Monday, December 31, 2012

the Christmas cards have all been sent...

If you are like me, one of the sweetest parts of the Christmas season is receiving so many beautiful Christmas cards! From family and friends, those near and some from afar. Reading the updates and family letters, remarking on the growth of children and rejoicing over new additions to families. Christmas cards become a cherished part of our Christmas season.
So, when the Christmas cards have all been sent…..what do you do with them?
I just can’t bare to take them all down and simply toss them away! You, either? Well, here are two things you can do with your Christmas cards to preserve the memories well beyond the ringing in of the new year.
{create a contact photo}
  Use the camera on your phone to snap a pic of the picture cards to use for a contact photo. I’ve seen this idea used many times {nothing new here!} and started using it last Christmas. It’s great! Simply take a pic of your photo Christmas card and then assign it to that contact in your phone. Now, you will have a beautiful photo to view each time that call comes in! Perfect!
{create a photo prayer ring}
A friend of ours shared this idea with me years ago and it is something I have loved doing ever since. Use your beautiful cards to make a {photo prayer ring}.
Take the Christmas cards and punch a hole in the upper left corner then place all of the cards on a ring. (You can get a package of these rings for a few dollars at mass retailers or office supply stores.) I like to accent with some cute ribbon to finish it off. {You know me and ribbon!}
Now what?
There are a few ways you can use these beautiful prayer cards. Place the cards with your family devotion materials and incorporate them into your family prayer time. If you read the Bible together at breakfast, keep the cards with your bible or near the table. If you spend more time in prayer together at bedtime, then keep the cards handy for that place and time. Whatever is going to be more convenient for you and your family.
Each time you pray, choose one card from the ring and pray specifically for that person or family. We also add an index card with each photo card and jot down specific ways we can pray and any praises that come in as well. This has been a great way to show God’s faithfulness to our children as we have prayed for needs and seen God work in lives. We also add cards of scripture that encourage us to pray for others and point to the power of prayer. Verses like John 14:13-14, Ephesians 6:18 and Philippians 4:6-7 are a few of the many scriptures that encourage us to pray and bear the burdens of others.
So, if you are finding yourself taking down the Christmas cards and wondering what to do with those special greetings, I hope these ideas will get you thinking outside of the box.

Monday, December 3, 2012

pumpkin snickerdoodles

It’s Christmas time and most of us are busy cooking and baking sweet treats in our kitchens. I love making several varieties of goodies each year but this year I have been on the hunt for gluten and dairy free recipes to add to my recipe box.
I have found a winner!
These cookies are so delicious you wouldn’t even know they are gluten and dairy free! I took one bite and my mouth was happy, happy! They are tender and tasty and even my little cookie tasters agreed.

{pumpkin snickerdoodles} gluten and dairy free

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated organic sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 cups gluten free flour {I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free flour}
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon Coating:
  • 1/2 cup granulated organic sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the ingredients for the cinnamon coating and set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium bowl. Set aside.
If the coconut oil isn’t soft enough to mix well then you can melt it on the stove over low heat. Place in a mixing bowl and add the sugar and egg. (You can make this recipe egg free with an egg substitute in place of the egg.) Beat the oil, sugar and egg with a hand mixer until well mixed.
Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat well again.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined but don’t over mix.

Time to make your delicious cookies!

Take a small amount of dough and roll into a ball. Give it a roll in the cinnamon coating and then place on a baking stone about 2 inches apart. Press lightly with your fingers to flatten the top of each cookie.
Bake for 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. {If they crumble when you transfer them, just wait a few more minutes and try again.} I also sprinkled some of the remaining coating on top of the cookies after they came out of the oven.
Mmmm! These cookies smell amazing!! Happy, happy, happy!

I am definitely learning some things about gluten free and dairy free baking. Let’s say, it can be interesting!

With this recipe, make the cookies smaller rather than larger. They can be crumbly with the use of gluten free flour and this is helped by a smaller cookie size. Definitely use a baking stone if you have one. That seemed to help the texture and they cooked more evenly than with a metal sheet pan. Also, don’t be freaked out by the use of coconut oil in place of butter. It is a healthy and great dairy free substitute. I personally don’t care for anything coconut but I can’t even taste a trace of that in these cookies. Wahoo!
adapted from the original recipe at

Monday, November 5, 2012

turkey black bean chili

One of our favorite meals on cold evenings is a bowl of hot chili. It is a warm and comforting crowd pleaser and so easy to prepare! This recipe can be made in a snap on the stove top or simmered for a few hours in your slow cooker. Either way, this recipe is sure to please.

{turkey black bean chili}
  • 1 pound of lean ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes {if desired}
  • 3 (15 oz.) cans of black beans {drain and rinse 2, add the 3rd as is}
  • 14 oz. can organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes {I use the one with jalapeno added.}

Simply heat the olive oil over medium heat in a stock pot or dutch oven then sauté the onion for about 3-5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned and crumbled. This takes about 5 minutes depending on how large your pot is. Stir in the seasonings and cook for 1 minute more.
Stir in beans, broth and tomatoes then bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Top this delicious and healthy chili with sour cream and cheddar cheese if desired and serve along with some corn chips corn bread.
It is so yummy even my children ask for seconds!
If you have a bit longer or simply need to put in the kitchen time earlier in the day, you can easily adapt this recipe for your slow cooker. Prepare as above through browning the turkey then transfer the meat and onion to your slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Set on low and your dinner will be waiting for you whenever you need it! How easy is that?

I hope you will enjoy adding this delicious and very good for you chili to your meal plan. It is sure to be a winner!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


A simple word to sum up a local project I participated in during the month of October. So, what does Onetober mean? 

Simply put, one dress, one month, one cause.
photo (54)photo (53)-
A publication that I actually have the privilege to write a column for created this event where women would wear the same dress for the entire month of October in order to raise awareness for a local crisis pregnancy center. When I heard about it I was all in! How fun to wear a dress and come up with different ways to accessorize it to keep it interesting. I am a little “accessory” challenged so I thought this would be a great way to force me out of my comfortable little box. I am also deeply passionate about this pregnancy center and the ministry it is in our community so helping to raise awareness was a great cause to get behind.
What I didn’t expect was what I would learn about myself during these last 31 days.
This month has raised an awareness in me.  I have noticed things in myself and my outlooks. I have actually learned from this dress, these last 31 days.
I’ve learned…
  • that I really liked wearing a dress each day. I always have enjoyed wearing skirts and dresses.  Honestly, I usually find casual dresses more comfortable, especially in warmer weather. Now, I am a jeans kinda girl and they are my default clothing option. But I have actually enjoyed putting on my dress each day and it has caused me to think more about my appearance for my family. I usually get up and brush my hair before pulling on jeans and a top for the day. As a SAHM I don’t usually need to leave the house so really “fixing” myself isn’t something I do everyday. As I put on my dress, I thought about making my appearance more “tidy” for my husband and children. And because I spent a few more moments on making myself presentable, I discovered something. I was in a better mood! I really was! I felt more put together and more ready for the day. I felt more feminine. The dress caused me to focus on actually dressing for my day and as a result I felt better. More pulled together. More productive.
  • that my hubby likes the way I look in a dress. He commented several times throughout the month on how nice I looked. And I thought for sure that he would be tired of seeing his wife in the same old dress for an entire month! He actually brought me roses twice in the month of October. Hmm, maybe there is a connection? Who knows but receiving roses is always a good thing! 
  • that I don’t really need a lot in my closet to have options. I was amazed that I was able to create different looks for this dress just by changing out accessories and using a few different cardigans and tops. I really am going to think differently about what I purchase for myself in the future. I will think more about what options a piece of clothing will give me and how I can use it to create different looks with items I already have. This is new territory for me. I am style challenged so this is going to be a growth exercise for sure!
  • that I like aprons! I don’t usually don an apron except for after church on Sunday while getting lunch on the table or occasionally during holidays or if I’m having a big cooking or baking day. But because I was trying to preserve my dress and not get it dirty, I found myself wearing an apron a lot. So much so that I now really enjoy wearing one. I have a pretty nice Williams Sonoma khaki apron which serves the purpose but isn’t very cute. I am looking forward to sewing a cute one for myself sometime soon and have been searching for cute and feminine apron tutorials. I love this one!
  • most importantly, that it would draw my heart into prayer. Each day as I put on the dress I purposed to pray for the pregnancy center. I prayed for the director and the workers and volunteers as well as the many women in our community who find themselves in need of this wonderful ministry. My heart is even more tender to this ministry at the end of these 31 days than it was before. I am so thankful that there is a place of hope for women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. I am so thankful that this center shares the gospel and that women choose life for their babies because of the work done there.  Let us stand up for the unborn and support these places that minister to and provide hope for women. When my parents were teenagers, they found themselves unmarried and pregnant with me. I am so thankful that they found support through their families and chose life for me.

At the beginning of October, I started wearing a dress because it would help to raise awareness for a great ministry. At the end of the month I am happy that goal was accomplished and I am looking back on these 31 days with a different perspective and a few insights into myself. Though I won’t reach for that particular dress to wear for a while, I am thankful for the experience it gave me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

read aloud with your littles

Reading aloud with your children is a wonderful way to spend time together and cultivate a love of reading that will grow with them.
The first step for encouraging reading in preschoolers is to choose good books. Good books can inspire your little learners and expand their imaginations. Snuggle up with a really good book that captivates their attention and show them the joy that is found in reading. The more a child enjoys reading, the more he will desire to read on his own.

Here are some tips for reading aloud with your little learners.
Choose beautiful books!
Choose books that are well written and beautifully illustrated. Preschoolers love books that contain repetition, pictures or symbols in place of words, rhyming words, words that sound like their meaning, predictable story lines, flip-the-flaps and other tactile activities.
Create a routine. Make reading aloud together a regular habit.
A great time to read aloud to your children is during their bedtime routine but that doesn’t have to be the only time to enjoy reading together. Build it into your day and model for them that reading is part of our everyday life. Keep books in several locations in your home and consistently sit down to enjoy time reading aloud.
Bring the story to life!
Read with excitement to your children! Provide good narration by making use of difference voice tones and fluctuations. Use different voices for the dialogue and bring the story to life with sound effects. Involve them in the story by asking questions. Draw them in. Your children will be so delighted when you read to them in this way.
Include activities with your read aloud time.
Make books come alive for your young ones by encouraging creative play. Act out the story and role play with them. Discuss the pictures in books and allow the child to tell the story in their own words. As your preschooler learns to read, encourage them to track {point to the words} as you read and work towards having them read some of the words along with you.
These are just a few tips for cultivating a love of reading with your little ones. The sky is the limit with what you can do with your read aloud time. Be intentional and read aloud with your little learners!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I am a runner

I am a runner.

There was a time when I honestly never thought those words would exit my mouth.
I mean, I am the girl who only ran if something was chasing her. Seriously.  My hubby has been a runner for quite a few years and I always though that was great for him but not really something I was interested in. I just didn’t see the point. My knees are weak from high school sports and I have no endurance. I am not graceful and look totally silly in my stride. I told myself that there was no way I could ever really be a runner.

But something has happened. I have become a runner.

In the spring of 2009 I laced up for the first time. I had recently suffered a miscarriage with our third child. Within a month I totaled our vehicle. On top of that I had been wounded in a friendship. My heart was deeply hurt. I needed something that was for me. Something that gave me a sense of control. God was indeed healing my heart through study in His Word and some very special friends during that time. But with the sound of my shoes pounding the pavement, something in me felt free. During those early days of running, my heart cried out to the Father and I felt His presence.  Running cleared my thoughts of the extraneous and some days I ran through tears as my walls of hurt came down.

God added another blessing to our family in 2010 and when our little girl turned one, I was ready to pick up running again. I had actually missed it! I think that was as much of a shocker to me as the fact that I had even enjoyed it in the first place! The time alone, the cleared mind, the sore muscles….all of it!

I am currently training for my second half marathon. I say that out loud and it still seems so strange to me. I still think of myself as that girl who gets winded after 50 yards and who doesn’t have the stamina to keep up the pace. But I find myself looking forward to early morning runs. I have my devotions and then I hit the pavement. The time running allows me to further dwell on the truth of the Word and sink it deep in my heart. It is so much more beneficial to me than just an activity to keep me in shape. After all this time, I think it has happened.

I am a runner.

Monday, July 23, 2012

wickedly delicious refrigerator pickles

 A few years ago I found some gourmet pickles that were not quite sweet but definitely not dill. The thing that stood out was that they had a real kick to them with the addition of some hot pepper. The sweetness of the brine against the subtle heat of the peppers was so yummy! 

I usually don’t like sweet pickles {at all} but this combination made them so good! I knew I needed to try to make something similar. I altered a refrigerator pickle recipe that I had and this is what I came up with. They result is a slightly sweet and still crunchy pickle with a little heated zing from jalapeno peppers. 

Now that our gardens are producing again, I thought it was time to whip up a batch to have and to share.

{wickedly delicious} refrigerator pickles
  • 6 half pint canning jars
  • 2 pounds of pickling cucumbers, 1/8th inch slice
  • 3 tsp salt (divided)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbs mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs celery seed
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved and smashed
  • 3 jalapenos, sliced {you can leave these out if you just want a nice sweet pickle recipe}
Begin by running your jars, lids and rings through your dishwasher to sanitize them. Make sure they are very clean before moving on.
In a large bowl add the cukes, 1 cup at a time, and lightly sprinkle each layer with 1/8 tsp of salt. Continue this layering until you have all of the cukes and have used 1 tsp of the salt.

Add the onion and gently toss to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for one hour. This will draw the excess moisture out of the cukes so you will have a nice, crisp pickle. Drain of all liquid at the end of the hour.
The brine: Combine the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 2 tsp of salt, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently until the sugar dissolves. This only takes about 2 minutes.

Pour over the cukes and let stand for 10 minutes. Divide among the jars and top with extra vinegar if you find that you need more liquid in the jars. Allow to cool and then top with the lid and ring. {If you are a little messy like me then you will want to wipe down the jars once cooled.}

Once cooled, place in the refrigerator and wait one week before enjoying these yummy pickles. I know this step is hard but it really allows the flavors to develop. Once the week is up, get ready for some pickle yumminess! Since these aren’t processed, they will only keep fresh in the fridge for 6 weeks. {Don’t worry, they will be long gone before you have to worry about spoiling!}
These look so cute all wrapped up and ready to give. Your recipient will love it. In fact, the only complaint I get is that the jar is too small and that they wish there was more! People almost always ask me for the recipe.
I hope this is a recipe that you will try and enjoy. I would love to here about it if you do. What things do you like to make with cucumbers? Any goodies to share?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

craving friendships

Women are relational. We crave quality friendships, deep relationships that go beyond the mere superficial. We need friendships that go beyond the fluff .

For years I prayed for quality friendships with women of faith. I felt a huge vacancy that was meant to be filled in the community of fellowship among women. I had acquaintances during these years but no deep relationships.

I felt a deep need for friendship in the lonely years at the beginning of my marriage. We had moved to another state where I didn’t know a soul {other than my new hubby}. I was new to the role of a wife, new in my walk with the Lord as a new believer, and new to the area. I felt lonely and unsure of myself.  I needed to spend time with women who were more mature in the faith who could point me to Christ as I learned how to be a wife and how to walk with the Lord. I needed to see biblical femininity and submission modeled in the lives of other women. I needed to find women in the same stage of life that I was in as a new bride.  I craved relationships. Though I didn’t have a close female friend during this time, God did use the early years in my marriage to grow my husband and I in a way that I don’t think would have happened in quite the same way if we weren’t being each other’s best friends. I am grateful for that in so many ways as we feel the benefits of that time still today, almost 13 years later.

Then again as I became a new mother and took my place as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, I found myself renewed in my craving for real friendship. I became a stay-at-home mom at a time when I didn’t know any other new moms. As a Christian school teacher, everyone I was close with from work was still working.  My sphere of friendships hadn’t moved beyond my coworkers. This phase of life can be so hard and lonely and I desperately wanted relationships. I needed to know that I wasn’t the only one out there who was experiencing all of the joys and woes of being a new mom. All of those things that no one tells you about {you know the stuff I mean}. I feared that I was going to mess up.

I needed friendship. I had very superficial relationships during these years. What I truly needed was a close and godly friend. As women, we tend to build up walls and barriers that intentionally keep people at arms length. We all have this deep need for relationships yet we “keep up appearances” and create walls that are difficult to break through. We stand in our own way at times.
I would like to say that God sent a wonderful and godly friend to me during this time but that isn’t the case. Instead I found myself around women who hurt me. Women who were catty, competitive, gossipy and even manipulative. For a while I thought that it wasn’t so bad to be around this type of conversation as long as I wasn’t contributing to it. Then I realized that just my presence gave an approval. Even though these women were all believers and weren’t involved in any of what you would call “big, bad” transgressions, their type of conversations weren’t Christ-like. Before long, any conversation would turn ugly and I found myself uncomfortable. The problem is, relational drama can be addictive. Before you know it, you have stayed too long. You realize too late that this isn’t healthy and, if you aren’t careful, you get burned.

About seven years ago, I made a conscious decision to change my choice of girlfriends. To realize the truth of Proverbs 27:9b that “sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”  I pulled away from situations that usually ended up in catty conversations that I didn’t want to be involved in. I chose to follow after the words of Proverbs 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools with suffer harm.” So what I had to do was deliberately phase out certain involvements because my own character wasn’t strong enough to remain Christ-like when in these situations. I said no thank you to some invitations. Stood next to someone new at functions. Didn’t ride in cars together with certain ladies who typically chose the car ride home from an event as the time for catty talk. I choose to be rid of the drama and to walk with wise women.

I wanted to be surrounded by godly women who were daily striving to walk with the Lord. Woman who wore godly submission to their husbands like a crown of honor. Mothers who had vision for their children and the role that God had placed them in. Women who had a goal that they were working toward by God’s grace and it resembled the goals I had for myself. These were the women that I wanted to spend time with. I began praying again for friendship but this time I was specific. I prayed that the Lord would bring godly women into my life who were following after God. And our God is so gracious!

We moved to a new state shortly following and I prayed for wisdom as I met new women and formed new relationships. And God heard my prayers and answered the desire of my heart. Godly women sought me out in our new church and I made a choice to trust and invest in those relationships. I discovered just how truly beneficial it is to surround yourself with women who inspire your walk with God. I am now so much more intentional with who I share my time and my heart with. I seek out time with women that have similar goals for their lives and families. We indeed are iron sharpening iron.

I now have some truly wonderful relationships and for that I am so grateful. I aim to be intentional. I try to see people through God’s eyes and not my own. I choose to forgive those who have wounded me and pray for them. I ask God to give me good friends and more so, I ask that He would help me to be a good friend. One of the most wonderful things that I am learning about godly relationships is that, as I grab hold of the hand of a more mature Christian woman who is walking a little farther down the road than I am, I can reach back and take hold of the hand of a younger Christian who may be just starting on the journey. I can find my place among them.