Friday, May 28, 2010


Sometimes a question just BEGS to be asked...

Can you ever over accessorize?

He thinks NOT!

(Just to cement the scene in your minds: the OOD -- outfit of the day -- was pajamas, crocs, kerchief, goggles, and bike helmet.  Outside.  On his bike.  Before 7 am... The neighbors love us!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

OAMC -- The BIG Day!

In case you've just joined us, this post is one of several in a series on Once A Month Cooking.  You can catch up with the rest of us by reading along here:

And for the rest of you faithful followers, back to the show...

All right, girls.  The big day is here.  Fire up your Kelvinators!

Do we even realize how good we've got it in the kitchen?  Self cleaning ovens, automatic timers, microwaves, and all those fancy schmancy kitchen gadgets!  Thank goodness I wasn't born about a hundred years ago!  I'm pretty sure I'd have burned everything in sight if I had to cook on an actual wood-fed fire stove.  And blacking the thing?  Fuh-gedda-boud-it!

The caption under this one read, "Make all your dreams come true!"  Who dreams about cooking on this thing?  Not me! 

Okay, back to the future.  I mean the now. 

The first big thing you'll want to remember for this day:  drink coffee/diet coke/whatever it takes to really wake you up.  And wear comfy shoes.   You're gonna need to be clear headed and "in the game" for all this cooking and you're going to be standing.  A lot.  Wear comfy shoes.  And, no, bare feet don't count as comfy shoes.  Not for this project.  Trust me on that one.

For your cooking day, all you really have to do is follow your completed Game Plan Sheet.   While you're drinking your morning wake-up beverage, refresh your memory by reading over your Game Plan.  

One big tip:  
Okay, two tips:  
1.  Make sure you have the whole day to cook -- or at least 4-6 uninterrupted hours.  That means:  make plans for the kids and hubby to be out of the house.  Or make sure that hubby understands that you're making serious meals and that the kitchen is a no-fly zone for anyone other than the chef.

2.  Make sure you've got something figured out for dinner.  Like pizza.  Or take-out.  Or cereal.  Or one of the casseroles you're making today.  Trust me on this one, girls: you DO NOT want to be figuring out what to feed your family after 6 hours in the kitchen.  I usually just keep aside one of the casseroles I make that day and cook it up that evening for us to enjoy.

Then, organize your ingredients so they are readily available as you need them.  And then, just start in on your cooking.
I'm excited to hear about your OAMC adventures!  Have a good time, girls.  And, enjoy the fruits of your labor!  Send photos of your full freezers!

I'll have one more post about OAMC stuff, but it's just a fun one -- a crafty way to make a binder to hold all of your OAMC recipes.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

OAMC -- The Cooking Day Game Plan

Because it's been a while since my last post on Once a Month Cooking, you might want to check back into the archives to make sure you're up to speed:
OAMC -- The Big Picture
OAMC -- The Recipes
OAMC -- The Shopping List

And on to today's topic:  The Cooking Day Game Plan

I usually strategize (is that even a word???) my Cooking Day the night before the actual event.
I've found that mapping out how my day will go (cooking wise, at least) helps the day to run smoother  (more smoothly?  more smoother?  Mmmmm!  Smoothies!)  Back on task, GHM!  Back on task!

I've created a Cooking Day Game Plan sheet for you to use.   It's what I'll refer to as I talk you through (read you through?  type you through?) planning for the biggest day of your life your Once A Month cooking day.

Get the recipes that you've decided to make and your planning sheet.  Read through the recipes so that you're familiar with them.  Familiarize yourself.  Introduce yourself.  You'll be old friends by the time you're finished with your cooking day!

Start looking for similarities.  For instance, if you have several recipes that call for chopped onions or garlic cloves, make a mental note of the quantities that you'll need.  I usually put that on my planning sheet first:  "Chop 4 onions and press 3 cloves of garlic."

Then I find other similarities.  Need a bunch of beef that needs browning?  Group it all together in one pan.  Put it on your planning sheet:  "Brown 5 lbs. ground beef with 2 diced onions."

Once I've looked over the recipes, I make my plan.  I usually do the easy stuff first:  chopping veggies, browning beef, making marinades, etc.   One big tip:  watch for things that need to cook for longer times (noodles, rice, etc.) and put those high on your planning list.  You'll want those things waiting for you when you're ready for them.  Not the other way around.

I'll save the more labor intense recipes for the last part of the day.  You might want to tackle those first, but I tell you my logic/theory.  When I do the easy stuff first, I have lots of freezer bags and 8x8 aluminum freezer pans filled with food quite early in the day.  And that motivates me.  Marine Corps running cadences also motivate me, but we won't get into that.  And, no, I don't listen -- or call -- cadence while cooking.  Though maybe I should give it a try...

Using your recipes as a guide, write down step by step plans.  You don't have to complete an entire recipe.  In fact, there has never been a time when I have done a recipe completely through from start to finish in one step.  Well, now that I've said that, I have to amend it.  I do make my marinades in one step.  But all other recipes are multi-step.

I'm thinking this might be easier if I just demonstrate it.  So, I've completed a planning sheet and you can see how I would plan my day for three recipes:  Simple Salisbury Steak, Honey Lime Chicken, and Hash Brown Casserole. 

As you can see, I just went through the recipes and made a plan as to how to complete them.  There's really no right or wrong way to do this.  You'll figure it out after one or two cooking sessions.  I've seen my cooking time decrease each time I've cooked for an OAMC session, as my confidence increases.  You'll figure it out. 

Have you got it now?  Good.  Go make your plans.  And get a good night's sleep.  My next OAMC post will be about Cooking Day, so stay tuned...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Great Gift Idea

As the end of the school year approaches, you, like me, might be wondering what to give your child's teacher to show your appreciation for his/her hard work over the year.   You want a gift that's clever, unique, and not useful.  I mean, what teacher wants another "#1 Teacher" coffee mug?

So, I present Hand Stamped Coasters...

The things you'll need for this project are:
~ 4x4" tiles (I bought mine at Lowe's -- they're called Agora Almond -- I think....)
~ Stamps
~ Felt Pads (found in hardware section at WalMart)
~ Staz On Ink Pads (Michael's -- This bad boy stamps on any surface -- or so the label says)
~ Stamp Cleaner (Michael's)

Oh, yes.  You'll need some sealer too... I obviously forgot that in my "ingredients" photo.

The first thing you'll want to do is clean your tile squares.  I used the stamp cleaner to do this.  Just rub the little dauber pad of the cleaner over each tile.  Pat dry with a towel.

Then I flipped each tile over and attached the felt pads to the corners.  These little pads were almost the exact color of the tiles. 

These little guys are self stick and pretty much fool proof -- just peel and stick them onto the tiles.  This makes the tiles rest evenly on your coffee table and makes them less likely to scratch whatever surface you have them on.  (I say "less likely" because I'm sure those of you with kids understand that kids will find a way to scratch/dent/destroy things even if they tout some fancy label bragging, "Impossible to scratch!"  or "Kid-proof!"  Heh, heh, heh.)

Look closely at the corner of the tile -- that's a felt pad -- guess it's a military felt pad, it's camouflaged!  Woo-hoo, I crack myself up!

After applying the felt pads to all four corners of your tiles, flip 'em back over and make sure they're dry.  I rubbed mine on the kitchen towel I was using under the project. 

Choose the stamp you'd like to use.  I bought these clear acrylic stamps.  Not only because they offered many choices on one sheet, but because I couldn't find anything on a wood block that I liked.  And I was on a time crunch, man!

If you use these clear stamps, you'll need to purchase the little stamping blocks.  Of course, these are sold separately.  

The cool thing is that the blocks have grid lines on them so you can be sure your stamp is aligned.  Straight?  Plumb?  Level?  Upright?  Whatever, I just know that as one who frequently thinks eyeballed things are straight and then ends up with a wonky result, I appreciate grid lines!  Grid lines create order.  Sigh!  I love order... No Type A here... Nope.  Not me.

Moving right along...

Choose a stamp and align it on your stamp block.  Then, ink up your stamp and press it gently on your tile.  I found another perk to the clear stamps was that I could judge the amount of ink I was getting on both the stamp and then the amount I was transferring onto the tile because I could see through the back.  It allowed me to make sure my image was clear without being over inked and messy.

Stamp away!  I chose two different stamps for each set of 4 coasters.  I like a little variety!

The cool thing about this project is that you can "erase" the stamped image if you don't like the look of it, or if there's too much ink, or if it's not placed on the tile where you'd like it.  Just rub the stamp cleaning solution on the tile.  Wipe dry.  Ta-da!  Just like new.  I like do-overs!

Once you've got the tiles stamped up the way you like them, allow the ink to dry.  Then, coat it with the sealer.  I chose a matte sealer because the tiles are sort of rustic looking.  I just thought it would look better.  If you like shiny stuff, then feel free to buy the gloss finish sealer.  Whatever floats your boat.  Spray your sealer lightly over each tile -- too much sealer can make the ink run, and that would be bad!  That would be very, very bad.  After the first coat of sealer is dry, spray again.  

Once the tiles are completely dry, arrange them in a neat little stack, and tie with a pretty ribbon.

And, yay!  You have a cute, clever, and crafty gift.  One your child's teacher is likely to use.  And though I'm not going to tell you exactly what I spent on this project (just in case some of my kids' teachers are reading) I will tell you that it's a very frugal project.  One that doesn't look cheap!

Have fun stamping some coasters!  And don't be surprised if you see some of these arrive at your house on the next gift giving occasion!

If you've been following my OAMC posts, I have not meant to leave you hanging.  I will finish those posts in a few days.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Burning Bush

UPDATE:  Though we have not heard anything back from the showing on Friday, we continue to wait upon the Lord for His perfect timing. 

Again, today, I surrendered the house to God and my feelings of discouragement.  When I arrived home from the grocery store this afternoon, there was a realtor with his clients in front of our home.  "I'd like to show your house on Tuesday."   Though I offered for them to come in today, he said they'd wait until Tuesday. 
And so we wait on the Lord and His perfect timing.  Because, He is God.  And I am not.

Sometimes I wonder if God looks down on me from Heaven and rolls His eyes.  "Seriously?  Grey-Haired-Momma (feel free to insert my name, my whole name, here if you know it!) have you not learned to trust Me yet?  I am God.  And you?  You are not!"

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,"
       declares the LORD.

 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,                   
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
                                  Isaiah 55: 8-9

If you've read this blog for any time at all, you've followed my struggle with surrendering.  Specifically speaking surrendering the fate of our house.  I talked about the puddle that used to be in our front yard, and how, again, I was faced with the need to surrender.  I feel like I've surrendered the fate of this house, and ultimately, our family, to God.

 Just to give you a little background, we've had the house on the market for 6 months.  We've lowered, and lowered, and lowered the price.  We had two showings within the first few weeks of listing and then nothing.  I'll say that again.  Nothing.  Since January.  Nothing.

So last weekend I say to MotorMan, "What if the lack of interest IS our answer to prayer?"  I'd been praying and praying that God would sell our home.  We've done everything we can do.  It's up to Him now.   And so I prayed, and then began to wonder if instead of Him not answering at all, as I'd believed, He had already answered.  And that maybe I'd missed it.
You see, it is my belief (and I think it's an accurate one) that God answers prayers in three ways:  Yes, No, and Not Right Now. 

And so I began to wonder if God was answering my prayer, just not with the answer I wanted.   Could this lack of interest in our property mean that the answer to our prayer for a sale is "No, or Not Right Now"?  Maybe we were to look at other options regarding the house.

I began a new prayer: "Lord, whatever Your will is, I want to be smack dab in the middle of it.  I believe you have plans to prosper us.  I believe.  Help my unbelief."   And then I put it to Him.  "Lord send me a clear sign of Your will.  I need a burning bush."

A burning bush.  You might think I'm joking.  I'm not.  Remember Moses?  God loved him and chose him more than once to lead God's people.  And yet, each time God told Moses to do something, he questioned it.  He wondered if it was wise.  He wondered if he was really hearing the voice of God.  So God sent an angel and a burning bush.  And then spoke from within that bush: 

"Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."  When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"  
      And Moses said, "Here I am."    Exodus 3:2-4  (emphasis mine)

So I was asking God to speak to me.  To yell my name in a way that was absolutely, undeniably His voice and His will.  

Sitting at the dinner table last night, MotorMan and I were discussing the future of our home.   We were talking about being in the middle of God's will.  Of wanting to do what is right. 

And then the phone rang.

"Hi.  I'm calling about the house you have listed for sale.  Would you be interested in renting it?"

I wanted to cover the mouthpiece of the phone, hold it above my head, and shout, "BURNING BUSH!!!  BURNING BUSH!!!"  

But, of course, I have much more tact than that.  And telephone manners.  But I did think about shouting it.  And I did gesture wildly to MotorMan who was close by. 

I talked with the gentleman on the phone and we discussed the possiblity of renting the house to him and his family.  And then we ended the call.  I looked at Motorman and said, "That's a pretty clear answer to prayer, huh?"  Being a man of few words, he replied, "Yes."  I had to persist, "But what if I don't like the answer?  What if it is not the answer I wanted to receive from Him?  Do I still obey and follow?"  His answer, "The simple answer?  Yes.  He's God."

And I realized:  He is God.  And I?  I am not.

 Further on in Exodus Chapter 3, after God has told Moses what He wants him to do (all from the burning bush), Moses questioned God.  He is concerned that God's people won't believe that he, Moses, has been sent by God.  He says, "What if they ask me who sent me?"  And God's answer?  "I am who I am."  And then God goes on to say, "Tell them the I AM has sent you."  
He is the great I AM.  He is God.  And I am not.

So MotorMan and I decide we're going to go the path of renting.  We discuss it.  Talk over how this was not OUR plan, and how we will adjust to having this mortgage and also renting something at our next duty station.  Feel peaceful knowing -- knowing -- that we are in God's will. 

And then, today, the phone rings.  It's our realtor.  "I have someone who is very interested in looking at your house.  Not to rent.  To buy."

Oh this is going to be good!  I cannot wait to see how God is going to work this for His glory.  Because, to me, that is what this house has become.  A big symbol of His greatness.  Of His glory.  Of His sovereignty.  Of the great I AM.

 He is God.
And. I. Am. Not.

All photos are mine except for the burning bush and the last photo of the light filtering through the trees.  I take my photos with a Nikon D40x and, for these, used a 18-55mm lens.  Because I was too lazy to do any editing, all of my pictures on this post are SOOC.  

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

UPDATED:  I posted the original post a while back, and thought it was a good reminder today -- Mother's Day.

Sweet friends, you are a mother because you were called by God to be a mother.  Yes, you had some involvement in it (at least that's what I remember from my birds & bees talk) but without His divine plan and timing, your child(ren), and you as a mother, would not exist.  There is no occupation or calling more important than that.

I heard this today in church, and it was a much needed reminder of my "job" -- the job God has called me to:

"Whether you have recognized it as such or not, as a mother who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have a Biblical call:
     To Marriage -- the joyful support and teamwork with a husband and his calling as you display what the relationship between Christ and the church looks like.
     To Motherhood -- the transmission of a God-centered, Christ-treasuring vision of life to your children.
     To Home-Management -- the creation of a beautiful and simple place and a living organism called a home which becomes, not only for the family, but also for the community, a refuge of Christ's peace and a launching pad for God's righteousness."  Pastor M. Arbuckle

Be blessed today, sweet friends.  I pray that you never feel as if your job as a mother is less than important, or that you are not a success because you are "just a mom."  And remember, the blessing is YOURS today on Mother's Day!


A while back I was sitting in the doctor's office filling out forms. They were routine forms and there were a ton of them, so I was scurrying and scrawling along.

Until I reached that one line. The one where my scurrying and my scrawling came to an abrupt halt.
Occupation? Employer?

I am always stumped my this one. I find myself struggling to find the right words. Possibly to encompass all that I do. More likely to place something on those lines that those reading the lines will find "worthy."

I find myself laboring over the choices:

Occupation? Mom    Employer? CraftyGirl & TheBoy
Occupation? Wife     Employer? MotorMan
Occupation? Greyhaired Momma    Employer?  The few who read this blog
Occupation? Grocery Getter/Errand Runner/Kid Picker Upper-Dropper Offer/Meal Maker/Laundry Washer/All Around Great Gal

Uh, yeah. You can see that I struggle with that one.
And so, I guess, the real struggle is within me. I feel that many look down on those of us who are blessed enough to call our homes our workplaces. That being "just a mom" isn't a valuable, worthy, or important position.

God tells me otherwise.

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.

She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.

She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her: 

    Proverbs 31: 10-28

While I still struggle with exactly what to write on that line, what I know is that God tells me my calling as a mother and wife is noble and worthy.  And that is enough for me. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

OAMC -- The Shopping List

Creating the shopping list...  That can make many women break out in a cold sweat.  I, personally, have never experienced a cold sweat.  A sweat?  Oh, yeah.  I am the queen of puddle pits.  But a cold sweat?  No, not me.    (Okay, after reading back through that short paragraph, I feel it might be a little TMI*.  But, entertaining you at the cost of my pride is what I'm all about.  I'm practicing humility.  I think.  Or humiliation...)

Creating your shopping list is quite easy.  Actually going to the store and ONLY buying what's on that list and getting out of the store in a timely manner is not so easy.  'Specially if you've got kiddos trailing you.  "Mom.  Mom.  MOM!  MOOOOMMMM!"  Just sayin'...

Back to the shopping list... First, you need to get the recipes you're going to use.  If you saved them all to a folder on your desktop as I told you to suggested, then they will be very easy to find.  You will need to print them out.  Not only is it easier to read them in print sitting in front of you, but you'll use them in the kitchen while cooking.  So, print 'em out.  Use the 'draft' setting on your printer.  And, use Times New Roman or some other boring font.  Apparently those two things can save you a lot of printer ink.  That's according to an article on Yahoo! a while back.  And we know that everything we read on the Internet is true.  But, it might help us save a buck.  And, again, that is a BIG perk to OAMC!

As for the actual list, I use a template I found searching Microsoft Word.  But that was years ago and I can't seem to find that when I try now.  Using my powers of Type A personality, I -- of course-- saved the file to my computer.  So I have it.  But can't figure out how to --- oh, oh, oh wait!  I might have figured it out... Google Docs... Lemme try this... Click on this Shopping List link and see if it brings up a shopping list document -- and then lemme know if it works!  

Even if you are able to look at the shopping list template I use and you don't like it, just use whatever works best for you.  I find categorizing my list works the best for me.  That's just the kinda gal I am!

Take whatever you're going to use to make your shopping list, and the recipes you're going to use into the kitchen.  Reading through the recipes, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see if you already have the ingredients called for in the recipe.  (Saving money, girls, saving money!)  I do this one recipe at a time.  If I have several recipes that call for ground beef, for instance, I write "ground beef" on my list under MEATS and then just put hash marks to indicate the number of pounds I'll need.  I do this for cheese too, and just count that by cups.  Then, after I've gone through all my recipes, I can see exactly how much of each ingredient I'll need.  Again, for example, if I can see on my list that I'll need 4 cups of cheddar cheese, that makes it easy at the store to choose the size block  or which bag of the pre-shredded stuff to buy as the measurement is right there on the package!  Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!

EDITED:  Don't forget to add gallon freezer zip bags and 8x8" aluminum baking dishes to your list!!  You'll need them to store your food in!  Silly me for forgetting this in the original post!

Once I have my list, I'm off to the store.  And, yes, sometimes I go to several different stores using different coupons, sales, etc.  But, we'll work on one money saving technique at a time.

So, girls, get your recipes printed, and your lists made!  My next post will be about making your Cooking Day game plan!

*TMI= Too Much Information -- which I NEVER give!