Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (January 31, 2011)

Hopefully I'll get around to sharing some more recipes soon. This week I'm planning on starting to bake my own bread again now that things have (hopefully!) settled down a bit around here.
Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, January 30
Lunch: Leftover pizza
Supper: Chicken rice casserole (recipe to come), green beans, tossed salad, chocolate pudding cake

Monday, January 31
Tacos (using leftover taco meat from freezer)

Tuesday, February 1
French onion soup (NEW - using this recipe as a guide), quick cheese biscuits, tossed salad

Wednesday, February 2
Jo Mama's World Famous Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, Caesar salad

Thursday, February 3

Friday, February 4
Cheese tortellini (from freezer) in Alfredo sauce, Caesar salad

Saturday, February 5
Super simple bean and cheese burritos (NEW), veggies & dip

One Bowl Chocolate Pudding Cake (recipe to come)
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Saturday, January 29, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Week 4

This week we were challenged to focus on tackling piles. One place that always attracts piles is the top of our dressers. This picture shows it on an especially bad day. It's usually not quite this messy, but I was prepping to paint the room, so it collected more stuff than usual.

Here are the dressers before (I'm so embarrassed of the mess!):

Here they are after: (After I painted, rearranged furniture, and cleaned off the dressers)

* I'm linking up to 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge*

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bedroom Makeover - First Look at Paint

I put Little Bittles to bed around 7 last night and got straight to work. I had already taped the room during the day, so that saved me a bit of time. After the first wall, I was already sick of painting, but I was determined to finish before I went to bed. I finished around 10:30 or so, and we slept in the spare room so we didn't have to inhale paint fumes all night. Here's how our room has changed over the past year.

This is what it looked like when we first got moved in and set up. The paint was a green that I really did not care for. We didn't have any curtains for a long time.

Determined to get rid of the green paint, I made a rush decision and picked a greyish-taupey-pinkish-brownish-I really-don't-know-what-colour-it-is-colour. My husband pretty much hated it from the beginning, while I tried to convince myself that I actually liked it. Actually, in this picture it looks better than it did in person. I also sewed up some make-shift curtains made from bedsheets to cover up the windows and keep it darker in summer.

And here it is after Moonshine (the paint colour, of course!) did it's magic! I rearranged the bed to go against a different wall. We've had issues with arranging our furniture because of the location of the closet and size of the room. I think this new arrangement might work/look better. At first, I wasn't too sure about the new paint colour as I thought it was a little too blue for my taste. It is a light grey with blue and sometimes green undertones. In this picture, it's at its "blueist". After making the bed and arranging things, I have decided that I LOVE it! I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like I can just breathe better in there. It's a totally different feel than the pinky brown colour. This is much more calming, fresh, and serene. The space definitely feels bigger, which is what I was going for. It's not finished yet, but this gives you an idea of the look I'm going for.

Now...I need to decide on curtains and what colour to paint the nightstands and dresser (eventually). Thoughts? Advice? I'm loving the way the paint colour looks with the white trim, so I'm leaning toward painting the nightstands white. I'm thinking about going for white floor-length curtains, too, except I need something that will block out the light better. Maybe chocolate brown, black, or blue?? Oh..and silly Bittles struck a pose and cheesy smile when I brought out the camera! She's too stinkin' cute!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Master Bedroom Makeover

One of the things I've been wanting to do for a really long time is make over our bedroom. When we first moved in, it was painted a green colour that I absolutely despised. I painted it what I thought would be a silvery warmish grey colour, but it turned out kind of pinky-purplish-silver...and I hate it! I lived with it for almost a year because I really don't like to paint. At Christmas time, we got a new textured white duvet cover for our bed. I also ordered new bamboo/cotton blend sheets in a silvery blue colour. My plan is to go with a colour scheme of greys, blues, and whites. Last summer I picked up 2 nightstands at a garage sale for only $5 each. They are pine right now, but I am going to paint them either white or black. Today I picked up some paint that I got colour-matched to Benjamin Moore's Moonshine. It's a grey colour with green and blue undertones, and I've heard good things about it. I'm really hoping this will be "the one." A few months ago there was a great sale on paint, and I picked up a can for only $17 (half price!). I think one can will do our bedroom, so even though I don't like to paint, it's a pretty inexpensive way to get a new look.

The plan is to start (and hopefully finish!) painting tonight after Little Bittles is in bed. I hate painting, so I'd rather get it over with before the weekend if possible. Then on the weekend, if the paint colour is a success, I'll be looking for some curtains (not sure if I'm going with white, black, or a blue) and deciding whether to paint the nightstands white or black. I'm nervous and excited to see how it will all turn out! I'll be posting some pictures after I get going on it. I know it's always nicer to see pictures of what a person's actually talking about when it comes to interior design.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feelin' Inspired

They hymn All Creatures of Our God and King is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed, in my opinion. I have had its melody in my head all day with an arrangement that I would love to pen down. I haven't arranged or composed much music, but I always enjoyed improvising when I played at camp, church, etc. I googled blank staff for piano music and was able to find some free stuff to print off. Maybe, just maybe, I'll pen my arrangement of the song that's been whirling around in my head. I played around on the piano with the melody a bit but haven't penciled anything down yet. Oh, and don't hold your breath for any finished product...I often start things like this, but rarely get around to ever finishing them :-)

Picky Eating Bootcamp Update

One of the wonderful things about homemaking is being able to be home and spend lots of time with our children. Being at home means that I have more time to spend training and teaching our daughter. It takes a lot of time (and quantity time as well as quality time) to train children. One of my jobs as a mother is to hopefully encourage my children to be grateful for what they have. This includes being grateful for the food that is offered to them and eating it with a happy heart.

We have recently been addressing the issue of picky eating with our 16 month old daughter. I had made the mistake of catering to her by giving her whatever (within reason) she preferred to eat. I would let her try the meal I had made and if she didn't like it, then I would make her something else she likes. After a couple weeks of this, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to keep on making double meals like this for the rest of my life! Unfortunately, our daughter had gotten a little behind on graduating to "real people food" while she had been hospitalized and quite ill for a few months around her first birthday.
Here's how we addressed the situation:

At first try, I made the mistake (in my opinion) of making meals a battle. There was much frustration for both of us, and it just wasn't working. I was getting worn out with the battles and we weren't seeing much progress. The idea had been to offer her what we were having and then if she didn't like it, she had to wait until the next meal. This didn't really work for us.

Then, I got on the internet and did a little research. I came across this article about addressing picky eating. What I liked about it was that it didn't turn the meals into a full blown battle. The method was simple. Offer her a food she recently refused to eat. If she doesn't want to eat it, let her down from her high chair, smile, and say something like "let me know when you are hungry and we'll try again. In our family, we eat what we are offered." Then, when she let me know she was hungry again, I went to the fridge, got out the same food that I offered her before, and tried again. Repeat process until she eats the food that was originally offered. (Deal with bad attitudes and spitting out/throwing food as you normally would.) But if she simply refuses, don't make a big deal of it.

We started this about one week ago and have seen very good results so far. We have been able to have her eat rice, chicken, mashed potatoes, squash, beef, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal (all foods she refused previously). The first day was pretty rough as she didn't give in until about bedtime. However, the next day was a bit better, and it only took her until noon to finish her scrambled eggs from breakfast. The 3rd day was a bit rough again, but she finally gave in and ate her supper from the night before. We have loosened up a bit over the past few days because we've been so busy with doctor's appointments that I haven't had the time to keep trying new foods for her. It feels like we took a couple steps back today as she refused to eat her lunch (homemade mac n' cheese with a bit of cooked ground beef mixed in). However, I'm pretty confident that if I get back to the consistent method, we'll see lasting results.

*Linking up to Raising Homemakers*

Monday, January 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (January 24, 2010)

I have to say last week's crockpot beef in pomegranate sauce was AMAZING! It was super easy to make, and the flavour was seriously so good. I tried to follow the recipe pretty closely. The things I changed were using pom-cranberry juice, omitting the raisins, using diced instead of crushed tomatoes (what I had on hand) and substituting dried herbs I had on hand for the French herb mix. It was a huge hit with me and my husband. I served it with mashed potatoes and veggies. It makes a lot of sauce, but it's good drizzled on the potatoes.

Well, I'm off of gluten free eating for now. I did 3 full weeks of it and then called it quits. We had company and I baked a pie I had in the freezer, and I just couldn't resist :-). I can't say I noticed a big change for the better when I was gluten-free. In fact, I personally think I had more of a stomach ache when I was gluten-free (maybe because I was eating more dairy? I don't know). However, I do think that the rash on the back of my arms significantly improved during the time I was gluten-free. So, my plan is to now go back on gluten and then see what happens. I will probably do that for awhile and then perhaps try another month of gluten-free. I'm kind of experimenting with it all. This is a busy, busy week for us. I have 3 doctor's appointments in 3 days, so needless to say, it's going to be a simple week of meals.

Sunday, January 23
Lunch: Went out to eat
Supper: Leftovers from the weekend

Monday, January 24
Lunch: Homemade tomato soup, grilled cheese
Tacos (using leftover taco meat in the freezer)

Tuesday, January 25
Going out to eat due to the timing of my appointment

Wednesday, January 26
Homemade chicken fingers (or if I'm too tired from all my dr. appts, then we'll have cheesearoni beef casserole from freezer), veggies & dip

Thursday, January 27
Leftovers or something simple

Friday, January 28
Homemade pizza & Caesar salad

Saturday, January 29
Leftover pizza

* For more meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week 3 Organizing Challenge

I almost caved and gave up this week on tackling an organizing project. However, I convinced myself to tackle just one drawer. Just one. It might seem like no big deal, but I now have one more organized drawer than I did last week:-). Sometimes that's how it happens: one drawer, one shelf, one cupboard at a time. This is the drawer in our main bathroom. It was a complete disaster, with everything just thrown in there. I put things back where they belong (some things belonged in the garbage!) and then used dollar store containers to try to make sense of things. When my husband came to bed last night, he said, "I see you got lots of organizing done today!" I was so happy he noticed! Crazy thing is it only took me about 15-20 minutes to complete this was starting that was the hard part.

Before: (No wonder I could never find the finger nail clippers!)


Now everything is visible and easy to find. Each item has a home, and I know this will save me time (no more rummaging around for 15 minutes to find the finger nail clippers) and money (no more running out to the store to buy another pair of finger nail clippers when, after rummaging for 15 minutes, I still can't find the clippers!). It will also save me a lot of frustration, which is worth a lot in my books!

*I'm linking up to the 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge hosted here by*

Picky Eater Bootcamp Day 1

** Update: Finally, around 6:30 p.m. we had a bit of a breakthrough! She had a couple little meltdowns in the later afternoon, saying "snack snack" and got upset when I kept offering her the squash, beef, and potatoes, which she had refused, refused, and refused all day long. We sat down to supper at about 6 and she still refused! I let her down while I finished my supper, and then she asked for food again. So, back up into the high chair, while I explained to her again how she must eat what is offered to her. I slightly caved and put a little sour cream on it for her. (Hey...I put sour cream on nearly everything, too ;-)). After picking and prodding at it for awhile, she finally took a bite. Then, more picking and prodding. Then, another bite. And another. And another...until she ate the whole plate full! She got so into it, that she even wanted a bit more squash off of my plate. It wasn't quite enough to fill her up, so I decided to test the limits a little more..not too much..but just a little. So, I made up some oatmeal, which she had previously spit out and refused last week. I added a little brown sugar, cream, and cinnamon, just like I always had, but this time...she gobbled it all up and didn't spit it out once! I considered this a success as she flat out refused to eat the oatmeal last week. After she ate her whole bowl of oatmeal, she was still hungry, so I decided to test a little more. I offered her a little peach crisp (new food for her) for dessert. She ate that all up, too, until she said she was full. I'm certain she normally wouldn't have touched it because of it's texture, but I think she might be getting over this bad habit. I am encouraged and excited for tomorrow. I think I might offer the oatmeal and some scrambled eggs and fruit (she has so far refused to eat scrambled eggs) for breakfast and stick with that for the day. **

Today is Day 1 of Picky Eater Boot Camp at our house. I think I mentioned before that our 16 month old daughter has become an incredibly picky eater. She pretty much refuses to eat anything except bananas, oranges, toast, macaroni, yogurt, and grilled cheese. Even if I tried adding things like ground beef in her macaroni, she would just flat out refuse. I know that if she's hungry enough, she will take 3 or 4 small bites and then ask for something else like milk or a banana, so it's not like she can't eat what she's served if she's hungry enough. For awhile, she was throwing the food overboard if she didn't like it, but I think we've finally gotten that to stop. I had been trying to give her what we were having and then not allow any snacks in between meals, but that didn't seem to be working. Plus, meal times were turning into huge battles, and honestly, I was just tired of that and frustrated since it didn't seem to be working. It got everyone worked up and it was exhausting.

I came across this article about addressing picky eating, so I decided that I'd give it a try, starting today. I like this idea better than what I had been trying because it doesn't really turn meal time into a whole long, drawn out to-do. If she refuses, I just smile, tell her to tell me again when she's hungry and she can try again, and then put it in the fridge and let her go play. No big deal. Meal times are more pleasant this way, and I think this will probably work. She is a smart girl. Even though I know the next week or so will probably be hugely challenging, I think (at least hope!) that she will finally figure out she is to eat what she's served. This is for her own benefit. When I look at the big picture, I realize that I want her to be healthy, and for that to happen, she needs to learn to eat healthy foods. My job as her mother isn't to cater to her every whim; she doesn't know what is best for her nutrition.

Breakfast: I gave her one banana and half a glass of milk. (In hindsight, I wonder if maybe I should have started off with something she has been refusing, but I felt sorry for her and kind of gave in a little!) I know she was still hungry (she tells me when she's hungry), so instead of her usual toast, I gave her some mashed potatoes, baked squash, and minced beef. She refused, of course. So, I smiled, put it in the fridge, and told her to tell me when she's hungry again and then she can try it again. She went off to play.

Lunch: She was served the potatoes, squash, and beef again. She flat out refused at first. I let her down, played a bit, and then about half and hour later she asked for food again. I went and got the same food again. This time she took a few bites. Then she refused again. So, down she went to play and then have a little nap.

That's where we are at so far. I know she's strong-willed, so I'm not sure how long she'll hold out until she gives in (I'm hoping she gives in today, yet), but she's also smart, so it might not take as long as I think. Here's to hoping and praying this will fix the picky eating problem!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mothering Mistakes

I thought I had all the answers before I became a parent. I had the answer to fix a picky eater, a strong-willed, disobedient child, a toddler who refuses to sleep, a noisy toddler who won't sit still in church, etc. etc. I was prideful and ignorant, and most definitely clueless, even though I thought I knew what I was talking about. Well, I've learned my lesson (I hope!) :-). The Lord has given us a delightfully rambunctious, strong-willed child...who is currently...yep, you guessed it...a picky eater, has sleeping issues, is noisy and restless in church, and is not very obedient yet. And I thought I had all the answers to all these problems...
Well...somehow our baby turned into a toddler (when did that happen??), and our cute-as-a-button toddler is very intelligent.

Here's a little story...did I ever tell you how she figured things out pretty quickly with me when we tried potty training? After a few successful goes at it, she suddenly started refusing to even sit on the potty. So, I started giving her a sticker every time she would sit on the potty. Well, it wasn't too long before I was hearing "mama, potty, pee pee" every 5-10 minutes. She'd run to the door, indicating she supposedly had to "go", sit on the potty, and ask for a "sticka, sticka?". Of course, she had to go at the most convenient know...bed time, nap time, quiet time, etc. etc. After I finally clued in to what was going on...I stopped giving stickers for just sitting on the potty. We are currently not trying to potty train anymore. We have a few other issues that need our attention first :-).

Anyway, so after attending church this past Sunday, I think I finally clued into the fact that I have not taken the time to train her properly. Although I thought I had, I am definitely doing something wrong. If there's one thing I think I've learned, it's that I can't expect her to behave properly and obey me instantly if I haven't taken the time to train her how to behave and to obey instantly. (And if there's anyone out there who thinks that she isn't old enough or understands enough to obey simple haven't met our daughter! :-). And rest assured, I don't expect her to obey a command unless I'm 100% certain she understands the command and I've demonstrated it several times. )

This last Sunday was really eye-opening for us. Picture a toddler squirming up and down, running back and forth on the floor in our pew, crawling under the pew, pitching a fit when we pulled her out from under the pew, scarfing down handfuls of rice puffs as fast as she could, pulling everything out of the diaper bag, making as much noise as possible if she wasn't doing exactly what she wanted to do, and then you have the scene of our family in the last church service. Oh dear. After we got in the car, we said...we have got to do something about this! Well, that "something" has to start at home.

Today is a new day, with new opportunities. And although I will be setting aside some specific training time for "sitting still and quiet training", I know there will plenty of opportunities for training throughout the day as we go about our regular business. The key is that I must be totally okay with stopping whatever I am doing in order to correct each and every act of willful disobedience. I do know if there's one thing I need to be, it is consistent. The main task at hand is teaching obedience.

Looking back, I think this was where I've been making a big mistake. I've been focusing on having her complete a task (such as "come here") instead of focusing on the heart issue of obedience (immediately do what I say). As another example, I have been teaching her to clean up her toys (the task). However, I was emphasizing having her complete the task (cleaning up the toys) rather than obeying the command (immediately do what I tell you to do). So, if she would hesitate to clean up her toys or clean up some toys and then play for awhile and then clean up toys again after a few minutes, I would praise her after the toys were cleaned up (a completed task) even though she hadn't actually fully obeyed me (perhaps she had played with her toys, asked for a drink in between, or done something other than clean up her toys in the process). I'm thinking this is why she does not always obey when I tell her to be quiet, sit still, stop whining, etc. Although these are all things she understands, she doesn't think she has to obey because I haven't taught her to obey...I've just been teaching her to complete separate tasks (clean up toys, come here, etc.). There is a subtle, but big difference. I am realizing that I need to focus on instant obedience instead of a completed task.

Even today as I was trying to teach her to obey me when I gave her a simple command (the command was to put her head on my shoulder as she was tired and getting ready for a nap), it took several tries before she submitted her will and obeyed. At first she tried to distract me by saying "book, book" and then stiffening up and whining. I suddenly realized that I have often been catering to her and giving her things to distract her from doing what the original instruction was. In the past I probably would have just given her the book. This time I did not give her a book as I realized it was her way of trying to get out of doing what I asked her to do.

Ahh...parenting...definitely not the easiest job in the world but one that has potential to be the most rewarding job in the world :-). Oh, and I hope I don't sound like I suddenly have it all figured out. That is not what this post is about! It's about my struggles in training, mistakes I've made, and perhaps some things I'm learning along the way (maybe - we'll see). I most certainly do not have it all figured out. I haven't yet raised a child through to adulthood, and I do not yet have a cheerfully compliant toddler! (Several hours after writing this, I found myself dealing with a horrible temper tantrum (her, not me. LOL). After trying tips I've heard about dealing with tantrums, it still wasn't working. Finally I resorted to completely ignoring her while asking God for wisdom. While I'm not convinced ignoring her worked, she eventually settled down and then I put her down for a nap. She fell asleep right away, so maybe she was just overtired??? I really don't know for sure!)
So, I'm praying for wisdom...much wisdom. Training seems like an impossible task without the grace of and wisdom from God. Oh, I know I will make many more mistakes...many more...but hopefully by being prayerfully patient, persistent, and consistent, our precious little one will learn to accept she is under her parents' authority and that by obeying us, she is obeying God.

Here are couple of helpful articles I came across about training children to sit still. I am going to try some of the tips to see if we can remedy this issue (please note, again, the real issue I think is actually obedience).
For Her:

"Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord".
Colossians 3:20

For Me:

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

P.S. Any tips on dealing with picky eaters are welcome! Our current rule is she must eat what we are having (unless it's completely not toddler-friendly). If she refuses, she does not get any dessert and does not get any snacks or milk between meals (only water). We are on Day 2 of this method, and it is sort-of working. However, she seems to just take a few bites to waive off the immediate hunger and then is stubborn and strong-willed enough to wait until bed when she gets 1 bottle of milk. I do not allow her to have milk right after supper when she asks, but I make her wait until her bedtime. We are hoping this method will fix the picky eating. It's not that she can't eat what I serve (she will gladly take a couple bites of what's served, but then she'll decide she doesn't like it, refuse any more, and then ask for things she likes such as bananas, yogurt, milk, etc.). She can gobble down grilled cheese sandwiches, bananas, toast, and macaroni fast and furiously, but if it's not one of those choices, she becomes very picky.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (January 17, 2011)

Last week my pan-seared salmon went horribly wrong. I ended up burning it to a crisp and yet it was still raw in the middle. I think I must have had my pan too hot, but whatever I did, I ended up making homemade cream of tomato soup instead. We're going to be eating lots of leftovers this week, but thankfully my husband doesn't mind. I'm trying to simplify our menu a bit so that I hopefully will have more time to focus on things like "sitting still training" with our little one who is definitely a toddler and not a baby anymore :-). She is really testing us these days, and I've realized that I haven't been taking enough time to teach and train her.

Here's what we'll be eating this week:

Sunday, January 16
Tacos with Homemade Corn Tortillas (the corn tortillas were a colossal failure - so we ended up having taco salad instead. I kept the dough and am hoping to salvage it somehow, but we'll see)

Monday, January 17
Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken (new recipe), brown rice, green beans

Tuesday, January 18

Wednesday, January 19
Beef in Pomegranate Sauce (modified a bit from this recipe), mashed potatoes, tossed salad

Thursday, January 20

Friday, January 21
Lemon Turkey Rice Soup

Saturday January 22
Leftover soup

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 2 Organizing Challenge

Week 2 of the Organizing Challenge - I tacked my pantry and lazy susans. Last week I tackled a small project - my cookbooks. This week I was a bit more ambitious, and tackled my entire pantry, my 2 lazy susans, and a couple other kitchen cupboards. My goal was to make my kitchen more efficient, more organized (a place for everything and everything in it's place), and neater-looking. About 1/3 of my cupboards were working pretty well for me and looking neat and clutter-free, so I didn't have to revamp everything. However, the other 2/3, especially the pantry and lazy susans, needed major help. I did lots of rearranging and removing (some things went to the garage sale/giveaway pile). Then I got out my new organizing b.f.f., my label maker, and went label-happy in the pantry! I'll let the pictures and captions do the rest of the talking.

Pantry Before (Pretty messy! It drove me crazy going in there because it was such a mess. Note - if it drives you crazy...change it or accept it, but whatever you do...don't let it drive you crazy! My food storage containers and wrap were unorganized and messy. I ended up moving plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc. to a lazy susan cupboard as I was always annoyed with constantly opening the bifold door leading to the pantry to get the plastic wrap and items for making my husband's lunch. The things I use for making his lunch and all our snack foods, crackers, etc. are now stored in a lazy susan, which is WAY more efficient for me. There was also way too much stuff on the floor, which made the pantry looked crammed and messy.)
Way too cluttered. I especially didn't like having so much stuff on the floor.

Pantry After (Floor is clutter-free. The top shelf holds dry good and rice. The second shelf holds my food storage containers. My parents bought me some containers with easy-find lids (they were on a great sale), which I love! They all match and fit so nicely together. They look SO much neater and make me smile when I look at them :-). One shelf now holds pasta, oils, dressing, which used to be stored in a lazy susan. The shelf underneath it holds baking items, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned beans)

The third shelf holds baby food, canned fish, canned soup, and canned tomato goods. The fourth shelf holds pasta, dried beans, oils, and dressings (these were formerly stored in a lazy susan). The fifth shelf holds baking items, canned fruit, canned vegetables, and canned beans. The containers help keep my miscellaneous/extra items together in a neat, consolidated form. This is after the shelves were organized, but before I was able to get the shelves labeled. The floor holds my flour, distilled water for our daughter, and white vinegar for cleaning. All the other clutter on the floor is gone to a new home!

The floor is now clutter-free.

Here you can see that my shelves are now labeled to help keep things in their place.

Lazy Susan #1 Before (used to hold pasta, oils, and some kitchen gadgets. It was in disarray and very messy.)

Lazy Susan #1 After (All the pasta, rice, oils, dressings, etc. got moved to the pantry. The snack and lunch items got moved from the pantry floor to the lazy susan. It's organized now in a way that makes sense, and it looks much neater. I'm very happy with the change!)

Lazy Susan #2 Before (The top shelf and bottom underneath storage worked for me, but the second shelf just held stuff I hardly ever use and was taking up prime shelf space.)

Lazy Susan #2 After (Top shelf holds mixing bowls and salad spinners. Second shelf holds plastic wrap, aluminum foil, parchment paper, plastic bags, etc, which used to be stored in the pantry. After using this new system for a few days, I can definitely say this is working much better for me.

So far, this is working much better for me! It's more efficient, neater, and more organized! I think the biggest thing I learned this week was what I stated before. If it drives you crazy, accept it or change it...but whatever you do...don't let it drive you crazy! I have a few other spaces that are currently "driving me crazy." I'm going to change that soon...I'd rather not go crazy ;-)

*I'm linking up to Organizing Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge*

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On second thought....

Remember this post?

Pretty sure I'm looking at things the wrong way. Sometimes in my feeble attempts at "doing the right thing", I over-complicate the simplicity of what Christ calls us to, and my sinful pride starts thinking I can somehow earn the grace I've freely received. I get distracted by all the to-do's of life. Wrongly, I sometimes even start thinking I can somehow perfect my own flesh?

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

Without Christ I can do nothing. Nothing.

You would think that after the difficult few months we had, I would have learned this lesson already.
During that time I pretty much had no choice but to abide in Christ. Every day, every moment. I had zero strength to do anything on my own. Lists went out the window. To get through each day, there were no "to do's" to cross off. Sure, there were things that needed to be done, but it was a different feeling, a different focus. My perspective was directed to the eternal rather than the temporal. How could I forget that lesson so quickly?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:36-39

What if instead of doing, trying, and accomplishing, I just start abiding? What if instead of being driven by lists, I start being led by the Spirit?
What if instead of focusing on the temporal, I start focusing on the eternal?

How freeing is that?
It's really quite simple. Stop trying. Start abiding.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Small Steps Toward Healthier Living

* For a compilation of articles, books, and resources about healthier, more natural living (covering topics such as nutrition, health, cold remedies, pregnancy, baby care, cleaning, and much more), read Natural Living 101 * This is a great resource! I highly recommend checking it out. I know I will be referring to it frequently for information. *

I have been thinking about moving toward a healthier lifestyle with regard to using less chemicals in the home, eating healthier foods, etc.

So...I bought my first jar of organic coconut oil a few days ago and have already used it in a smoothie, for frying, and on my daughter's skin! Our daughter has a bit of eczema or something going on; we've been using a steroid cream, but the side effects of that stuff are nasty (it lowers her already-low immune system), so I want another solution.

P.S. Read about some of the benefits of coconut oil here. It's one of the healthiest fats; it does not go rancid at high temperatures, it can help boost the immune system, and has even helped wiht some skin conditions such as eczema. If you buy the expeller pressed stuff, it doesn't even taste like coconut, so it's perfect for sauteeing and cooking. It's not overly expensive (my jar was about $10 on sale), and it has a very long shelf life.

Another small success was purchasing whole wheat macaroni to replace our nutrition-less white refined flour macaroni. Yay!

I also started keeping track of how much water I drink each day. I'm aiming for 8 glasses/day.

We also want to get back on track with exercising now that things have settled down a bit here (for now.) While I would much prefer to play sports with my husband (we've talked about joining the badminton club in town here), it just isn't feasible since we have a young daughter. So, my husband has talked about maybe joining soccer (he loves soccer and is an amazing player), while I'll probably get back on my trusty treadmill. I even went downstairs to get on it yesterday, only to find that I couldn't figure out how to unfold the crazy thing! No worries, though; last night my husband showed me how to unfold it, and we're ready to go now!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cookie Decorating

I'm pretty sure this recipe will now be my go-to sugar cookie recipe. I don't even like sugar cookies very much, but I love these ones! I made these just before New Year's so I could enjoy them before my gluten-free month. They remind me of a cross between short bread and a cream cookie.

I also used this awesome glace icing recipe and tutorial for a glossy icing. Because I'm artistically challenged, I copied the decorating ideas I found on the same site.

Happy cookie decorating!

*Check out Raising Homemakers for more articles about homemaking and their weekly Wednesday homemaking link-up*

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (January 10, 2010)

Well, I survived my first week of gluten-free eating. I actually felt worse the first few days of gluten-free, but I hear that can happen sometimes. I was awfully nauseous, but maybe it was unrelated. I find the things I'm missing the most are....baked goods...cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc. I don't even eat much of that kind of stuff, so it must just be the idea that I can't have them (unless I make them gluten-free, but I really don't feel like experimenting with that right now.). When there aren't any leftovers, I've been having things like omelets and Greek salads for lunch.

Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, January 9
Lunch: Rice pasta with meat sauce (from freezer), carrot sticks
Supper: Leftover pizza for my husband, cheese and rice crackers & gluten-free munchies for me (really healthy, I know)

Monday, January 10
Lunch: Chili from the freezer, grilled cheese & orange slices for Bittles,
Supper: I'm on my own for supper, so I'll probably just have a smoothie, omelet, veggies & dip

Tuesday, January 11
Pan-seared salmon with Thai rice noodles, sweet potato fries

Wednesday, January 12
Crockpot Santa Fe chicken, brown rice, steamed carrots

Thursday, January 13

Friday, January 14
Potato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches (for hubby and daughter), veggies & dip

Saturday, January 15
Turkey casserole (using leftover turkey from freezer. Making the casserole gluten-free by using a homemade cream of mushroom soup recipe - see below), steamed green beans

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup - from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

1 T olive oil (or butter)
1 can (4oz) of mushrooms, drained (may use fresh as well)
1/2 C chicken broth
1/2 C milk
1 T cornstarch

In a saucepan, saute 1/2 C onions with mushrooms in 1 T oil or butter until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add chicken broth and heat to boiling. Mix 1/2 c milk with cornstarch until well mixed, and add to the boiling mixture, stirring frequently until thick (about 1 minute). Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside.

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Friday, January 7, 2011

Week 1 Organizing Challenge

It's the first week of the 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge. I love a good challenge, and I most definitely could use a little help in the organizing department. I think the main reason I cannot get (or stay) organized is because I am looking for perfection, not functionality. What I mean by this is that I will spend hours arranging and rearranging cupboards and spaces, but I never commit to a solution because I'm always looking for a better solution, even when the solution I've come up with is completely functional and fine...If only I would commit...Get what I mean? Like most people, I also tend to get overwhelmed with the "big spaces" organizing the entire kitchen, entire closet, etc. Instead, if I broke it down to one shelf, one cupboard, one drawer, the task would look a lot less daunting. That is what I'm loving about this challenge. One shelf, one drawer, one cupboard. Organizing is a process. If you just take baby steps, eventually you'll get there. I recently came up with a handwritten list of 52 projects to do, and I hope to write them down here on my blog somewhere when I get the time to type up the list. Writing down the goal is half the battle, I'm convinced.

My Week 1 Challenge: Organize/Go Through Cookbooks and Cookbook Cupboard

I can't believe I forgot to take a before picture. I guess I was just too eager to get going! It might not look like much to you, but this cupboard was WAY too stuffed full of books. The cookbooks were stacked (or rather, shoved) horizontally before I got control. I got rid of several of the cookbooks I've never used. That was hard for me because I love looking through cookbooks. It's like a hobby for me. However, the reality is that I can find nearly any recipe online, and some of those cookbooks I haven't looked through in years. It was time to let go. I don't know why it's so hard to let go of stuff sometimes. After all, it's just stuff. Sometimes I fear that if I get rid of something, I'll regret it later and then have to dish out money to buy a replacement. Although this is possible, I make myself look at it another way. 1) A cookbook isn't overly expensive to replace. 2) I haven't looked through them in years; chances are good I won't need them again 3) I picture a beautiful, clutter-free shelf where I can quickly and easily find what I want, when I want it, saving me time and stress.

One thing I did to save me a lot of space was to put my 2 recipe binders into 1 binder. It was a bit of a challenge because one recipe binder held the recipes I printed off the internet and the other held recipe cards, handwritten from friends and family as wedding shower gift, which I didn't want to transfer to typed out papers. To make a long story short, I came up with a solution to keep them all (both printed and handwritten recipes) in the same binder.

I am very pleased with the results! I may get up the courage to get rid of 1 or 2 more books, but for now, they all fit neatly and nicely, so I'm happy. When I get some more time, I'll type out and post my 52 organizing projects.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Roles and Goals for 2011

This is my New Year's Resolution list-of-sorts. It's less of a New Years resolution list and more of an evaluation of the roles I fulfill, what the Bible says about these roles, and the things I will try to do in order to properly fulfill these roles. I know that I will make mistakes and fail at times, but I hope I can refer back to this list to gain some clarity as to what my purpose is and what the Bible says about what my priorities are.

Words of Wisdom for 2011:
Proverbs 4:23-27
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

1) I am a...Child of God
Key Passage: Romans 8:1-18
I want to...have a deeper relationship with Christ, walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh, share my faith more, profess godliness, show more compassion toward others

To do this, I will try to...
  • Read my Bible regularly (try to finish the entire Old Testament and hopefully the entire Bible this year)
  • Pray
  • Set aside a regular daily time to read my Bible/pray and stick to it whenever possible
  • Hide God's Word in my heart (try to memorize one Bible verse or passage per week)
  • Listen to more sermons/edifying things, less facebook, tv, dvd's
  • Keep in mind the One I represent with regards to the music I listen to, clothes I wear, words I speak, and choices I make
  • Help people in practical ways when they are going through difficulties
2) I am a...Wife
Key Passage: Genesis 2:18
I want my husband's helper, cheerleader, best friend, love of his life

To do this, I will try to....
  • Put his needs ahead of my own
  • Help him in whatever he asks, anticipate ways to help before being asked
  • Plan a special monthly date night (even if it's just at home after Little Bittles is in bed)
  • Try doing the Love Dare Challenge
  • Spend his hard-earned money wisely
  • Be joyful rather than nagging or grumbling, even when I have had a bad day
  • Speak well of him to others
  • Try to look my best for him by fixing my hair/makeup and wearing nice clothes as much as possible

3) I am a...Mother
Key Passage: Proverbs 22:6
I want to...teach my daughter about the Lord, train her to obey, train her to be cheerfully compliant, spend time simply enjoying her, be consistent in training, be a good example to her

To do this, I will try to....
  • Pray for wisdom in training
  • Pray for her salvation
  • Make training her a priority (set aside a daily time for "intentional training" besides the daily correcting/training/disciplining)
  • Speak often of the Lord and the things of the Lord
  • Spend time playing and laughing with her
  • Build a relationship with her
  • Pray with her
4) I am a...Keeper of the Home
Key Passage: Titus 2:3-5
I want to...provide healthy and delicious meals for my family, have a peaceful, relaxing, and enjoyable space to call home, be better organized with our space and time, be proficient in a variety of homemaking skills, find creative and inexpensive solutions to household problems, decorate our home to reflect Christ and our personal style

To do this, I will try to...
  • Meal plan healthy meals
  • Follow a regular cleaning schedule when possible
  • Try to have the house tidied before bed
  • Be at home to be a keeper of the home (might mean saying no to some activities that take me away from the home)
  • Stick to a budget, cut down expenses where possible
  • Complete one organizing project a week in this 52 weeks challenge
  • Create and follow a daily time schedule when possible
  • Be more efficient and productive with my time (less facebook, internet, tv)
  • Paint and refinish at least one piece of furniture we already own
  • Complete a few sewing projects
  • Decorate and paint our Master Bedroom
  • Show more hospitality toward others
  • Learn more about gardening, composting, landscaping, and preserving food
5) My body is the...Temple of the Holy Spirit
Key Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I want to...glorify Christ in my body and spirit

To do this, I will try to...
  • Maintain a healthy body weight while not obsessing over it
  • Research healthier eating habits such as the benefits of coconut oil and soaking grains
  • Experiment with sour dough bread
  • Eat more whole grains and less refined sugar and chemicals
  • Use less chemicals in the home and using more natural cleaning products
  • Exercise 3 times a week once I get the doctor's okay
  • Dress and present myself in a way that reflects Christ

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mommy's Little Helper

Little Bittle's favourite "chore" is unloading the dishwasher (after I've removed all the knives and such, of course).
After each and every piece of cutlery or dish, she says, "Good girl!"
Isn't she sweet?
A little 16 month old homemaker-in-training.

*Visit Raising Homemakers for great advice and encouragement on homemaking*

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year Fun and Fellowship

Happy New Year! We ended up having an awesome New Year's Eve, getting together with some great friends and family. Originally we were not planning on going due to the fear that Little Bittles could catch something (or pass her cold on). However, after much thought and discussing the circumstances, we decided to go, and were we ever glad we did! It has been WAY too long since we've done something like this. Last New Year's Eve, we were at the same house, and 4 month old Little Bittles cried the entire time - it was not exactly fun for me. But...this time she didn't even cry but rather played and enjoyed herself and then went to bed there around 10 p.m....without a fuss! We ate food, played some games, sang many hymns, and heard 3 testimonies of God's goodness. It was a WONDERFUL time of fun and fellowship with fellow believers.
Then on New Year's Day some of our good friends, two recently-engaged couples (which were at the New Year's Eve get-together) came over to our place for more visiting and fellowship and to watch a hockey game.

New Year's always seems to bring to mind the idea of a new beginning. And while New Year's is a good time to consider changes one wants to/should make, the beautiful reality is that with God we can have a "fresh start", a "clean slate", be forgiven of sins whenever we come to Him in humility and repentance. It doesn't matter what day it is; the Lord is willing to give new life to anyone who is willing to turn from their sins and come to Him in faith...any day...any time. As a Christian, I am certainly thankful that though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

In the next few days, I hope to post some of the changes I am planning to make this year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (January 3, 2011)

First week of attempting gluten-free...Here we go! (I might only start on Monday, depending on how the weekend goes.)
Sunday/Monday, January 2&3
Chicken & Broccoli Stir-fry with Toasted Almonds over Rice (I'll probably use a sauce recipe like this one)

Tuesday, January 4
Lazy Cabbage Rolls, Steamed Carrots

Wednesday, January 5

Thursday, January 6
Zesty Chicken Oregano, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Friday, January 7
Black Bean Soup, Cheesy Potatoes

Saturday, January 8
Leftover Soup

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

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