November 24, 2013

The Advent of Advent!

I am being so good and not decorating for Christmas before Advent begins! But Advent festivities take a lot of prep for me, so I am starting to get myself in gear. I have my projects lined up!

-- We are making clay ornaments for our Jesse tree (starting these today, since they have to dry!). I use this baking soda & cornstarch clay recipe:

-- I want to try making these Christmas Baubles (and perhaps stringing them in a garland?):

-- I'm learning to make wreaths! Our big fir tree lost a limb so a friend of mine showed me how to wrastle the branches into wreaths with floral wire. Maybe I'll put up a picture, but the ones I have made so far are definitely a bit...oval.

-- And of course we want to make paper snowflakes and stick them up everywhere.

Have you started your Christmas decorating, or your decorating prep? What is your project list?

<3 courtney="" p="">

November 8, 2013

Another Day, Another Dinner

This week my planned dinners were:

 Monday: Pasta With Two Twists (Recipe Follows)
 Tuesday: Onion Chopped Steak with gravy, roasted potatoes, and green beans
 Wednesday: Braised Moroccan Chicken with corn and peas
 Thursday: Broiled Pork Chops with roasted Butternut Squash and peas
 Friday: Homemade Mac'N'Cheese (with leftover pork chops and peas)
 Saturday: Leftovers!

 And now, the recipe.

Pasta With Two Twists
Serves 6

1 lb short pasta
1 lb bacon, chopped into bite size pieces (You can use less, I just knew I was going to be feeding *four* hungry men (plus me and Addie) with this dinner so we'd need that much.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 can (14.5 oz) chopped tomatoes with onion and herbs (Or, you can make your own*)
1 cup broth
1 cup smooth-style spaghetti sauce
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup regular sour cream
(Cheese, if desired)

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, brown the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it's cooked to your desired level of crispy-ness remove from pan with slotted spoon, and set aside. Drain most of the bacon fat (save it for cooking some veggies in later on in the week!), leaving about 1-2 TBSP in the pan.
3. Add the garlic to skillet, and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the onion and cook until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.
4. And the basil, tomatoes with their juice, spaghetti sauce, broth, and stir. Cook until the sauce comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until ready to serve. Add the green peas to the skillet about five minutes before serving.
5. When the pasta is done, drain it well and return to it's cooking pot. Toss the sour cream with the hot pasta until the noodles are well coated. Serve the pasta topped with sauce and cheese.

*To make your own just chop up a can of plain whole tomatoes and season with dried basil, oregano, and parsley, onion powder, and just a pinch of celery salt.

Ta da! Dinner. :)

(Also, can you tell that I'm enjoying the bacon I got on sale? It's made regular appearances since I bought it. Whoo!)

This is actually an adaptation of a recipe from my "Cheap, Fast, Good" cookbook which, I think, was one of the very first cookbooks I ever purchased after Noel and I got married. I got it from the library at one point and liked it so much that I went out and bought it. And today I discovered that the gals who wrote it now have a website! I'm excited to see their new recipes.

Have a great almost-the-weekend-day, y'all.


October 31, 2013

My Shopping Orders

Alright, I'm sure you have been holding your breath just waiting on the edge of your seat for this post. I have been  avoiding packing working hard on it all week.

First off: I always look at what’s on sale around town. I get my grocery adds in the mail on Tuesday’s (and Wednesday’s, and sometime’s Thursday’s…) and I take note of anything that’s a super-duper steal, especially meat; the other week I got pork chops for $1.29 a pound! I also go online to and check out their “Just4U” section, which I love. It saves me so much money! With my card specials I get $5 off $20 worth of groceries almost every other week. Also, Dave’s Killer Bread, the sprouted kind, for $3.29 a loaf about once a month. Jaw-dropping, really. (Not on sale it's $5.69. Ouch!)
   If I find something that’s at a stomping price I’ll try to plan the majority of my meals to be as inexpensive as possible so that I can stock up on the sale. Otherwise I just make whatever the heck I feel like, within reason. (As much as I feel like eating steak every night, it’s just not fiscally feasible.)

Next: P-L-A-N. I know some people go *all* out here (breakfast, snacks, lunches, more snacks, and dinners), other’s don’t do any planning; I am in the happy middle. I know what we’re eating for breakfast most days anyway (Eggs, with toast and sometimes I manage to include veggies).  I keep it simple with lunches (leftovers!). And I have a list of “grab-n-go” snack foods that I try to keep stocked (fruit, veggies, bread, cheese, yogurt, etc.). So for me, planning consists of dinners and checking the pantry and fridge to make sure we’re not out of staples.

Then the (not) hard part; shopping! Planning makes my grocery trips so easy. Or at least as easy as it can be with a two-year-old in tow. I go once a week, on Mondays. Armed with a list I get in, get what I need, and get out. One tiny trick; I go to the discount store *first*. Their stock is constantly changing, but as a general rule they have the *best* prices on bacon (all natural, raised without antibiotics, none of the –ites or –ates , for two bucks a pound last week), sometimes cheese, and canned beans (when they have them).  Then I go to Safeway and/or Top Foods, and wrap it up at the farm stand and health-food store.  Also, I usually go to the farm stand twice a week, once on Monday (my regular shopping day) and again on Thursday. I found I throw away much fewer scary looking veggies this way.

In the past I’ve done the whole “cash only” thing but I’m currently just using my debit card, which also works! 

How much I spend: Honestly, it varies. I try to just spend $50 a week, but there’s also the usual Costco trip about once a month where we spend probably $60 on food, and we bought a quarter of beef last year which worked out to about $35 per month. (So very, very worth it.) Total, we’re at about $300 a month for a family of three (about to be four).

And there you have it! What about you? Are you a super-duper planner? How often do you shop? Let me know!

Have a great Reformation Day! 

October 28, 2013

A Weeks Worth of Dinners

 Alrighty! It's Monday, i.e., grocery shopping day. Which means yesterday I sat down and tried to figure out what to make for dinner this week. I think I managed to come up with things that will keep everyone happy (and full) for the most part.

Monday – Steak, Butternut Squash, Green Beans
Tuesday – Beans and Rice w/ Sausage and Kale
Wednesday – Avocado Chicken Parm*, spaghetti squash, peas
Thursday – Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit
Friday – Pork tacos*
Saturday – Leftover day! 
Sunday – Mom and Dad’s

*These are new recipes that I'm trying for the first time this week, I'll let you know how they turn out. 

 Now, you can see that I've got all those meals assigned to specific days and while that doesn't mean that I'll absolutely be making them on those days, I usually do. It helps me when I'm buying vegetables to know which ones I can get on Monday and which ones need to wait. For instance, the veggies for pork tacos have a much higher chance of being scary if I get them five days before I need them, so they'll be picked up on Thursday. Also, I can look at my schedule and pick out really easy meals for days when I have stuff going on the afternoons and more time-intensive meals when I'm supposed to be home all day. Planning is awesome.

What's for dinner at your house this week? You can let us know in the comments! (You know, that little button down there that doesn't get a whole lot of use right now...)

Have a joyful Monday!

October 26, 2013


You know this picture makes you hungry....
Do you have ingredients like this lying around? Yes? Excellent. Then you have dinner at your fingertips! If you don't, no worries, these ingredients can be found at the nearest grocery store.

serves 2-4, depending on how hungry/pregnant the people are
8 oz bacon, chopped into pieces
2 cloves of garlic
3-4 sweet potatoes, grated (about 4 cups) To save time, grate the potatoes while the bacon is cooking.
1/2 - 1 cup tomato, chopped
Cheddar Cheese

In medium stockpot (mine is 4 quarts) brown the bacon until it reaches the desired level of crispy-ness. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the garlic to the left over bacon fat and saute until fragrant, then add the grated potatoes. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes, until they're almost soft, or longer if you prefer them really cooked. (Tasting is the best way to tell how done you like them, so do it!) When the potatoes are done, add the tomato and stir until they're warmed through. Add the bacon. Serve sprinkled liberally with cheese, and enjoy!

This dish is very, very flexible. Really. The recipe is more like... guidelines... than actual rules. Add more, add less; whatever tickles your fancy! I might add Kale to give it some green next time. Remember: If you want to get the most out of your meals, you have to eat the rainbow, and I'm not talking about skittles. :-P

For me, this dish was also *super* inexpensive! Yay! Using bacon from the super sale, the cost for the *whole* thing was less than $4. You heard me, $4! Even if Noel and I eat the whole thing at one meal (ahem) then that's still a whole, good-for-you, meal at two bucks a person. It's hard to beat that.

Happy Eatings!

October 24, 2013

Grocery Budgets?

This is just a quick check in to see if anyone would be interested in some meal planning/grocery budget/shopping posts... I've found some bloggers definition of a budget to be *much* more luxurious than I currently operate on. I'd love to share and be shared with when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck at the grocery store!

September 4, 2013

May You Be Strengthened

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." - Colossians 1:11-14
(emphasis mine)

 We are being strengthened for endurance and patience with joy! When the baby wakes up at 5 and never goes back to sleep; joy! When she decides to practice pouring with bowls of popcorn in the living room; joy! When we are waiting for plans to take shape and progress to happen; joy! Why? Because we have already been rescued from darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son! Forgiven; joy!

August 12, 2013

There Should Be A Dr. Seuss Rhyme For This

Big Brig, Small Ball.
Who knows.

I read a not-really-interesting article this morning about moms, outside stressors (the economy, etc), and how the latter affects the former. Anyway, it really wasn't that important. But the article had this thought in it, "moms know themselves well. They don’t need a DNA test to know if they get stressed easily or tend to roll with things (even big things)." And I started thinking about those last three words, "even big things". 

 Does something being a "big thing" make it easier to stress over? Not for me. If I feel like something was never inside of my range of control to begin with I'm much *less* likely to stress over it. The economy? That was never placed in front of me with direct orders to fix it. Noel's surgery? I couldn't fix his legs, and they needed to be fixed! 

 But things that seem as though I ought to be in charge of them, those stress me out. Like the fact that at one and a half we're still trying to figure out how to get Addie to sleep well. Or that all of my children will probably fall into that camp of people who think the laundry belongs on the couch. Or the last couple of weeks where I was so spacey there was no meal plan. (I NEED A MEAL PLAN.)

All that to say, I think that the sentence in the original article doesn't quite capture the nuances of stress. However, God knows we tend to stress out over the little things. (Like food! How funny that he specifically mentions not to worry about what you will eat. And I know he was probably talking more to people who didn't have *enough* to eat, but the worry/stress aspect still applies.) And he has told us to cast all our cares upon him, and bring them to him in prayer. 

 Which reminds me of a really awesome thing I heard a pastor say recently, that prayers about our worries aren't *for* God; he already knows what we're worried about and why. They're for us; God knows that we like to talk about our problems and he's the one who reigns over them all. And he may not change our problems, but he will certainly change us. Shaping us into people who seek after him more and more, and who are learning to live in the peace of Christ. 

I'll stop rambling now and go finish my coffee. Maybe make real breakfast so Addie can stop eating last night's popcorn. No stress though! 


And here's a cute kitty picture to help you relax. 

August 2, 2013

They Tell Me It's August Now

It seems a little incredible. That it's August I mean. It seems like it should still be July, or even June, potentially May. Yeah, we'll go for May.

 We're just wrapping up our first week of being back home from our stay-cation with Noel's parents. The house still looks like a bomb went off, but that's okay because I'm having a good friend over for a visit and she doesn't mind the crazy.

 This last month (or maybe two) I've been *awful* at writing/calling/getting together with people; it makes me feel silly and embarrassed. It really shouldn't take me five days to call my sister back. Or five weeks to respond to that FB message from a friend. But it does. (I do still love them though!)

Noel's new hips are working *perfectly*. His Physical Therapist says he should only need a week or two more, then he can be done with therapy. And he's almost to the 6 week post-surgery mark, which means he gets to stop taking blood thinners, too. Praise the Lord!

Addie's adjusting to being back at home. (Read: She's not sleeping. At all. And is super cranky. All. The. Time.)

The new baby seems to be growing nicely! I can't suck my stomach in anymore. But I need to do a better job of making good food choices. July was rough; hopefully this sweet thing doesn't end up with three arms.

A lost kitten came and visited us yesterday, it fell asleep in my arms. Cats have a wonderful calming effect.

I ordered a replacement part for our oven so we should be able to use it again soon. It's sad how none of my dinner recipes sound appetizing until the oven breaks and then I want a roast chicken. Oh the cruel irony.

I've been reading through the NT in my Bible; I just finished 2nd Peter. I have been encouraged, and Jesus+Nothing=Everything ties in nicely, echoing and clarifying things.

Addie recommends stopping to smell the flowers every now and again, even if they're stinky daisies.

April 27, 2013

10 Alternative Purposes for Dryer Lint

Ha! I lied, I only have one.

 Some very dear friends of mine loaned me a sewing machine a few weeks ago and they also gave me this adorable book about making sock animals for my birthday!

Obviously, I had to try this out. I picked up some super cheap socks from the thrift store and decided that a fish would be my very first project. (Cause the book says it's one of the easiest.) I got right to work, making my own fish shape and cutting it out of a sock; trying to figure out how on earth you're suppose to feed a stretchy sock through a sewing machine at all. That part was pretty hilarious. I would just put the pedal down and let it run until it choked up/tried to go over an edge then I would stop it, lift the needle, turn the sock, and let it go some more. That poor sock. Then I realized I hadn't left a big enough for turning it right side out and stuffing it! But I worked through all that, did a little bit of hand sewing where I apparently managed to miss sewing on the sock at *all*, and finally had a whole (funny looking) fish.  I stepped back to look at it and thought to myself, "Huh... I thought this would be fluffier. Oh wait." You have to stuff these things! Duh. I however, am not a sewer, and I don't remember the last time I had stuffing materials.

Something you might need to know about me is that I am a flash-in-the-pan crafter. I do things a few times to see if I like it, and then something new pops up that piques my curiosity so off I go to try that out. So I knew that it was vitally important to finish this project once I had started it; who can tell how long it will take me to get back around to things once they go in the "to-do" bin upstairs!

  So I raced upstairs (quietly, or course, because Addie was napping) and dug through all my bins of craft supplies on the off chance that I had stashed some stuffing of Mom's. (Love you, momma!) No such luck though. What I did find was a bit of fluff that I had saved from when I was doing the initial cleaning washes for Addie's cloth diapers and, to borrow from Despicable Me, "Light-bulb...".  I didn't have enough of that fluff to stuff a whole fish but (!) my washer and dryer are in the basement and there is no trash can down there so I've just been cleaning the dryer lint trap off into a plastic bag. Score! So I brought up the bag of dryer lint and I was back in business. (Now, I do not recommend this method if you have dust allergies, that would just be mean-spirited.) It was pretty short work, although I was amazed at how much the dryer lint packed down. And here is the end result!

At this point we just call it Fish. Addie loves it though! 
I know, the tail looks *so* weird. That's what happens when you try to use a stretchy sock, and you stuff the fish with dryer lint.

Still pretty cute.
And yes, that is a hair sticking out from underneath the button. I took this picture before I spent 20 minutes pulling all the stray hairs out of the fish. (Bet you've never seen a hairy fish before!) All in all I think it was fairly successful and I will definitely try again, with a less stretchy sock, once I have some real stuffing.

Happy Saturday to y'all!

April 18, 2013

You've Gotta Read Your Labels

To be sung to the tune of "You've gotta eat your spinach" from that Shirley Temple movie I watched all the time when I was little. (Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm if I remember correctly.)

"You've gotta read your labels, BaaaAAAaaby,
That's the only thing to do...."

Sure thing. So the other day I was at the store picking up sour cream and as I went to reach for my usual pick, Tillamook Premium sour cream, I spotted something on the next rack down, tucked back in a corner spot; Tillamook Natural Sour Cream. Say what, you say? Say what? How is sour cream not natural? Isn't it just milk/cream that's been soured? That's what I thought it was. So I scooped up both tubs and read the labels. My jaw just about hit the floor.

They both *look* fine...
For the sour cream on the left the ingredients are as follows: Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Cream and Milk, Grade A Nonfat Dry Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Sulfate, Locust Bean Gum, Maltodextrin.

Let me just stop here and say, "What?!". Dry Milk, Phosphate, Sulfate, Carrageenan... I mean what is Carrageenan? It turns out it's made from red seaweed (sounds harmless, right?) but it has been linked to some pretty serious inflammation issues (no thanks!).

For the sour cream on the right the ingredients are as follows: Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Cream and Milk, Enzymes.

Now that's more like it! The other thing that was interesting to me, was that these tubs of sour cream were the exact same price. raises eyebrow Why even make the first, if you can make the second for the same price? The point of all this: Read your food labels, folks! 

I know, you're probably wishing I'd wrap this post up so you could run to the store, grab some tasty sour cream, and eat it with a spoon! Which is fine! But while you're at the store make sure to pick up some yogurt  so you whip up some of this *amazing* dressing.  (Heck, if it's been one of *those* days you could eat the sour cream with some of this dressing on top of it.)

In A Hurry Curry Dressing
 In A Hurry Curry Dressing - The Naked Foods Cookbook 
 Makes a little more than 1/2 cup

 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade yogurt (I used greek yogurt)
 1 TBSP lemon juice
 1 tsp raw honey
 1/2 tsp curry powder (spice blends can vary wildly so find one you love!)
 1/2 tsp thyme
 1/2 tsp ground cumin
 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a pint-sized mason jar. Shake vigorously to mix. Either use immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Keeps for up to 1 week. Shake well before using.

Ta da! Super easy and super yummy! I made a batch the other day when I was wheeling around figuring out how to spruce up Noel's lunch and I've been trying it on just about everything since then. Eggs, a tortilla, peas, chicken, and avocado if you want an exact list. Also, in case you missed my other review of this cookbook I highly recommend it! The recipes range from "In a rush" to "Impress the neighbors" and so far, everything I've made has been delish.

April 4, 2013

Dinner (It's a wonderful thing!)

I found "The Naked Foods Cookbook" by Margaret Floyd and James Barry at the library and I am so happy with it! I really love cookbooks like this, I like feeling quite at home in other peoples' kitchens. I've tried four different recipes so far and they have all been delicious. The one I'm sharing with you tonight is called "Quick and Dirty Beef Stir-Fry" and it is so tasty. While I was eating it I was wondering when I would be able to eat it again because it was just that good. It was also impressively easy to make, which is another thing I adore in recipes as it seems Addie can sense when my hands are completely occupied doing other things and chooses those times to need me desperately.

Quick And Dirty Beef Stir-Fry
Makes 4 servings

2 TBSP coconut oil
1 clove garlic, thinly cut into rounds
1 heaping cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (I didn't use these, as I'm not a fan)
10-ounce grass-fed beef steak, frozen and left out to defrost 10 to 15 minutes (I used pork I had in the freezer)
5 leaves of large bok choy, thinly sliced, stems separated from leaves (I used two whole shoots of baby bok choy but it could have used more I think)
1 carrot, grated
½ tsp finely grated ginger (I used at least a whole teaspoon)
3 TBSP gluten-free tamari soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime (about 1 TBSP)
½ cup store-bought or homemade Coconut Milk
2 tsp coconut sugar (optional) (I didn't include this)
1 TBSP sesame seeds (optional)

    Heat coconut oil in a large skillet or wok. Add garlic and mushrooms, stirring to coat with oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
    While garlic and mushrooms, slice the beef against the grain as thinly as possible. This is easier to do when it’s still frozen. Add the beef to the skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the bok choy stems (don’t add the greens yet), grated carrot, and grated ginger, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Every time you add more veggies, turn the heat up slightly to keep the pan hot.
     Mix together the tamari, lime, coconut milk, and coconut sugar (if using) and add it to the pan along with the bok choy leaves. Stir, and cook for another 2 minutes until bok choy leaves have just wilted. Serve alone or on a bed of whole-grain rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds. (I served it over quinoa.)

Can I just say "Yum!" one more time? I might have to make more than one batch of it next time, because Addie managed to eat a whole serving so there was only enough left over for Noel's lunch 
tomorrow. (But not his and mine). I plan on making this again next week, and maybe even the week after that. Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

Happy Cooking,

April 2, 2013

It's Like A Coma. (Or a comma...)

Addie enjoying a rare fit of sunshine on the back porch.
Okay, I wasn't in a coma, I promise. It just felt like it. Life picks up speed at a dizzying pace around here as Addie gets closer and closer to walking places (she's pretty stinking speedy at scooting, which is what's keeping her from walking I think), I stumble on new books to read, dream up new projects for the house, or simply set ridiculous goals for my personal schedule. (I was that kid who, when asked to make a schedule, had stuff blocked off for every minute, but I have since learned that it is better for me to prioritize than schedule otherwise I am prone to much crabbiness and stress.) And after a week or two of running around like a crazy lady I wake up one morning thinking, "Where am I? How long have I been out of it?!" Then I get out of bed and get back to work.

 I also wasn't stuck in a comma. But it felt like. Blogging just ended up being put on pause for a bit as I got caught up with other things. Like accounting homework. (Our local library system offers free online classes at around college level and I decided to take an accounting class; it's been very informative and only gives me small headaches/panic attacks.)

So! Here's the deal.
  •  I went gluten/processed sugar free for two weeks. I specify processed sugar because I did have raw honey and fruit; some people think that's cheating, I think it's sanity. But I digress. It was really good! While I was actually doing it I didn't realize how much better I felt, but afterwards I really noticed how much *less* well I felt while eating sugar and gluten. Really, you can blame the whole blogging absence on this little experiment! During the process, I had so much more energy, my brain was able to focus easily (or at least, more easily than usual), and I just had that drive to get stuff done. It was awesome. Then, after two weeks of get-up-and-go-ing, I had a white flour/sugar laden cinnamon roll and needed to take a nap. Immediately. After eating the cinnamon roll I thought I could just avoid bringing the bad stuff home and only eat it if I was out and some was offered to me (no sense in torturing myself in public, right?) but it turns out that I'm around sugar a *lot* when I'm out of the house so I'm currently considering having a designated day where I can have a *little* bit of sugar and/or flour.

  • I'm reading five different books at the same time.
    Your's, Jack -C.S. Lewis. It's a collection of his letters. Fantastic! (I've mentioned this one before, I know, but it's a big book!)
    The 4-Hour Chef - Timothy Ferris. Different, but interesting. He is ridiculously smart, but not a Christian as far as I can tell so you have to kind of sift through all the hoopla in the first chapter or so, but the actual cooking process he describes is so fascinating!
    Surprised By Joy - C.S. Lewis. (This really has nothing to do with the point of the book but did you know that Lewis went to a school for about ten years where he was pretty much taught NOTHING? I didn't.)
    The Bible - Working my way through the new testament before heading off to the old, I'm just starting Galatians.
    Jesus + Nothing = Everything - Tullian Tchividjian. First, I love this guy's name, I mean really, how awesome is that? Second, this is what I'm reading for the ladies book group that I go to on Wednesdays. I feel like my vocabulary is too limited to tell you how great this book is. My favorite quote so far, "Whatever progress we make in our Christian lives -- whatever going onward, whatever pressing forward --  the direction will always be deeper into the gospel, not apart from it, or aside from it. Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ's "It is finished" into new and deeper parts of our being every day, and it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God's good word of justification into our regions of unbelief..."

  • I'm taking an accounting class. It's eight weeks long and there are only two left (yay!); it's been helpful i.e. I can now use a double entry system for keeping track of all sorts of accounts, but it definitely reminded me how much homework freaks me out so I will probably stick to reading books from the library for any future learning needs.
  • There is a GIANT piece of paper in my room waiting for me to cut it down to size and tack it to wall, where I plan to fill it with really great marriage quotes. Things like, "Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave." - Martin Luther. And, "The bed is the heart of the home, the arena of love, the seedbed of life, and the one constant point of meeting. It is the place where, night by night, forgiveness and fair speech return that the sun go not down upon our wrath; where the perfunctory kiss and the entirely ceremonial pot on the backside become unction and grace. It is the oldest, friendliest thing, in anybody's marriage, the first used and the last left and no one can praise it enough." - Robert Farrar Capon
  • I have letters that spell out the first part of Psalm 34:8, waiting to be painted and stuck on the wall above my kitchen sink.

And then there's this:

My lovely family, that I am so privileged to care for! I'm always amazed at how much laundry and dishes we manage to generate as a family of three, but it's all worth it as we continue to strive to mirror the relationship of Christ and the Church for the world around us. (That thought is not mine, I read it in that really awesome book "Seven Virtues of A Godly Wife And Mother" but it's been such an encouragement to me on the days where I ask myself, "Why do I do this?!")

March 6, 2013

Kaleidescope In A Cookie

Well, she did it again. Joy The Baker came up with a recipe that I enjoy much too much. *shrugs* Ah well. At least I have someone to give these too so I won't eat all of them. (Happy Birthday, Momma! I love you!)

refrigerated cookie dough waiting to be sliced
These are so easy to make! I whipped the dough up after putting the baby to bed and washing dinner dishes,  cleaned up more (new) dishes, and still had time to watch a show with my love before crashing in to bed, which we managed to do on time! Since Little Lady isn't sleeping well right now (Teeth? Food issues? Scared of the dark? Who knows!) we try to get to bed around 10. Every little bit helps right? Now if only I could get back into the habit of getting up before she does things would be pretty grand. 

i think it's so fun how the picture on the cookie changes with each slice
These smell amazing during the assembly process by the way. Orange zest, cranberries, poppy seeds, and vanilla. Mmmmmmm. (Also, if you have a store that sells stuff like dried cranberries and/or poppy seeds in bulk they're pretty inexpensive!) 

Cranberry Orange Poppy Seed Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened*
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
   In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla and beat until well blended, another 2 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl as necessary.
   Add the flour mixture, orange zest, cranberries, and poppy seeds, all at once, to the egg mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.
   Divide the dough in half** and place each half on a sheet of waxed paper. Press each half into a log 1 inch in diameter. Roll into plastic wrap and store in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, although overnight is best.
   When ready to bake, place racks in the middle and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
   Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and use a knife to slice dough into 1/3-inch-think rounds. Place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
   Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until barely browned around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
   Cookies will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days.

* Don't do what I did and forget to haul butter out of the freezer until 15 minutes before you want to make the dough. I ended up having to force it to soften (read: zap it in the microwave) and I think it was a little too soft (read: melted), which made the batter a little tricky to shape when it was done.

** If you're super hard-core about getting things in exactly halves, like me, I recommend a kitchen scale with a sheet of waxed paper on top.

 Note: These don't get much bigger than the slices on the sheet, so it's really easy to eat a lot few of them without realizing it. "They're like muffin vitamins! When I eat them I feel like an astronaut..."

 (Also, don't forget to check out Joy's new cookbook!)

Happy Wednesday, y'all!


March 5, 2013

Things Lovely

"Mrs. Martson was one of those that, having great possessions, go sadly all their days. It is strange how generation after generation spends it's fleeting years in this fetish-worship, never daring to make life beautiful by the daily use of things lovely, but for ever being busy about them." - Mary Webb, Gone To Earth

"Mrs. Martson's china glowed so, and was so stainless and uncracked that it seemed as if the lives of all the beautiful young women in her family must have been sacrificed in it's behalf" - Mary Webb, Gone To Earth

A china tea cup I received as a wedding present, ensconcing my morning dose of coffee.

This really struck me today while I was reading. (There will be more on the book when I've finished it.) I know I've seen houses with beautiful things that no one ever touched, holding court in empty rooms where no one was allowed to sit, although thankfully this happens less and less often. I am very grateful that my lovely Mom was wise to this sadness and has always enjoyed using her prettier plates and cups regularly. Somehow though I had managed to slip backwards into the old thoughts of things being too pretty to use every day and two weeks ago my little sister was totally surprised to discover that I actually own two place settings of china that I got as wedding presents! They had lived their entire, so far quite sad, existence safely wrapped in bubble wrap in boxes in a cupboard. She was sweet enough to lovingly chide me for not getting any real use out of them so we unpacked them and I made space for them in the hutch with the regular plates. Now I see their pretty selves at least three times a day and I usually use some piece or another; they're such a cheery reminder of the man I married and our wedding day. Talk about a boost to a day! 

 Do you have any pretty things hiding in cupboards that you could dust off and use to brighten your today? 

February 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake (or: Oh, Yup!)

Now I just *know* that I have mentioned this cool-beyond-cool lady before, right? Right?! I love her. I love her blog. I love her podcast with Tracy from All of it. It's like I'm in the kitchen with her and she's talking to me while she's making food which gives me those warm fuzzy feelings because it reminds me of being in the kitchen with my mom and sisters and talking about *everything* while we did whatever.

 When I found out that the library had her cookbook I was so excited! It is currently in my kitchen with a good dozen or so sticky-note tabs marking recipes that I want to try. The first recipe that I got around to making simply blew me away. It was so tasty!

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake
It really did taste as good as it looks! The peanut butter cream cheese frosting was so tangy, and the cake itself tasted like a spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.
     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
     In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together peanut butter, butter, and sugars until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
     Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed for 1 minute between each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.
    With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Slowly pour in all of the buttermilk. When mixture just starts to come together, add the remaining flour mixture, beating on low speed until mixture just begins to come together. Remove the bowl from the mixture and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.
   Divide the batter between the 2 baking pans. Place on 2 racks in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the cake pans to alternating racks and continue to bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.
   Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
   Frost cakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. (Cake will last, wrapped, in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you let it!)

This cake would not be the same thing without the frosting, so I've typed up that recipe as well.


Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

   Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese for about 1 minute, ensuring that it is soft and pliable. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the batter to the bowl. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.
   Add 1/3 cup of peanut butter to the cream cheese mixture. Beat for 30 seconds on medium speed, until well combined. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and powdered sugar followed by the vanilla. Beat until almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed until all of the powdered sugar has disappeared and the mixture is velvety soft. 
  If using immediately, dollop 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into the finished cream cheese and fold in with a spatula. Don't completely mix, leave streaks of peanut butter throughout the frosting. Use immediately to frost a cake or cupcakes.
  If storing for later use, spoon frosting into an airtight container, add peanut butter, swirl into the frosting and store in the fridge until ready to use. Bring the frosting to room temperature before frosting a cake or cupcakes. Frosting will last, in the airtight container, in the fridge for up to 7 days.

I highly recommend planning on having company, or scheduling yourself to go to a party where cake would be welcome at, reasonably close to the time you make this cake/frosting combo. It's much too dangerous to keep in the house with you, and your peanut butter loving self, for any extended period of time.

Even if you don't make this cake, go check out Joy's blog. She's awesome. (Joy, if you ever read this, I want to be your friend!)

Happy Wednesday y'all, get to cake makin'!

February 20, 2013

Yours, Jack

I picked up a wonderful book of letters written by C.S. Lewis recently, it's titled, "Yours, Jack". I'm only just  starting it (it's been a busy week) but I'm already feeling greatly administered to. Here is an excerpt that I really liked.

   "As to the business about being ‘rooted’ or ‘at home every where’, I wonder are they really the opposite, or are they the same thing. I mean, don’t you enjoy the Alps more precisely because you began by first learning to love in an intimate and homely way on our own hills and woods? While the mere globe-trotter, starting not from a home feeling but from guide books and aesthetic chatter, feels equally at home everywhere only in the sense that he is really at home nowhere? It is just like the difference between vague general philanthropy (which is all balls) and learning to first love your own friends and neighbors which makes you more, not less, able to love the next stranger who comes along. If a man loveth not his brother whom he hath seen – et cetera. [John 4:20] In other words doesn’t one get to the universal (either in people or in inanimate nature) thro’ the individual – not by going off into a mere generalized mash."
 -   C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves: on the necessity of charity beginning “at home”, through one’s own friends and neighbors.

(The table at our book group this week in honor of Gr'ma's birthday which was on the same day.)

February 15, 2013

Book Love!

Alright, so you know that moment when you got home late and dinner is behind schedule so you prep your broccoli for steaming and put it in a pan with a lid on it and think, "I'll remember to put water in that!" ? That moment? Yeah.
I had that moment tonight.
One scorched pan later, I was out a vegetable for dinner.
Determined to serve *something* green, I opened the vegetable drawer in the fridge. There was a cabbage. And I'm all like, "A cabbage? I don't know what to do with a cabbage... How did that even get there?" (I do actually know how it got there, but I forgot to use it the way I had planned to.) I panicked. Then I remembered that I had checked out this book from the library that seemed like it might be helpful. And ladies, it was amazing. Let me introduce you to "The Flavor Bible" by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

It's laid out sort of like a giant index. Under each entry there's a nifty list with information you ought to know like Season (fall and winter for cabbage, in case you were wondering), Function, and Techniques. Then there's a spectacular list of other ingredients and flavors that pair well with it, some in varying boldness/capitals indicating the better or more popular choices. For example, under "Cabbage" they have:
apples and apple cider
bay leaf
bell peppers, red
etc. etc.
The list is much too long to type up in its entirety, they have 76 items all lined up for the choosing. I ended up sauteing thinly sliced cabbage in a healthy spoonful of coconut oil, crushed in a clove of garlic, added a splash or two of apple cider vinegar, and just a bit of chicken stock to help deal with the acidity of the vinegar. (All of those flavors are in that extraordinary list by the way.) It was so tasty! And I felt so cool! I cooked cabbage, in an entirely new-to-me way without using a "recipe" at all. I've already added this book to my to-own list.

Happy Dinner-Rescuing, Y'all!

February 11, 2013

Brimming With Good Things

I'm forging on! This week I made "My Mother-In-Law's Madeira Cake" (not *my* mother-in-law, rather Nigella Lawson's). I didn't get it to make it *quite* as the recipe called for it, I accidentally used up my only lemon making a dinner this week and forgot to replace it. So! I had to skip the lemon zest, and use a blend of lemon and lime juices. (Different, right?) It still turned out pretty tasty though! And it was lovely to look at; always a plus! Though I'll admit, I had to shave off some "too dark" spots when it got out. I'm still dealing with the whole pan-isn't-quite-the-right-size issue so it had to stay in a few minutes longer that was good for it's appearance.

"This is baking at its simplest and most elegant. There's no folderol or fancy footwork: you just feel humble and worthy and brimming with good things" - Nigella Lawson

Recipe From "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson

My Mother-In-Law’s Madeira Cake

1 cup softened unsalted butter
¾ cup sager, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
½ cup all-purpose flour

9x5-inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper or wax paper
Preheat the oven to 350F.
          Cream the butter and ¾ cup sugar, add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove to wire rack, and let cool in the pan before turning out. 
          Makes 8-10 slices.

Variation: Add the juice of another half lemon and a tablespoon or two of poppy seeds.

Since it wasn't very lemony I made a lemon-blueberry sauce to go over it. So tasty!
I have been reading other books, one of which I am *super* excited about and I will hopefully be able to share a review with you soon!

Happy Domestic-ing,

February 5, 2013

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School [Book Review]

Y'all, I devoured this book. Admittedly I was pretty sure I was going to like it because I had already enjoyed Mrs. Flinn's first book "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry", but I didn't know that I would be unable to put it down. It's funny, packed with great information and instructions, and I love her attitude about food. I started reading this book on Sunday, and was so pumped about it that I tried one of her recipes (Leek and Potato Soup) for Monday night's dinner. It was delicious! I wish I had taken a picture of it because it was very pretty for being a soup, but I had three hungry guys waiting and I didn't want to hold everything up.

 I don't know if I can pick out a favorite thing about this book; I was inspired by so much of it! I actually bought a whole chicken, and I'm determined to get at least two meals plus some stock out of it, I'll let you know how that goes. Oh wait! now I remember the thing that was the most helpful to me was her cheat sheet for seasoning veggies! I have always relied very heavily on things like butter and cheese (yum!) for vegetables because I was so terrified to try seasoning them with spices and herbs. There are a lot of flavors out there, how could I possibly pick the right one? I didn't want to choose the wrong things and end up with yucky food that no one would eat. But this book has totally changed that. Now, I am an empowered vegetable eater, with a nifty sheet of tasty (and quick!) ways to boost/enhance the tastiness of my food in a myriad of ways! How exciting is that? (I'm pretty excited.)

After powering through this book, I did a quick Google search to see if Mrs. Flinn had any cooking classes available (I desperately want to take one from her!), which sadly, she doesn't. But, she has the next best thing; this website!

There will be new lessons uploaded every month for a whole year! The lessons that are already up are the basics, stuff like knife holding and reading nutrition labels. (Haha, if there was anything that could chase you out of the store and into your own kitchen it would probably be those labels! "Partially hydogenated soybean oil" in a cake mix? Yikes!)

So, go! Read! Cook! And have a blessed Tuesday.


February 4, 2013

Cake: Take Two.

Well, I did it! I made that chocolate loaf cake I talked about. The first time there was a bit of a learning curve; my loaf pan is a 8.5x4.5 instead of a 9x5 (I know, right?) which is surprising smaller volume-wise. Which meant that even though I followed the recipe to a 'T', the baking time wasn't quite enough for the depth of the batter. So the when that last timer dinged, even though it looked delicious, it was still very very raw at the bottom/middle.  But I was not going to give up that easily! I asked Kaitie what she thought about it (she is a master baker, y'all, in case you didn't know) and she said it would probably be fine just to extend the baking time, so that's what I did. I just added five minutes on to each baking section (there's a temperature switch in the middle) and it turned out *perfectly*. See?
My Cake

The photo in the cookbook
Not too shabby, huh? Here's the recipe in case you're tempted to try it for yourself.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 cup soft unsalted butter            1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar        1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten                   1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract            9x5-inch loaf pan
4 ounces best bittersweet
    chocolate, melted.

Preheat the oven to 375F, put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later, and grease and line the loaf pan. The lining is important as this is a very damp cake; use parchment or one of those loaf-pan-shaped paper liners.
   Cream the butter and sugar, either with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand-held mixer, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next, fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but being careful not to overbeat. You want the ingredients combined; you don't want a light airy mass. Then gently add the the flour, to which you're added the baking soda, alternately spoon by spoon, with  the boiling water water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325F and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so and inserted cake tester or skewer won't come out completely clean.
  Place the loaf pan on a rack, and to get completely cold before turning it out. (I often leave it for a day or so; like gingerbread, it improves.) Don't worry if it sinks in the middle; indeed, it will do so because it's such a dense and damp cake.
  Makes 8-10 slices.

I highly recommend getting this book from your library if you can, it's really lovely. (Or you could just snag it off Amazon, here.)


February 2, 2013

Saturday Morning In Pictures

Grinding Coffee Beans

Waiting For The Kettle

Frozen Pancakes

Slice Of Chocolate Loaf And Coffee

January 31, 2013

How To Be A Domestic Goddess

"You might think that preparing the cups sounds fiddly, but in fact the job is just demanding enough to make one feel uncharacteristically competent, but not so much that any actual dexterity is required." - Nigella Lawson, on getting ramekins ready for molten lava cakes.

 This book has been so much fun to look through! And Nigella has inspired me to make cakes (I'm going out to pick up come chocolate as soon as Addie is up). The first one I'm going to try is her "Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake". If you could see the picture you would understand my choice. In her words, "This is the plainest of loaf cakes-- but that doesn't convey the damp, heady aromatic denseness of it. To understand that you'll just have to cook it. And as you'll see, that isn't hard at all." Well if you say so, I know I'm game!

Happy Domestic-ness To You All!

January 29, 2013

The Gentle Art Of Domesticity

In case you missed it on my Facebook page, or I haven't had a chance to personally extol the virtues of this book to you yet, I would like to take this opportunity to share a snippet from the afterword with you.

"For me it is recognition--recognition of the worth of homemaking, of overlooked skills, of ordinary things. Above all it is the recognition of the small but significant moments that come with an acceptance and enjoyment of the domestic space. ... We should recognize the moments of inspiration or luxury, the delights of domestic nature and style, and allow them to flourish and become a memory, so that we can hold on to them and keep them with us as reminders that although our situations may change, we are always able to recognize the significance and value of domesticity." - Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity (pg 274)

 This book is so delightful, I was absolutely captivated the entire time. While she enjoys domestic skills that I don't quite adore yet (knitting, crocheting, quilting) it was still very nice to read about how each of those talents is a joy and inspiration to her. And I love her writing style. And this book. Read it, dears. You won't be sad you did!

January 10, 2013

Real life. Real love.

This morning was kind of hysterical. It's our anniversary so Noel was a sweet heart and got me a card and some chocolate. Love that man! However, Addie threw fits all morning, I messed up the ingredients in the pancakes, the maple syrup had molded so Noel had to throw out the first two pancakes I did manage to make for him, the van had to go into the shop so Noel was late for work, we ate dinner at mom and dad's last night so there were no leftovers for him to take for lunch, we missed getting the garbage out on time, and we forgot to move the car seat base out of the van before Noel took it in so now I am trying to coordinate a ride to get lunch to him. This is the stuff real life is made of, and I wouldn't want to be going through it with anyone but my love, who manages to make me laugh about it all; especially the crazy days. :) Hope y'all have a blessed day and get to laugh with your love!