Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Well-Organized Pantry ~ Part 3 of 3

This is the final part in the 'well-organized pantry' series, focusing on the spice cabinet.
By keeping your spice area organized, everything will be easily accessible,
thus saving time & making you more efficient in the kitchen.

I chose a cabinet shelf that was adequately sized based on the number of spice bottles
& containers that I regularly use.
I then purchased a tiered spice organizer {pictured below} to sit on my cabinet shelf,
tripling my storage.
I've outgrown my space just a bit, storing some of the larger items in the pantry.
The thing that works best for me is to always put the spices back in the same spot.
I keep the ones I use most on the front shelf & the lesser used ones on the 2nd/3rd shelves.

Here are the staples in my spice cabinet.

Besides good ol' salt & pepper, the 5 ingredients I use most often are:
garlic powder, bacon salt, chicken bouillon, bacon pieces, & onion.

Now, the onion & bacon pieces don't come from my spice cabinet, of course, but these are staple items for seasoning up lots of dishes.

If bacon salt is a new ingredient for you, you've got to try it out!!
You can find it at Kroger, Target, & Big Lots {best price is Target}.
My favorite use for it is in green beans.
We aren't able to have a garden, so it's canned green beans from the grocery for us
{we don't like frozen}.

Here are a few ways I perk up {2-3 cans} green beans:
-a slice of onion
-a sprinkle of garlic powder
-a tbsp. of bacon pieces or 1/2 tsp. of bacon salt or a chicken bouillon cube 

For flavoring soups, gravies, casseroles, & veggies, I keep chicken & beef bouillon.
I like the cubes & the powdered bouillon.
I buy the powdered variety for $1 at Dollar Tree.

Poultry seasoning is a new favorite of mine.
If you want to take anything chicken flavored over the top, add poultry seasoning.
It's great as a rub on chicken or turkey & a nice addition to stuffing/dressing, rice, casseroles, even meatloaf.

Crushed red pepper is a must-have to spice up chili & vegetable beef soup.

I don't always keep fresh parsley, but I do always have the dried ...
& I add it to almost everything.
It adds that little pop of color, especially as a topping on casseroles & veggies.

Cumin & chili powder are great ingredients for anything tex-mex.
Cumin is very distinctive in taste & a little goes a long way,
& is sure to make any Mexican dish more Mexicany!

Chili powder has more uses than just spicing up chili.
Try sprinkling it on chicken breasts before throwing them on the grill ... delicious.
Add it to mayo to make a gourmet sauce for a sandwich or burger.

I usually have a variety of grill seasonings in the spice cabinet.
These are great on steak, fish & chicken.
I sometimes mix in a tablespoon or so when I make pasta salad.
Another use, toss with vegetables before roasting them in the oven.

I first learned of smoked paprika from the Rachael Ray cooking show.
I picked some up, paying more than I wanted to {$6}.
I was glad I did though ... it has such a great smoky flavor.
I've since found it better priced at Target, even clearanced down to a couple dollars.
Use it the same as regular paprika {eggs, veggies, casseroles, stews, soups}.

My sweet friend, Jenny, recently gave me a gift basket & in it were these spices from her favorite health food store.
Not only are they great tasting, I love how they are packaged.
My favorite one was 'apple pie spice' which I promptly used in ... an apple pie.

Last but not least, these are two of my husband's favorites.
He's crazy about this 'chinese' pepper, as he calls it.
Every time we ate at the chinese restaurant, he'd comment how
he loves their extra-fine, white pepper.
I found it at Sam's Club.
James uses it on just about everything, but he especially loves it on sausage gravy & eggs.
As for the sea salt, he likes it best because of the minerals, texture, & flavor.

Here are some others that I have in my cabinet:
oregano, rosemary, sage, celery salt, celery seed, & cayenne.

I've found spices to be an inexpensive way to add big flavor to food.
Maybe I've shown something that you don't currently use.
Next time you're at the store, pick up a new one & get cooking =)

**While this blog focused on the more savory spices, I have plenty of spices that
are for baking & desserts {cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cream of tarter, ginger, nutmeg,
cloves, vanilla & various extracts, etc}.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tin Roof Memories

There's not a single rain shower that I don't think of my childhood days at my
Papa & Grandma Ely's house in Pennington Gap, VA.
Every summer, we go down to visit for a whole week.
My Dad, Mom & me would sleep in the front bedroom ...
& right outside one window was the tin roof that covered the root cellar.
Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like going to sleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof.
To this very day when it's raining outside, I can close my eyes & almost feel myself sinking down in that big ol' comfy feather bed, all the while wishing for a tin roof like Grandma had.

These are memories that I will forever treasure ...
& I love how easily they flood over me ...
sometimes just from the sound of a rain shower.
Try as I might to duplicate them {I did buy a feather mattress topper},
nothing quite compares to those simple times when I was a kid ...
falling asleep to the pitter-patter of rain on the tin roof.

This is the old home place ... my Papa & Grandma's house on Puckett's Creek.
That's my Grandma & me on the porch.

I LOVE this picture of my sister, Lisa, standing between our grandparents.

This is another favorite ... my beautiful Grandma Daisy Ely.

Precious memories, how they linger.
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight.
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Decorating for Spring ~ The Dining Room

Here's the 'part 2' of decorating for spring, this time showing the dining room.
I've switched out to the spring items, spending just a little bit to add
a few new things here & there.

I'm quite please with the results.

I wanted to make a couple new arrangements for our dining room table
{I love the ones I've used for the past several years, but wanted something different ...
a bit smaller}.
I found these already put together at Meijer, clearanced down from $39.99 to $8.99!!
I scooped up 2 of them, saving myself the trouble of making them!
Here they are on our table.

The 3-tiered server was a flea market find several years back.
I decided to use it on the table to house the napkins, one of my artichoke candle holders & my new glass-domed thingamajig.
I'd been wanting one of these for a while & ran across this one at Goodwill for $5.
It's not exactly the size & shape I had in mind, but it'll work just fine while I keep my eye out for the perfect one.
I already had a loaf of fake bread ... it looks great under the dome.

These place settings were purchased 3 springs ago.
I use them til the end of summer when it's time to switch to fall decor.

By switching out plates in these plate holders, it's easy to achieve
an updated seasonal look.
The scene on these remind me of vacation.

I LOVE the saying on this plaque!
It & the basket are finds from my favorite flea market.

Here's the china cabinet.
I couldn't seem to get it quite like I was wanting, but it'll do.
I do love, however, the new 'pray' piece that I picked up for $4.99.

Another one of my favorite arrangements ... this one in our eat-in kitchen area.
The picture is an oldie from Home Interior.
The 2 pieces are from where else ... my favorite flea market, of course.

Come back tomorrow for spring in the kitchen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I found this festive recipe in a cooking magazine.
I modified it a bit & it turned out perfectly!

I found these peppers on the mark-down rack at Meijer for .20 each ...
just in time to try this recipe!

Here are the ingredients:
6 large green, sweet red, orange and/or yellow peppers
1 egg, beaten
1  1/2 c. salsa
1  1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 lbs. ground chicken {turkey or beef}
1/2 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese
sour cream, hot sauce, salsa to serve as toppings

Cut tops off peppers & remove seeds.

In large bowl, combine egg, salsa, chips, onion, cilantro, garlic, cumin,
chili powder, salt & pepper.
Crumble ground chicken over mixture & mix well; spoon into peppers.
Place into 8x8 baking dish, standing upright.

I used my wok-type skillet ... I knew it'd be the perfect size.
A tip I learned from Rachael Ray for using a skillet in the oven, cover the handle with aluminum foil!

Bake in a 375 oven for 50 minutes.
Top with shredded cheese & return to oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

I don't like to waste anything ... so,  for the tops of the peppers that you removed,
chop those up to use in a salad.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Sundays ~ Stop Gossip!


Mothers, don't let your daughters grow up to be gossips!

Just feel like sharing what's on my heart today.

A gossip, tale-bearer, whisperer, back-biter.

We've all, unfortunately, felt the effects of someone with this hurtful habit.
In fact, I'd say by just seeing these words, someone's face popped into your
head quite quickly.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary says this of reputation:
-overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
-a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic
Once your reputation is established, it's pretty hard, & in some cases impossible,
to change it.
As for grown ladies who seem to thrive in the gossip department, I'm not sure there's much I can say that will help them.
A gossiper always has an excuse or 'valid' reason for the things they say, the stories they repeat, & the falsehoods they share.
May God show them the err of their ways & lead them to repentance.
So, I write this primarily to mothers who have daughters at home, imploring you to teach your daughters NOT to be gossips!
It's only by teaching our daughters when they are young about this vicious & destructive behaviour that this cycle can be broken!
Teach them what the Word says in regards to this ... before they establish their reputation as a gossiper!
What is a gossiper? 
It is a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others.
It is one with malicious intentions, who loves to hear about the discontent and struggles of others ... then repeats it as gossip.
Proverbs calls it a few other names.
A tale-bearer is a person who spreads scandal or tells secrets, a gossip.
A whisperer is one who talks behind someone's back.
By the very act of the whispering itself, they are acknowledging that they
shouldn't be broadcasting it).
It's interesting that in the Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word for 'whisper,' actually starts with the sound, Psssst. Psssst.
Secret slander.
Back-biter is one who speaks maliciously about a person who's not there.
Each one of these describes a toxic person ... one whom we should avoid!
The Bible also speaks of tattlers, busybodies, & meddlers ... those who love to be in other people's business & matters which are none of their concern.
 Proverbs says: "A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer, (a slanderer, a gossip) separates the best of friends."
Proverbs 17:9 says: "He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates the best of friends."
We can actually break up relationships and friendships by sowing seeds of
distrust or doubt.
I've seen this happen mores times that I can count.
Proverbs says that if you're wise, you will avoid gossips, doing what you can to shut it down--graciously, kindly, lovingly.
But you will not be a part of destroying the body of Christ for which He gave His life.
Walking away from a friendship with someone who's given to gossip is a wise decision!
Not only is there sin in spreading gossip, there's sin is in listening to the gossip.
When we do, we allow our ears become garbage cans!

The scriptures are plenteous on this topic ... & God's Word is like a mirror.
It exposes us, showing what we really are.
Acknowledging this behaviour in our daughters {& ourselves} is the ONLY way
we can start to change.
Stop making excuses!
Their spiritual welfare is depending on it.
Don't let them grow up continuing in this sin, establishing & carrying on this reputation.

Prov. 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

Eph. 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Here are a few ways to combat this problem:
-Get to the root of this problem ... why the gossip?
{It usually stems from their own insecurities, in which they somehow feel better about
themselves by tearing others down.}

-Use your brain first & your mouth second!
-Think about what you're getting ready to do {gossip} & don't do it!
-Stop talking before you speak ill of someone.
-Refuse to tear down another brother/sister in the Lord!
-Don't eavesdrop on a conversation, only hearing bits & pieces, & then attempt
to go & repeat it!

And the best rule of all ... do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.
If you don’t want people to gossip about you, then don’t participate in gossip.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Little Things

Isn't it funny odd how the 'littlest' injuries can hurt just as bad as the big ones?
Case & point:  burns from the hot glue gun ... & a splinter!

Yesterday, the weather was so beautiful, warm with a gentle breeze ...
it seemed to beckon me outdoors.
I decided to clean out the front flower beds.
Somewhere between the clearing out the dead leaves from last year's irises
& cutting back the holly bush, I got a splinter!

Fast forward a few hours.
I decided to try my hand at a new craft that required hot glue.
I was determined NOT to burn myself.
Don't you know that I stuck my finger right smack in the HOT glue,
not once but 2 TIMES!!

Now, granted, I've experienced pain at a much greater level than that resulting from a tiny splinter & a couple burns blisters from a hot glue gun.
But do you know what my first waking thought was this morning?
It was 'OUCH! My fingers are hurting!'

After examining my poor lil' fingers, I discovered that the splinter
I thought I'd gotten out is still there ....
AND now that the redness is gone from the hot glue, I can see my two lovely blisters!

I began to think about the pain from seemingly 'little' injuries &
how that relates to everyday life.
Little things are the big things!
People remember the little things.
Because if they're good things, they are big investments in our emotional account.
Those little kindnesses and courtesies make huge differences in our relationships.
They are the #1 indicators to people showing that you care for them!

On the reverse token, it's the small discourtesies, little unkindnesses & little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals.
Isn't it often the 'little' things in life that hurt so badly?

The first thing that came to my mind is how our words can hurt!
Using sharp, unkind words can crush & wound a spirit quicker than anything.
And unkind words have a close companion ... a harsh tone of voice.
If it's not the words we say, it can be the way in which we say it that's hurtful.

As a wife, we should use words that encourage, uplift, & honor our husband.
We should be his best motivator & trusted confidant.

She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:12

Blessing him with words of praise will be much more beneficial to his spiritual man than tearing down with nagging & negative words.
How we respect & treat our husbands really shows how we respect & honor God.

As equally important, how powerful are the words we use to our children!
I recently had the privilege to meet Michelle Duggar & hear her speak.
She said, "Be sure to praise your children because whoever praises
them will win their hearts."
This is such good advice!
Of course we don't praise wrong behavior, but often times the good behavior goes unnoticed/unpraised as we are quick to point out the faults/failures.
We can use positive words of affirmation & encouragement even when we are correcting!
Instead of reacting in anger, yelling, grumbling, complaining, choose to respond in a Christlike way to these precious gifts God has entrusted to us.
Praise will build their confidence & give them wings to fly.

Here's what the scripture says this about little things:

Song of Solomon 2:15  Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom."

James 3:5  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Decorating for Spring ~ The Living Room

I love pastel-colored eggs, bird's nests & pretty spring wreaths ...
& this year, I'm particularly 'in' to tulips.
I started decorating for spring right after Valentine's Day, maybe a bit early for some,
but when the stores start putting out the Spring/Easter items, I'm ready to get mine out...
& maybe add a new thing or two.

Here are a few simple, inexpensive examples of how I brought spring into our home.

I added a couple of these little bird's nests here & there.
This one is tucked into some existing greenery in the kitchen.
I think I paid $1.29 or so for each of these.

This is an up-close shot of a triple nest with eggs.
Here it is on my table in the living room, along with one of my favorite finds...
the little terra cotta pot of yellow tulips.

The triple nests were on clearance last year for less than $1
& the tulips were $1.99.
I added some new greenery to the wall urn {kinda remind me of dandelion greens}.
The greenery was clearanced for a couple dollars.

I fell in love with the pot {$8} with the little bird on it!
I knew it would be perfect with the bird I found last year at the flea market {$3}.
I added the various greenery, the purple flowers & the other nest.
It's sitting on my antique mirror, along with 3 shabby chic candle holders & an old book.
These are all pieces I've gotten at flea markets through the years.

On the piano, the only new items I added are the tulips {$2 for all}  
& the yellow bird {$1.99}.
All the other items were just moved from various places in the house to complete this arrangement.

I bought in pairs:  2 bunches of tulips, 2 terra cotta pots w/tulips, 2 yellow birds & 2 nests.
Total spent for these items:  a little over $18.
By adding a few new things to my favorite existing pieces, I've got a totally fresh, new look!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Sundays ~ Thoughtful Friends

According to Wikipedia, a random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual.

For the last several days, we've been on the receiving end of some wonderful acts of kindness, although I don't believe them to be random at all.
We've been on the receiving end of folks desiring to a blessing to our family ... & our hearts have been touched more than we can express.
We've seen thoughtfulness demonstrated by friends who really care ... & wanted to make sure we knew it.
We've felt that loving embrace ... at a time when we needed it most.
To sum it all up, we've seen love in action.

These scriptures have come to mind all week:

John 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
{This was the topic of James' sermon last week!}

Eph. 4:32  And be ye kind one to another.

1 John 4:12 If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Leo Buscaglia said this:  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. 

We have been blessed & encouraged this week by many people ...
& we thank God for each of you.

Carissa ~ for the delicious from-scratch cheesecake.
You made the fellas in the house mighty happy campers.
They were in cheesecake heaven!

Our 'Get Well Soon' cheesecake ... see all the meds in the background ;)
Half blueberry + half cherry = total deliciousness
Thank you, Carissa ~ brightened our day & our spirits!

Jenny ~ for the delightful handmade pillow.
You are so talented!
I love it & will treasure it always.

Brian ~ You were a blessing to Garrett when he wasn't expecting it.
The Mountain Dew for Gunnar & Riley, well, you picked their favorite!

Erica ~  for treating our boys to dinner & games.
They had a ball!
They loved the pizza & games, but spending time with you & Matt was
what they enjoyed the most!
Erica also inquired whether 2 boys who we've been bringing to church had Bibles ...
& upon learning that they did not, she bought them both a brand new Bible.
I think this made me the happiest of all!

And last, but not least, thank you to all who called, texted & emailed ...
& to everyone who prayed for us.
Those very prayers were 'felt' all week long.

Someone once said that kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. 
To all of you who've sewn into our lives this week, get ready cause here it comes!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Got To Meet Michelle Duggar!

Our family attended the Midwest Regional Homeschool Convention
this past weekend in Cincinnati, OH.
While I thoroughly enjoyed many seminar sessions, each of them challenging & encouraging, my favorite part of the whole convention was getting to meet
Michelle Duggar!
We are so encouraged by their family, their testimony & wonderful Christian witness ...
& have watched their program on television since the first special aired.

Michelle & I
She was as gracious & sweet as I knew she would be.
I shared with her what an encouragement they were to our family & thanked her for being such a positive light shining brightly for Christ!

The next day, I sat in a seminar in which Michelle shared tips for homeschooling moms.
I was moved by her honesty & transparency, especially when she told about her 'crying in the laundry room' moment.
It was particularly sweet when she sang the chorus, "The Joy of the Lord," just as she had that day in her laundry room.
It was truly a testimony of how God meets us right where we are, working things out for us as only He can.

Later that evening, the Duggar's were the grand finale for the whole convention.
The whole family {minus Josie} was in attendance, sharing in music & song.
Afterward, Jim Bob & Michelle shared their testimony.
Many things they talked about touched my heart & ministered to my spirit.
They encouraged to always trust God, no matter what the circumstance.
He is working behind the scenes in ways we can never imagine ... working all things for our good!

{I have a couple of great videos of their singing, but I'm having some technical difficulties getting them from my Windows phone to my laptop...sigh...}

We also had the opportunity to hear Doug Phillips several times throughout the weekend.
He's one of our all-time favorite speakers {we have more material from Vision Forum
than you can shake a stick at!}
He always challenges us, especially in the way of family, to stand stronger than ever before.

Our son, Garrett, had one goal ... to meet Mr. Phillips, thank him for the impact his ministry has had on our family & take a picture with him.
Here is it!

Our sons with Doug Phillips
Ken Ham was uninvited to this event {he took a public stand against the unbiblical teachings of another speaker}, so we were wearing our "I Stand With Ken Ham" buttons that we were given.
Mr. Phillips asked my sons if he could take their picture to send to Ken Ham.
Later in the weekend, he video-recorded them talking about why they were wearing the buttons.
This was all quite exciting, to say the least.

And as if this isn't enough, Tim Hawkins was also on the line-up at the convention!
He had us all in stitches, of course!
Also attending the conference were several families that we are close friends with ... so what was even better, our kiddos stood in line to get seats so we could all sit & laugh together!

Who says homeschoolers don't have any fun?!

We didn't get to meet Tim Hawkins this time around, but we did meet him in a restaurant in our hometown.
We had gone to his concert & afterward stopped to get a bite to eat ... & in he walked into Steak 'n Shake.
Our son, Gunnar, a major fan, was beyond excited!

Feb. 2010

What a wonderful time we had & are so thankful for the opportunity to have attended this conference, along with 4500+ homeschooling families {over 18,000 in attendance}!
We came home refreshed, uplifted & ever grateful for the opportunity we have to invest into the lives of our sons.