Friday, August 31, 2012

Breakfast Planning

With two little ones in the house meals get crazy quickly if I'm unprepared, especially breakfast time. I've been planning our breakfasts for the past few months but it's been too much trouble, to think of something different for everyday of the month. Ugh! I have a hard enough time thinking of dinners for us. My friend Rachel over at Intentionally Simple has started streamlining her menu's and I love the idea she has for breakfast. She also has two little ones and knows it gets wild, quick and being prepared is in her favor.

Rachel suggests planning a breakfast for everyday and repeating it each week. Hello, why didn't I think of this? I sat down last Sunday night and thought of all the foods I usually have on hand for breakfasts that are either made or can be prepared quickly. I came up with 10 things! I planned for all 7 days of the week plus had a few extras that can easily be replaced if one of my usuals isn't available. It's been so easy to take 5 minutes the night before and pull out what I need from the freezer for breakfast the next morning. Since I've taken the time to plan this menu breakfast isn't as hectic. It's all in the fridge, ready to be warmed up. For some reason breakfast time sneaks up on me. I'm busy getting the girls dressed and playing and before I know they're having a meltdown about being hungry. Our mornings have been easier ever since I created this menu.

Here's my weekly breakfast plan (it will stay this way until I decide otherwise):

Monday- eggs, bacon and toast
(I cook all the bacon on Sunday night and put it in labeled containers for which meal the bacon goes to, as some goes to dinners during the week)

Tuesday- blueberry pancakes (from the freezer) with maple syrup

Wednesday- cereal or oatmeal (I've just started making baked oatmeal, yum!)

Thursday- muffins and eggs (I always have muffins in the freezer. We like apple, blueberry and whatever else I feel like making)

Friday- cinnamon roll (from the freeze)

Saturday- banana bread (from the freezer) or cinnamon toast (Daddy's is the best!)

Sunday- peanut butter toast and bacon

Quick substitutes if my usual isn't available:
french toast
breakfast sandwiches (I usually have a whole wheat bun in the freezer, cheese, bacon and eggs in the fridge)

On Monday's, Thursday's and Sunday's I fix a heartier breakfast for us. Nyla goes to Kid's Day Out at my parents church on Monday's and Thursday's and I like for her to eat a good breakfast since they eat lunch a little later than we do around here. And Sunday's are usually long mornings for us. We get there early since Daniel is the audio/visual guy and teaches Sunday school on occasion and we're there chatting for awhile after service has ended. We need a breakfast that is going to stick with us until we get home. 

This menu is posted on our fridge so each night when I'm preparing for the morning I can look to see what I need to get out. Most of it heats up quick and is ready to go in under a minute. And sometimes I need that to keep my sanity!

Do you have a breakfast routine that makes your mornings easy?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Easy Homemade Lasagna

Recently, I told you about a lasagna I made for our neighbor who broke her leg. I decided I'd share it with you. I usually triple this recipe as it freezes great and I don't get anymore dishes dirty than I would if I were just making one lasagna. This is wonderful to pull out when I need a quick dinner and is simply delicious!

Easy Homemade Lasagna

Ingredients: (this is a single recipe)

1 pound ground beef (we like ground turkey)
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese (I use cottage cheese instead)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped OR 2 Tbsp dried parsley
4-8 ounces Velvetta cheese, cubed into 1-inch pieces
1 (26 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
12 lasagna noodles, uncooked (we like whole wheat noodles)

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brown meat in large skillet. In a medium size bowl beat egg, 1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, the ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, velvetta cheese and parsley until well blended. Set aside.
2. Drain meat and return to skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce, add the 1 cup of water to the empty sauce jar, shake and dump in skillet. Stir until well blended.
3. Assembly: Spread 1 cup of meat mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 in. pan, top with 3 lasagna noodles, a third of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup sauce. Repeat layers twice. Then, top with 3 remaining noodles and the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Cover with greased foil.
4. Bake 45 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 15 minute before cutting.

Makes 12 servings. Serve with homemade french bread and a tossed salad.

Freezer Friendly:
If you want to freeze this, do not bake. Cover and freeze. Thaw completely before baking. Leftovers can be frozen and they're delicious!

When tripling this recipe, 2 boxes of lasagna noodles is enough.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Parenting by the Book [Book Review]

Daniel has reviewed a number on books on our little blog so I thought I'd start contributing in the book review department.

First on my list is one of my favorites, Parenting by the Book (as in the Bible) by John Rosemond. Here's a little snippet from the introduction that I think sums up what he is all about: "A number of years ago, I came to the realization that for all of its pretenses to scientific objectivity, post- 1960s psychology is a secular religion that one believes in by faith. I had been slowly losing the false faith since the early 1980s, but I lost the last vestige seven years ago, when I submitted my life to Jesus Christ."

Where do I even begin as there is so much in this book that I love and it eye-opening? But I want YOU to read it so I won't go into too much detail. I will say that he is a great writer and funny. I've laughed out loud at the scenarios and real-life stories he tells.  He calls the people in his profession, "those people with the big letters behind their names" and talks about the older generation as "Grandma." As in, "Grandma" knew best and still knows best and we should be seeking Godly council and our Bibles as a way to raise our children. We shouldn't rely too much on the "people with the big letters behind their names" who may not even be parents and are telling you what you should do, not based on experience but by what they've read and studied.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his book:

On self-esteem:
"Humanistic psychology's second contribution to Postmodern Psychological Parenting is the idea that high self-esteem is desirable---essential, in fact, to personal happiness---and parents should do everything in their power to help their children acquire it.
"Grandma didn't believe people should think highly of themselves. In fact, she did not have a lot of regard for people who did. She thought, and rightly so, that high self-regard was a problem, not a solution to a problem. Grandma valued humility and modesty and did her best to pass those virtues along to her children."
"That's a biblical point of view. Scripture does not validate high self-esteem. In the Old Testament, every single person with high self-esteem takes a huge fall, self-destructs, or is in the eventual recipient of God's wrath. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke on the subject of self-esteem---numerous times, in fact." (See Matthew 16:24, Matthew 20:16, Luke 14:11 and Isaiah 2:12)

On training up a child in the way he should go:
"Grandma's Three Rs"
1. "respect--for the fundamental dignity of every human being, which children develop by first learning respect for people in positions of legitimate authority, beginning with their parents."
2. "responsibility--in two equally important senses of the term: first, accountability for one's own actions; second, a willingness to carry out tasks by authority figures (as well as those that are simply due the family/community by virtue of one's membership within it.)"
3. "resourcefulness--a hang in there, tough it out, try-and-try again attitude brought to the challenges of life." (He elaborates on these in chapter 3.)

I love his humor and love for the Lord and those two really come through in this book. He backs up his writing with scripture and it's not taken out of context. If you look around you and see you want to do things differently with your kids (i.e. marriage centered family and not child-centered family) than what the "world" says is right, read this book! And read this book first. I think this is his best one to start with. It covers a lot of material and lays down the basics of his other books. I've read this book two times already and I think I'll read it numerous times before both girls leave our home. Enjoy!

Other books I've read by Rosemond and highly suggest:
Making the Terrible Two's Terrific (since I have two young girls and it's coming in very handy with Nyla right now)
The {New} Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children (everyone should read this one!)

Disclaimer: The thoughts in this review are all my own. I was not compensated in any way to write this review.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blessing Others... With Food

I love to cook, bake, meal plan and, of course, eat.

I love the seeing all the ingredients separate on the counter; the different colors, textures and smells all appeal to my senses. And then I get to chop it all up? I really do love that! And by the end of it, it's a complete meal. We sit at the table as a family and enjoy the food we've been blessed with. I just love the whole process of food preparation.

A couple weeks ago our next door neighbor fell and broke her leg. We didn't know what happened at the time but Daniel saw an ambulance at her house and then her in it. A few days later I was menu planning and shopping for our next two weeks and felt like I needed to take her a meal and I wanted to. I wanted to make a few lasagna's for the freezer so I decided to make her one too. It's just as easy to triple a recipe as it is to double and I get just as many pots and pans dirty. Why not bless someone with a meal? Nyla and I took the lasagna and a loaf of homemade french bread over last Friday and it was appreciated. She thanked us and thanked us and we were on our way, not only having blessed someone but feeling blessed in return.

I'll tell you, though, it wasn't easy for me to ring her door bell. I'm a fairly shy girl especially when I don't know someone and I barely know our neighbor. We wave and say hello in passing and had a few quick conversations but nothing more than that. It was easy for me to cook the lasagna and bread but it wasn't so easy for me to get up and take it to her. I contemplated not taking it at all. But I did. I took Nyla with me and that honestly helped me feel comfortable. Why a 2-year old helped me feel comfortable I'll never know but it really did help. 

And lately I've felt called to share our food. We have SO much and we're so thankful, why not share the abundance we've been blessed with? And that's why I wanted to share a lasagna. Since I love to cook it's easy to pass on a loaf of bread or an extra lasagna. I love seeing people's surprised looks when I bring in a treat for them. I love blessing others... with food.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Love in Action

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (My italics)

Now here's a verse that I think everyone would agree with. It's very easy to tell someone, "I love you." It's slightly more challenging to actually show someone, "I love you."

Why is that? Because love in action requires putting another's interests ahead of our own. Words can be empty and hollow. Actions can't be. They have to be planned out and then carried out. Words can be picked out of thin air. Actions develop in the heart. Love in action means love in the heart.

For instance, love in action could mean emptying the dishwasher without being prompted (something I could do more of). It could mean getting the baby ready for bed and sitting with her while your wife has some time to herself. Love in action means figuring out what makes your friend/spouse/whoever feel most loved. This book and its other iterations give great insight into the basic ways people both give and receive love.

The bottom line is that we must show love to those we love. The words that come out of our mouth must line up with our actions. If there's a disconnect, the meaning of those words or actions loses value.

Let us not forget the example of love: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

Have a great day!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ticket to Ride [Board Game Review]

One of my first posts here on the blog was about board games and my enjoyment of them. Since I have reviewed books I've recently read, why not review some board games we own? Rather than dive right into the more complex games we play, I'll start with a good one that is a good introduction to the "beyond Monopoly" board games - Ticket to Ride.

Picture courtesy user garyjames at
 Ticket to Ride is a game for 2 to 5 players and should take about 45 minutes of playing time.

In Ticket to Ride, you are collecting colored train cards which you will use to claim routes on the board. You earn points for each route you build as well as additional points at the end of the game for completing a destination ticket (Houston to Chicago for instance).

I won't go over all of the rules but will highlight the basic summary of gameplay. On your turn, you have 3 choices: (1) Claim a link on the board, turning in the appropriate train cards to claim a link on the board. If the link shows two blue bars on the board, for instance, then you will need two blue train cards in order to claim it. (2) Draw train cards. A face up pile of 5 train cars as well as the top card off the draw stack are available. Do you draw from the face up cards and let the other players know where you might be playing? Or do you draw from the draw stack, hoping you get a good card? (3) Draw more destination tickets. You are dealt 3 of these at the beginning of the game and get to choose which one(s) to keep. If you're feeling confident in your routes and cards, you can draw and opt to keep more of these tickets. Keep in mind, however, that if you do not make the tickets, you lose the points on the ticket, not gain them.

The end game condition is based on the number of plastic trains left in your "hand". When they reach or fall below a certain number, the players will get one more turn. (Refer to the rules for more details on this.) At the end of game, add or subtract points based on complete/incomplete destination tickets. The player with the most points is the winner.

My Thoughts:
So what do I think of Ticket to Ride? It's great. It works well with 2 players or the full complement of 5. It's easy to explain, teach, and play the game in an hour. New gamers won't be overwhelmed by it. It's an excellent introduction, as I stated above, to games "beyond Monopoly." When the girls are old enough, this will probably be the first game that Ginny and I teach them. If Ginny and I want a game that plays in under an hour and won't burn our brains too much, Ticket to Ride is the one we'll reach for. I currently have it rated as a 7.5/10 on BGG. As an added bonus, this game is in the mainstream market place. You'll be able to find it on the shelves at Target. If you've never ventured past Scrabble or Monopoly or Life, have a look at Ticket to Ride. You will not be disappointed.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Run Ginny Run!

Today marked my sixth week of running and that is really hard to believe!
I've said for years that I never wanted to run and here I am, running.

My progress so far:
I've completed 5 weeks of running, 3 days a week. I get up at 5:00 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and run. I am by NO means a morning person. I. like. to. sleep.
I've completed 3 weeks of the Couch to 5k program (I ran weeks 1 and 2 two times to gain strength and confidence).
I'm down 7 pounds in 4 weeks. That's 3 pounds ahead of my goal of losing 1 pound per week.
I feel more confident on my runs and more comfortable.
My feet, knees and everything else feel great.
I'm still taking glucosamine supplements two times a day to help with my joint pain.
I ice my knees after each run (most days).
I'm going to get new running shoes in the next couple of weeks to keep myself feeling great. I have a lot of miles on my shoes from all the walking I've done over the past couple of years and before anything starts to really hurt I need to get a new pair.
I couldn't do this without my husband getting up with me and staying at home and working out to a video.
I also couldn't do it without my sister who sacrifices her sleep and gets up to help me reach my goals. And keeps times for me which I know I would absolutely hate!

Well, that's my progress so far. It's great progress for me, a non-runner who's been out of the workout game for years, 80-ish pounds overweight and has no real experience in just plain ol' running. So go out there and reach your goals. You can do it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

3 Benefits of Getting Up Earlier

As my wife has posted before, we have both been getting up at 5:00am every weekday for the last four (and now five) weeks. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she does the "Couch to 5k" program with her sister (and she is rocking, ya'll) while I do an exercise video here at the house (because it's not a good idea to leave two sleeping girls home alone). On Tuesday and Thursday, we get up and do our Bible studies/priority times.

For me, this was a big shift in my morning routine. My work schedule is 6:30-3:00, meaning that I would get up usually at the latest possible time that would let me be on time for work - 5:40 or so. Needless to say, this has been an adjustment for both of us, but it has been a great decision. I'll outline 3 reasons why, but of course there may be more that I am missing.

1.) It gives us time to ourselves - This is more for Ginny, who, by the time 6:30 rolls around, has at least one rugrat wanting her attention. I can't imagine what a stay-at-home mom goes through every day and am thankful my wife is one. This hour and a half she gets in the mornings helps her when the fussing inevitably starts. As parents of two young children, our time is precious, and if we can get in some time to ourselves, we will take advantage of that. We cannot neglect our own personal time. If we do neglect our personal time, we will lose patience quicker and not engage with our girls like they (and we) need.

2.) It gives me more energy - Every day, from about 1:30 to 2:30, I hit a wall. That's my post-lunch crash. That's when I feel the most tired, and, if I am having a bad day, the most down. I have found that since getting up earlier and working out, the post-lunch crash is not as severe. It doesn't vanish completely but definitely is not as strong as it used to be.

3.) We sleep better at night - Ginny and I are very different sleepers. By that, I mean that she falls asleep and pretty is in a deep sleep all night. I, on the other hand, am a fairly light sleeper. I am always the first to know when one of the girls fusses. Thunder will wake me up. Ginny can also attest to me being startled if she closes a door too loudly. However, since we started getting up early, I have slept better. I have also been going to bed earlier, too, which has definitely helped.

So what are you waiting for? Or better yet, what would 30 extra minutes in the morning do for your day? Think about it. If you're already doing this, what some of your benefits or reasons?

Have a great day.