Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: A Happy Statistic

sunflower Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week was filled with joyful thankfulness!  We safely traveled to be with friends for Thanksgiving - such fun to gather from across the country to share a holiday.  Because of change of services, we were able to sneak a way for two nights and spend Thursday completely with friends (instead of in-transit).

The biggest joy of this week (and I think of the year) is that I was officially discharged from my oncologist on Wednesday. This marks 5 years free of cancer and cured as far as their records go!  Even with catching the 24-hour bug going around, I'm still so thankful for my health and to be part of a "good" statistic!

After that, everything else seems so minuscule - but I am thankful for a few online deals I caught and a few things I was able to unload on ebay.  G and I watched the first snow showers of the winter on Saturday, and watching her fascination was great.   G has been fairly cooperative with my "sick day" today.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving

This week, I hope everyone will be able to enjoy their family and friends and recognize the blessing amidst the chaos of the holiday.  I'll be taking a break from blogging this week enjoy my family, my friends and my health.  I hope you'll take a break, and do the same.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

Ahhh... the normalcy of sitting down on a Sunday afternoon to write my Sunday Sunshine post.  It seems like it's been a while - I guess it really hasn't.  I'm happy to say that after my systems failure of earlier this week, things began to come together and I'm starting to have a better feel of which way is up.

I'm thankful for deals - especially JCPenney who gave me $20 this week and Shutterfly who has given me our almost free Christmas cards.  It really is the little things that bring life back inside the budget when it starts to stretch!

On Saturday Gramma B came to stay with GBaby as HandyMan and I both had to work.  It's not often that our schedules collide as horribly as they did on Saturday, but it's great to have family close enough by to bail us out!  I had a craft fair on Saturday that went well:  good crowd, minimal clock watching and moderate sales.

GBaby continues to babble around the house, and occasionally she's blurt out a sentence that's understandable amidst the babble.  This morning was one of those moments.  Since most of her chatter sounds like she's trying to talk around a mouth full of marbles, it took her saying twice for me to realize that she was saying "Bye, bye, love you" as she waved out the door at Daddy as he was leaving for work.

Warm brownies on chilly afternoons and hot chocolate with marshmallows were also bright spots in my week.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

HV Fudge Brownies

I know, I know - why mess with a good thing, right?  I have to say, I had some horrid less than successful experiments with this recipe before I got to this version.  Too dry, too fudge-y (yes, it is possible), too yuk.  Are you getting the picture that I'm a bit particular about my brownies?

So, after much experimentation, I'm happy to share with you this Fudge Brownie recipe that has taken into account a few healthy alterations.

HV Fudge Brownies

1/4 cup Canola Oil

3/4 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Water

2-1/2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (or darker!)

1/2 cup Squash puree (zucchini, butternut, pumpkin, yellow)

1-2/3 cup Flour

3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1.  Dissolve sugar, oil and water over low heat in a saucepan.  Once dissolved, remove from heat and add chocolate chips to the hot mixture, stirring until the chocolate chips dissolve.

2.  Once chocolate mixture is cool enough to not cook eggs, add beaten eggs and squash.  Mix thoroughly.

3.  Add dry ingredients to the batter (right in the sauce pan if it's big enough, otherwise switch to a bowl).  Mix until silky smooth and glossy.

4.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for about 30  minutes at 350 until center is set.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Freezer Friday: Marinara & White Bean Chili

freezerfridaysmThis week I restocked my freezer with marinara.  I think it's different every time I make it depending on what I have for veggies that need to be used.  I started with my HV Marinara and twisted it a little by adding carrots too since I had some in the freezer that needed to be thrown out hidden somewhere.  I ended up with about nine quarts of marinara all portioned out for future meals-all for less than $6.  More reasons why I love making my on marinara!

I also put together this Chicken and White Bean Chili that was great!  We at half the batch this week and the rest went to the freezer for later.  I used broth and chicken from a Chicken Cooking Day and beans from a day of cooking and freezing beans.  This recipe came together very quickly and was quite yummy!  Today I'm making a stock pot of Beef and Veggie soup which will make quick meals this weekend and in the coming months.

White Bean & Chicken Chili

    6 cup White beans, cooked and divided

    6 cup Chicken Broth

    2 medium Onions

    4 cups cooked Chicken, chopped
    1 can of  RoTel diced tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes & chilies)

    1 tsp Chili powder
    1 Tbs Salt
    1 tsp Black Pepper


1.  Puree three cups of the white beans.

2.  Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot or your slow cooker.  Since all ingredients are cooked, you can just heat it through low and slow to combine all the ingredients.  If cooking on the stove, be sure to stir regularly as the pureed beans tend to sink can burn to the bottom of the pan.

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Frugal Friday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis The Season...

to start thinking about Christmas cards.  I love getting Christmas cards from friends and family.  Catching up on the year through photos and letters to see how children have grown and what adventures life has brought to our loved ones far away.

I have to confess, we don't do Christmas cards every year.  In this electronic age, those who usually get Christmas cards from our family live many states away and are not [for the most part] online.  The last time we sent out fun updates to this contingent in our address book was right after GBaby was born and she will be 2 in January.  So, it's time for me to think about Christmas cards.

giftcard When what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a deal too good to pass up this year!  Shutterfly has some great  Christmas Cards this year.  This is not the first Christmas card offer that has come across my inbox, but quite frankly, the other's didn't have Christmas cards.  I'm not one for politically correct when it comes to Christmas cards, and choose to share Christ as the center of Christmas.  This card does that beautifully!

They also have lots of other fun things like calendars, mugs, stationary and photo albums that make great gifts for grandparents and family members you may not be able to see this holiday season.

If you're interested in turning some of your memories from 2010 into gifts this holiday season, check it out.  And if you want to save a little bit of cash, consider blogging for Shutterfly and always check for current coupon codes.
Please note, this post is part of a promotion sponsored by, providing bloggers with product credits in return for promotional posts.

Erasable Organization Binder

Some of the blogs I follow talk about binder systems and planners to help keep moms organized.  They have great printouts and resources – really, they’re neat.  However, they just don’t work for me.  If I print out another piece of paper, it’s going to get lost in the great paper vortex of clutter that end up in the recycle bin, and does nothing to get me organized.  I have used a few different methods for taming the paper and clutter and I think that I’ve finally been able to combine them into a system that may just work.

A few years back, HandyMan and I worked at a great summer camp (who I’m now working for again, remotely from NY- how cool is that!)  Oops, sidetrack.  Anyway, the camp had daily and weekly to-do lists that they would put into clear 3-ring page protector sleeves and we’d mark stuff off with dry erase markers.  It worked great – print once and use over and over and over.  Taking this idea, I created a weekly template with a rough schedule and the three categories that my tasks generally fall into: Chores, Menu/Meal Prep and Projects.  I also filled in permanent "chores" on the weekly schedule, as well as time blocks that are taken by the same activity every week.

The second component is a folder system.  I realized earlier this fall that the majority of the paper clutter that accumulates in my kitchen was from the mail.  In October picked up a folder thing that had a bunch of folders all bound together.  When I would go through the mail I could sort it into the folders (Bills/Attention, Filing, Shredding, Work Related, Banking and Other) and the pile of mail was neatly contained.

So, when I combined these two systems here is the resulting contents of a 1-inch, 3 ring binder that was reclaimed from a box of old college notes:

::Write-On Pages forNBook3

  • Shopping Lists & Errands (because stuff always gets scribbled down somewhere before it makes it on the “take me to the store” list)

  • 2 – 2 page spreads for Weekly Planning

  • ThrivingMama blog notes page

  • Cleaning lists (also incorporated in the weekly page- but not as detailed)

  • Blank pages in sleeves for random notes that pertain to online tasks – to eliminate all those little slips of paper.

::Folders for the categories I talked about before.

::Cute dry erase markers that have magnets so they stay in the middle of the binder.

All this fits neatly in a binder that I can stick in my corner of the kitchen counter and access easily.  I debated putting something decorative in the front cover or leaving it blank to use as an extra note surface – I opted for both:


As I mentioned before, the binder, as well as the card stock, and sheet protectors were things I had around the house.  The folders and the markers were compliments of a Staples rewards certificate from recycling my ink cartridges.  So, no money really out of my [current] pocket to implement this system - so if in three months it falls by the wayside for a different system, no loss.  For me, that works for me too!

This post is linked up at's Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

System Failure!

systemfailureAfter our wonderful break last week, I've come home to find that it's the middle of the month and all my systems seem to have broken down.  I was cruising along so nicely and I'm not sure what happened.  It is sort of like when you're working along on your computer and all the sudden you get the blue screen of death and the machine  just shuts down.

My menus are all messed up, the Toddler Tornado has made quick work of destroying the house and I'm treading quicksand trying to make order of the chaos.  I have to get things in order because I have a craft fair on Saturday and have to have our lives organized enough to leave GBaby here with Grandma while HandyMan and I are off to our respective tasks for the day.

So, this week, I am working on fixing my systems: housekeeping, work, meals and other projects.  I'm hoping to implement a few new ideas in hopes of getting things done and stop a few things from falling through the cracks - stay tuned!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

My little girl loves balls:  Soccer balls, beach balls, tennis balls -you name it.  If it's round it's a winner.  Even onions and apples have fallen victim to the pitching arm of my toddler as she declared them a "ball".  This week I was able to watch her awe and wonder as she was introduced to a ball-pit for the first time.

[caption id="attachment_2071" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Mom, what do I do with all of them?!"]Mom, what do I do with all of them?![/caption]

More fun and cookies than she could handle!

This week we were blessed with a few days away at a timeshare that was shared by family.  We slept in as late as GBaby would let us (or as late as HandyMan would let me), stayed in our pjs and watched cartoons and Food Network and  just played.  We also ate some yummy cookies.  It was a much needed respite for our family.

In our absence, our dog got to play with another doggy friend for the week, and for our friends who dog sat, we are very appreciative!

As we head into the week before Thanksgiving, I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story! Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Clean Fridge Stare Down

I am good at a lot of things, and when I set my mind to it, I can be good at cleaning. But it is not a strength, nor something I really enjoy. Often a mess will keep compounding until I finally suck it up and deal with it...or until HandyMan can't take it any more! Remember as a kid having “stare-downs” or playing Mercy (crush your opponent's hand and dig in the fingernails and see who cries for mercy first)? Some cleaning tasks in my house are like this. And sometimes, I don't even know that the game has begun.

This was the case with the refrigerator. On Monday after lunch HandyMan started, or more appropriately, finished emptying out the fridge. I looked up from what I was doing and he was pulling shelves out. “Are you cleaning the fridge?!” I asked in awe and amazement. I had wiped down a shelf or two a couple months ago – it wasn't that bad. Ok, maybe it was. And HandyMan, my hero, took care of that mess. He removed and disassembled all the shelves and cleaned out the bottom of the fridge and the crisper drawers. What an awesome surprise to my Monday! Now I really have to do my best to keep it clean. Thanks honey! (And no, I won't send him to your house to clean your fridge.)

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This post is linked up at The Diaper Diaries Things I Love Thursday and Finer Things Friday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Applesauce Bread

Here's the Pumpkin Bread recipe that I promised forever ago.  With two of the best flavors of fall,  this hearty quick bread is another favorite in my hearty breakfast bread collection.

Pumpkin Applesauce Breadfreezebake2

1 cup Sugar

1 cup Brown Sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup Oil

2 cups Pumpkin Puree (or 1-15oz can of pumpkin)

3/4 cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1-1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour

1-1/2 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground Cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger


1.  Cream together oil, sugar and eggs.  Add pumpkin and applesauce and blend thoroughly.

2.  Sift all dry ingredients together into the liquid batter and mix thoroughly.

3.  Pour into two prepared loaf pans.  Bake for 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees (until a toothpick inserted comes out clean)  You can also bake as muffins for about 20 minutes.

Linked up at An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party and Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap for dishes that travel well. Check them out for more great recipes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Freezer Cooking

freezerfridaysmIt's hard to believe that it is November already!  Since this is a full month and my freezer and pantry are pretty stocked, I'm just replenishing things that I've run out of and replenishing my soup supply.  I will be putting

away our garden potatoes to make side dishes easier later on.  I'm experimenting with a couple bread recipes that I'm hoping will freeze well enough to batch them up later.  Here are a few of the things that I'm working on that I know will go to the pantry and freezer:

:: Biscuit Mixes

:: Chicken Broth

:: Mashed Potatoes

:: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (just separated club pack & bagged)

:: Ground Beef  (just separated club pack & bagged)

Also on the menu this month to be prepared in batch freezing quantities HV Marinara, Beef & Barley Soup, Black & Pinto Beans and White Chili.   What are you cooking this month?

Linked up at Life As Mom's November Freezer Cooking Party

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baking for the Holidays

Holiday Planning

Over at Life as Mom today they're talking about foods that make great gifts.  Usually there's so much food around the holidays that I don't often gift food, but here are a few recipes that gift very well:

:: Easy Sugar Cookies are usually a quick go-to for parties or hostess gifts. The are pretty and present well on a holiday plate (usually from dollar store), holiday plastic wrap and a bow.

:: Reduced Sugar Fruit Spreads that I made this summer will be great for gifting this holiday season.  Add a ribbon to the jar and they're ready to go.  Or pair it with a Biscuit Mix in a breakfast basket.  The recipe works beautifully with frozen fruit too!

:: Quick Breads [HV Blueberry Bread, HV Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Cranberry Orange Bread] also gift very well and there are often holiday tins that you can bake them in to make them a bit more festive.  Or wrap them in a holiday plastic wrap and you're good to go!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Drop Biscuit Baking Mixes

At some point a while back, one of the blogs I follow (don't remember which one) featured the idea of mixing up all the dry ingredients of things you bake often, so when you make them you just have to add the wet ingredients.  I love the concept behind this because then I know exactly what is in my baking mixes.  With the winter months falling quickly upon us I decided that it would be worth the prime real estate in my pantry to keep three containers of biscuit mix and three containers of cornbread mix.  I have to refill then once a month - and I usually do this when I go to make said bread the 4th time and there's no mix ready.  So one portion to a bowl, three portions to my containers.  Ingredients out once.   Priceless.  It may seem like a little thing, but these little things make things so much easier at dinner time when the Toddler is melting down and hasn't napped and your head hurts and... I digress.

So, I started with this recipe for biscuits and have modified it a bit and end up with perfect, Whole Grain Drop Biscuits every time.  I've even started substituting in 1/4 cup of applesauce, pureed pumpkin or pureed butternut squash for 1/4 cup of the butter/margarine just to cut the fat down a little bit and I haven't noticed a difference in the final product -besides the applesauce adding a little sweetness.

Without further ado, ThrivingMama's Drop Biscuit Mix:

biscuitmix1Drop Biscuit Mixes

1 cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 cup White Whole Wheat Flour

2 teaspoons Sugar

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1/4 teaspoon Salt


Combine all dry ingredients in a 2-3 cup storage container.  Be sure to labelyour container with the contents, wet ingredients to add and baking directions to keep things super simple!

When it's time to bake, add

1 cup Milk and

1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, softened

and enjoy a meal time that 's a little bit easier!

This post is linked up at We Are That Family's Works for Me Wednesday Fall Recipe Swap

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cream of Veggie Soup

As I eluded last week, the destination of many potatoes in my home is soup.  While I have yet to bust into the garden potatoes, I made a great Cream of Veggie Soup yesterday that made great use of about five pounds of potatoes, and carrots and broccoli. It will freeze and reheat great.

Most folks will probably need to cut this recipe in half as I used my huge pot to make it and it will be serving as dinner for a crowd this week.  It made about two gallons. I used the inspiration and method from my [Green] Potato Soup and added a bit more color. When everything was cooked, I blended it up with my immersion blender and it was great with saltines. I'm planning on pairing it with a Ham and Cheese Breadstick experiment. We'll see how that turns out! (and don't mind the photo - it for some reason the photo is really yellow)

Cream of Veggie Soupcream of veg soup

    1/2 pound of Bacon
    5 pounds of Red Potatos

    3 medium Onions

    5 large Carrots, raw (about 4 cups chopped)

    8 cups Vegetable Broth
    6 cups chopped Broccoli
    6 cups Milk

    6 cups Water

    1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt

    1 Teaspoon Pepper


1. Boil your potatoes and carrots  in a large stock pot until fork tender.

2. Drain potatoes and carrots and put them in a different bowl.

3. Cook your bacon and onions in your stock pot.  When bacon is done, add broth and bring to a boil.

5. Add milk, salt, pepper, water and to the pot. Add potatoes and broccoli and bring to a boil.

6.  Once the broccoli is cooked, Puree this mixture with an immersion blender.  (For a chunkier soup: Hold out the potatoes and carrots and add after pureeing the broccoli into the base.  Then use a potato masher to break them apart.)

This post is linked up to An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party.