Sunday, November 29, 2009

We enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving with all of Cody's family down in Southern Iowa.
The weather was beautiful!
The kids really enjoyed playing outside in Grandpa and Grandma's big yard!
They also felt pretty swell sportin' some vintage outwear.

Can you hear the 80's calling back that hat on McClain?

There are always cool projects in progress at Grandma and Grandpa's house too!
Can you guess what this one will be?
After a wonderful meal of turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, fruits, veggies, and pumpkin pie (can you believe I didn't get a picture...too busy eating, I guess!)
Cody, his brother Kipp, and I all headed back to Des Moines to get ready for
BLACK FRIDAY!

I was raised to be apart of this madness.
It's in my genes...really!
Don't believe me? Ask my mom!
She and my dad left at 3:00 am to go shopping!
This year, though, rather than joining the chaos--
I worked it!
Seriously, I have never been so happy to have a job as a "sacker"!
My sister and I took the midnight shift at Gymboree.
It was super fun to be on the "retail" side of things!
(plus, I got some incredibly GREAT deals...so I guess I didn't really make any money)

Cody "captured" the madness...and then went home and went to bed!

We returned to more beautiful weather!
A little airplane flying with Grandpa and Uncle Kipp...

A beautiful sunset!

Then we had a "Christmas" morning fun!
Here are all the cousins with Grandpa!
Kimi (4), McClain (3), Kolby (1), Cloe (6), Carson (3), Kiara (2) and one bun in the oven...

The boy cousins were all spiffed up at church on Sunday.
The girl cousins were equally as beautiful, but I didn't catch them...
We love our cousins!


What's that?
The end of the post and there's been no pictures of food or recipes?
Hang on...


Here we go: Cranberry Orange Bread!
I love all things cranberry!
Here's my sneaky spin on an old recipe.


Cranberry Orange Bread
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar) or 3/4 c. agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1 egg
1 c. fresh cranberries, chopped

Sift dry ingredients and cut in shortening. Combine orange juice, zest, and egg. Mix together enough to moisten, carefully fold in cranberries. Bake in a lightly greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for one hours.
*I sprinkled the top with a little additional sugar.

Now on to Christmas Cookies!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luke 1:49
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.

Who would have ever guessed that I would be blessed with a
loving, caring husband,
a charming, beautiful little girl,
and handsome, comical twin boys?


I am so grateful!
God has blessed me beyond what I could have ever asked or imagined!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Psalm 107
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2 Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
3 For he has gathered the exiles from many lands,
from east and west,
from north and south.

4 Some wandered in the wilderness,
lost and homeless.
5 Hungry and thirsty,
they nearly died.
6 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he rescued them from their distress.
7 He led them straight to safety,
to a city where they could live.
8 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom,
imprisoned in iron chains of misery.
11 They rebelled against the words of God,
scorning the counsel of the Most High.
12 That is why he broke them with hard labor;
they fell, and no one was there to help them.
13 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
14 He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom;
he snapped their chains.
15 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
16 For he broke down their prison gates of bronze;
he cut apart their bars of iron.

17 Some were fools; they rebelled
and suffered for their sins.
18 They couldn’t stand the thought of food,
and they were knocking on death’s door.
19 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
snatching them from the door of death.
21 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

23 Some went off to sea in ships,
plying the trade routes of the world.
24 They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action,
his impressive works on the deepest seas.
25 He spoke, and the winds rose,
stirring up the waves.
26 Their ships were tossed to the heavens
and plunged again to the depths;
the sailors cringed in terror.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits’ end.
28 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
29 He calmed the storm to a whisper
and stilled the waves.
30 What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!
31 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
32 Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation
and before the leaders of the nation.

33 He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.
35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.
36 He brings the hungry to settle there
and to build their cities.
37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
and harvest their bumper crops.
38 How he blesses them!
They raise large families there,
and their herds of livestock increase.

39 When they decrease in number and become impoverished
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40 the Lord pours contempt on their princes,
causing them to wander in trackless wastelands.
41 But he rescues the poor from trouble
and increases their families like flocks of sheep.
42 The godly will see these things and be glad,
while the wicked are struck silent.
43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can it be?

Christmas before Thanksgiving?

Yes, indeed!
The Christmas bug struck a little early,
and boy, has it been fun so far!

Cloe loved stretching and decorating "high" on the tree!
When did she get to be so tall?

McClain's sweet little hands...Couldn't you just kiss Carson's sweet little face?
Where did Daddy hide that pickle?
Found it!
See it nestled way in there?Ta-da!
No matter how many pictures I took, Carson's eyes just went shut every time. Silly boy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful...

I had planned on spending more time blogging
about the things I am so thankful for this year.

However...life happens.
Weather changes.
Asthma flares up.

So we spend out time doing this:
I am so thankful for the ability
God has given doctors to be able to treat breathing problems.

Can you imagine living in pioneer times...
it would have been heart-breaking to have a child with asthma!

So here we are,
blessed to be able to cuddle a few extra minutes during treatments
and able to see our little boy breath easier.

While I don't look forward to the times he struggles,
I do cherish every minute of having him snuggle in,
and we pray...and pray and pray...
that one day these silly weather changes won't affect our little boy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So thankful!

Today I had an interesting article in my inbox. It was addressed to men in ministry...obviously not me. However, being the nosy wife that I am, I read on. You know, maybe I'd find a point I could lovely share with my man...not that I would ever meddle like that or anything :ahem:
Here's what I read:
(my commentary will be in italics from now on)

Lead Your Family Well


I was lying on the floor pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around his wooden track and realized my two year old son had been speaking to me for the past 30 seconds, but I hadn’t listened to a word he had said. Instead, I was too preoccupied thinking about the church—precious moments gone, never to return.



Can any other church planters, pastors, or ministry leaders relate? I thought so.

All of us know the tragic stories of wives and children of pastors and planters that grow up to hate the church. The greater tragedy is that I believe most of these stories should never have to be told.

Instead, the stories exist because the leader of the home is failing to lead well.


3 Challenging Truths

Here are a few truths that I hope will challenge you to lead your family strongly while being a church planter or pastor:



1. The church can get another pastor, but your kids can't get another dad.
Like it or not, we only get one shot to raise our children. I talk to fathers all the time who lament their absence during their childrens' formative years because of working too much. Even though this is often true for pastors, it shouldn't be. Our biblical credentials for ministry deal mostly with how we lead our families and our own character, rather than how effective we are in ministry. And remember, no one reaches the end of their life saying "I wish I had spent more time working on my blog." Be the exception, not the rule.

(Wow! How sad! Cody is an amazing dad and I can honestly say he won't be lamenting over lost time with our kids! In addition to time together at home, he loves to have them tag along

 to see and do ministry with him! The boys love going to the hospital with daddy, Cloe loves her special time after church on Wednesdays hanging out during guitar lessons and all of our kids love the little "extras" that go on at the church building!)

2. The church can get another pastor, but your wife only has one husband—and she needs a good one.
Oftentimes our wives take the brunt of the beating of our ministries: they hold us together, they hear us complain, and they hear others complain about us and experience the angst of how to handle it in a gospel way. Take it from someone who has greatly failed before in this area: do as much as you can to set clear boundaries between the church and home, and frequently check up on whether or not she enjoys being a part of the church. If she doesn't want to attend the church where you are the pastor, then it is a problem you need to deal with.

(I've got a good one--an amazing husband! There are many times I wait expectantly for complaining, but it never happens. There are many times I'm amazed at the godly thoughtfulness in the way he handles hard situations--ones I would have blown because of my sin nature wanting to rear its ugly head! There is no where else I would want to attend than the place where Cody is serving! Although he's not the "preacher", he challenges me to dig into God's Word, to be an educated worshipper of the Almighty God we serve!)

3. A day off is not just a good idea. It is essential.
"Monday Funday" is as special as a 1910 Honus Wagner baseball card at our house. It is the day we play outside, eat Chinese food at a mall, and don't talk about the church. Our church knows about “Monday Funday” because I mention it in sermons, schedule around it, and unless someone is bleeding out in their kitchen, I do not violate it. My ministry and family are too important. Pick a Sabbath, keep it, and fight for it. Your soul and your family will thank you.

(This has been something Cody has been fighting for our family for a very long time. Our Mondays have become sacred. It might be as simple as a request to pick up donuts or as big as a day trip to somewhere really fun...we're together, just the five of us. It IS special; I love it! I can't say we don't talk about church--because we love Willow Creek so much that it's just constantly apart of our conversations. However, we don't lament the trials or focus on the busy-ness that lies ahead. Family time is special and all of our children get giddy when they see Cody still sleeping on Monday morning...not so good for sleeping in! The little squeals of "Is this your day just with us?" usually fill the room!)

Never forget: The first flock you lead is not the one that gathers on Sunday, but the one that lives at your house.

Are you leading them well?

For more on leading your family well, check out Pastor Mark Driscoll's free e-book Pastor Dad.


Cody,

As I read this article, I was filled with pride for how God is using you to lead our family. You far excel at each of the points listed. You lead our family to love God and to seek to make Him look good in all we do. Thank you for being sensitive to God's leading, obedient to Scripture, eager to serve, and for leading our family to the glory of God. I love you very much! After Jesus Christ and my salvation, you are number one on my thanksgiving list! Thank you for leading well!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shhh...baby's sleeping!
I love it when my friends need babysitters!

Tip-toe on out of here and check out this sweet deal just in time for Christmas!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thrifty Thursday!

Tip #3: Watch for seasonal grocery sales! Stock up on what you can and enjoy the fresh produce while it's priced lower!

I found this information at dummies.com: "Many food items go on sale at regular times from year to year. Throughout the year, various food items are seasonally offered at discounts. For example, March is National Frozen Food Month in the United States, and to celebrate this prestigious event, most grocery stores offer significant discounts on frozen foods during the month."

The following list includes food items you can find on sale or at the lowest prices each month of the year. (I added several things to this list, but there are probably more things that could be added, too!)

  • January: Turkey, apples, grapefruit, oranges, pears, snack foods (Superbowl sales!)

  • February: Post–Valentine’s Day candy, chocolates, pastas

  • March: Frozen vegetables, meats, breakfast items, TV dinners, corned beef, potatoes

  • April: Ham, Eggs, broccoli, and cauliflower

  • May: Soda, hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, asparagus, pineapple, Mexican food (Cinco de Mayo!)

  • June: Dairy products (ice cream!) and tomatoes

  • July: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, corn, cherries, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, plums, peaches, and nectarines

  • August: Squash, green peppers, sweet corn, salad fixings, berries, apples, melons, peaches, apricots, and fresh fish

  • September: Apples, broccoli, cauliflower, canned goods, cereals, granola bars

  • October: Pumpkins, squash, cranberries, grapes, oranges, sweet potatoes, yams, and cake mixes

  • November: Turkey, sweet potatoes, squash, yams, cranberries, many baking supplies, Chex cereals (have to make Chex mix!), and post-Halloween bags of candy

  • December: Oranges, apples, and grapefruit

    *Obviously this is not an extensive or concrete list.

    It also is helpful to learn prices of items so you know a good deal when it pops up. This is really like a life skill! No, not one of those important skills that you can't live without, but one that will probably take you a whole lifetime to perfect. I am constantly calling my mom and running prices by her. I'm starting to get it down. For instance, butter is normally over $2, but this week many places have it on sale for $1.38. Stock up! Cheese can also be a pricey item at over $2 a package, but many places are having it on sale for $1 to $1.50 a bag. Stock up! These things both freeze well and can be used later in the winter.

    Here's a "seasonal" meal the boys and I enjoyed the other day. Let me rephrase that, I enjoyed it and the boys endured ten bites in order to "win" a pack of m&m's. Hey, I'm not above bribery and the halloween candy was cheap! cheap! cheap!

    Roasted Acorn Squash with Squash Risotto2 acorn squash, cut in half and cleaned out
    olive oil
    salt to taste
    3 c. chicken broth
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 generous cup peeled and cubed butternut squash
    1/2 c. uncooked risotto
    1 tsp. sage
    1 tsp. thyme

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush insides of acorn squash with olive oil and season with salt. Place acorn squash, cut side down, in a baking pan and roast until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, start the risotto by bringing the broth just to a simmer in a small pot over medium high heat. Heat olive oil in a heavy pot. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash and cook for 3 minutes. Add risotto and cook until grains are fragrant. Add 1/2 c. of hot broth to risotto and cook, stirring ocassionally until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 c. at a time, making sure that most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more.

  • Continue until rice is almost tender (20 minutes). Stir in sage and thyme and season with salt.When acorn squash is cooked, remove from oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Carefully turn squash over and fill each with 1/4 of risotto mixture. Return to oven and bake until tops begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tonight was one of my favorite Willow Creek traditions:
THE THANKSGIVING DINNER!
For about 182 years...or so...
Willow Creekers have been roasting turkeys
and preparing all the fixings for an amazingly huge feast!
The gym was packed tonight as all my favorite people and many of their friends and family came out to eat and fellowship and be thankful together!
These were our peeps tonight!
I love them!
Caitlin, Beth, Philip, Dave, and Jeremy...yes, Jeremy!
See that smile? We are so praying that he is getting close to fully understanding what Jesus Christ did for him on the cross in paying the penalty for his sins and extending the offer of salvation. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to soften his heart!


So...the decision on what to take to this festive dinner is always hard for me...do I take something oober healthy and risk that I'll be the only one eating it...or do I just go for a crowd pleaser and fill it up with butter and sugar.Obviously, I went for the crowd pleaser!
Candied squash with marshmallows sounded good to me, too!

My grandma always made this for the holidays,
so I scoured her little homemade recipe cards for the recipe...nothing!

I called my mom and she said, "Oh, Londa, that won't be in any recipe books.
That's just something they always knew how to make."

What, like Jello or something?

Guess I missed that in the "Growing Up in Rural Iowa" manual.

So, here it is:
Candied Squashed with Toasted Marshmallows

1 large butternut squash (preferably from your dad's garden...they just taste better)
1/4 cup butter (use the real stuff, seriously)
1/2 c. brown sugar (be generous, you're already using butter...)
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mini-marshmallows

Cut squash in half and dig out the seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until very tender. Let cool and peel off skin.

Using a hand blender or mixer, mix squash, butter, sugar, and cinnamon until a smooth consistency.

Pour into casserole dish and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Top with marshmallows and continue to bake until marshmallows start to toast. (This step can be sped up by using the broiler...you know, in case you're running late...not that I was or anything.)

The leftovers!
Guess there's just enough for breakfast...no, that would not be good!

Another fun part of the evening is listening to people share things for which they are thankful. It was fun to hear a lot of our children share various things. Something came to my mind, but I thought I'd wait and share it here...

Today, I was reminded of how thankful I need to be on a daily basis of God's sovereignty. It's easy to point people to the sovereignty of God when they are in the midst of a hard trial dealing with health, job, or family issues. However, God is in complete control of every detail--big or small--and He is never going to let things spin out of His control. He is never going to let go!

This morning, Cloe was so excited to take her little thermos to school with some vegetable soup for lunch. On the way to school, I noticed that the car had a super strong soup smell...then it dawned on me, the soup is spilling! Sure enough, I peeked in her bag, and there was a puddle of broth. The steam from the heated soup and blown the top off the thermos and her lunch box was an explosion of vegetables and barley.

I sort of panicked...the Qwest guy was coming right away and then we were having some little people visitors--there would be no way for me to take another lunch to Cloe. The real sinking clincher was that I had not yet taken the time to set up an account for her to be able to have hot lunch.

However, God quickly brought mind an event earlier in the week...one of my homeschool parents had paid me in cash because her husband had taken the checkbook with him. I had cash! I told Cloe I would go in and we would explain to the teacher what had happened and surely she would be able to help.

The teacher graciously got an account for Cloe quickly set up and said she would be just fine to get a hot lunch. As I was leaving the school, I hugged Cloe and she said, "Mom, thank you for helping me, but I'm really nervous to eat hot lunch." That about ripped my heart out...I told her I'd pray for her...and then called Cody...

I was so grateful for the way God had lined up the events of the morning from the cash in my purse to her teacher being available to help...but I was still praying so hard for lunch to go well for Cloe. I knew God would continue His loving care, but it seems hard to fully trust when it's one of your babies!

Cloe hopped off the bus and I immediately asked how lunch went: "Great Mom! They had...um...chicken pot pie. Yep, that's what they called it and it was sooo good! Thank you mom for letting me have hot lunch! I loved it! I did accidentally throw away the fork and spoon because I didn't know you had to hold on to them, but they didn't care or get mad or anything! I hope I can do hot lunch again someday!"

Phew!
Thank you, Lord!

Jeremiah 29:11-13
"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.
In those days when you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. "

Matthew 10:29b-31
But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.

So don’t be afraid;
you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Bummer...
Our modem sizzled last week! It took a lot of effort, but I was able to get sneaky and keep right on blogging...until today. All alternate options have ceased. So see you Wednesday, hopefully!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

There's an app for that...

Tech savvy, that I am not so much!

Owner of an iPhone, that I am, and boy it is fun!


I'll have to admit, whenever I see the iPhone commercials come on, I get a little giddy! You can't believe how many cool free apps are available: recipes, news, coupons, maps, Bible (in any translation imaginable!), games...apps for this, that, and the other! (Julie? Abby has me sold on your phrase!)

My favorite app at the moment is the Whole Foods Market Recipes. It provides awesomely healthy recipes for everything you can imagine. One of the tabs is "On Hand". I can insert up to three items I have on hand, and it provides me with creative recipes that use those ingredients. It's fun to type in three unrelated, weird foods and see what it comes up with! Any recipes I like I can mark as "favorites" and they'll be kept handy. Am I enticing you with the iPhone?

The other night, I had two packages of soft corn tortillas that I really wanted to use in a new, fun way. I typed in "corn tortillas" and came up with 34 options! Flautas sounded super delicious and making them in a healthy way sounded even better!

Here's the recipe...

Ground Beef Flautas
1 pound lean ground beef
1 T. olive oil
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 c. Monteray Jack cheese, grated
12 soft corn tortillas
Lettuce, sour cream, salsa (optional toppings)
*my sneaky ingredient: 1 c. chopped black beans (mix in with meat mixture and no will ever know, but it tastes oh so good!)

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Brown ground beef and drain. Heat oil and saute onion. Add garlic, beef, and seasonings (& beans).
Place corn tortillas on baking sheet. Spread meat mixture and cheese on tortillas. Place another corn tortilla on top and brush with a little olive oil.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tortillas are crispy, turning half way through.
Garnish with lettuce, sour cream, salsa, or whatever toppings you like!

Mmm...good!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Our new Coat Tree!

Isn't it cute?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thrifty Thursday!

On Thursdays, I'm going to attempt to share some of my favorite tips and secrets for living on a budget. Being a stay at home mom with my babies has been the best blessing I could have imagined, but it has also made me learn more ways than I ever imagined to stretch a buck.


*Tip #1: Always swing by the meat department to check out the deals. Target will often price cut meat a day before the expiration date. Stock up! You can freeze this meat safely for several months.

*Tip #2: Always check out the end caps or grocery carts with marked down items. Sometimes these items are marked super cheap because the name brand is changing labels or because the store needs shelf room for new items. This can be a fun way for your family to try new things that would normally exceed the budget.

Here are two fun meals our family enjoyed this week because of cheap deals!

Meal 1: Buffalo Burgers on Herb Buttered Toast, Brown Rice Chips & Cucumber SalsaThis meal was completely made up of bargains I found at the grocery stores:

Buffalo Burger Sliders were price cut to $1.19 for a package of 10!
(bought 2--used one, froze one)
Since we didn't have buns, I cut circles out of wheat bread we found for 99 cents a loaf!
(again, bought an extra loaf to freeze) To make the bread seem fancy and "on purpose" I mixed some butter with garlic seasoning and toasted it on the grill.
The Brown Rice Chips were from a Costco mark down. $1.99 for a HUGE bag. These chips are also a pretty healthy choice when it comes to chips: low fat, low sodium, whole grain...moderation is the key!
The Cucumber salsa was a mark down at Target for $1.04. It was a tasty risk that turned out pretty well: everyone liked it!

Meal cost:
Burgers: $1.19
Lettuce: $ .99
Bread: $ .99
Chips: $1.99
Salsa: $1.04
Total: $6.20 plus we had leftovers of everything!

Obviously this was a one time meal--not something that will probably stay on our regular menu. That's sort of the excitement of searching out good deals--you never know what fun things you'll get to try!


The next meal we saw on the Rachael Ray Show earlier this week. Cody thought it looked really good, but of course, I didn't really have exactly all the ingredients. So we improvised! It turned out really yummy!

Greek Sausage with Flat Bread and Spinach SaladRachael Ray's Recipe:
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 links fresh lamb sausage or other sausage
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano, 1/3 palmful
Salt and pepper
1 15-ounce can petite fire-roasted diced tomatoes, slightly drained
1 15-ounce can butter beans such as Furmano’s brand, rinsed and drained well

Pita other flat bread
6 cups spinach, loosely packed, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/4 cup black pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large cast-iron or oven-safe skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO, one turn of the pan, and add sausage. Brown the links a few minutes on each side to crisp casings then remove to a plate.

Add another tablespoon EVOO, a turn of the pan, along with the onions and garlic, and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cook onions to soften, 6-7 minutes, then add tomatoes and beans, and stir to combine.
Nestle the reserved sausages back in the pan and transfer to oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking sausages through. Wrap pita or flat breads in foil and place in the oven for 2-3 minutes before removing sausages.
Meanwhile, combine spinach with feta and olives, and dress with lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO and black pepper.
Garnish the sausage and beans with the parsley and serve with spinach salad and warm bread alongside.
Londa's Recipe:
We used Italian Turkey Sausage that I had in the freezer from a price cut sale at Target. Instead of adding the beans, I just used double to amount of tomatoes. Remember these? Instead of pita bread, we used whole wheat flatbread that I found at Fareway for 99 cents! Speaking of Fareway, they had spinach on sale for 99 cents, too! We didn't have the feta, olives, or special dressing, but we used a little Italian blend cheese and our own dressing. Thankfully our kids love any sort of salad! It was a super colorful meal that was just as tasty...and a bargain to boot!

Meal cost:
Turkey Sausage $ .99
Tomatoes free
(canned diced tomatoes would work & aren't that expensive if you buy the store brand)
Flatbread $ . 99
Spinach $ .99
Cheese $ .99
Total meal cost: $3.96 plus we had leftovers for lunch!


There you have it, my first two thrifty tips! Put on your price cut radar and have fun shopping!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Raising a little evangelist...sort of

As a mom, I've prayed that Cloe would accept
Christ as her Savior since before she was born.

Exactly a year ago last week, we were on our way to Estherville for my Grandpa's funeral, and Cloe started asking questions about life, death, God, sin, heaven, hell...
We had a great conversation.
We talked about a perfect God and His perfect creation,
Adam and Eve choosing to go against the Creator by doing what He said not to do (sin),
because of God's perfection and human's sin, there was nothing we could do to be declared "right" or "good" before God.
We talked about our sins and how sin separates us from God.

Even as a five year old, she knew that she had sinned...
any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against God.
Here's where the conversation got exciting!
We're not stuck in that separation from God!

Jesus Christ came as the remedy for our sin.

God sent His only Son, perfect and holy,
to earth to die on the cross and not only take the punishment for our sins
but to become those sins so that we could be declared "right" before God.

Jesus Christ also defeated death and hell
by victoriously coming back to life after three days.
I shared with Cloe my favorite verse:
Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Cloe and I talked about how hard it is not to sin
but how easy it is to have a Savior
that can forgive our sins,
pay the penalty for our sins,
and make it possible for us to know God.

Cloe was ready!
She prayed and asked Jesus Christ to be her Savior.
She asked Him to forgive her sins, and thanked Him for dying on the cross.

Now...zoom forward a year...on the way to school, Cloe asked if her prayer was still "good" a year later. Since she was so young, we have never pressured or assumed that she fully understood the Gospel--the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead and wants to be our Savior through faith alone!

We talked about our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior being something we constantly believe not just a one time deal. We talked about the important of confessing our sins and thanking Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins.
Off she went into school, but the sauga wasn't finished yet.

A few days later Cloe and I went to a little home party together.
On the way home, Cloe nervously started asking questions.
"What if I get to heaven, will I have time to ask God to forgive me sins
or will I just have to go to hell?"


Whoa! Where was this coming from?

I told her it was important that people ask Jesus to forgive their sins and be their Savior while they are here on earth because when they die, it will be too late.

She immediately burst into tears and said,
"Mommy, last week

(ah-ha previous conversation)
I took a pack of gum out of your drawer, hid it in my lunch box, snuck it into my desk,
put a piece in my pocket and chewed it at recess.
I am so sorry! will you forgive me? Will God forgive me?"


It was the most amazing feeling as a mom to express my forgiveness to Cloe and to share that God had forgiven her too--but most importantly, there is never anything she can do that would make God (or mom) not love or forgive her.
Phew...I think I got to experience just a glimpse of what it must feel like for God when a child comes clean with their sin.
It was a very special time with Cloe!

However, the story wasn't quite over yet.
On the way to school Monday, Cloe again started with the questions.
"Will God forgive me if I sin again?
What if it's the same sin?"
"Yes...but what's going on Cloe?"
...more tears...
"I have more gum in my desk!"

We talked and decided that Cloe would get the gum out of her desk and also apologize to her teacher and ask for her forgiveness for going against a school rule, which is sin.

There were tears of nervousness,
tears of guilt,
and tears of relief
as the conversation with her teacher transpired.

The situation was finally completely resolved.

SO...now to get to the evangelist part...today, Cloe came home and told me her bff Jayne
(I am so not comfortable with this whole pre-teen bff lingo!)

had gum in her desk but didn't want to tell the teacher.
Cloe told her she needed give the gum to the teacher
because she would just keep feeling bad if she didn't.
(hmmm...personal experience?)

Jayne said she really didn't want to do that
because she thought she would get sent to the principle's office.

Cloe's reply: "Jayne, do you know the word hell?"

Maybe a little harsh of a start there, Cloe!
We are so excited, though, that Cloe realizes
sin separates us from God
and already has a burden for her...bff.

Tonight we talked about a more loving way to go about sharing the good news,

the Gospel:

Jesus Christ loves us,

He became the remedy for our sins,

and wants to save us for a life that brings glory to God!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A few more of my favorites!

Last Monday we took a little family trip to Grundy Center for an appointment with one of my favorite photography gals! It was a huge blessing to find out she was running an amazing fall session special...only to have it canceled by snow...in October! She graciously rescheduled and let us intrude in on her charming little town. We had a blast, and she is amazing!

Here's a glimpse of the fun shots she captured!






My absolute favorite:

Photographs courtesy of c&a photography & design. Thank you, Alisa!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I have been dying to share our new family pictures with you!

Here's a sneak peak:
Although it probably won't make the Christmas card cut, this shot pretty much sums up the circus: McClain and I making monkey faces at each other, Cloe cracking up Carson and Cody watching his funny reactions. Life at our house is tons of fun!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today we took a little family trip to the Brenton Arboretum.
(Thank you blogging friend for the recommendation! It's been on my mind ever since you posted it!)

It was beautiful:
An amazing display of our Creator's handiwork!

Most of the leaves were gone, but colorful berries still hung on many trees. I love the brilliant yellow berries!
After a quick picnic lunch, our explorers were ready to go!
(Carson couldn't just look at my eye, he had to show me his eye...how do photographers do it?)
Time to shake out the shoes...

Nothing beats a snuggle with Grandma...

...except maybe a snuggle with Grandpa!

We had a little science lesson on snails and tadpoles...

...and a little history lesson on the milkweed.
My dad was in elementary school during World War 2 and he remembers getting out of school early to go pick milkweed. They used the milkweed in life preservers for the soldiers!...and a little art lesson!

This place gets a great big thumbs up!

Of course, there was also a little tweeting...

But this was the best part!