Jan 31, 2012

Another first!

This weekend The Girl attended her first "friend" b-day party. The royal engagement was so precious, I had to snap a few photos...
So fun to see her write her own cards... 

 Did I mention it was a princess party? The guests were to come in their best princess attire!

Simple, adorable decor.

What you might know as "musical chairs" was actually "Jasmine's Magic Carpets."

There was also digging for Rapunzel's crown...

and of course the royal proclaimations....

the royal table...

The Girl would not belive that there was a cake in the doll's dress. She kept saying, "Yes, mom, but WHERE IS THE BIRTHDAY CAKE?!"

Decorating their masks for the masquerade ball while awaiting all pricesses to arrive...

The princesses had to reach into "Ariel's Treasure Cove" to find their treasure box, and it's contents, which they adorned with beautiful jewels to take home with them...

Getting ready for the big dance.

The ballroom... and sadly I didn't have my camera when I went back to pick up The Girl, and got to watch all 9 princesses dancing to Disney princess music. I'll never forget it!

The take-home goods: mask, treasure box (complete with jewels, nail polish and lip gloss), magic wand and the royal proclamation.

There was also "Pass the poison apple" (Snow White) which was similar to "Hot Potato," and "Kiss the Frog" (Frog Princess) which would remind you of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."

All in all, it was precious, and our Princess slept with her magic wand... and lived happily ever after.

Jan 29, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetables

I am always looking for good side dish ideas. This one was great. Simple and oh-so-tasty!

2 lb carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 lb parsnips (think yellow carrots), peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large red oions, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425*. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to coat the vegetables.
2. Arrange in a single layer on 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets.
3. Bake at 425* for 30 minutes. Stir and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy!

(From "Southern Living 2011 Annual Recipes" Cookbook)

Easy Brunswick Stew

Easy. Different. Crockpot. Delicious.

3 lb bonesless port shoulder roast (Boston butt)
2 medium-size new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (18 oz) bottle barbeque sauce
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (9 oz) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (9 oz) package frozen corn, thawed
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt

1. Trim roast, and cut into 2 inch pieces. (I had some stew meat in our freezer, so I opted to just use that instead. It was beef, not pork, and still tasted great.) Stir together all ingredients in a 6 qt. slow cooker. (I didn't thaw my veggies, either. They had plenty of time to cook, and stayed a little crunchier that way...)
2. Cover and cook on LOW 10 hours or until potatoes are fork-tender. (My crockpot only took about 6 hours.) Remove pork with a slotted spoon, and shred well with two forks. Return shredded pork to slow cooker, and stir well. Ladle into stew bowls.

Thank you, "Southern Living Slow- Cooker quick fixes." You've yet to disappoint!

Jan 26, 2012

There are no words...

Christmas Card Collection

Every year we get a TON of beautiful (read: expensive) Christmas Cards. I love them. Some come with stories, some tell stories themselves, all are too beautiful to throw away! So, at a playdate a week or so ago, a friend (my husband's sister's husband's cousin's wife- are we related?) shared this ADORABLE Pinterest craft idea. The 3 stacks of Christmas Cards I have are now on display! (For a full explanation, read her blog post.)

Jan 23, 2012

Crockpot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken

Two things about this one that I love: 3 ingredients, crock pot. 'Nuff said...

4-6 boneless chicken breasts (mine were partially frozen still...)
1 bottle Archer Farms Hawaiian Style Barbecue Sauce (from Target)
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained

Spray the inside of your crock pot with cooking spray for easy clean up. Place chicken breasts in the crock pot and cover with sauce. Empty can of drained pineapple chunks on top. Cook on high 2-3 hours, or low for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken with two forks while still in the crock pot so the chicken will be well coated with the sauce. (I actually did this in the last hour of cooking.) Serve over rice.

A chopped green pepper and chopped onion would be a nice addition, too!

Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Sour Cream Sauce

Another Pinterest winner! Our Roommate has a chicken allergy, so we substituted black beans for the chicken.

10 soft taco shells
2 C cooked, shredded chicken (**or 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed)
2 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 C chicken broth
1 C sour cream
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
2. Mix chicken (**or black beans if substituting) and 1 C cheese. Roll up in tortillas and place in pan.
3. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
4. Stir in sour cream and chilies. Do not bring to a boil- just heat through.
5. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
6. Bake 22 minutes and then under high broil for 3 min to brown the cheese.

Jan 18, 2012

Best Ever Beef Dip Sandwiches

Made these for dinner tonight (by "made" I mean threw all of the ingredients in the Crock pot, left all day, and enjoyed them at dinnertime!) and they were SO good! I found the recipe on Pinterest (don't judge), but altered it a bit.

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (I used oregano)
3 bay leaves (I didn't use any)
1 Cup soy sauce
6 cups water
(I also added: 2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce)
3-4 lb beef chuck roast
rolls or buns
sliced provolone (I used Swiss)

1. Combine garlic, rosemary (or oregano), bay leaves, soy sauce, and water (and teryiaki and Worcestershire, if using) in a slow cooker. Stir to combine.
2. Place the roast in the liquid in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-10 hours. (I cooked mine for the full 10. Because the meat is completely covered by the liquid, it didn't dry out at all, and the flavor was divine!)
3. Remove roast from slow cooker. Place liquid from slow cooker in another container and remove bay leaf. Return beef to slow cooker and shred with two forks. Add small amount of the reserved liquid-- just enough to make the beef nice and moist.
4. Place sliced rolls or buns on a baking sheet. Place a moderate amount of beef on each side of bun or roll and cover with one slice of cheese. Place on the center rack of an oven under the broiler. Broil until cheese is melted.
5. Serve with reserved liquid for dipping.


Jan 17, 2012


There are so many things in my world to be thankful for. Two things at the top of my list, currently, are the ability to pray and BSF (Bible Study Fellowship).

Prayer. The opportunity to speak to my Creator. To praise Him. To confess the gross in my life. To thank Him. To pray for others. So, so thankful.

BSF. If you've never head of Bible Study Fellowship, let me tell you that it is an AWESOME organization, committed to nothing other than the pure, non-denominational teaching of God's written Word- The Bible. The same lesson is being taught, around the world, to men, women and children. It's a year-long study (coinciding with the school-year calender) and takes a four-fold approach to studying and learning from God's word: daily questions, discussion groups, lecture and study notes.

Being a part of this study has changed my life as I've participated in 4 studies (Genesis, Romans, Isaiah and currently Acts of the Apostles), and this year is shaping our children as well. I switched to the "day study" which has a complete curriculum for our kids, including The Boy, who was 4 months old when I enrolled him. They don't just sit him in a corner and give him toys to keep him happy. They pray over him, sing over him, recite scripture to him, and just cover him in LOVE. What more could a mother want?

One of the neat encouragements for parents are the "Home Training Lessons" given out each week. They give practical suggestions for continuing to teach that week's lesson at home for the next week. (The kids learn the same thing we do, so we can talk about it- so cool!) Last week, when we left, The Girl--3-- told me, "Mom!  I learned about God today! Paul suffered to tell about Jesus!" I wanted to sob, right then and there. SO thankful for this ministry!

A recent Home Training Lesson was "Ways Parents Can Pray for Themselves." Sounds selfish, but lets face it-- we need all the prayers we can get. We have a HUGE job to do! They gave twelve suggestions and Scriptures and I plan to focus on one point a month to concentrate and pray over. Here they are:

1. That I will be convicted of any personal hypocrisy lived out before my children, contradicting what I say by what I do, and, when appropriate, admit my sin to my children. (Matthew 7: 3-6)
2. That my words, looks, and actions will clearly reflect to my children that my mate is loved, honored and cherished (Proverbs 31:10-12; Ephesians 5:25, 28)
3. That I will recognize individual limitations, respect individual differences, and have realistic expectations for each child (Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4)
4. That I will never be too tired or angry or negligent to discipline my children wisely (Proverbs 29:17)
5. That I can be a peacemaker to diminish jealousy and irritations between my children and in doing so encourage them to be peacemakers. (Proverbs 17:14; Philippians 2:3, Matthew 5:9)
6. That I will not spoil my children with too many possessions nor too few expectations and responsibilities (Psalm 37:16)
7. That I will be able to shield my children from premature association with sexuality, sophistication in ideas and dress, and unnecessary knowledge of the world (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 17)
8. That I will resist the enticement of popularity for my children and be willing for our family to be different from the world's standards (1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 37)
9. That I will be generous in expressing appreciation and approval while holding back reminders about their past failures and mistakes (Psalm 78:38, 39; Proverbs 25:11)
10. That I will know when to step in and take charge of a situation for my children and when to step back and let them learn for themselves (Proverbs 16:9)
11. That prayer will be my immediate response to family joys and crises alike (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thess. 5: 17, 18)
12. That I will daily remember my own need to be taught by God's Word and filled with his Spirit so that I reflect the joy of the Lord before my children (Psalm 16: 11)
(From BSF "The Acts of the Apostles, Home Training Lesson 14")

I hope this is a help and an encouragement to you, too. Even if you're not a parent, I'm sure you know a parent, who would be so encouraged to have this prayed over them!

And, for my Michiana friends, if you're looking for a great Bible study, join me on Tuesday mornings at 9am at Trinity Church in South Bend (the first Tuesday of every month is an introductory class.) Or, find a class in your community by clicking here. Watch and see how the Lord will change you through this study.

Jan 16, 2012

Fine, I'll do it.

Confession: I really don't like to clean.

I love the way my house feels and smells and looks once it IS clean, but the act of cleaning ... ugh. I can think of 8,467 things I'd rather be doing. Now that I sit and think about it, this same set of emotions washes over me when it comes to working out, too! Hmm.

Anyway, back to cleaning. I am an organization nut. Everything in our home has a place. New items in our home (ie. recently aquired Christmas gifts) have 3 options: find a place, replace something else, or get donated.) This can prove to be quite challenge seeing that I share this dwelling with a 3.5 year old, 9 month old, and The Hubby. I'm not into feng shui or anything, but I like order in our world! Now, everything-- in it's appropriate place-- may have an inch of dust on it (I wish I was exaggerating...) but at least it's put away, and "looks" clean.

In an effort to keep on top of this monsterous task, I took some time to make a cleaning list. Pinterest gave me plenty of ideas. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Kids tasks. Hubby tasks. It went on and on and on. I took some of "their" ideas, but ultimately decided on this:

1. My kids are too young to "clean" ... for now. Don't get me wrong. The Girl has to help straighten her room every night... and gets to take a few swipes of the vacuum now and then... but much more than this and she becomes yet another obstacle in my cleaning debacle.
2. The Hubby works full time. And, though he's more than willing to do his share, I let him bring home the bacon and care for everything we own outside of the walls of our home (ie. yard, cars, etc.) And, to be brutally honest, my perfectionism would find a way to criticize his helpfulness. I know, I have issues.
3. Not everything in our home needs to be cleaned daily, or weekly. So, a two week schedule seems to be a good fit. There are some things that need to be done every week, so you'll notice they're on both lists.
4. Organizing my list down to the day seems impracticle and lacking in Grace. By making a "week one" and "week two" schedule, I have seven full days to get everything done. If I get it all done on Sunday, great. If it's a last minute push on Friday, no problem!
5. My friends are cleaning fools. Some of them clean their kitchen floor, daily. I refuse to put such pressure on myself! :) I figure it's something to aspire to! If nothing else, I at least try and do my floors before they come for a play date. Wouldn't want them to gag or anything!

Week One:

   Our laundry

   Clean toilets

   Kitchen counters

   Empty trash, recycle bin

   Clean glass (incld bath mirrors)

   Dust bedrooms

   Vac/ mop kitchen & foyer floor

   Vacuum stairways & bedrooms

   Wipe out microwave

   Scrub tub/shower/vanities

   Mop bathroom floors

   Change our sheets

   Change kids sheets

   Meal plan & Grocery list

   Sweep front porch

Week Two:

   Kids laundry

   Clean toilets

   Kitchen counters

   Empty trash, recycle bin

   Windex doors

   Dust 1st Floor

   Vac & mop kitchen & foyer floor

   Vacuum stairways & 1st floor

   Wipe appliance exteriors

   Scrub kitchen trash can

   Change our sheets

   Meal plan & Grocery list

   Sweep back porch

I have monthly, quarterly, and annual lists, too, but I'll save those for later. For now, I'm on to one of the other 8,466 distractions...

Jan 13, 2012

The clues, or whatever they are...

My husband has me in a torture chamber. He tells me he's giving me "clues" for our getaway, but they're just confusing me and making me angry. (Okay, that this-is-sort-of-fun/how-can-google-help-me-figure-this-out angry, but I digress.)

So, I thought I'd share them with you incase you have any ideas...

Jan 8: On the road again (Dang, not going to Colorado!)
Jan 9: Head West, but you won't need your cowgirl clothes (Chicago?)
Jan 10: The epitome of relaxation, but you'll still need your walking shoes (A spa in Chicago?)
Jan 11: A long road trip or a short one? Hmm... depends. (This is where I start getting ticked! Depends on what? The weather? Traffic?)
Jan 12: Toenails, fingernails, whole body? You choose. (Ooo- la-la. Nothing really matters beyond this clue. It involves some sort of pampering. For all I care, we could go to Romney, IN. Just give me the terry-cloth robe, aromatherapy scents, and some of that meditation music...)
Jan. 13: You don't normally like to do this, but perhaps this weekend's circumstances will change your mind. (I like to think I'm a pretty easy going gal, and enjoy most everything. There's really only one thing that I'm openly unhappy about doing... shopping. Hmmm...)
Jan. 14: An appreciation for lines and angles... from the water. (This one was a stumper at first, but I think I'm on to him now. This HAS to be referring to the Architectural Boat Tour in Chicago... something we've always wanted to do!)
Jan. 15: Dinner's a repeat-- but you asked for it. (OH LORD HAVE MERCY! I think we're going to my ALL TIME FAVORITE restaurant in Chicago... Chicago Q Restaurant. Hold on while I wipe the drool off my face...)

and more...

Jan. 16: Just the two of us, building castles in the sky (Well obviously the kids won't be there, but what castles is he referring to? Sky scrapers?)
Jan 17: Brass Band (Ten hours later, I GOT IT! Chicago! Our favorite brass band, ever!)
Stay tuned...

Deceptively Delicious Oatmeal

Stop everything! If you love oatmeal for breakfast, you simply MUST try this delectable treat! It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld. The premise behind the deception is that there are pureed fruits and/or veggies in every dish, so that your child (or husband) is getting the nourishment they need.

We LOVE breakfast. The problem is, if we eat cold cereal-- though it's quick and easy-- we're usually hungry again in just a few hours. Oatmeal is great and fills our tummies, but it can get boring day after day. So, if you agree, try this:

1 C nonfat (skim) milk
1/4 C firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 C canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 C old fashioned oats
2 tsp natural peanut butter (option, but give it a try!)
dried fruits and nuts (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla- if using, and spice. Bring to a gentle boil and stir in the oatmeal. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the oatmeal is soft and creamy. Sir in the peanut butter, if using. Spoon the oatmeal into bowls, sprinkle with dried fruits and nuts, if you like, and serve with warm maple syrup. (We've never had it with the syrup... it's always plenty sweet without!)


Jan 10, 2012

The Big 3-0!

Though I'm always bummed when Christmas is over... and I despise the task of dedecorating the house (almost as much as I despise changing a crib sheet with a crib bumper!)... January and February bring lots of great things: new year/fresh start, snow (but not this year, which is just bizarre), and MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

I'll be honest, I love my birthday. I don't care what I do, or where I go, or even if I "get" anything. I don't care that I'm one year "older." We don't even have any "traditions" that must be carried forward. What I love is that on that day I hear from both of my parents and my siblings (usually in the form of a musical voicemail recording), I hear from many of my dear friends, and I get bombarded with love on Facebook. It's pretty great.

This year is a big one. It's the end of an era... or a decade. I've been reflecting these past few days on allllll that has happened in the last 10 years, and there has been a lot! (That will come in a later post...)

This fall I surprised The Hubby with a joint birthday AND anniversary celebratory getaway. He had NO idea. He thought we were going camping, and we ended up with our toes in the sand in FL. Oh yeah. Pulled the wool right over his eyes!

...but now it's my turn. My hubby is taking me somewhere (he knows I'm anal enough that he had to give me some details- all I know is the dates we'll be gone- so I can pack up the kids, not plan meals for that time period, etc.) but he's giving me precious little beyond that--- or so I thought.

Two nights ago he handed me a piece of paper. "From now until we leave, you're getting one clue a day." I. LOVE. THIS. MAN. That's food for my soul. It's fun. It's secretive. It's adventurous.

I open the folded paper one crease at a time... and what do I read?
Jan. 8: "On the road again..."

Really? That's just brutal. Cruel. It gives me NOTHING! Ugh.

Next one is a bit more helpful...
Jan. 9: "Head West, but you won't need your cowgirl clothes."

Hmmmm.... so many ideas are swirling in my brain. I can't wait. I'm so so SO excited!

I love birthdays. And I really love birthday surprises.
17 more days...

Jan 7, 2012

Dill Pot Roast

This is in our oven right now, and I'm practically drooling. It's one of those meals that's delish to make for company because they can smell it from the front door! And, you make it 3 hours ahead of time, so you can do other stuff before eating!

The best part... it's really two meals in one. I use the leftover juice (and meat, if there is any!) as a base for vegetable soup! Dump in whatever veggies you can find in your freezer or pantry and voila... meal #2.

3-5 lb rump roast
1 can mushroom gravy
1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes
3 clove garlic
4 Tbsp A-1 steak sauce
1 onion cut up
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp dill weed

Mix together all ingredients and pour over roast. Bake in 350* oven at least 3 hours. (Use a meat thermometer.) Baste during cooking.

Hamburger Stroganoff

This is a nice change to a classic meal. I almost always have all of the ingrediants on hand, too.

1 lb. ground beef
3 slices diced bacon (I use about 3 Tbsp of bacon bits instead)
1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 C sour cream

Brown beef with bacon. Add onion. Drain fat. Add salt, paprika, dash of pepper. Stir in soup. Cook slowly 20 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Heat, do not boil.

Serve over a bed of brown rice, with a side of fresh or frozen green beans.


Serves 4-6.

Jan 5, 2012

Attempted Pins

1. Not to sound redundant, but I love Pinterest.
2. I cannot sew. It pains me. In an effort to "get over it" I gave away my sewing machine.
3. I have a TON of crafting materials (that don't involve #2 above) and have really enjoyed getting my hands dirty again!
4. There's no extra funds in the budget. None of this has cost me more than $5 per project.

Here's a sampling....

Canvas + Tacky Glue + White Spray Paint= Adorable wall art for nursery

 $2 Goodwill Frame + Sandpaper + black paint + Scrapbook paper = Menu for kitchen

 Old toy box + paint = Fun wall art for b-day gift