Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Crockpot Chicken and Veggies


We've been cooking a lot of meals in the crockpot, and this one was so easy. Jess really liked it because it made so much. It fed us for several meals over the course of a week.

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 serving of homemade cream of something soup 
  • Cheddar soup, 14 oz. can 
  • 2 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 cup sour cream 
  • 4 cups broccoli, lightly steamed
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced and cooked in EVOO until mushrooms are browned 
Directions
  1. Place soups and chicken broth in a crockpot and whisk until smooth. Place chicken in the pot and press the breasts to the bottom. 
  2. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6 hours. 
  3. Shred chicken and stir in sour cream, broccoli and mushrooms. 
  4. Serve over rice. 
Please enjoy! 

Chef Jason 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

This Book Room: Princess Ever After

Regina Beswick never dreamed of faraway places. She’s happy with her life as a classic car mechanic and owner of a restoration shop.

But an unexpected visitor and the discovery of a fairytale, drawn by her great-grandma, causes Regina to wonder if she might be destined for something more.

Tanner Burkhardt, Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg, must convince the strong-willed Southerner, Miss Beswick, that she is his country’s long-lost princess. Failure could destroy his reputation and change his nation forever.

As Regina and Tanner face the challenges before them, neither are prepared for love to invade their hearts and change every thing they believe about themselves.

However, when a royal opponent nearly destroys Regina’s future, she must lean into God and trust He has sovereignly brought her to her true and final destiny.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Royal Wedding series. You can read my review of the first book here

My thoughts: This series is definitely for anyone who fancies all things royal. If you enjoyed Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series, you'll likely enjoy this series as well. This book had moments I was not a fan of - Reggie was a little annoying, to be honest. I really enjoyed Tanner's story, though, and where it ultimately led. I don't want to give it away, so you'll have to read the book for yourself. I did enjoy that there was a clear cut villain who was very villain-y. It made the book that much more fun and silly. I felt like there was more to Regina's dad and stepmom than we were allowed to know about. That part of the story felt odd to me that we didn't know more details about it. All in all, I enjoyed the story, but this isn't a book I'll remember forever. 

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Busy Bag of the Month: Bean Sorting


I enlisted the help of a few friends to help me with this busy bag idea. I love the idea of my girl sorting items, but the thought of buying so many different varieties of beans was not really how I wanted to go. Thankfully, my friends have some odd and awesome beans in their cupboards!

My favorite way to store busy bags is in a zip-lock gallon bag. Unfortunately, the cardboard egg carton I'm using for this busy bag doesn't quite fit. I have the beans in the bag and the egg carton is packed with the bag. The next time I'm at Joann's, I'm going to try to find something a little smaller for Bug to sort the beans into.

This busy bag, using an egg carton, was $0 out of pocket. If you do need to buy beans for this busy bag, just know you can make a lot of bean soup with the leftovers or you can make a lot of busy bags! My dream is to one day participate in a busy bag swap. So if you're planning on being in one, you'll have more than enough for several busy bags.

Here's what you need to make this busy bag: 

  • Several varieties of dried beans
  • Storage unit with cubbies for all the different varieties of beans
Store the items together. When your child is ready to sort, hand him/her the storage unit and you can dump the beans on a table for him/her to sort. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: read to your child every day to promote learning, fun and bonding

Jason reads Bug a story. She was about four months old here.
guest post by Christine Heron 

I’m visiting Anderson Elementary in Grand Blanc soon, one community out of 19 communities that my library system serves. As I prepare materials to share with 125 lower elementary students, I’m reflecting upon the question:

What do I enjoy most about my job?

I’ve been a librarian for the Genesee District Library for 20 years. Twenty years is a long time to share the love of reading with people. And to this day, it is, hands-down the ONE thing that I love most about my job – watching people of all ages get excited about reading. It is also one of the most challenging aspects of my job which is to say, “how do I encourage people of all ages to stay excited about reading?” or “how do I get a non-reader, of any age, excited about reading?”

My number one focus on encouraging people to read is for them to share their love of reading with an infant (including those baby bumps!), toddler or preschool child. Exposing infants and toddlers to stories is the stepping stone to providing them with the ability to read. Every child should hear 1000 stories before they even begin learning to read! Just think: if you read one story a day to your child before they reach age 5 that will be 1,826 stories. Hearing one story a day will put them well on their way to achieving reading success.

Are you wondering how will you ever find that many stories? Ask your librarian, teacher friends, or daycare providers for their favorites. Ask your family and friends what their childhood favorites were. Use the social media tool, Pinterest, for reading lists, suggestions and activities or browse Goodreads or Amazon for picture book lists.

What should you look for in a picture book? Bright colors, contrasting colors and patterns, repetition, rhyming and interactive books are kinds of stories to share with young children. Some of my favorites are: Elmer by David McKee (patterns), The Napping House by Audrey Wood (repetition), Time for Bed by Denise Fleming (colors), Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (rhyming), Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley (interactive). Many childhood favorites are available in the board book format which is perfect for little hands.

Now you may be wondering, why should you read to a baby, toddler or preschool child? Your voice stimulates an interest in sounds and helps develop listening skills. It also stimulates imagination. Reading develops bonding and when done regularly establishes a routine that will come to be expected and viewed as fun! It builds vocabulary and improves communication skills. Talking to your child spurs speech growth and language development by the use of rhythm and speech patterns. Plan to share some one-on-one time reading with your baby every day. It is the best gift you can give them!

Christine Heron lives in Swartz Creek, MI with her husband of 25 years, one daughter and two sons, a pet dog, cat and three goats. She has worked for the Genesee District Library since 1993. . Mrs. Heron is known at the Fenton Library as Miss Chris. She has served on various committees including Michigan Reads! the one state, one children’s book program geared to promoting the value and benefits of reading early and often to preschool children. Miss Chris, also, plans programming for children of all ages in Genesee County to promote libraries and reading.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This Book Room: Smitten Book Club

At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love--often in spite of the historic book's advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts. 

Additional notes: This is the third book in the Smitten series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here

My thoughts: I think the only appropriate way to start this review is to share my condolences for Diann Hunt's family. Diann entered Heaven just a few short weeks before this book was released. I'm not sure what the future holds for the Smitten series as Diann is one of the four wonderful authors who writes the stories included in the books. Diann will definitely be missed in the literary world, and I pray her family has peace and knows just how much Diann was treasured by her readers. 

Because of that, this book was bittersweet for me. It was hard to read, knowing that Dianne is gone. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I felt the plot was well developed and thought out. The book and its characters were engaging to read. 

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Maple Raisin Oatmeal Cookies


Jess really loves maple syrup. It's probably a good thing that we make our own. She was very insistent that we try out this recipe, and I'm really glad we did. This is a unique cookie with a great flavor. If you have a cookie swap in your future, this would be a great one to make. We found the original recipe in the December 2013 Family Circle magazine.

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup white flour 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 
  2. In another bowl, beat butter, sugar and 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Beat in egg until just combined. 
  3. Pour in flour and beat on low until just combined. Stir in oats and raisins. 
  4. Drop scant tablespoon-sized rounds of batter on baking sheets. Be sure to leave at least 2 inches between all of the rounds. 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  6. In a bowl, beat powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp water on low until well combined. Drizzle over cooled cookies with a spoon. 
The original recipe indicates you'll have 36 cookies. Our balls of batter were slightly too large; we managed to get 24. If you do get 36, this cookie has about 90 calories. Ours had about 140, and they were worth every bite. 

Please enjoy! 

Chef Jason 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ornament of the Month: Felt States


I love this concept so much, I made 8 Michigan ornaments. Michigan is a seriously tricky state, in terms of its design. By far, cutting out the shapes was the worst part, but surprisingly, it wasn't too difficult, and cutting went quickly. I have a healthy ribbon, floss and felt stash, so my costs, out of pocket, for this project were only for the buttons. I paid about $2 for 8 red heart buttons. My cost per ornament then is about 25 cents. I find this ornament incredibly impressive and lovely.

Here's what you need to make this ornament: 

  • Embroidery thread in the color of your choice
  • Ribbon in the color of your choice
  • Scissors
  • State template
  • Pins
  • Needle 
  • Heart buttons
  • Felt 
Here's how to make this ornament: 
  1. First, find an image of your state online. Print out the image and adjust the sizing as necessary. I used my printer's handy-dandy custom setting to adjust the size of my copy. 
  2. Cut out the image from cardstock. 
  3. Fold felt together and pin. Pin the image to the felt and cut out the shape. By folding the felt together, you'll cut two shapes at the same time. 
  4. Next, sew on the ribbon loop to the back piece of the ornament. I used white thread on all the ornaments. Seven of mine were white and one was blue. I ran out of white felt and I decided on blue because Michigan is known for its many lakes. 
  5. Place your heart button anywhere you'd like on your ornament. I placed mine all in the same place as this is where all of my family and friends generally live. I like the idea of placing the heart where you live within the state, but you could just put the heart wherever, too. Sew on the button. 
  6. Sew around the edges of both pieces of felt, sewing them together. 
Despite the hassle of cutting out all the felt, this project was super easy to do and incredibly rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed making these ornaments. 

Happy crafting! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Day in the Life

By popular demand, I'm bringing back my Day in the Life series. I am chronicling Saturday, February 15 for you all here. 

6:26 AM: Bug is standing up in her crib and crying. I scoop her up and bring her back to bed with me. I feed her, and we both fall asleep.

8:05 AM: Jason comes home from work. We eat breakfast. Bug is still asleep. While she sleeps next to me, I start pinning ideas on Pinterest for her first birthday. I pin cupcake ideas mainly. I want to make a really yummy vanilla cupcake.

9:23 AM: I finally get up out of bed and start cleaning the house. I fold clothes from the dryer racks and start laundry.

9:48 AM: While I'm putting the diaper pail away, my phone rings... where Bug is sleeping in bed. Ah well. It was definitely time for her to get up anyway. This is very late for her to still be sleeping. Jason wakes up to snuggle and play with Bug while I chat with  my mom (who was the one who called).

10:43 AM: I clean out the fridge and hang up clean laundry on the dryer racks.

My laundry helper. She loves to pull it off the racks and put it back on. 
11:12 AM: While picking out my clothes for the day, I pick out all of our clothes for church on Sunday. This is a really good way to ensure Sunday mornings are smooth and we actually make it to church.

12:03 PM: Bug hangs out in the kitchen with me while I whip up some coconut bars. It's my first time trying the recipe. I end up doubling it because just one batch doesn't look like enough for what I was thinking.

12:23 PM: Bars are done and chilling in the fridge. I change Bug's diaper and feed her. We have a bit of play time, too.

12:38 PM: While Bug independently plays in the living room near my feet, I settle on the couch with my Bible and devotional. I also look for a muffin recipe on Pinterest.

12:53 PM: While I eat lunch, I read the latest issue of US Weekly. I signed up for the magazine for free somewhere on the internet. It is my guilty pleasure! Jason puts Bug and him down for a nap in the bedroom.

1:08 PM: I'm making muffins in the kitchen. Jason and Bug are both asleep.


1:29 PM: Muffins are now in the oven. While they bake, I load the dishwasher, wash dishes, clean counters, sweep the kitchen floor, write a couple of memories down for our memory jar and declutter. Once the muffins come out, I let them cool for a few minutes, then pop them on a cooling rack.

2:03 PM: Later, we're going out of the house. I'm pretty excited for this because I haven't been out of the house in over a week. We've all been sick, so Bug and I have basically been quarantined. I'm going a little cabin crazy so a grocery/shopping trip sounds wonderful. I write down our lists for where we're going and what our lists are for each store.

2:09 PM: It's time for a break. I refresh my water glass, grab a magazine and just sit and relax. Ahh.

2:32 PM: I work on cutting out pieces for sewing and crafting projects. In case I've never mentioned it before, cutting is the worst part. I love sewing and putting together crafts, but I really don't like cutting out pieces.

Preston usually likes to try to sabotage my crafting.
3:34 PM: Snack time! The muffins are very tasty.

4:08 PM: My girl is still asleep. I start cutting out pieces again and am just waiting for everyone to wake up, so we can get out of the house. I briefly consider running to the library on my own, then nix the idea. This ends up working out in my favor somewhat later on in the day...

Is it time to wake up?
Yes, I guess it is!
4:38 PM: Bug finally wakes up! I guess we're not going to the library since it closes in 22 minutes. Oh well! We all get ready to go out. We're eating dinner out - Jason's doing a mystery shop, and he and I both will get to eat for free. Bug doesn't have teeth yet and mainly just snacks on yogurt and other mushy food, like sweet potatoes. We just pack up milk for her to eat while we're out.

5:07 PM: We're in the car and on our way! We go to Sam's Club, Walmart and to a casual restaurant for dinner. Jason and I are both excited about what we found at Walmart. He bought a reversible belt for $12. His other belts are basically destroyed, and he badly needed a new brown and black one. This one is brown on one side and black on the other - perfect! I bought two shirts - one for spring/summer and one I can wear year-round. I paid $11 for the two shirts together. I wear pretty basic pieces, and these match what I love to wear perfect. One is a round-neck long-sleeved solid color shirt, and the other is a short-sleeved v-neck solid color shirt.

8:22 PM: We're home. I change Bug and put groceries and our other purchases away. I process that day's mail and guess what has arrived for me? I'm super honored to be part of Sheila Roberts' street team. And I don't have a new book to read right now since we never made it to the library, so the timing could not be better.


8:51 PM: I'm in my nightgown and settling in for the night. The Olympics are on, and I'm perusing magazines and reading my new book.

10:13 PM: Bug and I are snuggling in bed. I eat a salad and a banana, and we play patty cake in between bites. There are lots of giggling and hugs going on. I love my girl.

Bug ends up falling asleep a little later on, but I don't fall asleep before midnight. That's a little unusual, but Jason has the night off from work, so we spend quality time together. Normally, he'd already be at work, and I'd be asleep. The day was a little unusual in that we didn't need to cook any meals. That created a lot of extra time in my day. All in all, this day was incredibly successful and a lot of fun.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saving the Moola: an unconventional investing idea to help others and yourself


guest post by Molleen Zwiker

When most people hear the word "invest", they probably think of heaps of money or of incomprehensible terms and impossibly complicated tax laws, of financial advisers and grim-faced accountants.

At least I did.

Somehow, I had the idea that only the financially solvent could afford to put their money to work for them making more money.

The "somehow" is easy to figure out.  For generations, my folk have known how to find or make employment, how to work hard, how to live simply and frugally, how to save "for a rainy day".  Never in my life had I heard the word "invest".  At least not in any practical way.  

But when I realized my savings account earned a fraction of a percent interest, I decided to explore the world in "investing".

I was lost.  When I'd read about goals of hundreds of thousands of dollars in my retirement account, I gasped.  Then I laughed.  Not only were the numbers unrealistic, the terms were like a foreign language I'd never been exposed to, without a handy cognate or two as clues.  

And then, too, it was too late. For most of my life, "financial solvency" meant I had the bills paid, the refrigerator stocked, and the kids in shoes. "Saving" was for a special purchase, shutters for the house, for example. 

But as soon as I tried to build a cushion, a back-up in case of an emergency, said emergency showed up early and brought its cousins. The water heater blew and took out the furnace. Okay, okay, that didn't really happen, but it seemed like emergencies liked to cluster up. I should add that, by the grace of God, the emergency seemed to match my savings exactly. If I had $70, I needed just that. Same with windfalls.  If I unexpectedly received a check for $300, it arrived with an unexpected bill for $299.

So it was late in the game that I started to think about investing. But I didn't have much to work with. No reputable financial adviser would have wasted tepid coffee in a chipped mug on me. I was on my own.
So I started researching, mostly on the internet, but also in books and magazine articles. And quite typically, I got distracted. Instead of learning ways to invest money, I found myself reading of the many ways I might give it away. But I was already good at that. I delighted in donating to World Ark, cancer research, the Humane Society, and such. I was thrilled to read about Global Water, an initiative that teaches people in developing nations how to seek underground water sources, how to dig and maintain deep wells.  

From there, I discovered Charitywatch.org that evaluates all the charitable organizations. I even prompted Global Water to apply for the vetting process to raise awareness of their work.

I'm pretty sure that scrolling through Charitywatch is how I first learned about Kiva.org.  And fell in love.
Kiva.org's official mission statement is:
"We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world." 
There it was: an investment in other people. Interest earned on promoting self-reliance.  Becoming successful by investing in the success of others.

And the beauty of it all is that my measly $25 that will buy me about half a tank of gas, is a significant hand up to someone who is building their own small business.   

Kiva.org's website is beautifully organized and easy to use. One of the features I like best is being able to sort borrowers by whatever criteria I choose. For example: because I am a woman, I tend to invest in the work of women; because I am a foodie, I tend to invest in food-related endeavors like agriculture, groceries, restaurants; because I was born in Panama, I tend to invest in Central American borrowers; because my beloved sister-in-law is from the Philippines, I also favor borrowers from there.  

In increments of $25, I am also promoting capitalism and pride in accomplishment.  

It fascinates me how quickly these loans get re-paid, too. And when they are, Kiva promptly notifies me.  Then I have a choice to let it ride (but why?), withdraw my investment with its interest, or re-invest.  I  re-invest ASAP. So far, I have invested in people buying seed, livestock, resale stock for their shops, delivery vehicle repairs, and a new roof or two to say nothing of a sewing machine for a woman who was making clothing to sell.  

Kiva.org has tabs in which I can check the repayment schedules, my net earnings, and so forth.  And they offer specials, too. This past Christmas they offered a three-for deal: buy two gift cards, get one loan free.  I took advantage of that, giving people I cared about an opportunity to experience what I started calling a "sacred rush", the joy of helping others even as I help myself.

Please consider taking a few minutes to check out Kiva.org.  I sincerely pray you get hooked, too. I can't think of a better blessing than to be a blessing to someone else.  

Peace. 

Molleen Zwiker is the author of five books, including her most recent: UNRELIABLE: A Novel of Suspense.  She is is retired (but not from writing) and in the process of relocating from Michigan to Florida to be nearer her family.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cheesy Ground Beef Rice Casserole


We found the original recipe on HungryLittleGirl.com, but doctored it up so much you probably wouldn't recognize it if you saw it there.

Ingredients
  • 1 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, divided
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
 Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large oven safe skillet, cook ground beef, onion, garlic, pepper and oregano over high heat until the beef is fully cooked.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the rice, peas, and tomato sauce, 1 cup of cheese and the chicken broth.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Combine remaining cheese and sour cream.
  • Top the casserole with cheese and sour cream mixture and bake another 15 minutes.
This was a surprisingly good recipe. We made a lot of changes to this recipe so feel free to change it up to fit your wants as well, such as adding broccoli instead of peas, more or less rice,and any additional seasonings that you may want.

Just be prepared to want to eat a whole bunch more of this than you probably should because it is yummytastic!

Please enjoy!

Chef Jason

Monday, February 10, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: hospital bag must-haves!

photo credit
I have to start this by saying I desired a home birth, but when we first knew we were pregnant, Jason did not feel comfortable. We committed to a hospital birth, but if God should bless us with another pregnancy, we will, God willing, have a home birth. Home births, in healthy, "normal" situations are best for mama and baby.

That being said, there absolutely are times when a hospital birth is necessary, and most babies are born in a hospital today whether because it is necessary or because the parents have chosen to birth in a hospital. And if you're going to be at the hospital, let's just face facts: it is nothing at all like being home.

I read countless articles on what to pack in a hospital bag and I found I still didn't have everything I wanted. Our hospital was incredibly close to home, so every day, Jason came home to feed Preston and to gather what else I desired. Also, that being said, we had no clue we would be at the hospital for so long. We were there, all told, for about 84 hours.

Here are my absolute must-haves for a hospital bag:
  • Toiletries - I'm talking your favorite body wash, shampoo, hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion. Whatever your normal morning routine encompasses, bring it. When you finally take a shower, you'll be so grateful to have a sense of normalcy, not just in the routine of getting around for the day, but also for the comforting smells of your normal products.
  • Comfy clothes - Think sweatpants, loose underwear (I highly recommend maternity underwear), maternity t-shirts and baggy hoodies. Don't forget slippers! If you're a socks kind of gal, bring those. I am not, so I just made sure I had my slippers.
  • Books, magazines, digital devices, etc. - my iPod was a saving grace for me, as was my computer for keeping in touch and feeling normal. Everything I had read said not to bring reading material because "you won't have time." Well, I did have time, and Jason was gracious enough to bring me books and magazines from home. I found I didn't have the attention span for books in the hospital, but magazines were perfect.
  • Books for your baby - I may not have had the attention span for adult books, but I had never thought to bring books for Bug until after she was born. Jason brought books we had from home, and we read to her each day. You certainly don't need to use children's books. You can read to your baby from the Bible or whatever book you're currently reading. Just hearing your voice is important.
  • Pillows and bedding from home - Whenever we travel to a hotel, we always pack up all our own bedding and bring it with us. Sheets in a hotel typically do not have a high thread count (we stay in budget hotels when we travel). Sadly, we did not take all our own bedding to the hospital, but I did have my own pillows and this made a huge difference in my comfort level.
  • Camera and cell phone - You'll want to take loads of pics of your newborn and your cell phone is useful for calling all your relatives to announce the baby's birth.
  • A variety of clothes for your newborn in a variety of sizes - Depending on the season, it might be hard to anticipate just what kind of clothes they'll need for their trip home. It was winter when Bug was born, so we brought just two sleepers - one in a newborn size and one in 0 - 3 months. Bug fit in the newborn size (it was actually a little big on her, even though she was 8 lbs. at birth!), so she wore that sleeper home.
That list shows that not a lot is needed, and trust me, it's not. I felt I had actually packed too much when all was said and done. Keep your packing simple and know that if need be, your husband can travel back home, even if the hospital is far from home. In this time, you just make things work and trust me, your husband will not mind getting you what you need. You just birthed his baby! He will be happy to help you recover from birth and spend time with the baby while he runs around for you. At least, my husband did not mind and I am fairly confident your husband is just as wonderful as mine!

Just as there are items you need for the hospital, there are items you definitely do not need:
  • Diapers, blankets, formula, wipes, etc. - While your baby is in the hospital, the hospital will provide all of these things for you (and give you extras to take home!). The only thing we absolutely needed for Bug was clothes to come home in.
  • Snacks and beverages for after birth - During labor, if the hospital allows (or if you override their decision), snacks and beverages may be useful. After birth, snacks, meals and beverages are provided. Keep in mind that meals likely won't be provided for your husband, however, the meals provided to you may be so large you can share. We shared most of my meals, although I have no clue if this is "allowed." We just did it and didn't care what anyone thought. Jason also usually grabbed something to eat at home when he fed Preston. Food was definitely not an issue.
  • Shoes - I personally do not advocate for shoes in the hospital. First of all, your feet will likely become very swollen. Swollen to the point that shoes will not fit. Stick with socks and/or slippers and leave the shoes you wore to the hospital in a closet there for the time being. Don't pack extra shoes - you'll have no use for them.
  • Make-up - This is definitely a personal choice. Even if you normally wear a full face of make-up, however, I really think you won't want to wear make-up. Honestly, you just gave birth and life is a little crazy right now. Go bare and revel in it. It's all the better for cuddling with your precious bundle, too.
I'd love to hear what items were essential for you and which ones were not! I want to be sure I'm fully prepared next time in the event of a hospital birth... if that's even possible to be fully prepared!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Life & Style: the most important thing I do to manage my time


Chores. We all have them. Yours, at least some of them, look differently than mine. I'll do some things that are not a priority for you. You'll do some things that aren't on my radar. But there are some basic chores most everyone has in common: laundry, cleaning the kitchen, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, showering, etc.

Jason has used chore lists for years. Once I found myself a stay-at-home mama, I wanted to be sure I was using my time as effectively as possible, and I also didn't want to neglect any housework. I wanted time to pursue my own interests, and I wanted to keep the house clean.

This post is mostly just serving as a way for you to see my chore charts, so you can create your own. I've found that I get more chores done now that I have charts. I keep the charts taped on a bedroom wall. I prefer the charts on paper rather than electronic. This way, I can see the charts and x things off, even when I'm not near an electronic device. Because let's face it, if I'm on an electronic device checking on my chores, I'm probably also perusing Pinterest and checking in on Facebook. That's a lot of time wasted!

I have four different charts:





Chores can be super hum-drum and quite often, annoying. But I hope this inspires and encourages you to track your progress throughout the day, week, month and year. I promise the charts will serve as a point of accountability for you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

This Book Room: Let There Be Light

'In the very beginning, God's love bubbled over when there was nothing else---no trees, no birds, no animals, no sky, no sea---only darkness.'

Let There Be Light combines the love and warmth of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the extraordinary talents of bestselling author and illustrator Nancy Tillman. This retelling of the biblical story of creation vividly portrays the wonder and beauty of God's creation on each of the seven days. Using Archbishop Tutu's lyrical text from the Children of God Storybook Bible and Tillman's remarkable illustrations, Let There Be Light brings the story of creation to life for readers young and old. 

My thoughts: The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. They are full of vivid colors, which will really grab a young one's eyes. The text tells the creation story in a simple manner. This book would be perfect for a really young one and would really serve as the perfect introduction to the creation story and who God is. Most children's Bibles are complex enough that a two-year-old may not understand or fully comprehend, but this book is so simple. It would be a great Easter or Christmas gift. I'm stowing my copy away to give to Bug at a later date as a gift. 

Thanks to booksneeze.com for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Carrot Coconut Bread


This bread wasn't like anything I expected. This isn't to say that it tastes bad. It actually is quite good. You definitely need to like coconut (a lot) to enjoy this recipe. Since Jess and I both do, the recipe works for us. One bonus is that we routinely keep all of the ingredients for the bread in our house. We found the original recipe in a Cooking Light magazine.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil 
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour 
  • 1 cup white flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a bread pan with cooking spray. 
  2. In a large bowl, beat oil, sugar and eggs until well combined and fluffy. 
  3. Stir in carrots until just combined. 
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder and salt. Beat dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined. Stir in coconut. 
  5. Transfer mixture to pan, smoothing out the top the best you can. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn onto a rack and cool completely. 
Please enjoy!

Chef Jason 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saving the Moola: January in review

Nothing exciting really happened in January. I view that as a good thing! We had a few extra expenses in January. We paid for renter's insurance for another year and we renewed the tabs on our car.

Due to the weather we've been experiencing and also just because of our personalities, we stayed home a lot in January. We find the more we stay home, the less we spend. The more we stay home, the more content we feel and are.

I've been growing in my menu planning abilities and our grocery bill has decreased because of that. We've been intentional about freezer cooking each week, and when we make dinner, we make a huge casserole which will feed us for quite a few meals. This has helped not only save money but a lot of time, too.

Since we had more time on our hands, we've made good progress in working on projects around the house. I never thought I would have so many projects going at once, but I have different projects for different situations. I need portable projects, so that's where handwork comes in. I also usually have a sewing project going for when I have uninterrupted time. I work on sewing when Bug is asleep or when Jason is spending one-on-one time with her. Jason also has been working on projects around the house.

I no longer am working as a nanny for the family I was working for, which does mean a decrease in our income. Also, unless the government actually extends unemployment benefits, I will lose those soon, too. I could freak out, but I'm really just leaning on God and waiting for direction for the next phase of our lives. I've had a couple of opportunities come my way that I'm exploring. I'm just open to whatever He has planned for me, and Jason and Bug have been wonderful in supporting my dreams and hopes. Our family's motto has always been, "We'll make it work. We always do." And it's truly by the grace of God.

Our financial goals for February include filing our taxes. I suspect this will be a huge undertaking, much more so than any other year, but I'm excited to see what having a child in our lives means in terms of our refund! Our refund is usually pretty small, but I've heard having a child ups the refund. I'm praying February comes with good surprises and opportunities!

Monday, February 3, 2014

State of Our House Address: January in review

January was pretty eventful, but very non-eventful at the same time. Don't even ask me if that makes sense. I have mama brain.

I shared in our last update that I started working as a nanny. I'm no longer working as a nanny for the family I was working for. I'm not sure what the general population believes, but this family believed that since I was a stay-at-home mama, I should be available to them 24/7. Just because I'm a stay-at-home mama doesn't mean I'm actually home all day. I do have a life! So needless to say, the situation wasn't working out. Thankfully, I was paid for all the time I worked (that got kind of dicey there for awhile, and I actually thought I might have to sue someone!), and I'm just glad to put the situation behind me and move forward. 


We visited lots of family in January and we had friends visit us. When Jason sings in the worship team at church, Bug gets to play in the nursery for an hour on Sundays. Between all of that, she has been having a blast playing with littles! She's really moving along in her development, too. She pulled herself up and stood up on her own for the first time. Bug still isn't crawling in the traditional manner, and to be honest, I doubt she ever will. She Army crawls everywhere, but has no interest in crawling on her knees and hands. She still has no teeth, though she will be one year old in March (how has a year already passed by???). 

Jason is continuing to tutor two students and recently advertised his tutoring services at our local library and at church. He loves tutoring. He's had to get a bit creative with how to teach his ten-year-old math student, and just in the last couple of weeks, his student has really started to grasp the concepts Jason was teaching. It's really exciting for Jason to see everything start clicking for his pupil, and I'm proud of both of them! 


We've been busy working on projects. I made a bouquet of felt flowers to put in a Mason jar in Bug's room. I was shocked at how easy the flowers were to make and am really pleased with how the project turned out. I've been working on a couple of knitting projects, lots of felt projects and a couple of sewing projects. 


Preston and Bug are getting along a lot better and continue to grow in their tolerance of each other every day. Well, Bug adores Preston. Preston grows in his tolerance of her every day! He has been having some health issues that I think are starting to be resolved. He turns 8 years old on February 2. I pray we have a lot of years left with him. I cherish the nights we all have a sleepover in our bed: me, Bug, Preston and Jason. I kind of think we need a bigger bed! It's just fun to see Preston and Bug loving each other more. 

We read Bug about 30 books in January. I read 9 and Jason read 5. Jason and I were both impressed by all of our reading. Right now, we are loving reading Bug Little Rabbit books and any board books. She sits on her potty each night and flips the pages while Jason or I read the book. It is hilarious to watch! I'm hoping to read a Reading Contentment Challenge book in February. Jason and I did not read any of our chosen RCC books in January. I know I say it all the time, but the month really did get away from us. I can't believe it's already February!