  It's my first year filing minister's taxes and I was too nervous to do it myself.  So, I set up an appt with H&R Block for next week.  I had no idea being "clergy" would mean so many things to the tax world.  I've got to keep track of mileage, housing allowance, pay taxes four times a year, and all that, and then wager in the part of the year I worked for Kid's Club plus the housing allowance and Spencer's W2= too much work for me.  I'd rather pay Mr. Tim Tobias of H&R Block to do it for me!
     Today was fantastic.  I real lazy day which is something I don't feel like I've had for a long time.  I slept in for a long time.  I won't tell you how late it was when I got up because I'll either make you jealous or you'll make fun of me for it.  I made lunch (spaghetti= 419 cal) and caught up on Biggest Loser from Tuesday.  Then I read my book for awhile... loving that.  I had a 2 blueberry muffins for snack (240 cal) and went to the church for a little while to finish up stuff from last night.  I should probably explain that Thursdays aren't normally my day off... Fridays are.  While we wait for our new office manager to start we've all been taking turns covering on Fridays.  So tomorrow is my day to cover and I got today off instead.  I came home and was down right productive.  I put away laundry, started more laundry, did dishes, cleaned up the kitchen and dining room, and started getting the guest room ready for Preston.
     Then I made dinner, Pesto Chicken roll-ups (185 cal), sugar snap peas (40 cal), applesauce (100 cal), and brownie minis (75 cal)!  Yum!

Total calories for the day= 1059.  Maybe waking up late and not eating breakfast paid off! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comfy and Cozy

     It's been one of those days full of events.  Maybe the week has been like that.  Yeah, I know it's only Tuesday.  I attended a funeral this morning for an elder in our church.  He'd battled health problems several times during his life.  This time, he finally won!  It was a great service and I think Jerry would've been so honored to have heard the things people said and to have seen all that were in attendance to remember him.
     It's also the month for planning things and beginning meetings.  Since I'm in charge of all children's ministry events I'm in the middle of planning the Easter Egg Hunt, a 4th and 5th grade service weekend, preschool camp, soccer/cheer/volleyball camp, and Music and Drama Camp.  I'm gonna be all camped out!
   To add to all that's going on, Spencer and I are getting a roommate.  Preston (Spencer's college roommate) is moving in with us for a short time.  He has accepted the position of office manager @ StoneBridge and needs a place to stay.  His wife Lauren is going to remain in KC until their apt lease is up in June.  If you think of them say a pray.  I think it'd be hard to not see my husband Monday-Friday of every week for the next 4 months.
     And finally I feel like a failure of my healthy eating today.  I haven't added up my calories yet... and I'm not sure I want to.  I'm not an emotional eater, or a stress eater.  Thank Goodness!  But there are just certain times when I have the munchies.  I'm actually constantly hungry for a few days at a time sometimes.  I try to tell myself I'm not... myself never listens!
     All this just goes to say that when I got home from work today, all I wanted to do was put on my tea kettle and curl up in bed with my book and read.  I've rediscovered the library.  Turns out that you don't just have to go there to research a paper or work on a lesson.  They have enjoyable books there too!  Alright I'm being a little sarcastic, but I truly stopped reading for enjoyment when I started college and decided I was going to start reading again.  I went to the library about 2 months ago and checked out some books by my faves (Beverly Lewis and Judith Pella).  They both write Christian historic
romance-y novels.  Beverly Lewis writes a lot about the Amish people.  Her books and the history in them fascinate me.  The last Judith Pella book series I read was set in the 1800s.  Also great reads.

Alright, I better get on with my calorie count.  Breakfast- Cereal=180 cal  Lunch-Turkey on wheat, fresh fruit, pasta salad, angel food cake=318  Afternoon snack- fruit cup and rice cakes=200  Supper- Two turkey tacos w/ shredded cheddar, fresh pineapple, one brownie mini= 505  GRAND TOTAL= 1203!  Holy Moly!  I'm surprised.  My lowest calorie intake day and I felt like I'd done horribly.  Hmm.... maybe I'll have to treat myself to something... we'll see.  Can't reward good calorie counting with food now can I?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh the Inspirational Blog

     Small disclaimer as I begin... I had in mind what I was going to blog about before my friend Hannah commented on my previous blog.  I was just realizing today how motivational reading other people's blogs can be.  Everyone seems to have their own theme or twist to blogging.  My friend Miranda is doing something awesome by taking a picture for every day of the year.  Then she posts the picture and blogs about it.  She also comments a lot about her battle with keeping her dishes clean.  Miranda, I feel your pain.  As a result of Miranda blogging about her dishes, I've tried so hard to stay caught up on mine.  I've run the dishwasher every day and taken care of the rest by hand for 3 days.  In Miranda's honor, I've taken a picture of my clean dishes.


   My friend Stef has been blogging about her adventure with weight watchers.  I read her blog to inspire me to continue eating healthy because I know she's doing her best to eat healthier too!  Not to mention that she's doing all this while still being WAY busier than me.

     My friend Hannah is training for a triathlon.  Yeah, a triathlon!  I could run... if something were chasing me.  I could swim... if it was to save my life.  And I could ride a bicycle... if it were for a lazy Sunday afternoon outside, but compete in a triathlon?  I can't imagine.  Hannah is my workout HERO!  I continue to do my workouts... not to achieve any fantastic goals such as completing a triathlon, but simply to take better care of my body.

     I guess all I'm really saying in all of this is that you may not know who you are inspiring by simply journaling a little every day.  But, I find encouragement, sincerity, and motivation in all of the blogs I read daily.

PS:  Please don't be offended if I didn't list your blog.  I only mentioned a few.

Another PS:  My husband has lost 20 pounds already.  He's doing an amazing job!

     Now for my calorie counting today.  Breakfast was a bowl of cocoa wheats.  If you're not from Nebraska you probably don't know what Cocoa are.  They are good.  Think chocolate cream of wheat but way better.  Cocoa wheats=190 cal.  We had a staff meeting all morning @ Fox Hollow.  I had a 12 oz. non-fat caramel macciato= 190 cal.  Lunch was 4 oz chicken and 2/3 c of green beans= 140.  For an afternoon snack I had a fruit cup= 80.  Honey-Chili Chicken, corn, grape juice, and biscuits was for dinner= 621.  One brownie mini for dessert= 75 calories. DAILY TOTAL= 1296!  I love a day under 1300!  Success

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Call me the Cupcake Queen

There are times when I just have this insatiable appetite for delicious baked treat.  Today that craving comes in the form of cupcakes.  I don't know what it is about cupcakes.  They are tiny, and cute, and piled high with frosting and I want to eat gobs of them.  The vast array of flavors available: key lime, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, chocolate with chocolate frosting!  Yum!  See?  Do you see why I love cupcakes?

Yet, in my oven right now I am baking six precious little 75 calorie a piece Pillsbury Brownie minis in a hope that will cure me of my cupcake need.

You'd think after all this talk about cupcakes I would likely have had a terrible calorie intake day.  Not so bad though, really.  I had a Kashi bar for breakfast= 120 cal.  For lunch I had a 4oz steak, 1/2 a potato, and 2/3 c. mixed veggies= 352 cal.


I haven't had supper yet, but I'm planning on eating a cajun turkey sandwich on wheat with Lays Baked Southwestern Ranch chips, a fruit cup, and baby carrots= 490 cal.  Plus the two little brownies I'll have to eat= 150 cal and the small bowl of cereal I had for snack= 160 cal, if I control myself I'll finish this day of rest and cupcake longing having eaten a whopping total of=1272.  That's right only 1272 calories and that included brownies!

I may not get my cupcakes today, but I'm pretty proud of how well I did.  Stay tuned for more calorie counting fun!  If you have a meal you'd like me to try fixing a "slimmed down" way, shoot me your idea.  I'll take it as a challenge!

Good night calorie counting friends!