Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Meals for Mamas

There have been a plethora of babies, families moving. and general busyness around here to make a mama weary. If one could just care and nurse a baby without having to stop and make a meal, or unpack and settle a house without the rest of the family fainting away from hunger, or teach a full day's schedule, or potty-train a reluctant toddler all without worrying about what was to eat for supper, life would be much easier. (Or perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part.)
Anyway, I'm sure you know someone who could use a meal, because wouldn't you love for someone to show up with supper ready for you tonight? Uhhmm... I thought so.
Here's my latest meal for mamas.
Make yourself a batch of The Pioneer Woman's meatballs or your own favorite meatball recipe. Make enough to freeze a partial batch for another time- your own meal emergency or for someone else. Then whip up some mashed potatoes. Now PW has a good mashed potatoe recipe, but it calls for recipe ingredients that you might not have on hand, so here's another recipe I found years ago.

Cheese Potato Puff

12 medium potatoes, peeled (about 5 lbs.)
1 tsp. salt, divided
¾ c butter, softened
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Cover potatoes with water in a large kettle; add ½ tsp. salt; cook until tender. Drain; mash potatoes until smooth. Add butter, cheese, milk and more salt; mix until combined. Fold in eggs. Pour into a greased 3 qt. baking dish. Bake 350 degrees until puffy and brown, about 40 minutes. Yields 8-10 servings

Now the original recipe called to heat the butter, milk and cheese together in a saucpan before adding to the potatoes. But I always forget that step and just dump all of it in together and it works out okay. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer for the mashing, and all the mixing. You can refrigerate the potatoes and cook them up a day later. I've also frozen it along with the meatballs, and it will work, but the liquid tends to pull out of the potatoes when thawing, so keep that in mind. I split the potato recipe between two smaller square pans since this makes a lot of potatoes.
Now make a batch of your favorite cookies, pack it all up and go find a hungry family to bless!

And for a bit of humor, my sister-in-law passed this video clip on to me. You must watch this before you send dearest hubby to the grocery store for the ingredients!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Life

This is a Butterfly Magnolia. We planted it last spring after it had bloomed, so I wasn't sure what the bloom was going to look like. But I love Magnolia trees and knew I wouldn't be disappointed. How lucky I was that there were several blooms on it after just one year! Magnolias are interesting in the fact that they bloom before they leaf.

You have probably stopped to consider a butterfly before. It starts as a caterpillar, then transforms in its chrysalis into a butterfly. A new creature! A lowly worm into a winged beauty.
The same is true for those who choose to believe in Christ. We are lowly, sinful people. Yet when we accept Christ's blood for our behalf, he enters into us to make us a new life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Cor. 5:17
In just the past few hours, church friends of ours passed their newborn son into the loving arms of Jesus. Six years ago this spring, we and another couple lost our babies to miscarriage and still another close set of friends, gave their son to Jesus just hours after giving birth to him. It's heart-wrenching. The very thought makes my insides yearn and ache so much.
My butterfly magnolia, however, never starts as a worm or anything except for a bud, yet bursts forth into perfect petals. It show forth its beauty unmarred by any leaves.
All of our babies are already in heaven. They got to skip the leafing out completely. They are beautiful forever already. There is a trio of sweet 6 year olds who already know all the children's worship songs. They know the sweetest foods, the funnest games and the coziest spots for naps. Now they are welcoming a new one and will show him the ropes. They will never experience pain, loss or sorrow. They will know only love. The warmest, most fulfilling love of all time.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yummy Thanks

This past Wednesday was the second to last night for our Wednesday night family program at church, called D6. This year, especially, we have had some, shall we say, "learning opportunities" for both our boys in their classes. It's okay. The teachers in their classes are phenomenal and understanding and everyone came out okay in the end. In light of their good-nature and tireless service to our family and our church, I made some cupcakes for them.
Also, on Wednesday nights, I have been helping in the Kindergarten class as a small group leader and also song leader. It was fun to teach them new songs and hear them try to out do each other singing "Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia" "Praise ye the Lord!" I had five kids in my small group and decided to make some cards to let them know how special I think each one of them is.

The cupcake toppers were stamped then punched out with circle punches and attached with glue dots to a regular toothpick! The cupcakes were an Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) recipe and the frosting was a delectable frosting recipe from Tasty Kitchen. (click on the words Ina Garten or Tasty Kitchen and it will take you to the recipes)
The cake stand in my Grandma's- Fostoria, she tells me. It's pretty much the only thing I wanted out of her collection of antiques.

Thanks to all our faithful teachers and helpers each week and weekend at Cornerstone Church. You are wonderful!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Roommate

It has taken me a while to get this up, but someone has moved in with us- Bill's sister, Denise!! She came back from Ethiopia in March and she brought her dog, Mia, with her.
Denise has been a veterinary missionary in Ethiopia for the last 6 years. She has come back to the States as there is no close-by team for her to work with and be encouraged by. In a few months, she will be heading out to Seattle to work for Christian Veterinary Mission at their offices. In the meantime, she is staying with us.
We cleared out Ben's room in the basement for her and stacked Ben and Luke together upstairs in Luke's room. Denise resides mostly in her room or the office as all of her work now is done with the computer. She wears fully-flannel lined jeans, thick wool socks, turtlenecks and beefy sweaters and a winter hat with ear-flaps to keep warm down there. Of course, as soon as she steps upstairs, she is entirely over-dressed and starts sweating! (Getting used to Iowa climate and a basement, no less, is taking a while.) Her day consists of sleeping (as you may well know) and then being followed around by Luke, who can't get enough of his Aunt Denise. Denise will entertain him by taking Mia on a walk while Luke rides his bike alongside. The only way she escapes him is by leaving for a physical therapy appointment for her back or by locking her bedroom door and screaming "Leave me alone!" Just kidding, though he can be a bit unrelenting. When she does buckle down to get something done, it is usually on the phone to tech support for her computer that has been refusing to hook up to the wireless internet or updating her Facebook status from our computer. (She started a new FB group: PAINN- People Against Invasion of Nieces and Nephews.) Sometimes she actually just packs up and leaves us, heading off to places like Texas and Arkansas, or northeren Iowa. In those places, she again, lolligags around, benefiting from everyone else's hospitality. Or, maybe she is still a missionary and it is her job to visit the churches that support her and let them know what is new in her life and visiting other family.
As for Mia, poor thing, there just isn't the wildlife here like there was in Ethiopia. Our "compound" doesn't exactly need guarding. I mean, there is nothing here to get excited for and bark about. She gets dragged around by strange children who want her to do things like fetch a frisbee or go through some obstacle course. Occassionally she gets taken on a walk, on which she is completely bored because again, there is no interesting wildlife- no camels, chickens, baboons, etc.  It's a hard knock life for this German Shephard.
Okay, joking aside, we love having Denise here. She actually does work, though her computer has been giving her fits, but amazingly, after sending it it two times in the last 6 weeks, Bill fixed it in 1 hour! She has a blog that is supposed to help keep everyone updated with things and you can link to her prayer letter via CVM from there. She could use your prayers always. Her back is definitely getting stronger, so that is a good thing. Her new position with CVM is for her to be the new short-term missions coordinator. She is still looking for a place to stay in Seattle, so pray for that too. When she leaves, we just might need a new roommate!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Free Coffee Sample

So here is a link to receive a free sample of Dunkin' Donuts coffee. A coffee that apparently Audrey's 180 pastor loves.
I'm posting it because we stoppped at Dunkin' Donuts on our Florida vacation. A whole wall of donuts was almost more than the kids could handle, so I feel it necessary to give DD props for helping make our vacation memorable. Enjoy!

Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Playdate with Jesus

This is Luke's paper he did during this past weekend church service. The question asks: "How would you care for Jesus?" Luke's answer is "Race cars with him." This is perfectly normal for Luke. He loves hot wheel cars. We have to give him a pat down before taking him to class since he tends to smuggle them in in his pockets.
So would Jesus mind? I don't think so. Jesus met people where they were at. He met the fishermen by calling to them at the shore and often went out with them- a total guy, side by side thing. He met Mary at His feet, meeting her need for love, face to face. He would have loved to meet Luke, knee to knee, as they race cars around the floor. And since Jesus was human and crawling around on your knees is extremely difficult, he would probably let Luke win!
As a side, I asked Luke what his coloring was about since he usually just colors race tracks (scribbles) even though there is a picture. He said he didn't know what it was, but he was trying to stay in the lines.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Favorite Sandwich

This week is kind of piled up with one thing on top of another for the first half. I'm not going to go into the details, but let's just say a meal in the crock-pot is a blessing. This recipe is probably my kids' favorite sandwich. They just go crazy for it! I originally got it from my friend, Laura, the same Laura with the chili recipe. I think she got it from her neighbor.Who knows where it originally came from, but it must be passed along, so enjoy!

French Dip
3-4 lb. rump roast
½ c. Worchestershire sauce or soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pkg. onion soup mix
4 ½ c water
1 large onion, sliced
Swiss or provolone cheese
Put roast in crock pot. Add sauce, garlic, onion soup mix and water. Cook on low all day. Pull meat out and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice meat and return to crock-pot to heat up. Serve on toasted hoagie rolls with onion and cheese slices. Use broth to dip sandwich in.

I like the broth so much because it is richer and more flavorful. When I order this at a restaurant and the broth is just plain beef broth it tastes just so bland. I strain and refrigerate the broth. Then, when it has cooled, I skim the fat off and freeze it as beef broth for later.
A way to make this meat stretch is to use the leftover meat and broth that has been strained (or not) in your favorite beef stew. The stew gets a nice, deep flavor to it. Finally, if there is leftover stew, make a double piecrust, dump in the leftover stew and make a beef potpie! Or just keep eating the leftovers.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

One Picture Art Show

Last night our family went to the Cornerstone Art Show. We were able view artwork of all kinds submitted by people of our church. It is amazing how God has gifted people and we really enjoyed what we saw.
Audrey enjoyed it as well, but she was a bit upset that I never let her enter her picture for the show. What picture? This picture... of spaghetti. I was thinking, "Who wants to see spaghetti?" But a friend of mine's mother commented that spaghetti can be very graphic, so then I felt bad that I didn't give Audrey's picture a chance.
So here it is. This is what Audrey has to say about her photograph: "I wanted to take a picture of something and I liked the way the spaghetti looked being just dished onto the plate. Not arranged. I thought it looked cool and texturey. I also like the pot in the background."
Feel free to leave you comments to encourage Audrey in her photographic endeavors.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Favorite Baby Gift

Probably my all time favorite gift I received when I was expecting Audrey was rubber stamped onesies created by all my friends at my baby shower. My sister came up with the idea and we had such a good time making them.

Now my all time favorite gift to give is stamped onesies. Even though I kept the stained ridden stamped onesies after Audrey outgrew them and passed them down to Ben and Luke, a momma can never have too many onesies. And a fresh set for the new baby is always nice.

I made these two sets up in the past couple of months for friends of mine. One with a baby girl and one with a baby boy, although I have a couple more sets done for more babies. It is a lot of fun picking out the right stamp sets for each baby.

Here’s how you do it:

Buy some new onesies and wash and dry them. I like Gerber because I think they hold up well. I usually get 3-6 or 6-9 months because babies can grow so fast that the newborn size is gone too quickly. Plus, it’s fun knowing you have some special clothes tucked away for later when junior has sprouted some.

Cut a piece of sturdy but thin cardboard (think cereal box) to fit inside the onesie. Now you have a solid surface backing the fabric and also the ink won’t bleed through.

Stamp or draw, etc. on the material with fabric or pigment based inks. Just read the packaging of the product. If it says you can use it on fabric, it’s probably fine. My ink comes from Stampin’ Up! and is the craft ink. Let your creative side go wild. My only recommendation is that sometimes really bold designs show through baby’s clothes, so I usually don’t cover the entire onesie.

Remove the cardboard and iron the onesie to set the ink. This is the only time I iron baby clothes or anything for that matter! (ok- a few times when wrinkles just weren’t called for) You don’t want all your hard work washing away. Even if the ink packaging says you don’t have to, this just ensures it won’t wash out or fade too quickly.

That’s it! Package up with some sweet ribbon and give to your favorite new momma!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Family That...

eats together… For lunch on Easter day I ended up going a little overboard for just the five of us. We had glazed ham, creamy rosemary potatoes, roasted asparagus, rosemary rolls and deviled eggs. *groan*. It was delicious. The ham almost overcame Audrey as she worked to cut it, (It’s ham, dear) but in the end she was victorious and ended up singing a sonnet to ham. It goes like this, “Yummy, juicy ham.” Repeat. Ben was a little uncertain of the creamy rosemary potatoes and asked Audrey if they were good. “Like better than spaghetti?” Yes, they were, although Ben didn’t agree with that verdict. Luke was flustered by his ham touching his potatoes. “I want to eat this (the ham) but that (the potatoes) won’t let me!” But really the happiest person was Bill. He groaned with enjoyment and only wished his plate was really the size of a platter.

rides motorbikes together…Despite needing a nap in the worst way after our meal, we ended up loading the motorbikes up and heading over the ATV park in Cambridge for some riding. Bill just recently joined the club so that we have a place to ride. The weather was nice and the park wasn’t too busy. We only have three bikes so Luke and I unfolded the lawn chairs and enjoyed watching the others. Ben was a little cautious at first since the track was new and there were other riders. Plus, there are mounds where you can jump, so he was carefully learning the lay of the land. By the end, though he wasn’t completely jumping, he was definitely going faster and tried a couple of double jumps. This was Audrey’s second time on her motorbike, so she was extra cautious. I thought she would never make it much past neutral and Bill was hoping that by the end of the day she would be willing to go around the entire kid track (jump thingies and all). She proved us wrong. At the end of the day she was going over all the mounds on the adult course! Way to go, Audrey! Bill got a chance to ride and do his thing and explore most of the club area so he had a great time. He popped a wheelie at one point and that thrilled Luke. Luke was a little anxious watching his dad fly over the big jumps, but seeing Bill go fast and go on one wheel was awesome! As for Luke, he isn’t big enough to ride Ben’s bike, especially without training wheels, which we don’t have, so he was on the sidelines the entire time. I thought he might get stir-crazy, but he just kept cheering on Ben and Audrey as they made their way around the course. Everything is a race to him. I also let him have reign of the camera for a while and he had lots of fun taking pictures of everything. I didn’t stay on the sidelines the entire time. Audrey’s bike almost fits me, so I got my instructions from Bill and was off. It was a lot of fun!

hunts eggs together…After all that, what could be more exciting than hunting for eggs. Bill and I hid them when we got back and then the kids raced outside to find them. They found all of them and enjoyed the candy and money hidden inside.

...builds memories together. This day of Easter was a wonderful time for us. Our schedules are about to fill up again and days like this won’t happen for a while. I love my family!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

132 Memories

When my sister, brother and I were little, we would go to my Grandma's house on Good Friday and dye eggs for Easter. Grandma usually had maybe two dozen for us three to share. Fast forward a bunch of years and now all of us are grown up, married and have 11 kids. My grandma is now Great-Grandma and Mom is Grandma. And this Grandma is not going to let tradition die.
Grandma and Great-Grandma make a visit to the grandkids bringing with them a dozen eggs for each grandkid to color. A dozen eggs! 11 grandkids! It borders on slightly insane. It makes great memories! We prep all the egg cups and the smell of vinegar lingers in the air. We ready the paper towels since the average age of 11 grandkids is 7 and then let the fun begin.
You cannot sit idly by; you have to be on your toes with this gang. It takes at least 3 adults: 1 for the girls: to get them stickers, crayons, markers and whatever their creative hearts desire. 1 for the older boys: to just manage them. This year they were much more patient than in the past. Eggs are serious business.
1-2 for the little ones: well, you'll see.
Chiara just wanted to keep adding more and more eggs to the cup and Alex had her hands full trying to keep up with Chiara. Also, Chiara dyed her dress a few times too. Luke colored all his eggs either red or blue (Lightning McQueen colors and won the race of who was done the fastest around the egg carton).
Athan was so proud just to be able to pick up the egg with the little wire holder.
None for the senior: we hope she can handle eggs by herself at this point.

Danny had to work so he wasn't there.
There was only one real egg casualty, the rest made it through the process fine.
Thanks Grandma for the eggs and the memories! We all had a great time!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chickens for Bibles

I am going to try to take a very awesome idea and explain it to you while trying to keep it brief and not lessen the awesomeness of it all.
Our church is working with a children's center in Zambia called, Hope Children's Center. We are also working with a Zambian national pastor named Navice. Navice is a man of God, sharing the love and hope of Christ wherever he goes and starting new churches with the new believers. These new believers and new churches need Bibles.
Audrey is in our church's junior high ministry called 180. Junior highers have lots of time and an amazing amount of money and more than enough energy. The 180 pastor, Joel, is hoping to help these kids live out their faith by raising money for Bibles and new church starts in Zambia.
Shelli is a believer in our church. Shelli is a mom, an ambitious woman, and has a heart for God. Shelli lives on a farm and raises chickens for eggs and chickens for meat.
These three people lives have intersected in a way so that 180 (jr. high) kids, lead by Joel are going to help raise nearly 100 "meatmaker" chickens (think roast chicken, etc.) donated by Shelli to sell for profit to raise money for Bibles.
Two of those kids got started this past weekend. Audrey and Bailey helped Shelli clean out the brooder and get it ready for 50 day old chicks to arrive. Granted, it wasn't a hard task, but the work still had to be done. Just some hosing down and scrubbing with a brush. The brooder keeps the peeping chicks warm and cozy for about 2 weeks.

Then on Thursday, the kids and I, along with their small group leader, Heather and her son, Brady, went to visit the chicks and change the paper in the brooder. 50 chicks make a lot of poop, so this has to be done at least once a day. In about 8 weeks, these will be nice and plump and it will be a different story then.

How is this related to Easter? Now, I don't think this is too much of a stretch to say that spring equals new life and miracles happen every day as you look around seeing dormant trees, plants and grasses burst into green. If you think of the idea of a sweet little chick, regardless of it later outcome, you tend to think of new life and miracles again. Christ died because we were dead in our sins- that is Good Friday. What we celebrate in Easter is that He came back to life- a miracle! Our sins equal death. Christ took all of our sins, our death upon himself. Then, out of his death, He came back to life! Not an easy thing, my friends. When we place our faith in him, we are given new life, given hope, given the power of the resurrection!
This is true for us and it is true for those believers in Zambia. So, as Shelli, Joel, others and we help raise these chickens, we are helping to give hope of Easter!