Monday, July 18, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July18th

This past week was productively busy.  I am getting the Menu up a bit late on account of having trouble getting pictures uploaded... and then I took a 5 hour (round trip) drive today to deliver Brooke to Bible Camp for the week.  I'll share the pictures from our little trip next week when I get those uploaded... here are the other ones we managed to pull together last night:

It may not look like much but there use to be carpet on these floors! Our missionary guest ended up leaving early on Wednesday so when Thursday rolled around, I had extra time on my hands!  It was Brenden and Ashley's day off from work and I was just going to roll the carpet out (it stunk from previous owners... no idea why... and our un-trainable cat).  The padding was so old it crumbled in spots as I rolled it up.  I was going to just do it myself and leave the tack strip for later but the kids asked me to let them help and we made a day of it!

Towards the end of the day of prying up tack strip, sweeping, hand scrubbing, popping out padding staples, mopping, and cutting up and disposing of the carpet and padding... Brenden told me he was having a lot of fun!!  Ashley heartily agreed.  I felt completely blessed.

We also moved our rabbit outside; hutch to come since Ashley and Brooke want to begin breading Loppy Eared bunnies... we just need a chance to go purchase the hutch!  And our un-trainable cat made the transition outside as well.  Believe it or not, these two are 'friends'!  My work inside is much less since I don't need to daily wash things the cat has cut-loose on, our house smells better, but I am actually more beat because, with rain moving in and out of the area, I have to watch the weather and tarp his crate and the rabbit's cage every time storms are rolling in!  His kitty house is forthcoming... but probably not until fall.  I also need to keep an eye on the heat and be sure to ice their water when the mercury climbs.  I consider it my mini-farm!

Brooke has been wanting some hot curlers.  I scored a great set at a garage sale Friday.  After practicing Saturday she was ready to set and go for church on Sunday!  My sweet young lady!

Food to share from this past week:

I call this "Hamburger Salad".  I felt like I needed something lighter for dinner on a night when we had burgers so this was my solution without cooking a different meal!  Everyone else loaded up their buns while I dressed up my salad!

To send our Summer Missionary guest with some fun breakfast, I switched up Wednesday morning's breakfast to make cinnamon rolls.  I took detailed pictures of the process to share the recipe at a later date (unless someone wants it sooner!!)

Another breakfast meal pic... save your money from going to McDonald's, these sausage and egg biscuits are cheap, easy, healthier and delicious!  Another recipe soon to come.

This week

As previously mentioned, today I drove Brooke to Camp.  I am planning an easy dinner tonight since I still need to finish juggling a rental car back in place (our car wouldn't make the trip).  I plan to spend my week really digging into lesson planning.  I am just about done fielding the basics to be ready for the in-depth stage.  Dinner can be both a burden and a reprieve from this process... not to mention there will only be 4 of us eating this week... and not all at the same time (kids' work schedules).  I'm planning my 'eat hot and ready' meals for the nights Brenden has off and my 'easy to re-heat' meals for the days he works.

Also this week is Thursday's Bible study and HOT weather so I plan to serve fruit as a dessert, not to mention I had a doctor's appointment this past week and the doctor has challenged me to loose weight for the sake of health issues developing.  Sugary heavy desserts are out... unless I have guests to eat them for me!

Friday I go for the all-so-fun mammogram.  I have never had one and, at 42 and with a family history of breast cancer, I figure it is long overdue.  I'm a bit nervous... if you think of it, please pray for me.

Saturday we pick Brooke up from camp and stay for the awards ceremony so our return home will be a bit later in the day.  I'm planning a super quick and easy meal that night.

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs
- fruit

hubby: Rice and Chicken or Rice and Summer Sausage
me and kids: leftovers, salads


Burger and Chips
I will probably have my cheese burger salad as a healthier alternative!


Chicken Stir-Fry

Pork Steak, Baked Potato, and Green Salad

Fish Patties, Steamed Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce, and Sauteed Green Beans

The green bean recipe was inspired by a side dish from a restaurant in our old stomping ground, Lakeside.  It uses fresh or frozen green beans, sliced garlic cloves and Italian dressing.  Put a few tablespoons of the dressing in a pan and heat on Medium High, lightly saute the garlic then add green beans, stirring often.  It is so packed full of flavor and compliments the fresh taste and snap of a good green bean well!

BBQ Chicken, Oven Roasted Potato Wedges, Salad Slaw
I will bake extra Potatoes on Wednesday and refrigerate.  This day I will take them out and slice into wedges.  Then I will mix some olive oil with a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and mix the potato wedges in.  Then I will take the potatoes out of the oil mixture and place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until lightly brown.  10-20 minutes.

Hot Dogs and Left-over White Chili
The last time I made White Chili I froze the extra.  I will lay it out Friday night or Saturday morning and reheat when I get home from retrieving Brooke.

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Scheduling vs. Living in the Margins

She looked into my tired eyes, her own were weary and discouraged, "Is our entire summer vacation going to be like this?"  I was carrying bedtime essentials and exiting the customary goodnight hug we usually share... at 13, Brooke is the only one left to still hug and share evening farewells with me (the others apparently think they are too old!).  Her concern echoed my own and I knew the changed I had been sensing as needed, was now imperative.

I asked her what her idea of a good summer vacation day/week would look like.  I know I can get wrapped up in my own great ideas... but young people often carry their own.  Her concern was, after everyone did their normal morning routine and her siblings headed to work (noon/1pm) afternoons were becoming consumed with house or yard work.  Halfway through the scattered busy-ness of our days without the others, Ashley would come home for "lunch" and then we barely had an hour before my husband was pulling in... then the evening with all of it's verities.

We both felt like our summer was running us... and exhausting us as a result. 

She longed for balance, time to breathe, relax and have fun.  She acknowledged chores as a necessity, but we both didn't want to feel like we were always doing or cleaning... like there were no margins or time for anything except what had to be done.

When I made it to bed that night and prepared to pray with my husband, we discussed the concern.  I lamented how, at this rate, I would need a vacation from my summer vacation!  It seemed we were more busy in the summer than in the school year... and I really wanted to be good and ready for our school year, not run down and tired from the summer.  The concern made it's way to our prayers... as all concerns should!

Then, a few days later, hubby was encouraging me in a writing project.  I told him I didn't have time.  He seemed shocked I should be lacking time... summer vacation, stay-at-home wife.... "why... how could you not have time?" was his concerned question.  I reminded him of the schedule conflict I was working on figuring out, he offered to help, to go over it with me and help me find pockets.  I felt blessed for his care.  But I declined, planning to pray and pour over it on the weekend.

So where was all my time going????

What happened to summers of writing projects, reading good books, and soaking up some sun while having fun with my kids?

On Saturday I set to work.  I poured over my schedule and my bucket list of summer dreams written down in June with high hopes and great expectations.  I grabbed my art basket and fresh blank copies of daily schedules and summer bucket list sheets, pulled out colored pencils and markers and then began to piece the old ones apart in order to re-create the new.

The problem became clear.

Believe it or not, my depression sensitive times of year are NOT winter with it's shorter, cloud-filled days.... rather, ,my depressions sensitive times are the endless days of summer!!  Reason being: I am a task-oriented person who does not do well outside the rigid school-year schedule.  My solution this year?  Over-scheduling!  I had planned every minute of every day, afraid to leave blank spots on my schedule.  I even themed each day to an activity Brooke and I thought would be fun to do... 3 weeks later almost none have been done!

I also recognized the uphill challenge, for the first time, of having THREE family members working outside the home now, leaving just me and Brooke home all day... my needier child (she is a youngest after all).  I felt like, if I didn't keep both of us scheduled up, boredom would be overwhelming for her.

I started the refining process by combining my daily "themes" and summer bucket list.  I made this sheet using an awesome jar stamp I found on discount at Michaels back in May.  The title was drawn with felt pens.  I made multiple copies back when I drew it up in June and have touched each version up with colored pencils and markers.

As I reviewed my brain dumped on the bucket list I filled in a few weeks ago, I saw various categories standing out.  The final ones became more articulated and made it to my final copy pictured above:

Artsy - art and craft ideas I want to make time for or try new
Breathe - moments I don't want to miss in the midst of my summer break
Adventure - fun summer do-dads to try outside the home (I will be a home-body without the incentive!)
Working It - projects I want to start or simply get more work done on while I have the extra time
Hanging out - inside the house rainy-day or in-between times

As you can see in the picture, once my final draft was done, I hung it on the cork board over my desk.  With this in hand and the hope of more margins in my day to do stuff I dove into my schedule.

I started with the basics: waking up!  Seriously.  I am a firm believer that every strong marriage sees a wife spending time with her husband in the morning before he leaves for work.  Hubby arises at 5am to get coffee, news online, and do a Bible study.  We convene at 6:30 to have breakfast together.  I have found that being AWAKE and not just waking up is most helpful.  During the school year I would get up at 5 but have gotten out of the habit with summer.  I found my own Bible Study was suffering and, as I plan each week for the study I am teaching Thursday evenings, I don't feel like I have enough prep time OR private time with the Lord.  So back up I go at 5am.  I am looking forward to it.

Without boring you with the rest of the intimate details of my day, I can sum up by explaining that I noticed the NEEDS in each day and their respective times like lunch with hubby (he usually comes home) and clean up before the end of the work day as well as Bible Studies and other outside-the-house excursions.  I even noted on the schedule as far as dinner time and bed time. Once I was done scheduling the needs I saw all the empty squares/hours left.  Before, I had filled these with miscellaneous hopes of what we could busy ourselves doing in those times.  But this time, I resisted the temptation to schedule those as well and, since I couldn't stand the empty spots, I grabbed my yellow colored pencil and shaded them all in.

Stepping back I became excited.  Suddenly my summer didn't seem so over-run... I even had room for quality personal Bible study time AND time to work on the study I am teaching.  I determined the yellow places would all be decided on, on a weekly and daily basis, determined by weather and circumstances.  Yes, some of those yellow spaces, some weeks, will be yard work or extra chores as needed (we do still have chore time but it is better spaced each day), but most of them... are open.  A time to check on my "Preserve" list, or simply ask Brooke what she is in the mood for, and see what sort of summer adventures can be had!

On my weekly planner I'm calling it "yellow time" and as I add things to my weeklies, I am shading them with a yellow colored pencil and indicating if it is for a.m. or p.m. open slots.  I feel like it is a way to give myself permission to NOT do for doing sake, rather, to enjoy the time we have this summer before school starts again. 

I showed Brooke the finished product and she really liked it.  We both are excited for this new week and new schedule to start.

I pray this can help you as well... whether it is scheduling summer break time or regular day-to-day time... always leave margins for life to happen, always make time with God #1, and always give yourself permission to enjoy even the quiet times as they come.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July 11th

Well, last week I was ambitious enough to get a Menu Monday post up on the 4th of July... but then I forgot to link-up to the parties!  Oh well, hopefully you saw the post, there were some new and awesome recipes included!  You can click here if you missed it.

I am super excited because today I come to you from here:

Back in February I made a sacrifice for the sake of marital peace and a roomy dining room.  It's a long story but, sufficit to say, I gave my desk to my son and my computer has been traveling with no particular home... most often sitting in the "off" mode on a shelf.  Recent activity and discussion with hubby revealed a desperate need for a stationary desk location/work space.  I found this one at Goodwill for a steal and we rearranged the "library" area (essentially a large empty pass-through room we keep our book shelves in) and I have an official work-space!!  I feel super-blessed since giving up my old previous space earlier this year was so hard.  Our sacrifices don't always see tangible rewards, often the reward is in knowing we are living more pleasing to God.  So getting back more than what I gave up is truly a wonderful blessing.

All this to say, my bloggy appearances and link-ups should be on the increase now that my computer can always be out and on!  I have revamped our schedule as well which should also provide more regular online time.  More on that in a post going up tomorrow!

This past week we also got the mulch down on our latent garden I mentioned last week.  We were also blessed with some FREE hanging and ornamental plants.  It was exciting to dress up some of our favorite areas...
 Large hanging plant by the guest cottage/garage where I have tomatoes growing as well.

 One of my favorite places to sit this summer while doing my Bible study or just journaling in the morning.  This ornamental livens up the space.

Food to share from this past week:
I tried a new recipe I sort of threw together myself, inspired by a Pinterest post I saw.  Mexican rice and beef.

The family liked it but did suggest tortillas to compliment it better so
when I served the leftovers for lunch the next day, I made some home-made tortillas to accompany.  It was delicious! 
Our 4th of July BBQ ribs.  They don't look like much but they were sooooooo moist!  I let them rest in the fridge all day in a sealed container filled with my BBQ sauce recipe I mentioned last week.  Then I roasted them in the oven at 350 for 1.5 hours on a baking sheet with baked potatoes, then cranked it up to about 425 for the last 15 minutes to get that bit of burn on.  They were amazing in flavor and texture!

Roasted chicken and fresh bread.  You can tell we eat a lot of salad in the summer!  Oh, and I drink iced tea with most of my meals, in case the content seemed questionable... I know the color is confusing!!

This week
I officially changed my twice-a-week Bible study to only meeting on Thursday evenings.  Fearing disappointment from the young woman I am mentoring is what kept me from doing this sooner... thankfully, she actually readily agreed!  This frees up my time some for better prep and we are moving to a post-dinner meeting so I will just serve dessert. 

Now my summer weeks are: Tuesday afternoon observing as Ashley leads middle school girls James study, we are still gone until dinner time so quick fix or slow cooker meals are most  helpful... and Thursday evenings right after dinner Bible study.  No youth group with summer break going on.  This week I also have a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning so, with all the running around Tuesday, my slow cooker will be my best friend!  I have a few of them so dinner and dessert that day will employ two of them because....

.... also this week we have one of the CEF summer missionaries staying with us. Meals need to stretch and I will be scheduling a specific breakfast to be sure our guest is properly fed.  I also plan to make some cookies and other snacks to fill in the gaps.

Menu for this week...

Breakfast: Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
Dinner: Fish Sandwiches and Mini-Fries
     Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
Breakfast: Cereal and Fruit
Dinner: Hobo Stew and Biscuits
     Slow Cooker Bread Pudding

Breakfast: (leftover) Biscuits and Eggs
Dinner: Spaghetti and Cheesy Bread-sticks
     Make No Bake Cookies

Breakfast: Banana Muffins
Dinner: Pork Fried Rice and Spring Rolls
     Bake  Lemon Brownies

Breakfast: Cheesy Eggs and Sausage
Dinner: Burgers and Jo-Jos
     Home-made Slushy

Breakfast: Popovers
Dinner: Pizza

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Joshua and a Willingness to Serve

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to post our monthly word from Nathan Keeney (bio below) last month.  Graduation sort of took over our lives for a few weeks (you can see Nathan in some of the pictures I shared with my Graduation post!)!  I will catch you up on his word from June later, but for now, it is July!!!  (wow)  And time again for his monthly post...

Willingness to Serve

You have a servant's heart.

Now go stack chairs.

Sometimes being willing to serve God is as simple as cleaning up after a small gathering or as big as going or doing something that you might not want to do.  We are suppose to serve God no matter what.

Joshua served God very well.  He followed what God told him to do.  Not only Joshua but his family as well.  So even if God calls us to something difficult and we find it hard to serve Him, we can stand firm in remembering He will bless us with His presence and His strength to follow through on His call.

Maybe God wants us to work in a soup kitchen or volunteer at church for something.  Maybe it's opening up your home to people who need a place to stay or it could be just listening to someone going through a hard time.

So, are you willing to serve?


Nathan Keeney is a homeschool graduate living in eastern Montana.  With a heart to serve the Lord, he is spending his summer as a Christian Youth in Action club leader and youth counselor. In the fall he heads to Bible College where he plans to hone in on his calling in youth ministries. 


You can look forward to more of Nathan's Bible character reflections and teachings right here on Faith and Home the first Wednesday of each month.

Scripture references from ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July 4th

4th of July Edition!!
 She thought of this all on her own!  I love her creativity.

I almost didn't put a menu post up this week since it is the 4th and I figure everyone state-side is doing BBQs and visiting friends and family today!  However, there is always the rest of the week to check in on what's cooking!

One exciting note from this past week is that the rest of our garden finally finished going in.  I know we probably looked foolish putting tomatoes and hot peppers in the ground on July 2nd, however, with all the graduation and back going out and what-not, this was the soonest it could happen.  Since we have lived in this town, we have found every year to have long warm summer days (a benefit in the more northern latitudes) and an extended warmth in fall, usually not fearing frost until sometime in October.  Hopefully this will provide plenty of time for a bountiful crop!

We still need to put the mulch down but we ran out of steam.  We don't have a rotor-tiller so all ground breaking and loosening was done by hands and backs (grateful for hubby and son to lend theirs to the task!)  Sorry I don't have a better "before" picture, apparently the only front-of-house pictures are from when we purchased it last fall... and taken from the sidewalk at that!

Food to share from this past week:
I didn't take as many photos this week.  The biggest, however, would be Ashley's big 18th!  Her cake was sort of young and fun.  Another ice-cream cake.  She chose chocolate peanut butter cup with peanut m&m garnish.  I forgot to buy candles so I did one of each kind from the leftovers of other birthdays!!  I kept messing up the making process as well, however, she loved it, it was fun!

New Recipes 
My husband was starting to complain about my old Pillsbury cookbook recipe for BBQ sauce.  I've used it for years but even I have to admit, it seemed more catsup-y then BBQ.  My hubby is an ole Masterpiece man so I had to try something.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and then began to modify.  He LOVED it!  Here is the adjusted final recipe:

BBQ Sauce
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 5 tablespoons dried bbq rub*
*As mentioned in June 20th's Menu post, we were blessed with some rub through one of my husband's co-workers.  This sauce would be fine without the rub... but the rub was what seemed to draw all the flavor together and really kick it up a notch.
I used it straight after mixing but you could boil it to mesh the flavors, cool and then store in the refrigerator.  I plan to make a large batch one day soon and can it, we loved it that much!

This week
Tuesday we will have our middle school girls Bible Study at the DQ. I cancelled Tuesday night's adult study at least for this week, and possibly for the summer.  We will still be meeting Thursday nights though and dinner will either include guests or require us to eat early.  Doctor's appointments Tuesday will also keep us on our toes and good meals energizing our evenings so we can be working on thinning out the bushes on our property line so we can be in code and avoid a fine!  (The down-side to owning a corner lot!)

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs

hubby: fried summer sausage and rice, chicken salad
me and kids: leftovers, mac n cheese, sandwiches


BBQ Pork Ribs, Baked Potato, Salad, White Cheddar Rolls and Flag Cake for dessert:
It's an old recipe I think I saw in Woman's Day years ago.  It has become my signature 4th of July dish.  Modified through the years I now do a sort of poke-cake underneath.  My recipe:

1 box Lemon flavored cake mix cooked in baking dish according to package instructions.
Use wooden skewer or chop stick and poke random holes in cake
Prepare 2 small or 1 larger package of strawberry jello mix according to basic instructions (don't refrigerate)
Pour jello over cake, it will soak right in.
Refrigerate cake for 4 hours or over night
"frost" with one small container cool whip
arrange blueberries and quartered strawberries in flag design
keep chilled until ready to serve or place on party table!


Fish Burgers on Homemade Buns with Side Salad

Mexi Beef and Rice Casserole
This is a new recipe I am trying... I will let you know how it goes!


Oven Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potato, Greens
Our grill isn't working right now.  Thankfully we have air conditioning!  Not sure if we will do green beans or a salad with this.  I made too many mashed potatoes last night so I spread them in a pie tin, covered and froze.  I will pull them out on Thursday and pop them in the oven with the chicken making this dinner an easy low-mess meal which is great with company coming!

Burgers and Home-made Crinkle Chips

Fried Tacos

What are you doing and cooking this week?