Homemaking

December Angel Food Meal Plan & Recipes

Julie / December 18, 2010

So, I had great plans of publishing this weeks ago–it was complete in the particulars–but I wanted to finish/polish a few things and life has not exactly cooperated!  Hopefully this will be better (and earlier) in future months.

Here’s the plan (DOC), based on two Bountiful Blessing boxes and one fresh fruit and veggie box:

Download a PDF.
The main thing I had hoped to accomplish before publishing it was to come up with a good ordering to the meal plan in order to use the fresh ingredients (celery, onions, potatoes) before they went bad.  Instead, just keep that in mind and pick the meals off in the order that makes your family happy!  I’ll try to get this all straightened out by next month. Edit: just FYI, I’m beginning with the chicken fried rice tonight and the slow-cooker black-eyed pea soup tomorrow to use up a good chunk of the produce without going to the grocery store yet.

Unlinked recipes:

  • Mom’s Sausage Stovetop Casserole — this is my mom’s recipe. Basically… if the sausage/hamburger is raw (it’s supposed to be, but I’m using cooked this month because that’s what’s in the AF box, just going to dice it and toss it in), then you cook it, drain it, and mix all the ingredients together on the stove. (It’s also supposed to be made with noodles and Velveeta, not mac-n-cheese packages, but I think this will turn out to be quite good and use lots of the mac-n-cheese which is otherwise a bit of a mammoth on this month’s menu.) Adjust proportions according to whimsy; the recipe also handles substitutions well. Onions are good too.
  • Chicken de Provence — My recipe. Rip up / dice the chicken, season quite heavily with herbs de provence, cook it on the stove in lots of olive oil, then add alfredo sauce (1/2 a jar or so), a dash (1/3 c) of tomato sauce, and maybe 3 oz of cream cheese. Stir till all melty and bubbly, serve over rice. This is not a giant recipe, but it’s very easy and yummy and we almost always have all the ingredients on hand–this is one of my what-am-I-going-to-make-in-10-minutes recipes.

January Angel Food boxes:

I’m very excited about next month’s boxes; they look like they rely even less on pre-prepared food and are generally healthier.  My current plan is to order:

  • 2 Bountiful Blessing boxes ($41)
  • 1 S2 box (steak and chicken, $23)
  • 1 S3 box (fruit and veggie, $23)

That’s probably more than we can eat in a month, but the S2 box is too much in line with what we like to have on hand in the freezer to pass up!  Maybe I’ll shift some of that to dinners and use some of the more lunch-like items in the Bountiful Blessing boxes for lunch and extras!

Moments

Just pretend this is a baby book.

Julie / December 9, 2010

I am a poor record-keeper.  Which is a bit odd, since I enjoy writing, but somehow these things–the days of first steps, first words, trials and triumphs–they escape my notice.  This attitude was quite solidified the first time E got into some “precious” item of my own past and did it some damage, and I realized that the here-and-now reality of my little daughter was more important to me than the memory of times and people past.  Things burn and turn to dust.  And I struggle, likewise, with finding events particularly important in the context of eternity: far too much, I think; there is surely some value in baby books and memorials, and it is my own fault for having trouble finding it.

At any rate, E’s life has been more chronicled than R’s, in no small part because people bugged me about it more.  Did you write it down?  Did you get her footprints stamped?  Did you send off for her birth certificate? (Yes, we do have R’s birth certificate, but it was literally months later in arriving than E’s was!)  But there is one thing that has really struck me lately about R, and so I thought it was perhaps worth a post: I do believe the child talks more now, at 14 months, than E did even on her second birthday.  It’s probably E’s “fault,” because she talks to R from sunup to sundown and R’s vocabulary is clearly reflective of her elder sister’s more than my own.  And I’m not implying a difference in intelligence, either: I frankly don’t really follow milestones at all anymore, but I’m pretty sure there’s a wide range of “normal” in speech development and the girls’ personalities could easily put them at opposite ends of the spectrum even without their own interactions.  That said; R’s words, as nearly as I can recall them all; words she says spontaneously/unprompted, consistently, and clearly:

  • names: Ellie, Mommy, Daddy, Mammaw, Grandad
  • bye, hi, night night, mmm-wee, up, me, I (love you), awwww, whee, please, no, baby, milk, eat, boo, uh-oh, ice, eyes
  • she sings, semi-recognizably (you can tell which one she’s trying for): ring around the rosie, the alphabet song, twinkle twinkle, itsy bitsy spider, and old macdonald

I also want to remember something that is incredibly special to me to watch: while the girls have long played with each other–and nicely–lately they’ve actually been moving into a stage of being actively affectionate with each other.  It astounds me to see how patient E is with R’s physically clumsy attempts to hug, tickle, tackle, and give her kisses, and it’s also unfathomably neat to see R initiating said hugs and playfulness instead of just being on the receiving end all the time.  There are few moments in my entire life that have made me as happy and almost giddy as walking into a room and finding them sitting next to each other playing, “reading” a book together, or just plain hanging out.  They have their small moments of disgruntledness, but they’re much less than I’d expect given that they’re both still pretty clumsy (prone to flatly knocking each other down by accident!) and that the lines of communication are distinctly limited.

Musings

Halloween thoughts.

Julie / October 24, 2010

I have been thinking about why I like Halloween so much, especially since so many other Christians think it’s Satanic.  But it’s probably my second-favorite holiday, after Christmas.

It’s the most neighborly holiday we have.  If Christmas is when we’re nice to strangers, Easter is when we go to church, and Thanksgiving is when we’re nice to family, then Halloween is surely when we’re nice to neighbors.  We feed them candy!  We go to their houses and talk to them!  We talk to tens or even hundreds of people in our neighborhoods, exchange names, make new friends, and have an opportunity to spend the entire evening with some neighbors by teaming up for the trick-or-treat rounds.  It’s a holiday chock-full of opportunities for witnessing, even without handing out tracts.

It’s not particularly Satanic.  I’ve read a lot of articles in the past month about why Halloween is “wrong” because of the importance it holds on the Wiccan calendar.  But the reality is that Wiccans stole it just as much as the church did.  It’s a Celtic end-of-harvest festival.  There’s no historical connection back to some human-sacrificing-Wiccans, and in fact the church has been celebrating it (as All Hallows Eve) much longer than Wiccans have.

It’s the one day of the year when the world looks its fallenness full in the face.  Decorating our yards with skeletons, ghosts, and tombstones?  Pretending to be dead people?  Thinking about dead people?  Telling scary stories and creeping through graveyards?  The whole event is a festival of death, in more ways than one.  It’s a definite fall festival, taking place as the last leaves are falling off the trees and the summer warmth is fading for the last time until spring.  And it is definitely based on human death as well, as both the decorations and the costumes (which traditionally over the centuries were people dressing up as the dead) attest.  In a certain way–Halloween is the holiday when the world is honest with itself and acknowledges the reality of death and even of the afterlife, all very openly, bluntly, and gruesomely.  It’s not the Gospel, but it’s one of the first steps.  I hadn’t appreciated this fully until this year with a highly inquisitive two-year-old along for the ride: just try explaining Halloween decorations, even just the ones you run into in store aisles, without talking about death and dying and even Hell.  Not possible.

It’s an honest holiday.  This is one of the things that bugs me tremendously about Easter and Christmas: they’re so taken over by the church that people actually complain that the world is taking them over.  It just isn’t so.  They’re all pagan holidays.  Halloween’s just the only one that we actually admit is a pagan holiday.

Pregnancy

Third trimester UGHs. :)

Julie / October 7, 2010

So I have finally realized a simple truth, that you might have thought I’d have grasped a pregnancy or two ago: the third trimester is exhausting.  And maybe it’s worse when there are two toddlers to chase around, but honestly I think I’d be pretty exhausted even without their interference.

My biggest “problem” this time is that I had a routine, and was doing a reasonable job of keeping laundry washed, food on the table (and more importantly, off the floor), kids happy and schooled, and dust bunnies banished.  Things weren’t perfect, but for perhaps the first time in my life, I was starting to understand how the whole housekeeping thing was supposed to work.

Now it’s really, truly all I can do to keep up on the bare minimum: the kitchen and dining room are cleaned enough to keep flies away, the clothes are washed and folded but not put away, dinner is getting kind of repetitive and chronically simple (but still edible, I think, and occasionally in existence), and the floors are getting vacuumed but rarely mopped.

And the blog, you’ll notice, is perilously close to abandoned.  I don’t have energy to think at the end of the day, much less write!  Hopefully it’ll be back by February.

All this is driving me CRAZY.  I”˜d forgotten how tiring this stage was–or maybe I just plain didn’t realize in the first place since I had lower expectations for myself–and I didn’t see it coming at all.  This pregnancy has been more comfortable up to this point than the other two, and I guess I assumed it was going to keep going so nicely.  So now I’m really struggling with figuring out what is laziness and what is genuine inability to do what I “need” to do.  Some critical points I’m trying to focus on:

  • Trying to be realistic without being complainy.  Which is hard.  There’s a certain amount of communication necessary, but it’s always easy to wallow, too.  🙂
  • Figuring out what really needs to be done, and what can realistically get done less often–or not at all–until January.  I probably don’t need to be cleaning out the basement or blogging.
  • Using every moment I do feel okay.  They’re not very often, but some days I have an hour or so.  I’m trying to be conscious of those and work like crazy until I’m ready to fall out.  Some days (like today) they don’t seem to happen at all.
  • Asking for help with activities that should be easy for a normal person, but aren’t for me.  Like picking up ten million toys off the floor this might take Seth ten minutes, but a lot longer (and a lot more exhausting) for me right now.  Other things, like running to the store, aren’t a lot slower for me to push through myself.

All this to say, the blog isn’t “dead” or on hiatus, but I definitely won’t be keeping up with a remotely regular schedule of posting anytime soon.

Musings

Bloggy thoughts & technicalities

Julie / September 28, 2010

bvw

The problem with being a certifiable nerd writing on what is mostly a “Mommy blog” is that sometimes it’s really hard for me not to break out into talking about blog plugins and hacks and other nerdy things that nobody wants to read about. 🙂  But I’ve just switched back to WordPress–which was a thoroughly frustrating experience since I was using WordPress to begin with–and so it’s a good opportunity to get a little bit geeky, right?

Blogger

I think Blogger does two things really, really well: it’s simple (to set up, to use, to maintain, and even to design) and it’s reliable (since you don’t host it yourself, you don’t even have to think about hackers, site load, bandwidth, downed servers, etc.).  It has a lot of good widgets, built-in statistics, and is fairly forward-facing in that if you use your own domain (which is free to set up on Blogger’s end) you can switch to a different platform (WordPress) and maintain all your links.  In short, I like Blogger.  I was astounded by how simple it is to develop custom themes for Blogger–from a programming perspective there’s no comparison at all in difficulty level to WordPress or any other CMS I’ve ever coded.  I went from layout mockup to completely finished, coded theme in a couple hours, despite having never touched Blogger code before.  It’s brilliant.

But. There were some things about Blogger that really drove me batty just in the short time I used it.  First, it didn’t play nicely with Live Writer, which is such an essential to me that it’s pretty much the reason I’m using Windows instead of Ubuntu.  Every time I opened an entry in Blogger to do some little edits, it would totally screw up my formatting and I’d have to go through the whole article and fix it.  Very time-consuming.  Secondly, the very simplicity of the system really begins to limit you when you want to use widgets that move beyond snippets of code on the sidebar.  You can’t really do different layouts on different pages, and there are some things that you just can’t change–at all.  There were a few things I wanted the blog to be able to accomplish, and it just wasn’t possible with the limited access Blogger gives you to the code.  One particularly troublesome area is in comments: Blogger’s comment system is very Blogger-y, and kicks your readers back onto Blogger’s site with Blogger’s rules.  I had problems with disappearing comments and actual feedback about how confusing it was.

All that said, however, I was incredibly impressed at how much customization and control Blogger does allow, considering that it’s a hosted solution.  It’s a very finely-tuned machine, and they’ve done an amazing job of keeping it simple yet considerably powerful.

One tip: if you use Blogger, and you have remote space for images (I think Dropbox would work for this even if you don’t have your own server), store them there instead of via Blogger’s default API.  Then if you ever decided to change blogging systems, your images are still all nice and ready to go wherever you are.

WordPress

But in the end, I was sorry that I’d moved and I went right back to WordPress.  (And just to clarify, I’m talking about self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com, which is a totally different beast that fails to impress me as much as Blogger.)  The great thing about using any self-hosted/open-source solution is that you’re really only limited in what you can do by your own resources.  The WordPress folks themselves grabbed an old program called B2, hacked it to death and re-wrote it until WordPress became what it is today.  And you or I could do the same.  If you want to hack your WordPress install so that it spews spyware onto everyone’s computer, you can do that.  Or, more practically, if there’s not a plugin that does what you need done, you can write one.  The only real limits are your skills and your time.

That very openness and flexibility is, to me, WordPress’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.  I think it’s really significant that I was so much more comfortable with Blogger after literally a couple of hours of poring over the code than I am with WordPress after literally years and years of using it–I started using WordPress even before version 1 was released in 2004.  The sheer bulk and complexity of the system is no small mountain to climb.  And so, generally, it easiest just to take WordPress for what it is, use a theme someone else created or build on a theme someone else created, and search high and low for plugins to do what you want instead of even considering making your own.

I like Blogger’s themes better.  They clearly have a lot of corporate money fueling them, which is a good thing for the end-user.  But WordPress’s plugins just blow Blogger’s out of the water.  I don’t think there’s really anything at all that you can do in Blogger that you can’t do, quite easily, with WordPress, and there are certainly many, many things in WordPress that you can’t do in Blogger.  WordPress also doesn’t have “rules,” in the sense that you’re not limited to X number of pages, you can do whatever you want with monetizing your blog, you don’t have to abide by any terms of use, and so on.  There are also practical things that you can do, like nesting categories and subcategories (and pages and subpages), creating drop-down menus and contact forms, polls, RSS feeds, and so on.  You’re not limited to the realms of HTML, XML, and Javascript–you can use PHP to import that Twitter feed, for instance, which works a whole lot better than the Twitter widget on Blogger.  Where Blogger pairs simplicity with limited power, WordPress represents ultimate power with limited simplicity.  Not that you have to be able to code to use WordPress–not at all–but if you’re into hacking things, you can do a lot more with WordPress.  It’s just harder to do.

So. Little Sinners

So we’re back to WordPress, which was a fairly smooth transition because WordPress can match Blogger’s permalink structure and my images were all hosted here, anyway.  If I’d made the theme the same, I probably could have never mentioned the switch and no one would have noticed.  But that would have been a lot more trouble than I wanted to go through, particularly since one of the major things I want to do is to revamp the theme, and it would have been foolish of me to spend a lot of time porting the old one to WordPress when I’m only planning on replacing it in the near future.  So right now, it just doesn’t look very much like a Mommy blog!  Two major improvements already, however–the (blue) drop-down menus at the top are an easy way to get at all the content on the site organized by subject, and if you leave a link with your comment, the software will look to see what is the latest entry on your blog and append a link to your comment (assuming all this works correctly, that is) free linkiness.  And that’s always a good thing.  🙂  The new design, whenever I manage to spit it out, should feature those things as well as dynamic layouts to match your resolutions (more tablet/phone friendly, and also more giant-screen friendly) and hopefully some more Ajaxy goodness to make everything smoother and quicker.  And hopefully it’ll look a little more like a SAHM blog and a little less like a corporate blog, too.  🙂

Linked to Words for Me Wednesday.

Homemaking, Wifehood

This is my job. And it’s a job.

Julie / September 24, 2010

Seth is a little quicker than I am to jump in and proclaim that I do work a “full-time job,” which I appreciate, even as I feel a little sheepish about it myself.  Although if I was doing all the cleaning and housework and 24-hour-a-day nannying for any other family but my own, I’d definitely think it was a job!

Part of my problem is that I feel like home-work is a calling and duty in itself.  Outside jobs may be the way husbands fulfill their own duties to provide for their families, but the actual job itself isn’t the duty–it’s the means to the end.  My “job,” on the other hand, is the end.  (Not the ultimate end; home-work is just my first line in the grand scheme of serving God, but it’s still a specific and direct calling.)

Anyway, all of this has hindered me a bit from realizing one important truth until it completely hit me upside of the head last week: this is a job.

I mean that in a “negative” sense.  This is a job, in the sense that it’s a lot of work.  It’s hours and hours of work, every day.  It’s just like life at the office: some days you watch the clock and die for a break.  Some days you’re exhausted or sick and all you want to do is go back to bed.

Maybe because I used to work outside the home, or maybe because even my inside-the-home work used to be so much simpler, I’ve really struggled with the occasional monotony and unavoidableness of this job of mine.  This is motherhood, after all; noble and divine calling and all that.  This is supposed to be fun!  I’m supposed to be enjoying every second, right?  If it’s not all joy all the time, then either I’m doing something wrong, or somebody’s asking too much of me!

And no.  In all seriousness, I can’t compare working at home-work to the office work I used to do–home-work is much much much much more demanding, but it also has a lot of joys and giggles and very deep rewards that the best office job in the world could never offer.  But sometimes, however rarely or commonly, sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes I just gotta suck it up and get it done because it is my job.  Just because the delirious joy of changing poopy diapers isn’t happening doesn’t mean I get to stop working.

Home-work is a discipline, just like so many other aspects of serving God.  Sometimes we pray because we’re just outflowing with delight to talk to our Creator but sometimes we pray because we’re told to.  Sometimes we open our Bibles with glee and sometimes we open them and read with frustration at our total lack of connection to the text.  I’ve always struggled with doing any of these things that are “supposed” to be a joy at times that the joy just isn’t coming, and home-work is another one I’m adding to that list.  Put another way, I’m learning that sometimes, home-work is something I do because I have to, because it glorifies God and serves my family, even when I’d rather be tucked under the covers snoozing away. 

It’s better to enjoy the work, but it’s necessary to do it whether I enjoy it or not.  It is a job, and sometimes you have to go to work and do your best even when you’d much rather be on vacation.  And in that sense, I desperately need to see it as a job, and not just a very busy activity of leisure!

Recommendations, Studying God, Toddlers

Bible books and music

Julie / September 22, 2010

It turns out that it’s really difficult to find good Bibles / Bible books / devotionals for toddlers, especially ones that are reformed!  I just wanted to run through some of the ones we have found and are extremely happy with.  Notably, most of these are by the same author/publisher, which I think is more a sad commentary on what other publishers are up to than anything else.

My 1st Book Of Questions and Answers

This is a catechism book for little ones, based on the Westminister Shorter Catechism but generalized enough on the baptism questions to work for Baptists too.  Endorsed by R.C. Sproul, John and Noel Piper, and some other major people.  It’s not a terribly pretty book, but it’s pocket-sized and in a kid-friendly type.  This is one of a series–the others are books of memory verses, church information, etc.  This one’s a real gem.

God Never Changes (Learn about God)God Is Faithful (Learn about God)God Is Everywhere (Learn about God)
This is a series of board books exploring God’s attributes.  I think these are my favorite little board books–they’re very simple and give concrete examples of how, for instance, God is everywhere.  These are the only books on this list that aren’t strictly Bible stories, but I actually like them better for younger children because they’re very basic and simple to follow.
Missing Sheep, The (Stories Jesus Told) Selfish Servant, The (Stories Jesus Told) Lost Coin, The (Stories Jesus Told)
These are also board books.  Each one very simply retells one of Jesus’s parables.  They do leave out things, obviously for the sake of space (they are board books), but stay accurately to the text otherwise.
These are part of a series called “Biblewise.”  The next three sections feature very similar books–they’re all the same size (which is kind of like a large, full-color booklet–they’re stapled instead of having a perfect-bound spine), all very inexpensive ($3 or less), all well-illustrated, all strictly Bible-based, and all avoid depicting Christ, which I find an interesting choice (and a fairly good one, considering that children tend to believe what they see exactly).  These ones seem to be geared, very slightly, to the oldest audience.  There is quite a bit of text on each page–although certainly not beyond the attention span of, say, a four-year-old.  I expect that with all of these books, we would read them aloud to our children and then when they are older, have them read them by themselves, or even incorporate them into schoolwork.
These are a series called “Bibletime.”  They are VERY similar to the “Biblewise” books, except perhaps geared to a slightly younger audience.  But the difference is minute.  They are very thorough–the “Ruth” book, for instance, pretty much goes through the entire book of Ruth.
Jesus The Teacher (Bible Alive) Jesus The Storyteller (Bible Alive)Jesus The Miracle Worker (Bible Alive)Moses the Leader: Used by God (Bible Alive)David the King: True Repentance (Bible Alive David) Moses the Child: Kept by God (Bible Alive) David the Shepherd: A Man of Courage (Bible Alive: David) David the Soldier: A Man OF Patience(Bible Alive David)
And the last series we have is called “Bible Alive.”  As far as I can tell, this series only covers Jesus, Moses, and David, with quite a few books devoted to each.  I really like this configuration, though, because it breaks each story down into manageable segments that you can actually read in one sitting, but with all the books together they provide a fairly thorough outline of each life.  All three of these Bible series seem to be geared to a similar-aged audience, but these ones seem to be slightly more appropriate for the little ones.  The pictures are still full-color, but don’t stretch to the very edges of the page (less distracting) the way they do in the other two sets, the illustrations are a little more simplified, and there are fewer words to a page.  I believe, though, that this is the only one of the sets that devotes more than one book to each person.
My Bible Story Book
And at last we come to the book that we’ve settled on so far for our family reading time.  This is a hardcover book with stories from all throughout the Bible–a very standard storybook in that respect.  It tells the stories fairly simply and accurately, with an extra kind of “food for thought” question on almost every page (out from the main text).  We’ve really been enjoying it.  The biggest downside, in my opinion, is that the illustrations aren’t terribly good compared to many other Bible storybooks (or, indeed, the books by the same author that I’ve mentioned above).  They’re very cartoony.  One positive, though, is that there’s been a noticeable decrease in “What is that?” questions about the illustrations, because there aren’t very many extraneous, irrelevant things in the pictures.  And that’s a very good thing if you have a two-year-old.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition
Finally, a different author!  😀  This book is also reformed, and its primary emphasis is to show how the entire Bible tells the story of Christ, so each story comes back to Christ whether in looking forward or in looking back.  The illustrations are gorgeous, and the theology is sound.  I think I first heard of this from Al Mohler, but it’s quite popular in general amongst the reformed crowd.  It’s a beautiful, sound book.  It just has way too much text per page to hold the attention of our toddler, and I actually appreciate the simplicity of Carine MacKenzie’s books a little bit more, although I know we’ll be reading this one too as our kids get older.  I will say that E loved it when she was a newborn–the artwork really is amazing.
Seeds of Courage 1Seeds Family Worship: Power of Encouragement, Vol. 5Seeds of Faith 2Seeds of Purpose 4Seeds of Praise 3
These CDs are fantastic. They’re just Bible verses.  Nothing else.  Just Scripture, and references, made into cheery kids music.  Musically, they’re more along the lines of Sovereign Grace kids or Absolute Worship kids than, say, Maranatha Kids–they’re not annoying or embarrassing to listen to.  They repeat a lot, obviously, because the whole point is to learn the verses and repetition goes along with that, but they’re really quite brilliantly done and fun to listen to.  More importantly, though, they WILL change your day if you have them going in the background!  It’s great to listen to worship music at all, but there’s really something significantly different about listening to straight Scripture and having the lyrics of the Word wind their way into your heart.  The only negative thing I can think to say about this wonderful series is that it isn’t free, because I wish everyone could own a copy!
So, as far as Bible learning goes, this is some of what works in our house!  Linked to Works for Me Wednesday.