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Thursday, February 27, 2014

[Heart Thoughts] On Rocking Babies...

Several mornings a week, just for a couple hours, I rock babies in our church nursery.  International babies that don't know my face or my language.  Church babies that know me.  Sweet toddlers that recognize me from day-to-day and week-to-week.  Some like to snuggle.  Some are too busy -- or just not cuddle-bugs.  For others, the only peace is "the swing."

I have been baby-rocking since the fall.  I work with some wonderful ladies -- and we have had the privilege of seeing little ones roll over, crawl, walk, eliminate morning naps, "graduate" to cheerios for a snack and from bottles to sippy cups, and speak first words.

It has been most gratifying to form relationships with these little ones... to earn their trust... to learn what calms them.  To go from blank stares to smiles across the room.  From a too-big basket of toys to "the one" that makes them happy every week.  From cleaning up the room ourselves, to having little helpers fill the toy baskets back up at the end of the morning.

What a privilege to be trusted by these moms to care for their little ones.  To serve the correct bottle, or cup, or snack that won't cause allergies.  To make sure every diaper is changed in that two-hour interval.  To give attention to their precious treasures.


When I checked in the other morning, a friend greeted me from the welcome desk, and asked why I was there. When I told her, she shook her head and said, "Bless you for doing that... not everyone would love that job!"

While it's a little stunning for me to think that not everyone would love to rock a baby, I have learned over the years that not everyone is "built" to serve in the same capacity.  After all, as the Body of Christ, we each have our purpose... the hands, and feet, and eyes, the ARMS of Christ!  I have served in various capacities at two churches in my adult life, and there is nothing (nothing) that I love better than holding a baby, learning what makes them happy and what calms them, and interacting with them... singing "Jesus Loves Me," and watching how it soothes them.  I have held more "titled" positions, but I would argue that this is perhaps the most important position I've held.

I'm so thankful to be able to "love on" these little ones!

With love to Dylan, Sophie, Levi, Jessa, Akihito, Coco, Elliott, Joshua, Ellie, Cole, Keisuke, Liam, Charlotte, Bella, and Henry. xo


Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekend Dinner: Roasted Vegetables and Smoked Sausage

We headed out Saturday morning on our usual adventure, with a stop at the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner.  My hubby had been craving kielbasa, which was on sale -- and I have been thinking about brussel sprouts.  I didn't know how I was going to marry the two for supper, but I was determined, and picked up a few extras items to help.

I love my brussel sprouts roasted in the oven, and decided to combine them with carrots (which I already had) and small red potatoes and asparagus (which we picked up at a local Penn-Dutch market).  My hubby had originally intended to grill the sausage, but we ran out of time, and it was easier to just put it in the oven with the veggies.  See directions below...

Ingredients before roasting

1.  Preheat the oven to 450F
2.  Wash and cut up all the veggies to roughly the same size.
3.  Combine veggies in a big bowl, and sprinkle them with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
4.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and add the veggies.
5.  Cut up about half of a [Hillshire Farms] smoked sausage [which was what my hubby decided on], and add that to the baking sheet as well.
6.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 450.  You can adjust this time based on how tender you like your veggies.  My oven takes a while to warm up (even after it beeps to tell me it's ready), so... this timing was just right for me.

Another great PLUS?  If you line the baking sheet with foil, as I mentioned, clean-up is SO EASY!  All we had to wash was our plates and utensils!

Reviews?  My hubby said I can make this again anytime.  I enjoyed it as well.  Our daughter was less sure, being a little pickier about her veggies -- but she was a good sport.

Easy prep.  Easy clean-up.  (And no leftovers!)
My kind of meal!

{Salad & Veggies}


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

My daughter gently scolded me today, and reminded me that I haven't posted anything here in "a while."  It has been SO COLD, and SO SNOWY.  And I have been SO UNINSPIRED.  I have hit the rock bottom of winter.  [Just in time for a warm-up!]

But I took a really cute picture of my girl yesterday when we had a SNOW DAY [and then a warm-up], and... I thought I'd share it.  This girl is in love with the movie "Frozen," and decided to create her own "Olaf" after a heroic shoveling battle against the approximately 8" of snow in our driveway.  Man we were whipped after all that shoveling!  There was a little patch left, and she said she'd finish it -- so I went inside.  Not to warm up, mind you.  It was 40 degrees!!!  We were taking scarves and jackets OFF while we were shoveling!  (That's why my girl is only in her sweatshirt in the photo!)

I waited for her to finish shoveling and come in, but it was taking her forEVer, so I went out to check on her. This is what I found.  Cute, huh?  I love how she's casually sitting on her carved out "snow couch."  I may have done a little snowman editing to complete the job. (*wink)


Today?  It was 40+, and outdoors it sounded like someone had left the water running!!!  Flood warnings just flashed across the television screen, with reports of even warmer weather tomorrow along with THUNDERSTORMS and some really nasty weather.  Never a dull moment!

Guess Olaf won't be with us very long.


Friday, February 14, 2014

By the Dawn's Early Light

I don't have to tell you... it's been a long, cold winter.  And that's only so far!  I don't know if I've taken one "outdoor shot" all winter.  Personally speaking, it hasn't been worth it.  I'm speaking of the kind of shots that I used to go tromping around the yard for.  You know, knee deep in the muck the snow to get that perfect winter shot?  Not happening this year.  It's just been too cold.


I don't mind telling you that even though the sun is my friend, our friendship has been weighed down a bit lately by deception.  This winter, I have been lured to the window with the promise of great warmth, where I find that the thermometer still reads 3, and the weather man [speaking from the TV in the other room] says there is a windchill of -9.  Nope.  Still not interested in heading out for pictures.  At this rate, it may be... well, MAY.


A few days ago was no different.  I've learned my lesson though, and was only waiting on the sun in order to get some INSIDE pictures.  You see, I wanted to show you my girl's amazing spatter-painted artwork from a weekend birthday adventure.


The day dawned bright and shiny.  I couldn't wait to take pictures.  The artwork was hung in a sunny spot, and I realized that there were some interesting shadows and reflections on the wall behind the glass candlestick.


I love the textures and play of light-- and even the shadows!

But especially my girl's Pollock-esque project... by the dawn's early light.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Angel Food Dessert


Well, tomorrow's the day!  Valentines Day.  I didn't really decorate too much for Valentines Day this year, but I did leave a lot of red accents around after Christmas.  The only hearts to be found are hanging in my window, and on this sweet cupcake place-mat (last year's Kohl's clearance).  Things don't have to be complicated or stressful to be meaningful.  Sometimes it's the simplest little things that can be a special treat -- whether it's random touches of red around the house, or a sweet little dessert to share with the family.

Here's a little last minute yummy-ness for you to share with the ones you love... tonight...  this weekend...  next week -- or whenever!  It's sort of a non-recipe that my mom used to make for our family back in the day.  We haven't had it in years, but I recently heard somebody refer to an "angel food dessert" recipe, and this came to mind.



Chocolate Angel Food Dessert

1 angel food cake  (I grabbed mine in the bakery at the grocery store.)
1 large pkg. instant chocolate pudding  (I chose sugar-free.)

Prepare pudding according to package directions.
Cut or tear angel food cake into bite-sized pieces.
Put both in a bowl, and toss lightly.


Now here's the beauty of this non-recipe: every piece of cake doesn't have to hit the pudding, and every pocket of pudding doesn't have to be spread over cake.  Simplicity at it's finest.  My mom would serve this from a large serving bowl into individual bowls.  I decided to use the dollar "champagne flutes" that we used for our New Year's Eve grape-juice and prepare this dessert more like a "trifle" or "parfait" -- to fancy it up a bit for Valentines Day. I started with a spoonful of pudding, and then a few bits of cake, alternating layers until I reached the top and finished with a dollop of pudding.  Because the glasses were so narrow, I tore the cake up into smaller bits.  But... any way you slice it... it's cake and chocolate pudding.  How wrong can you go?


Of course, since my champagne flutes were so small, I have tons of cake and pudding left,  I'll mix up the rest and save in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for "seconds."  I have a feeling there might be a request for those!  *wink




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Alstroemeria

~My Daughter's New Favorite Flower~

The night before my daughter's birthday party, we hit the store for a few last minute odds and ends, and for some flowers.  There's something so grown up about receiving flowers, isn't there?  We've given her flowers for a few birthdays in the past -- but I really wanted to make sure we did it for SWEET SIXTEEN. 


I let her pick out the bouquet/color that she liked the most.  She chose these peachy Alstroemeria.  The flowers sat in a place of honor during the party.  The next day, my girl told me these may be her new favorite flower.  The jury is still out, but... she is entertaining the idea.


I told her that I had Alstroemeria in my wedding bouquet -- which sort of made her eyes widen... I'm not sure why.  Maybe she didn't know Alstroemeria were that old?


My husband and I kind of have a flower tradition.  He has NEVER had flowers delivered to me.  Now, before you start feeling sad for me, you should know... he ALWAYS delivers them himself.  Since our dating days! When we were dating, he would often deliver flowers to my work-place.  If I wasn't busy, he would stay for a minute.  Other times, when I wasn't at my desk, he would drop them and run.  Either way, a nice surprise!

I hope that someday, my girl will know the thrill of receiving beautiful flowers from a guy who is special to her.


An "oops" afterthought and NOTE TO SELF:
After having the flowers in her room for a few days, my girl determined that they were giving her an allergic reaction -- just like she experiences from various pollens in the spring and fall.  We moved them from her room, and ultimately decided they had to be removed from the house altogether.  Boo.  Perhaps someday, "that special guy" will have to bring her something other than flowers...


Monday, February 10, 2014

Recipe: Mint-Chocolate Chip Frosting

The other day, I was scheduled to bring a dessert to church.  Any dessert.

Trying to save a trip out the door in the cold, I checked my pantry shelves first to see what I could come up with.  The first thing that caught my eye was a devil's food cake mix.  Since all of our "chocolate birthdays" have been covered for a while, I decided to use the mix, but realized that I didn't have any frosting. [Yes, I am a canned frosting girl.  Don't judge.  I haven't made "my own" frosting since using a boxed frosting mix sometime in the 70's or 80's in my mom's kitchen.]  I also noticed that my mint-chocolate chip lover had stocked up on his hard-to-find favorite.  Hmmmm.  It got me wondering what kind of frosting I could make with chocolate chips... in this case MINT-chocolate.

Adding the chocolate chips to the boiling mixture...

After a little searching, I came across this recipe on cooks.com for Never Fail Chocolate Chip Frostingand the fun began.  This recipe is as easy as in sounds, and is very straightforward with no fancy cooking techniques or specific temperatures to worry about (like in candy-making).

And...I highly recommend using MINT-chocolate chips!

TIP:  Don't have MINT chocolate chips?  Try adding peppermint extract in place of vanilla for this recipe!



Friday, February 7, 2014

White Dishes


Recently, I read THIS POST from Yvonne over at "Stone Gable" on collecting white dishes.  Since I've been growing tired of the "grapevine" pattern that we have used for everyday dishes for the past 21+ years, I thought it might be time to give this idea a try.  Imagine my delight when I found these four square dinner plates on clearance at Target!  Winner, winner.  Chicken Dinner!  AND, I should tell you that I passed them by the first time I saw them.  When I went back a few days later, they were marked down an additional $1+.  Baa-daa-bing!  Sold.  I purchased the FOUR that were left on the shelf.

A few days later, Laura at "Finding Home" made this Easy Plate Message Board.  Do you see where this is going?  I couldn't resist using one of my new plates for this project.  After all, the writing wipes right off -- and the plate is dishwasher safe for a good clean-up.  [The writing is not baked on in this particular project! Therefore: not permanent!]


This was my first effort, and I love the way it turned out.  Even better?  I love the fact that I can change out the message for something else.

I got to thinking more about the white dishes, though -- and wondered if I'd find any more at different Target stores in our area.  We have five Target stores that are within a reasonable driving distance.  Four are along one route in our city, one of those being slightly off the beaten path, and the fifth is in a different direction altogether.  I decided to hit the first four in one day while the weather was good.


I was looking for 12 dinner plates, and 12 of the matching salad plates.

First store ~ I found eight square salad plates to match the dinner plates I had purchased, and one more dinner plate, bringing me up to five.

Second store ~ I found four more square salad plates.  Though they already had clearance stickers on them, they weren't marked down as low as the first store, so I asked an employee (who was going around with a price scanner/sticker printer thingy) if there was any chance that my plates were being marked down further today. She scanned the tag on the back of the plate, and said, "YES!"  Can you see me grinning?  Another dollar off per plate!

Third store ~ I found matching bowls that I'm considering.  They weren't on clearance yet, so I'll watch their price for a while longer.  No plates at this store!

Fourth store ~ I found five more square dinner plates, bringing my total to ten. These were the only plates that I did not pay clearance price for.  Interesting that none of the dishes in this particular pattern were on clearance at this store.  I'm glad that I went for it though, as the website shows that they are not in stock in the fifth store, nor are they available online.


I'm happy as a clam.  I came home, peeled off every clearance sticker (and there were a kazillion of them, having apparently been on clearance at many different price points) and put my new dishes in the dishwasher. We even used them for dinner that night.  Now... I just need a corner to stash the old dishes in until that garage sale.  GAH!  That's the SECOND time I've said those words on my blog lately.  People are starting to call me out on this whole garage sale idea.  Better start getting my act together.

Thanks to Laura for inspiring me to write on my white dishes, and to Yvonne for inspiring me to "collect" white dishes.  Now, when I see white dishes or accessory pieces on sale/clearance here and there, I will feel better about grabbing them up in order to set a nicer table, while keeping my dishes coordinated.

White for the WIN!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Did You Know? Rice Krispie Treats

One of our sweet nieces is allergic to many foods.  There is a long list of things she cannot eat.  When I visited for a week last November, I had to pack lunches every day for the girls.  My sister-in-law told me the best rule of thumb was meat, fruit, and veggies.  And... just to be on the safe side, her lunch should be packed before everyone elses, just to make sure there was no cross-contamination of ingredients.  Wow.  That's a lot to think about that early in the morning.  But... we made it through the week without incident [read: no epi-pen or trip to the ER!].  Praise God.

I had received good instructions from my sister-in-law, PLUS, my niece knows her stuff.  In addition, her three sisters really look out for her.  They all know, for the most part, what is acceptable, and what's in the danger zone.

Marshmallows are a regular snack item in their home -- something that is on the "safe" list.  And, if you're like OUR family, that would naturally lead you to think of Rice Krispie Treats.  Of the three ingredients, margarine (or butter if you prefer) was in the danger zone.  BUT, did you know you could substitute the same amount of CANOLA OIL?  I imagine other oils would work as well, but canola oil was what I had on hand -- and I knew it was on the "safe" list for my niece.


So the recipe goes:
1/4 cup margarine (or substitute the same amount of canola oil)
1 pkg. (10 oz.) mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal

I couldn't resist making these for my niece the day of our daughter's party.  I wanted her to be able to enjoy a sweet treat just like everyone else.  While I wanted all of the kids to have access to the treats, I didn't want to "advertise" them too boldly, making sure that the niece in question got some before they completely disappeared.

I remembered some cute Valentine bags that I bought on clearance last year.  Cutting the treats into uniform squares, I filled the bags and added them to a cute Valentine bowl.  They looked cute, but what was inside was subtle enough that there were actually LEFTOVERS.

My plan was a success.  We knew that our niece had gotten some treats -- and I loved it when, after the party, my daughter mentioned to me that one of the other kids had asked about having a Rice Krispie treat, and my daughter said, "Well, let's make sure that Laura got some before we eat any."  Well done, Sweetie.

Have you learned to adjust a favorite recipe for someone in your life who has allergies?


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hello??? What Kind of Blogger Am I?

Admittedly, my brain was a scattered mess this past weekend.  It's true.

I had a big plan -- to share with you an appetizer recipe that has long been a family favorite.  I was making it for my girl's birthday party.  I knew that I would not have time to share it until after the superbowl, but still, it's a great appetizer recipe for any occasion, and an awesome brunch recipe as well.  I took pictures of each step, even though it's one of the easiest recipes ever with only three ingredients. And then, I completely forgot to take pictures of the final product.  FAIL.  {What kind of blogger am I???}  Most of the food got gobbled up at our daughter's birthday party, and she took the "leftovers" to her youth group's "small group" meeting last night, because we knew the teenagers would help us clean up... and they did.  G-O-N-E.  No pictures.  Nada. Guess I"ll share that recipe another time.

I also made my Holiday Cheese Ball for the party, and thought I would finally be able to share a "final product" photo with you for that as well.  Ummmm, no.  Another fail.

Also?  I didn't get a lot of birthday girl shots, or a shot of the table loaded with food, or pictures of guests... But, after everyone went home, my girl said, "I loved how cuddly the girls [her cousins] were today!" -- and later when I looked at the photos I had taken, I found this one, snuggled up on the couch together, reading birthday cards. Sweet.


And BONUS:  I DID remember our traditional birthday-girl shot, and as the Granthams would say...

"Well.  That's Something!"  *wink


Happy, happy!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Highs, Lows, and Everything In Between

What a weekend we had around here.  If you visit here often, you know our television was not tuned into the super bowl.  We consulted no groundhogs.  It was our birthday blow-out weekend.  First, we celebrated our niece's birthday.  She is 10, and was born on our daughter's 6th birthday.  In addition to her birthday party on Saturday, the cousins enjoyed an artsy "splatter painting party" at a nearby craft studio. Thus, the colorful pictures I'm sharing here today.


Sunday was our daughter's birthday celebration, and we enjoyed having both sides of our family over in the afternoon for appetizers, cake, & ice cream.  We were blessed to have so many of our family members with us. My sweet sister-in-laws family of six was here from Pennsylvania to share in the celebrating, and my parents made it safely home from their January retreat.  We are so thankful for that, considering the weather that parts of the south were experiencing last week.


Earlier last week, we were alerted to another thing that would fill our weekend.  Our high school pastor stepped down, and his last Sunday was... yesterday.

Needless to say, in the midst of all of our celebrating, there was an entire Sunday morning at church in tears. Oh how we will miss him and his wife.  They have sacrificially given their time, greatly impacting the lives of our children and countless others.  In the midst of the sadness, they selflessly led a time of extraordinary worship and sharing that truly made an impact on everyone who attended.  It was the first step on a path of healing from the loss.


Do you love the way my pictures laugh in the face of sadness?  Yeah.  I kinda planned it that way.

Moving right along.  If you were wondering what our cousin-crew of TEN did at the art studio, here are some pictures documenting the process.  And lest you think this was a random splatter project, it was not.  It was done in the style of Jackson Pollock, and the kids were led by an amazing studio employee who had their undivided attention.  Take a look!


We don't have the finished project at home yet.  Of course it needed time to fully dry, and also -- the studio people will seal it for us.  Needless to say, the kids were all pretty excited with the results -- and it was great "cousin-time!"

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