Friday, January 30, 2009

Soup's On!

Over the last few weeks, I've made more soup than any other food. I don't usually make's only because it's been so cold! And even though you mid-westerners and northerners laugh at our 30 degree winter weather, to me it's FREEZING outside! So, what do I do? Make soup. And bake. And make some more soup. There's something comforting about throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot, and then just letting it do it's thing. Meanwhile, I can do mine!

My favorite soups are rich and creamy. My hubby's favorite kinds of soups are the hearty and brothy kind (I don't think brothy is a word). So, we've tried a few new ones and improved a couple old recipes. Here's a taste of our favorites this season...

Hearty Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp. butter (can use olive oil)
1 lg. onion (diced)
1 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tsp. italian spices
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tbsp. sugar
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 baking potatoes (diced)
2 carrots (sliced)
frozen peas, lima beans, corn (or whatever veggies you like)
46 oz. tomato juice
1 can beef broth
2 cups water

Heat butter over medium in large saucepan. Sauté your onion in butter until soft. Add garlic and spices. Cook until fragrant (couple minutes). Add rest of ingredients. Bring to boil, and then turn down to simmer on low for at least 45 min. (I have been known to let cook on low for several hours, and it just gets better!) Serve this with grilled cheese for a great easy meal!


1 lb. ground beef
1 onion (chopped)
2 cans kidney beans (drained)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 pkt. chili seasoning
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt

Fry your ground beef and onion together until beef is browned (10 min. on med heat). Drain excess grease. Add in diced tomatoes, kidney beans, chili packet, tomato soup, salt, and sugar. Let simmer for 1 1/2 hrs. stirring often. Garnish with cheddar cheese and sour cream and serve over rice. Delicious on a cold winter day!

Quick Potato Chowder

2 stalks celery (diced)
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
*2 cups refrigerated diced potatoes with onions
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
4 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper

*can use fresh potatoes and onions also. just add the sauté the onion with the celery, and cook your potatoes in boiling water until soft.

In a saucepan cook celery in hot butter over med heat until tender. Stir in flour until combined. Stir in broth; bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add potatoes; return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 15 min. or until tender. Slightly mash potatoes. Stir in milk, half and half, and bacon. Heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Stew
4 tsp. olive oil
1 med. onion (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
*1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. frozen corn (10 oz.)

(*to make a more mild stew you can substitute a can of regular diced tomatoes)

In large saucepan heat oil over med. heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cumin, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant (another minute or so). Add beans, tomatoes, water, and salt to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer, until slightly thickened, about 20 min. Add corn to stew and allow to heat through. Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve with heated tortillas or quesadillas.

What's your favorite soup to eat during these chillier months? Leave me the recipe if it's a good one, and I'll be sure to try it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vintage? Or Vintage Inspired?

The other day, my friend Kari said how she like decorating with things that have stories attached. I couldn't agree more. Now, my story might be that I found it in my Grandma's attic, or on the side of the road, but it's still a story.

The other day, when skimming through a Pottery Barn Kids magazine, I saw something that looked familiar. I know that it caught my eye, just because I love the vintage style so much. But it was funny as I looked closer, I thought to myself, "I have the originals!!" And also the creeks, but hey, what's a little character!

Here is the "vintage inspired" bed from PB
the "Olivia Collection"

And here's the matching "vintage inspired" dresser in vintage pink
here's our vintage little girls' bed
(the "River" collection)

the bed beside our vintage pink dresser

I can't take credit for finding this beautiful set. A couple years ago, when we were talking of moving River into a big girl bed, my sweet mom-in-law saw it while down at her favorite antique store in Shallote, N.C. She grabbed a cell phone and got the "YES!!! GET IT!" from me, and it was loaded onto her friend's truck in no time.

Before paying the big bucks, check out antique stores if you're wanting that vintage look. A lot of times you'll find what you're looking for (and even what Pottery Barn's looking for) right under your eyes! At a fraction of the price! Like an 1/8 of the price. Yes, seriously. Now, sometimes you'll have to do your own paint job, but a lot of times you can find them already spruced up, and only a couple hundred, instead of a couple thousand!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Bless The Hands That Never Tire In Their Loving Care of Me"

When I was a little girl, I used to love looking at my mamma's hands.    They always had pretty rings on, and they always looked beautiful.   I longed for the day when I would be able to wear them.    My sister and I would even "put our name" on jewelry that we really liked, and because I loved the color purple, I always claimed all the amethyst.   My sister, being 4 years older, knew to not go for color, and always claimed the diamonds - smarty pants!

When I look at my hands now, throughout the day, I don't often think of my Mom, just because I'm in the midst of doing.   Washing dishes, cooking dinner, grabbing another tissue, blowing another nose.    But, yesterday, for some reason, I decided to put on her rings.   I have her hands, which is really fun, because when I put on her rings, they look just like hers did.    Even in the colder months, when they get kind of scratchy and chapped, no matter how much lotion I put on.     

As I went about my day, I thought about how her hands cared for me.   Day after day.   Cleaning, cooking, washing, hugging, reading, playing, and as you know, the list goes on and on.   Even though she didn't live a long life, every day of hers was filled with loving care towards me.   When I think about my hands, I know that they really do tire.   I tire of doing, giving, being that ever present person to comfort and love my family.    But even though I tire, I wouldn't have it any other way.   I love knowing that what makes me tired is caring for them.    And, to my children, when they look at my hands, I want them to know that my hands never tire of loving care for them.    

My little girl noticed I was wearing several rings, and asked about them.    I told her how much my mom loved nice jewelry, and how she had given me the rings I was wearing.   I told her how my mom's favorite stone was amethyst.    But my mom's birthstone wasn't amethyst, and my birthstone isn't amethyst, even though we kind of wished it was.     But it is my daughters' birthstone.   As the prayer says, "bless the hands that never tire in their loving care of me."   As I bless my mom's hands, I know one day my children will bless my hands for the love toward them.

"Let us not grow weary of doing good.   For at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."    Galatians 6:9

May your hands be blessed today, in all that they do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snowflakes that Stay on My Nose and Eyelashes!

Usually on snow days, I bake chocolate chip cookies and watch movies. But today, instead of movies, it the Inauguration. And sad to say that we're out of butter, so no cookies to be made. Popcorn will have to do.

We had fun this morning stomping around in the inch of snow that fell here, but alas as soon as it arrives, it's gone. I do wish that the snowflakes would stay on our noses and eyelashes a little bit longer. But what a great day for a snow day, the chance to watch history in the making as a family.

At least we had enough to make a bowl of snow cream!

And snow angels (kind of)

And snow balls!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Well, it's officially here...the after Christmas cold.  Usually we have at least one round of a respiratory infection before Christmas and then one after Christmas.   If your family is anything like my family, we usually all pass it around, and it takes about a month for everyone to be ALL the way well.

So instead of today being a day where I got to go help a friend with decorating and seeing another friend that I haven't seen in years, today will be a sniffle...sniffle...cough day, full of tea drinking and couch lounging.    And saying, "let's watch another cartoon."

But, in case you're at home lounging and doing some online shopping, I have to let you know about this great offer from rekoncile design... (I know, shameless plug!)   But it's just such a great deal - I would hate me, if I knew about it and didn't tell you!    Each of these bags is at least 50% off (plus monogramming). 

  (bags from left to right)
Sail Bag (12" x 20")  Reg. $18...Closeout $9
Overnight Bag (20" x 7" x 13") Reg. $24, now $12

Backpack (9" x 5" x 12")  Reg. $16, now $7.50

Large Tote Bag (18" x 4" x 14")  Reg. $14, now $7

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Only Thing that Counts

…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

                                            -Galatians 5:6b

As I read this, I think about how I was snappy and impatient with my kids tonight.   Or how I grumbled at the car driving too slow in front of me.    Or how I had a bad attitude about not being able to spend money.   Or how I judged a man because of how he looked.    And it feels like failure.     "I just can't do it, Lord.  I can't even do the only thing that counts."

But then, I remember, how I'm not the one who is supposed to be able to do it.  That I'm only a broken vessel.   An empty vase, filled with busy-ness, worries, stress, duties, and priorities.    Only when I have Jesus fill me with His love, His living water that brings life, can I then spill into other's lives.    He is my faith.  He is the love that can come out.   Only when I allow him to flow into all of me can I truly express my faith through love.    After all, it's the only thing that counts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Popcorn for Breakfast?

Don't let that shy smile fool you.   Sweet?   You better believe it.   Curious?   More than George!   Boy?   Totally.

Remember my neighbors who had the evil santa claus at Halloween?    They're so nice!   We took them cookies around Thanksgiving, and actually met the wife, but still haven't had a chance to really get together with the kids.   But for Christmas, they brought us one of those huge tins of popcorn, you know the kind with the 3 different flavors.    Well, Asher loves popcorn.    He gets really excited about it, and even though my father the doctor would disagree with allowing him to eat it yet, I give in.

Now that my sweet little boy can climb out of his crib, he comes in to wake me up in the morning by standing right at my face by the side of my bed.   Usually I hear his little feet pitter patting down the hall on his way in.   But the other morning, as I was sleeping soundly all snug in my bed, I heard a weird sound that woke me.

*crunch...crunch... crunch*   "Mmm...'ca-corn'.   Good, Mama!"

My son had woken up, and proceeded to help himself to the huge tin of popcorn, and come in to proudly show me his morning  snack.    I have no idea how long he munched on it before coming to show me, but you can be assured, the "ca-corn" is put away!   But the trail of his crumbs by my bed is still lingering.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kind of Almost Famous...

So lots of you know one of my best friends...Emily...from either her blog, or in real life. Lately, when I go places with her I kind of feel like I'm walking around with a celebrity. People stop us and tell her how much they love reading her blog, and ask her all types of questions about things they already know about her. And it's great. We walk away giggling with glee.

Not long ago, our friend Kari introduced us to the blog world, and Emily slowly came alive with her writing. Stories about her days, stories of her past, stories of watching others, and stories of being in fellowship with her Creator. But her stories have done much more than entertain and inform. They have invoked a community that longs to celebrate the everyday.

And so, even in the face of all the bloggers out there, who think that "Mommy Bloggers" are lame, and that what we talk about is of no real importance, she has continued to type away. And I'm so glad she has. She truly is a beautiful writer.

So while we still have time, I'm hoping that each of you will go to the Weblog Awards where she has been nominated as one of the ten finalist for "Best Small Blog" award and vote for Chatting at the Sky. She is up against some pretty tough competition (you know the kind of competition where you know a celebrity, and you get the celebrity to tell everyone in your fan base to vote for your friend, whether or not they actually read their blog, and let's just say the celebrity is Keira Knightly) but is holding a solid third position!

Voting is going on through tomorrow, so get out there and vote! And yes, I'm having flashbacks to November. Too bad Starbucks isn't giving out free coffee if you vote. You can come to my house and get some free coffee if you really want.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Shoreline Story

There are places that you go in life that stay with you wherever you go.    Maybe it was the first time you went to the zoo, or the first time that you saw an overlook from a mountain view.     For me, ever since I was a little girl, my favorite place to go has always been the beach.   I love it in the winter, spring, summer and fall.   I don't have to have a reason to go.   I just love to be there.

Randy's parents have a place down at the beach, (I know you hate me now) and we got to go down this past weekend.   At first, I wondered if it would be worth the trip down - the work it takes to get down there, the time it takes to clean up and come back home, and all the in between.   But then, once I'm there, it's like coming home.   It welcomes me back, and I bask in the joy of feeling restored.

I've always found such peace strolling the shore, looking for seashells and animal life.   I love shell searching in the winter time because you can always find so much more than in the summer, when everyone is looking for those hidden treasures.   And, similar to bargain hunting, if you look long enough, and thoroughly enough, you're bound to find something.    This weekend was no different.   I found a little starfish, struggling to get back to the water, and after having show and tell with the kids, Randy gently tossed him back home.   I started down the shoreline looking for other shells and I knew it was calling me.  

As I walked down the shoreline that seemed to have no end, each step drew me a little farther.  Farther from my husband and children digging a sand castle, but closer to each new shell that was like gold in my hands.    I continued to walk on finding new treasures in each step, but never losing sight of my family, until they were little specks on the shore.    As much as I loved being able to find new shells, I wanted to return.   To hear their voices, to see what things they were exploring, and to be a part of their story that day.

Sometimes, I think that it's easy to feel a longing for the beyond.   A longing for what's just beyond that hill, or for the time when "that" finally happens.    But the thing is, that hill never comes.   The shoreline could have no end of new shells, and the thing that you're waiting to happen, is always just out of reach.     It isn't about finally finding the thing that gives you joy, the true joy is found right where you are.   Choosing to stay in the moment of now allows you to see the beauty of where you are.    The beauty of now.

So, I turned back toward my family, and walked slowly back down the shore, hands filled with treasures to share.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

You Are Special Today

I love my birthday.   I've always loved it.    My mom and dad when I was little always had this red plate that said, "You Are Special Today" around the rim.   I used to get as excited about eating off the red plate as I did having my birthday breakfast and dinner be whatever I chose.   Usually, I picked french toast for breakfast and fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner.  My mom never even blinked an eye about my requests.    She would simply say, "Ok, that's what we'll have!"   We had family parties and friend parties.    It was an all day (sometimes week) celebration.    Presents were pretty nominal, but it was the celebration that was always so grand.     I definitely felt special on that day.

However, as life goes into one day, and out the next, many days and years go by, without feeling so special.   And what's worse, we get tricked into believing that we're not very special, except maybe on days like our birthdays.   We believe lies that life would be better if we were better.    That we're not good enough without having her house or her body or even, (gulp) her blog and that many comments!   If I could have more money or make better grades.  If I could get into that school or find a husband.   If my kids acted like that or if I had clothes like that.    If I could have faith like that.    The list goes on and on.    And we end up feeling like for some reason or another, we're just not that good.    That we're not that loved.    Or that loveable.

One thing I love about getting older is that I know more and more of who I am.   And I see more of the woman that God has made me to be.    And I'm learning to love who He created.  Without conditions.  Whether or not I'm in that size of jeans, and whether or not I did a good job at that.   Whether or not people like me.   Whether or not my house looks clean and beautiful.   Whether or not my husband and I get in a fight.    I see that what He made was a wonderful and fearful creation.    That doesn't change day by day, depending on how I act, or what I look like.   And who am I to say that what the CREATOR made isn't good enough?

I felt very celebrated this year for my birthday by several sweet people.   From breakfast to late night, I was doing things that I love to do (most of those things included eating yummy food).   I'm so thankful for the way that God has provided such a group of people around me to remind me that He loves me.    Not to mention how much fun I have with my family and friends!    But I am thankful to know that it's not just about being special "today" on my birthday.   No, it's knowing that you are that way everyday.     That you are special today.

If you tend to believe that you're not good enough, or that you're nothing that special,  I would challenge you to believe what He says about you.    That you were made by Him and for Him.   He longs for you to know His unconditional love and acceptance. 

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  ~psalm 139:14

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ever Fall on Your Face?

Tonight we got to go to a grown up party...with no kids...and no toys to trip over. So, I decided to wear my heels to go a little fancy for the evening. I mean, it's not very often that we get a night out, much less, without the little ones.

After a little eating and talking, I decided to venture outside to the outdoor games. As I was walking down the brick steps, my fancy little heel got caught in the grooves of the mat, and down I went. All the way. My hands hit the pavement below me, with my heel still at the top of the stairs. With lots of people watching.

Do you ever do something where you think, "Did I seriously just do that?" and you wish that you didn't but you know you totally did. Thankfully these people are my friends, and helped me up, and asked if I was okay. And didn't even laugh at me.

I fall a lot. It wasn't just because I was wearing heels, even though I did regret that in the moment. But I fall a lot more than most people.

Like the time that I finished dancing in a performance, and then when I ran back to the dressing room, tripped over a step and landed on my foot the wrong way, and broke it.

Or the time that I was walking down the steps by a fountain, and wasn't really thinking, and stepped out and completely missed a step, and my feet came up over my head, and I landed on my rear end.

Or the many times that my ankle just chooses to go out, and I fall down.

Or when I was at church the other week and fell down the stairs.

Or the other day when I fell down holding my son, but thankfully didn't hurt him, just felt silly.

See what I mean? It comes out of nowhere for me. I guess I'm just clumsy. All those years of dance apparently didn't teach me how to be a graceful walker.

But sometimes in life, whether by the wrong decisions that we make or just by being blind and stumbling, we can just fall flat on our face. In front of people. Without knowing that it's coming. And without knowing how to recover. You feel ashamed. Embarrassed. And unable to get up.

The only hope comes in knowing One who can pick us up. One who doesn't care how far we fell. Or why we fell. Who doesn't point a finger and say, "I TOLD YOU TO WATCH OUT!" He only says, "I want to help you get up. I love you. You're not beyond my reach."

It makes me so thankful to know, that we are never beyond His reach. That He never tires of pulling us out of our mire. Even when the pit has been dug by our own hands.