Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stitch Fix #1

Wow. Who knew I even still had access to this blog? Well, since I am here after an over 2 year break, I might as well tell you why.

I signed up for the online style company, Stitch Fix, and commented on Facebook about getting my first fix yesterday. Seems like a lot of friends have either never heard of it, and wanted details, or have thought about joining and wanted to know how it worked for me. So instead of boring those FB friends who could care less about my wardrobe choices, I decided to dust off the old blog and add a few pics and my review of my first Stitch Fix.

You can learn all about it on their website, but here is my quick explanation of how Stitch Fix works:
1. You sign up at the link above (that gives me a small referral bonus), answer a lot of questions about your personal style, sizes, preferences of dressiness, cost for each item, etc . . . and they send you a box of 5 things, personally picked for you from one of their stylists.
2. There is a $20 styling fee, which is subtracted from the price of anything in your box you choose to keep. Obviously, there is a huge advantage to keeping at least one thing!
3. You have three days to decide what you want to keep and they include a pre-paid envelope to send back anything you don't want.

You can customize it in so many ways. You can send a message to your stylist asking for specific things, like a dress to wear to a wedding or a pair of ankle jeans (that was my request this month!) You can set your preference for how often you get a fix - anything from once every 2-3 weeks to waiting 3 months between fixes. You can link your profile to a Pinterest board showing your own personal style and when you checkout online after you've made your decisioin about what to keep, you can be very specific with your stylist on what you liked or did not like about what they sent you. Oh, and they send you a style card with each item to suggest ways to wear it. Apparently, after a few fixes, they start suggesting how to pair it with things they have already sent you!

All in all, it seems like a no-brainer for me, as dragging my kids into a store to shop is torture, for them and me. And since I do so much of my shopping at Kohls or Target, it seemed like a great way to try something new.

One more note: I'm going into this with a willingness to spend more on quality items than I have in the past. I've decided I must love it to keep it and if I love it, and I know I'll wear it, then I'll spend more than the typical Kohl's sale price I'm used to. I'm at the stage in life that I'm sick of buying things that last only one season because they are so cheaply made. Also, it has to be versatile and work with other things in my closet. I'm not into a single outfit costing that much if I can't mix it up. my disclaimer in case you get sticker shock with prices, which I've decided to include to help you have an accurate view of the process.

Okay, on to my first fix! Here is what they sent me:

Eamon Utility Vest

Collective Concepts
Pamela V-neck Blouse
White Button Neck Striped Shift Dress
Mavi Gold
Aides Ankle Length Skinny Jean
and . . .
Jill Michael
Aurelia Double Teardrop Necklace
 I LOVE the blouse. Totally not something I would have ever taken off the rack to try on. I usually stick to solids on top, but this was a fun choice. I know I could mix it with other things in my wardrobe, so it was instantly a keeper. The jeans fit me well, and Dan said he liked them, so they are keepers also.
 Pardon my jaundiced-looking skin here. I don't have a personal photographer. This is the necklace. I'll be honest, I wouldn't usually pay this much for a necklace, and Dan and I had a discussion as to whether I should just go to Kohl's or Old Navy to find something I like, but I really do LOVE this necklace, and I love that they sent it along because it works well with both outfits. So technically I'm still on the fence about keeping it, but I'm leaning towards it.
This is the second outfit, which my stylist told me to pair together. I really wanted to love it, but the material on the shift dress was too thin, and kinda clung to those parts I like to hide. And I don't think I would wear it in the summer, with the long sleeves. Too bad, because the price was good and I really liked it paired with the vest. I had specifically asked for an olive vest for layering, but I found an olive jacket at Old Navy a few weeks ago for WAY cheaper and I can't justify paying that much for such a trendy item. It was a beautiful vest, though. Great feel to the fabric and good length. But this outfit didn't match my requirements of LOVING IT and VERSATILITY, so back it goes.

Well, there you go! My first Stitch Fix and I'm sold. Can't wait until my next one arrives!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Almost Done!

March 21st - What's your biggest fear?

Mice, centipedes, cancer, heart attacks. In order of importance. Wait, no, switch those first two.

March 22nd - What do you do when you are home all alone?

I'm sorry, I don't understand the question? Home alone? I don't know if this has ever actually happened, but I can imagine that I would wander around aimlessly, hearing tiny voices in my head asking me what they could eat.

March 23rd - Do you have a hobby?

Yes! I knit and quilt. Those are my main hobbies, but I also attempt to garden and I enjoy reading when I have the time.

March 24th - Describe your most embarrassing moment
Boy, oh boy, do I have a plethora of embarrassing moments to choose from. There was the time Dan and I were out celebrating our anniversary and I slipped away to use the restroom and promptly walked into the men's bathroom where a gentleman was um . . . how shall we say it . . . finishing up? I shrieked and apologized and then had to walk right past his table on my way out of the woman's restroom. That sad fact is I have walked into many men's restrooms on accident, only to figure it out when I spied the urinals. Once I didn't see the urinal until I was finished. My husband does not understand how this keeps happening.

Then there was the time I jumped on top of my brother-in-law, lounging on a hotel room bed, after mistaking him for my husband. Although he claims that is his most embarrassing moment.

And also there was the time I met the CEO of my husband's rather large corporation at Soldier Field in Chicago, minutes before a Chicago (the band) concert and he asked me if I was a fan and I was thinking football, so I said, "No, we are Green Bay fans." and he looked at me like I was an idiot.

Oh, and a few weeks ago a kid from Awana asked me if he could cross the street with me, and unbeknownst to me, his mom was right behind him and had told him to wait. I said, "Sure!" and then he promptly bolted out past me and almost got hit by a car. Although, I argue that was the kid's fault, not mine, but I was still embarrassed.

I have a lot of these stories, but luckily I forget most of them after a few days, because if I didn't, I could fill an entire blog of embarrassing Donette moments. 

March 25th - Describe your location.

Slightly in the country, wooded lot that keeps the family and I absorbed in nature. We love it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons from the March Challenge

On this first day of spring, March 20th, while it is 13 degrees, with a wind chill of -3, I think it is a good time to ruminate on what this March Blogging Challenge has taught me. Here is my nugget of wisdom: I don't do well with blogging everyday. Brilliant, I know. Life is too full for me to sit and think and write everyday. So for the rest of the challenge, I'm embracing the catch-up. I think I'll post multiple answers in a single post to keep me on track.

March 16th - What's My Biggest Accomplishment?

Ugh. This sounds like the one about what makes me awesome. Let's just keep this short, sweet and simple. I've managed to feed my family daily meals for close to 14 years. Yay me.

March 17th - Why and When Did I Start Blogging?

I started blogging on September 9, 2006. I had a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old. I think I started it because I wanted to share pictures of my kiddos, but also because I was fully into reading other's blogs and I felt like I had something to share, also. Those were fun days, when I would read an article and think deeply on it and share it on my own blog. I don't feel like I get to do that as much today, or maybe I'm just a bit more private of my thoughts concerning articles I read, as maturity has shown me the wisdom of keeping some things to myself. Either way, I look back at those days with sweet reminiscence. I'm glad I have this online journal to share.

March 18th - Where am I Happiest?

Referencing this post should make it obvious. Anywhere near water. I think I'm most happiest near the water because my whole family loves it so much. Dan grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes and has always been happiest near water, and his peace of mind on the lake has influenced me to be happy and peaceful there, too. And what kid isn't happy in a pile of sand at the beach? When my whole family is having a good time, I am at my happiest.

March 19th - List 5 Blogs I Read on a Daily Basis and Why

There are not many blogs that I keep up with on a daily basis, but when they do post, I always read! - Informing the Reforming. This is a daily blogger who I've probably read the longest. He is a reformed Christian author who blogs about spiritual matters, book reviews and has a daily "a la carte" post that links to news stories that might interest those of us who claim the name of Christ. I definitely read this site every day.

The Pioneer Woman - What can I say? I love her photographs, I make a ton of her recipes, she has a homeschooling tab where the main contributor posts community questions, reviews educational tools and writes encouraging posts. It's just about my favorite site.

Practical Theology for Women - While Wendy, the author, doesn't publish on a set schedule, I adore almost everything she writes. She has such a consistent theology that she applies to everyday situations, and she's not afraid to call out the big guys in our circles when they are inconsistent. She has the most logical and rational view of a woman's role that lines up with Scripture of any writer that I've read in conservative Christian circles and her posts always make me rethink and evaluate what I say I believe. It's a great blog.

Style by Emily Henderson - I'm not even sure where I learned about this site, but she is the winner of HGTV's Design Star (which I've never watched) and does she have a unique look! I love that she designs using thrifted and antique pieces, usually preferring them over new. While I don't love every space she does, I do always learn something new about design. A lot of design blogs just show you what they like, Emily shows you what she likes and then tells you how to make it work in your space. Did I mention that I learn a lot from this site?

A Cup of Jo - Food & Drink, Fashion, Home Design, Motherhood, this blogger tackles it all. Trendy New York writer, and while I can't afford most of what she posts, I still like to see what inspires her. Makes me feel like I know what is in style.

March 20th - What do I Collect?

I've given this piece of advice to numerous brides - never tell people what you collect. I made the mistake of publishing that Dan and I collected Lighthouses on every bridal shower invite and whodathunkit, but we received A LOT of decorative lighthouses. Like enough to fill a maritime museum. And while I loved it at first, when we started to tire of them, I had nothing else with which to decorate. I was trapped in a lighthouse vacuum. So if you ask me what I collect now I will say, "Hugs and kisses. You can never have too many of those."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Let's Play Catch-Up

3 days down and out with the flu, and then 3 more days trying to make up for lying immobile on the couch means I am way behind in blogging. And this, my dear reader, is why I do not blog everyday, or every month even. So let's play catch-up.

March 11th - The Last Book I Read:

Seven by Jen Hatmaker. I really want to do a full post on this book, so I'll leave it at that for now. Currently reading The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl and next on the docket is The Big Burn by Timothy Egan.

March 12th - Something I Miss

Summer. And warm weather. And the ability to take a full, confident stride outdoors without falling.

March 13th - Do I Have Any Regrets?

Yes. Many. I am a sinner and too often I've chosen to do what I knew was wrong, but wanted anyway. And usually it ended disastrously, and I grieved the heart of my Savior. But since I understand that because of the cross all my sins are forgiven, past, present and future, I try not to dwell in self-condemnation.

March 14th - What's on my iPod?

Newsboys, Jars of Clay, Mumford & Sons, Adele and misc. songs from Sovereign Grace Music that we sing at our church. Oh, and a bunch of 90's Christian Contemporary music that my husband refuses to delete, like Avalon.

March 15th - 15 Things that Make Me Awesome

No. I'm not going to do that.

Whew! All caught up for now. Let's see how many of these posts I have to do before March is over.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10th - Daily Routine

Here is my typical Monday, which looks a lot like Wednesday and Thursday:

6:00-6:30 AM: shower and get dressed for the day (i.e. slip back into comfy yoga pants)

7:30 - Make eggs or oatmeal for family breakfast. Sometimes we cheat and eat cold cereal, but I try not to do that often.

8:00 - clean up kitchen, check email and facebook, read a bit of Scripture or another book.

9:00 - School starts. The kids and I usually start the day off reading about another nation and praying for them, then we read our history lesson.

9:30 - Kids start on their seat work. I work with them on individual subjects like math and language arts until around noon.

12:00 - lunch, which is usually PB&J for the kids and leftovers for me. (Anyone ever wonder how much peanut butter they've eaten in their lifetime? I'm scared to think how many jars I've eaten!)

1:00 - My parents get home from their job and me and the kids usually hang out with them for a bit, catching up on the day and looking for birds.

2:00 - Read science to the kids and any read-aloud book assigned. Right now we are reading "The 21 Balloons" which I remember from my 5th grade year as one of the coolest books ever. I think I over-hyped it, as the kids aren't as excited about it as I was.

3:00 - chores around the house. You know, exciting stuff like supper preparation and laundry.

5:30 - dinner when Dan gets home

6:00 - I go to Jazzercise

7:00 - come home to whatever craziness has ensued while I was absent. Sometimes we play board games (my 9 year old just licked both Dan and I in Monopoly - watch out, world, he's a tycoon!), sometimes we watch DVR'd episodes of Little House on the Prairie or Duck Dynasty, or see what's on PBS, sometimes we read a book.

8:30 - kids to bed, Dan and I usually read or watch TV until bed.

10:30 - lights out, just like the good ol' days at MBBC.

Tuesdays we volunteer for a few hours in the morning, so our school day is much lighter, and Fridays we try to have a short day so we can enjoy Dan being home, if he is able to swing it. Come warmer weather, TV watching will become almost non-existent as we love to be outside. Can't wait for that to happen!

Friday, March 08, 2013

March 9th - My Bucket List

Have you seen the movie "Bucket List"? I haven't, but I know the story is about 2 old men who try to do all the things they've wanted to do their whole lives before they die. I'm curious as to whether the movie coined the term "bucket list" or if it was around before. I had never heard of it until the movie came out.

Although I've never viewed it as a bucket list, I do have some goals and aspirations I would like to achieve before my time here on earth is done. Here are just 3 of them:

1. I would love to visit most, if not all the national parks in our country. As much as I would love to travel to other continents, I believe our country has enough to keep me content for some time. Our family is planning a trip out West to Yellowstone and some of the surrounding parks next year.

2. I think I've convinced myself to learn to ski - snow ski that is. I'll leave the water skiing to my husband. Watching my kids take to it so naturally and come home so excited about it has made me think, "What's the worse thing that can happen?" Death or dismemberment, I know, but realistically, I think I'm going to take lessons next year and see if I like it.

3. I would love to learn to play the piano, and if/when the kids start lessons, I plan on taking them right beside.

I figure if I can do those 3 things, that is enough to keep me busy until Kingdom come. Who knows, as I grow older I'm sure I'll add things to the list and maybe delete some (skiing - watch your back), but until then, these are a few of my goals.

March 8th - Biggest Pet Peeve

I've had to do some serious soul searching to figure this one out. I've already told you how I feel about loud chewers, that has got to be near the top of the list, but truthfully, I don't even know if I have a list of pet peeves! I do know that things annoy me, but usually I think it is more my problem than the other person's, so I try not to get too bent out of shape over it.

Mostly I know that I am an impatient person, so I get annoyed when I have to wait for someone or something. Have I mentioned before that I have 2 children? Yeah, so maybe I get annoyed a lot. =( I think the word most often used in our household is "Hurry!"

I am really frustrated by lack of customer service. Truthfully, my level of frustration rises enough that it probably surpasses the catagory of "pet peeve." I've never lost my temper with someone who gave me poor customer service, but I have told other people. I believe that if it is your job to deal with the public, then you have a responsibility to be kind and gracious. The times I've had terrible service are few and far between, but usually involve some government agency.

Lastly, as I've gotten older and have more responsibilities on my mind, I'm rather peeved by needless noise. I remember my Mom telling us to turn off music because she couldn't think, and as a teen who LOVED music, I just didn't get it. Now I do. Sorry 'bout that, Mom.

What pet peeves do you have?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

March 7th - My Dream Job

I think I'm supposed to begin this post by saying, "I've already got it, baby!" After all, I am home with my kids and able to teach them daily instead of having to send them off to school. And while it is an extreme privilege I don't take lightly, it can also be genuinely difficult, frustrating and exhausting.

So yes, there are days I dream of shuffling the little angels off to school and showering and dressing in something other than yoga pants and having my hair done and perfect makeup to go off into my world of adult interaction and fulfillment in a career. But it isn't what God has for me now, and I really am fine with that, but a girl can still imagine her dream job, right?

I know more about myself now than I did when I went to college and got a degree in education. I know now that my utmost desire is not to work in a traditional classroom, but my first love is still speech and drama, on which my education degree was centered. (I may or may not have spent last Saturday at a nesting bird seminar silently evaluating each public speaker and imagining how I could coach them to be more dynamic presenters.)

Occasionally Dan and I, and maybe the kids, get to attend a local theater production. While I appreciate all that goes on on the stage, I find myself drawn to the lights, the music, and the scenery the most. I adore letting my mind wander to the scene designer's choices and how s/he came up with the design. I visualize the light board and fantasize about being the one sitting at it and working the show. More than once I've left a show and started rambling to Dan on how I would love to work behind the scenes, maybe even as a volunteer, just to be back in the theater.

If the day comes when I do decide to shuffle the kids off to school, or heaven forbid, they actually choose to move away, I think my first order of business will be looking into the local theater scene and worming my way back in.

Or maybe I'll open a fabric shop. Or work at a local yarn store. Or start my own book club. Oh, maybe I should run for public office. Or write a cookbook . . . we are talking about dreams here, aren't we?

Okay lovely readers, I want to know what your dream job is!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

March 6th - Random Act of Kindness

I think I was supposed to write about my most recent random act of kindness, but I don't like to talk about myself (HA - this blog is about my life, right?) But seriously, I do believe that trumpeting my good deeds to the world accomplishes the exact opposite of what I want. It makes much of me, instead of my Savior, whose love compels me toward good deeds, and it diminishes the joy you receive by kindness. Instead, I'll follow Missy's lead and talk about a random act of kindness done to me.

This past summer, we attended a birthday party for a friend from college. It was at a park and while our kids happily ran around with all the other little munchkins there, I sat and talked with one of my dearest friends for most of the evening. At some point, another person sat down and started talking to the two of us. She was a friend of a friend and after introductions were made, she started asking really good questions that kept the conversation flowing, instead of that awkward silence that usually follows a cold introduction. I casually mentioned Dan and I had taken up sailing (and by Dan and I, I mean Dan). She loves sailing and we talked for quite a while about the joys and my fears surrounding the sport. At the end of the evening, she casually said she'd look me up on Facebook and we parted ways.

Months have passed, and other than seeing her occasional update on my news feed in Facebook, we haven't interacted at all. A few weeks ago she posted a question about a book I've been wanting to read and I commented that I should buy it, but I keep waiting for my library to get it in so I don't have to spend the money. She quickly messaged me asking for my address and a few days later the book arrived in my mailbox. Totally unexpected act of kindness, which completely made me giddy for the rest of the day.

What book did she send me? You'll have to wait until the 11th, when I plan to write about the last book I read.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

March 5th - Favorite Movies I Never Get Sick of Watching

Ummm, did you notice my #5 on this post? I am not, nor ever have been, a movie person. I'll watch it, but most likely I'll fall asleep and miss the most important parts. Sorry, but movies are not my cup o' tea. But if I have to do this, here are a couple that I don't mind watching more than once:

#1. Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version. I own this - that alone should show you how much I value this production, since our movie collection only has about 6 titles.

#2. The Harry Potter Series. Loved the books, loved the movies. Won't let my kids watch past #2 yet, but I still desire to own them all.

#3. The Princess Bride. Only because it reminds me of almost every get-together I ever had as a teenager.

And my guilty pleasure:

#4. Tommy Boy. I'm a sucker for slapstick comedy and this too reminds me of my high school days.

Just so you know, I'm slightly embarrassed to have just admitted to that last one. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

March 4th - My Favorite Childhood Memory

Wait, I'm supposed to write about my FAVORITE childhood memory? That's nearly impossible! How am I supposed to boil down 18 years of a loving, supportive family, great friends and countless gifts and celebrations down to ONE favorite memory? Well, I'm a slave to this challenge, so I will try.

I grew up, um, how shall we say it . . . not quite up to the middle-class rung on the socioeconomic ladder. I don't want to say we were poor, God was gracious to give us what we needed, but not a whole lot more. We never missed a meal, although my Mom will say we ate too much boxed Mac 'n Cheese. We never went naked, but I wore A LOT of hand-me-downs. We never went through long bouts of unemployment, but my parents weren't scaling the corporate ladder at the Big Business downtown, either. My parents taught me a lot about how to live on a little (Mom is still trying to teach me how to throw together a meal without a recipe and specific ingredients), and my parents gave money faithfully to our church and scrimped and saved to be able to send us to a Christian school. I say all of this just to set the scene that non-holiday presents were scarce and completely unexpected.

My Mom had just started working at this new clothing store in town, Kohl's. (It cracks me up to think how we didn't know anything about this franchise, since now I live in the state of it's headquarters and 90% of my wardrobe comes from there!) It was the mid 80's, and Cabbage Patch Dolls were the toy du jour, and crazy parents were nearly killing each other for the last doll on the shelf. Of course I wanted one, but they were way too expensive and it wasn't my birthday or Christmas. Maybe I begged for one, but I don't remember being exceptionally annoying about it, more likely I knew it wasn't in the stars for me to have one. Of course, I always did the right thing in my memories of my childhood, so I don't claim that specific detail to be 100% true, but you'll have to find my parents and grill them on their memories to see if they differ.

On that fateful day, my Mom came home from her shift and called me into our kitchen. She had a giant plastic bag and told me it was for me. I remember being absolutely stunned to receive a gift out of nowhere, and genuinely shocked when I pulled out a brand new Cabbage Patch Doll from the bag. She had orange yarn hair, and while I remember them being named rather odd names, I can't remember hers. I named her Kimberly, and she instantly became my favorite doll. I dressed her in some of my old baby clothes, which were always disproportionate to her size. But I loved her and played with her for endless hours and never forgot that special gift.

Even Alli enjoys my favorite doll, still dressed in old baby clothes! 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

March 3rd - What Makes Me Happy

A list? No, it's Sunday afternoon and I'm too tired to think that hard. Let's keep this simple. Here are some pictures that best defines when I am most happy:

Being with my babies on the lake

 Riding in the boat (but not necessarily driving)

 Camping with the family, near the water, of course!

Walks on the beach

Are you sensing a theme yet?!

March 2nd - Favorite Quote(s)

I'll leave it to the masterfully simple-yet-eloquent C.S. Lewis . . .

"… it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Friday, March 01, 2013

She's ALIVE!!!

Yes, it has been over a year since I last posted. "What has happened?" you may ask. Much. Much has happened, but mostly life. Moving, homeschooling, etc. . .  has eaten up too much of my time for me to sit and compose a post. I'm sure you understand.

Then I came across this little blog challenge, and far be it from me to shy away from a challenge (anyone who knows me is laughing right now, remembering how often I quit) and I decided that maybe it would help jump start my blogging habit again.

But I'm not making any promises.

Day 1: Self portrait and 5 random facts about yourself. Here goes:

I couldn't find a more recent picture of me that I was willing to share, so here is one of my family and I at Christmas. Alli thought it was supposed to be a funny pic - hence the snarl.

Random Fact #1: I hate the sound of chewing. If you are a loud chewer, please do not sit next to me at any meal. Only problem is that I married one. Yes, good people, that strikingly handsome man in the picture above is a loud chewer. Wait, this is supposed to be facts about me, right? Oops!

Random Fact #2: I have worn a size 7 shoe for most of my life, but recently I've started buying size 7 1/2. Can feet grow with age?

Random Fact #3: I took up knitting about a year ago and have fallen in love with it. I'm still knitting small items, but I hope to start a sweater soon!

Random Fact #4: I keep telling myself that we mostly eat a non-processed diet. I mean, I KEEP telling myself this, even as I make Velveeta soup. But hey, we are trying!

Random Fact #5: I've fallen asleep during more movies than I've actually finished watching. Start a movie and turn off the lights and I'm out. It's like a lullaby to me.

So there you have it! Hoping to keep up with the challenge this month, but at this point, more than one post in 12 months will be a victory for me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favorite Vegetable 1 - Parsnip Fries

Ever since I started my crazy bean diet, I have tried to find new and interesting ways to eat vegetables. After all, one can only eat so many baby carrots and steamed broccoli. As I made dinner tonight, which included one of my favorite new vegetables, I decided to write a series of posts highlighting my most-beloved ways of preparing them.

Enter . . . Parsnips.

I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit I had never had a parsnip before the bean diet. I'm not sure I would have even recognized one in a line-up if asked. So here is a picture of a parsnip, in case you wondered. Our local store, The Pig sells them pre-packaged in bags, usually containing 8-10 parsnips, perfect for feeding our family of 4.

I begin by peeling and cutting the parsnips into fries. Since they can be rather odd-shaped, thick at one end and itty-bitty skinny on the other, I usually quarter the thick end and only half the skinny end to keep them similar in size.

In a separate bowl (sorry no picture - who do you think I am? The Pioneer Woman?) mix 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you don't like much heat). To the spice mixture add 3 Tbsp. olive oil. 

Coat the parsnips with the spice and oil mixture and put in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes. In case you wondered, I had used some of the parsnips for another dish (this one!) and so my pile is a bit smaller than it would have been if I had used the whole bag.

When they are done, they will be crispy and slightly dark. That is okay. They taste sweet and spicy with the cayenne and are really good. Even my kids eat these up.

Try them some night as a side dish. You might be surprised, like I was, at how tasty they can be!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

 Despite consistent failure, every year I make a list of resolutions. Some years it has only been one or two things which I want to focus on completing, and some years it is a full-on list of many decisions that I view would make my life better. For the last couple of years, I have worked more around a general theme that encompasses some of what I want to change.

In 2011, I wanted to Love More. For reasons I won't get into, I felt like I had spent the years before kind of in a state of withdrawal, partly because I had been hurt and partly because I had selfishly taken on too much in the name of serving God. I had been working myself into quite a state trying in my own power to do everything I thought God wanted or expected me to do. It took a good friend to remind me that Jesus told us His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And it didn't seem that way at the time, so Dan and I took a deliberate effort to slowly unwind those binding cords and focus on what we knew God had given us.

So, along came last year and after a good 12 months of stepping back, I really wanted to take one baby step forward. I wanted to actively love others, outside of my immediate family, since I felt like I had lacked in that area. But then I found out I was pregnant, and the endless Dr's appointments and subsequent surgeries and stays in the hospital (which Dan lovingly called our most expensive home) and bed rest helped push that goal completely out of my mind.
Then we lost Stephen and I was consumed with grief. And that focus took up most of the rest of the year. And while I won't say I'm no longer grieving, it is different now. Not quite as raw, the moments that I'm overtaken are further apart and shorter. Basically, I'm able to function now, quite normally, while still tending my aching heart and trying to help my children process the grief as well.

Then 2012 stared sneaking up on me. And I was back on the bandwagon of resolutions (exercise more, lose weight, read more, stay in contact with family better, etc. . . ) But I felt like 2011's theme was wasted. That I didn't really love anyone better last year. Once again, God sent a friend to remind me that even though last year didn't look a thing like I had planned, He was still working in me. And although my loving others didn't pan out like I had envisioned, He was growing in me love, and a desire to help those who are hurting and love the unlovely. He cultivated a new compassion, tender young sprout that it is, and He was faithful to bring me to His goals, without my direct involvement. And while I could wax eloquent about the theology behind "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling" I had certainly not given adequate emphasis on the "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13)

So for this "make-a-list-and-stick-to-it" girl, it was exactly what I needed to learn in 2011. 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Beef Stew with Molasses and Raisins

Quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten. And I'm not exaggerating . . .

Beef Stew with Molasses and Raisins

1/3 c. flour
2 tsp salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
5 Tbs oil, divided
2 medium onions, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup beef broth
3 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp celery salt
1 bay leaf
8 oz baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
2 parsnips, diced
1/3 c. golden raisins

1. Combine flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Toss meat in flour mixture. Heat 2 Tbs oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of beef and brown on all sides. Set aside browned beef and repeat with 2 additional tablespoons oil and remaining beef.

2. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to skillet. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add tomatoes, broth, molasses, vinegar, garlic, thyme, celery salt, bay leaf and remaining beef and boil 1 minute.

3. Transfer mixture to Crock pot. Cover, cook on low 5 hours or on High 2 1/2 hours. Add carrots, parsnips and raisins. Cook 1 to 2 hours longer or until vegetables are tender. Remove and discard bay leaf.

*My Modifications: I didn't have diced tomatoes, so I used a large can of whole tomatoes and cut them up, but added the juice also. I probably added another 1/2 cup broth, because I wanted it with a bit more juice, and I didn't add the celery salt because I didn't have any.

Also, I did all of this in my dutch oven and put it in a 300 degree oven (even added the vegetables right away) and let it cook for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours.

It was perfectly divine. Definitely 5 stars on this one!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

None But Christ

We sang this song at church on Sunday, and I am reminded of my sinful tendencies to run after so many things that ultimately do not satisfy. What empty pursuits I so earnestly seek! This is one of my favorite songs and unfortunately it is not available anywhere online to which I can link. That is because it is an old poem, whose author is unknown, or at least debated, and my friend wrote the music to go with it. I wish you could hear the tune, as it makes the words that much more meaningful, but you'll have to be content with the lyrics, unless you ask me to sing it for you . . .

O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.

Now none but Christ can satisfy,
No other name for me;
There's love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.

I sighed for rest and happiness,
I yearned for them, not Thee;
But while I passed my Saviour by,
His love laid hold on me.

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah! the waters failed!
E'en as I stooped to drink they'd fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.

The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace the sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.

That last verse always gets to me. Praise God that he opened my eyes to His loveliness and keeps pursuing me even when I try to replace Him.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Honored and Remembered

Today is the day that our Stephen would have been born. At least, the day he was due, as calculated using our limited human intelligence to determine. But God knew he would never have a home here with us, that his life would be a vapor that lasted only 5 months.

While I've known for a while that we wanted to honor Stephen today, I wasn't sure how we should do it. Until the Holy Spirit brought me the perfect idea, and instantly Dan and the kids were on board . . . we used today as the chance to sponsor a through Compassion.

We searched using Stephen's birthday, June 7th, and found Alexander, a 7 year old who lives in Mexico. Since Elijah is 7, he was adamant that we choose this boy. So this morning, as the family all gathered around the computer, we committed to helping this boy financially, but more importantly, we committed to praying for him.

As tears rolled down my cheeks, Elijah said to me, "At least we know Stephen's death will work out for good - at least I think it will."

Yes, buddy, I think it will, too.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

October Unprocessed

I'm tempted to say that the October Unprocessed challenge was a bust. I'm tempted, because with a death occuring mid-way through the month, which required me to be out of state for 4 exhausting days, and then trying to get back into the groove the following week had us eating most anything that could be prepared quickly and without much thought. That meant that I raided my freezer and pantry, and while it wasn't terrible food, it was far from being unprocessed.

Although I'm tempted to admit failure, the truth is, the month did bestow a few gifts. First of all, I am more aware of what is going in our mouths each day. I'm committed to making healthier choices for all of us, but especially the kids, who are more inclined to snack on highly processed foods than I am. Dan is still a bit of a hold out. He'll eat whatever I serve without complaint, but we still have lively discussions about what constitutes healthy eating.

Secondly, as I type this, I have fresh, homemade crock-pot yogurt in my refrigerator and I must say, I am starting to enjoy the tartness of plain yogurt (okay, with a little homemade granola thrown in) and I think I'm getting my kids to eat it with less sugar than it's highly-processed cousin, Yoplait. I also have resumed making my own bread. And while it is time-consuming, the bread is so delicious and my family LOVES it and it is really hearty and filling. One sandwich goes a lot further on homemade bread than on the air-filled bread we were buying.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my health this month, and fighting the temptation to think that God owes me a long life if I'm careful about what I eat. But then I'm reminded of a man like Steve Jobs, who was by all accounts a very healthy eater (I think the only meat he ate was fish) and he was stricken with pacreatic cancer and dead by 57. It's been a battle to remind myself that God has my days numbered and while I should be a good steward of my body, and I admittedly feel much better when I'm eating well, it is up to His good pleasure to bring me home when He sees fit. Nothing I do can change that.

So maybe the challenge wasn't a complete bust. I failed it in so many ways, but it didn't fail me in giving me the renewed vigor to make smart choices and to shop differently as we move forward.

I'm hoping to post some of the new recipes I tried this month in the coming days, assuming I have the time. You might have noticed that I don't post as much as I say I will!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Prayer for Vegetables

Our oldest child has a sincere dislike for most anything from the vegetable family. This does not cause much of a problem at either breakfast or lunch, where fruit tend to dominate, but for dinner - boy, oh, boy - does this ever cause distress.

If you were a fly on our wall at most dinner times, you would get an eye and ear full (that is, if flies have ears?). It seems every dinner is plagued with complaining from one side of the table and pleading and demanding from the other. I'll leave it to you to figure out which side I'm sitting on. But as it is, I refuse to let my child determine his own diet, so the veggies must be eaten.

Before you start leaving suggestions as to how to get him to eat veggies cheerfully, I'm fairly certain we've tried it all. Butter, cheese, ranch dressing, holding your nose, mixing with food, drinking copious amounts of water and even pureeing them to secretly add to the main dish have been attempted and failed on most accounts. When we think we've discovered a way that he will tolerate, more times that not, by the next serving he has changed his mind and once again fights having to ingest them. On more than one occasion, I've reminded him that I caught him eating dog food multiple times as a toddler and then I reassure him that my green beans with bacon are much tastier than that, but no luck. He still won't budge.

So I wasn't surprised when he reported to his grandmother that he often prays that he will like vegetables. We've had that discussion, too. Unfortunately it hasn't seemed to work yet, and he is only too aware of that fact.

So where does that leave me? I'm praying and pleading with God, too. Only not that he would just eat the stupid vegetables and make my life and our dinner time more peaceful (although I would take it!) but I'm begging God to answer his tiny prayer. I'm asking God to give him the ability to do what is right, that is in this situation, to eat his vegetables without complaint, and to make it so powerfully different that he sees it as a direct answer from God. I want him to grow up knowing a God who can and will help you do difficult things and I want him to run to God at every turn, especially when life gets difficult.

Is that too much to ask of my Heavenly Father? I don't think so. Please, God, make yourself real in my child's life, even if it means answering a silly request like being able to eat vegetables.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October Unprocessed On Hold

I'm afraid that this coming week marks a hiatus for our family from the October Unprocessed Challenge. There has been a death in our family, which requires me to be absent from my daily life. As I plan on still doing my best to choose healthy, unprocessed foods while on hiatus, I'm afraid eating out and eating meals prepared by others will limit me a bit. I'll check back in a few days and let you know how I fared.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

5 Days In

Well, we are officially into our October Unprocessed Challenge and I must admit, it is harder than I thought. Mostly it is difficult for the kids and Dan, although he is kinda ignoring my advice and eating whatever he wants when he is on his own.

So here is a breakdown of what we've been eating for the last 5 days:

Breakfast - I went ahead and made my homemade granola recipe with brown sugar. Sorry, I'm not ready to mess with that. Besides, I don't eat it. My breakfasts are almost solely comprised of eggs, re-fried beans (only beans and salt in those!) and sauteed peppers and onions. But for the rest of the family, I'm willing for them to eat healthy, preservative-free granola, with a little brown sugar, than sugary boxed cereal. I'm hoping to get them eating real oatmeal soon, but these sensitive transitions take time. The kids are still drinking milk, but on the rare occasion I eat oatmeal, I use unsweetened almond milk. In fact, I've been using almond milk as a substitute for regular milk in almost all my recipes (except bread).

Lunch - This has been a bit more difficult. So far the kids have eaten pbj sandwiches on homemade bread. We buy Skippy Natural peanut butter, which may not pass the "completely unprocessed" rule, but it is better than the regular stuff. I searched for jelly made without high fructose corn syrup and was amazed to find a couple of brands at Woodman's that are made from fruit, sugar and pectin. Once again, I'm not totally on the bandwagon of sugar-free yet.
I've mostly been eating tuna or egg salad (with beans), although my mayo is processed. Not sure what I can do about that, except I am planning a trip to Trader Joe's this week and maybe I can find something there. Yesterday I made a salad with chicken and beans and without thinking I added dressing. Oops! Should have been homemade, but it was Newman's Own, which is all-natural, whatever that means. As I start to make more soups this fall, I plan on eating leftovers regularly.

Supper - is the easiest. Most of my recipes are made from scratch and while I do fudge a little when the recipe calls for soy sauce or something of the like, for the most part it is the most un-processed meal of the day.

Dessert - this is for the kids and Dan. I really try to stay away from sugar and unnecessary calories myself, so I rarely partake. But snacks and such are a must for the kids and I have to indulge them with more than apple slices sometimes, so here has been our go-to snack for the week:

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) (250g)
  • 1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (You can get away with using only 3 T)
  • up to 1/4 cup nondairy milk (Start with 1 T, and add more as needed)
  • Sweetener (see note below, for amount)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 T oats (or flaxmeal) (You can omit, but also omit the milk if you do)
Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.
Once again, I used brown sugar for the sweetener (2/3 cup), but hey, my kids are scarfing down chickpeas. I can overlook a little sugar for that fact alone. They love to dip apple slices in this and they are convinced they're getting the most sugary treat possible. I love it!!! I also found some amazingly simple graham crackers in the health food aisle, so when apples get boring, I'll break those out.
Next up is homemade applesauce! I hope to be posting some other recipes soon. I can't say we are doing this challenge completely perfectly, but I love that I'm thinking purposefully about my food! Hope you are, too!

Friday, September 30, 2011

WHAT?!?! Sugar is Processed?!?!

Gearing up for the October Unprocessed Challenge and I read this post which informed me that white sugar is processed. Forgive me for my ignorance, but if the label says "contains sugar" I kinda assumed it was okay to eat. Apparently the processing makes it unnatural. How's a non-crunchy girl supposed to know that? Anyway, I was prepared to make all of our "treats" this month and to use real ingredients (i.e. no cake mix cookies) but this new revelation has me in a tizzy. It changes a lot of ideas I had about what is and is not considered "processed." Hmmm, this is going to be a bigger challenge than I previously thought.

So I've been browsing a couple of blogs for sweet ideas and found some that look really good, using agave nectar or honey as a natural sweetener. The two blogs I have been most impressed with are:

Chocolate-Covered Katie (how can you go wrong with a title like that?)
Deliciously Organic (of which I have already made the homemade coffee creamer)

I'll admit, we have been using up a lot of totally-processed foods this week. Dinner every night has been an attempt to see what I can use from my pantry before I start the challenge and in case I fall so madly in love with the idea of eating real food that I forever banish processed ingredients from my household (thick sarcasm there!)

Anyway, last night was a bean soup mix to which you only add water and I must admit, it tasted kinda artificial. Surprising, since I haven't started yet. Maybe just thinking healthy thoughts has already retrained my taste buds.

Tonight is barbecue meatballs. The meatballs are frozen (probably laced with cyanide or something dangerous like that) and the sauce is made from ketchup (can we say high fructose corn syrup?), soy sauce, which the before-mentioned post informed me was processed, tomato paste (I'm calling that safe) vinegar (safe) and brown sugar, which I'm assuming the Great Value brand is probably akin to eating anthrax. Oh, and white rice that is parboiled, of which I just bought a 5 lb. bag, so that is getting used this month challenge or not. I hope I survive long enough to make it to the start tomorrow!

*Small caveat* Tomorrow is our church's annual chili supper and bonfire, which I can whole-heartedly say is my FAVORITE activity of the year. I'm eating whatever I want and I'm not going to apologize for it. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn Finally Arrives

For some reason, my kids are ecstatic about new seasons. Now don't get me wrong, I love Fall and often look forward to it coming, but the kids seem to insist on knowing the actual day the seasons change and they always want to do something special to commemorate the occasion.

Enter Pinterest, that amazing site I blogged about earlier. We (being me) decided that a sugary treat would be the best way to welcome this warm and fuzzy season. And I found the perfect idea.
 Get yourself a box of doughnut holes. (Never you mind my last post - this was a week ago!)

 Smear one end with chocolate frosting. If we ever do this again, I would choose to use Nutella (that's all-natural, right?)

Dip the frosted end in some sprinkles.

 Stick half of a pretzel stick into the end . . .

 . . . and VOILA! You have an edible fall acorn.

Eat and repeat, as many times as necessary.

Happy Fall!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Unprocessed Food Challenge

October Unprocessed hosted by Eating Rules!

I'm committed (or maybe I should be committed!) to this challenge. Click on the link above to check out the "rules" to this challenge.

Since eating unprocessed is relatively new to me, there are a few adjustments that I will make for our household in this challenge:

1. While I will try to refrain from canned foods with additional un-pronounceable ingredients, there are a few exceptions. Since I eat a TON of beans each month, my pantry is already stocked with cans and cans. I plan on trying my hand at cooking my own beans, but I can't promise that I won't occasionally pop open a can when I'm in a rush. Besides, most canned beans only have calcium chloride added and although a few cans that have high fructose corn syrup added, I'm betting that I wash all that away when I rinse. At least that is what I'm telling myself to stay sane.

2. I figure most of my meals will have to be completely homemade, but once again, in the rush of our busy life I will be willing to use a previously prepared meal that I have frozen. I use my chest freezer a lot and often make a double batch of a recipe so that I can freeze one for later. I'm not going to waste meals in a lame attempt to worship this challenge. The idea is to serve us, not for us to serve it.

3.  Still haven't decided what to do for breakfast. I don't think I can manage cooking breakfast every morning, especially on Sundays, so the occasional bowl of sugary cereal may be consumed.

I'm hoping to blog my way through this challenge, as time permits. Homeschooling has overtaken our schedule like never before! I hope some of you will do this with me so we can encourage each other toward a more healthy lifestyle!

With only 5 days until the challenge starts, we better get busy eating up all our junk food! ;)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Day of School 2011

It seemed like a late start this year, but we finally had our first day of school today.
Elijah complained that his handwriting wasn't nearly as good when writing with chalk, but I convinced him it was worth the picture. He is my perfectionist 2nd grader!

Alli did not complain, but she is about as much of a perfectionist as her older brother.

I had a couple of fun surprises for the kids on their first day . . .
including a package of Pop Rocks. My kids had never experienced the strange candy sensation that is Pop Rocks, and they did not fail in exciting them tremendously!

Elijah woke up to a new place mat with the solar system, as we will be studying astronomy this year in science.

Alli got a place mat that has instructions on how to set the table. She was so excited to use it for dinner tonight, and mommy was happy to allow her that responsibility!

Overall a good first day, even after a pretty rough start first thing this morning. The kids belong to a home school co-op that also met today, so they were excited to see their friends and attend the classes. With the fall weather we've had these past few days, it really felt like the start to a new school year. Let's hope and pray that we continue to go strong.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pinterest Ignites my Craftiness

I don't know if you have discovered Pinterest yet, but let me warn you in advance, it is a bit addictive. Basically, it is an online pin board, which allows you to save all those great pictures, quotes, recipes and such that you find around the internet. It also allows you to follow people's pins (luckily I have amazingly crafty and stylish friends!) and see what the larger community of "pinners" are interested in. I've found some amazing ideas and last week decided it was time to quit looking and thinking "someday" and actually try some of those crafts out!

First up: Mod Podge scrapbook paper onto tiles, add felt on the bottom and voila! you have new coasters. Here is my attempt.
Next time I'll cut the paper a bit smaller and maybe round the corners, but I like them.

Second project: Mod Podge (I was on a roll with a new bottle!) scrapbook paper over an oatmeal container to store headbands on the outside and bows and such on the inside.
Alli loves it, but I must admit that the paper bubbled a bit under the mod podge, but who's really going to see that, when covered with all those headbands? I will warn you, a 12x12 scrapbook sheet doesn't fully wrap around the container, so I had to cut and glue an extra piece, but I put that part towards the wall.

Now, on to all those other projects that I have been "pinning" all day!