He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

31 March 2011

Have You Hugged Your Baby Daddy Today?

There are days where life tires me and I become discontent.
I usually take it out on the people I love most in this world. 
More specifically... the guy I love the most in this world.
Then I watch him with our kids. 
I see the kind of father he is to them and realize what an ungrateful, unappreciative woman I can be sometimes. 
 I mean... come on!



30 March 2011

Have Some Fun with Dinner

I don't normally do the whole April Fools Day thing but I found these ideas quite clever... 
If you don't have plans for Friday then here ya go!

ingredients: corn flakes, sugar wafers, peanut butter, taffy, strawberry jam

ingredients: pound cake, buttercream frosting

ingredients: pound cake, frosting

Meat Cupcakes and...
ingredients: cupcakes, vanilla frosting, starburst candy, caramel sauce

Meatloaf Cake from All Recipes

29 March 2011

{Via Cappuccino Muffins}

I don't know if you've noticed but Tuesday is usually recipe day... 
Apparently I'm still in "I'm-pregnant-and-oh-my-that-looks-amazing-so-I'll-make-it-now" mode....

Via Cappuccino Muffins 
{recipe from The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen}

*I did not use Via and instead substituted 1 tsp of instant coffee for each packet
*The printable recipe says it serves 12 but it made only 9 for me

28 March 2011

Encouragement for Mommies...

Can you believe it's the end of March?
Yes, Friday is the first day of April. That's April of 2011!
Where does time go?!

A friend of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It's from Rocks In My Dryer and I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you. The message... It Gets Easier!

Also, if you've got time and want some ideas for kids ranging from cooking to educational sites and toys resources, Shannon pulled together a bunch of great resources to check out. {Click the image}


25 March 2011

Other People's Genius {Accessorizing with Kids in Mind}

SO easy to make. SO easy to personalize. 
try this tutorial from Mommy Diaries 
{image from Spearmint Baby

cupcake liner pom poms
image and tutorial from How Does She?

floral nursery mobile
remember these? 
tutorial found at Young House Love

fabric covered canvas
a simple and inexpensive way to get color in any room
you can even paint your kiddos initials into a few of these for a personalized touch
picture and tutorial from Woman's Day

tissue paper pom poms
another great way to get some fun in your rooms
and even better, it's on the cheap!
see how with Lori Danelle

and yet another
adorable version of the same idea...
from Under the Sycamore

indoor tee pee
all of this seeming a bit girly?
how about giving your little guy a "man cave" 
make your own with Sew Mama Sew
{image from Room Envy}

bed curtains
there's no shortage of ideas for this one!
super duper inexpensive crepe paper curtains from Family Fun
 looking to take a dramatic approach like Jonathan Addler?
screw it into the ceiling
or hang it using wire and an embroidary hoop 
like Country Living did
can you screw in curtain rods? 
this may be for you. 

Happy Weekend!

23 March 2011

Maple Syruping {Part 3}

Alright, so we’ve tapped the trees, collected the sap, and boiled the sap outside on the evaporator.
Once I get the sap level in my pan to be about half an inch deep I pull the pan off of the evaporator and onto some blocks that I stacked up. I do this to quickly stop the boil because if the sap level gets too low it can scorch the pan, or if it gets dry, it can burn a hole in the pan. I then pour the remaining sap into a pan and bring it into the house.
The sap goes into a large soup pot to boil on the stove with a candy thermometer. To reach “syrup”, the sap has to reach 219 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees above the boiling point of water). This is much easier said than done. As sap reaches “almost syrup” stage, it tends to bubble up and try to boil over. You can stop this by touching the bubbles with a stick of butter, or by removing the pot from the heat. Either way, this is something that you have to watch out for, because if the pot overflows, it makes a sticky, nasty mess on the stove top.{The wife and kids usually hide during this point in the boil so that we all continue to get along.}
Once the candy thermometer tells me that I’ve reached 219 degrees, I double-check the “syrupness” by using a hydrometer.
The hydrometer measures the density of the syrup to tell me if its done or not. Basically, there is a red line on the hydrometer and when the hydrometer is dipped into a testing cup, if the red line is below the top of liquid, its not syrup yet.
Once the proper temperature and density has been reached its time to filter. Every time you heat your syrup, sugar sand can form and you want to filter this and other particulates {nice "Bones" reference, dear} out so that you have nothing but pure, clear syrup.
My filtering process is to hang a large conical felt filter above another pot using an inverted tomato cage. This felt filter is filled with two paper filters. I pour the hot sap into the cone and let it drain into the last pot until the flow starts to slow. When it slows, I pull the top paper filter out and carefully pour the syrup into the next paper filter.
I do this because enough particulate has clogged the first paper filter and is not letting enough through. BE VERY CAREFUL HERE. You’re trying to pour syrup that is hotter than the boiling point of water {another good time for the wife and kids to hide}.
I do this again when the second paper filter clogs.
Once the filtering is complete, I pour the finished syrup into food safe containers and the heat from the sap kills any germs that might be in the container and also seals the container tight.
Once the bottles are cool, they go down to the basement to stay dry and cool until the bottles are opened.
All that’s left now is to enjoy!

22 March 2011

{Peanut Butter Granola Bars}

I attend Community Bible Study on Wednesday mornings and we have brunches every so often. A lovely lady from our group made these and I was hooked. They're delicious and you get to control each and every ingredient that goes into it! Two of my favorite things! Be warned, this recipe makes A LOT! I'd seriously consider halving it unless you have a small army to feed. 
{Peanut Butter Granola Bars}

What You'll Need:
5 c quick cooking oats
4 1/2 crispy rice cereal
1 c flaked coconut
1 pkg graham crackers, crushed {I used my food processor for this}
3/4 c butter
1/4 vegetable oil {you can sub coconut oil too}
1/4 c honey
1/4 c peanut butter
2-10oz pkg mini marshmallows
2 c semi sweet chocolate chips

What To Do:
Combine oats, cereal, coconut & graham crackers.
Melt butter in a pan... add the oil, honey, peanut butter and marshmallows. Stir on low heat until marshmallows are melted.
Pour over dry ingredients and mix well. {DON'T TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS STEP! I did. My chocolate didn't incorporate well and I ended up with lots of crumbles in the end. Whoops!}
Stir in chocolate chips.
Press into large cookie sheets {I did this with a rolling pin and waxed paper} and then cut into bars.
See how it didn't spread well in my cookie sheets? I think it's because I let it cool too long. 
Don't worry, though, they didn't go to waste!

20 March 2011

Do I Really Trust God?

If you had asked me any day prior to a week ago if I trusted the Lord my answer would have been, unequivocally and emphatically,  "YES!". It wasn't until this past week I began to understand what trusting God really looks like and now my answer would be much more like "I try" or "sometimes" or even "somewhat".
Now before you go wondering what major event happened in my life that caused my answer to change I want you to know that nothing has happened. My husband and children and even my extended family and, yes, my dearest friends are all good and well. My home is still exactly as it was; providing shelter, warmth, and comfort. My personal health is just as it was and even Baby Bean is growing strong and healthy. Brent's job is still secure and we still receive a steady income that provides and exceeds our needs.
What HAS changed is me. My thinking. My further understanding of my depravity and all that it entails.
God has been no less faithful than He has always been in my life and has continued to show me the depths of His love for me, a sinner who can't seem to do the things I want to do and keeps on doing the shameful things that I don't want to do. {Romans 7:14-25}
Today, specifically, I am just beginning to understand how little I trust God in my daily life.
Boy, it hurts to realize that.

Yes, I believe that He died for my sins and rose again to conquer death. The issue isn't my trust in His gift of salvation those who believe in Him and yes,  I trust that it's His grace and mercy that makes my daily life possible.
Instead, I struggle with trusting Him with that daily life.
For example... Hubs and I were recently offered a very generous opportunity to make our current living situation far more comfortable by making some adjustments to our house at no cost to us.
Wonderful, right?
The thing is...we aren't sure that going ahead with this decision would be wise for us in the long run and aren't really sure how to proceed. My instincts, of course, are to take the opportunity and not look back because we are quickly outgrowing our home. But, again, the reality is that this may not be the best for us and ultimately Hubs has to make that decision. I'm struggling to trust that Hubs will make the "right" decision for us which ultimately means that I'm struggling to trust that God has a good plan and that it will come to fruition as He sees fit through the man He has put over me. I know how I want this all to play out but the uncertainty of what is to come is embarassingly difficult for me to accept.
Example 2: Hubs has wanted to go to Africa with my dad to see how he can become involved in our family's mission organization. I'm jealous of his ability to go {me going with three little ones is financially and strategically foolish right now} but I'm also terrified for his safety. In my moments of rational thinking I absolutely think he should go because I know that he is no safer asleep next to me in bed than he is thousands of miles away but sometimes I cannot seem to get my emotions around that. I want him to go. I think it'd be wonderful for him to go. I'm proud of him for wanting to go. And yet I am sometimes petrified by the thought of him going.
And, if a trip to Africa {South Sudan} seems like something worth worrying about... then try Example 3: My mom and aunt offered to take Miss Mak for the day on a road trip this weekend. It would entail going a couple of hours away to do some shopping and I think it would be wonderful for her to get away. Rarely does Miss Mak get a chance to go out without CJ and she loves her Oma so I know it would be good for her. My head understands all this. My heart, however... my chest gets tight just thinking about her being away from me for that long and that far. I worry about her safety in the car. I worry about her choking during a meal at a restaurant. When I let my mind dwell on my fears the scenarios get a little crazy... mom could wreck, become incapacitated, a bystander could come across the accident, see a beautiful baby girl and take her away so that I'd never see her again. {Yes, I considered writing her name and my phone number on the bottom of her foot just in case.}
As you can see I sometimes worry to an unreasonable degree. Not a lot. But enough.
I do the things I don't want to do.
I hate it.
It would seem like maybe I'm paranoid or psychotic but, when it comes to the family the Lord has charged me to care for, I can be a little crazy and hang on too tight. 
And yet, that's just it. That's the point.
The Lord has given me 3 1/2 gifts that I cherish so dearly that I forget where those gifts came from to begin with.
I have fallen in love with the gifts and forgotten the giver of them.
I know that God is good.
I know that He will supply for all my needs.
I know that He cares for even the insignificant details of my life.
And yet...
And yet I worry about what He'll do with those gifts He has given. He can take them away at any point.
Does that mean He is untrustworthy?
I am aware of so many cases where parent's have lost their children early in life. I have heard stories of young wives losing their spouses unexpectedly. I cannot imagine dealing with that kind of loss and, though not often, I can be paralyzed by the fear that it will happen to me.
I console myself with the realization that the number of people I know who have lost a child is greatly exceeded by the number of people who have not. That makes me feel better. But...
That's not trust!
That's math and percentages and counting on my odds and finding peace in those things doesn't settle with me.
It's also not trust to "go with the flow" and do what's right in an attempt to avoid the painful things. Thinking that painful things in my life are a result of my inability to trust makes God a cause and effect God in which case I have every reason to live in constant fear of Him because he's a purposeless dictator who's just out to teach me a lesson.
That's not right.
I think about it this way...
I trust my husband. He is a faulted man who has and will disappoint me many times throughout the course of our marriage just as I have and will continue to disappoint him. Then why trust him? Because I know that we have a common goal in the safety and best interest of our kids. If something "happened" to our kids in Hub's care I know it would be out of his hands. I know that he wouldn't be able to help the outcome because I know he would do everything he could to keep them safe.
When it comes to God, I know that anything that happens is because HE allowed it. He planned it. He knew from the beginning that it would happen and it did. "The buck stops with Him". I'm finding myself opening my hands to take the "good" but quickly closing them when I sense the "difficult" is coming.
It's so disappointing.

So this all sounds hopeless.
And honestly I don't have many answers here.
I haven't actually encountered anyone who does.
Jerry Bridges, author or Respectable Sins, dedicated a whole chapter to anxiety and worry. He concluded that in all situations, even in those where uncertainty, doubt, fear, hesitation feel justifiable, we need to obey the Word. Matthew 6:34 commands us "...Do not worry about tomorrow". There are no qualifiers. That's it. Just stop it.
Now, aside from just "stopping it" I can lean on the truths and promises that God has given...

God is good. {Matthew 19:17}
God loves you and me. {John 3:16}
God has a plan for our lives {that includes the lives of my family}. {Romans 12:1-2}
That plan is a good plan. {Romans 12:1-2}
God will use all things to bring Himself glory which is why we're here to begin with. {Isaiah 60:21, I Corinthians 10:31}
God gives and He takes away. {Job 1:20-21}
Understanding that I don't know everything is not a sin.{Romans 11:34}
Doubt is a sin. {Romans 14:23}
Worry is a sin. {Phil 4:6}
Allowing myself to worry means that I am struggling for control over my life.
Allowing myself to become overwhelmed with uncertainty is a sin. {Phil 4:6}

I have no control...
If I did have control, God wouldn't be God. {Job 40-41}
Prayer works. {I Peter 5:7, Phil 4:6-9}
Stopping to think about all the gifts He has already given helps...
Joy begins with thankfulness. {Philippians 4:4-9}
Doing things for others takes my mind of me and refreshes my spirit.

As a friend of mine pointed out last week, the disciples spent three years walking and talking with God and still struggled, why do I expect to have it all figured out when I'm so far removed from His days on earth? I can only lean on what I know and take things as they come.

I believe Lord, only help my unbelief.

18 March 2011

{Swiss Burger}

Happy Weekend! 
Swiss Burger
I made a few changes to this recipe based on our family's tastes. The result? Yum!  
{adapted from Cook This, Not That's A.1. Swiss Burger}

What You'll Need:
1/2 T canola oil, plus more for the burgers
1 medium yellow onion sliced
2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground sirloin or ground turkey
4 slices swiss cheese
4 keiser rolls, slit and lightly toasted

Heat oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Ad the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms and onions are browned and caramelized. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Heat a light film of oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Form the sirloin into four loosely packed into 4 evenly sized balls {not patties} being careful not to overwork the meat. Season all over with salt and a bit of black pepper. Add to the pan and cook for a minute or two, then pace a spatula on top of each patty and pres down to flatten the meat into a burger about 1/3" thick. Cook for about 2 minutes, until a nice crust develops. Flip, using the spatula to scrape the burger free if necessary. Top with cheese and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the meat is coked through. Place the burgers on the toasted buns, then top with the mushrooms and onions.

17 March 2011

Other People's Genius {Color Palette}

funky cool colors, great for a kid's room or, well... any room.
i love the white furniture with the natural floors and shades

go monotone in any color but mix it up with different shades and patterns
i'd love to see this in Miss Mak's or Baby Bean's room 
{if only Hubs would let me near a paint can}

i usually think of pre-school rooms and oversized alphabet cards when i think of primary colors.
not anymore! this color scheme could be used anywhere around the house...like a kitchen! 
{just stick with a neutral background}

can't pick just one color? 
maybe you don't have to!
{the above two pictures from decorati0n.net}

 i'm not gonna lie. my favorite color is green and i am starting to think that i love it to a fault.

this is a great example of using the color wheel to help with color schemes.  orange and green are both secondary colors and work beautifully together if done in the right shades.
{from Country Living}

 believe it or not, white can be done without looking like you can't decide on what to do
{i don't recommend this in kid friendly zones}

neutral doesn't have to be boring, either.
pops of color through windows, pattern, or plant life can really warm up a nearly white space.
 this is the same house as above. you get a chance to really appreciate "star pieces" like the pillow fabric or the antique table and chair when nothing else is clogging your view. i love the simplicity of it all... imagine a world without clutter.  hello, pipe dream!

admittedly, i'm far more an "au naturel" {browns and greens} type than i am a "glamour girl" {black and white}but good design is good design and there are few things more classy and glamourous than mirrors, high gloss finishes, crystals and a stark black and white contrast. 
maybe in another life. 

... see what i mean about the mirrored finishes? 
you can get the same effect with silver-leaf or high gloss metallic spray paint.

this would be an easy theme to copy.
the pale yellow and aged teal from the rug are easy to find in fabrics, rugs and paints

one of the most common color schemes i run across is burgundy, olive green and gold. 
this can be very warm and inviting and, at the moment, super easy to find.

if you like mellow and very VERY neutral, Martha may have what you're looking for.
i'm a huge fan of  her grays and earth tones but sometimes her designs get a bit too "dingy" looking for me. 
i love the international/eclectic vibe of this room.  it's gender neutral and would be easy to duplicate by using simple neutral base pieces and adding fun fabrics to change it up.

feeling non-committal? here's another neutral based room with pops of color. just switch out the drapes and pillows and you've got a whole new look.

and finally... i'm not usually a pink lover but i really like how this room is done. 
you could easily switch out any single color for the pink and mix it up with different patterns and shades
hmm... how about an apple green? yum!



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