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Friday, December 28, 2012

Condo Tales ~ Friends

Our building sits in what one might call a cul de sac if we were in a housing community.  Our home faces others and our neighbors all have children of various ages.  It's fascinating to me how they seek each other out daily to play every day.

The oldest and ringleader is 12; she rounds the girls up and keeps them safely within our "boarders", meaning she keeps them directly within eyesight of our porch.  I LOVE her for this.  She's responsible and friendly.  I think when we move, I will write her mom a letter saying how well she has done with raising an amazing daughter.

Across from us is a pair of sisters, 9 and 5.  The youngest is closest in age to our 4 year old.  You might think these two would play together exclusively but no, the ringleader keeps the merry band together.

They create sidewalk chalk masterpieces.

They pick up trash - yes!  the ringleader gave them all bags and had them cleaning up the yard!

They even allow our 2 year old to join in the fun!

They all collectively agree that we have the cutest dog in the world and they love to make over him.

They all collectively adore our baby and the ringleader tries to hold her every day, much to Violette's continue dismay because she's going through a "parent only" phase.

It's becoming harder to tear ourselves away from this place because we feel bad for taking Charlotte away from her friends.  But we have our future to consider and it involves more then just keeping Charlotte with her friends.  We want to live near family and be involved in their lives and them in ours. So that means setting a moving date and sticking to it!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Condo Tales ~ Nostalgia

We're moving soon - well as soon as we can do a bunch of things that are required for a move.  I look around my crowded condo with fondness.  We have stuff in strange places and it no longer bothers me.

The light housing from our porch light sits on our TV stand, that's because our neighbor girl keeps borrowing our porch table - but that still doesn't explain why the light housing is off.  That's because our Christmas lights are connected to the porch light socket.  See - it's condo living at it's best!

Our couch doesn't have a cover, it was taken off approximately a week ago.  It's been cleaned, I'll probably get it back on tomorrow.

There is a feather duster on the floor, probably dropped by a child trying to help.

Toys scattered randomly.

And this is just the living room.

We have a changing table in the dining room that includes all of babies clothing.  That's because it no longer fits in the kids room that all three share.

I'm tired.  It's been a long year so I'm just going to sit here and ignore it all.  Maybe I'll watch a movie with the love of my life :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Notes from Allume 2012

Speaker creator of Veggie Tales
Phil Vischer

Funny - I didn't write much because I took notes on my phone; and it looked like much more then is evidenced here! This speech impacted me more then any other of the entire event.  I listened with stunned amazement as he detailed his history with creating Veggie Tales, losing the entire company in a lawsuit and finding God's will for his life.
"God can't steer a parked car.
When God gives you a dream, and then takes it away, he may be trying to see what's more important to you. The dream or Him?
Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because it might be a god to you.
Jelly Fish Labs - must move with the current. His current will carry me exactly to where I want to be.
What are your dreams? Can you lay them on the alter and walk away?
Tonight's dinner sponsored by What's In The Bible."
What's In The Bible is Phil's new company.  It's a really fun collection of stories's that show kids how to enjoy the Bible and I'm really looking forward to sharing these with my kids.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tiger Butter Candy

This recipe is THREE ingredients and it makes an awesome candy in less then 30 minutes!

The Ingredients

  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup of peanut butter
Start by heating your semi sweet chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring after each heating.  Once the chips are liquified, stir in 1/3 cup of peanut butter.  Then spread over wax paper that is laid out on a cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer to harden while you do the next step.

Place white chips into a bowl.  Heat in microwave for 30 second intervals, stopping to stir after each heating. 

 Once it's heated the entire way through you can spread the white chocolate over the slightly frozen dark chocolate.  What this does is allow you to spread the white without it mixing, but the heat from the white will start to melt the dark so that by the time you are done, you can run a knife through both and create a lovely swirl effect.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Remembering Jill

Jill died today, 3 years ago.  This is our brief story.

When I first moved to Fort Lauderdale in the summer of 1998, I got a job at Smoothie King.  I quickly moved into an assistant management position because I was in my early twenties and all the employees were still in high school.  I met Jill that year, she was a shy blond, only 16 years old with a very complicated family history.  We became friends, as much as a manager can with someone 7 years younger and she really clung to me.  What I mean by this is she stayed in touch with me where ever I moved and would tell me long stories about how chaotic her life was getting.  I watched her move into an ugly cycle with men who would take care of her but were never good for her.  I'd try to coach her out of it but she wouldn't listen.  Once I started having kids I moved out of her orbit and we talked less and less.  Our last phone call was her telling me she'd gone back to an old boyfriends house, found an expensive drug and flushed it down the toilet.  I was shocked.

One - I don't know anyone who uses heavy drugs.
Two - I was worried about her.
Three - I was a little afraid of the creepy people she hung out with and it made me want to avoid her.

At the time, I was pregnant with my 2nd and it was not an easy pregnancy so we lost touch after that conversation.  It wasn't until a year later I tried to track her down and found out she had died on December 14th.  I have come to the conclusion that Jill was killed by forced overdose by either the ex or his drug pushers once they found out she flushed their drug down the toilet.  

I really wish I could say I had been a better friend, had guided her better, had gone out of my way to take her to church but I was a shallow friend.

There are really no words to describe the grief I feel for her loss because it's also grief at not saving her from impending doom.  The warning signs were all there, the reckless drinking, her drunk crash into a tree a few years before dying, the drug using old boyfriends.  All combined, it really made me shy away from her.  

I believe God really wants us to look past the dirty, uncomfortable things in life and reach forward to help those placed in our pathway.  I do this now, look for those who need help and don't know how to ask.  I do it through Compassion and random charities that I find throughout the year.  I haven't yet found another Jill to care for, but when I do, I won't avoid her.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Notes from Allume 2012 ~ The Nester

I have admired The Nester's blog for awhile now, she's so full of creativity; so I was excited to catch her talk at Allume '12.

Following Your Passion 

How do you want readers to feel when they leave your blog?
What do you want them to do differently when they leave your blog?
What do you hope they turn to your site first for?
What are you obsessed with?
What are you an expert at?

“A successful blog is one that reaches it’s intended audience” Rachel Meeks

Content:  she was 10% content, 90% random.
Time:  fiercely protect your time.

Your most valuable contribution is content.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed and overloaded, saying yes to too many things.  Is this an opportunity or a floppertunity? 

Create white space – the problem with doing everything is that you have no time for doing nothing.

Rest in the midst of the undone, rest is a choice and a reward.

The secret art of saying No.

“A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention so you can do your work” – Seth Godin. 

Know why you blog.
Decide how much time you can commit.
Under-schedule and prioritize rest.
Create something meaningful and share it.
Don’t fall for distractions – focus.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Apple Cashew Butter Cookies

History behind this recipe:

My prenatal yoga teacher, who encouraged me to eat apples and cashew butter every day inspired this cookie recipe.  She said our bodies naturally dip in energy at 4pm and this snack is a great pick-me-up!

I found that doing an all nut butter cookie makes for a very stiff batter so when considering cashew cookies, I remembered my yoga teachers advice and decided to combine applesauce with cashew butter for a new cookie recipe!

Apple Cashew Butter Cookies

   1/2 cup sugar
   1/2 cup brown packed sugar
   1/2 cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)
   1/2 cup Cashew Butter
   1/2 cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
   1 egg
   1 teaspoon cinnamon
   1 3/4 cups White Wheat Flour
   1/4 cup Flax Seed Flour (optional)
   1 teaspoons baking soda
   1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375, bake for 11 minutes.  In large bowl, cream sugar, brown sugar, and butter until fluffy.  Add cashew butter, apple sauce and eggs until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Use cookie scoop to create small cookie balls, approx. 1" diameter.  Then flatten with a fork in crisscross pattern dipped in confectioner sugar.

Healthier Version
Oatmeal would be a great addition, if you decide to add oatmeal I suggest to swap out the Flax seed flour for 1/2 cup of Oatmeal and omit the crisscross sugar topping for a healthier cookie.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Notes from Allume 2012 ~ Her Story

Elizabeth Esther ~ Her Story

  1. How to write your way to freedom?  Courage – embarrassing fear and accepting it.  If you’re not risking, you’re not writing.
  2. It’s okay to make mistakes.
  3. When we are able to detach ourselves from opinions, we have freedom.  Fan/Hate mail are two sides of the same coin.  Distractions.  We make ourselves real by telling the truth.
  4. Love releases you from fear.  Fear is a bully.

Christina Tanner ~ Her Story

Single mom to four kids.  Blogs at Redefiningawesome.com

God’s awesome for your life doesn’t need to look like the rest of Christiandom.  Don’t say no to God’s prompts, there might be one person who needs to read your post.

Get your obsessions to work for you.  Output – sometimes we need to get the information out of our head, or the well dries up.  You get to burn out.  It’s all about the input and output.  Change the way things smell around you.

Break out of your preferred reading style.  Examine your life, and the world around you.  Be here, not next week.  Be thankful and aware of what God is giving you in this moment.  Mastermind groups are a great way to get out and engage the women around you.

Trina Holden ~ Her Story

Why do you blog?  For family and friends?  How do you deal with pride?  Humiliating moments will happen, you can embrace them with more pride or more humility.  

Put more effort into blessing your readers then seeking personal attention.  Strive to serve.
  1. Name your end game, keep asking why until you get to a kingdom goal.
  2. Redefining success.  Numbers do not indicate success.   If you have 500 readers but you are not leading them closer to God then no success.  Success is impact, not numbers. 
  3. Christian writers, are you willing to put down your political passion behind the weak and weary?  You can judge the character of a man by how he serves those who can do nothing for him.  Embrace those who God is bringing to you.
  4. Know the faces behind the numbers, that is your tribe.  These are lives waiting to hear from you.  What if all of them came to your living room to hear what you have to say?
  5. Go 3-D with your blog.  Service over fame.  Bless rather then impress.  Depth over width.  Seek kingdom impact over numbers. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Poorganic Mocha

Do you long for the days when Starbucks did not make you feel guilty?  Those days before reading The Poorganic Life where you'd buy a Mocha whenever the whim would strike you?

Since reading Katrina's blog I constantly hear her mantra in my head "save more, give back" and I just can't keep spending like I used to but the longing for a Starbucks Mocha also does not go away.  Here's a great way to make one at home, without spending a ridiculous amount on an espresso maker or at Starbucks!

First, check out this cute little 6-cup Italian Espresso maker for $21.99 at Amazon.com.  You can also find them at your local Walmart but I've found their 6-cup to be pricer then Amazon.

I start by making hot chocolate on the stove which takes a bit of patience but it's important because being Poorganic also means reducing food additives.  Unsweetened powder has none of the added additives that Hershey's syrup has:

Hershey's Hot Chocolate Recipe

  • 1/4 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup your favorite sweetener
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Stir on stove until it boils for 2 minutes; add 4 cups of milk and heat until milk has reached satisfactory serving temperature (hint, Starbucks Mocha's are 150 - 160 degrees).



  • 2 Tablespoons of ground espresso

It's so simple, just fill the base with water, add espresso in the little holder and set it to medium heat until the espresso bubbles through.  It's so cheap and efficient you will wonder who's been guarding this little machine from greater fame.


  • 1/3 espresso
  • 2/3 hot chocolate
  • top with your favorite whipped cream if desired


Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Minute Friday ~ Wonder

I wonder, how do all these shoes get under the coffee table when I tell them over and over to put their shoes away.  Oh wait, there's my sandals, but that's just because I only took them off while I'm sitting here.

I wonder, how long it will take for my husband to unpack our suitcases?  I'm not doing it.  Nope!  I'm gonna wait until he does it.  Every day this week the suitcase has appeared on our bed and we root through it for pajamas for the kids and every night it goes back in the closet.  I'm not doing it, not this time!  

Sometimes when I'm driving our truck, I wonder if the bed will just fall off.  I know that's kind a weird but it's really bouncy.  When we go over speed bumps, the entire truck bed bounces with that wah womp sound!

I have one minute left.  I wonder what possesses my husband to come up with strange things like a plastic cup amplifier.  I'm serious, he's showing me this strange contraption while I'm typing.  Gotta love having a hack scientist for a husband.


Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ Puppy Love

Notes from Relevant 2011

Social Justice in your blog

Of all the talks at Relevant '11, this had the greatest impact on my life and past year.  It's motivated me to think daily about social justice and how I can make a difference through my writing.  Love these people for the difference they are making in the world.  Wish there had been something like this at Allume '12 but at least I got to speak with Kristi Griem who is such an encourager.  

Shawn Groves ~ from Compassion
Kristen Welch ~ Mercy House
Kristi Griem ~ Human Trafficking

Shawn Groves starts the panel discussion by talking about Compassion trips where he takes bloggers to see and write about the difference Compassion is making in the lives of children.

Kristen Welch has been with Mercy House for two years, a non-profit.

Kristi Griem deals with Human Trafficking.

Collectively they have been involved in social justice for five years.

How to communicate on behalf of a cause?  Shawn's advise:
He does not coach bloggers on what to say, it's unfiltered.  Stats don't communicate like stories.  Replace the numbers with stories.  We are made by God to connect with human beings.
Kristi suggest a quarterly summary of your work in social justice so to not give your readers fatigue.

Questions to ask yourself when considering which issue to support?

  • How has God put this cause on your heart?
  • How has it impacted you? 

How do you write to create empathy?  It's ultimately not your job.  It's not within my mental capacity, it's the Holy Spirit that presses on our hearts to do something.  Just show up and tell your story.

West Stafford - current president of Compassion.  He grew up in West Africa and watched his friends die of malaria.  He has compassion for the children in the program.

What was it that caused empathy in me?

Do not make people feel guilty.

Do not ask people to do something you are doing.

Social justice is one step at at time.

Call to Action:
Shawn - Don't be a legalist.  Have as much grace for the rich man as the person who says they can't afford to do more.  If we really believe in God's grace, we can forgive our kids for not eating dinner.  Not everyone has to live as you live.  Not everyone is going to engage.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random Tuesday

Is there any better way to start a work day then with a perfect cup of coffee?  And let me add this particular cup is brilliantly balanced.  It's from Sur la Table, it's not too big and not too small.  I love this cup!

Happy Random Tuesday!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Perfect Beef Stew - to replace your McCormick packet!

I love a hearty Beef Stew.  Growing up in Maryland, my mom used the McCormick stew packet but I found in recent years that I'd want stew and had forgotten to buy the packet!  Finally one day I set out to make stew without the packet.  I started with a recipe from Pillsbury but I was never satisfied with how my stew would stick to the bottom of the pan!  I determined the sticking problem stemmed from coating the beef with flour in the beginning and thus making the stew too sticky and thick too early on. From that recipe, I've made modifications until arriving at this perfect non-stick-to-the-pan recipe!

This recipe will feed 5 adults and is best served with Garlic Italian Bread or brown bread from Cheesecake factory.

The Meat and Sauce

  • 1lb Stew Meat - cook in a little oil until browned
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 T Tomato Paste or sauce
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Beef Bouillon Cubes
Simmer while working on the onion and celery.

Cut in small slices, three stalks of Celery and saute in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (or one cup if you have it frozen).  Toss into the Beef mixture.

Cook beef and celery for approximately one hour on low heat with a lid on.  

The Roux

  • 1/4 cup of flour - sift if you have time, it helps reduce lumps
  • 1/2 cup of hot water
After your meat mixture has cooked for one hour, remove bay leaves and add the Roux.  I usually have potatoes cooking in a separate container at this point so I'll use some of the hot water from this pot, in theory the potato water has a bit of flavoring.  Mix quickly in a bowl, then add to the meat sauce; it should mix evenly if you stir for a few minutes to keep lumps from starting.  Once it's smooth it will not lump up.  At this point I add an additional 1/2 cup of hot water (usually reserved from the potatoes) into the stew if it looks too thick.  Add more water depending on how thick or thin you like your stew keeping in mind you still have potatoes and carrots to add so you need enough gravy to coat the entire stew.

Potatoes and Carrots

  • 5 medium size potatoes 
  • 5-6 carrots
I like to cook the potatoes in a separate container for 15 minutes to soften them.  It can take up to one hour to cook them in the stew mixture so this cuts down on the overall cooking time AND I've found that cooking potatoes for an hour in the stew contributes to food sticking to the bottom - which I dislike!

Peel potatoes (remove any bad/black spots), then chop them into bite size pieces, dump them into boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and add to stew.

Peel carrots, cut in thin slices so they cook faster.  I boil them in a small pot for about 15 minutes, drain and add to the stew.

I cook the potatoes and carrots in the stew for no more than 10 minutes and the lid must remain off or potatoes will stick to the base of the pan.  It's best to stir frequently.  I only do this step to get everything to blend well and I use this time to set the table, call the family to dinner, etc.

It really is a lovely stew and while it may seem annoying to work through all the steps (rather then dumping everything into one pot), it will result in a tasty stew that does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

This stew recipe is a result of making it at least once a month for the past 12 years; it's a big family favorite and each step has been carefully thought out.  This is really a guide to making good stew; you can feel free to mix it up and use different onions or bigger chunks of veggies.  I have toddlers so cooking in small bite size pieces works well for my family but I know it's popular to make stews with big chunky veggies.  If you do try this please come back and let me know how it worked out for you!