"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." --Titus 2:3-5

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflections on Matthew 7:21-23

Matthew 7:21-23 was the passage of Scripture that my pastor preached from yesterday, so I thought I would share a little bit about it. In case you don't have your Bible handy, here is the passage: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

This can be a bit of a haunting passage because there are so many in this world who think they're "okay," but they are very far from God. Some of them, unfortunately, are sitting in the church pews every Sunday! Many others are relying on their church membership to somehow save them. They may not attend church anymore, but they have their name on a piece of paper somewhere, so they think that's enough. Our pastor shared a quote from G. Campbell Morgan, "The blasphemy of the sanctuary is far more awful than the blasphemy of the slum." I agree completely. The people in the church should be the ones shining Christ's light to those around them. The people in the church should be authentic Christians! That in no way means that they are perfect, and I don't believe that's what this passage of Scripture is saying. It does mean, though, that their hearts have been changed by Christ, and they have a relationship with Him. It's not about "religion!" It's about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Americans especially are guilty. We've learned the language and how to "look" like a Christian, doing all sorts of "religious" activities, but it's our hearts that matter to God! It's the same as in the Scripture passage. These people looked like Christians and performed lots of good deeds and even miracles. The problem is that their hearts were far from God.

Am I saying that we shouldn't go to church or do religious activities? Certainly not!! While I know that going to church does not make you a Christian, staying away from the church doesn't necessarily make you a better one. Yes, there are problems with our churches, but that's largely because the church is full of humans! Just because we may be Christians, doesn't mean we're no longer sinners. We are not "sinless," but we should be trying to "sin less." Being Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us do just that! Even though our "good deeds" don't save us, they should be the fruit of having a relationship with Christ. They are evidence of our love for God and one way that we shine His light to those around us. People should be able to see something different about us!

So if saying we're a Christian, going to church, or performing religious activities doesn't reveal authentic faith, what does? It's our relationship with Christ! It's our hearts! We need to be developing a closer relationship with Christ everyday. How do we do that? Spiritual disciplines! Our pastor shared a quote from Bill Hull, "The spiritual disciplines are to transformation what calisthenics are to sport." What are some of these disciplines? Here are a few: prayer, Bible study, worship, evangelism (sharing your faith), and service. There are others, but those are some of the basics. Great books on these disciplines are Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney and Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

The challenge from our pastor was to consider our lives and see if we find evidences of Christ. If we don't see any evidences of Him in our lives, then maybe we're not truly Christians. If you don't have a love for Christ, if you don't have a passion for the things of God, then you need to realize that you may not be saved. If that's the case, then please (TODAY!) get on your knees and pray! Acknowledge before God that you are a sinner. Thank Him for sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross, paying the penalty for your sin. Ask Him to forgive you of all your sin and to come into your heart and change your life. Take this first step and then take time to spend with Him every single day. It can be as simple as reading a passage of Scripture and then praying to God. You can lift up prayers to Him throughout your day! Find a church where you can fellowship with other Christians and learn more about God's Word and how to share your faith with others. If you have any questions about becoming a Christian, feel free to e-mail me or call me(if you have my number). I would love to talk with you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

No More Dryer Sheets!

Alright ladies it's time to try something different! I decided this week to try to get rid of my dryer sheets. Why? Well, for a few reasons. One is that dryer sheets are full of chemicals, including synthetic fragrances, that aren't necessarily good for my family or the environment. Also, they've been known to coat dryer lint trays, and they leave a coating of residue on clothes. A third reason is that it's just fun to try and make something yourself!! Well, I tried this recipe, and it works!! Not just a little bit; it really works! I will say that using the essential oil in the recipe is not incredibly necessary. Your clothes don't really retain any scent other than that of your detergent (unless you're using fragrance free or soap nuts or something). I used 15-18 sprays for a large load of laundry. You'll probably want to cut it back to 10-15 for a regular or smaller load because you might notice a faint smell of vinegar if you don't. So here's the recipe (from crunchybetty.com):

2 cups white vinegar
3 tsp eucalyptus essential oil (I used tea tree because I didn't have eucalyptus, but you could really use anything you want)
spray bottle

Just mix all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well! You'll need to shake well before you use it, too, because essential oils will separate from the vinegar. When you put your wet clothes in the dryer, simply spray them with the vinegar mixture and start the dryer. Simple!! Now, when I washed some of my girls' soft blankets (you know those really soft baby blankets) there was some static when I pulled them out of the dryer, but the regular clothes were just fine and static-free. On the rare occasion that my husband does laundry, he uses two dryer sheets/load. Even he didn't notice a difference! Give it a try!

Reflections on a Summer of Change

Wow! I can't believe summer is almost over. This has been one of the busiest summers I've had in a while. Lots of changes for me and my family, but all for the good! I've been thinking this morning about all the things I've done or tried this summer, and I decided to make a list. Some people have "spring cleaning," but my experience has been "summer greening." Here we go:

1. Farmer's Market: I've been going almost weekly all summer, and it's been amazing! I even began buying meat and eggs from there. I probably won't purchase chicken anymore simply because it costs way too much! $12.99/lb for boneless skinless chicken breasts and about $15 for one 3 lb whole chicken!! While I really want to support humane chicken farming, I really can't afford that on my family's budget.

2. Grain Mill: No I haven't purchased my own, but I have been enjoying getting fresh ground flour from the Grain Mill of Wake Forest. I just keep it in the freezer so it doesn't go rancid. Since the flour is composed of the entire wheat berry, the oils are present and can turn within a few days. I've been trying to use whole wheat flour in all of my cooking, but I haven't developed a taste for it in desserts or biscuits yet. For those, I use unbleached all-purpose flour.

3. Sucanat: I've almost completely rid myself of white refined sugar. I say almost because my husband really doesn't like this change. He likes his white sugar so I'm trying to compromise a little.

4. Coconut oil: This wonderful oil has taken over my kitchen and my bathroom! My husband laughs at my use of coconut oil for my skin and hair, but I'm telling you, this stuff is amazing! In cooking, I use refined coconut oil because I don't like for my food to taste of coconuts. It would be okay in desserts, but scrambled eggs and other dishes like red beans and rice don't need to taste of coconut! For myself, I use coconut oil to tame my crazy hair (I have very thick, course, and curly hair so it can take a good bit of oil), and I also use it for my body moisturizer (not on my face). Yesterday I mixed in a drop of lavender essential oil when moisturizing after my shower, and it was quite nice! The lavender scent doesn't stick around all day, but it's calming aroma did stay for a couple of hours.

5. Homemade beauty products: I've been using homemade cleansers on my face for a couple of weeks now, and it's been wonderful! I use an oatmeal-almond scrub in the morning and do oil cleansing at night with a mixture of castor oil and jojoba oil. I also made a lavender-bergamot body spray. My recipes came from crunchybetty.com. Love her blog!!

6. Homemade household products: I've been experimenting the past couple of weeks with several different products. Here's what I've made so far: drain opener, air freshener, dusting spray, and dryer spray (to use instead of dryer sheets, and it works!!). Glass cleaner is next on my list to try.

7. Composting: I made my own compost bin out of a heavy duty plastic trash can. I drilled holes all around it for drainage, and I keep it outside next to our curbside can. We don't have much of a yard, so I don't have an open bin, but so far this has been working just fine. Why spend the money on a fancy bin if you can make your own! This adventure mainly came from necessity. My husband was on a fruit and veggie fast for 2 weeks, and we had a lot of pulp from all the juicing. I couldn't find anyone to give it to, and I didn't want to just throw it away. My dad suggested I compost it myself, so I did :)

8. Growing vegetables: Okay, so I only planted green bell peppers, but I'm really excited because they're actually growing!! I DO NOT have a green thumb, so the fact that I could produce anything is amazing to me (I know it's God who actually produces it, but I'm glad that I haven't prevented it's growth or killed it in the process!).

Well, I think that's it! I might be leaving something out, but my brain isn't fully functioning today. I will tell you that the MOST important change I've made this summer has been sitting down in the mornings to have my quiet time with the Lord. This is something, I'm ashamed to say, has flown by the wayside the past few years. I have been in desperate need to make this a part of my daily routine, but it's been hard to be disciplined in this area. I finally just made the decision to get up at 5:30 in the morning and make my coffee, sit down with my Bible, and just be still for a while. I was reading Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot, and she talked about people that have trouble getting up in the mornings. She basically says to just do it! So I did! I won't say it's easy, but I will say that my day is so much better because of it. We are created to be dependent on God, and when we try to do everything ourselves we can really mess things up. More on that later, because I think I've given you plenty to chew on in this post! I'll be posting some of the recipes I've been using for homemade products soon!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why Lilla Rose?

Okay, so last night I signed up to be a Lilla Rose Consultant. Lilla Rose is a company that sells mostly hair accessories and some jewelry. Many of you know that I have a mass of crazy hair on my head, and you usually see me with a brown rubber band trying to keep it out of my face. Well, I have finally found something to control the chaos in a pretty way--Lilla Rose's beautiful Flexi-clip! I have wasted so much money over the years buying clips and barrettes that will not hold my hair! I recently bought a package of 3 large hair clips that I was sure would fit, but now they are used for chip clips. They may not hold my hair, but they keep our chips and birdseed fresh!! I received my Flexi-clip just a few days ago, and I have fallen in love! I ordered a medium size thinking it would hold all of my hair in a ponytail, but I slightly underestimated the volume of hair I possess. However, this clip holds 1/2 my hair beautifully and comfortably! I usually don't wear my hair in a "half up" simply because me and barrettes have not been friends since junior high, but the past couple of days I have enjoyed this style again. I would love for everyone who reads this post to check out my website at: . I'll be receiving my start kit in a few days, and then I'll have some samples of the flexi-clips for you to try. I will be taking orders at my church's Women's Expo on October 1 from 10-3 (Wake Crossroads Baptist Church). I'll have my samples with me as well as the catalog for those who like to see things on paper (I'm one of those people. I love catalogs!). By the way, I will be ordering a large flexi-clip to hold my hair in a ponytail very soon! You don't have to wait until the Expo to order, though. You can contact me anytime or simply order from the website. Don't forget to check out the other items that Lilla Rose sells! I am so in love with this company!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today's Kitchen Adventures

I'm pretty sure most of my day was spent in the kitchen! I decided that a good use for my leftover roasted chicken was to have barbecue chicken sandwiches for dinner. Two things I didn't have in my possession: hamburger buns and barbecue sauce. However, I did have a recipe for whole wheat hamburger buns, and I found a barbecue sauce recipe online. I highly recommend trying to make your own hamburger buns. The recipe I used made 18 buns! I have frozen the leftovers (already cut in half) so that I'll have them on hand whenever I need some again. The recipe came from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com. They are really good, but not exactly like store bought. I didn't expect them to be the same because mine are made from fresh ground whole wheat, and they don't have all the dough conditioners that commercial bakeries use. That being said, I think they turned out really good! It was my first time making hamburger buns and barbecue sauce! The sauce turned out really good, but next time I will use less cayenne. I think it's a little too hot for the children. Here's the recipe that I used (I chose it because I had all the ingredients already on hand):

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (white)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. paprika (I used a little bit less)
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cayenne (next time I will use a bit less, maybe 1/2 tsp.)

Saute the garlic in the olive oil, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. That's it!!

In addition to hamburger buns and barbecue sauce, I also made regular loaf whole wheat bread and chewy granola bars! Whew! I don't think I want to be in the kitchen anymore today!

Brain Lapse

Dinner last night. Not one of my brightest moments, I hate to admit. I had planned this wonderful dinner of roasted chicken, broccoli with garlic and cranberries, red potatoes with thyme, and whole wheat dinner rolls. I worked hard to plan so that everything would be done around the same time. I roasted the chicken for over an hour and put the dinner rolls (homemade) in the last 20 minutes. The timer went off for me to pull them out of the oven, and that's when I discovered that at some point (early in the baking process) I had accidentally turned the oven off!! The chicken was still raw, and my rolls were still dough! What's a mom to do?? What we are all so good at; I improvised! My poor children ended up with cheese toast to go with their broccoli and potatoes. Thankfully, my husband worked late so I was able to finish roasting the chicken and baking the rolls (which didn't rise). It was definitely not one of my greatest moments! It was quite humbling, actually. Why am I sharing? Because I know I'm not alone in these brain lapses, and only moms can truly appreciate them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract!

I just finished starting my own homemade vanilla extract! My first "first" this week! I used the recipe from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com, and I can't wait to see if it works. I sure hope it does; it's a little costly. I received my Bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans yesterday from Olive Nation ($25 for 1/2 pound) to make 1/2 gallon of vanilla extract. I only had 1 quart mason jars, so I am using 2 and splitting my ingredients between them. I cut 20 vanilla beans in half for each jar and poured vodka to fill the jars. I sealed them and put them in the back of my pantry to sit until December. It's that easy! Laura (from the blog site above) says to let the jars sit for 4-6 months to get a good extract. All you need to do is shake the jars every couple of weeks or so. I still have vanilla beans left, but I read that they will last a year or more in a cool, dry place. If my extract turns out okay, all I need is more vodka to make another batch! Hopefully, it will make nice Christmas presents for family and friends.

What to do with leftover Bolognese!

Our family had a "make your own pizza" night yesterday. Emily had been watching Caillou, and it showed him and one of his friends making their own pizzas. She asked if we could do that, and I thought it was a great idea! I hadn't made pizza dough in a while, so she and Erin helped. I had leftover Bolognese sauce in the fridge and it made a perfect pizza sauce, especially since all we had to top the pizzas with was cheese. Apparently Caillou had topped his with mushrooms. Emily asked if we could go get some from the store, but she was satisfied when I told her no. Something tells me that would have been an absolute waste of money and mushrooms! Anyway, in case you were wondering, I found a perfect pizza dough recipe from Emeril and it couldn't be easier!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 packet yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp sugar

I used instant yeast, so it didn't need to proof. I combined everything (except the water) in the bowl of my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and let it stir for a bit. I added the warm water and let the mixer run until the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl and climbed up the dough hook. I removed the dough and kneaded it on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. I placed the dough in an oiled bowl, covered it, and let it rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size. I turned it out onto my floured surface and cut it in half to make two small pizzas (it would make one nice size pizza), rolled the halves into circles and topped with my sauce and cheese. I baked them in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes until they were nicely browned and the cheese was bubbly. Before I put the sauce on the dough, I brushed the dough with EVOO. I read somewhere that it would help the dough from getting soggy from the sauce. The girls had a lot of fun helping make their pizzas, and even my husband (the Papa Johns addict) approved!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Week of Firsts

This has been a week full of "firsts". On Wednesday I cut up a whole chicken for the first time. I butchered the poor thing and kept apologizing to it the whole time. Halfway through I looked online to see how to do it properly, and I wasn't completely base. I didn't get the whole thigh when I removed the leg, but other than that, it wasn't that bad. I used the pieces to make chicken curry and then used the carcass to make chicken stock (another first). The aroma from the stock was wonderful! It smelled just like Swanson chicken broth, and I am so excited to be able to make my own now. It was so easy! I learned yet another lesson from my chicken curry, though. The last time I made it, I tried it in the crock pot. Mistake!! It was not good at all because the flavors concentrated too much. I think if I had only left it in there around 4-6 hours instead of all day it might have been okay. This week I tried another brand of ginger ale. I'm trying to find one that I like that doesn't have HFCS in it. I tried Reed's Premium Ginger Brew ginger ale, and it was a little too much ginger for the curry. I may try this brand again, but using the regular instead of the premium.

Another "first" this week was making pudding from scratch. I found a wonderful creamy pudding recipe from www.heavenlyhomemakers.com. I made the chocolate pudding, and it is so good! I'm happy I won't have to buy Jello pudding cups anymore, and I know exactly what is in my pudding! Emily enjoyed it too, but Erin only put it to her lips (I don't think she likes sweets very much...or maybe it's the cold pudding...I'm not sure). It's richer than Jello, but it also has 3 tbsp of butter in it! I substituted corn starch for the arrowroot powder and it worked just fine. I'd like to try the arrowroot, though, because so much corn is genetically modified.

Today I made a recipe using fresh yellow squash (my 3rd "first"). I hate to admit it, but I really don't like squash. Okay, I hate squash! The thought of it makes my face crinkle. Stephen, though, loves squash and asked me to get some from the farmer's market this morning. I grudgingly obliged and then googled recipes for people who hate squash. There are actually recipes out there specifically for people who don't like squash! The one I tried tonight was an Easy Baked Yellow Squash. It nicely covered the squash taste with lots of butter, parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. I actually ate it and didn't make a face. I was trying to stay strong in front of my children. Emily actually ate some too. The recipe is quite easy:

3 lbs squash, peeled
1/4 cup melted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp parmesan, grated
1-2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used Panko)
2-3 tbsp parmesan, grated
1/4 cup melted butter

Cut squash into 1 1/2" cubes. Boil or steam until tender, drain, and mash. Set oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 quart casserole dish (I really don't see why this needs to be done because there is a lot of butter in the recipe). Add 1/4 cup melted butter, onions, eggs, sugar, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and mix to combine. Transfer to baking dish. Mix bread crumbs, melted butter, and parmesan cheese and sprinkle over squash. Bake approx. 45 minutes or until bread crumbs are nicely browned.

I think that's it of my new experiences this week!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What a Day!

Wow! I just noticed that it has been over a year since I posted on my blog! How time flies!! Well, it has been an interesting day for us here. There have been a few lessons learned. The first is my attempt at saving the planet by trying to use cloth training pants for Erin who just recently turned 2. I'm amazed and appalled at how many disposable diapers and training pants I have used with my two children, and I've decided that enough is enough! Well, I learned today that cloth training pants (or diapers I'm sure) are not for the faint of heart (or stomach)! I tried putting Erin in these earth saving devices 3 times today, which gave me 2 completely soaked pants and one absolutely disgusting explosion of a mess in the third! Not only did she not inform me that she had soiled herself, but she didn't want me to change her either. I don't know if she was embarrassed by being so yucky or if she enjoyed it...I hope the former. Needless to say, I gave up after the third event and put her back in Pull-Ups. I know I shouldn't be such a pansy, and I will try again tomorrow. Mothers for centuries have been dealing with the bodily functions of their children without the modern convenience of disposable diapers, and I just need to suck it up!

I have been on a "whole foods", "getting back to nature" (whatever you want to call it) kick lately, and I tried cooking with coconut oil today. I have tried this a few years ago, and it didn't go so well. I bought unrefined coconut oil, which is much more natural than refined, but you can only use it if you don't mind everything tasting like coconuts. The refined oil I bought a few years ago smelled and tasted like the machinery used to process it! Disgusting!! Today I used a different brand of refined oil, and thankfully, my french toast did not taste like coconuts or machinery. I secretly added some to my red beans and rice (don't tell my husband) and it worked out okay.

I have been reading heavenlyhomemakers.com and she is a woman after my own heart. I have jumped on her crazy train with abandon! I've been moving in this direction for years, but now I'm making bigger steps (like I've been riding horseback alongside the train, and now I'm actually on it...maybe only on the caboose, but still) I've been really convicted about a lot of things regarding the food we eat and being good stewards of the earth that God has given us. More about that another time. The past two weeks has been about granola bars. I like a good granola bar, but I do not like seeing all the ingredients in store bought bars. I made the chewy granola bar recipe from heavenlyhomemakers.com, but I didn't have enough seeds and nuts to give the bars structure. They tasted good but they're a little gooey. Today I tried Alton Brown's recipe and they have a little too much structure! Bricks! Again, the taste isn't terrible, but I don't think my kids are going to eat them. Back to the drawing board! I think I'll go back to the heavenlyhomemaker's recipe and put in some of the seeds that I purchased since the last time. We'll see what happens tomorrow!