Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ringing the Dinner Bell

Do you meal plan?  I do, I feel like if I didn't I would be lost by 10 am each morning.  Feeding a family of five mama-made meals each night with whole food ingredients is a job all by itself.  Menu planning is an important step that I cannot miss.  When I don't menu plan we end up eating out or grocery shopping on the fly and inevitably we spend more money and eat a lot less healthy  I usually sit down every Saturday morning or afternoon and plan out the next week.  I pull from tried and true recipes, Pinterest, requests from my family and "this is a meal I really want to learn to cook" ideas.

This past week I decided that for the month of March, instead of planning out my menu a week at at time I would plan it for the month.  I left the weekends free so there is still a little planning to do (plus I like a little wiggle room for when things come up...sometimes having a plan and then not sticking to it stresses me more than not having a plan). We also have Soup and Bread at church every Friday this month for the rest of the Lenten season (YaY for a night each week of no dinner prep, cooking or cleaning up after!).  I try to plan meals that require minimal prep and/or meals that work with our evening schedules.  My Ed also takes lunch to work so I try to plan meals that will taste good reheated.  I generally don't plan breakfast and lunch menus. We keep a good variety of breakfast, lunch and snack foods in the house and my boys take turns picking out what they will have for those meals.

My Tried & True recipes are:

  • Chicken Stuffed Baked Potato
  • Steak Burrito Bowls
  • Chicken Spinach and Pasta
  • Pork Meatballs Pesto
  • Greek Chicken 
My Pinterest Pins are:

I will be posting some of my Tried & True recipes later this month and Pinterest reviews on the three new recipes I am trying as well.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Accentuate the Positive

Have you ever heard that song Accentuate the Positive?  The Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby (old, old school) sang it and it was on Disney's The Mighty Ducks movie as well.  This song came to mind as I was praying for wisdom in parenting my boys, discipline, good character, chores...everything.  I frequently find myself laying in bed at night, after all the house is tucked in and sleeping, pleading to God for wisdom.  In the book of James, we are told to ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us generously; without finding fault. Parenting is challenging work and knowing that I have the Creator of the universe listening to my prayers gives me strength and peace in this journey.  I have three delightful, curious, full of everything kids; Ren is almost 7, Sam is 3 and Alex is a couple months shy of two.

This picture is hilariously them....funny, distracted and ready to take it all in.

I hunted around for ideas of how to implement a system that would work for my boys, focusing on good behavior, completing age appropriate chores, starting an allowance system for Ren and rewards that we can do, that have a focus on fun, individualism and building family relationships.  The Character Counts and Good Job Jar system is what I came up with.

I bought glass jars and popsicle craft sticks from Hobby Lobby, Ren and Sam picked out stickers and letters to decorate their jars and we used the letters of our last name acrostically (Kindness, Obedience, Serving, Truthful, Eager, Ready, Meek, AWESOME, Neat) to come up with the character traits that we wanted to focus Ren on and added lines to the side of Sam's jar to give him goals that he can see.  The rewards that they can choose from are: Pizza and Movie Night, 15 Minutes of Extra Screen Time, Staying Up 30 Minutes Past Bedtime, Your Dinner Choice, Extra Date with Mama or Daddy, Choose a Family Outing and One Snack Pick at the Grocery. 

We started Ren's Character Counts on his 6th birthday last year. These Character Counts are earned though out the day and counted at the end of each week.  He earns them through daily chores (Feeding the pets, putting his laundry in the hamper and also putting it away once I do the laundry, taking the trash from the bathrooms out on Wednesday, emptying the dishwasher of plastics and silverware and picking up toys and books at the end of playtime/day.) and his overall attitude through out the day. Each stick is worth .10  and is used to determine an allowance for Ren. The AWESOME stick is given when he has a really awesome day or does something that really stands out to Ed and I (going above and beyond, thinking of others, etc). The AWESOME stick is used to pick a reward and does not count toward his allowance. If Ren earns more than one AWESOME stick though out the week than he can pick more then one reward.   His allowance earnings have varied in the last year, the average is $2.30. Ren has earned as much as $8 one week and as little as .80.  He saved up all his allowance, for about 7 months this past year, to buy his own fish tank.  The pride and excitement he had when he paid the cashier for the tank out of his own wallet was the coolest thing.  He still has the receipt from that purchase in his wallet and is now saving for another pet. 

We recently started a Good Job Jar for Sam and he earns poms though out the day; there are lines on the jar and once he has earned poms to the line then he can choose a reward.  Sam earns poms by: using his words instead of just crying, picking up his toys and books, peacefully going to bed, putting his clothes in the hamper and being obedient.  

Earning Character Counts and Good Job Poms helps me to "Accentuate the Positive" in my boys.  Before we started the Counts and Poms I found myself  highlighting their negative behavior; to myself and to them.  Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and think on and highlight these things.  We don't always have great days (in fact the last two days have been a been a huge challenge for me and Ren) but using this system helps our focus and puts their good behavior and choices on the forefront of their minds though out the day.  

Do you have a system that works in your house? I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stories to Tell

I picked up Shauna Niequist's Savor, a 365 Devotional for this year and I meet with a group of friends once a month to discuss the days and enjoy the recipes that Shauna provides.  Savor, has proven to be a fairly easy devotional; one that I can sit and read the scripture she provides along with her words and reflections for that day in the morning over my coffee and then think about them as I go through my day. 

Somedays resonate with me more than others; one of the days last week has really stayed with me. February 18th devotion, Only You Can Tell Your Story. Shauna writes "If you have been longing to hear a new language of faith, one that rises and falls like a song, may I suggest that you start singing? If you want your community to be marked by radical honesty, by risky, terrifying, ultimately redemptive truth-telling, you must start telling your truth first."  

This spoke to my heart, not so much in the telling of my truth; more in me believing my truth wholly, first. The truth that God starting writing in my heart when I was in my early twenties.  Things He spoke to me in the quiet of prayers and praise.  In marrying a military man, which requires moving often and re-establishing myself again and again; I often questioned the Lord, HOW....How are you to train and accomplish these things in me when it seems that I start over all the time? He responded to me several years ago at a conference with "Nili, I AM the how, you just walk one step at a time in faith." And so I began... Waiting for His leading and then taking a step in faith.  The flame of the truth that God placed in my heart 20 years ago began to grow.  Now, now I find myself needing to own my truth, believe my truth; so I can walk with confidence in what the Lord has called me to do. So I can tell my story.

Shauna ends with "Only I can tell my story. And only you can tell your story." This is what God is speaking to my heart.  My story, my truth that He wrote in my heart; it is mine for the living, mine for the telling and I must live it and I must tell it.  Knowing that I am where God wants me to be is empowering.  Not that I don't doubt myself, worry, make mistakes, stumble and fall....I do all of those things daily.  I also get up, make amends, dust myself off and keep walking. Relying on God to direct my steps...He said He would and I know that I can count on Him. 

Has God been speaking to your heart about the story He has written for you? Be encouraged to live and tell your story...someone you know needs to hear it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

I don't know about you but I LOVE Chicken Pot Pie!  I was craving it the other day and didn't have pie crust so I decided to make Chicken Pot Pie Soup.  This is a quick and easy recipe and the roux added makes it creamy and the perfect taste of Chicken Pot Pie with out the pie. I served this soup with simple cheddar drop biscuits, my whole family loved it!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup


1 tbsp olive oil 
1 onion chopped4 cloves of garlic minced
3 carrots chopped
3 celery chopped
4 small potatoes chopped
1lb of chicken breast cut into small pieces
3 Bay Leaves
2-3 Tsp of Poultry Seasoning
2 Tbsp parsley flakes
3 cups of chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk


Pour oil in a stock pot over medium heat add diced onion in the pot, stir and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and chopped chicken, little salt, little pepper and stir. After the chicken is cooked, add chopped carrots, celery and potatoes, add parsley and poultry seasoning, stir. Add 3 cups of chicken stock and the bay leaves. Leave soup to cook over medium heat stirring frequently.

While soup is cooking make roux in separate pot over medium heat.
Melt butter, add flour stirring to combine and let cook to a golden brown color. Remove from heat and slowly add the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock. Stirring constantly to remove any lumps. Add in milk and continue stirring to a smooth consistency. Pour roux into soup and stir to combine. Put the lid on the pot and let the soup cook over medium/low heat for about 10 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

You can add grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup) at this time.
Serve with drop biscuits, French bread and/or salad and white wine.

I'd love to know if you try this soup. I am adding it to my monthly rotation during the fall and winter months.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five on Friday

It's my first Five on Friday!
Five things that are on my mind right now...

My Ed is building a mobile chicken coop right now. In the next couple weeks we will have our own little feathered friends, running around and laying us some eggs.  I have a couple of chicken lovers in the house already.  Ed has promised to be a guest writer for me; so be on the lookout for how to build a mobile chicken coop!


I'm ready to head back to the salon and lighten my locks. I go brown every winter and start lightening back to blond in the spring and I am ready for spring! 


We are planning our spring/summer garden and I recently received The Good Seed Catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Ren and I have been looking through and marking down what seeds we want to buy.  I can't wait for this garden to grow; it will be our first year using heirloom seeds.


Camping...I miss being in the woods, the smell of campfire, watching my kids run and explore. Ed and I are planning out what new places to explore and camp this year....He even mentioned something about buying a pop-up camper!


Have you seen this list? It is so good and a great reminder to me to affirm my kids daily and let them know I love them, believe in them, hear them and see their goodness.

I am linking up with Lindsey at A.Liz Adventures

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


A sister is the first description, the earliest description of who I am.  I was born into a family of sisters...not just one or two sisters but eight.  My memories of childhood are wrapped in sisters.  A group of girls becoming women who were fiercely trying to figure out who they were becoming and how they could stand. 

Growing up in a house of women shaped me into the woman that I am.  It also has allowed me to see the importance of women who are for other women, empowering them, cheerleading their lives, encouraging, speaking life to their life and praying for them. We are all strong with our own voice and opinion of life and how things should or shouldn't be done.  And there is value in that...and value in knowing that there is more than one way to do something, value in hearing voices that conflict with your own, value in listening to another's story.

After my daughter was born, in the quiet hours of her and I in the hospital room...I held her to my heart and told her that I know her, she is a sister like me; that we were in this together and I would fight for her and teach her to be a woman, a fierce woman and a sister among women. 

There is a greatness to sisterhood and I am grateful to stand, stand in the place that is mine. The place of encouraging, cheerleading, speaking life, empowering, listening, praying for and adding my voice to the voices of the women who were before me and to the ones who will come after.  The voices that say...we can do this, we are created for this, these abilities and talents that are at our fingertips and in our hearts and minds; they are great, they matter, you matter, I matter, we matter,

Monday, February 15, 2016

Yoda Best Valentine --- Handmade Kid Valentines

There is something special about handmade; there is something super special about something handmade by a kid.  Maybe because they are not worried about perfectionism, a Pinterest worthy card or drawing or wondering what other people think...will they like it, will they not.  One of the many fun things about being a homeschooler is the parties...Thanksgiving, Skate Parties, Christmas, Valentines, St. Patrick, Just Because, End of the Year, etc... When I received the information for this years Valentine Party with our homeschool group I was a little blown away by the number of valentines that Ren would be handing out. Forty-two for his age/grades group. Forty-two valentines.  I asked Ren what he wanted to do.  "Star Wars, mama!" was his reply.  So we started talking about what he wanted them to look like.  Yoda and a light saber and stickers and is Ren's favorite color and we recently introduced him to Star Wars and he is hooked.

Ren has been drawing Yodas and Darth Vaders on art paper for a while so I asked him to draw Yoda four times on paper that he sectioned off...

We then made copies of his drawing on red paper, punched two holes in it to add the "light saber" and added a Star Wars sticker.

The stickers came from the Dollar Spot at Target, the glow sticks from the Dollar Tree and we had the red paper in our paper stock here at home.  I think they turned out quite cute.  I love the four different Yodas that he drew and I love that it is handmade.

I asked Ren if I could keep just one of his valentines from this year for myself...He grinned at me and said... "Sure Mama, if there are any left."  Yoda best Ren, Yoda Best! I can't wait to watch him hand them out at the party (another super cool perk of being a homeschool mama)...there is something special about gifting your handwork and I know that he is super proud.