Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two - for - One!

Today, I thought that I would combine a post about being healthy with a post about meal planning b/c they really do go hand in hand. I started meal planning probably about 2 years ago. I was frustrated with going to the grocery store, buying lots of random stuff only to find out when I got home that I was missing all sorts of ingredients to make a good meal. Plus I was spending WAY to much at the store!

I came up with a quick word document where I could think through what we would be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I always do two weeks at a time. (** I was trying to link to my document but I haven't been able to figure out how yet!)

First, I list any activities that we have going on in the week so that I am able to plan accordingly. Next, I add in meals that maybe I had already bought ingredients for but never made. Then, I start filling in the blanks with meal ideas.

I will usually look through the grocery store ads/ coupons to see what I can get on sale as I decide what to plan for. I also try and balance out our meats. For instance, I try not to plan three meals in a row w/ red meat, reasons varying from cost to trying to find something a little healthier. I also try and plan at least one meal a week that doesn't have any meat in it. This can really cut down on your grocery bill! Good alternatives are Mexican dishes w/ beans instead of beef or veggie pasta dishes.

Also, when I go shopping I try and specifically plan for breakfasts, lunches and even snacks. When I neglect to do this we are far more tempted to go out, which costs more and can once again not always be the healthiest.

For breakfasts I try and always have: bread, eggs, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, fruit...

And now I can't lie.. I like to have a can or two of biscuits in the fridge. I love them! I also always have a big box of Bisquick at hand for pancakes/waffles.

For snacks: once again yogurt, fruit, carrots or other veggies, trail mix, lunch meat, tortillas are good to have to whip up a variety of snacks- quick cheese quesadilla or warmed up w/ peanut butter, and once again.. I can't lie.. I'm a sucker for chips and salsa!

Finally, before I completely settle on a menu I go through and do a rough estimate of what each meal will cost. I make sure that these meals together will keep us within our budget. I always try to be under seeing as how things can sometimes end up costing more than I had thought.

I also check to see that the meals don't all consist of rich, hearty foods. Now, I in no means have gone and cut out all of our favorite casserole dishes. I just try and make sure that my menu is balanced out and try and find new healthier spins on some of our favorite meals.

In the beginning this use to take me quite some time to plan everything out.. but now it doesn't take me long at all. I guess its like anything, practice does help!

Next week I'll post on how I organize my grocery lists/coupons!

Monday, November 24, 2008

With the good comes the bad (atleast this weekend it did for me)

Saturday, Matt and I baked our first big ham (w/ a bone, I might add!). Actually we baked two. We had a dinner after our church service yesterday. We were sooo impressed with ourselves!

I had also planned on baking some rolls on Saturday. They are just the frozen kind, but you have to let them rise for 3-4 hours. Well the ham took longer than I thought it would, and so we ran out of time to bake the rolls before we had to be somewhere. I just thought oh.. I'll bake them when we get home, they'll be fine.

When we got home about 3 hours later the rolls had BALLOONED! They were coming out of the pan they were so tall. Long story short, they ended up in the trash. Matt thought this whole thing was hilarious, it took me a day or so to find the humor in it all:)

Now my goals for the week:

It's a short week. We are leaving town as soon as I get out of work on Wednesday, so not much time to do a whole lot, but here we go..

-continue w/ waking up early every morning

- work out at least once if not twice before we leave town

-keep the house clean for the next 3 days so that we can come home to a nice house

-finish laundry/washing sheets on beds

-take wedding rings in for warranty check


Honestly, I don't have one for the week. My fridge is stocked w/ leftovers that will last for the next two days and then we will be hitting the road. I love weeks like this!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cranberry-Orange Bars

I had bought a bag of cranberries and decided that I wanted to find a yummy baked good recipe to use them in. While I was searching the internet, I came across this recipe over at Good Things Catered. And all I have to say is wow. They turned out AMAZING! They were also really easy to throw together. I've been picking out recipes to use for our Christmas Open House coming up in a few weeks and this one definitely makes the cut!

Thanks Katie for such a great recipe!

Cranberry Orange Bars


1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 c. fresh cranberries


-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Beat together sugar and butter until lighter in texture.
-Beat in eggs, orange juice and vanilla until combined
-Add flour and baking powder and mix well (should be the consistency of a cookie dough).
-Fold in orange zest and cranberries.
-With an oiled spatula, spread batter evenly in a 9x12 prepared baking pan.
-Bake for about 40 minutes.

And if you need further proof of just how amazingly good these are...

I'm sooo eating the rest tonight! (yes.. I'll share w/ Matt)

Open Face Thanksgiving Sandwich- One of Matt's Faves

This past Sunday I made Matt and I a little (sort of) Thanksgiving meal...

Matt loves "Thanksgiving leftover Sandwiches". My mom found this great recipe a couple years back. That year we made the sausage stuffing from scratch. Now for a quick meal I cheat and use the box stuff.. but hey it is sooo good!

This is hardly an original recipe, you probably do this w/ all of your leftovers anyways.. but just in case.


Bread (thicker slices)

turkey (thicker slices also)- I just went to the deli, picked out a kind that looked good (cranberry-orange!) and asked him to slice it thick.. not exactly the real stuff, but works just fine!


sausage ( i used Italian b/c that is what we had, pork, sage, whichever you prefer)

cranberry sauce (yes I cheated again and used the canned stuff)

apple sauce

turkey gravy (you guessed it.. the can)


Okay so this is more like a compiling of ingredients.. but Matt LOVES this stuff. And I would be lying if I said that I didn't also:)

Prepare stuffing according to box. Add in cooked sausage. ( I only used 1/2 lb to one box stuffing) Heat turkey on stove top w/ gravy. Combine cranberry sauce and apple sauce.. one can and then I just eyeballed the applesauce) and heat on stove.

Layer- slice of bread, turkey/gravy, stuffing w/ sausage, and a little (or a lot!) cranberry-applesauce mixture right on top.

That's it.. a sort of thanksgiving dinner in less than 30 minutes! And this is a great way to use up some of those leftovers from this coming Thursday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grocery Store Victory!

Well, I'm not anywhere close to the point where I go to the grocery store and buy $152 in groceries for $0.35! (I still don't understand how people are able to do that.. crazy!) But this past week I did save $12.00 in coupons!

For some time now I've been clipping coupons. Now I can't say that it always saves me a lot of money. For one, coupons are usually for name brand items, so saving 25 cents on a box of $4 cereal... not such a good buy...especially, when you can get off brand cereal for half the price. So, I have have started scouring the grocery store ads, either online or the ones that come in the paper, and have been trying to double up sales that grocery stores are running w/ coupons. This can equal out to some great deals. For instance this past week Matt and I picked up cereal for $1 box. It was already on sale, plus I had coupons!

MoneySavingMom has been a great resource for me when it comes to finding good coupon deals. Now, she is a pro and she admits that it takes time to work up to the savings that she is able to accumulate. But it is still helpful to reference.

Also, if you haven't yet... you should really give Target a try when it comes to groceries! Their food is not expensive as sometimes it is rumored to be, as long as you buy their off brands, Archer Farms and Market Pantry. They both have really great products. Plus, you are able to use both manufacturer coupons with Target coupons on the same item! (go here for Target online coupons)
Target, also offers gift card promotions fairly often, where if you buy a product (normally name-brand) you get a gift card in return. I have scored some great deals by doing this!)

One more tidbit.. if you have a coupon but the store you are at doesn't carry the product, a lot of times they will honor the coupon on a similar product. Just make sure you ask an employee first, but it has worked often for me!

My hope is that since I am getting into this habit now, while shopping for only 2 people, I will be better prepared when I have a whole family to feed.

I'll post more later about my grocery shopping attack plan, including meal planning, grocery lists, coupon organization.. and so on.

Do you cut coupons?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I have been reading in Genesis for some time now and this past week I was reading a lot about one particular family, especially the two brothers, Jacob and Esau.

In short form, Jacob received a blessing by their father Issac that was meant to be for Esau. He tricked his father into giving him the blessing. (Gen. 27) This wasn't even the first time that Esau had been cheated by Jacob. (Gen. 25: 27-34)

Can you imagine, being cheated by your brother in a way such as that, not only once.. but twice! The anger and hurt that Esau felt, had to be incredible.

Here is what got me though... years later, after Jacob had a family of his own, as did Esau they were about to cross paths. Jacob was fearful, he did not know how Esau would react to him. He even sent slaves out ahead of him with a gift of herds of animals, almost like a peace offering. (Gen. 32)

When Esau and Jacob finally met though..

"But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept" Gen. 33:4. (You can read more here)

If this isn't an example of forgiveness.. I don't know what is...
If this isn't an example of the love that a family has... of the love that Christ has shown us... I don't know what is...

I was struck though when I started thinking about whether or not I exercise that kind of love in my own life.

On Sunday, my husband shared during his sermon a story about his family. (coincidentally). Matt's dad caused him a lot of grief growing up.. alcoholic, abusive, not there. This past summer though Matt started to receive letters from his dad. Honestly, the hurt that Matt has gone through b/c of his dad could have caused him just to toss the letters, but you know.. he read them and he wrote his dad back. Now, they have been writing letters for months and just this week Matt talked to his dad on the telephone for the first time in years.

Now, I don't have quite the same story that Matt does and maybe you don't either... but the Lord has been showing me how even in my own family I need to show Christ's love to them.

~I need to pray for my family more.

~I need to ask them how I can pray for them.

~I need to consider their needs more.

~I need to ask them how they are doing more often.

The Lord has especially been speaking to me about my sister and the lack of a relationship that we share. She has gone through some tough times and I regret the fact that I wasn't always there for her. It's nuts how a complete stranger can be hurting and we run to them but sometimes in our own family we just put it off.

So, I am really praying for my sister.. not just mentioning her name in a long list of people. I sent her a card a couple weeks ago and I'm going to again this week.

Family is such a gift, even through the heartaches.. and believe me, I've had my share.. but Christ has put us each in our own family for a reason.


Thank you for my family.

Help me Lord to not take them for granted. Help me Lord to not only see my family for what they can do for me Lord, but how I can better serve them. I pray Lord that my relationship with each of them will continue to deepen. I pray that I will be a true light and testament to you in each the relationships that I share with them. Lord, give me wisdom , give me patience, give me understanding...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Being Healthy - What this looks like for me...

With Thanksgiving just days away, the season of eating is here. Delicious hearty foods, desserts, candies.. YUM, YUM, YUM.

At my work they have a wellness club that promotes different health activities throughout the year. This week started a new challenge, "Maintain Don't Gain". For this challenge we are encouraged to do some sort of physical activity for 150 min/ week. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to go run 5 miles everyday.. walking, yard work, playing some sort of recreational sport.. all of these count. The point is just to get you to be active.

I like these sort of challenges b/c this is good to incorporate into your lifestyle on a daily/ weekly basis anyways. Obviously some weeks are busier than others... and missing days happens, that's just a part of life.

Almost a year ago Matt and I joined a health club. It has been such a good thing for us. My personal goal is to be at the gym at least 3 times a week. I usually run 1-2 miles on the elliptical,lift weights (arms and legs) and do an ab workout. My goal is not to turn into some crazy fit person.. I'm just trying to be healthy. I have felt so much better by making this part of my weekly routine, I even feel less tired than I used to.

Now, don't feel that you have to join a health club to exercise or to practice an active lifestyle. My mom is very into exercising but she never had a gym membership (until recently). She LOVES to walk though... and a great way to do this is to grab a friend and walk around your neighborhood or if its cool around the mall or some other large indoor facility. There were even ladies at my church growing up that would come and walk in the church gym...

Another part of being healthy has nothing to do with working up a sweat. Try this holiday season to not get stressed, get some sleep and just enjoy being around your family. This might mean delegating a little more by asking others to help if you are feeling overwhelmed, trying to exercise patience with out of town guests/ family you haven't seen in awhile.

So...throughout the next seven weeks I will try and post weekly on this challenge that I am participating in. I'll let you know the activities that I am trying to incorporate into my week that promote a healthy lifestyle. This week I will *try* and be active each day in some way. I will try and eat a healthy breakfast each morning and grab healthy snacks when hunger strikes, rather than grabbing a bag of potato chips. I will also try and work out in my yard this week. It is amazing the kind of workout that you can get from just raking/bagging leaves! (besides.. Matt and I really need to finish up this project anyways) So those are my plans for the week... nothing much... but every little bit helps.

**Oh and one more thing.. these pictures are of two of my favorite girls... This is a day that Matt and I took them to a park, a great way to get exercise.. not only for the kids, but for you too! You know what I'm talking about.. "PLEASE PUSH ME!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekly Goals and Menu!

Goals for the week:

-Continue waking up at 5-5:30 (depending if I need to wash my hair!) to spend time in the Bible/prayer before I get ready for work

-get new ideas for children's nursery @ church

-start planning for our Christmas Open House

-Make a plan/ budget for Christmas

-help out at local youth ministries a couple times w/ decorating/set-up for their big fundraiser Friday

-thoroughly clean guest bedroom

- prepare for our Thanksgiving potluck after church Sunday (buy and prepare ham, plus other sides and desserts)

-buy light bulbs for house! (5 burnt out at the same time practically!!)

-try not to eat all of these cranberry-orange bars by myself.. (oh my gosh, i made some last night and they are wonderful! I'll post the recipe sometime soon!)

Weekly Menu:

Sunday- (last night) Matt's fave- Hot Thanksgiving Sandwich (I'll post about this soon as well!)

Monday- Going out to Houlihans! Our fave Monday night Happy Hour! (see post below)

Tuesday- Matt is at school, so either leftovers from Sunday or sandwiches w/ tomato soup

Wednesday- Sausage/Corn Chowder Soup w/ Rolls

Thursday- Spaghetti & Meatballs w/ green beans, leftover rolls

Friday- Beef Tostadas w/ rice, chips and salsa

Coffee Deal!

When I was doing my Sunday ritual of checking out the ads in the newspaper I came across a pretty good one at Target. It appears that their 1 lb bags of Starbucks coffee are on sale for $7. Then, if you buy any 2 you get a $5 Target gift card. So if you count the gift card in your total, its only $4.50 per bag!

I haven't actually been to Target to check this out.. but it seems like a pretty good deal to me!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A little bit of Fall around the house...

I love to decorate. I love warming up the house with different accent pieces, candles, flowers and other various decor. The only problem is, I don't have a very big budget to decorate my house. Or is that a problem?...

Okay, I'm not saying that my house looks like Martha Stewart or anything.. but I am able to do a little bit. I love to incorporate the seasons. Here are a few things that I did around my house to welcome in fall.

I bought this clear tube at Crate and Barrel for $11.00 a couple years ago... and I love it!! I use it year round.. I just switch out the decor or candles depending on the season or my mood. For the fall I took some old fall potpourri that didn't smell anymore and filled the hallowed part of the tube. I then just put cream tea lights in the candle holder. You can pick these up really cheap at Michael's.

On this table I didn't do much, but I wanted to keep the fall theme going. My mom had bought me this clear vase awhile back. I once again use this all the time just switching out what I put inside. I filled the vase this time with little pumpkins and gourds and some of those flat beads... you can pick all of this stuff up at Michael's as well. Not expensive...

On my dining room table I have a wreath that my grandma had at her house but didn't want anymore. I decided to put some candles in the middle as well as a couple on either side. Now, yes I was fortunate to get this great fall wreath from my grandma.. BUT my point is that you should make a habit of just looking around your house and seeing what you have already, reusing things to fit what you need.

Do you enjoy decorating? Do you have any other tips or suggestions regarding decorating?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pumpkin... need I say more?

Matt told me that I was banned from saying the word pumpkin because every other recipe or treat that I wanted involved pumpkin...pumpkin latte, pumpkin bread, pumpkin kisses, pumpkin bars, pumpkin pie, pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin...

Funny how he didn't mind though when I whipped up some good ol' pumpkin bread:)

I decided to make only one loaf of bread and then used the other batter to make some pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bundts.

Here is the recipe...

Pumpkin Bread

3 c. sugar

1 3/4 c. canned pumpkin (or cooked)

1 c. vegetable oil (I didn't, but you can substitute apple sauce, my mom used to do this a lot)

4 eggs

2/3 c. cold water

3 1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon**

1 tsp. ground nutmeg**

**I substituted pumpkin pie spice for these.

Beat the sugar, pumpkin, oil, eggs and water until well mixed. Combine remaining ingredients; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. (or as I said works well as muffins, etc) Bake at 325 for 75-80 minutes. (less for muffins) Cool in pans before removing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In the Kitchen w/ Jessica, Matt.. and Aldo:)

I have been checking out this recipe for several weeks now... The first time I saw it on Annie's Eats blog I knew that I had to make it! And the best part is, it definitely lived up to my expectations...absolutely DELICIOUS! Even though there were several steps, it was not difficult at all. (although we did dirty quite a few dishes/pans!)

Matt was a huge help as well in the kitchen! Here he is squeezing the life out of these oranges! Unfortunately we don't' have a juicer.. but he did a very nice job!

We did run into a few snags in the process... The fire alarm was especially sensitive last night and kept going off...over and over and over again! Matt was kind of enough (note my sarcasm) to take pics of me fanning the alarm and then pics of me fighting Aldo with the towel I was using. Let's just face it... things never go totally smooth when you are cooking...

Here's the recipe! (Annie's Eats Blog, originally from Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen)

Orange Chicken


For the marinade and sauce:

1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces

¾ cup low sodium chicken broth

¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest

8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

6 tbsp. distilled white vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

½ cup dark brown sugar

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. cold water

For coating and frying:

3 large egg whites

1 cup cornstarch

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

3 cups peanut oil (or canola oil)


For the marinade and sauce, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper; whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and pour it into the bag with the chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the orange peel (if using); set the sauce aside.

For the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and beat with a fork until frothy. In a second pie plate, whisk together the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne until combined. Drain the chicken in a colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the dredged chicken pieces on another plate or a baking sheet.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- to 12-inch dutch oven or straight sided sauté pan with at least 3 qt. capacity over high heat until the oil reaches 350° on an instant read or deep fry thermometer. Carefully place half of the chicken in the oil; fry to golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return the oil to 350° and repeat with the remaining chicken.

To serve, reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.

Eating out for Cheap

When Matt and I first moved to Kansas City, we were broke... very, very broke. We hardly ever had any money to go out.. but, like everyone else, we still wanted to be able to!

So...I started scouring the newspapers, checking websites, doing TONS of web searches to try and find some good deals at area restaurants.. and boy did I! I learned that Happy Hours are my new best friend. At first I thought Happy hours were just for getting alcoholic drinks cheap, that isn't the case at all.

Now obviously I know that you aren't all from Kansas City.. but some of these restaurants have locations throughout the U.S., so check and see what you can find.

Now, before I lose you... there is one other way to get good food cheap...You just have to do what I'm about to say..

Spend a little bit of time and go visit some of your favorite restaurants websites and even look up some restaurants you may have never eaten at.
Next, see if they have email clubs. Most restaurants will send you a coupon for something free just for signing up! AND they usually send you a coupon around your birthday as well!!
Now, sometimes it is w/ a purchase and then other times there is no purchase necessary.. but still it is FREE!

A couple helpful tidbits..
**I wouldn't sign up for a ton of restaurants at the same time. Normally you will receive your coupon w/in the next day or two and then you usually have about 2 weeks to use it. So if you go and sign up for 20 different restaurants... you probably are going to end up wasting some good freebies.
** I have a "junk" email address. This is the email that I put down when I am signing up for all these clubs so that your inbox isn't getting overloaded.

Some of the restaurants that I have signed up for are...

Houlihans (more details below)
TGI Fridays
Famous Daves
Macaroni Grill
Johnny Carinos
Chik Fil A
Dairy Queen

And now here are just a couple of our fave Happy Hours in the KC area... I'll post more as time goes on.
**note: most happy hours you have to sit in the bar to receive the deal.. in Kansas City that isn't such a big deal b/c KC has gone smoke free! Most of the time restaurants have tables and even booths in the bar areas as well!**

Houlihans- oh my goodness, GREAT FOOD! Matt and I just ate there Monday night. Here is what we got.. their Chipoltle Chicken Nachos (best nachos ever, hands down), and 4 of their "itty-bitty burgers", grand total (prior to tip) $10.84. YUP.. that's right! Good deal, right?!
Here's the thing... it seems every Houlihans differs on the "deals" that they offer. So if there is one close to you, check out your location. Our locations happy hour is from 4-7 and 9-close, Monday through Friday. They offer $6 appetizers (which are HUGE). Then an extra bonus is Monday nights you can get their itty bitty burgers for $1.
Another Houlihans bonus is, like I was mentioning above, sign up for their email club! They send coupons for Free appetizers and on Matt and I's birthdays we received coupons for a free entree, no purchase necessary!! Matt ordered a steak his last birthday, I believe it was a 23 dollar meal and he got it absolutely free!

Another great Happy Hour deal I happened upon is at the Hereford House. Now, Hereford house is a really nice restaurant, known for the quality steaks. We probably never would have eaten there, but lucky for us (and YOU!), they have an amazing happy hour!! Now once again, it depends on the location that you visit. Check their website for details on exact times and days.. but during happy hour they have a $4.50, $6.50 and $8.50 menu. We usually order a their steak burger w/ cheese and fries for $4.50. Soo good! We are also pretty crazy about their goat cheese appetizer for $6.50.
Some locations even offer this deal ALL DAY on Sunday... its a great spot for after church!

Okay.. well that's all for now.

Have a GREAT Thursday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cleaning Challenge Wrap Up... Sort of

**First off a quick PSA: Starting next Wednesday I am going to be posting on what I blogged about yesterday. (see post below)**

Today I thought I would give a quick wrap up to the cleaning madness that I have taken part in the past couple weeks. Katie over at the Hyper Homemaker has announced that the challenge is over. I have yet to completely wrap up her "To-Do" lists. I still need to finish washing windows, the outdoor chores and cleaning out my car. I am hoping to do these either this weekend or maybe next week as slightly warmer weather has been promised in our forecast.

Even though the challenge is "over" I am still creating some of my own goals to accomplish. For instance last night I organized Matt and I's closet. A couple weeks ago we went through and sorted out all of the clothes we don't wear and dropped them off at Good Will. I highly recommend that if you haven't done this recently you should (now is a good time as seasons are switching). We usually strive to do this twice a year. We keep our off season clothes in tubs/ boxes and store them in our attic and then switch. This really helps to alleviate a lot of clutter in our closet. I also keep all of my "summer shoes" in a separate box so that they are out of the way as well.

My other goals are as follows:

Master Bedroom:
-clean and organize night stands in bedroom
-completely dust and clean all furniture, baseboards, etc.
-thoroughly clean out/ organize dresser (I really should do this weekly, its crazy how fast it gets unorganized)

Guest Bedroom:
-clean/organize closet
-organize desk
-organize book shelf

Laundry Room:
-organize and clean all shelves, storage areas

Extra Space:
-organize hall closets
-organize the desk in kitchen

If I just do a little bit each night, I should be able to have this done rather quickly. My MUST BE DONE, NO EXCUSES date to be finished is before we leave to go out of town for Thanksgiving. This way everything will be ready to go for Christmas decorating!

In case you are wondering why I put so much time and energy into keeping a clean house, it's because... your home is such a special place, regardless of the size, decor, location, furniture and electronics.. it is a place that you go, that your family goes to relax. Wikipedia even calls a home a "refuge".

I want my house to be a place that I want to come home to, a place my husband does and some day my children. I feel that keeping a clean house helps to make that possible. It takes away so much stress and distraction, it is so much more inviting and comfortable.

Keeping my home clean is also a way that I can serve my husband. It is a way that I can thank him for all that he does in providing for me. (and no, I'm not saying that husbands shouldn't help around the house, they definitely should.. I am so blessed by my husband. He is such a great help to me.)

So, in brief, this is why I choose to spend time keeping my house clean. Make your house a place you want to go home to..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just a thought...

So I have been thinking an awful lot about priorities. What mine are.. what i say mine are.. what they actually are. It is pretty easy to say my number one priority is Christ, my number two priority is my family, my number three is... you get the idea. I often hear that priorities are shown by what you spend your time on.. who you spend your time w/. Being completely transparent I struggle with a daily quiet time, a daily time with the Lord. I struggle with being in prayer. Its not that I don't ever spend time w/ God on a daily basis.. its just I have times when I am more persistent w/ it and other times when I get caught up in other things.. sleep, television, computer.. whatever. The thing is I have such a strong desire to spend time w/ the Lord, my heart yearns to be closer to him. It makes me feel so frustrated and disappointed in myself when I am not in His word, b/c I want so deeply to draw near to him.

Matt laughs at me b/c I am the queen of buying new devotionals... I have so many that are half finished. I think that buying a new one will some how "jump start" my time w/ the Lord. Now don't get me wrong, devotionals can be great tools and if they work for you, Great!, I just never seem to complete them. This past couple of years I have just spent time reading God's word and journaling. Then once a week Matt and I get together and talk about what we are reading.. we go over our thoughts over certain verses, or I will write down questions that I might have and we will go over them. It truly is a great time. It is a big highlight of my week.

My point in telling you all of this is that based on what I know to be true in my life, the struggle to spend time w/ the Lord on a daily basis, and from some of you that have told me personally or have left comments on here, I feel that this is something many of us struggle w/. So I was thinking.. maybe every Wednesday I will post on what the Lord is speaking to me about/ what I have been reading all week and then I would love to hear the same from you! Leave your comments here on my blog or post in your own blog and then leave a comment in my box so that people can read what you are learning, what you are reading. Or even feel free to ask questions, maybe I or someone else could answer for you. I know that at times when I am reading the Bible I feel completely overwhelmed. I am blessed to have a seminary student as my husband who has all of these resources, but I know that isn't the case for us all. So ask away...I know that I love to learn certain words mean, what Paul meant when he said this... things like that.
I really feel that this could be a great way to be encouraged by fellow followers of Jesus Christ. I also feel that this could be a great way to keep yourself accountable. I am going to be completely transparent in my posts, let you know if I have been spending time with the Lord. My husband says all the time, obviously life happens, a day gets away from us. And you know, spending time with the Lord is not meant to be a chore... but when we do spend time with the Lord, when we do read His word, when we do spend time in prayer.. God is able to do such a work in our life. He desires to be the the number one priority, the center, the focus, the core of our life. We just have to let Him be. Let me know if this is something you would be interested in. And also, let me know what works best for you, when do you set time aside to be with the Lord? I would love to have a consistent time set aside but I also find that on different days, different times work best. I am going to try and start setting my alarm for 5:00 every morning so that I have adequate time to read my Bible and pray before I start my day. Key word I am going to "try"...What about you?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cleaning Challenge/ The week ahead...

First off, an update on my cleaning challenge! This weekend the focus was on living areas and the outdoors. The living areas I was able to do some of the tasks but not all. I thoroughly dusted everything, scrubbed the baseboards, flipped all of my cushions, cleaned the entry way floor and I'm in the process of washing a couple of the rugs. I unfortunately don't have a way to shampoo my carpets w/ out renting something and have not yet gotten to the windows.

As far as the outdoors Matt and I are planning a big outdoor cleaning day,( which includes raking leaves)very soon, hopefully this week/weekend. I will complete all of those tasks then!

Here are my other goals for this week:

-Daily Quiet Time
-Continue completing the daily cleaning challenges, along with the everyday cleaning
-call dog groomer-trying to track down my puppy's collar
-go through/pay bills
-shop for Operation Christmas Child
-still trying to figure out some of the nursery issues for church (doorway)
-plan children's lesson
-rake leaves, plus other outdoor clean up
-plan menu for next 2 weeks, pair w/ coupons and look through sale ads to make a complete grocery list

Menu for the Week:
~I'm not quite sure that the meals will be on these exact days.. but this is what we will be eating throughout the week

Monday- Chili w/ cornbread
Tuesday- Matt @ Class- leftovers/ sandwich
Wednesday- Orange chicken w/ rice and veggies (didn't end up making this last week)
Thursday- Chicken Parmesan w/ rolls and probably some other veggie
Friday- Out

Weekend Update: My mom and me:)

Well I hope that everyone had a great weekend! At first I was kind of bummed about the weekend b/c Matt had to go out of town to speak at a conference, but then my mom ended up being able to come visit which was a lot of fun! We ate out a couple times, shopped and even went and saw High School Musical 3! (haha) I had never seen any of them but we wanted to go to a movie and ended up deciding to go see what all of the fuss was about.

Verdict: It was great! My mom and I both really enjoyed it. There certainly is a lot of talent in that movie w/ all of the singing and dancing. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't singing some of the songs when we left:) Oh and one more confession... I went out and rented the first one the next night:)

Oh and just for fun, here is a picture of me and my mom.. its not recent, its from last summer ( I do have more recent pics, they are just all on my home computer)..

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beef Enchiladas... YUM!!!

Matt and I made enchiladas Wednesday night and boy were they good! It was all thanks to the Pioneer Woman Cooks blog. If you have not checked our her site, you REALLY should! All of her recipes, that I have tried out, have been excellent!

Here is the recipe for the enchiladas... This is something both sides agree on!

PW’s Favorite Enchiladas

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large (28-ounce) can enchilada or red sauce
2 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and flour and whisk together to make a past, cooking for 1 minute. Pour in other red sauce, chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown meat with onions in a skillet. Drain off fat. Stir in 2 cans diced green chilies and seasoned salt. Set aside.
10 to 14 corn tortillas
½ cup canola oil
Heat canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. One by one, using tongs, fry tortillas oil until soft, not crisp—about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried.

Sauce (above)
Meat (above)
Tortillas (above)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped black olives
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour ½ cup red sauce in bottom of baking pan. Spread to even out.
Dip each tortilla into red sauce, then remove to work surface. Spoon meat, a little grated cheese, a little black olives, and green onions in the center of tortilla. Roll up and place, seam down, in baking pan. Repeat until pan is filled. Pour extra red sauce over enchiladas. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until bubble. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over enchiladas before serving.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fall Cleaning Challenge #4

Challenge #4 was to finish cleaning the bathrooms. I was actually looking forward to this challenge b/c I had been needing to do this for some time. Not that I don't clean my bathrooms, I do. But there is a difference between cleaning the bathroom and CLEANING the bathroom, if you know what I mean. I scrubbed my floors, tubs, shower, toilet, light switch.. you name it you got scrubbed. Even my husband noticed how extra clean the shower looked. I actually apologized to him for how not clean the shower was before. I will spare you the before pics. (actually I just forgot to take any) I need to be better, it is the one thing that tends to get neglected. But today it shines:)

Here are some after pics.. Now my bathrooms are nothing out of a catalog, but they are clean! (Believe me.. if this was my house ( we are renting) the guest bathroom would not have that wallpaper!)


I have been trying to collect my thoughts this week regarding the election. Thank goodness it is over, I think we all agree on that! The constant "he said-she said" is enough to drive anyone crazy.

Barack Obama and his family will be moving into the white house soon and will be taking over the enormous job of being president. Wow, I can't even fathom the pressure and stress. We really need to be praying for the Obama family. We need to pray regardless of who we wanted to win the election. Honestly that is all in the past now, no need to dwell on what could have happened or what might happen or what is going to happen in 2012. We need to pray now. Pray, Pray, Pray...

I am telling myself this just as much as I am telling anyone else. I know that I certainly don't pray enough. Prayer is to be constant.

Romans 12:11-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.

I also know that prayer can be a difficult thing. Sometimes it is hard to know what to say... it feels awkward and can feel at times like you are just talking to air since there doesn't always seem to be an "instant response" that we have come to expect in this day and age.
I was explaining prayer a little bit to someone this past week. I used the acrostic ACTS (A-Adoration ,C-Confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-Supplication) as an example of what we can/should pray for.
Adoration- adoring God's attributes
Confession- confessing our sins
Thanksgiving- thanking God for all that He has given us
Supplication- Begging God for our needs

Something I used to do that really helped me was that I would write my prayers out in a journal. For me that helped a tremendous amount. I felt that I was better able to express what I was trying to stay.

If "tools" are helpful to you when you pray, Great.. when it all comes down to it though God just wants to hear from us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Puppy Makeover

Our puppy, Aldo, was WAY overdue for a haircut... So just for fun here are his before and after shots:)



...Can you you tell we don't have kids yet? :)

Fall Cleaning Challenge #3 Update

Well last night I finished up Challenge #3. Here are some pics of what I accomplished!



If you can't tell.. I reorganized everything under our bathroom sink to make it more accessible. I divided things according to what they were and how often we used them and put them into different containers. For example, I used to have all of my nail polishes just strung out, not they are all in one bag w/ my nail polish remover and cotton balls. All of my extra lotions are in one box as well and so on. I would like to get some more containers to have on the counter top to keep things like Q-tips in for easy reach as well. I need to make a run to World Market! I found these on their website and they would be perfect! ( a litle higher than I would want to spend.. but still you get the idea)

The next challenge is still a mystery! Katie promises a that it will be up tonight!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A reminder to myself...

When telling Matt that I was nervous about the outcome of today's election he reminded me of these verses found in Philippians Chapter 4, verses 6-7.

Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God is so much bigger than this election.
He is ultimately in control.

Well todays the day...

I hope that you have or are going to practice the great right we have been given as U.S. citizens by placing your vote today. Matt and I got to the polls about 5:40 this morning. We wanted to make sure we got in before work/school today. We got right through but people were filing in and the line was already growing long by the time we left.

Matt and I got done so quickly we went home, made pancakes and watched some of the SNL Presidential Bash from the night before. Not such a bad way to start the day! Crazy all you can get done when you are up at 5 AM!

Last night was sort of a busy night and I was unable to complete Fall Cleaning Challenge #3. I did have a chance to go through and better organize my guest bathroom as well as went through our medicine cabinet... it was crazy all of the empty medicine bottles I just had stashed up there! Tonight I will finish tackling our bathroom and will post pics as well.

It really has been great cleaning rooms out one by one. My house definitely needed it! I have been surprised by the things that I have "found".. especially in my kitchen. By far the worst was a sack of potatoes that was way under my cabinet. It wasn't even where I usually store potatoes so I'm not sure how they ended up there and I really don't know how long they had been there.. all I know is that it was like a forest growing in that bag! EWW GROSS! I made Matt throw it out!:) So if you haven't joined Katie's challenge, which you definitely should!, just start your own challenge.. pick one room a day, or even a week and tackle it.. it really does make you feel sooo much better!

So, I hope that you have a great Tuesday. I hope that you go vote and I hope that you get lots of free stuff for voting!