Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sometimes you just go with balloons...

 Happy EASTER my friends! 
 I have lots of Easter photos to share later this week... and I have an Insta-recap coming too... but today is all about Joe's birthday photos... AND I've also got a giveaway beginning tomorrow! It's going to be a fun Spring break week.
Thank you Target, for making this banner so darling. (Even if I'm a little ticked at you for knocking off so many Etsy/blogger ideas for all your new lines.)
 Cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Is there any other kind?  Now that I've had this... I think not.   (I will be sharing this recipe on one of my bloggy buddy's sites soon, so stay tuned.)

 Joe decided all the napkins and items in my party drawer were too girly.  And he didn't really want a "theme".  Oops.... I kind of made the theme balloons. Luckily he isn't too old to enjoy twelve balloons marking the birth of his grand entrance here on earth. 
 Adrain blew up little water balloons and we tied them onto skewers and stuck one into each cupcake.  Big hit.  (And thank you Pinterest for that idea!!)

 I love this kid.  He challenges my parenting limits to the edge...but oh how I love him.  He is going to move mountains and build sky scrapers on the rubble someday.  Literally and figuratively.  Count on it.

It's our Spring break week but I will be back tomorrow with a giveaway!!  So please hurry back! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring photo dump

 Good morning my sweet friends!  I am rushing to get carrot cake cupcakes in the oven so they can be cooling while I decorate for Joe's birthday celebration tomorrow!  I am doing EVERYTHING last minute right now.  I normally decorate a few days before hand so they feel really special... but we had our family Seder dinner last night so I decided to wait until that was out of the way. 

It was so special.  It always is.  In spite of the fact that we had one very crazy-hyped up boy bouncing in his seat almost the entire time, making a stream of constant noise.  Spring time is always a difficult transition for him for some reason.  We end up having to implement various Sensory techniques and calming exercises into his daily routine (ones that he has mostly outgrown a need for) and it feels like his meds don't help much with impulsivity etc.  Bah!  So our evenings have been spent dealing with various behaviors, and such (I won't get into it).  Then Adrain and I collapse in exhaustion every.single. night, once the kids are in bed. It feels like being on a hamster wheel while road-tripping with a potty training toddler.  Kinda. 

Anyway, enough about that. Ha!

We decorated eggs- something we seldom do.  Not sure why.  Ava had a ball with it.  (I think Adrain was "coaching" the other child over on the couch during this entire time because the excitement had gotten the best of him and his good-choice making.)

I photographed a few pre-Seder scenes because they were pretty and I have to put them somewhere.  (That's the nice thing about having a blog.)  I am super grateful for the loan of my girl Betsy's camera that took all these photos! 


 I am working on not rushing to the next event emotionally.  I have to get going on birthday stuff physically... but I want to be present and enjoy each moment of this week, and this season of life, and this day.  In spite of hiccups and unexpected issues, relationship dramas or financial struggles or job upheavals or kid frustrations.  Isn't that our challenge?

I know for each of us, there are things happening, things possibly happening, things we hope will happen, things we fear will happen, and things we plan on happening if all goes well... but we are meant to live in this moment in true gratefulness for the breath in our lungs, knowing our every need has already been met. That is the great challenge, is it not?  No matter our circumstances... always being thankful for right now, and trusting for our tomorrow.

Matthew 6:25-34
 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Great Expectations


I had really high expectations for myself during the forty day period leading up to Easter.  In all honesty (am I ever not completely honest?) I picked way too many balls to juggle during a season rife with birthday celebrations and other occasions.  I over commit.  I join.  I say yes.  I get overwhelmed.  I get behind.  I feel guilt.

It's not pretty.

I failed in complete and total abandon on everything I set out to accomplish and commit to during the season of Lent.  I was swimming in the guilt of that knowledge until last night.  We had experienced "one of those" days and it was by sheer force that we made ourselves attend church.  It was a night of classic going through the motions.  Oh, we went, we sang, we chatted and smiled but everything bounced off our hearts like they were made of Teflon, nothing seemed to apply or touch us, but we congratulated ourselves with "well at least we went..."

Ever done that?

As we drove home I realized that Holy Week was going to dawn in the morning and I also realized that I have never come face to face with so many of my personal failings and need for a Savior, as I have during this Lenten season.  The past nearly forty days have laid bare a lot of things in my heart as a wife, mother, daughter, friend and believer in Jesus.   Things I wish weren't there.  Things I wish weren't my natural reactions, natural thoughts, natural tendencies.  Failures that I have to continually course-correct on.  And that's when it hit me.  That's what it's all about.  Realizing how flawed I am and how perfect Jesus is.  How much I need Him.  How I can not make a day without His strength, peace and guidance.  Realizing how incredibly much I need a Savior.  I need His compassion, His grace, His forgiveness, and His love. 
As we begin this week, it will be filled with Passover dinner preparations, birthday preparations for Joe, a Good Friday service, volunteering at church and Easter service, a few meetings, and of course all the usual things that fill daily life.  We decided to let all that other "stuff" be for a minute, and we sat down to a pancake breakfast and took communion together.  It wasn't perfect.  It was picturesque or textbook.  It didn't last long.  But it was a moment of connection- of our hearts with His.  And no matter what we plan over the course of this coming week, that's the one that counts.

Lamentations 3:21-23 
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  

Be encouraged, take time to connect, let the other stuff go, and have a Happy Holy Week, my dear friends! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Answers and other fine things.

I have been getting a ton of questions about our Operation slash the food budget in half pursuit this month.  It's going great!  Better than great, actually, and I wanted to answer the many questions in one place so I can refer people back to it. I'm going to give a bunch of information, and hopefully hit all your answers, therein. (And probably bore you to sobs.)
Adrain gets paid twice a month and the bulk of one of those paychecks pretty much goes toward our mortgage.  Which means we have a lump sum at the start of each month that we can divide up for food purchases, and that pretty much needs to last us for 30 days.

The first thing I did, was scour my cookbooks, and write up 30 days worth of meals in the form of a menu.  I printed it and hung it on the fridge.  I accounted for leftovers (meals I knew would serve a crowd or have enough for freezer extras) and special events.  (Such as St Patrick's Day, Easter, and Joe's birthday.)  I wrote up a grocery list and double checked all my pantry staples, spices, cleaning supplies and toiletries to make sure we had enough for the month.  I figured out what recipes I could buy fresh items, prepare and store in the freezer, and what items I'd need to have ready cash a few days before making, in order to purchase fresh produce, etc.  Once my list was complete, I withdrew cash and headed out. 

I stopped at Costco and stocked up on things for kid lunches, chicken breasts, milk, and other items we like to purchase in bulk. Then the grocery store. 

Once home, I shared in this post, how I organized everything.  I am not going to lie.  Those four bags that we pull out weekly to restock, have been the smartest thing I've ever done.  Seriously.  I want to smack myself for not thinking of it sooner. 

After completing our big grocery shops and doing all that prep, we had $100 for the month.  (Keep in mind a ton of things went into the freezer chopped and prepped and that eliminated many trips to the store throughout the month. Which was the entire genius behind that plan.)

I had to show my little grocery shop above.  I had a bag of Alexis sweet potato fries in there too (I had a great coupon for that) but they were melting so I popped them into the freezer before this photo.  I only splurged on one thing and that was my shampoo.  This "fun brand" was on sale and I needed some anyway.  I spent three extra dollars to get the kind that makes my hair smell like Hawaii.  Couldn't resist. The item I wouldn't have normally bought were the kettle chips, but I had a coupon about to expire AND they were on sale so I grabbed them.  Everything else in the bag was basically produce.
Since we had already used the first half of that $100, during the first half of the month, I had $50 left to cover the next two weeks.  Because I have all our meals planned and prepped, spending only $50 was a lot easier than I thought.  I didn't veer off my list for even one item.  And I came in under budget, which is great because my refrigerator light just burned out and I forgot to buy salt.  Oops. So there ya go.

Many of you have wanted to know exactly what we have been eating.  Here you go. I pasted it directly from the menu I printed up. Enjoy. 

March Menu:

TH:   rotisserie chicken, sw.potato fries, green salad
F:      rice wraps with thai peanut sauce
S:      holli ice cream cake/  veggie quesadillas
S:      corn and black bean salad with bbq chicken
M:    bean curry and rice
T:      “
W:     green curry chicken, rice, green beans (frozen)
TH:    “
F:      eggs, sausage, etc.
S:      greek vegetable stew
S:      ST PATTY’S rotisserie, dijon taters & brussel sprouts
M:    “
T:      stir fry with chicken and veggies
W:    leftover stew
TH:   stew or stir fry leftovers
F:      garden vegetable soup
S:     Brisket, roasted potatoes and asparagus
S:     "
M:   salmon patties, sweet potato fries, random veggie
T:     FAMILY SEDER/ Latkes, honey mustard chicken, asparagus and charoset with matzah, etc.
W:    “
TH:   JJ BDAY! Carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting /pancakes & bacon
F:      teriyaki turkey burgers, veggie and plain rice (leftover peanut sauce)
S:      leftovers and resurrection cookies
S:      EASTER! Eating at mama's house!
M:    frozen leftover garden veg soup
T:     omelettes 

W:    FRIDGE/FREEZER clean out!!

For those of you following my somewhat silly camera saga, my man thinks he has come up with a plan.  I'm gleeful with anticipation.  And also, one of my besties, Betsy, has rescued me in the mean-time, with her spare camera.  Have I mentioned that I have amazing friends?  Indeed I do.  I have been so lonely this winter, barely seeing friends that I used to see frequently.  After a while of that behavior, people kind of give up on you and quit calling you so I have decided to put a proactive plan into action because when you are going through hard things, they (whoever "they" are) say that you tend to isolate yourself.  Umm... guilty!  Anyway, my plan.  I am making a huge effort to begin calling, texting, emailing, inviting or making plans with my local girlfriends over the next couple of weeks.  (If you are my local friend, be warned.  I am coming. Muwhahahahaha!)

Speaking of my precious friends.  I want to wish my girl Trudy a tremendously happy early birthday.  Girl, I love that we've been friends through thick and thin.  I miss having you next door SO MUCH, but I love that we still have "porch time."  I love giggling with you about how weird it is to watch our boys becoming little men. And I love that you put polka dotted straws into my water just because you know I like them.  I love you my friend.

While I'm here, I also have to send out another big happy birthday to my sweet sis-in-law, Holli.  I am so thrilled that you are in my family and can't wait to see how the next few years unfold.  Love you girl!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mid week pop in.

I have been crazy busy so far this week, and feel like I haven't been around much!  Isn't it funny how some weeks are like that?  I've been trying to finish my custom orders.  (If you're waiting on one, I am so sorry that I'm behind! I promise I'm working on them.) I've also been knocking out more of my antique mason jar flour sack dishtowels and you can't know what an absolute blessing it has been watching them fly off the shelves and into your hands.  I instagramed that it felt like I was wrapping presents for friends as I packaged up my last batch.  I just love you guys.  I listed a big batch of them here, this morning, and half are gone as I type this, so if you miss one, don't worry... I'll be making more soon!  
 They really are my new favorite thing... maybe EVER, in my shop.
 Thanks for bearing with me on my little shameless plug.  You guys are awesome.

Speaking of awesome.  I got this clock several years ago for our old home school room. Where you now see gray, it was previously red.  (I once loved all things red... but I kind of overdid "red" many years ago, and now, it's not my favorite.)  I was on a redecorranging kick and decided this baby needed a new color, so Joe (formerly known as JJ) took the entire thing apart with gusto, let me spray paint it all up, and then put it back together for me again.  Love that kid.

Anyhow.  I wanted to get a nice photo of it for you... but this is the best amount of focus I can get with my broken little baby (aka my camera) today. You guys were so sweet commenting about that the other day.  I mean, I do realize it's only a camera.  Not a person.  But sadly it's nearly dead.  I took it in and the electrical system is shot with a hefty repair price tag that didn't make it worth it, and the shutter isn't far behind apparently, so we are researching our replacement camera options.  Bah!  So for now, shooting with my current broken camera is a lot like walking with a limp.  You can get where you need to go, but it's a slow and painful process, with limited progress.  Poor thing.  I feel like it's going to need a proper burial when it finally dies.  It's become a dear friend.

One side of my brain is telling me that I've wasted entirely too much blog space on a camera.

The other side wants to cry.  Go figure.

The photo you see above won my husband's heart.  He adores Indian food. As part of our meatless endeavor, I used a recipe from the Daniel Fast Cookbook.  As Adrain sopped up his dinner using naan, (Indian flat bread) he actually said, "Babe, I don't think an Indian restaurant could have done it better."  High praise indeed.  Especially coming from someone who has actually eaten this very food in India.  You can find the recipe here. 

I've been holding fast to our Operation slash the food budget and it's been good.  Challenging but good!  I think it's going to work fantastically in the long run.  I have learned a few things so far.

Don't make an untried Greek soup recipe, thinking that leftovers will feed your family for three nights.

Especially when they don't like Greek food. (They are nuts.)

And especially when you spent a wad on fresh produce.

Don't trust a soup that cooks zucchini.  Soggy zucchini = children who won't eat dinner.

Just saying. In case you were thinking of doing that.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hoodlums and eating green.

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was the best because it was St Patrick's Day weekend, and we love this holiday. I also convinced the hoodlums to let me drag them across the street, over the ditch and into a patch of tall grass so I could take some photos of them that I've been promising their grandmother I would take for ages. It was the best, because they smiled. It was probably the best for them because they knew they had a jar of skittles and gold coins and marshmallows awaiting their return home. It was the best because we beat the rain. It was the best because we attended a phenomenal Taste of Passover at our church and once again I was reminded why Easter is my hands-down-all-time favorite holiday. I love it more than Christmas.

It was the worst because upon arriving home and beginning to edit my photos I realized that the issues I've been having with my camera were getting to the point that I either need to replace it or get it serviced and I have no idea what that is going to entail.  It's been acting broken and doing weird things like not turning on, or simply not working in the middle of using it, but I've been making it work by doing all kinds of random things photography websites recommend.  Then on this photo shoot I couldn't get it to focus in Auto focus.  (I'm not super comfortable in manual focus- especially with breathing people, though I probably would have gotten the nice, crisp photos I wanted had I switched and done that! Bah!) The focus point lights went out on me, and it kind of acted like it's insides died.  That can't be good right?  So... I'm crossing my fingers that I can get it looked at this week... but I'm not very hopeful.  It's not even that old. I got it back in February of 2010!  Then again, I've taken thousands upon thousands of photos with it.  I'm trying, (kind of unsuccessfully) not to stress.  It's just a camera.  Still... it's also my baby.
  Speaking of babies...


"Please stop growing!!"
Regardless of my camera focus fritzing out, I've got some awfully adorable tweenagers.
I also made these Antique ball jar dish towels, listed them in my shop on Friday night, and sold them all by Saturday.  (More are coming sometime this week!)  My sweet Instagram peeps dove right in and nabbed 'em before I could show them to y'all here!  Totally blessed my heart to see them gobbled up like that.  THEY ARE SO CUTE!!  What is it, about flour sack dish towels?  And turquoise ball jars?
 My man made us (green) mint chocolate chip pancakes for St. Patrick's Day breakfast.  He is so freaking hot- I mean, he whips these up like it's no big deal, using coconut flour so they are gluten free for us, and they were so good I nearly cried.  (It was my day off from the Daniel Fast for Lent and I fully enjoyed every taste.) They were fluffy.  And minty.  And chocolate chippy.  We topped them with whipped cream and star sprinkles.  (They make me want to go kiss him right this minute, just thinking about them.  I'm just saying. What is it, about a man in a kitchen? Sigh.)

 This was Ava's lunch.  Green. 

I had a heart wrenching Mama moment of sudden reflection on how quickly time is passing, here.  For lunch they begged to eat in front of the TV (a rare treat) and watch Veggie Tales "Sumo of the Opera."  It's a St. Patrick's day tradition for us, because it contains a short clip of the life of St. Patrick.  I looked over at my pancake flipping man and said, "Do you suppose they are going to still want to watch this with us in five years?" 

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my heart, cut in two pieces, living outside my body.  It's named Ava and Joe. (Not sure I'm used to calling him that just yet.... ) 

 How was your weekend? Did you celebrate St. Patrick's Day too?