Sunday, October 31, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

Why buy jarred baby foods when it is so simple and fast to prepare your own? Homemade tastes much better anyway!

Little Littles loves to take part in each meal with us. For the most part, we mash up table foods for our babies, but we don't always have something that would be good for a baby at each meal, so I like to have something ready in the freezer that is quick to prepare. I hardly spend any extra time preparing baby food. Usually, I buy fruits and veggies that are on sale and fix them for our family meals either roasting or steaming them. I make extra and puree it later for the baby. With Big Littles, I probably spent time making one baby food item per week, plus a weekly batch of oatmeal. Little Littles was slower taking to solids, so he does more mashed table food. He eats old fashioned oatmeal the same as the rest of us.

Helpful Equipment -
- a blender, food processor, and/or food mill is helpful for purees
- ice cube trays
- freezer bags

Freezer Cube Method -
Spoon the puree into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer the cubes to a ziploc freezer bag and label. When you want to heat up a cube, just zap it in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. You can freeze most anything.

Oatmeal - (or most any grain cereal for that matter including brown rice and barley) I used organic steel cut oats. (These are cheapest in the bulk section of a Whole Foods Market.) I find that it works best to grind them in my food processor. (For a finer grind for a younger baby try a dry blender to get a powder consistency.) I eyeball it, adding about ¼ c. or so to my food processor and let it whirl for a good two minutes or so. I don’t actually time it, I listen for the sound to change – you can tell when everything is ground up. I put it in a stainless steel pot, eyeballing again covering with about ½” water and let it soak overnight. (Soaking helps it become more easily digestible.) The next morning, cook it on very low heat, frequently stirring with a whisk until it reaches a good consistency. If it is thick, but not soft enough, add more water and keep cooking. If it cooks too quickly, you have the heat on too high. It should take at least 15 minutes. Stir it often while it cooks. Store in the fridge and reheat as needed. I like to mix it with a cube of apple or pear puree. When baby can have spices, a sprinkle of cinnamon is nice too.

Baby food that doesn't require any prep -
- Bananas are the best for their portability factor. These are nice when we are out and about - mama eats some, baby eats some. When we have a bunch that start getting spotty, I slice them up and freeze the slices in ice cube trays, then transfer them to a freezer bag.
- Unsalted veggies like canned green beans and frozen peas
- Yogurt - plain is best, though we like to add a peach cube
- Plain, unsweetened applesauce is pretty cheap, but if possible, stock up on apples in the fall, make a huge batch and can it yourself.
- I buy "non-fat refried beans" at Wal-mart. They are not actually fried and have no oil or lard in them. The only ingredients are prepared dried beans, water, salt and onion powder. They cost $.80 per can up here. The salt may be a bit high, but we eat them frequently as an at-home fast-food and our babies love them. While homemade would definitely be better, these are very nice in a pinch.
- plain canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just plain pumpkin!)
- Avacados - have wonderful, healthy fats!

I’d love to read what other moms do too!

Some good resources:

"Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron - I do not follow everything in her book (personally I find it a little neurotic), but she's got many great tips and recipes for baby food and other homemade things like toys and baby safe cleaners. It's a great resource. One other thing - she is a vegetarian and formula fed her babies. I think that perspective is worth noting.

Pumpkin Seeds

We recently enjoyed a lovely fall party with a pumpkin carving activity. The hostess was about to throw away the piles of "innards" from the half a dozen or so pumpkins that were now glowing cheerily on the steps when I stopped her and asked if I could have them. She was gracious enough to give me two gallon size ziploc bags to put them in and I brought them home for roasting. I LOVE roasted pumpkin seeds! It's a treat we only get to enjoy once a year and we have been munching on them throughout our days. They taste like popcorn to me. Many people like exotic flavorings, but I just like plain butter and salt.

It took a long time to get so many seeds cleaned out, but once I did, I used this method for cooking and roasting them that I found by doing a quick google search. They turned out really nicely, and the salt brine worked really well. I'll definitely use this method again! It took me significantly longer to roast them - about an hour or more, actually, removing them and stirring the every 10-15 minutes, but I think that is because they sat in the fridge for quite a while in their yucky pumpkin stew, and because of the sheer amount of them. Just keep roasting and stirring until they get all golden brown and crispy.


Sunday Hymn Post

Just As I Am
By Charlotte Elliott

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Potluck Saturday: Crockpot Lemon Garlic Chicken

Lemon Garlic Chicken

I like to make crockpot dishes for potlucks. They are so easy to transport, and if there is a plug available, I can turn it on the "warm" setting to keep it nice and hot. This is a variation on the Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe in the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. This one is definitely a keeper! It is sooooo delicious! It is great for a Sunday lunch and reheats very well for lunches throughout the week.

**Note** As I wrote the recipe below, it makes 6 servings. When I make this, I actually double the gravy part of the recipe. My favorite part is the gravy and the rice, making the meat less of the focus. With the meat cut up in smaller pieces, and with the doubled gravy and rice, it serves more like 8-10 depending on how much meat you buy.

Lemon Garlic Chicken
Chicken Ingredients:
1/2 c. flour
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut in pieces to serve a crowd
(for economy - may use thighs, leg quarters, etc...)
2 tbs. butter

Gravy Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules (or use chicken broth)
1 lemon (use the zest and the juice)
leftover flour mixture
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

On a plate, mix the flour, oregano, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the mixture. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken in butter for 3 to 5 minutes on each side and place the chicken in a slow cooker. Zest your lemon into the crockpot on top of the chicken.

When you're done cooking the chicken, in the same skillet, melt another 2 tbs. butter on medium-low heat, and saute the onion until soft and lightly brown. Add the garlic and saute it in the same way. Add the water and the chicken bouillon and whisk until it dissolves. Add the lemon juice, mixing well. Gently whisk in the leftover flour to make a nice gravy. (Add a little more flour if needed to thicken.) When it is smooth and bubbly, pour the gravy over the chicken in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the rest of the spices on top, cover, and cook on High for 3 hours, or Low for 6 hours.

Serve over rice. Basmati rice is absolutely delicious with this, but I also enjoy the heartiness of brown rice.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we do! :)

Linked to the Common Room's Potluck Saturday.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Shredded Chicken Meat, Stock, Cream of ____

Chicken & Stars
 Growing up, my mom always used boneless, skinless chicken breasts for EVERYTHING, even shredded meat, but this is really expensive! I've learned through much research and practice, the most economical way to do shredded chicken, and this is it! The broth is also really lovely - a nice delicate flavor!

When I see whole chickens on sale for around $.79/lb. or less for my area, I buy two, and this is what I do with them:

On a day when I plan to be home, I set up two stock pots on my stove and add the following:

- a 3-5 pound roasting chicken - make sure it is thawed, remove giblets
- 2 med. onions, quartered (leave the skins on for nice color)
- 2 lg. carrots, halved
- 2 ribs celery, halved
- 1 green bell pepper, halved (I sometimes leave this out, these tend to be expensive)
- 1/2 c. fresh parsley
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3-3.5 qts. water - enough to cover the chicken

Bring to a boil, then simmer on the stove for about two hours.

Remove chicken from pot and allow it to cool a bit. Remove the meat reserving for another use (soup, salad, sandwiches, casseroles...). Return the bones and skin to the pot. Cook for another two hours, simmering on the stove.

Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing the vegetables and bones with a spatula to extract all liquid. Chill broth overnight in the fridge and skim off any fat. Freeze stock that will not be used in 2-3 days. I have several pint and quart containers that I reserve for freezing stock.

Next, I make homemade cream of chicken soup to freeze in 1 c. and pint containers for casseroles. It's a little runnier than canned, so I often cut down any other liquids or stuff like sour cream in the casserole. This is so good that I never buy the canned stuff anymore!

4 TB butter
1/4 c. celery chopped
1/4 c. onion chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 tsp)
1/3 c ww. flour or arrowroot
1 c. half and half, cream or milk
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1/4 tsp. white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 TB parsley

Heat butter. Add celery, onions, garlic, and saute. Add flour mixture over veggies and mix well. Cook several more mins. Add broth, chicken and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 mins. Puree in blender and then return to pan. Stir in milk and heat thoroughly. Freeze or use.

Makes about 4 pints

Cream of Mushroom - substitute 16 oz. chopped mushrooms for the chopped chicken

I'll often use my chicken meat and stock to go ahead and make chicken noodle soup for freezing. I like to have a quart or two in the freezer all winter for cold season. It's the yummiest remedy I know for a cold!

- 2 c. cooked chicken meat
- 2 med. celery stalks, diced
- 2 med. carrots, diced or grated
- 1 med. onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 c. frozen or fresh shelled peas
- 1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley or thyme
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 dried bay leaf
- salt to taste
- 1 c. uncooked pasta
- chicken broth to cover the chicken/veggies

I'll let you figure out how to put all of that together!

You notice many of these recipes call for fresh parsley... I grow some in a corner of my perennial garden right outside my kitchen door and it is so handy! It stands up to the summer heat and will even last through a nip of frost. Plus the butterfly caterpillars love it as we discovered this past summer!

Two little chickens sure do go a long way!

Three Soups for Freezing By Request


- 1 lg. leek, thinly sliced* (I have substituted a large diced onion when I couldn't get to the store, but the leeks really are better!)
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
- 4 oz. fresh green beans, ends trimmed & halved
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 3 tbs. olive oil
- 6 c. vegetable stock (sometimes I use chicken stock)
- 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes (I recently made it with fresh diced tomatoes and it was amazing!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbs. fresh basil, snipped (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
- 14 oz. can cannellini beans
- 1/2 c. small pasta - any shape
- fresh parmesan for garnish
- fresh parsley for garnish

Put all the fresh vegetables in a large saucepan with the olive oil. Heat until sizzling, then cover. Lower the heat and sweat the vegetables for 15 min., shaking the pot occasionally. Add the stock, tomatoes, & herbs. Bring to a boil, replace lid & simmer for 30 min. Add the beans + liquid with the pasta & simmer another 10 min. Check the seasoning and serve hot. Garnish if you wish - the fresh parmesan is divine!

Notes: Cannellini beans are white Italian kidney beans. If you can't find them, you can use regular kidney beans or pintos. I like to save my fresh parmesan cheese rinds in a ziploc bag in the freezer and I toss them in with the stock when I make this soup. This soup freezes exceptionally well, so I always try to keep some in serving size containers on hand in the freezer to pull out whenever I need it. Tastes great with a crusty Italian bread!

*Leeks are very sandy, dirty vegetables. It takes a bit of work to clean them, but their flavor is unparalleled! To clean them, cut off a bit of the root end and a bit off the green end that is wilted or tough. Cut down the middle lengthwise and separate out the layers. Rinse well in running water to get all of the sand out.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Great budget stretching recipe that is tasty and filling! This freezes very well, so I'd advise making the full recipe, though it is easily halved. (This version is the best I've tried and is from The Barefoot Contessa.)

2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
4 c. medium diced carrots (6-8)
2 c. medium diced red potatoes, unpeeled (6 small)
2 lbs. dried split green peas
16 c. chicken stock or water

In a large stockpot, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the oregano, salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, stock, and 1 1/2 lbs. of split peas. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Add the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40 minutes or until the peas are soft. Stir frequently for the last half hour to prevent burning the bottom. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with some diced ham if you like, though it really isn't necessary. We like this with good crusty bread.

- - - - - - - - - - -

PASTA FAGIOLI - think Italian chili!

1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, grated
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of beans with their liquid or homemade equivalent. I prefer cannelinis.
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can V-8 juice
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 lb ditalini pasta

Mix all ingredients except the pasta in the crock pot and simmer on low all day. Before serving, boil the pasta al dente according to pkg. directions and add cooked pasta to the soup. If you intend to freeze this, the pasta would have a better texture if you cook it fresh. Delicious with crusty garlic bread!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursdays

This Thursday, I am thankful for our Ladies' classes. It is the one group Bible study for the entire month that I get to really focus and have an open Bible, and even take notes! Now, I don't mean for this to turn into a complaining session... I am just deeply thankful that my Preacher Man takes the Littles for the hour or so and that I can focus my mind on the Word. I also enjoy my fellowship with the other Christian ladies - young and old and in between. It is a refreshing hour that I look forward to every month!

Do any of you other mamas out there feel utterly brain fogged... basically at all times? I do. There are probably several reasons for that, including the fact that I think it has been several years since I have had a FULL night of uninterrupted sleep, and a teething Little Littles has kept me up much more lately. The aforementioned constant distractions lend to that, but sometimes I just feel plain dumb, and in my pre-children days, I considered myself to be someone of greater than average intelligence. Now I have a difficult time getting my mind to work through tangles of thoughts. It's so much easier just to brush off challenging ideas and go the route of "ignorance is bliss". Some things, I have decided, are just not worth my time, but I try to keep my mind sharpened with thoughts that are worth thinking in hopes that one day I will be able to salvage my muddled brain.

Tonight, this verse jumped out at me and I was filled with such a strong longing...

Psalm 27:4 - "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that shall I seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple." (NASB)

In the past, I would have focused more on "dwell in the house of the Lord" or "behold the beauty of the Lord", but at this stage in my life, I long for that peace... to meditate in His temple...


Clear mind.

Meditating on the Lord.


There are different seasons of life, and this is not my season for meditation in the temple, but I will not stop seeking it, and in the meantime, I will meditate in the shower, in the wee hours of the morning while I am nursing my baby, while I am pushing the double stroller down the sidewalk through the autumn leaves, and while I wash dishes.

Psalm 27 -
v. 8 - "Your face, O Lord, I shall seek"
v. 14 - "Wait for the Lord... Yes, wait for the Lord."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Potluck Saturday - Potato Salad

Growing up, my mom brought this potato salad to nearly every potluck. It was legendary. It was requested over and over. It is still my favorite! This recipe fits conveniently in a large, washed out ice cream bucket making for easy transport.

10 med. potatoes - boiled, peeled, cut into large chunks
9 hard boiled eggs, chopped
an entire jar of pickles, coarsely chop the pickles, reserve the juice
1 coarsely chopped onion (a yummy vidalia would make it extra delicious!)
1 lb. pkg. of bacon, cooked and crumbled
(Mom would use bacon bits and if I'm in a huge hurry, I'll substitute the real bacon bits, but that gets expensive!)

Combine all of the ingredients, dressing with mayo and pickle juice until you get the consistency you like. I like to finish it off with a little bit of cracked pepper on top. The pickle juice is what makes it so fabulous, so be generous on that one!

This post is a part of The Common Room's "Potluck Saturday" link up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Batch Cooking

Years ago, I read a couple of books on Once a Month Cooking. Seemed like a neat idea, but it just wasn't practical for us at the time. Still, I liked the idea of having a few ready-made meals in the freezer, so on occasion I started doing some "Batch Cooking". Batch cooking works for me because I do not have to have a full day and a half to devote to cooking and do not have to hire a babysitter to do it! I just prepare food the way I would normally do it, only I make more of it and save the extras. Depending upon the recipe, I either double, triple, or quadruple it.

There are some very appealing advantages to batch cooking, such as:
  • You can take advantage of sales and save money with bulk-buying.
  • Meals ready-to-go in the freezer - they are healthier and homemade!
  • Saving resources like electricity, gas, and your most precious resource - TIME
(Only haul out the ingredients once! Only clean up those pots and pans once!)

This may seem like old hat to you seasoned homemakers, but this was a revolutionary idea to me when I first married, and I figure I'm not the only person out there who was ignorant of this technique.

Things I like to batch cook:
  • When my husband is grilling, I almost always have a little something extra for him to do on the side or at the end. Hamburger patties are nice to have for a quick lunch. Grilled chicken breasts are a nice treat and can be sliced before freezing them to make them super easy to pull out and add to a salad or pasta dish later.
  • Ground beef - usually 4 lbs. at a time browning in a large pot. I divide it up into ziplocs ready to dump in a recipe.
  • Meatloaf - I mix up 4 lbs. of meat at a time and freeze half in a gallon size ziploc to save me time later.
  • Meatballs - Again, I mix up about 4 lbs. at a time, bake them, and freeze in gallon size ziplocs so I can add them to spaghetti or soup
  • Muffins and Quick Breads - these make a nice quick breakfast, snack or dessert. They are so versatile, I love having them around.
  • Soups - most soups (sans pasta and cream) freeze really well. Chili, minestrone, pasta fagioli, chicken noodle, etc... are all favorites.
  • Whole Chickens - I actually have an entire system for whole chickens. I cook two each in their own stockpot on the stove, debone the meat, then make stock. I use a little of the meat and stock to do homemade cream of chicken soup, which I then freeze. I then freeze the meat for casseroles and the stock in quart and pint size containers. That's a lot of use out of two chickens!
  • Tomato sauce - I make my own for our weekly pizza night and Sunday spaghetti. I often double batches and freeze some to save for an extra hectic week.
  • Pizza dough - I make four crusts worth in my KitchenAid and usually freeze half.
  • Granola - my recipe makes 20 c. and stores well in airtight containers
  • BBQ Meat - either pork shoulder or beef roast
  • Cookies - if they don't disappear before you can freeze them! ;)
  • Beans - I usually just freeze baked beans, but I know many freeze all different kinds.
  • Rice - I especially like to freeze brown rice since it takes so long to cook. Freeze in a ziploc bag. When re-heating, just add a teaspoon or so of water to a thawed bag of rice. Open one end of the bag and microwave. It tastes just as though it was freshly made.
  • Cheesecake - I like to save a piece or two for a rainy day.
For the birth of each of my children, I had a lasagna and a pumpkin cheesecake in the freezer ready for our first post-baby meal. When labor began, I pulled them out and put them in the fridge. It was so delicious after all that hard work!

What kinds of things do you like to batch cook?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Culture Shock

I recently took upon myself a personal challenge to spend less than $100 in a single month on groceries, eating out, entertainment, etc... We paid bills as usual, filled up with gas when we needed it, and had their been a true emergency, we would have taken care of it, but any discretionary spending was limited to $100. While it was not easy, we came through it pretty well, I thought. We spent a total of $96.89 during the entire month and I kept track of every single outgoing penny. Needless to say, we didn't go out much that month, and it may have been the first month in my entire marriage that we didn't even eat out once!

I also spent what felt like the entire summer trying to finish off potty learning for "big littles". This meant we didn't go out much. My husband did some traveling, and I stayed home since he had our one car. We had our "little littles" earlier this year... adding all of this up, I just haven't been out much... not in many, many months!

Well, on Monday, we had a reason to head to the big mall/shopping center with all of the beautiful stores and I was hit time and time again with a strong desire to buy things that I just didn't need just from walking by the store windows! Beautiful clothes at Ann Taylor, a beautiful Thanksgiving platter in Pottery Barn... hey why not just buy the whole set of dishes? Shiny copper pots in the windows of Williams Sonoma, book after book in Barnes and Noble, how I would love to wrap my baby in the wonderful down filled, fur lined snowsuit at Baby Gap, and wouldn't my husband look handsome in a new suit? Ugh. As we left, having taken care of our errands, I felt the weight of all of the "stuffitis" lifted from my shoulders. Before walking by all of those stores, I was happy and content with everything we have. All of us have all of the clothes we need, I am happy in my kitchen, and I am even having a difficult time putting together a "wish list" for relatives who are asking because I am just content with what I have! While I enjoy getting out from time to time, I am thinking that for me, skipping the mall whenever possible is not a bad idea. I'm a much happier and more content person when I am not reminded of the latest fashions I don't have (AND DON'T NEED!), and the other beautiful, superfluous things that are just not needful.

(Now this is me. As a child, I was unhappy and frustrated while shopping at the mall until I got something for myself. I remember many, many miserable shopping trips, and it was almost entirely my fault. I realize this is a serious character issue, and since it wasn't corrected when I was a child, it is my job to get to work on it now. Others may not need to take such drastic measures.)

On the way home, we stopped by one of the nicest children's consignment shops in the area, and the store owner had just put a bunch of clothes on the $1 rack that were in the larger sizes I'm looking for, for future years. I was thrilled to pick up four NICE shirts for our littles. I find if I just don't get in a big hurry, and take my time at thrift stores and garage sales, our needs are abundantly supplied!

Luke 6:38 - Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (ESV)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Best Things in Life Are Free!

1) Hugs and Kisses! XOXOXO
Need I say more?

2) Sunshine! Natural disinfectant, drier, whitener, Vitamin D, mood enhancer...

3) Compost! (I know, it's a strange one, but bear with me...) You can take what was garbage and turn it into wonderfully rich, beautiful, chocolate brown food for your soil.

4) God's Word! There are free Bibles everywhere, available in most any language. We have a big stack ready to hand out in our home.
Mark 16:15 - And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (ESV)

5) Salvation!
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"God, Be Merciful on Us Mothers"

It is so, so, so hard to gain much spiritually while almost the entirety of worship services are spent training little ones. Up, down, up, down. Changing a diaper, taking the toddler to the potty (even though we went right before worship began), feeding the baby, picking up books the baby dropped, disciplining the toddler for dropping books because he knows better, disciplining the toddler for throwing a fit about the discipline received for dropping books, trying to keep the baby from turning around and making faces at everyone behind us, picking up more things the baby dropped, toddler will you PLEASE face front and stop biting your nails, and baby will you PLEASE stop squirming so much in my lap... oh, you need ANOTHER diaper change, that would explain it! Here we go again... up, down, up, down...

I know that I'm not the only one.

Still... it is draining. I'm feeling as dry as a dessert spiritually lately, which is part of the reason for this blog. Writing out a hymn, bit of scripture, or even just providing a bit of commentary on life helps me sort out my priorities. As morning services were ending today, I thought to myself, "God, be merciful on us mothers..." I feel like I've been coasting for too long, depending upon the years of study and devotion I was able to spend before I had children. Coasting just doesn't cut it though. Praying for manna and deep droughts of water to refresh my soul. I find it here and there. I'm living on those moments, and praying for mercy.

Psalm 32:1-2 - "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (ESV)

Luke 11:9-10 - "And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (ESV)

Sunday Hymn Post

Draw Me Nearer by Frances Crosby

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.


Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the pow’r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend;
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Spaghetti Sundays

I grew up with a remarkable lady as a family friend that we, and nearly everyone else we knew, called, "Ma". Ma has to be nearing the century mark by now, and she is one of the toughest ladies you would ever meet! She possesses so many talents - BBQ queen, carpentry, baseball coach, and if you were ever sick, she would bring you an entire homemade coconut cream pie. Now THAT is some good medicine!! I could go on and on about this woman as there are so many wonderful stories. Every Sunday, Ma made spaghetti and invited all of her family for Sunday lunch after worship.

After talking it over with the Preacher Man, we decided to adopt this tradition too, and we've been having spaghetti, salad, & garlic bread for Sunday lunch for about 2 months now. It makes sense in so many ways for us. Sundays are so busy. I'm sure they are for most people, but being a PW, I notice how much more intense they are. I try to do as much prep as possible Saturday night, but still, Sundays are such a whirlwind that we always need Monday to recover from them. We are nearly always the last to leave the building, and by the time we get home (yes, after walking all of 50 feet to our house), I usually have two hungry little ones who are extra cranky from having to sit still for so long and being cooped up while mama and daddy visit after services. Having pasta sauce in the crock pot warm and ready to go, and a salad tossed and ready in the fridge means that all I have to do is boil some water and drop in the pasta. I put my "big littles" to work toasting bread and we make some garlic toast. We set the table, bring out the "sprinkles" (parmesan) and enjoy a tasty meal. So simple, so little stress, it works for me! Of course, that exact scenario happens in the happy, perfect little world I like to blog about. In the more realistic world, I have not made the sauce or salad up ahead of time and we have to trip over toys and clothes to get to the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, the dishes from breakfast are still piled up and the dishwasher is full of dishes that need to be put away, and I have to do so just to be able to function in my kitchen! But even in this slightly more realistic scenario, having the habit of spaghetti on Sundays makes my life so much more simple, and best of all, I don't have to think too hard about what we should eat. I always have the ingredients, so I just make it!

Before I had little ones, and while I was only a part time PW, I would stay up extra late Saturday and wake up sometimes as early as 4 a.m. to get a fancy meal ready for company that day. Those days may come again... maybe, maybe not. For now, I see the wisdom in keeping things simple, yet tasty. After all, "a cheerful heart has a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:15).

One of the advantages of spaghetti is that you can change it up a lot to keep things interesting, while still staying within the realm of "spaghetti". You can use different pasta shapes, you can have marinara or meat sauce, sometimes I add chopped pepperoni, you can add extra veggies to the sauce... in fact, I am known to add pureed butternut squash and shredded zucchini to almost every batch of pasta sauce I make! You can't taste them at all, and they just add to the nutrition. I have heard of adding in green olives... need to try that sometime.

If you want to make Spaghetti Sundays extra fancy, you can try this recipe -

Sausage and Peppers
Sunday morning, brown a tray (about 1 lb.) of hot or sweet Italian sausages (according to your taste) in olive oil on medium-low heat, turning occasionally. I cover them with a lid and slowly cook them for about 30-45 minutes to make sure they are done all the way through.
Meanwhile, pour two 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes into the crockpot. Mix in a palmful or so of Italian seasonings. If you have the time add several minced cloves of garlic. If you don't have the time, add about 2 tsp. of garlic powder. Stir up your sauce.
Cut about 2 large or 3 small bell peppers and one large onion into strips and stir into the sauce.
Add the sausages, put on the lid and cook on high until you get home.

I like to serve this over large pasta shapes.

Enjoy a Sunday with less stress!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Potluck Saturday: Corn Pudding

Church Mouse's Favorite Corn Pudding
¼ c. sugar
3 tbs. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. salt
6 lg. eggs
2 c. whipping cream
½ c. melted butter
6 c. fresh corn kernels (12 ears) (may substitute frozen, but it won’t be as good)

Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, whipping cream, and butter. Gradually add the sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. Stir in the corn. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13x9 pan. (TIP: Use the butter wrapper to grease the pan.) Bake at 350* for 45 min. or until golden brown and set. (a knife inserted should come out mostly clean) Let stand at least 5 min. before serving.

Posting as a part of The Common Room's "Potluck Saturday".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Breakfast of Champions!

(or lunch or dinner...)

Huevos Rancheros

Breakfast in our house is the cornerstone meal of our day. Big Littles and I need major protein and fuel to start our day, so skipping breakfast is a recipe for disaster. Low blood sugar = ugly attitudes and short tempers, so I avoid light, sugary breakfasts as much as possible. Most mornings we eat eggs, and sometimes oatmeal, but on the days when we need something to keep us going, I make HUEVOS RANCHEROS.

While visiting some friends, our hostess made huevos rancheros for us. I was surprised by how delicious it is, and it was really enhanced by the locally made sausages. I decided to give it a try at home, and we LOVE it. Here are some guidelines on how to make this super-hearty breakfast, which also steps in as a delicious lunch or dinner. (This is a very flexible recipe, so use what you have/what you like.)

Layer in your bowl:
- Warmed beans (our hostess used white beans, like great northerns, but black beans are traditional) - we almost always have some beans in the crock pot, but canned work as well
- Some grated cheese (white cheese, similar to farmer cheese is traditional, but cheddar/monterey jack are also nice)
- A fried egg or two - either sunny side up or over easy, or poached (you want the runny yolk - it is DELICIOUS mixed in with the beans, and I am usually a hater of runny yolks)
- Some crumbled sausage or bacon
- It is nice with some corn tortillas also.
- If you have it, diced tomato adds some spark
- Hot sauce is a must.

Enjoy! THIS is a breakfast that will stick with you until lunch! :)

This post is a part of the "Four Moms Open House Virtual Breakfast".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How I Came To Be a Church Mouse

Hmmm.... how far back should the story go? Growing up, my Dad preached part time, so I always considered myself to be a "PK". We did not grow up as a "Preacher Family" though, and I have learned how very different that part is. I did not marry a preacher. I married a man who was going to school to be some other profession. He enjoyed preaching part time, and always wanted to be deeply involved with whatever church we were a part of, but nearly every male member of his family is or was a preacher, so the idea was a bit intimidating to him because he knew just what the life was like and what level of commitment it would be. I believe the words, "I will never be a full-time preacher" were uttered on more than one occasion.

Fast-forward a bit... local economy is crummy and there are no jobs for his profession. Other options were considered and doors were politely, but firmly shut on all other opportunities we explored. Then... we found out that we were expecting Big Littles. Life is full of surprises, isn't it?

Putting a baby in the care of someone else was never an option for us. Never say never? Well, NEVER! Not for us. We were faced with a choice: One, my husband would go to school full time, work full time to support us, and we would barely scrape by and would never see him. Two, he could preach! He'd been considering it... he had been doing it (part time) and was coming to enjoy it more and more, and if we were being perfectly honest with ourselves, it was God's will. All those doors slammed shut for a reason. All of those wide open doors into the world of preaching were for a reason. We only see through the mirror darkly and cannot fully comprehend God's providence and plan, but this was one of those moments where it became all too clear that God was doing everything possible to point us down this path.

So we embraced it!

There are different kinds of preacher families, different styles of preachers, and different needs for different churches. Some work as though in an office job with "office hours". Some are out all day, every day pounding the streets. Some work in foreign fields.

We are this: My husband has been hired to work with a local church with certain understandings and expectations. As his wife and help-meet, it is my job to help him in whatever way I can and whatever way he has need. We are a preacher family. We all work together and this work is so closely entwined with our every day life, that it is nearly impossible to separate the tangled web. We work together, learn together, play together, and minister to the needs of others together. It is a unique lifestyle that we have chosen.

While this is not the path I envisioned for my life, I am grateful to be able to serve in this way, and I love our life.

May God grant you blessings as you live your life for Him... in whatever circumstances... in whatever your task.

Colossians 3:23 - And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (KJV)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Church Mouse Learns Frugality

You have surely heard the description, "Poor as church mice". Growing up, my parents talked about how poor we were at times. When I grew up, I learned that we had never really been poor at all, and that my parents had an upper middle class salary, but were struggling with debt and our family was being suffocated by "stuffitis". I hope to never describe our family as poor. We are tremendously blessed and enjoy a comfortable living. One of the most comforting things about being a preacher family is that I feel confident in the fact that as long as we are dedicated to serving the Lord, all of our needs will be supplied. We will never be wealthy, but we will never go hungry. People working in the secular world do not necessarily have this kind of security.

Proverbs 30:8 - Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion... (NASB)

Still, we live on a single, modest income, and are currently dedicated to paying off the last of our student loans with "gazelle-like intensity" (thanks to Dave Ramsey). By paying off many times the monthly amount of our loan each month, we live on a small percentage of our income and are always looking for ways to shave off bits here and there from our expenses. I am always looking for creative ways to live a frugal, yet bountiful life, and in these difficult economic times, I'm sure many of my readers wishing for the same.

I get very tired of reading silly newspaper articles with "The Top 10 Ways to Save $___ This Year" or some such thing. I never learn anything new in those types of articles because they usually recommend brewing your coffee at home instead of stopping by S-bucks every day, or brown bagging your lunch 3 days a week and only eating out 2, or other things that are rather ridiculous to me. Learning how to spend less is something I'm continually working towards and is as much about good habits as anything. I have learned much by imitating habits and advice given by my grandmothers and great-grandmothers who lived through the Great Depression. Living frugally is a lifestyle, and in my mind a good one. The Biblical concept of stewardship is one that deserves our meditation.

Ephesians 4:28 - Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (ESV)

It is not about being "cheap", rather it is about being temperate in all things and not being wasteful of our blessings so we are ready and able to help others as we see a need.

So we are learning to -

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make do,
Then do without.

If you would like to do the same, you have come to the right place!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Hymn Post

Abide With Me by Henry Lyte

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

All Things Church-Housey


I, church mouse, am a writer. I'm sure my fellow bloggers will understand that this is the way I organize my thoughts and often my life. I love to learn and sharing what I learn helps me to learn it even better. While we live a humble and simple life in our little house that some would call a parsonage, it seems that there are others who might take an interest in our goings-on, so I am sharing here.

I love to discuss homemaking, mothering, and ministering to the needs of others as these are the things that consume my life. I am disinclined to engage in debates. I just don't enjoy it and do not have the extra emotional energy to share, so thank you for being respectful of that.

On a final note, I wish to remain anonymous. Being a preacher's wife, I am in the precarious position of having the potential to strongly impact my husband's employment by our current church or by future ones. My thoughts and choices in many areas are not mainstream and some would disagree with much of what I would say. While I consider our personal choices matters of opinion, there are some who would take offense and sadly, this can affect our livelihood. It's silly, isn't it? Alas, it is the life of a church mouse. The blessings far outnumber the curses, so we happily deal with the situation, trying to live "wise as serpents, innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

Blessings to My Readers!
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