Friday, January 28, 2011

Where were you?

Twenty-five years ago this morning, the shuttle Challenger took off on an historic mission that would leave the country struck with shock and grief.

I was a third grade student at a small Christian school, and I remember being very excited that day to see the first school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, go into space.  Our classroom had a tv set up for us to watch this historical moment.  We prayed as a class for the safety of the astronauts and then excitedly watched the countdown.  We all wondered and nervously chatted aloud, "Would we be brave enough to fly in a space shuttle?"  It all seemed so exciting and surreal as we watched a teacher head off into space.  (We were getting to watch tv in school, too, which just seemed extra exciting.)

Just seconds into take-off, something went terribly wrong.  Our teacher watched in horror along with the rest of us as we tried to decipher what had happened.  A large explosion...falling debris...surely it couldn't be...

One of the many blessings I remember of being at a Christian school happened that instant:  our teacher had us all huddle into a circle and we prayed for those astronauts, for their families, and for all those involved in the apparent tragedy that had just occurred.  We prayed first for a miracle--that somehow they would survive; we prayed for God's comfort for the families of the astronauts; and we prayed for wisdom for our president and leaders.

This was a lesson that my parents had been instilling in me at home, but that day, God used my teacher and the other students in my class to affirm in my mind that in all trials and tragedies, turning to God is what must happen in my life.  Only HE can provide true refuge, comfort, and peace in light of tragedy.

Psalm 46: 1-2
God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.

President Ronald Regan gave a stirring speech that night in place of his State of the Union Address.
He concluded with these words:

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God'."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #56:  Meat tends to be one of the most expensive items in my grocery cart each week.  Try of one of these meatless dinner ideas to save on your grocery budget!

*Tomato Soup (delicious recipe from i am mommy!) and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

*Baked Potatoes loaded with...broccoli! (a little butter and cheese doesn't hurt either)

*Quesadillas (the kids like cheese, but Cody and I like fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella!)

*Breakfast for supper...vegetable omelets, pancakes, french toast, baked oatmeal...cereal?

*Black Bean Tacos (thank you, Peter Marie, for this brilliant idea!)

*Macaroni and Cheese (we love Annie's Mac and Cheese)

*Salad (this is definitely a favorite in the summer!)

*Peanut Butter and Jelly...or banana...Sandwiches

*Vegetable Soup

What's your favorite meatless dinner dish?  Please share!

Here's a new soup we just tried and it was a hit!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

1 large head cauliflower, cut into flowerets
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 c. chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup half-and-half (I used 1% milk--not as thick, but it still worked fine!)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  On a cookie sheet, toss cauliflower and onion slices with olive oil.
Roast for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
In large saucepan, combine roasted cauliflower mixture, garlic, chicken broth, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
Discard bay leaf. Using a blender, puree soup.  (I left mine with a few chunky pieces of cauliflower.) Return soup to saucepan.  Stir in half-and-half or milk, salt and pepper.
Serve with a smile and lot of reassurance that this really is yummy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taco Tuesday!

Tacos always seem to be a hit with kids.
They also happen to be one of the easiest meals to sneak in a few more vegetables and to use healthy switch-ups!

Try these easy, healthful switch-ups:

*Taco shells: trade out soft flour tortillas for whole grain tortillas

*Meat:  combine 1 lb. lean ground beef and 1 lb lean ground turkey, brown with one diced onion.  Add 1 c. (or more) partially mashed black beans.  Even "bean haters" will like this!

*Seasoning:  make this easy taco seasoning blend--no crazy unpronounceable ingredients like the packets from the store.  Use 1-2 Tablespoons per pound of meat.  Add after any fat has been drained from meat.  A few tablespoons of water may need to be added.

Taco Seasoning
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste 

Mix all spices and store in an airtight container.

*Toppings:  sprinkle the cheese in moderation...load up the vegetables!  Lettuce is is spinach.  Mix some in!  Along with diced tomatoes, slice some avocado.  Play up the's a fiesta!

 What are your favorite taco toppings?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nine Years!

Nine years ago this month marks a special new beginning for Cody and I.

We had both graduated from college and were just waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

And then it happened!

Cody got a call from Pastor Pausley asking him to interview for the position of Music Pastor at Willow Creek Baptist Church.

We interviewed, we visited, we candidated,  they voted...YES!

And I became...a Pastor's wife.

During the last nine years, God has taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined.

We've walked through some dark times,
experienced grief and trials,
cried with those we love,
and begged God in prayer for guidance.

We've also experienced the most joyous of times,
developed amazing friendships,
seen incredible answers to prayers,
tightly hugged new brothers and sisters in Christ,
watched our people learn, grow, and serve together,
and so fully experienced God's all-powerful love and glorious sustaining grace.

We couldn't have imagined a better place to be.
We absolutely love Willow Creek!

Psalm 126:3
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

 *I snagged this recording of our family during our devotions last week.  We're not the Partridge Family...just consider yourself warned!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thrifty Thursday! ( a little early)

Thrifty Tip #55:  Sign up for GROUPON to get amazing deals for local businesses in your city!

Here's an example what your daily email will look like.  You can take it or leave problem!

The reason I'm posting this early is because for the next EIGHT HOURS, you can still buy a YEAR LONG PASS to the BLANK PARK ZOO for only $34 for a 2 person membership or $49 for an unlimited # family membership!  This is 50% off the normal price!  PLUS, when I signed up for Groupon, I received a $10 discount code in my email and the person I signed up under received a $10 credit!  So, our family membership was just $39!  We couldn't even visit the zoo one time for this price!  It's a great deal for a fun family activity!!!

So what are you waiting for...

**No worries if you don't live in the great Des Moines Metro area, there are 100's of cities to choose from, so you can choose the city closest to you!  (Although I highly doubt it's nearly as cool as good 'ol Des Moines where it was a whopping -1F when we drove to school this morning!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eat your vegetables!

I am super blessed to have children that love vegetables!
Stir fry is one of our favorite meals. 
It's so easy and packed full of nutrition!
I've posted a similar recipe before, but this time I tried using fresh ginger.
It was a surprisingly good change! 
Zingy and full of flavor. 
Plus, ginger root is inexpensive and easy to use.
You'll want to try it if you haven't yet!

(For those of you who know me well...yes, I can't decide what my deal is with ginger.  Sometimes it adds to my nausea and other times it tastes perfect.  Go figure.  Maybe I'm carrying a child who will be prone to indecisiveness!)

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
Brown Rice  (prepare according to package directions)

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
Soy sauce
1 c. chicken broth
olive oil
1 large chicken breast, cubed
6 large carrots, sliced into 1/2 pieces at an angle
6 stalks celery,  sliced into 1 inch pieces at an angle
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 can water chestnuts  (I'm not sure about the nutrition here, but they add more great crunch!)
1 bag fresh bean sprouts
 Chinese Noodles (optional, but tasty!)

In a wok or large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook just until onion begins to soften.  Add raw chicken, 2 T. soy sauce, and chicken broth.  Cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Add carrots and cook 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the vegetables and cook just until vegetables are steamed--but still very crisp.
Serve over brown rice and top with Chinese noodles.  Season with soy sauce as desired.

Our most satisfied customer!
He's asked for this meal every single day since we had it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #54:  Taking care of your clothing will help them last much longer...which will in turn save money!

Here are some handy tips to help make the most of your clothing:

*Invest in drying racks!  We hang everything to dry (except bedding, towels, socks, and underthings).  This helps clothing keep it's original shape without shrinking and also keeps colors bright.

 (This is just a sample...the racks hold tons of clothing!)
*Don't let clothes set sopping wet in the washing machine.  This fades the clothing quickly!   

*For the most part, jeans and sweaters can be worn more than one time without being washed.  This is somewhat tricky with children--there's a lot of inspecting going on before I make the call.  Undershirts are a great way to save sweaters from harmful deodorants or perspiration.

*Keeping clothing neatly put away or hung up will ensure that the clothing stays looking nice, neat, and moderately wrinkle free! 
Check out this great demonstration from one of our favorite college friends on a simple way to fold shirts.  (Sorry about the crazy flip video at the end...bad camera girl!)
Thanks, Josh!  I'm sure Mickie appreciates all the laundry being folded so quickly and precisely!

What are your best laundry or clothing saving tips?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit!

Did your brother teach you this rhythmic, humorous saying as a kid?

Mine did.

It has .:never:. left my mind.

It's the reason, I can go through the church potluck line and giggle as I pass the beans and see all the proper people taking heaps of them.

Thanks, brother.

The impact you made on my life is timeless.

Ah beans.

I really do love them.

My family...not so much, especially in large, blatant quantities.

They must be hidden.  (which I can do, don'

So I drool over intriguing bean recipes and usually know I'll have to pass.  (Brother, stop.your.mind.)

However, I do have one bean loving family member:  my DAD.

When he comes to town, the beans come out!

This weekend, my mom and dad came to stay with our kids so we could go to an amazingly awesome youth retreat.   
(Like seriously, the best retreat ever.  Three of the best youth pastors & their wives, great sponsors and a bunch of excited teens that all want to love Jesus more!  Send your kids to these retreats--you seriously won't regret it!)

Back to the beans...

A recipe for Two-Bean Vegetarian Chili popped into my inbox that looked so intriguing I couldn't forget it. 

I had to try it!

It's spicy.

It's tangy.

It's zippy.


It's also different from anything I've ever cooked.

The vegetables are cooked in Balsamic Vinegrette Salad dressing.

Weird.  But actually good.

Give it a try!

Then you can be singing...beans, beans, the magical fruit...

You're welcome.

Two-Bean Vegetarian Chili

2 cups long-grain brown rice, uncooked
2 Tbsp.  Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices  
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped (I used a green pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can  (15.5 oz.) red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup  Barbecue Sauce (homemade bbq sauce would be great!)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 cup  frozen corn
1-1/2 cups Finely Shredded Four Cheese 
Cook rice as directed on package. Meanwhile, heat dressing in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic; cook and stir 6 to 8 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
(This looked and smelled amazing!  I think it could be a side-dish on it's own!)

Add next 5 ingredients; stir. Bring to boil; simmer on medium-low heat 30 min., stirring frequently.

Stir in corn; cook 5 min.

Serve over rice; top with cheese.  (I forgot the cheese.)
This chili is packed with nutrition and offers a great low calorie, low fat, high fiber meal!

So what's your favorite way to eat the magical fruit?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flashback Friday

It's hard to believe that two weeks ago today, we were hitting the slopes in Colorado!
(By hitting...I mean I was gingerly and gracefully falling on my tail pretty much the whole time!)

Here's a look at all the fun we had!
(Sorry there's no cutesy narration...all creativity is currently nauseated!)
 Delight Donuts in Kearney, Nebraska:  DELIGHTFULLY DELICIOUS!
 Our first sighting of the mountains was so exciting!
The temperature was also in the fifties in beautiful!
 We arrived!
 The kids were up bright and early for their first day of ski school!
 Cloe was a pro at the bunny hill!
 That's one of the boys with his arms out like a mummy!
 Here's my kind, patient instructor Gary.  He had the joy of teaching me for {two} days.
(Or maybe I failed the first day of ski school and had to go back for more help the second day!)
 All smiles with her skis!
 Made it to the top of the mountain!
(Seriously, so much further to the top than I thought it would be!)
Here's the proof:  I was at the top!
(How I made it to the bottom thankfully isn't displayed in pictures...let's just say it's good to be alive and on flat ground again!)
 The BEST $3.00 hot chocolate we have ever shared!
 The boys needed a little r&r.  So thankful for Netflix and free wi-fi in the lodge!
 Ready to go again...this time, tubing!
 My crazy snowboarding man!
 It was so nice to be outside...and not be freezing like in Iowa!
 Tubing!  McClain went down a couple of times standing in the tube.  
(Not looking forward to his dare-devil teen years!)

 Riding the sky-lift at Winter Park.
We are so proud of Cloe and the way she just picked up skiing so naturally!
 Our little family!
The whole big family!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #53:  Coupons are "restocked" online on the first of every month.  Many have printing limits, so check right away to grab the best, high value coupons!

Here are some websites that offer coupons and fun, easy recipes:

Betty Crocker
Eat Better America
Box Tops 4 Education
Kraft Foods 

Where do you like to find your coupons?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Can we be friends?

Do you ever read the blog of "big blogger" and just think,
"Wow, I wish we could be friends in real life!"

That's how I feel when I read Molly Piper's blog

She's such an excellent writer, so genuine and real (cute & fun, too!).  

Plus, she's named Molly--the name I always wished I could change mine to (especially after being mistakenly called Linda, Rhonda or Wanda for the zillionth time).

Molly has suffered unthinkable loss, experienced boundless grace, and continues to beautifully radiate God's glory through it all. 

Yesterday, Molly had a guest post over at (in)courage.

It would be worth every second of your time to head on over there and read it.

I promise it will resonate heavily with you--especially if you're a busy mom.

Take the time...go be challenged and encouraged!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Birthday Recap

Boys' special request for their Birthday breakfast:  
blue and green pancakes!  
(Thank you i am mommy for putting color in our breakfast!)

 The cake!
(This was my first attempt at fondant--it wasn't too hard!)

Birthday Dinner:
(I think they enjoyed it, although it seemed just like a passage to the GIFTS!)
Can you feel the excitement?

And now, they're officially five!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

To my little boys

 Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet little boys!

It's beyond my wildest dreams that we've been blessed to have you both as sons for five years already.
I thought when your 5th birthday hit, I'd be full of sadness for the loss of my "babies" and for how quickly the time had gone.  
But today, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the sweet, loving, polite little men you have become.  
You need grace everyday, just as your mommy does too.  
I pray you will continue to learn about Jesus and the saving grace He gives to us freely.

 Carson, you are spunky and funny!
I pray you will continue loving to make people smile and laugh!
Your joy is contagious!
 McClain, you are loving and tender-hearted!
I pray you will continue to have love and compassion for those around you!
Your hugs and kisses are the best!
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in the grace and knowledge 
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.