Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shrimp and Pasta Primavera

I recently told you about prepacked spice packets from the McCormick people. I was especially excited about the Shrimp and Pasta Primavera because we love shrimp but I know of very few ways to prepare it. It's really high in protein and low in fat so it's nearly perfect for your waistline. I also struggle to find fresh ways to bring vegetables into our meals other than the steamed veggies on the side or heavy starchy ones like mashed potatoes.

This recipe was super simple. Not blue box mac and cheese simple but pretty close. You boil linguine and add shrimp and veggies (they suggest carrots, peas, broccoli, and red pepper, I omitted the red pepper) the last few minutes of cooking. Then you drain that and make a cream sauce with heavy cream (I used low fat half and half), butter, chicken broth and your spices. Simmer and then add your pasta and veggies back in.

I must confess that I have a penchant for dill. So as I was preparing this my mouth was watering at the aroma. However, when Mr. Steady took his first bite he said "Wow, there's a lot of dill in this." The two younger boys really dug into it and our six servings really went quickly.

I must confess that I agree with Mr. Steady. As much as I love dill I would probably omit it the next time and up the other spices, the garlic in particular. So would I recommend buying this spice packet? Probably not, I'd recommend finding a good primavera sauce recipe and trying that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why The Entertainer Is My Favorite Son Today

The title of this post could also be Why The Entertainer Is Called The Entertainer. When The Reader and The Entertainer were flipping through a catalog today and came to a picture of Barbie, The Entertainer said "Dat's Mommy". The Reader quickly informed it wasn't mommy, it was Barbie but The Entertainer was having none of it. "No, dat MOM-MY!" Oh if they could only keep their three and a half year old rose-colored glasses forever. I was quite amused though that he thinks I resemble Barbie in any way, shape, or form besides the fact that we are both missing our Y-chromosome.
Especially since I've been feeling, looking and acting more like this diva lately.

Sometimes Dust is a Noun

"In our early years of studying grammar, we learned that dust can be a noun as in "the dust is thick on the furniture" or it can be a verb like "next week we will dust." For this season of my life, it is usually a noun. Once or twice a year it is a verb," Laura W. from Homeschooling for the Rest of Us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

I know, I know...another cooking post? Mr. Steady accused me of nesting last week because of all the cooking and cleaning I've been doing. I'm not even pregnant! I spied this sweet little ridiculously priced spice packet put out by McCormick on the top shelf of my grocery store recently. I have a tendency to get in a serious cooking rut for dinner and thought I'd spice things up a bit. Get it, spice? Ahem. There is a recipe on the back so I thought if the fam liked it I could recreate it on my own another time. Foodie Friday recently reviewed these spice packets as well and brought up a point I hadn't thought of before: if you don't typically have cumin or cilantro in your spice collection this would be a great way to have fresh spices without investing in five or six different bottles. I bought both the Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas as well as Shrimp & Pasta Primavera (which I will review next week). I was a tiny bit afraid I would chicken out (I am really cracking myself up today with the puns) so I went ahead and mixed up the marinade.

Did you know you can add marinade to your meat before you freeze it or even to already frozen meat? Then as your meat thaws it will marinate and tenderize. I learned that from The Occasional Cook. Brilliant because I never remember to marinate it otherwise. I added chicken breasts that were already frozen and returned them to the freezer.

You are to remove 1/4 c. of the marinade to saute your veggies in. I had frozen lime juice in this container and used it for the recipe so I just returned the reserved marinade to this cup and froze it. Then when you are ready to eat simply thaw your meat and marinade and saute, then add peppers and onions and serve on tortillas.

The verdict? A hit! Mr. Steady raved about the flavor and even the boys loved the chicken (even though they picked out the onions and peppers). I happen to usually have these spices on hand (can't imagine life without cumin) so I will keep the recipe and measure out my own spices. But I would certainly recommend this particular packet if you are interested in trying it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pysansky Eggs

My friend Carolyn invited me to her church's Pysansky egg workshop. She is a member of an Eastern Orthodox church. One of her church friends, Tanya, is from the Ukraine and offers this workshop every spring and it was a real treat. I was very overwhelmed when I saw all the elaborate patterns and designs you could do. Once Carolyn and Tanya walked me through step by step it was quite fun. It was a very relaxing day with a delicious lunch. Eastern Orthodox have a pretty strict Lenten fast, with the most strict of them fasting from all animal products including meat, dairy and eggs. So there were lots of soups, fruits and veggies.

You start with a white egg that has been blown out and cleaned. You use a special tool to melt beeswax and draw the parts of your egg that you want to stay white (you can draw with a pencil first). Then you dye your egg beginning with the lightest color. On the egg above I started with the yellow dye. Then you use your wax again to color all the areas you want to remain yellow and dye again. The next dye was orange. For the green dots you just use a qtip instead of dipping the whole egg. When you've done your last color you remove all the wax (by heating the egg in a low temp oven) and you get this beautiful design. It really was just amazing that it looks so complex was just step by step.

It reminds me of the scripture in Isaiah 28: precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, a little here, a little there. Our life looks complex and messy now, He dunks and dips us into all sorts of things. But we are being refined and in the end when all the mess is wiped away we will be see what He had in mind all along, a beautiful and elaborate creation.

This egg was dipped just once in a single color, I liked the simplicity of it.

Seasoned Garlic Salt

I know this will probably seem like the most basic blog post you've ever read. I grew up eating warm butter bread with spaghetti. When I met my husband, who is 1/2 Italian, I was introduced to really good garlic bread, similar to what you would be served in a restaurant. He taught me how to make it but he is usually the one who makes the garlic butter.

For the past 11 years whenever we wanted to make garlic butter we'd drag out four bottles of spices, sprinkle a little here, pinch a little there, taste. Repeat. Well, I decided it needed to be a little more scientific. So I {gasp} got out the measuring spoons while Mr. Steady scoffed at me.

Much to my delight and his surprise I found a ratio that we like. And now, dear readers, I share it with you. Because you don't have to have warm butter bread and you don't have to buy frozen premade garlic bread. And also, too, you don't have to drag out four bottles at a time.

1/2 c. garlic powder
1/2 c. salt
1/8 c. dried oregano
1/8 c. black pepper

Mix together and store in an clean spice bottle. Use 1 heaping teaspoon per 1/2 c. butter. Garlic butter will last in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Mangia, mangia!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Target Board Game Deals

Crystal posted a board game deal at Target this week. Armed with coupons from this Sunday's paper and another one printed off the Internet Mr. Steady picked up Battleship, Monopoly and wanted to buy Connect 4. They were sold out of Connect 4 so they offered Toy Story KerPlunk for $8.40 (regularly $17.99). After his coupons he paid $13.11. I headed back over there later and they were substituting Monopoly Challenge for regular Monopoly. I was able to use the $10 off coupon printed in this Sunday's paper and paid $3.68 out of pocket. I used my $5 Target gift card I earned with last week's cereal and Poptart deal.

You can sweeten this deal even further by stacking a printable Target coupon for Hasbro games with the Battleship or Monopoly coupons, making them only $2 each.

This would be a great time to restock your gift closet or to get a head start on Christmas shopping.

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins was such a breath of fresh air. The subtitle of this book is How Your One-of-a-Kind Family Can Make Homeschooling and Real Life Work. As a former homeschooler flunkee I would be lying if I said I'm not a tad bit anxious about sticking my toe back in the water. But after reading this book I realize that my standards were way too high and I was trying to imitate an institutional setting instead of what works for my family.
Haskins, also the author of The Homeschoolers Book of Lists, covers nearly every topic a new or potential homeschooler can think of, including pressure and perfection, relationships, socialization, routines and schedules (or not!), extracurricular activities, academics, nurturing your child's heart, housework and chores, dealing with relatives, budgets, and special needs. She also offers intervention for run on sentences (kidding).
When Bethany House asked me to review this book I thought it would be another guilt-inducing, unrealistic view of homeschooling like other books I have read in the past. But when I read that the author utilizes a relaxed form of homeschooling in her own home I was immediately interested. For me, the crux of a good book is if I read little snippets to Mr. Steady and I found myself bookmarking page after page of this book to share with him.
I absolutely love (and at the same time am scared to death of) the idea of placing the burden of responsibility of learning on the child's shoulders.
"Too many parents waste time arguing with their children, threatening them,
begging them to do their schoolwork. Instead, talk with your child and
discuss his goals - short and long term. Determine the best ways to
accomplish those goals, making sure you have the appropriate resources....If he
is not willing to do this work, tell him that is his choice, but he also cannot
enjoy free time until he has done whatever it is that you have assigned."
I recently came to this realization on my own and had two enlightening conversations with The Thinker. We were repeatedly struggling in one area and finally I said "On a scale of 1-10 how important is this to you?" He rated it at a 5 and so I relinquished it. If it's not important to him it's not worth pushing him and arguing over it.
The author really focuses on building relationships with your children and helping your child learn life skills. She also includes a great list of age-appropriate chores.
I think I just needed some permission to relax a little and enjoy this little side road God has asked me to travel with him so He dropped it into my lap. It certainly has changed the way I view the immediate future. I hope you'll pick up a copy of Homeschooling for the Rest of Us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bibleman DVD Review

Tommy Nelson recently asked me to review the new Bibleman Powersource Combating the Commendant of Confusion: a Bibleman LIVE Adventure. The Commandant of Confusion and his side kick, Chaos, interrupt the Bible Adventure Training Academy and steal the Bible Team’s secret weapon, which helps them put on the full armor of God “anytime, anyplace.” There is a warning label on the secret weapon that reads in part, “this device contains the most powerful weapon known to man, follow instructions closely to prevent severe harm.” Will the Commandant heed the warning? Will the Bible Adventure Team recover it? Scripture lesson: “God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ICB)
This was my first experience with the new actor playing Bibleman. Maybe it’s because I grew up with Willy Aames playing Buddy on Charles in Charge. I could tell right away this was not the original Bibleman. Also during a particularly physical scene it was obvious to the adults in the room that the characters were lip syncing. When we pointed this out to The Thinker he didn’t notice it at all. Bibleman’s actions seemed very choreographed and exaggerated. Perhaps it was because the movie was shot live and he wanted to make sure the back of the auditorium could see.
Regardless of any “cheese” factor, I still really appreciate the Bibleman movies. Mr. Steady and I do not let our children play with any other superheroes because they get their power from themselves or mutations they’ve experienced. But Bibleman always points out that his power comes from God and he wins his battles by quoting scripture and drawing his strength from God. At the end of the movie Bibleman gives his testimony and presents the message of the gospel.
Since this was a children's DVD I asked The Thinker to join me in this review. The Thinker thought the explosives were cool. He would have preferred that the movie be longer. The Thinker thought the new actor playing Bibleman looks and acts like the original scientist and teacher. His paraphrase of the message of the movie “This was about putting on the full armor of God. The villains tried to confuse (Bibleman) by telling him wrong things.”

Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

It's Muffin Tin Monday and again this week there is no theme. I think Muffin Tin Mom hopes we will be creative and make up our own theme. If that's the case, this is the "we only have one serving of fish sticks and you're the winner" theme. The Entertainer is great for using up bits and dabs of leftovers. From left to right, top to bottom The Entertainer's lunch consisted of halved strawberries, milk, macaroni and cheese, half a double chocolate chip cookie (now where could that other half be? I wonder.....), fish sticks, and ketchup for dipping.

What's in your Muffin Tin?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art Hardware Giveaway

Have you met the Remodeling Guy? He has great tips and ideas all the time. Currently he is hosting a giveaway for Hoapley ARTware. They have some sweet hardware for all your drawers and cabinets. It's all handmade and I love supporting mom and pop type companies. So scoot on over to Remodeling Guy and enter to win a $100 gift certificate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lego Store

In early January we visited the Lego Store at a mall about an hour from us. The boys had received some Christmas money and this particular store has a free event once a month where you get to build a seasonal creation. I had never heard of this before and naively believed few other people had either. This is the line we discovered when we arrived. See that red arrow near the middle of the picture? That's the store we were waiting to get into! We waited in line nearly an hour! Each of the boys got to build a snowman, about 3 inches in height.

This wall is filled with Lego pieces. You fill a cup up with whatever pieces you desire. You can also buy a lot of the boxed Lego sets there. The Entertainer picked out a Buzz Lightyear set but the two older boys opted to spend their money on individual pieces.
Mr. Steady was enthralled with the creations that were on display.

It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. If we lived closer it would be fun to go again but we don't so we probably won't :o)

Monday, March 8, 2010

I am ever so grateful

holy experience
#17 Special lunch with friend
#18 A group of women who know you and still love you
#19 Friends who know you're not okay when you want to pretend you are
#20 A church who believes in the infalliable word of God
#21 People who do what they say they're going to do
#22 A safe place to worship
#23 Compassion International
#24 A husband who encourages and supports

The Flowering Cross

I was sent a copy of The Flowering Cross and asked to review it. It is a beautiful picture book for children by Beth Ryan and illustrated by Renee Graef.

Katie is excited about Easter and another opportunity to practice her church's yearly tradition of taking flowers to church to place on a cross. Katie and her family live next door to a lonely, bitter man named Papa Jack. Katie and her family are, seemingly, the only people who reach out to Papa Jack, taking pies, soup and pictures to him. As a result Katie and her brother, NoNo, have gotten to know Papa Jack. Katie's flowers for the Easter cross come from Papa Jack's beautiful garden.

Every year Katie invites Papa Jack to church at Easter but Papa Jack always turns down the offer. But this year, when Katie goes to get her flowers from Papa Jack's backyard he surprisingly tells her he's going to church with her this year. On the way Katie tells Papa Jack about Jesus' gift of eternal life. Papa Jack comes to understand that Katie and her family were showing God's love through their actions. After coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ Papa Jack becomes more joyful and is more friendly.

At the back of the book the author has included directions to make your own flowering cross.

Throughout the book the author has sprinkled Faith Imprints, which include a scripture and a suggestion for parents to discuss with their children. For example, on the page where Katie's mom tells her to take a bath and go get her flowers at Papa Jack's the Faith Imprint says "Share how Katie did what her mother told her to do." The scripture is "Children, obey your parents the way the Lord wants. This is the right thing to do." (Ephesians 6:1) The pictures are brilliant and colorful and the women and girls are all modestly dressed. The only thing I think the book lacked was explaining that Jesus died for our sins and that we are all sinners. It simply says that Jesus died because God loved us and so that we could live in heaven with Jesus. There is a Faith Imprint on this page so that parents can share more but if a parent doesn't know about Jesus and salvation a very important ingredient would be missed.

I would highly recommend tucking a copy of this book into your child's Easter basket and also strongly endorse putting The Faith Imprints to use.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

For My Mom

This is the boy who was born with blue eyes the color of a spring morning. My first boy was born with eyes of chocolate pudding and they stayed that way. My second boy was born with eyes of a summer storm at dusk and they quickly changed to cinnamon. But this boy held onto his blue eyes until well past his first birthday. When he was eighteen months old my dad and I decided he was going to stay blue eyed but Grandma insisted he would be hazel-eyed like his momma and grandpa. A fierce debate would take place often over what color his eyes were and what color they would end up. I finally conceeded that they were hazel when this boy was nearly two and a half, although it truly depends on what he is wearing. Tonight I found this picture on my camera. I don't know who took it (it wasn't me because I would have wiped his face off first) but the thing that struck me were his eyes. Definitely hazel. So, Mom, I wish I could tell you in person but you were right. His eyes are hazel.

You were right. Something I never told you enough.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Special" Plate

We have a new tradition in our home. It's called the "Special" Plate. It's not my original idea and it started here entirely by accident. When I mentioned to Mr. Steady that I thought I would just get rid of two sets of Christmas dishes because one set only had four place settings and the second set was only a setting for one he suggested just making the loner set a "special" set. And so every time someone brought home a good grade on a paper or was caught being nice to their brother or went a whole day without having an accident they got to use the special plate. Like I said, it's not a new concept but who knew we'd hit jackpot in motivation? Those boys would do anything to get the special plate! On days where no one earned the special plate Daddy or Mommy would take turns using it.

Recently Mr. Steady was ever so kind to let me splurge on this Celebrate! plate that matches our everyday dishes with the addition of the word Celebrate! and colored stars all around the perimeter. The Reader was the first to be able to use it by passing a benchmark in his math facts. I even let him pick what vegetable to have with dinner. I know, right! Actually, The Reader loves vegetables so this actually was a treat for him. Yes, I know that is a mammoth piece of bread and the net carbs for this meal were probably sky high, thankyouverymuch :o)!

Friday, March 5, 2010

How Comfortable Are You?

I'm having trouble focusing on my normal daily routine today. I can't do it. I try. I want to. But I just can't.

When I am in The Word daily, when I am focused on sacrifice and following the path to the cross, when I am in Bible study under a godly woman, when I am reading great books, when I am vicariously following a team around Kenya, when I am considering ordering a double portion of Crazy with a Side of Nuts, when my eyes are focused on HIM, none of the rest of it matters much.

I try to read my other favorite blogs, the ones with the yummy recipes and craft ideas and home decor and it just seems useless. It seems like smoke and mirrors, vapors of uselessness. I'm reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 1:2: vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

I read those favorite blogs, blogs of women that I *know* love the Lord, and I just get a bad taste in my mouth. Not because of what they've written, but because of why I'm reading them.

I know this where God wants me right now. Like MckMama, this is where I want to want to be. But if I'm honest it's not where I want to be.

Fluffy stuff is way more fun to read and do. Who wants to read blogs that make them cry, nay sob?

Decorating my home is way better for my hands. Who wants to dirty their knees and risk getting other people's filth under their fingernails?

Trying unsuccessfully to find recipes for this 300 pounds of food in my freezer is comfortable. Who wants to ruminate about the millions of families who are eating at a shelter tonight or, even worse, don't know where their next meal is coming from or can't remember when they last ate?

Hear me on this: there is nothing wrong with providing for your family with a warm, cozy house and nourishing meals. And there is nothing inherently wrong with crafting, especially if you can provide for your family or bless others with it. But I don't stop there. I buy too much, I waste too much, I use too much, I keep too much, I relax too much. It's comfortable to do these things.

But God doesn't call us to a comfortable life. So let me ask you comfortable are you this very day?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

That's Crazy with a Side of Nuts!

Have you ever heard about someone stepping out on a wobbly twig, with a thimble of faith, and doing something amazing for God's kingdom and thought
"That's crazy with a side of nuts! That is colossal and, good for you,
it's tremendous but there is no way, nooooo waaaaaay, that I could ever do
that. I mean, what about (insert mediocre excuse here) and what would we
do about (insert paltry excuse there)? What would (insert someone who
really doesn't matter that much) think and where would we get the funds for all
of that?"

Has that EVER run through your mind?

And if it has, have you ever said to your spouse ", what did you think about what such and so said?"

And if your spouse had the same Crazy with a Side of Nuts reaction that you did, have you ever spent the next several days consumed with this burning desire to spend every waking moment face down in front of God and wait for Him?

No? You haven't? Yeah. Me neither. Just asking.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


MckMama and MckDaddy are joining a handful of other bloggers and Compassion International for the next week and a half traveling all over Kenya and visiting their Compassion program already set up there. A tiny piece of my heart is in Kenya even though I've never been there. I just feel a connection to it I can't explain. Our church has a mission there and we are very fond of the missionaries serving there. I can't wait to see what the Kenya team presents to us but if it's anything like Marlboro Man's and Angie Smith's trips I double-dog dare you to read their posts and not have your heart broken at their words and tears threaten to spill out with every picture. The children's eyes and smiles get me every time.

I know things are really tight for everyone right now and I know it feels like you've given all you can to Haiti and other very relevant and important things. But Compassion is making a huge impact in these children's lives and the children in Kenya need our support. Please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Compassion is a four star charity, over 80% of expenditures go directly to the child program. Very, very few worldwide or even national charities can say this.

If you can't sponsor right now you can do one thing even better - pray. Pray for the safety of the bloggers and the team. Pray that God would break their hearts for Him and His children. Pray that millions of people would read their stories and see their pictures and their hearts would be equally broken and give.

The Little Things

Monica challenged us a while ago to make the ordinary extraordinary. Though she did so with very few words I need this challenge often. I get so caught up in the busy-ness of life I forget to put the special touches on things. Transferring the milk to a pitcher, using pretty napkins "just because", taking a warm muffin and a mocha to a friend are all ways we can remind our loved ones just how much we love them.
I took her up on the challenge while putting fresh sheets on the boys' beds. I turned down their beds, put out a fresh pair of pajamas and added a little bedtime treat. Typically they "make" their beds, get their own jammies out of the drawer, and of course don't have chocolate cookies right before bed. It won't hurt them one time to have a treat after they've brushed their teeth. They ate their treat while listening to their bedtime story. They were quite pleased. I also like to leave them little notes of praise on their pillows from time to time.
So now I am passing this challenge on to you. As we close out on the gray days of winter and transition into the longer, warmer days of spring, what can you do to make the ordinary into something extraordinary? Think of your family, friends, even strangers. Leave a comment or blog about it and let me know!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Fun Snowy Day Treat

Recently on a snowy day I served "Melted Snowman Soup" to my family for dinner. Just take your favorite potato soup and add garnishes. This idea is not original to me but I cannot remember where I saw the idea.

Plate O' Praise

Last week I was looking for something in our bedroom closet. I was so thankful to Mr. Steady that he had installed lights in several of our closets last fall. I intended to write him a note to tell him so but couldn't find a piece of paper to save my life. So I grabbed a dry erase marker and a plate. I wrote a note to Mr. Steady and to each of the boys thanking them for something. I placed it on the dinner table and Mr. Steady named it the Plate O' Praise. The next day I intended to write something on it again but found that Mr. Steady had beat me to it. He beat me to it the next day too.
The day after that The Thinker wrote "Mommy, thank you for brekfust". The next day The Reader wrote "everyone you make me (happy)"

When friends came over this weekend I decided to include them in our Plate O' Praise as well. Who knew an impromptu note would become such an integral part of our day? The boys love to read their notes and Mr. Steady and I are blessed by notes from the boys and each other.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Prayer Request

This family needs your prayers right now. Trisha and her five children were in an automobile accident yesterday morning and lost their sweet Kylee (in her dad's arms in this picture). Mya (on the swing) and Trisha are still in the hospital, Mya's skull was fractured and Trisha broke her foot.

Dear Father God, I know that you know the pain and heartache of losing a child. It is so hard to fathom and to wrap my earthly mind around your plans sometimes. Please be with Ben and Trisha and their entire family, particularly the girls who will most certainly feel the pain and loss of their sweet sister. Lord, I trust that this is all part of a bigger picture and am so thankful that this family can cling to your promises. We know that Kylee is safe in your arms and in our hearts we know that there is no better place for a child to be but as a momma I can't imagine the ache. Fill Ben and Trisha's arms with your mercy and surround them with your love. Amen.

Donations for the family can be sent to:
Brethren Charity Fund
c/o Ben Reece
PO Box 365
Brookville, OH 45309

Easter Garland

Image property of Monica and Homespun Heart

Monica is planning on attending The Relevant Conference. I am trying not to be jealous because I would really like to go. But right now our funds are allocated to other more-relevant-to-our-whole-family-right-now things. Help Monica out by purchasing an Easter Garland (or Christmas Garland) for $10, she is trying to sell 100 garlands. She is also giving away a garland so go say hello and help her out.

Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Today at Muffin Tin Mom (formerly Her Cup Overfloweth) the Muffin Tin Monday theme is all up to me. Which is good because it seems like I never get around to doing it when it's a set theme.

So anyways, here's lunch:

From left to right, top to bottom, mini saltines (these are a huge hit at my house even if they aren't the cheapest or healthiest cracker out there), snow peas and carrots, milk, two tins of Dora chicken and noodle soup, two grilled cheese circle sandwich. Yum!

What's in your muffin tin?