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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

She ate spaghetti sauce!

A lot of you are probably reading the headline and thinking...ok...what's the big deal?  Well, if you knew how difficult meal time is in my house, you would appreciate my surprise and joy when my oldest daughter asked for spaghetti sauce on her noodles last night.  Then, my younger daughter asked for some too!  Then, imagine how I felt when they both ATE it and liked it!  Oooh, the elation and joy!! 

Ok, so some of you are thinking...this mom has lost's just spaghetti sauce!  Just spaghetti sauce you say? 

Allow me to give you some background...

I have two, possibly three picky eaters in my house.  The range of picky-ness (is that even a word?) is across the board.  My husband is the least picky and the easiest to please.  Really, if I stay away from mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, and anything really spicy, he's happy.  My youngest daughter is m ore adventurous in her eating - she will try most anything at least once.  She is somewhere in the middle on the picky-ness scale.  I mean, what kid doesn't like peanut butter and jelly??  Not her! 

My oldest daughter is the most challenging.  Since she was an infant, she has given me fits where food is concerned.  She wouldn't nurse, no matter what we tried.  I saw three lactation consultants and we tried everything.  I pumped for 6 months, but finally the amount of formula was outweighing the amount of breast milk she was getting, so she was on formula after six months.  When it came time for baby food, she was so difficult.  I followed what the doctor told me, but it didn't seem to matter what went into her mouth, she screwed up her face and clearly didn't like it.  When she had had enough, the lips closed and that was it. 

Ok, fast forward to today - she is going to be 11 years old in August.  The list of things she likes can fit onto a playing card size piece of paper if I write small.  Yes, that's it.  Imagine trying to come up with meals that she will eat!  Meal time is not my favorite time of day to say the least.

Now I will say that breakfast is pretty good - she eats Grape Nuts with organic milk, orange juice, and her vitamins.  Not too shabby.  I can live with that.  Lunch and dinner get real interesting though.  Let's just say that there are times I have ended up in tears and told my entire family to hit the Subway up the street because I can't stand to cook another meal no one wants to eat. 

There were a few years there when I made up to three separate meals in a desperate attempt to make sure everyone had some thing they liked and would eat.  I stopped doing that a while back, but still I try to present at least one thing on the table that each person in my family likes and will consume.  It's tricky sometimes.  There have been days when I have wandered the grocery store, praying that the Lord will show me what to buy, show me what to make for these three people I love so much.  I have wandered the grocery store for a few hours sometimes just hoping that something would "jump out" at me.  Ugh...

The spaghetti sauce was a huge thing!  She has been eating plain spaghetti noodles with butter and salt for years now.  She tried the sauce back a few years ago and drank it down with water as fast as she could.  But last night, she ate almost the whole serving!  Hey, we aren't members of the clean plate club here unless there was truly very little on the plate to begin with, so I was thrilled she ate 1/2 of what I gave her.  She also tried a cucumber slice and a piece of celery last night!  Believe me, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and cheer!  The doctor tells me I need to stay calm and not make a big deal out of food and eating in front of my daughter.  Ok, ok...but I am going to say it here - "whoopee!!!"

I know that the trend may not last.  She may not eat those foods ever again.  But last night, she did.  Last night I felt like I had fed my family the way they should be fed.  I felt successful in giving them the healthy foods their bodies need.  I haven't felt that way in years...except for a few days here and there.  It's discouraging to say the least to feel like no matter what you put on the table will not be received well and probably not eaten.  We are trying to teach the girls that no matter what is on the table, they need to be thankful.  Their attitudes have gotten better and for that we are thankful.  Hopefully with time and continued teaching, it will get even better. 

Hey, maybe the girls will try my tilapia and baked zucchini today!  Yeah, right, ok, now I am officially crazy.  I have to keep reminding steps...

Now you know...I'm a little nuts.  But that's ok.  There's a little bit of being nuts in all of us...we just have to admit it.  (big smile)

Anyone else out there with picky eaters?  How are you handling it in your house?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  

All my best to you today,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Multitude Monday

holy experience

This past week, I took some time to relax.  Does that sound strange?  For those close to me, they would understand that it takes a lot for me to sit and do something I truly enjoy.  Relaxing is difficult!  Especially when I know there are a million (ok, maybe not a million, but it seems like it sometimes) other things that need to be accomplished while I sit there "relaxing".  **sigh**  I am praying the Lord will teach me how to relax, despite the ongoing to-do list; despite the fact that my house is not perfectly organized and immaculate.  Well, you get the idea...

Continuing with the counting of one thousand gifts this Monday morning...
21.  Date night with my sweet loving husband of 15 years
22.  My daughter's joy when she was able to sleep in her loft bed (that Daddy built for her) for the first time this last week
23.  Discovering that decaf coffee doesn't have to taste bad (yea, Winan's!)
24.  Singing praises to the Lord in choir
25.  Celebrating the elimination of credit card debt just this last week (freedom!)
26.  Feeling the "touch" of God's hand on my heart when I need Him most
27.  Being able to freely approach His throne with prayers and praises
28.  Our jobs, especially in this economy
29.  My sweet cat, Toby, snuggling with me at night when I finally sit down
30.  Finding the perfect seamless, adjustable straps camisole (finally!)
31.  Holding hands with my husband
32.  Feeling the hand of my almost-11-year-old daughter slip into mine while we're walking (and in public too!  Thank you Lord...)
33.  The simple words..."thank you Mommy"...
34.  A vacuumed and cleaned out vehicle
35.  The scent of freshly mowed hay field wafting through the air
36.  A gentle breeze that makes the pine trees seem to "whisper"
37.  The crunching of gravel under my feet when I walk down my parents' driveway, reminding me of the many times I walked that driveway growing the the mailbox...or just walking...
38.  A hike in the country
39.  Lettuce finally growing out back
40.  The sweet ladies at our local library - they greet us, chat with us, have prayed with us, hugged us, and have become a part of our lives over the last 13 years (watched our girls grow up!)

I hope you are reflecting on your blessings today.  If I can think of just one during the day...I feel thankful.  In the midst of so much busyness in this time of my life, I find that I sometimes have to search for what makes me feel blessed.  Sometimes it's a knowledge that I am blessed rather than a feeling of being blessed.  God's Word tells me in so many ways that I am blessed!  You are too!

All my best to you today,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Office Closet Organized, Scrap Quilt, and More...

It's been a good week for accomplishing some unfinished tasks.  Not all of these were on my Master List, but that's ok!  It still feels good to make some progress, regardless of what gets done.

Office Closet Organized!

I did get the office closet organized and it is so much easier now to go in there and find what I need.  The girls like it too because they can see their art supplies at a glance.  Keep in mind that this wasn't a fancy re-do.  I simply used what I had on hand to make sense of this closet.  It was free to do since I didn't purchase any organizational stuff to make it happen.

I have a bookshelf in the closet that works well for the art bin and paper, but I needed more shelves.  So, I took a look in the attic and found two white crates that work well now as "shelves".  The crates house the crayons, colored pencils, markers, and extra writing utensils like pens, pencils, highlighters, etc.

The orange basket matches absolutely  nothing, but it is perfect for keeping all of our stationary, cardstock, and thank you notes in one place.  This shelf of the closet has the printer paper, stencils, paint, and rubber stamp collection.

We have small closets in our home, so I have my hanging clothes in the office closet.  I organized them by color in an effort to find what I want quickly.  It seems to be working out well so far and I like how the colors look when I open the doors.

I had to share this beautiful sign with you!  Julie, our oldest daughter, made this for me several years ago and it is posted right above the office closet door.  I love seeing it every day.

Heather's Scrap Quilt

I know I mentioned my daughter's quilt when I posted about the Master List.  I so wanted to get it done before her birthday (beginning of June), but it just didn't happen.  I had some time this week to work on it and this is what is finished so far.

We both agreed that it needs borders to make it larger, so we are going fabric shopping this weekend to see what might look nice.  Heather designed her scrap quilt using the fabrics I had on hand.  This quilt is just like her - vibrant, colorful, and beautiful.  I can't wait to see how it turns out when it's completed.  I'll keep you updated!

Julie's T-shirt Pillow

I also finished a t-shirt pillow for Julie.  She had painted this picture on a t-shirt a few summers ago during one of the summer reading programs at our library.  It's so cute, but doesn't fit her anymore, so I simply sewed around the open edges of the t-shirt, stuffed it, and closed the opening by hand.  She is happy with it and I am glad to have it off my sewing table!

In addition, I was able to mend a tank top that had been sitting on my sewing table for several months, make three pair of shorts from jeans that had seen better days, and complete a table runner that has been sitting on my sewing table for nearly 8 months.  I ran out of fabric for the back and had set it aside.  Now it adorns the top of my nightstand and I love it.  Yes, I got a little crazy with the purples!

So, that's been my week as far as accomplishing some unfinished tasks.  I am feeling pretty good about it...until I look at the Master List again! 

All my best to you today,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Counting the Blessings and Simple Joys of Life

I have become complacent lately. What I mean is that I tend to focus so much on my "to-do" list and the guilt I have about not accomplishing everything I'd like to in life that I walk around in a constant state of 'wanting'. I feel if I am just existing in some ways and not really living. 

Do you ever feel this way?  Am I alone in this?

It's like being in a state of if I am waiting for something big to happen to make my life what it "should be". Why? My goodness, I am a blessed woman! What is wrong with me? Shame on me...

I came across this beautiful and inspiring blog last week and made a note to myself (yes, I added it to my to-do list) to pay attention and begin praying about and looking for the abundant blessings in my life. To that end, I am going to be joining in on Counting One Thousand Gifts.

Each Monday, I will share blessings and gifts the Lord has graciously given me or shown to me.  I need to be thankful!

I need to realize that life is quickly passing me by while I try to knock out the never-ending to-do list.  I need to realize that our girls won't be around forever and I need to enjoy them more each and every day.

My husband...he is this amazing man and I have neglected him much as of late.  That needs to change today.  There are so many people in my life whom I love and adore and I am missing out on loving them the way I should.  

No more...Lord willing, I am going to change.  Family and friends, be patient with me.

I am hoping that perhaps others who may be feeling like me will be encouraged today.  It is my heart to encourage others and to love others with the love of Christ.  This list of thanks and simple blessings is not necessarily tangible, but I am praying it will speak to hearts and minds.

holy experience

  1. Time spent with family laughing
  2. Smiles on my daughter's faces that say, "I love you"
  3. A husband who loves me despite my many, many flaws
  4. Pretty $1.00 wall decals that I found at the Dollar Tree 
  5. Fresh red raspberries from Dad and Mom's garden
  6. Breakfast with my Daddy over Father's Day weekend
  7. Breakfast with Momma over Mother's Day weekend
  8. Seeing my brother smile (it's rare) and feeling him hug me back
  9. Sweet hugs from my daughters for no apparent reason
  10. A note in the mail from a loved one
  11. Sitting on the patio listening to the birds sing and enjoying the peace of the day before things get rolling
  12. Watching our girls read book after book 
  13. Date night with my hubby Jeff
  14. The freedom to write
  15. Learning the details of quilting and sewing from Momma
  16. Flowers of summer
  17. The knowledge that the Lord never turns His back on me...He is waiting for me to turn my face upward to Him and share my heart with Him.  Oh the Love of still amazes me and baffles me nearly 17 years of being a Christian.  
  18. Rainy days to just stay inside and enjoy board games
  19. A cup of hot coffee in the morning (even if it is decaf)
  20. Fabric for 50 cents at a garage sale that became a pretty tablecloth after sewing two long seams
All my best to you today,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Strawberry Jam - Momma's Way

Strawberry jam is a staple in our house.  We go through several jars every year.  However, I usually end up purchasing jelly for my daughter because she is somewhat particular about her food choices and does not care for the bits and pieces of strawberries in her jam.  Well, this year, my Momma came to the rescue!  She came up with a new-to-me and delicious way of making strawberry jam that my daughter will actually eat.  For anyone who knows our family and my struggle with having particular'll know that this is huge!  So, here is how I made my strawberry jam this year.

First, clean all of your berries.  I had 13 quarts of fresh berries to clean when we returned from Dad and Mom's a few weekends ago.  They're so good to us!  Dad and I even had a nice cool morning to pick berries before the storms rolled in.  This isn't all of the berries, but you get the idea.

Ingredients and Equipment
5 cups strawberries, blended in the blender
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 box store-bought pectin or 1/3 cup bulk pectin
Clean and sanitized jelly jars, lids, and bands
Funnel with wide mouth
Glass or plastic measuring cup with spout
Large pot (6 to 8-quart)
Small saucepan with water
Stirring spoon
Clean dishtowel
Oven mitts

Place your canning jars into a deep pan or onto a cookie sheet.  Put them into a cold oven.  Turn the oven temperature on to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  The jars and oven will heat up together, preparing the jars to receive the hot jam when it's ready.  A good guideline for the number of canning jars you'll need is:  4 pint jars or 8 jelly jars per one batch of jam.

Fill a small saucepan 1/2 full with water.  Bring the water to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a lower setting (like simmer) and place the lids (not the bands) into the water and cover. Allow the lids to sit in the hot water until you are ready to seal the jars.

Measure 6 1/2 cups of sugar into a large bowl.  Set aside.  You'll be adding all of your sugar at once, so it needs to be ready before it's time to add it to the boiling strawberry jam mixture.  The recipe I've used in the past calls for 7 cups of sugar, but I used 1/2 cup less this time and the jam still turned out beautifully.

Pull out your blender.  Yes, the blender.  I thought that it was a big "faux pas" to blend your fruit, but I have tasted this jam and it is so very delicious.
Blend berries just until they're all liquid-like.  I used the pulse function on my blender.  Measure out 5 cups of blended berries.
Now put the 5 cups of blended berries into your stock pot or Dutch oven on top of the stove.  Add 1/3 cup of bulk pectin (or a box of your favorite pectin from the store) and a pat of butter.  The pat of butter keeps the mixture from boiling over.  I couldn't begin to explain the scientific reason behind it, I just know it works so I do it faithfully.  The few times I have forgotten, I have had a mess on my stove!

As soon as the mixture comes to a rolling boil, allow it to boil for one minute.

What is a rolling boil?  If you can place a spoon into the mixture and stir it without the boiling coming to a stop, you have a rolling boil.

Pour the entire 6 1/2 cups of sugar into the pot with the strawberries and pectin.
Return the mixture to a rolling boil and allow the mixture to remain at the rolling boil for one full minute.  Continue to stir so the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

After one full minute at a rolling boil, remove the strawberry jam mixture from the heat.  Using a large spoon, skim any foam from the top.

Now you are going to fill the heated jars with strawberry jam.  Remove your heated jars from the oven using oven mitts.  Using a wide mouth funnel, fill the jars with jam to 1/4 inch from the top of the jar mouth.  I usually fill one jar at a time and then seal it before moving on to the next jar.  I've seen my Momma fill three jars with jam and then seal all three and it works too.  Do what works for you.

I always keep an "extra" jar handy for the small amounts of jam that may or may not fit into the jars you have on hand.  I don't always have four of the same size jars available, so I sometimes end up with a small amount that won't fill an entirely new jar.  That's ok - just put that small amount into a jar that you can put into the refrigerator and enjoy right away.

Wipe the jar rim and thread completely.  Cover the jar quickly with a flat lid, using the heated lids in the saucepan.  Screw the bands on tightly.  Place the jars onto a wire rack to cool.  You should soon hear the fun sound of the lids "popping" which means the jam has sealed and will keep on the shelf for at least two years. 

Disclaimer:  My Momma and I have made jam for years without processing them in a water bath canner.  Neither of us had ever had an issue with the jam doing it this way.  However, I will say that the new canning guidelines out there call for processing jam in a water bath canner for at least 15 minutes.  I don't do it...but that doesn't mean you can't. 

We now have 7 batches of fresh strawberry jam in the pantry (well...minus a few jars shared with friends and family).  I am so thankful that this is jam my daughter will eat!  No more worrying about purchasing a separate jam for her.  Yes!

One friend said this jam tasted like "strawberry cheesecake"!  I am getting hungry...

The bounty of this season is so exciting!  Canning can be tiring and time consuming, but oh the rewards

All my best to you this Sunday morning.  May you and yours be blessed during your worship and praise time today.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yard Sale Metal Candle Holders Transformed!

Last week I posted a Master List in an effort to keep myself accountable and on task.  Well, I did accomplish one task!  In honor of that, I'm linking to Amy's Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays.

I had purchased five metal candle holders with the glass inserts inside at a yard sale back in April and had yet to do anything with them.

I must admit to a budding love affair with spray paint - it is so easy and so much fun!  And, it transforms items into something completely new without much fuss or money.  That's my kind of "re-do" for sure.

The candle holders looked like this when I bought them:

Not the most attractive things in the world right now, but I was envisioning summer nights with candlelight on the I bought five of them with hopes of making them look better.  Now I am kicking myself for not purchasing the entire box because I am tickled with the way they turned out.  Ah well, who knows - I may find more another day.

When the glass inserts were removed, the inside of the holders looked like this:

I decided to paint the two black ones pure white and the gold ones a brushed silver color.  First, I removed the glass candle inserts.  Those were washed and freed of the old candles inside.  Next, I spray painted the metal holders with a few coats of spray paint.  I really like Krylon spray paint products.  So far, they've covered the best and are very reasonable in price at about $2.97 per can at Wal-Mart.

The brushed nickel ones turned out like this:

At first, I placed the gold colored glass inserts back in, but immediately realized I didn't like the two colors together at all, so I spray painted the glass inserts the same brushed nickel color.  It's not the contrast for which I was hoping, but I still think they turned out well.  Aren't they classy?

The black metal painted white turned out like this:

Very tickled with these!  I love how the blue glass comes through the white.  Can't wait to see these illuminated on a summer night very soon!

I'll try to remember to take a photo while the candles are lit inside the holders.  In my mind, it's pretty!  

Until next time...all my best to you,

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coming Soon...

I have truly neglected my 'lil blog as of late!  I just wanted to let you know about a few posts that are coming soon so hopefully you won't give up on me altogether and will return soon to see what is new.   

I so appreciate each and every one of you who have taken the time to follow my humble 'lil blog.  Thank you, thank you!

Some of these topics are based on my Master List whereas others are simply things I'd like to share in hopes of encouraging someone else to get creative and perhaps learn something new this summer. 

Here is what coming soon!  
  • Strawberry jam recipe and tutorial - click here
  • My finished .50 candle holders - painted and pretty!  See them here.
  • Photos of the organized office closet (woo-hoo!)  Finally - a few photos
  • Musings on home education and our year
  • Recipe for one of my favorite chocolate desserts - it's easy and ever-so-delicious!  Chocolate Mint Crisps Recipe
  • Country walk...if I can get the photos from my phone onto the computer...any computer techies out there that could help me with that?  Update:  never could get it to work...
  • Thoughts on aging parents...and the role of the oldest child.  This one may take a while for me to formulate.  It's a difficult topic for me, but one I know that the Lord is preparing me to face in not too many years.  Update:  I've decided I'm not quite ready for this one...
I certainly hope you'll return to see what's new!  I promise to do my best to get some new material up in the next few days.  

I think I really like this new choice of text.  Any thoughts?
Until then...all my best to you.