Thursday, September 30, 2010

Courageous Woman

Pin It Now! I took the 16 minutes to watch this lady's incredible testimony. I know these videos have been going around lately, so you may have already watched. If not, I encourage you to listen.

To me Gianna Jessen epitomizes valor . . .

yet at the same time she sends the message that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I was encouraged by her example to rise above circumstances, to not wallow in self-pity. No matter how dire the predicament might be. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem. No matter how alone I feel.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Festive Fall Feast: Stew in a Pumpkin

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**Originally posted on Oct. 23, 2009**

I have had a Taste of Home magazine insert for years. It’s the same insert from where I got my pumpkin pancake recipe and pumpkin cake recipe. I make both of those every fall.

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I have been dying to make the pumpkin stew recipe but just haven’t got up the nerve or carved out the time to do it. Well, this fall, I told myself, “This will be the year that I make this stew!”
And I did. :) And a fun, festive meal it was!

First you have to partially cook the stew.

You will need:

2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 in. cubes
3 TBS. vegetable oil, divided (I used olive oil)
1 cup water
3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 in. cubes
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 large green pepper, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 med. onion chopped

2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 TBS. beef bouillon granules
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pumpkin—about 10 lbs.

** In Dutch oven ( I just used a big pot) brown meat in 2 TBS oil. Add water, potatoes, carrots, green pepper, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. The directions say to cover and simmer for 2 hours, but that was way too long in my opinion—maybe an hour would be sufficient. Stir in bouillon and tomatoes.
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While the stew is simmering, you will need to wash pumpkin then cut a 6 to 8 in. circle around the stem. Remove top and set aside. Remove seeds and loose fibers. Place pumpkin in a shallow, sturdy baking pan. Spoon stew into pumpkin and replace top.
Brush outside of pumpkin with remaining oil. Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours or just until the pumpkin is tender. ( Do not over bake) Serve stew straight from the pumpkin, and if you like, scoop out a little of the pumpkin with each serving.

All done! My pumpkin was a smidge too big, but it still worked.
The stew was delicious!

Linked to:

Tasty Tuesday

Tuesdays at the Table

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

Works for me Wednesday

Try A New Recipe Tuesday

Sunday, September 26, 2010

No Excuse!

Pin It Now! I was so surprised to see this post on my friend's site. Andrea, one of the college girls from the Sunday School class my husband used to teach at Bellevue, is very talented when it comes to design and refurbishing.

I guess she saw my recent Goodwill post and felt sorry for me and my lack of skills in the refinishing department. ;)

She dedicated an entire post to giving detailed, yet easy-to-understand instructions on how to refinish a piece of furniture. She even featured the desk we found for our son at Goodwill. I was quite impressed! Seriously, I wouldn't have had a clue about the different types of sandpaper to use--she covered everything!!!

Thanks a bunch Andrea--now I have no excuse if I want to tackle a DIY project!! If you are like me and haven't a clue about this sort of thing, check out Andrea's site, This Side of Paradise.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Fall Y'all

Pin It Now! Every fall for the past 4 years, I've had to endure everyone's "favorite holiday" talk. Oh, the beautiful leaves, the chill in the air, the warm fires, and so on. I am learning to "like" the desert autumn, or at least appreciate the hints of the season no matter how small they may be.

In September and October, and most likely November, too, it is still pretty warm during the day. Arizonians cheer when the temps finally hover around 80 degrees! Right now early mornings and evenings can be somewhat pleasant. You know fall has arrived when wearing shorts and flipflops actually feel comfortable and checking the mail doesn't call for a prompt shower!

One of the things that gets me through, is watching all of the vegetation that can still thrive here in the fall/winter. My pomegranates, for instance are almost ready, and my basil is still going strong. I recently planted peppers and hope to plant tomaotoes soon since they do well in autumn.

Also, PUMPKIN SMOOTHIES, our annual first-day-of-fall treat are perfect for the desert!! As you can see, my 3 goofballs are enjoying their very first one of the season.

What do you love about fall where you are?

Bedtime Kitchen Bandit

Pin It Now! Beware! There's a new bandit in town stirring up loads of trouble. He goes by the name Bedtime Kitchen Bandit, and he strikes at night when you least expect it.

His greatest weapon is his sleepy-time hum to the familiar and soothing tune of "Go to Sleep." Once he's hummed the first line, you are sure to fall under his evil spell and enter into a profound trance.

Your greatest defense: earplugs or loud music. You must resist the desire to sag your shoulders and close your eyes, for once you are under the villain's spell, he will make your kitchen his headquarters and cook up all kinds of evil.

If he is unable to achieve mind control by humming you into a deep trance, he may resort to gassing you with morning breath or firing his super-duper-skin-burning jalapeno sauce. Counter his morning breath attacks by spraying Listerine or throwing cubes of Ice-Breakers gum. Cover yourself in honey or anything sweet to keep the pepper burns at bay.

His ultimate plan: Take over the world one bite at a time.

**I thought it was so cute and funny when Lincoln came downstairs dressed in Bedtime Bear's night cap and oven mitts from Shiloh's room. Good brother playing with his little sister. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WFMW: Mama B and Baby b

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My 5 year old daughter still sometimes gets her "ds" and "bs" mixed up during reading and writing. It can be frustrating--both my boys did it, too. My tip has always been: b comes first in the alphabet, so it faces forward. It helps some but not always.

A friend recently gave me this brilliant tip: Capital B is the mama, and the lowercase b is the baby. The mama B can "hold" the baby b. Then you proceed to show in writing how the baby b can fit perfectly on top of or "inside" the mama B.

My daughter thought that was so cute!!! And I thought it was a great tip. Works for me!!!
Visit We are THAT family for more great tips!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

#2 Son's Date Night

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The more I spend "alone" time with Lincoln, the more I realize that one of his main love languages must be TIME! He is such a joy to be around when we are alone together. I lost count how many times he said, "Thank you, Mommy!"

Agenda: Baskin Robbins for dessert, Wal-Mart--for Lincoln to pick out items for missionaries in the Philippines, and then to Kohl's (with my 30% off coupon!) for some MUCH needed jeans and t-shirts. He is such a silly t-shirt kind of kid--he resisted my nudge to at least pick one nice shirt.

Not an out-of-this-world date or anything, but we really had fun being together. Love that kid. :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Short Again

Pin It Now! It's been 3 years since Mullin's had short hair. I like it long, but it is a nice change! Reminds me of when he was just a wee thing. :) Aunt Lindsay (she does our hair) says it makes him look older, though.

Handsome young man! Lincoln watched in horror, and Shiloh just giggled as luscious brown locks fell to the floor. Finally, Shiloh proclaimed, "Mullin, you look like my handsome prince."

So, to all of our far-away families--here's Mullin with SHORT hair!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Goodwill Purchase

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A dollhouse and a desk.

Well, I can't even really claim these items as my first goodwill purchase. You see, my mom was with me, and well, you know how moms can be. I had every intention of paying for at least the desk, since that's what I was searching for. (The dollhouse was a complete surprise and a spontaneous purchase--what grandma could resist such a prize for her granddaughter?) Anyway, when it was all said and done, I walked out with a desk and a dollhouse for free. Thanks, mom!!

And why am I sharing this information? Well, for me there's a story behind these items.

I've always liked new things. Things that haven't been used. I don't like to rummage. I don't even like to rummage through new things, and that's why I usually avoid stores like T.J. Maxx and the like. Nothing against those stores, though. I don't have refurbishing skills. And I don't have the time to learn those skills right now. I hate wasting time at "hit or miss" places. Shopping at a store where you never know what might be on a shelf is just not my cup of tea. So, these are a few reasons why I thought I would never walk through the door of a Goodwill or any other kind of thrift store, etc..

My dream kind of shopping would be to just walk into let's say--Pottery Barn--and pick out whatever I wanted taking no thought as to how much it cost. And while I was at it, I'd want to go ahead and pick out matching accessories to whatever it was that I was buying, because I do love for things to match. I love themes, and it used to bother me that I always had to shop like Old MacDonald--here a piece, there a piece, everywhere a piece, piece. By the time I'd get to purchase #4 piece, #1 piece had done gone out of style!!!

Well, I have never been able to shop that way, and it's only gotten tighter as the years have passed by, especially the last few years . . . and I truly believe it's an answer to a prayer. Not an answer I would have picked, but I keep reminding myself that God's ways are certainly not my ways.

I have begged God to help me be content over the years, and honestly, I just wanted to wake up one morning all of a sudden feeling content. Yeah well, God had other plans. He is showing me how to be content by taking even more away. I have much more to say on this subject, but for now I will wrap up this post with how it relates to this particular Goodwill purchase.

I home school, and son #2 needed a desk to be able to do his school work in peace and quiet. (Son #1 already had a desk in their shared room.) Why do they need to do school in their room? This year I am spending a lot of time with their sister who is now in kindergarten. Teaching kindergarten requires much talking, which means much distraction to a 6th grader and a 3rd grader!! I wanted both boys to be able to retreat to their rooms while I am teaching phonics and nodding off--I mean-- listening to loads of Bob Books!!

Problem: No money to buy a desk. Solution: Check out Goodwill just to see if they had anything remotely decent.

The desk I picked out certainly isn't something I would have even considered bringing into my home until this point in time. But . . . some of the positives on which I am focusing:
  • It is real wood (even if it is slightly out of style and doesn't match the rest of the room decor)
  • It was very inexpensive (especially since my mom bought it)
  • I won't spaz out if my son scratches it or spills something on it (obviously, the previous owner already took care of that for us)
  • My son likes it and now has a space of his own to do school!

    I totally vacuumed and cleaned every inch of that desk before taking it up to my son's room!!! And I am trying really hard not to be jealous of all the highly talented moms out there who would be able to take this piece of old, beat up furniture and transform it into something Ty-ish!! For now, it is just serving its purpose, and I am content with that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mercy House

Pin It Now! Kristen from WE are THAT Family has begun a ministry called The Mercy House. Just like many of her other posts, this one brought me to tears. This ministry is in response to the many doors God has opened up to her family, especially her recent trip to Africa.

I am definitely considering financially supporting (even if it is just a small amount for now) this amazing cause--I have been praying for the right opportunity. Please take a moment and check it out! And aren't these Africa cookies just delightful??

Mercy Me-Part I

Mercy Me-Part II

Mercy Me-Part III

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fudge-Filled Bars

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*Disclaimer--these are NOT healthy, but they are oh so YUMMY!!!!!

Fudge-Filled Bars

2 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 TBS shortening (I substitute butter)
1 cup plain m&ms
**In a bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Set aside 1 1/2 cups for topping. ( I use closer to 2 cups.) Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 13x9 baking dish.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate chips and shortening; cook and stir over low heat until chips are melted. Spread over crust; sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. Top with m&ms. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

These are always a huge hit at potlucks!!
Linked to:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 Years Ago . . .

Pin It Now! I was a young mom with a toddler and one on the way. Hopes, dreams and a bright future filled my thoughts as I was beginning my journey into motherhood. Life was good.

My 2 year old was watching Veggie Tales as I was getting ready for the day when one phone call suddenly made my heart stop. I rarely ever turned on the news, but that day I was glued to the TV and wondered in what kind of America--in what kind of world--would I be raising my children?

Well, I am just one person, and I can't do very much on my own. But I can teach my children to love their neighbors as themselves (yes, even the ones who play their music too loud, the ones who leave empty beer bottles in our yard, the ones who throw f-bombs around all the neighborhood kids, the ones who let their dogs bark ALL stinkin' night . . . ), to consider others' interests above their own, and to even love their enemies.

Loving isn't always easy, but I hope that I am being a better example than not.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Real" School

Pin It Now! So often when there is a problem or conflict of interest at "Rivendell Academy"--ahem--home, my kids will huff, "Well, if we were at "real" school . . . "

Like everything we do here is pretend or something? Give me a break! Um, getting up at the crack of dawn in order to prepare for the school day, listening to Bob Books 'til I think my brain's gonna explode, explaining the area and circumference of a circle 'til I am blue like a Smurf, and going through red pens like M&Ms, well, that all seems pretty real to me.

I could go on and on and make my kids look like the bad guys here, but . . . I think they probably and very unfortunately got that phrase from me.

Yes, me.

What ever possessed me to use such a phrase? Whenever I'd get irritated by lack of cooperation or something, it would just fly out of my mouth before I could catch it. "Well, if you were at "real" school you'd have to do such and such." Bad, bad momma!

Our school is unique, and though different from a public, private, or charter school, it is very much real! We so need to quit letting that phrase slip! I need a zap every time my brain even thinks about going there. Can any of you other home schoolers relate?

Hmmm, I think I need to assign myself lines-- Home school is real school, home school is real school, home school is real school . . .

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tater Tips

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I love homemade mashed potatoes, and so do my hubby and kids. I know there are a million ways to make them, but in my opinion, here are a few tips for making some smashing-good ones (and hopefully healthier ones)! Oh, and it's not a recipe because I don't really follow one . . .

Do leave the skins on!! (At least we like them that way!)

After boiling and draining excess water, just mash potatoes with fork directly in pot. (We don't have to have ours whipped to complete smoothness.)

I like to melt a stick of butter in a dish and add some spices to that before adding the mashed potatoes. (Pictured below) Melting butter first helps keep potatoes hot.

Yummy add-ins-- salt, coarsely ground black pepper, parsley flakes, cold-pressed olive oil--maybe a teaspoon or 2, and minced garlic ( I like that better than garlic salt or garlic powder)

After mixing all of the above, I add whole milk (farm-fresh is a huge plus) and more butter as needed. It's nice to plop a few squares on top, cover dish, and then serve after butter has melted. (Heating milk first can help keep potatoes hot, but if I am using raw milk, I don't heat it!)

How do you like your mashed potatoes?

*Linked to

Tasty Tuesday

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

Tuesdays at the Table

Works for me Wednesday

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Hobbit Food

Pin It Now! My junior high kid is reading and studying Tolkien's masterpiece, Lord of the Rings, this year.

I can still picture him watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the very first time--he was just a little guy. One movie and he was totally hooked--even wanted an LOTR birthday bash when he turned 5.

Then we proceeded to collect every stinkin' character! I think that was the ONLY time in my life I anticipated my trip to Wal-Mart every week. I admit that I was just as thrilled as Mullin was to see new characters lining the shelves.

This was just the beginning of his collection--he had all of these by his 5th birthday. We now have a large tub full of 'em in the closet.

I still haven't completely grasped that he is now old enough to actually read the book. But here he is doing one of his LOTR projects. (I love the recipe ones!)

I think I learned more during this assignment than he did. I had to change a few things about this fancy-schmancy sounding recipe--Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce--because . . .

  • my store only carried 2 of the three varieties of mushrooms this recipe called for: shiitake, cremini, and oyster
  • of the 2 (shiitake & oyster) that were there, um shockingly expensive, and one looked really weird
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese is like $20 per lb--no way no how I'm affordin' that!
  • I don't even like mushrooms, so I minced 'em up real fine--didn't notice the rubbery taste so much
  • I've never bought dry white wine, so I didn't even look to see how much it cost

Despite the few alterations, it was quite a delicious meal. Everyone like it. And instead of that fancy name, I'm just calling it Hobbit Food.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cookies are Good Medicine

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Okay, well, this slightly crunchy parent doesn't really think cookies make for good medicine, but they sure did put a smile on my brave, just-had-surgery girl's face!

Thanks, Grandma Honey and Jim!! :)

The rest of us were so glad she shared. And Lincoln, who may have to have similar surgery, proclaimed that he isn't as scared now. Hmmm, wonder why?
Surely it couldn't be because of the beautiful and tasty cookie bouquet. :)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

My Kind of School Project

Pin It Now! 2 letters: M&M--you just can't say no to a science project which involves using and eating M&Ms!!

So, this year we are studying land animals of the 6th day. Our first experiment exhibits (on a small scale) camouflage and the process of natural selection. Yada, yada, yada . . .

The book had me at M&Ms, but hopefully my angels learned something that day, besides mom is such a cool home school teacher who lets her students eat M&Ms!!

And the sorting of these delightful mini morsels begins. :)

The color piles each needed the same number of M&Ms. I let them eat the extras.

Now on to tearing an insane amount of construction paper to use as our "environment." Oh, and I forgot to mention that in this experiment my kids are predators and the poor, defenseless M&Ms are prey.

Our makeshift habitat is orange, yellow and green, in case you didn't notice already.

Timer is set for 2 minutes: "Go!" For 2 minutes the kids (each got their own turn) searched for mini M&Ms. After that they had to count how many candies they found in each color, and the whole time I crossed my fingers hoping that they'd find less orange, green and yellow.

For the most part everything worked out according to plan, and I hope Mullin, Lincoln and Shiloh have a better understanding as to why some animals thrive in certain places, while others do not.
One thing is for sure--we had a jolly-good time!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

WFMW: Waste No Paper

Pin It Now! Today's WFMW is a Back-to-School theme. Though I home school, I think this is a tip that moms of all types of schoolers can use.


Lately, I have been trying to find ways to scrimp and save on everything--even seemingly insignificant things--like cutting napkins in half, tearing cotton balls in half, washing zip-loc baggies, etc. Surely it makes a difference, right? At least it makes me feel frugal. :)

Well before school started, I decided to go through all of my kids' notebooks from the previous year and tear out all of the unused paper before chucking them. I was amazed at how the paper added up. I am sure there are a million ways to use the it, but I used it to make shopping-list paper. I can go through that kind of paper faster than I can go through a bag of M&Ms!!

Using my children's leftover spiral notebook paper for shopping lists works for me!! And maybe I saved an entire tree branch doing it--yea!

For more Back-to-School tips, visit We are THAT Family.


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