Wednesday, October 22, 2014

camping edition

Camping is something I always thought I wanted to do, but was never really sure until about five years ago.  Todd started purchasing equipment here and there, for a great price, and we got our collection of gear began.  (At first, all we did was borrow from other people.)  When I went on my first camping trip, I quickly discovered that I loved it.

As much fun as we have once we get there and get all settled, it takes a lot of work to make it to that point.

Once I became familiar with how things go on a camping trip and when I discovered all that was required, I began the process of making lists days in advance.

We always have our meals planned and usually they are simple.  Hot dogs and hobo packets are usually what we eat.  One time I made a giant pot of taco soup and we took that frozen.  It served as our ice pack in the cooler too, but it was so cold out on that trip that it took it two full days to thaw.  That was the year we literally froze in our tents.  It was thirty-two degrees at night and we couldn't hardly eat in the morning, we were shaking so bad!

I start a packing list for our boys and I figure out all the food from the pantry we'll need.  On another list will be all the cold food we need out of the fridge.

We have things that we take on every camping trip~tent (duh), lanterns, a camping table, extra propane, camp stoves (two), a coffee pot that brews on the camp stove, surge protectors (in case we have electric), a rake and shovel, our camping chairs, and a tarp.  In our camp "kitchen" (a big Rubber Maid container with a lid) is our cooking utensils, eating utensils, pans, oven mits, matches, table cloth, coffee filters, coffee scoop and coffee fixings, roasting sticks and any spices we need for cooking.

I keep loose things in an old laundry basket, and all of our pantry food is stored in laundry baskets.  (Right now, they're in boxes we just brought home from Costco.)

This is why I have all my lists.

This particular camping trip is a little different~we are going with a large group of people and all the meals are planned.  I was assigned certain items to bring for each meal, which is why my Costco list was so long.  And the boys have to have every little item listed, or it will not be packed.  I remembered that I left towels off the list, so we added that this morning.  

All of our camping gear stays in the garage, in one area.  The foam sheets we sleep on stay inside and were pulled out yesterday.  We cleaned the garage this morning after breakfast and got all our gear dusted off and pulled into the slot where I park.  My car will stay outside tonight.  

Also on our list is every sleeping bag and blanket we own.  It will be cold at night, and we know what it's like to not have enough covers for warmth.  The boys each sleep in sleeping bags, but Todd and I just use blankets.  We put blankets on top of the foam that lines our tent then use all the blankets we own.  ;)  

Crash is on the list, too.  He is a great camping dog.  We take a stake for him to be hooked up to, so he can wander around a little.  We also take his kennel, but we don't really use it unless we go somewhere without him.  He might get left Friday while we do some hiking.  

Well, that's about it, at least that I can think of.  I plan in advance to make the day of pulling together and packing easier.  Call me obsessive compulsive or whatever, but I have learned that being so organized helps!  Very rarely is anything forgotten.  

Tomorrow, Graham, Drew and I are going to our homeschool group for the first two hours then are leaving early.  While we're there, Jonah, Noah and Todd will stay home and pack the cooler food and load everything into his truck.  We will join them back at home for lunch, then hopefully right after that, we'll leave.

Now that we're all ready, I'm ready to go!  I so look forward to the time when we are unloaded and have everything set up, and we can just sit back and relax by the fire.  We make so many memories on these trips~and there have been some doozies!  We've had people get sick, Crash once broke off of his stake to chase a goose into a lake, people have fallen down hills, there are usually freaky people nearby that scare the kids, and we have laughed until we have cried.  We always have so much fun, and it's amazing being out in God's creation with no electronics and nothing else to do except talk to the ones around you.  

That being said, I also look forward to meeting a bunch of people that I don't know on this trip!  The group we're going with are friends of our neighbors that they've known for twenty something years.  Also going with us are our youth pastor, his wife and their six kids.  The boys are so excited that they're going, and I look forward to spending time with them over the next few days too.

Well...thanks for reading all this!  Love to all.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

old friends

Yesterday was a day I had been looking forward to for a while now.  Our old friends and children's pastors from our old church were going to be back in town for a brief time.  Tim and Jenny left Memphis seven years ago~it's so hard to believe that it's been that long since they've been gone.  From here, they've been to Arizona, Indiana (or Illinois?), Oklahoma and now they're residing in Missouri for the time being.  

From there, they will be going to Cameroon, Africa for the next three years.  They've been itenerating and they were here for a missions convention.  

It was so good to see them, and very quickly, I remembered why we loved them so much.  Todd has never connected with another friend since they left all those years ago, and the night they pulled away from our home seven years ago, we both just stood there and sobbed, along with Graham and Drew.  

This is why Heaven will be so sweet to me...well, aside from Jesus, of course.  Friends like this will no longer have to be said to goodbye to, or see you later, or whatever it is you say when you will be apart.  

Last night we shared what we've been up to, we laughed, we remembered, we ate.  (What is a good visit without food?)  We tried to have our picture taken, and fourteen tries later, Graham got a decent one.  

These are some of the most beautiful, sweet and amazing people we have ever had the privilege of being friends with in all of our eighteen years of being married.  To say that we are just friends doesn't do it justice~they are more like family.

Here's one of all the kids.

My turkeys weren't cooperating, but their girls look sweet!  Whitney and Kaitlyn are 13 and 9~they were 6 and 2 when they moved from here~ours were 8, 7 and 4.  It's so hard to believe it's been that many years.  

These are the people we got our cat Twinkles from.  They didn't want to take her with them on their cross country trek to Arizona.  

They were trying to find the best route for them to take to go back to where they were staying.  

When our night was over and the time came to say goodbye, hugs were shared and all the old emotions welled up within me.  Hopefully we'll get to see them before they go to Cameroon next August, but we may not.  And after they're there, they will be there full time, for three years.  Then they'll start itenerating all over again, and we might see them then.  

Or Jesus might return before then and we will see them in Heaven. 

Either way, I thank God for friends like them.  The ones you connect so deeply with that your heart is never the same.  It was awesome seeing them connect with Graham and Drew again, too.  Even they commented on how much they had missed Tim and Jenny.  

It was a great night, one that will be a great memory for a long time to come.

Love to all.    

Monday, October 20, 2014

catching up

I can't believe I haven't posted since Thursday.  This blog can be a little obsession of mine, so I would say I've done a good job at staying off!  :)  I'll pick up with Thursday, where I left off.

We had our homeschool group that day, and we are studying the spiritual gifts.  One of my top gifts is the gift of helps and our teacher asked me to talk for a few minutes about that.  I do not love standing in front of a large group and sharing, but I prayed beforehand about it, and I muddled my way through.  You have no idea how huge that is~speaking is not my thing.  Writing is.  :)

I got a call from my sweet, sweet neighbor telling me that I didn't need to worry about dinner that night~she had made chili for us!  Can you even believe how thoughtful that was?  It made my week!

Friday found us wrapping up a good week of work for the boys and visiting with my dad.  It has been so nice here the past week~fall has finally arrived and we are loving the cooler temperatures.  Sometimes, it's so nice outside, that you just have to sit out there for a bit.

I finally got around to hanging my new door decor.

And the boys cut the yard for the last time this year.

I adore this picture of Jonah cutting the grass.  Sunglasses on, earbuds in.  ;)  He was jamming to some music while he was working.

I ran the boys up to the church to make their deposits for the Guatemala mission trip this coming spring~thus securing their spot in the group of twenty-five!

My in-loves invited us to dinner Friday night.  It was delicious!  We went to a place out in Brunswick that has catfish on Friday nights.  Drew flirted with the waitress and she flirted back by messing around with his hair.

Saturday morning, my sister invited me to go out with her and my mom for a bit.  :)  We went to the state beauty supply place and I might have replenished the bottles of OPI I recently had to throw away.

My sister bought me this one~Skating On Thin Ice-Land.  I replaced the bottle of my favorite color ever, and I got a new bottle of top coat.  Yes, I have a problem.  But I only paid $4 for a bottle.  That's cheaper than getting the Walmart kind.

Please, please, please forgive me for posting this picture of myself, but I had to take it and share it to show you that I felt like I looked like a giant candy corn.  I die every time I wear this shirt~if you know me at all, you know that I am not a bright shirt-wearing kind of person.  I tend to want to fade in the background and I stick to earthy tones~browns, black, blues, greens and grays.  I make myself wear this, though, because it was a gift and it is really comfy.

Also, it was proof that I was having a really good hair day.  Those are few and far between.

I went to dinner with a friend Saturday night, and I think we could have talked for a few more hours.  We almost went to a movie, but it's probably good that we didn't, since we talked each other's ears off the whole night!  ;)

Sunday found us at church bright and early.  Todd worked the airshow in Millington and we missed out.  We had to be at church at four for a corn maze with the youth, though, so it was fine.

I got to play chauffeur to these sweeties~they're part of my community group on Sunday night.  I have known most of them since kindergarten and I adore them.

I mean, can you even stand how beautiful all of them are?  I cannot.  They also happen to be a tiny bit of crazy, which makes them even more fun.

I cannot believe these two guys are in the youth now.  It doesn't seem like it should be possible!  We had a great night~it's always so much fun to be with the youth.  And not just because of the teenagers, although they are amazing, I also feel like I'm with my best friends when I'm with this group.  All of the leaders are really close, and it's fun to be together.

Today has been a good day of school...we're doing some cramming in of subjects this week because we're leaving town Thursday.  We're going camping with a huge group of people and I've been organizing all my lists this morning.

This morning they did Bible, current events, geography and history, personal finance, home economics, writing, chemistry and math.

That is combined for all of them.

Don't you love all my fun-colored lists?  I have one list of other lists I have to make!  I know it sounds crazy, but going camping is a lot of work, and since we're going somewhere four hours away, it's not like we can come get something we forget.  And we have forgotten things before, one time it was extra blankets and we froze the first night!  Todd had to make a trip home the next day to get them.  We'll be gone for three nights, so it takes a lot of thought and organization for this to go down smoothly.  I try to think of everything and make a list for it, so that we can spend just a few hours pulling it all together the day before.

The plan is for us to shop on Wednesday after the boys finish their school work, then we'll come home and pack.  I will have everything ready to go by Thursday morning, with the exception of the refrigerated items, and the cooler full of ice.  Todd will get the cooler ready and he will load everything while we go to our homeschool group.  We will leave our group as soon as their second hour of classes ends, and we hope to leave by two at the absolute latest.

I can't wait to get there and just sit by the fire.  We'll be doing a little bit of hiking to some water falls, so I am really, really anxious to just get there.  I know it'll be fun, as usual!

Well, that was a monstrous sized post.  If you're still reading, congratulations!  You made it to the end.  :)

Love to all.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

a little bit of everything

Every week at this point, I am stunned that another week has gone by so quickly.  It seems like my life goes from Friday to Friday.  I am glad I'm not "busy", though...that is one thing that we don't have much of right now, and for that, I am thankful.  Sports are not being played, school outside our home is not happening and both of those things contribute to this non-busy season we are currently in.

I am convinced that busy-ness is from the pit of hell.  And yes, I'm serious.  I wish I could tell you how many friends I have who let sports rule their lives.  And the lives of their kids.  We've never gotten into the competitive team sport thing, except for when they played lacrosse.  They did the church sports when they were young and will do them again if they become interested in them again.  I have come to hate sports that my kids play~not because I don't enjoy watching them play, but because of the parents around me.  At some point along the way, it stopped being just for fun and became more than a little mean spirited.

I'm all for playing well and performing to the best of our ability, but I don't like the seriousness with which some kids play.  And it's not just the kids, by the way, it stems from the parents.  I do not like competitiveness.

I know...some of this struggle is just me personally and how I can let fear of man take over my life.  (I am a people pleaser and want everyone to be happy and to get along.)  It's a real struggle with me, and it's something I am constantly working on.  I don't want to hinder my kids in any way, and though I would be happy if they never played another sport in these years at home, I don't want them to suffer because of the way I feel.

Right now in my life, I feel like I am in some sort of a holding pattern.  We're not busy, we don't have a lot going on outside of our little family, and I am content in that.  I know this won't last forever, so I am soaking up these moments while I can.  I have had some crazy seasons of life, being very busy every single day of the week, so trust me when I say that I am enjoying this time.

I am waiting.  I am trusting the Lord that He has me right where He wants me.  He is teaching me new things daily, through the study of His word and the Bible study I am currently in, and I am growing in the grace and knowledge of Him.  I can say the same for my kids.  They are studying the book of Second Timothy in their weekly Bible study, and I know that they are growing in that same way.  I am not saying that each day is perfect and that I am always happy, happy, happy~that is not the case, I assure you.  But I am confident that my kids will not forever be scarred by me.

I get upset with them over dumb things, and at my husband, and I have to go back and apologize.

I strive for perfection in my home, and I know I shouldn't.  My love for order and organization can quickly become an obsession of mine, so I have to try really hard to keep all of that in perspective.  I know that the mess will not be the end of the world, and I know that my kids will not grow up to be slobs.  (That made me smile.)

I also have to work really hard at not being judgmental.  Because I can so tend to be that way.  I have to remind myself that my salvation is not based on works, like Bible study and reading the Bible.

I have to remember to just let my husband talk without interrupting him.  He doesn't always need an answer when we talk, or a solution to what his problem is~he just needs a wife who will listen with a sympathetic ear.

I have to remind myself not to nag and to not be defensive when someone offers constructive criticism.  Because I tend to be defensive.

I have to stay far, far, far away from gossip.  Because I am drawn to it, like a moth to a flame.  I've had to pull away from relationships because of this, making me seem standoffish.  (At least, I'm pretty sure it's making me seem that way.)  I have to combat it all the time (in my head) with Scripture.  With phrases running through my head like, "Honor one another", or "Who is wise and understanding among you?", I am reminded of this truth over and over.

I have to remember that as Christians, we are called to be in unity with one another.  In Ephesians four, we are told that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism~and that we are all to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  We are to be using our spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gave us, and we are to be working together in these gifts, to build up Christ, so that we will reach unity in the faith.  Since when did it become okay for Christians to slander other Christians?  We have no idea what it's like to be in someone else's shoes until we have walked in them.  And yes, I am preaching to the choir.

I say all these things, because I am a constant work in progress.  I never want to be the same in my faith.  I always want to be growing closer and closer to my Lord Jesus, and in order to do that, He has to prune some yucky things off of me.  The things listed above are just a small example.  Have I given you ways you can pray for me?

The struggle is real.

I try to keep my mind fixed on Him.  In order for me to be able to do this, I am in His word all the time.  I love no other book more than I love the Word of God.  I pray throughout the day.  I listen to worship music.  I concentrate on the lyrics of the songs I sing, and I offer them back to Him in praise.

This is what I have playing while I write this.  I try to constantly fill my mind with music like this.

After meetings like today's at my homeschool group, I am so thankful for a group of like-minded women.  There is something so sweet and so precious about women getting to know one another with a common goal.  Our goal is prayer, our goal is unity in the faith.  In this day and time, this week day is so refreshing to me!  It's the one day when I don't hear of the horrid things going on in this world, I don't hear complaints, I just hear requests, pleas to God for mercy and wisdom and understanding and strength.  We meet and talk and pray and study His word.  It's been so amazing, as a small group leader, to see the women in my group grow in their faith.  I pray for them and for our group as a whole every time I pray.  We have struggles within our group~any time someone meets to study God's word, the enemy gets mad.  He tries to get his foothold in, but we meet early each week as small group leaders and pray against that.

I have a friend who told me about a dream her daughter had a while back, of a battle that she was witnessing.  Some people were being attacked from the left and right, and they were losing the battle.  There were others fighting that were clearly winning the battle.  My friend felt like the Lord was using her daughter's dream as a spiritual picture to show her the difference between people who pray to be dressed in their spiritual armor each day versus those who didn't pray for that.

I have taken to praying that I will be dressed each day in that armor~the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith~which is the word of God, the belt of truth and my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

I pray each day that I will long for Him, like the deer pants for the water.

And in doing these things, I rely on His strength, and He never lets me down.  I pray that in revealing my weaknesses, the Lord uses it to strengthen you in your walk with Him.  You are not alone in your struggles.  We all have our junk, and the Lord has been showing me how important it is to be transparent with one another.

Love to all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

another little bit (or a lot) of random post

I wish I had never known about Twizzlers Filled Twists.  I mean, the bag says "low fat snack", but I am verging on the brink of ridiculousness.  For some people, it's candy corn, for me, it's these little bits of evil.

We caught up on 19 Kids and Counting today.  Or as my husband calls them, 538 Kids and Counting.  Say what you want to about them, but I love them.  I'm really excited about next week's episode~Jill's wedding!

Before I watched the three episodes, I painted my toes and my nails.  :)  It was time for a change...I get tired of the same old colors after a while.  I pulled out my Every Month Is Oktoberfest.

Yes.  I take pictures of my bottles of nail polish.

I'll also use the above picture to tell you about the book I've been reading~The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible.  (That was a mouth full.)  The youth pastor at our church gave copies of this book to all of us who teach Bible Fellowship classes.  I am so grateful to be a part of working with the teenagers in our church.  What makes it even better is the fact that the leaders care so much about these teens, that they make sure we are giving them our all.  This book is filled with facts like starting with ourselves~if we don't spend time in the Word and with God, then teaching teenagers is impossible.  And of course I can't remember any right this moment.  It's a really great book, though.  I'm halfway through it.

My kids requested fried bologna for lunch.  It's a rare treat, but the house smelled kinda yuck after I cooked it, so I lit this delicious smelling candle.

I had a bowl of leftover loaded baked potato soup.

Because today (Finally!) feels a bit like Fall.  It's been really rainy here the past several days, and that brought in cooler temperatures.  If it takes rain to do that, then bring it.  I am officially over warm weather.

We are counting down the days until next Thursday!  We were invited to go camping with some friends of our neighbors.  Jonah and Noah went camping last Halloween with Alex, their best friend who lives on our street.  Their family goes with a huge group of people every year and this year we were invited.  I can't wait!  We're going to Petit Jean, which is somewhere in the mountains in Arkansas.  I've been watching the weather and it should be perfect~sunny and sixties in the day and the low fifties and forties at night.  I haven't been camping in a year and a half, so it's long overdue!  We'll leave on Thursday afternoon, after our homeschool group and return on Sunday evening.

Jonah went looking for Crash's toys today and found all of them.  Most were under pieces of furniture, but the big green ring was buried in the backyard.  I don't know how he found it, but Crash has been licking the thing ever since.  It's been about a month since we've seen it inside.

Yes, you counted seven toys.  He is beside himself and doesn't know which one to play with first.

I am sad to be wearing shoes other than flip flops.  I mean, not really, since it's cooler, but a little.  I sent my mom a text saying just that, and she totally got it.  It can be thirty something degrees outside and she and I both will be wearing flip flops inside.  I am so her child.

My sister Debi turns a year older tomorrow!  She is celebrating in New York City and is getting to do some really cool things while she's there.  I talked to her for five minutes earlier and she told me their cab driver was trying to kill them and that she was clinging to the door.  I can so see her freaking out in the backseat of a cab in New York!  I wish I was with her.

I really, really, really want to celebrate my birthday in NYC.  Not this year, but maybe my fortieth.  That gives me a couple years to dream and save.  I want to go with my best friend~we talked about this the last time we were together and we talked about all that we wanted to do while we were there.  We want to go in December, when it's cold and can see the Rockefeller Center tree.  And we want to see at least one Broadway play.

And...speaking of oldest boys are wanting to go on their first mission trip this coming spring!  Graham wanted to go last year, but missed out because he missed the deadline.  Be looking for a post about this soon~they are going to be sending out fundraising letters in the next couple of weeks.  Graham has already got a hundred dollars from sweet missionary friends who sponsored him when they were here last year.  (Can you even believe their generosity?  I cried when he told me.)  Anyway...they will be going to Guatemala to work with a children's home, Casa Aleluya.  I am excited for them!

Well...I have to run Graham up to church, so I have to cut this short.  Thanks for reading!  Love to all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a day of homeschooling

You might find this boring.  If so, then keep scrolling.  I've been documenting their  school work schedule in my journal this year~the past couple years I have not been that great at documentation, but this year, I am finally on top of things.  (It's about time.)  I also plan out their days in my journal...usually I write things down as I remember them, and often times, that happens in the early morning quiet.

I thought I would share that on here.  I know some people are just naturally curious about what we do, and that's understandable.  If you're like me, and you homeschool, you just like to know what other people are doing, just in case you might be missing something really spectacular.

Or you might just wonder if we really have school each day.

:)  We do.  I assure you.

Consider this kind of a 'day in the life' style post of a typical day around here.

I wake up and have quiet time.  I read in my Bible, I pray, I journal, and I drink at least one cup of coffee.

I wake the boys up about thirty minutes to an hour later.  They have breakfast, I start laundry, we pray and go over their work for the week.

They head upstairs to have their quiet time, make their beds, and brush their teeth, then they get started.

While they are getting started, I clean up from breakfast and fold laundry and start another load.  If the load is huge, then I make them help me.  I use this time to do Bible study or homework for what we're doing at our homeschool group.  This stretch of time is usually at least two hours long, but more like three.  They work solidly for three hours every morning~we all share in the fact that this is our most productive time of day.

I start making lunch and we usually eat between noon and noon thirty.  ;)  And lunch never is just sandwiches.  It's usually hot and requires the stove top and/or oven.  I love this part of homeschooling, especially when the days are dreary and cool, like today.  My kids love a hot lunch and I love making it for them.

Sometimes we eat lunch at the kitchen table, sometimes we eat in front of the television.  Today we ate in the living room and watched Dancing With The Stars and The Voice battle round one from last night.

We all clean up after lunch and they use this time to put away any folded laundry from the morning.

After lunch, they finish any work they've not completed yet.  If we don't have anywhere to go, they stay in their pajamas or comfy clothes until after their work is done.  (I know~it's rough.)

All in all, Jonah and Noah are usually done in about three hours.  That's with their written work.  To make that time stretch, I tack on reading time, art, music, and life skills.  They help me with laundry, the preparation of meal times, loading and unloading the dishwasher and animal upkeep.  They walk the dogs, brush them, bathe them and keep their water bowl filled.  They keep their living quarters totally clean~they are each responsible for their rooms, so that means straightening up, making beds, pulling their sheets/blankets/pillow cases off when they need washing and putting them back on afterward, they dust, they vacuum, they are totally responsible for Buddy, the leopard gecko.

It usually ends up being about four and a half to five hours of work each day, still much shorter than the average brick-and-mortar school day.

Graham and Drew, on the other hand, have work that is longer and more tedious and difficult.  Their work takes longer, and with just written work alone, they each put in about five hours a day.

If you would like to know what subjects they take, I will tell you.

Each of them do math, grammar, science, history and Bible.  Those are their "main" subjects.  There is also current events, literature, vocabulary, spelling, creative writing, etymology, Spanish, geography, typing and their classes they take at our homeschool group.

So, I would say that our days are full.  We do lots, and I feel like I am constantly adding to their work load.  If anything looks interesting enough, we try it.  We might not always like it and we'll stop, and we don't do every single subject on every single day, but that's basically what we do.  There are guidelines for me to follow that are required by the state of Tennessee, and especially now that the older two are in high school, I have to be more meticulous.

There are days that are highly frustrating and there are days that are not.  Each day is rewarding, in its own special way.  I love, love, love every part of homeschooling my boys.  I am so thankful that I get to do this everyday, and I pray that our rights are always kept safe.  My kids love it and are always telling me thank you for what we do.  I would say that those words are confirmation enough that this is something we will do until they graduate high school.  And yes, they will actually have a high school graduation.  It'll be at Bellevue.
Thanks for reading this and for humoring my love of sharing my life.  And hopefully, I inspired someone to think about homeschooling their kids~it's not always easy, but it's nowhere near as difficult as you would think.  I have people on back up I call for help, when it's needed.

I will leave you with a couple pictures from our day today.

After the work is finished, they find time to construct things on their own that people have given us.  They also get their tool boxes out to make minor repairs around our home.  Thanks to my hubby, for getting them each their own tool box last year for Christmas.  I'm also trying to be more "fun" at homeschooling and do more science experiments.  Experiments are the best way they learn.  Today we made it "rain".

Well.  I have to run.  Love to all!

Monday, October 13, 2014

a dinner worthy of a blog post and something exciting

Our dinner was shut-your-mouth good tonight.  I wasn't really going to make a good dinner; the plan was to have something easy, since tonight was a women's event at church.  But then the rain came and I got cold, so I put on my pajamas, and then I turned on The Food Network, and then...well, the rest is history.

My family is glad that I was motivated by Ina Garten. (The Barefoot Contessa.)

I love her, by the way.  She and her husband are the most adorable couple, and they've been married for almost fifty years.

Anyway, I decided to make loaded baked potato soup.  Someone asked me for a recipe, and I don't have a "formal" recipe, so I'll share what I added to make it so yummy.  (I never said it was low calorie, so keep your judgmental thoughts to yourself, please.)

I diced two and a half pounds (roughly) of potatoes with the skin on and in my Dutch oven, put enough water in them to cover the potatoes, plus about two inches.  While they are boiling, it's important to add salt at this point.  Potatoes are like pasta~they're hard to get salty enough, so if you add the salt while they're boiling, they're perfect.  I added about two tablespoons of organic sea salt.

After about twenty minutes, they were done.  Graham blew my hand mixer up a while back, so I mashed them by hand, with my potato masher.

When the soup was fairly creamy, I added in a couple tablespoons each of garden veggie cream cheese, jalapeno cream cheese and about a cup of chive and onion cream cheese.  I splashed in about three tablespoons of milk and I stirred in about a cup of sour cream.  I added a couple tablespoons of minced onion, a couple shakes of seasoned salt and a teaspoon of parsely flakes.

I put them back onto the heat to get the cheeses and the cream to melt, and let it get nice and hot, then I turned the heat back off and covered them up with the lid.

To make it even more special, I chopped up chives for garnish, and I made some turkey bacon in the microwave (on a bacon tray) to get it extra crispy.  I also made homemade croutons for the first time.  (Shut up.  I will NEVER again buy store-brand croutons.)

To make the croutons, I cut up some crusty bread, like foccacia, that I had in the fridge.  It was even kinda moldy, so I just trimmed off all the parts I could use.  I cut them into good-sized chunks and mixed them with olive oil, organic sea salt and a couple of shakes of low sodium Mrs. Dash.  I baked them at four hundred and twenty-five degrees for twelve minutes, and they turned out beautifully~golden brown and super crunchy.

Lest you die from not seeing pictures, I took some.

I told you.  To die for.  It was so good, that all my people ate it, with zero complaints.

For dessert, I made up this apple tart thing, that looks really good.  We'll see how it tastes.  I made enough of a crust to spread on a sheet pan, then covered sliced apples with brown sugar and cinnamon and baked it for an hour.

This is what rainy days do to me.  Notice nobody is over here complaining, though.  ;)

The exciting part of this post is that I was asked to be on the launch team for Kelly Minter's new Bible study coming out soon, called What Love Is.  It's a study on 1, 2, and 3 John.  I cannot wait to do this study during the Christmas break.  I can no longer do multiple things at a time, so I figured that during Christmas would be the perfect opportunity for me to do this one.  I don't like to stay idle~I always like to have a study going.  This will be a welcome break from my usual in-depth Bible study that I do with our homeschool group on Thursday.

I love Bible study.  I especially love studying whole books of the Bible in a study.  Stay tuned, and I will let you know how I like this one.  Until then, excuse all the posts you will see from me on social media.  That's part of the deal of being on the launch team for something like this.

Thanks for reading!  I've had "new" people read lately, so thanks for that!  Love to all.

Friday, October 10, 2014

something to look forward to

I hesitate to write posts like this, because they can come across morbid.  I'm going to write it anyway.  :)

Today was a really emotional afternoon for me.  I wish I could tell you the reason, except that I don't know the reason.  I'm chalking it up to hormones.  

If you know me at all, you know that my dad spends every single Friday with us, unless one of us is out of town.  I consider this such a blessing, because he is like living history for my boys.  There have been many days that he has told them about life when he was a boy, and yes...I consider that a history lesson.  By the greatest teacher ever.  :)  

The older I get, the faster the weeks go, and we've taken to saying, "It's almost Friday!", during the week via text messaging.  Yes, he's eighty-three and he can text like nobody's business.  Except that I'm pretty sure he thinks LOL means "lots of love".  We'll go with that.

Today when I saw him, I was so grateful to have made it to yet another Friday.  Our afternoons fly by.  We always go somewhere to eat, then we usually come back to my house and solve all the world's problems until four, when it's time for him to go home.  

Today when he was leaving, I hugged him twice before letting him out the door.  Then it dawned on me that I forgot to tell the boys that he was leaving, so when I called for them to come say goodbye, they all ran out the door.  Even Alex, who was with us today.  

When I took this picture, I had big ole crocodile tears running down my face.  I was just so overcome with emotion that I couldn't stop them.  I loved that the boys ran out to hug him, that they are always so willing to show affection, no matter their age.  

And I was struck with the reminder that we should never take one single day for granted.  We should never forget to say "goodbye", or "I love you".  None of us ever know when we will breathe our last breath on this earth and step into our forever.  

I know there is a Heaven...I don't need a book or a movie or a dream to reassure me of it.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is a place called Heaven.  I know that no matter how amazing our greatest day on earth is, it pales in comparison to what Heaven will be like.  There will be streets of gold (Revelation 21:21) and a glassy sea (Revelation 15:2) and there will be no need for any light, because it will be provided by the Lord Himself (Revelation 22:5).  

And somewhere in all that awesomeness, we will see our loved ones again.  Never again will we have to utter a "goodbye", never again will we be separated from those we love most.  

I think that's what got me today~my aversion of saying "goodbye".  It doesn't matter if it's for a year or for a week, I do not love saying that word.  

I am full of hope that as great as my life is, it's nothing compared to what my forever will be.  

Have you thought about that?  Where will you spend eternity?  

If you want to talk, reach out to me.  I would love to share with you this hope I have deep within me.  

Love to all.