Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Worn, The Beautiful

Lately I've had a lot of things going through my mind as I scramble to finish the last few projects and deep clean before listing our house in the next week and a half or so.  

As you can imagine, as I have been on my hands and knees scrubbing bathroom grout, inside cabinets, window panes and baseboards, and I can feel the soreness in my back.  As we lift boxes and clothes from the basement to the van and then to the storage unit, again my back is sore and arms are, too.  My hands get dry from washing them so much after cleaning and my feet have stepped on everything from a lovely nail when our old carpet was being ripped out to gunky paint that dropped off our paint brushes.  We've washed and pulled and scrubbed our hair free of paint and have just collapsed many nights after tucking in the kids from shear exhaustion of it all! Because, after all, this stuff isn't our real job.  Heath is working days and nights as a resident and I'm a stay at home mom who never stops tending to the kids and house. After a couple months of working extra hard around the clock I've developed a very aching, sore body!  Right now I can feel every muscle because they are so tender.  Of course lifting little ones, taking hot cast iron skillets out of the oven, and laundry baskets up a flight of stairs will do that to you over time anyways...

Where am I going with all this complaining--err--explaining?  

Today it occurred to me.  God gave me a very healthy body. (Praise Him!)  He made me in His image.  I have working arms, legs, spine and heart so I can not only move but truly live!  My body was created to work in this way.

Across borders and seas there are moms who carry children for miles just to get clean water.  

I think I can manage a flight of steps.

There are people who don't have a very healthy heart or lungs to work for them properly.

I think I can get mine racing real good every day to become "Mommy Robot" while playing chase with the kids.

There are families around the world who only have rice mush to eat day in and day out.  Every.  Day. And they are thankful for it.

I think I can handle cooking 3 meals a day without complaining or eat leftover chili for the 3rd day in a row.

There are homes made with dung.  Actual poop from animals, and the families are just proud to have shelter.  

I think I can wipe down some greasy baseboards and learn to live with wet floors from all the snow and rain.

What am I really saying here?  

I want my mindset to change on my body and home.  While I like working for my body by exercising and eating healthy, I can't help but feel God made our bodies to work for us!  I can live with pain for all the gain that comes with it in the end!

With my very own ability, I'm able to clean and cook, rock my daughter every night, crawl around the floor to find Legos buried under furniture, bathe fidgety-widgety toes, and even paint entire rooms and pack lots of boxes.  

Yes, these things can take a toll, but instead of me just feeling the aches, I've decided to be thankful.

My body is a gift I can't take for granted. 

My home is a gift I can't take for granted.

I was thinking. Again.  Some of the most used rooms in my house--the rooms that I'm in the most and that stay the messiest-- those are some of the most loved places to be!!  

Here are some untouched places at this very moment in my busiest and best working room... The kitchen. (Don't worry Molly, the mess will be gone when you list the house!)  It doesn't always look so strewn, but if it does, instead of getting frusterated I want to see life!

Because this is where life happens.  Home is where life happens.  Water glasses always sitting out means that I have good things to drink and loved one to serve with a body healthy enough to do so!

All the crumbs mean I have plenty of food to eat.  Every day.  I've never once in life ran out of food without means to buy more.

My messiest room, the kitchen, is also best loved!  It's where I cook for my family, and you know how I love to do that!

It's where I teach my daughter the art of seasoning a homemade pizza well.  And enjoying it.  (Even when a bag of trash waiting to be carried out in the corner... Eek)

It's where in the midst of painting a room we make quick PB & Js to enjoy with the kids, and where my children just love holding onto my legs while I'm cooking.  It's where my son peeks around the corner, knowing to stay clear of the stove, but wanting to watch his mommy.

This room is always alive!  It bears the marks of working for me with almost constantly a crumby floor and clean dishes to unload, with grease splatters and dirty aprons hung.  But I live in the kitchen and it works for me, like my body works for me.  I love them for it, too! 

Sometimes the mess and the aches in life indicate--instead of something being wrong-- that something is incredibly... right. used. Loved!

God gives us strength to do the hard things in life.  The hard things that turn out to be some of the best things, if you just stick with it!

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 1 Timothy 4:7

Parenting is physically and emotionally the hardest task I've ever had.  It's also crazy rewarding and fulfilling to pour into your children!

Upon keeping a home everyday, getting our house ready to sell has taken so much out of me since the start of the year, but we're at a point that I can see all the rewards!

Painting, purging, deep cleaning, reorganizing, and color coding my closet was time consuming, but the result is beautiful!

Our closet was once a huge mess, but now it's more like a dressing room I enjoy changing in!

For two weeks our entire bedroom was moved out as we slept in the dining room.  This picture was actually after our walls were fixed from the hundreds of cracks that this old cape cod had developed in the charming wall boards over the years.  This pic was just after sanding, priming, and painting, but before the new carpet.  May I just say this picture is already light years from what this room looked like when we bought the house?  I love progress.

Our tranquil bedroom retreat after!  

This picture isn't at all staged since I snapped it after my morning coffee, and there are still details with bedding and decor to sort out.  But now, coming up here to our bedroom instantly calms me.  After a week of being snowed in with the sound of nail guns and a cloud of dust, tranquil is exactly what we're wanting! For weeks, the rest of the house haphazardly stored everything this room carried, but now we can see all the work and effort paid off!

In under a week's time of being back in our bedroom I've managed to spend every morning's quiet time up here with the Word and coffee and myself.  

Over the past 2 1/2 weeks of sacrifice during a winter storm and while construction was going on in our house, we managed to live in & through the chaos.  Imperfection at is best!

My friends, this room is a perfectionist's nightmare.  

But God made a way you see, and it's all over!

So here I am today back in my clean, but imperfect livingroom.  Just the way I like it now.

Where there is beauty that God made.

Life lived.

Where there is usually a coat thrown over the couch by the back door because I have a hard working husband who comes home to me!  (I can handle a few strewn coats now!)

Life lived.

And in my well-loved kitchen there are my favorite promises I've written.. Well, God has written, but are now on my heart.  I've walked by these verses for many years hoping and believing God to change many situations, and He has!!
Life lived.

I'm thankful for the things that look worn but are actually loved!  I have a life very well-lived, and this is my year to finally wholeheartedly embrace that.


You know.. I'm not quite finished.  

First off, normally all the different filters in my pictures would drive me nuts, but today I'm just happy to be writing!

I did want to mention that over the past couple of months, I've been inspired by a few people.  First, when I was stretched the very thinnest during this reno, mom told me that she was praying my fruit of the spirit would further mature from this.  (Honestly, that was the last thing I cared to hear at the time when I was in a fetal position with a severe headache from all the smells and sounds.  When I had to get relief on my bed that was in the middle of our dusty diningroom with the workers in the house...that was a low point). But Mom always knows just what to pray, and now in hindsight I can see fruit developing.  God is good!!!

Also a blog post from Courtney at  Women Living Well about her unique view on her "love handles", and watching the astounding movie The Good Lie that is based on a true story has changed my whole perspective on the perfection of what I eat.  You know, I could've been born in Syria or in Niger or any other struggling country with problems that would make most of mine seem embarrassing, but I was not.  I was born in a country that generally knows no need, only want.  So while I actually enjoy cooking nice homemade meals because it's my creative outlet, I don't feel guilty for making a simple tator tot casserole to feed my family of 4 .  Because even though it's not the fanciest or healthiest, it's better food than some children may eat their whole life.  

Also a terrific book on making a home and decorating that I got for Christmas called The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith, was also was great food for thought.   

She told me to embrace "life" in your home.  The wear and tear on things only show they've been loved, and after visiting an African village herself, her outlook on what home was completely changed.  Just reading of it changed mine!

God has beautifully wrecked my life over the past few years in so many ways, because I've trusted Him to do so (starting in January 2012 to be exact). I can proudly say because of my house's recent "wreck" I learned even more how beautiful things come from imperfection.  My body and house are just two of these things.

Don't be afraid to embrace the hard or resist the perfect and "beautiful".  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Drip Beef Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

Awwww, Drip beef sandwiches.  

This is my new favorite recipe to stash in the rotation!  I'm a huge fan of French dip sandwiches; I've had one at several different restaurants and I can tell you where some of the best ones are.  I also love a good pot roast.  This recipe is sort of the marriage of the two with a little kick!

First off, this is a Pioneer Woman recipe: I love how she thinks when it comes to food!  (And family:) I can't eat this decadent all the time, but she has amazing down-home recipes for everyday food, or sophisticated fare easy enough for me to make.  Anyway, her husband is a serious cattle rancher and they know their beef!  So I take it from her when she said this drip beef recipe is amazing!

It's slow simmered roast with Italian seasonings, spicy pepperoncinis, and rich beef broth.  Salt and lots of pepper away and it's ready to cook all day, or at least til tender and falling apart.  Shred it up and put the beef back into the savory juices to give it the "drip"!  You can certainly stop there and serve over mashed potatoes or even for a delicious tacos filling, but we made amazing drippy sandwiches!  Pile the beef high on toasted hoagie buns with caramelized onions and provolone cheese and serve with a cup of the drippings (au jus) for a meal worth a standing ovation!  

It's tasty enough for company and easy enough for casual parties.  We're watching the Super Bowl tonight as a family and will eat this with some hot wings and a veggie tray... It smells so good!  I had better get to it! :)

Drip Beef Sandwiches with Carmelized Onions
Slightly Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

• 1 3-4 lb. Roast (I chose rump roast which is leaner) trimmed of excess fat
• 1 jar whole Pepperoncinis with juice
• 1 can (about 2 cups) Beef broth or stock
• 1 c. Water
• 3 Tbsp. Dried Italian seasoning
• 1 Tbsp. Minced garlic 
• Salt & Pepper
• 2 Tbsp. Butter
• Provolone cheese (mozz or Swiss works too)
• Hoagie rolls, buttered and toasted

Season the roast with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in a cast iron skillet or other heavy pot over high heat.  Sear both sides of roast until browned, about 5 minutes total.  (It will smell divine!)

Put your roast in a crockpot set to Low.  Pour in the broth and water and add the Italian seasonings.  Pour in the pepperoncinis with all the juice and add the garlic with a but more salt and pepper.  

Put the lid on and cook for about 8 hours on low. I turned the roast over half-way through.  (If you're interested, you can cook this in a Dutch oven pot by simmering on the stove for 4-5 hours, but I recommend slow-cooking in the crock pot.)

Remove the cooked roast from pot and shred it all up with two forks.  

Then return the meat back to the cooking liquid.  Keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook your caramelized onions: 
Thinly slice and sauté a whole onion in the leftover butter in the cast iron skillet over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until onion become translucent, very tender and golden.

To assemble sandwiches, pile toasted  hoagie rolls with shredded beef and a cooked pepperoncini if you like, then a layer caramelized onions and a slice of cheese.  Serve with a small bowl of the au jus dipping sauce on the side.
Serves 6-8

Enjoy hot and delicious!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Winter Weeknight Taco Soup

It's been a wonderful Saturday with slightly warmer weather and just enough sun shining to refresh the soul!  We went to the movie theater to see Paddington as a family at the early bird showing, and we had a great time together.  What a cute movie!!  Nowadays I'm can be a critic when it comes to kids movies, but we thought this one was just darling!  The kids laughed through it all... We all did!  Going to the movies is a big deal we all get excited for, and I think especially on a winter day it's a great way to stay cozy and have fun being out together!

Right now it's that "crunch time" of the day as I work to get our dinner of pan seared salmon and spiced rice on the table as Mr. Cozy and our son work in the leaves and trimming bushes outside.  He wants to help his daddy anyway he can, and even at 4 years old he can be a really good little helper!  I'm so proud of them both! ( The yard work is another step closer to getting our house ready to sell!). So as I write, I'm juggling cooking, (writing this post), playing babies with my daughter in the kitchen and helping her put on dress up clothes.  (She is so stinkin cute when she pretends!)  This is the controlled chaos that lends to not being a good blogger, nonetheless I am here to share some delicious taco soup this evening. :)

You'll find this is a very easy recipe to put together and simmer away on a cold and blustery winter's day! 

(Yep, that was sing-songy.)

Taco soup is similar to a hearty Tex-Mex style chili and is amazing eaten with corn chips or cornbread.  This night I made Trader Joe's pumpkin cornbread...

So. Good. 

I hope y'all will continue to give me grace as I intermently blog in this season of life with little bitties underfoot as we're about to make a big move in a few months.  Please do your family a favor and make this easy taco soup, because I think you're going to love it!  Let me know what you think.

Taco Soup
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground sirloin 
1 onion, diced
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. Water (more to thin out if needed)
1 small can diced green chilies 
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 pkg. ranch style dressing
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown meat and onion in a skillet.  Drain off any extra grease.  Stir in beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water chili seasoning and ranch seasoning and salt and pepper.  Stir together and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer med-low heat for another 30 minutes. Taste for any additional salt or pepper before serving.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream or diced avocado and corn chips.  

This recipe would also be great cooked in a crock pot after browning the meat.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come!

We are halfway through January, and I'm so very happy to say that we've had more sunshine around here than clouds so far!  If it's not snowing, I want the sun to be gleaming through the house even if the temps are plunging outside. I almost always have a fire in the fireplace or candles going and something hot to drink.  Those are some of the lovely things about winter!  

Today is another gorgeous day, a bit warmer outside, and the kids and I just got home from a short trip to the mall.  This is a rare occasion for the three of us to go to the mall together, but I felt adventurous and we needed to get out of the house for a change of pace.  I had heard the sales were great and they were!  It was a good time with the kids, and I even snagged a couple of great deals at Gap plus I had a gift card so I really came our on top. If you don't already know, I'm quite the bargain shopper!  I don't mind digging for a deal at consignments, thrift stores, yard sales and places like TJ Maxx.  It's so fun for me!  When I find really great clearances items in the mall I'm thrilled, too.  Usually this time of year it's picked over, but I love the cable knit sweater and long sleeve striped t-shirt I found!  Yay:)

My sweet little rascals are asleep now (well, one of them...) in their naps, and I'm thoroughly enjoying a moment with a cup of spiced chai tea--I steep it in milk-- and a piece of gingerbread cake!  (Tazo and Trader Joes.) 

My feet are up and I'm relaxing for a little while.  Awwww, this is nice! 

It's been BUSY around here these days, if you didn't notice I haven't blogged in a long while!  This year is our "big year" we've kept on the shelf all the while waiting and praying for!  We're moving this summer back to our hometown after 7 years of living away for Heath's med school and residency!  Sometime in March we're putting our house on the market, so that's where this busyness comes in to play. There is so much to be done first before we can sell our house!  This is our first home to sell, and we want to do it the right way so it won't sit for months and months.  Our realtor came with her interior decorator the first week of January to look over our home, and they recommended several things to get our home in it's best condition.  They had so many wonderful ideas I wish we would've utilized earlier!  We are painting, sprucing up, de cluttering, organizing, deep-deep cleaning, redecorating and rearranging our entire house over the next few weeks!  It's a lot to do, but in only a week and a half we've accomplished so much already, and I have to say our home is looking better than ever!!   Just last night Heath hung a gorgeous chandelier in our stairwell.  This stairwell was DARK before, almost giving a creep vibe, but now it's bright and inviting!  He has proved to be a real handy man!  

It's bitter-sweet to sell our charming cottage home since it was our first house to buy and we brought home our children here, but I'm praying the right person will buy it and love it as much as us!  There are original details that are so beautiful in this home that you just can't find anymore.  Thick mouldings, original hardwoods, glass door knobs, two fireplaces both flanked with built in shelves.  It was built in 1945 and has the cozy charm that comes with that time period... Its so me!  But we're thrilled to move back close to our family again, and I know we'll find the right home for us there, too.  It'll be great being near our parents now that we have children who miss them so much!  I downright need my mama some days, and being so far away isn't always easy.  I guess we will never outgrow our parent's hugs or meals in their kitchen.  I want our kids to grow up in their homes and around their love, too!!  It will be hard to believe that our long-time friends and family will be only a short distance to visit instead of an overnight trip.  I can already imagine making dinners and having them in our new home!
I feel that God is really directing us through this process of getting ready to sell our home.  I have prayed about this for a long time, that He would give us wisdom on even the details and peace in the process.  It's feels like a lot to tackle with my little ones at home all the time, but we're figuring it out!

I had better get back to my snack before the kids awake since I have more laundry to do, of course! ;)

I hope you'll stay tuned for more of our selling, buying, and moving journey. And yes... I still cook a lot, I just need to let you in on the recipes.

Like this easy taco soup!

Happy New Year to you all, my friends!  I'm believing God that this year is going to be one of our family's best yet!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Merry Cherry Fudge

One of the best parts of the season for me is the Christmas baking!  I absolutely love going to the store and stocking up on chocolate chips of every sort, white and chocolate bark, cocoa powder, brown sugar, sprinkles, butter, vanilla extract, ginger, cloves and allspice, oranges...  These are all the classic  flavors of the Christmas season!  
Every year I try out a new recipe I've never made before.  I'll scan through my Gooseberry Patch and Southern Living Christmas cookbooks and find one or maybe two new desserts to try!  Several years ago it was the raspberry linzer cookies, a couple years ago was the toffee cracker candy, last year were Martha Washington and the chewy molasses cookies. Yuuum!  Mind you, all of these have seriously become new favorites!  Of course there are still my classic favorites I adore making and eating that stir up familiar memories of childhood.  (Peppermint bark, decorated sugar cookies, and gingerbread boys!)

This year I found a delectable sounding recipe in my favorite Gooseberry Patch Christmas cookbook that I've never really noticed before.  The recipe was of a fudge, which I've never made, but with chopped pecans and the cutest ruby red cherries planted in the top of each square!  

Chocolate cherry fudge, what a delicious idea!

As you can see, I whipped up a 2 lb. batch and it was every bit as easy as it looked! (It's not often I can say that.) The cherries in the fudge make them look like they came out of a cute fairy tale chocolate shop, but the flavor, oh the taste... Is heavenly!!!  I'm not a candy maker expert, and I've never made fudge in my life, but this recipe is so easy that it turned out just right.  They are not dry at all, but not gooey either so they're what I would consider to be some of the best fudge I've eaten!  They would be perfect for a festive party or you can place in a pretty tin as a delicious gift.  You can keep them a couple of weeks to munch on with the family over milk or a cup of dark coffee while movie watching and game playing over the weekend.

Chocolate and cherry, my favorite combination of flavors, now in a cute homemade Christmas candy must be why I've fallen in love with them so!  If there is one new recipe I'm truly thrilled to share this holiday season it's this fudge!  

Tis the season for our favorite things!

Merry Cherry Fudge
Gooseberry Patch Christmas Cookbook

36 maraschino cherries with stems, juice reserved

12 oz. pkg. Semi sweet chocolate chips

6 (1 oz.) squares bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet chips)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 c. chopped pecans

Tear two strips of foil and line a 8x8 baking pan crossways (does that make sense?) and then spray with baking spray.  This make the fudge so easy to remove from pan.  Blot cherries and set aside.

Combine chocolates in a double boiler of a large bowl over simmering water.  Heat slowly until melted and very smooth, whisking occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in sweetened milk, and about one teaspoon of reserved cherry juice.  Stir in pecans.  (I toasted these first in a dry skillet and let cool.)  

Pour out fudge mixture into a pan and smooth out.  *Immediately dot with cherries in neat rows.  Press them down enough for only the tops and their stems will show.  

Cover and chill for 2 hours.  Gently lift the overhang of foil out of the pan and into a cutting board. 

 Using a sharp knife cut the fudge into 36 squares.  

Store in an airtight container in fridge. Makes 2 pounds.

*Note:  I didn't use all the cherries because I know my husband doesn't like to eat them, but that's up to you.  The fudge itself has a nice subtle cherry flavor!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmastime is Here!

Happy December!!!!

Christmastime is here, and I'm not done decorating but our house really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  *wink wink. An old fashioned kind of Christmas--filled with red and green, plaid bows and wooden ornaments, gingerbread men and snowmen, berries and garland--just the way I like it.  (I'll do a little Christmas tour blog post when all the decor is up!)

I'm up early before the rest of my family, only to enjoy the first cup of vanilla coffee as I stare into our newly decorated tree.  While the pretty lights are dazzling and I get caught up into their magical glow, I'm reminded how this Christmas I want to be centered on Jesus' birth.  How he came to earth as a baby and born to a (virgin) girl who was young but willing and ready.  Jesus is King of Kings like the crown ornament on our tree reminds us, and I want Him to remain Lord of Lords in our hearts and intentions this Christmas season!   It's easy to get caught up in the bustle of doing and going as a wife and mom of two busy ones, but I pray I can implant the truth of the season deep in my little one's own hearts more than anything else.  It's really all about Jesus!

Tomorrow is my Love's birthday, but today I'm making a special delicious breakfast since he is off work.  

Cinnamon rolls are rising in pans on the stove and ready to bake.  I can't wait!  I'm adding a buttery maple glaze with toasted pecans to the top of these delicious splurge-worthy rolls!  I used the easy semi-homemade method using Rhodes frozen bread dough, and when I made these last Christmas they turned out amazing!!!  I hope to be posting some more Christmas recipes soon for you see what I've been cooking.

(Here is an updated picture of our little birthday breakfast table decorated in snowmen. Our dining table is being used to set out Christmas decor.)

Christmas is in the air and I hope you and yours have an extra special season filled with your own traditions and lots of love!

Luke 1:26- 2:1-21
I'm rereading this passage in the mornings this month.  What a beautiful story and a humble way for the Savior to come to earth!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giant Chocolate Candy Bar Cookies

This is one of those super-duper easy cookie recipes you have got to keep in your pocket at Christmastime!  

Speaking of my favorite time of year... It's not even here yet, but I am slowly beginning to decorate for Christmas (early for me), and I was in the mood for a delicious and festive batch of cookies for our family.  Before introducing you to the cookies, let me say how much we loved having snow this week!!!  It snowed and it stayed on the ground for two days, which is practically unheard of in a Kentucky November!  It was just so perfect with my husband on vacation at home and the beautiful snow, not to get out our Christmas decorations!  I never have out anything up before Thanksgiving, but it never has snowed this early either.  We'll wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the big Christmas tree, but we have so much to decorate that it'll take days even without the tree! So I'm around the house decking the halls and loving it!

I found this fun chocolate cookie recipe in the Gooseberry Patch cookbook, The Harvest Table, and when I saw it included only 3 ingredients plus candy bars I was excited!  We have (way too many) mini candy bars left over from fall parties even after I threw a lot away.  These cookies are perfect for your leftover candy bars.  The secret ingredients is a box of devils food cake mix so they're really fast to make.  They aren't a cakey texture but instead very chewy and moist like cookies should be.  I thought adding some cute sprinkles would be even more festive for our kids!  These big chocolatey candy bar cookies are irresistible, and I hope maybe they will make their way into your festivities this season, too!  

They might even be perfect for "Santa" to munch on Christmas Eve! ;)

Giant Chocolate Candy Bar Cookies

•1 box Devils food cake mix
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
•1/2 c. Canola oil
•10 mini chocolate bars, chopped ( I used a combination including Reeses cups, Take 5, Kit Kat and Whoppers)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Using a mixer, mix together the cake mix, eggs and oil until well blended.  Add the chopped candy bars.  The batter will be thick.  Pop in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.  

On a parchment lined baking sheet, drop rounded golf ball sized dough balls about 3 1/2 inches apart.  Top with sprinkles and lightly press them in dough.  Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool a few minutes before eating. A glass of milk is recommended for these cookies:)  Makes about 18 cookies.

* Note: The candy bars surprisingly dissolved/melted into the cookie when baked, so keep the chunks large if you want to really taste the candy bars inside.  These cookies keep well when aired in a tightly seals container.