Thursday, April 28, 2011

Please Pray for Tornado Recovery Efforts

Yesterday Alabama and several other states were hit with deadly tornadoes. I was glued to the TV trying to see familiar neighborhoods and the extent of the damage. People on the scene relayed how destructive these storms were.

But by the light of day, the damage was so much more unbelievable. We traveled north to take food and bottled water to our dear friends who have been without power since yesterday morning. The closer we got to their house, the more damage we saw. Trees were down everywhere, some snapped in half, some completely uprooted. Downed power lines crisscrossed the road.

We arrived to see trees just feet away from their home. Siding had been ripped off and shingles were missing. You can see their trampoline wrapped around the bottom of power pole.

There were literally dozens of trees down all around their property. It truly was a miracle that they were not injured and their house was spared severe damage.

On our way home, we were directed to go another way due to work crews trying to remove debris from the roadway. Our GPS took us through an area hit even harder than the one we had just left. Houses were simply gone, leaving only the concrete foundations. Trees were strewn about like discarded toothpicks. Clothes were scattered throughout fields. I can't imagine that anyone in those houses could have survived. I took no pictures of any of it. I was just too horrified.

The death toll continues to rise as more debris is removed. Right now it stands at 207 in Alabama. Other states have also reported multiple fatalities. And it's likely to go even higher. There are dozens of people still unaccounted for.

We need your prayers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prayers for Alabama

We woke up this morning to the sound of tree limbs falling on our house. Straight line winds in excess of 50mph took out trees and power lines throughout our area. Statewide there were 5 fatalities this morning.

That was nothing compared to what happened this afternoon and this evening, and I certainly don't mean to minimize the loss of life this morning. One very dangerous tornado crossed the entire state, leaving destruction and death in its wake.

Click here to see a video of the massive tornado as it struck Birmingham.

Entire neighborhoods have been leveled. The death toll officially stands at 25 but when daylight comes, that number is expected to rise. Significantly.

We are counting our blessings. We didn't even lose power, though nearly half a million of our fellow Alabamians have. We know it could have been much, much worse.

Please pray for the people of Alabama as they seek to recover from this devastation. Pray for churches that seek to minister to the hurting. Pray for comfort and healing.

Thank you.

Fudgy Oatmeal Bars

Want a nice chocolatey accompaniment for your coffee? I've got a great treat for you! Fudgy Oatmeal Bars! What's not to like about chocolate fudge?

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teas salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup quick oats
12 oz bag chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

With a mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together until smooth.

In another bowl, combine the salt, flour and oatmeal. Add to the butter mixture and mix until crumbs form.

Reserve about 1/3 cup of the crumbs for later. Press the remaining crumbs into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, melt all but 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk. I put mine in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds.

Stir the chocolate mixture until smooth. Pour evenly over the crust.

Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture and remaining chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or the fudge layer will harden too much. Not a good thing.

Cut into small squares - these are delightfully rich!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Indian Butter Chicken

When my husband travels for work, he gets to eat out on the company dime. Nice, huh? He's all about trying new restaurants, too. So when he came home and told me how much he enjoyed having Indian Butter Chicken, I knew I wanted to find a recipe that was similar.

I found one here, at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Of course, I tweaked it a bit, leaving out the jalapenos because my family isn't fond of them. I also played around with the spices until I found a combination we liked.

When all was said and done, Charles declared this version of Indian Butter Chicken to be a winner!

Here's what you need:

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 TBSP ginger, chopped
2 teas minced garlic
2 teas garam masala
1 teas curry powder
1 teas chili powder
1/2 teas ground coriander
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half or cream
3 TBSP butter, cut into chunks
cilantro for sprinkling over each serving

Sprinkle the cut-up chicken with salt and pepper; set aside. In a skillet or pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook and stir until the onion is translucent.

Stir in the spices. Here's a helpful tip if you have to add a few spices at once. Measure all of them out and place them in a small bowl together. This will save you some time and hassle, especially if you're trying to stir what's in the pot!

Keep stirring for about a minute. You want everything in the pot coated with the spices. And let me tell you, this smells wonderful as the spices heat up.

Remove from the heat and scrape the mixture into a blender. Add the tomato paste and chicken broth.

Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Pour back into the pot and add the half and half or cream. Bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the chicken pieces and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. You probably want to fish out a piece and cut through it to be sure. When it's cooked, add the butter and stir until it's completely melted.

Serve over rice and garnish with some chopped cilantro.

Charles loves this version more than the one he had at the authentic Indian restaurant. He says the sauce is so smooth and rich! And leftovers the next day are even better. The spices have had a chance to meld together and deepen. It's lovely!

For a printable recipe, click here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Menu Plan April 24-30

The last week of April?!? Can you believe it? The first four months of 2011 have flown by!

Is anyone planning to get up super early on Friday morning to watch the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton? The Princess and I are!

Since I fixed a big ham for Easter dinner, we'll be eating some leftovers this week. In addition to the cheesy veggie soup with ham, I'll fix grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch or maybe ham and cheese biscuits. Yum!

We're going to grill out toward the end of the week. I usually try to have several items to grill at one time. Plus, next week the kids and I are heading to South Carolina to welcome our new nephew to the family. Charles is staying behind, so he'll need some things to heat up easily.

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Honey Glazed Ham in the slow cooker, mashed potatoes, green beans

Indian Butter Chicken (recipe to come later this week), rice

Cheesy Veggie Soup with ham, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Homemade pizza

Penne with ham and broccoli

Grilled chicken, veggie skewers

Grilled hamburgers, crispy potato wedges

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Because He Lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

If I Only Had a Brain....Hat

We've been studying human anatomy in school and recently started talking about our amazing brains. The kids have really enjoyed learning more about the command center of our bodies. To illustrate how different parts of our brains are responsible for different activities, we made brain hats.

I downloaded the patterns here.

First we colored our brains. Doesn't that sound funny? We colored our brains!

Then, we cut out our brains. That sounds even worse!

After they were assembled, we showed our brains off! Imagine me saying, "Hey kids, let's show off your brains!" Can you tell we giggled a lot during this part of school?

This was a fantastic way for them to understand how their brains work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

He Has Forgiven Me

Thank you, Jesus! When the guilt of the past creeps in, let the truth of this song lift you up. In Christ, you are free!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Butterscotch Blondies

I adore brownies. I really do. But every now and then, I want something different. And these butterscotch blondies are the perfect alternative to brownies. Sweet, buttery and delicious!

Here's the recipe: Click here for a printable version.

2/3 cup butter (this is 10 TBSP plus half another TBSP), melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla
2 cups flour (I use half white, half white wheat)
1 teas baking powder
3/4 teas salt
1/4 teas baking soda
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to the sugar mixture until well combined.

Stir in the butterscotch chips and nuts. I always do this by hand instead of with the mixer.

Pat the mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. I use a piece of wax paper to do this so my hands don't get sticky. You can use your hands or the back of a spoon, but grease them up first!

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Menu Plan April 17-23

Wow! We're already mid-way through April. Can you believe it? I remember when I was a kid and it seemed like time used to drag on. Christmas would never get here! Summer would never get here! School....well, it always showed up too soon! Ha ha!

Seriously, though, doesn't it seem like time is just flying by quicker these days? Or is it just something that happens as you get older?

This is another busy week, so I'm going to try to keep it simple, although I've got a couple of new recipes to try.

Here's the plan:

Pasta fagioli (in the crockpot), homemade bread

Spaghetti and meatballs, cheesy garlic breadsticks

Fish tacos - would you believe I've never had fish tacos before?

Grilled pork chops, roasted red potatoes

Fiesta chicken and rice, green beans

Grilled hamburgers, crispy potato wedges

Chicken peanut wraps

For more menu planning ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find hundreds of menu plans to fit a variety of needs - frugal, gluten-free, etc. Have a great week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. This is a pic of her, me and the Princess at my niece's wedding last summer.

I'm thankful for the godly influence she's had on my life and now on the lives of my children. She's always been my greatest prayer warrior and supporter. She still is. She has shown me how to be a loving daughter by her example with her own parents. She has also shown me how to lovingly parent my children because that's how she parented me.

Thank you, Mom, for showing me Jesus for all these years. I love you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No Brown Bag Lunches?

In a stunning overreach of authority, a school principal banned children from bringing lunch from home. According to the principal, this is to encourage nutrition and healthy eating. We're just now hearing about this policy, but did you know that it's been in effect for six years? That's right, six years! So why are parents just now speaking up?

I've eaten school cafeteria food, as I'm sure many of you have. There's no way it's healthier than what I could send for my child to eat. Most of the school food is bland and gross! Some children who are picky eaters choose to go without rather than eating it. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of providing nutritious meals if they're so unappetizing the students won't eat them?

And seriously, does anyone really believe this is about nutrition? That sounds like such a noble thing, encouraging children to eat in a healthy way. But is that the responsibility of the school or the parents? Ummm, yeah. Let's take a minute to think about who really should be making those decisions.

Did you know that most schools receive funding based on how many lunches they provide? So this school is getting money from the government for 100% of their enrollment! I know I might sound cynical, but that seems like a pretty good motivator to ban all lunches brought from home.

In full disclosure, I homeschool my children. We eat home-cooked food, usually leftovers from the night before, every day for lunch. If not leftovers, then something simple like sandwiches or quesadillas. Even pancakes. Stories like this make me thankful that homeschooling is an option. I wouldn't want a school telling me I couldn't send lunch for my own children, especially when I know that I could provide a healthier lunch than the school.

So what do you think? Should a school be able to ban students from bringing lunches? Maybe just soda and junk food? Where do we draw the line?

Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

C'mon, Photobucket

Sorry my blog has looked awful all day! Photobucket says they're having issues but everything will be better shortly. Ummm, shortly has taken all day long. And now it's almost midnight! According to them, only 2% of their accounts are having problems. How lucky am I to be part of that small percentage? NOT!

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow. Hopefully my pretty blog will be, too.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Menu Plan April 10-16

Spring is here to stay....I think! I could do without the coating of yellow pollen all over everything, but the warm weather has been a blessing. After putting it off because of cold snaps and rainy days, I'll be doing the great seasonal clothing switcheroo this week for the kids. That's always fun!

This week will be simple and quick. I'm not going to spend all my time in a warm kitchen when I could be outside enjoying the beautiful spring!

Here's the plan:

Crockpot Sticky Chicken, mashed potatoes

Pan-seared tilapia, broccoli

Slow cooked turkey breast and potatoes

Shell pasta skillet, garlic bread

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Cook out with friends

Burritos, corn

For more menu plan ideas, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oreo Truffles

I've been in love with these little truffles for years. They're so easy to make and require only three ingredients. And they're yummy! Everyone loves them. In fact, they're one of my most requested contributions for parties and get-togethers. They look fabulous on a goodie tray at the holidays, too.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg Oreos
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
Melted chocolate - I use one bag of milk chocolate chips and one bag of dark chocolate chips
and a little white chocolate for decoration

Place the entire package of Oreos in a blender or food processor. If you don't have a blender or processor, place the cookies in a Ziploc bag and pound them with a rolling pin or meat mallet. You get the same result.

Pulse until all of the cookies are smooshed into tiny little crumbs.

Now place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and smoosh it around. Why do I keep using that word, smoosh?

Add the oreo crumbs to the bowl and mix until everything is incorporated.

Shape the mixture into small lumps, using your hands or a cookie scoop. Place on a baking sheet covered with wax paper.

Now go back and roll each lump into a smooth ball. Place in the freezer for up to an hour.

After an hour, remove the Oreo balls from the freezer and dip into the chocolate. Place back on the baking sheet and into the freezer again until set.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen truffles. Store in the fridge if possible. Most of the time I don't have to do this because they don't last long enough to require refrigeration!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ice Cream Coffee Treat

Do afternoons sometimes drag for you? Often I find myself in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. But who wants to run to Starbucks or the bakery for coffee or a snack? My friend Paige gave me this great idea to combine the two - ice cream and coffee.

Put one scoop of ice cream in a large mug. I know this is not an exact measurement, because scoops are different sizes. Hey, if you want to put two scoops, I won't judge you.

Doesn't that ice cream look a little lonely in that big ol' mug? How about some coffee to keep you company?

Pour a cup or so of coffee over the ice cream and give it a good stir. Doesn't that look yummy?

I used vanilla ice cream because that's what I had on hand, but chocolate would be delightful, too! Honestly, this was as good as any coffee house latte or flavored drink I've ever had. And so easy! The possibilities are endless, too, with the different flavors of ice cream - mint, caramel, butter pecan....delicious! You could even add a squirt of chocolate or caramel syrup if you want!

This quick and easy afternoon pick-me-up works for me! For more tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Menu Plan April 3-9

This weekend passed by way too quickly! We hosted a dessert party for our Sunday School class tonight after church which was a huge success. And of course, we're all going to be huge after ingesting all of those goodies! The fellowship with other believers was enjoyable and edifying.

The kitchen is cleaned up, the children are off to bed and it's time to think about what meals to prepare this week. I'm thinking some easy family favorites are in order, so here's the plan:

Out to eat for lunch, dessert party in the evening

Ladies Night Out, hubby and kids eating with friends

Greek chicken pasta, roasted garlic cauliflower

Sausage veggie calzones

Savory roast beef sandwiches, mashed potatoes

Fiesta chicken and rice

Leftover buffet

What's on your menu for this week?

If you're looking for more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find all kinds of menus and recipes there.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Family Rules Canvas or how I spent my Saturday

I first stumbled across this idea about a year and a half ago at Mary Ostyn's blog, OwlHaven. I thought "What a neat idea! I'd like to do that someday!" And I promptly went on with my life and forgot all about it.

Until about a month ago, when a spurt of creativity descended upon me and I rediscovered this project in the far recesses of my mind. Scary place to be, I tell you.

I bought a 12x24 canvas and painted it green to go with our breakfast area walls. Then I printed off our family rules onto scrapbook paper, using different fonts for each one. I trimmed each piece and inked the edges to create more of a boundary between each one.

After much trial and error, I finally had the rules in the order I wanted them, so I adhered them to the canvas. I've seen some of the family rules canvases that use Mod Podge, but honestly, I'm a Mod Podge freak because I can never get the bubbles out. I simply used a scrapbook tape runner adhesive that I know is really strong.

I was going to seal the entire thing with an acrylic sealer, but the adhesive worked so well that I didn't think a sealer was necessary. If the edges start to come up at some point in the future, I'll seal it, but I like it the way it is.

We hung the canvas in the breakfast nook where it is easily visible.

Here's a view looking down into our den from the breakfast room. We have a coffee theme going on as you can see.

Here are the rules :

Follow God
Obey Dad and Mom
Love One Another
Use Words that Are true, kind, necessary
Forgive Freely
Express Gratitude
Clean Up After Yourself
Use Your Manners
No Whining
Be Helpful

I'm really happy with how this project turned out. The kids have already pointed out the ones that the other needs to work on! Ha ha!