Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Gospel as Environment for our Parenting

I'm shamelessly copying this excerpt on gospel-centered parenting from Counsel From the Cross I found on a fascinating blog called Practical Theology for Women. It's wisdom rings true in my own spirit, and I'll be seeking God in prayer on how I can apply this practically to my own parenting:

What does gospel-centered parenting look like? Here is how Paul put it:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); and “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).

Isn’t it easy to see how Paul’s counsel to parents is based on God’s gracious pattern with us? We are not to be harsh or demanding with our children. We are not to provoke them to anger or discourage them. Of course, the obvious question we have to consider is what will provoke them or discourage them, and, by contrast, what does it look like to discipline and instruct “in the Lord”?

Although there are many ways we can provoke our kids in disciplining them, we learn from Paul’s expositions of grace in these epistles that we provoke and discourage our children when we forget the gospel and demand, as a condition of our approval and affection, that they obey the law that “neither our fathers not we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). By itself, God’s law, although it is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), will serve only to aggravate or discourage them. The law will stir up within them the desire to sin because they are not able to obey it. It won’t furnish them with the power or motivation to obey us or the Lord. The law has its uses with our children, but making them good isn’t one of them. Only the gospel and God’s grace can change hearts.

The proper place and function of the law is something that we might recognize in our own lives but fail to believe when it comes to raising our children. We know that we don’t change and mature by making a list of things we need to do and then scrutinizing our failures when we don’t do them. But, amazingly, we think that’s how our children will change. But when they cry that they can’t obey, we should agree with them, although it is true that we are to acquaint them with the law’s demands.

Rather than telling them that they can and will obey, we must tell them—frankly, gently, sadly—that they cannot obey. They need help. They need Jesus. Making a list and giving stickers and time-outs when they succeed or fail won’t change their hearts. It may make them little Pharisees, knowing how to look obedient so that they can get approval, but it won’t change their hearts. We are to use their disobediences as a gospel opportunity to remind them that they are sinful and flawed, but if they flee to Jesus he will love and welcome them. We must remind them that they “do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with (their) weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as (they) are, yet without sin. Let (them) then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that (they) may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

Jesus understands their weaknesses. He knows about temptations. When we—and our children—struggle with obedience, we can draw near to the throne of grace where we won’t receive judgment and punishment, but mercy and grace to help. That is the portrait of the Savior that our children need to see. This is the image that will transform their hearts and teach them to run to him, rather than away from him, when they sin.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Low-Fat Banana Bread - Yes, It's Possible!

Banana bread is a big staple in our household, and when we started our weight-loss journey in September, we thought we would have to say goodbye to our beloved favorite. Until recently, when I way overbought on bananas and had a lovely pile of fragrant black treasure on my counter just begging to be baked into bread. I researched "low-fat banana bread recipes" and tried this one. It's a winner! Here's the link from Kitchen Parade if you would like to read the article that goes with the recipe:


Banana ripening time: 10+ days
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time-to-table: 90 – 120 minutes
Makes 16 slices
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Mix the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, then mix in the bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.

(Caution: Incoming unorthodox shortcut.) Dump the dry ingredients onto the batter without mixing in. With a spoon, lightly combine them right on top but still without incorporating into the wet batter. Now use the mixer to combine the dry ingredients and wet batter but just until barely combined. (Too much mixing will create small holes in the bread when it bakes.)

Turn the batter into a well-greased bread pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to finish cooling. Slice and serve! And shhh! No sharing our low-fat secret! (mom_of_4's note: You will have a moister banana bread if you are patient and let it fully cool in the pan on a rack, then wrap it up and wait until the next day to cut into it. If you are of the impatient sort, then at least let it fully cool before cutting into it.)

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Slice: 162 Cal (11% from Fat); 2g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 33g Carb; 2g Fiber; 191mg Sodium; 31mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 3 points

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Homemade Baby Cereal

Under the category of "Duh..." I just discovered today while watching the Duggars on TV that I could actually make my own baby cereal at home, using organic and whole grains. For those of you who already knew that and are wondering where I've been, then all I have to say is, "Why didn't you tell me??" For the rest of us, I'll share a link to and a recipe for brown rice baby cereal to start us off:

Rice Cereal using "powder"
for babies 4 to 6 months +


1/4 c. rice powder (brown rice ground in blender or food processor)
1 cup water


1. Bring liquid to boil in saucepan. Add the rice powder while stirring constantly.
2. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly, mix in formula or breast milk and fruits if desired
3. Serve warm.

Keeping Christ in Hallowe'en

After reading this post on Halloween from Steve Bell's blog, I commented to my husband that every day I learn that I'm wrong. It's humbling, but oh so freeing! I've been so conflicted about Hallowe'en because I really felt like it was a holiday of evil origins and should not be celebrated. But the kids love it because to them it's about candy and dressing up. Anyway, I've copied it here for you to read and it has redeemed Hallowe'en for me:

When I was a kid, Halloween was one of the best nights of the year. We lived in Drumheller, Alberta then. My mom and dad were both quite into Halloween and often lent their skills to the creating of fine, sometimes elaborate costumes. The costume I remember most vividly was worn the year I went out as a Roman Centurion. My mom, good at sewing, made the clothing and my father had somehow constructed an impressive Centurion helmet out of a plastic javex bottle. Dad and I crafted a sword of wood and gilded in tinfoil. Mom attached leather straps to sandals so they criss-crossed up my legs to the knees. As far as I could tell, I had the best costume in town and more than one envious kid said as much.

In those days, it seemed like every kid and half the adults in town were out on the streets as we attempted to fill our pillow cases till they were so heavy we had to return home to empty them before going out again. The only hint of real evil that anyone concerned themselves with came from isolated incidents of pins or razor blades having been inserted into apples. And so mom would make us cut up the apples before we could eat them. Otherwise, it was just good fun.

Then over the years things started to change – with increasing incidents of tampered-with malevolent treats there came to be real safety issues. And I remember the first time I heard of a local church officially abstaining from Halloween on the grounds that it was a “real” occult festival and therefore a Christian’s duty to resist. They, instead, opened the church basement for an alternative night for kids and called it a “Hallelujah!” party. Oh my….

Now, it seems like Halloween has almost become a non-event in our neighbourhood with a handful of wee-ones out with mom or dad between 6 and 7 pm followed by an hour or two of teenagers who for the most part don’t need to dress up to be a worrisome site.

Too bad. I miss the good ol’ days when the town would be crawling with kids and parents greeting, laughing at each other, walking together, knocking on the doors of the elderly who might otherwise never get a visit, celebrating the community by being out in it.

So, how did we lose this?

It’s true that the origins of Halloween come from a dark, Celtic pagan festival called Samhain. The Celts believed there was a night every fall where the veil between the living and the dead became very thin and indeed, the souls of the dead could cross over to the land of the living. This was frightening as it meant that besides the souls of departed loved ones, the souls of one’s enemies might also come by with evil intent. To ward off the malevolent ones, the Celts would cut up gourds into frightening faces, and themselves would dress in costumes so as to be unrecognizable to the restless, roaming spirits. It was a long and frighting night to be endured.

According to legend, things changed when St. Patrick came to Ireland. He was aware of and saddened by the annual terror the Celts had to endure and so started to teach that as Christians, not only are we not afraid of the dead, but we celebrate the saints who have gone before; those who, still alive in Christ, are always near and dear to us. Patrick started the practice of going out on Samhain with a bag full of sweet cakes and knocking on doors, cheerfully giving them to his cowering friends and neighbors.

Somewhere in there, and I’m not sure of the dates, the practice of cheerfully going out in generous neighborliness, instead of cowering in caged fear, became attached to the church’s celebration of All Saint’s Day. And Halloween, All Hallowed Evening, came to be celebrated on the night before the Church celebrates all the saints who, though invisible to us, continue to pray for and root for those of us who have not yet completed our journey.

Personally, it makes me sad that the Church (in part) seems to have retreated into the very fear-based isolation St. Patrick’s lively faith contradicted. So sadly ironic. And we have done this in so many areas of common life. It seems to me that we could be out participating in the wider culture; joyfully, cheerfully, confidently handing out ’sweets’ in the various cultural arenas: politics, arts, education, science, festivals etc. We need not do this in the defensive, combative spirit we’ve become famous for, but with a caring neighborliness befitting the character of the Christ whom we worship. And we need not be concerned that we will be tainted in our efforts. For we do not draw from a shallow well, but the inexhaustible Christ who gave himself entirely so that all would know that the organizing and redeeming principle of the cosmos is not self-securing fear, but self-donating love.

Happy Halloween!

copied from Steve Bell's blog post

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Timesaver Tip - Poached Chicken/Chicken Broth

I came across this tip a while ago - I think it was on the Food Network - and it is a real timesaver! And it's incredibly flexible. Freestyle it until it works for you!

Poached Chicken/Chicken Broth

approx 6-8 large pieces bone-in chicken (this is great for bone-in, skin-on chicken breast)
large onion
2-3 carrots
2-3 stalks celery
1-2 garlic cloves
1-2 bay leaves

Place pieces of chicken in bottom of large stockpot. Remove skin and excess fat first, if desired. Cover chicken with water until water level is above chicken by a couple inches (or more if you want more stock). Rough chop onion, carrots, celery in large pieces. You don't even need to peel them if they are clean. Smash garlic cloves and toss in along with bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, so that the bubbles are just breaking the surface and poach for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Strain broth into containers - if allowed to sit in the fridge overnight, the fat will solidify on top and you can easily remove it.

Poached chicken is moist and flavorful, freezes well, and is very handy to have for salads, tacos, or quick meals that require cooked chicken.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 7 Most Harmful Cosmetic Ingredients

What Labels Do Not Tell You About Your Shampoo or Nail Polish (by Melissa G. at Oct 01/08)

If you are like me you try to eat the best organic products, exercise daily and purchase products that reduce the potential harmful effects of toxic, chemical exposure. After talking with a friend of mine a week ago, I learned an alarming number of harmful ingredients were present in my daily beauty products. There was potential harm in just about everything I put on my body; from my shampoo to my nail polish. I stopped to think, how many of us really focus on what we are putting on our bodies? We concentrate a lot of our focus on what is going in our bodies; but we should give equal attention to what is being absorbed into our skin....the single, largest toxin absorbing part of our body.

The following are seven ingredients that you should be mindful of the next time your purchase beauty products:

1. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Active ingredient in: Moisturizers, toners, cleansers, masks, age-spot removers

Potential Harm: AHAs are known for accelerating the exfoliation of dead skin cells. But they can also increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50 percent, leaving you exposed to accelerated skin aging and the possibility of skin cancer.

Potential Solution: AHAs are best used at a concentration that is less than 10 percent.

2. Formaldehyde

Active ingredient in: Nail polish, shampoos, soaps, skin creams.

Potential Harm: This potentially irritating preservative can be absorbed into the skin and cause allergic reactions, headaches, even asthma. The ingredient, if listed at all, is often referred to as formalin. Its use in cosmetics is banned in Japan and Sweden.

Solution: Read labels carefully: products containing levels that might trigger an adverse reaction are required to carry a caution.

3. Propylene Glycol

Ingredient in: Suntan lotions, lipsticks and other cosmetics and toiletries.

Potential Harm: Its humectant properties are used to stop products from drying out. But it has also been linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage. It is also known as a skin and eye irritant.

Solution: Avoid it altogether and instead choose alternative products containing glycerin or sorbitol.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Active ingredient in: Bubble baths, toothpastes, shampoos and lotions

Potential Harm: This detergent, which has been found to enter the brain, heart and liver and impair the immune system, has been linked to eye irritations, skin rashes and allergic reactions. The biggest problems occur when it is mixed with other chemicals, like those typically used in toiletries, because it can form carcinogenic compounds.

Solution: Minimize the risks by using products with SLS sparingly and rinsing off quickly afterwards.

5. Talc

Ingredient in: Makeup and body powders

Potential Harm: Mineral talc has been linked to ovarian cancer and has been found to induce cancer in rodents.

Solution: Avoid using talc-based powders, especially on genital areas.

6. Mineral Oil

Ingredient in: Makeup removers, lipsticks, lotions

Potential harm: A petroleum derivative, it has been linked to everything from clogged pores to cancer. Its density does not allow skin to breathe.

Solution: Avoid it entirely

7. Methyl Methacrylate

Ingredient in: Nail products, primarily used in application of acrylic nails

Potential harm: The chemical has been linked to fungal infections, nail deformities and other problems. Prolonged exposure can lead to eye, skin and lung irritation, abnormal liver or kidney function, nervous system damage or reproductive problems.

Solution: Stick with salons that use ethyl methacrylate, a safer bonding liquid, instead. Althought this may be more expensive; you health is worth it!

With increased awareness and conscious shopping; you too can decrease the potential harm for everyday beauty products.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Balance, Compromise, and the Art of Letting Go

Since the arrival of Zoe, I have been delightfully surprised to find I have a lot of quiet time. Probably the most I've ever had. I wrote a post on my other blog about my recent discoveries about balance, compromise, and letting go that I thought was appropriate here as well. I use this blog to journey through the things I am learning as a homemaker and a mom who works, but my personality type tends toward all-or-nothing. So if I get excited about reducing chemical use, healthy snacks, or better ways to live, I usually try to implement them to the point of my detriment.

I'm learning to live in balance, people. So if I come across strong in what I write, be reassured that this is my place to explore. What I am actually able to implement may be a whole other ballgame. Oh, if I only had limitless time, energy, and resources! But since I don't, I lean on the One who does. And He leads me gently in a balanced way.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Laundry, mom_of_4 Style

My approach to laundry has evolved from a desire to save money and reduce excessive chemical use in our household. I love finding simple housekeeping solutions that are effective, cost-saving, and demonstrate that we do not need most of the things that are advertised to us on television. I also became concerned about the long-term effects of things like fragrances and fabric softeners in our clothing. Our skin is a porous organ that not only expels toxins out of our bodies, but allows us to absorb them in to our bodies as well. I recently received an email about the many uses of Bounce dryer sheets. Mosquito repellent was one of them! If it's so toxic that it will repel bugs, what is it doing to our bodies?

1) So, I started researching fabric softener. Did you know that the best, most cost-effective, natural fabric softener is plain white vinegar? Use vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener in your washing machine and you do not need to use dryer sheets. The vinegar cuts through the soap residue in your clothing that the machine cannot rinse out completely. It is the soap residue and hard water deposits in your water that leaves your clothes stiff without fabric softener. Once the clothes are dry, they do not smell of vinegar. To add further fluffiness to your laundry, add a couple of dryer balls to your dryer. I know you can purchase rubber ones from Norwex, but you can also make them from pure wool. They gently bounce against your fabrics while tumbling and fluff them up. I haven't had any major issues with static cling either using them.

2) I also make my own laundry soap powder. In 15 minutes you can grind up your own laundry soap powder that is significantly cheaper and just as effective:

1 bar of Sunlight soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

All these items are readily available at supermarkets and discount department stores, and can have many more household uses than just laundry. Grate the bar of soap by hand or in your food processor, then grind the soap flakes together with the borax and washing soda. In my HE machine, I use 1 Tbsp for a regular load, so a batch will last for weeks. You would need to experiment with a top-loader washer, but I would estimate around 1/4 cup should be sufficient. Many of us use far too much soap in our laundry, wasting soap and making clothing stiff and prone to static cling. Experiment with as little as you need to use to get the results you want - you will often be surprised at how much you can save!

There has been much debate as to whether you will ruin your HE washing machine by not using purchased HE detergent. This soap is low-sudsing and has not caused me any problems after a couple years of use. You will also extend the life of your HE machine by cleaning it periodically to remove soap residue, whether you use homemade soap or purchase HE detergent. There is also an option to make a liquid laundry soap instead of powder, but it looked like a lot more work and I am satisfied with the powder's results.

You can also adjust the components for the type of laundry you do. For heavily soiled items you may want to add more washing soda. For delicates, you may want to use castile soap instead of Sunlight and cut back on the soda. Don't be afraid to experiment to get the results you want. You can always adjust the recipe if you need to. The internet is also a great resource for laundry and household tips to help you get great results.

3) Did you know that there are many things around your home you can use for stain removal? Grease spots can be removed with a few drops of dish soap. Our favorite, OxyClean, can easily be replicated with inexpensive 3% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You can make a soaking solution with the recipe below or in my HE washer I would add the hydrogen peroxide to the bleach dispenser and sprinkle the baking soda in the drum (as I would the OxyClean powder)

Homemade OxyClean

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide

Mix ingredients. To use on clothes, soak for 20 minutes or up to overnight and launder as usual.

With just a few changes you can save money, reduce your dependence on consumer items, and take back some control over what you choose to use in your household. I had to be careful to maintain some balance though so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. You can even learn how to make your own soap if you want! These are the things I could manage on a full-time work schedule, and even at that, my husband is still a fragrance addict and prefers me to use Tide and dryer sheets on his laundry. So we use what works for us, and I encourage you to find what works for your family too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Homemade Windex

My husband is a big fan of Windex ammonia cleaner and uses it frequently. When I came across this easy recipe to make it at home, I got excited because it's a money-saver and I know now what is being sprayed on the surfaces of my home:

2 cups rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl)
1/2 cup ammonia

1 tsp liquid dish detergent

top with water until you have 1 gallon of window cleaner (4 Windex bottles)

To make 1 Windex bottle:

1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
2 Tbsp ammonia

few drops liquid dish detergent

top with water

If you want it to look "authentic" add a few drops of blue food coloring until it's that electric blue you are so familiar with. No one will know the difference...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Least of Our Worries

I've been thinking a lot about chemicals lately. I've made a number of changes in our household over the last year or so to eliminate chemicals as much as possible, but now have the time to get deeper into this and seek natural ways to keep a clean home.

We are a culture who seems to believe everything we see or read. Commercials tell us we need to use chemicals to "freshen" our homes, instead of opening a window. We saturate our clothing with chemicals to reduce static cling and make them smell nice, without considering that our skin is an organ that absorbs into our bodies what is in our environment. We use creams and shampoos and lotions and makeup and hair color with chemical ingredients we cannot even pronounce. We use harsh chemicals to "disinfect" our homes without consideration for our bodies, our environment, or the delicate balance of bacteria that actually keeps us healthy and protected against harmful bacteria.

Now that Zoe is 2 months old I need to consider her vaccination schedule. Considering the controversies that have arisen since Sabrina was vaccinated 7 years ago, or even the twins 3 years ago, I wanted to give it some thought before I proceeded with Zoe. But I'm beginning to think that vaccinations are the least of our worries. We are concerned about the minute amount of ingredients that are in a vaccine but give no thought to the constant bombardment of chemicals that we constantly expose our children to through processed foods, perfumes, cleaning supplies, clothing dyes, and building materials. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

The next series of posts will be around the steps I have taken and will be taking to bring our family and household back to a more natural state. Our culture is a consumer-based one, and that next new product you see is not likely to have been developed in our best interests, but because we will be convinced we need it. I encourage you to seek the truth behind what you are spending your money on and what you are allowing into your family's bodies and environment.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Way to Microwave Eggs

I found this recipe on the inside of an egg carton! I haven't tried it out, but it sounds like it would work:

Breakfast in a Jiffy

2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
pinch dried basil (or Italian seasoning), to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp shredded cheese
1/2 tsp chopped parsley (optional)

  • in a microwaveable mug, beat together eggs, milk, and seasonings
  • cover loosely with plastic wrap, leaving a small vent
  • microwave on medium-high, 1 - 1 1/2 minutes
  • remove plastic wrap and stir; sprinkle with cheese and parsley; cover and let stand for 1 minute

Tip: for a breakfast on the go, cut a whole wheat pita bread in half and spoon egg mixture in both pockets

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


A friend and I were sharing ideas & recipes for healthy homemade snacks today and I thought I would share a couple of things that I have had some success with:

Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

raw shelled pumpkin seeds (enough to spread on a sheet pan)
1 egg white
generous "squirt" of honey
cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the pumpkin seeds in the egg white, honey, and cinnamon. Spread on a sheet pan and roast about 10 minutes, until crunchy. If you spread them in bunches, they will bake in "pieces", otherwise spread out in a thin layer. Whatever you like. Other than overbaking them, you really can't mess this one up.

Homemade NoBake Granola Bars

2 cups oats
3/4 c hemp seeds
3/4 c sunflower seeds
1 c pumpkin seeds
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
dried fruit (if desired)

If you want to toast the oats, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds first, preheat oven to 400F and spread them out in a baking sheet with sides. Toast them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes so they don't burn.

Prepare a 10x13 glass baking dish by lining it with waxed paper lightly sprayed with nonstick spray.

Put the brown sugar, honey, vanilla, butter, and salt into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Mix the seeds, grains, dried fruit, and "glue" together thoroughly and pour out mixture into your lined baking dish. Fold over the waxed paper sides or add a piece on top and press hard to compact so the bars won't fall apart when you cut them.

Wait until the granola has fully cooled, open the waxed paper, lift out the granola, and cut into bars of desired size. I like to individually wrap them with plastic wrap so they are ready to go when you need them.

Roasted Chickpeas

I haven't made these yet, but they SOUND really good and the blog post that contains the recipe is really funny!

Enjoy! Who needs to spend big money on high-protein, healthy, delicious snacks? And they only take minutes to prepare!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meal Planning

I'm a foodie. I love to watch the Food Network, talk about recipes, try new things, learn new techniques. But in searching for balance in my busy week I am finding that I'm going to have to do some dedicated meal planning or introduce a "day of the week" menu plan.

This epiphany came when at the end of a long week on Friday, I had to come home and yet again figure out what's for supper. And I realized that I would have to do this every day until I get too old to do it for myself. I got overwhelmed and made Kraft Dinner. (which for all of my preaching about homemade food, is one of my indulgences)

I floated the idea of a menu plan past my husband, something like: soup on Monday, beef on Tuesday, pork on Wednesday, etc. And we both like it because he likes to know what he's having ahead of time and I don't like having to make the decision every day. I love cooking new and interesting dishes but I'm going to have to save my culinary adventures for the weekend, when I can plan for it and take some time to enjoy it.

I'll let you know how it works out. I actually have to make the decisions now about what goes on each day first. ☺

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Typical Weekend

What do you do on the weekends? Are they packed full of activities and shopping, and leave you just as exhausted on Monday morning as you were on Friday evening? Or are they peaceful, restorative, and fruitful?

Today I spent the morning catching up on and planning out our finances while Sabrina watched Anne of Green Gables movies. Then, after a lunch of yesterday's leftovers, I cleaned the bathroom while supervising her shower (she's learning how to wash her long hair on her own). While I got laundry going, I utilized Sabrina's skill at pulling things out of cupboards and had her clean out my kitchen pantry. She organized items into groups while I reorganized putting them back in. It looks fabulous and nothing falls out at me anymore when I open the door! I also know what to put on my grocery list for tomorrow.

Then while I prepared the lamb for my Make-Ahead Lamb Stew recipe, Sabrina played and read nearby, occasionally showing me her discoveries and singing me songs. When it came time to change the loads of laundry, she came with me and I taught her how to remove grease stains (her dad gives us lots of practice). While the stew was simmering, I decided to make a fresh batch of hummus and brown some meatballs to put in the crockpot tomorrow. Sabrina made the meatball mix all by herself, with my direction. She also helped me roll them, which went much faster! The hummus only took a couple of minutes to whirl up in the food processor, just the way I like it.

Why do I share this level of detail with you? Because I am very careful with the extra activities I allow into my time, I am able to spend quality time with my daughter teaching her things that will help her when she's on her own, make homemade food for my family, and devote the time and attention to my household that it needs. I still have another day yet to rest with my family, visit friends, and finish what couldn't be accomplished today. I can start my week refreshed and refueled, knowing that all is well at home.

What do we teach our children but our same chaotic habits when we do not stop long enough to evaluate what is really important to be investing our time in? Activities for children have their time and place, but they do not replace the one-on-one time of teaching and relationship-building that Sabrina and I had this weekend. Do you really need to go to the mall? WalMart? Or could you rearrange your cupboard and remind yourself of what you already have? Is your freezer full of convenience food? Do you eat out more than once a week? Do you despair over your grocery bill? Take some time on the weekend to plan meals and a grocery list that does not spend most of your budget on prepared items that you could easily and cheaply make at home.

Our week is busy enough without adding any more to it. I work full time as an accounting manager and Sabrina goes to school and before/after-school program. Corrie works a long day in his tow truck. The only times we ask ourselves "is there more to life than this?" is if we have wasted our precious free time on things that don't bear fruit. For each family, those things will be different. I challenge you today to take some time to evaluate yours and pursue the balance that you have been longing for.

Hummus (mom_of_4 style)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste
enough olive oil to make desired texture

Put all ingredients but the olive oil into a food processor with the chopping blade. Whirl together while drizzling in olive oil. Stop occasionally to scrape down sides and taste balance of flavors. Hummus has been blended with enough oil when it is smooth with no lumps, not runny, but has a firm texture that can be dipped with raw veggies, crackers, or pita bread. It is also delicious as a spread on sandwiches or wraps.

A favorite high-protein, high-fibre, non-dairy snack! You can reduce the fat by substituting water for olive oil, but if you know me, you know that low-fat is not in my vocabulary.

Make-Ahead Lamb Stew

Printed from COOKS.COM

1 lb. lean boneless lamb stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tbsp. olive or salad oil
1 sm. clove garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 c. regular strength chicken broth
1/2 c. dry white wine or more chicken broth
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. savory leaves
2 med. carrots
1/4 lb. sm. white boiling onions (I like to use 2 shallots)
3 sm. new potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices (I use red potatoes, diced)
Chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. grated lemon peel

Trim excess fat and membrane from lamb. Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat; add lamb, cook uncovered, until well browned on all sides. Add garlic, stirring until lightly browned. Stir in chicken broth, wine, lemon peel, marjoram and savory. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, cut carrots diagonally in 1-inch lengths. Plunge onions into boiling water for about 1 minute; drain and peel. When lamb has simmered for 1 hour, add carrots, onions, and potato slices to frying pan. Then cover and simmer until vegetables are fork tender, approximately 30 to 35 minutes more.

With slotted spoon, lift vegetables and meat from pan and place in individual bowls. Turn heat to high and boil liquid to reduce to about 1/2 cup; pour over stew. Sprinkle with parsley.