In Your Shoes

In Your Shoes (AN Open Letter to My Children)

My dear children,

You were born exactly when and where the Lord wanted you. His ways are perfect. As your mama, I for one, am blessed with the privilege of having you in my life. A privilege that I am grateful for every day. You truly fill my life with love and laughter. I try my best to show you just how much you mean to me and how deep my love for you is, I really do.  But it is difficult to demonstrate how great and vast that piece of my heart is that you hold in your hands. Even the popular quote a beloved children’s book “I love you to the moon…and back” doesn’t even seem adequate. A mother’s love runs wide and deep. And it is true.

I love you, deeply.

But today I felt burdened to remind you of something else as well— I pray for you every single day. This mother’s heart sometimes breaks as I watch you struggle with personal issues and besetting sins, and then I rejoice with you when I see you have victories in certain areas. You conquer your fears with courage and fight your emotional battles with determination. I weep when you weep and I laugh when you laugh. But inner personal trials are not the only conflicts that one frequently encounters during life. Sadly you, like every one else, face external struggles on a daily basis. This is an age old problem, to be sure, but I often reflect on the multitude of complex challenges that you, my 21st century children, have to face. And in that moment, I acknowledge the unique adversities that you constantly confront that past generations never even dreamed possible. I cannot deny that we do live in a great day of opportunity. We absolutely do. Progress and technology can be and is a great blessing. But it can also become our worst enemy when not handled with extreme caution.

In Your Shoes (An Open Letter to My Children)

So I pray earnestly for you.

Your walk through childhood and adolescence is a hard one. I didn’t have to face half of the issues that you do.

I didn’t have the weight of the worldwide web on my shoulders. Google wasn’t even in my vocabulary. No one had to caution me at the age of ten about the dangers of this powerful thing called the internet, cyber bullying and online predators.

I didn’t have technology at my fingertips and neither did my friends  The pressure to fit in and possess the most recent form of tech toy never even crossed my mind.

I didn’t have to face the open attack and onslaught of God’s perfect design for marriage. A man and a woman was still recognized as the union for establishing a home and rearing a family.

I didn’t have to worry about peers with guns, that hurting people would lash out in their pain with awful destruction.

I didn’t have to shield my eyes from some of the open and blatant images that are considered entertainment and channeled into our homes in the name of family television and commercialism.

I didn’t have the drama of social media adding to the already challenging waters of building and maintaining innocent relationships with my friends.

I didn’t have to battle the ever-present cellphone at every turn, hindering healthy, real communication with family and friends.

The list could go on and on.

In Your Shoes (An Open Letter to My Children)

At this point I want you to know that I am sorry. I have to be honest with myself—and more importantly with you—and admit that I often fail to remember how the world as I once knew it no longer exists. I also have to confess that the passing of time does tend to dim some of the challenges of youthful living. I have forgotten some of what it is like to be your age. And I want to humbly apologize for not always remembering these realities in certain moments with you.  Please forgive me.

Times really have changed, and most of them for the good. The nearly twenty-five years since I was your age has resulted in countless advancements in society, education and technology. However, most would also agree that some developments have been our downfall as a nation. Our moral compass has shifted, and we have become calloused to what is appropriate for our eyes to behold and our thoughts to dwell on, let alone those of our children. In turn, our parental blind eye has allowed influences into the hearts and lives of our offspring that are greatly costing them, sometimes everything. We somehow don’t even see the hurt and confusion registering on their young faces and mirroring in their eyes. How did this happen?

Is it because we never took the time to ponder about the days of their youth, the particular issues and influences that are rooted in their generation?

May this never be true in my heart, my sweet ones.

I pray that I will be ever watchful to your needs and attentive to your silent cries for guidance, those moments where you are subtly hinting for a listening ear. I know that you probably think that thirty-four is old, but I can well remember bashfully attempting to bring up difficult conversations and embarrassing topics with my own mom. So I do understand. It’s not always easy to broach issues that confuse and leave one wondering about life. And you know what else? The dirty floors can wait as can the dishes and the laundry. They will always be there, but you will not. My window to nurture and love you through this season of your life, your childhood, is small and growing smaller every day. So if you get nothing else from this letter, please take this promise to heart and know this simple truth without a doubt.

I am always here for you. Always.

And today I want to take my deep love for you to an even greater level of mothering. Today I want to stretch myself as a mom, to learn lessons that I can in turn pass on to you. But how does one do that? How can I better understand the thoughts and issues that shape another person’s life? Moments when I want nothing more than to aptly teach and instruct you through challenging situations?  When I desperately desire to find the words to whisper fervent prayers for you, these precious souls at my feet? I think that I found the answer and it really is quite simple. If I want to see the world through your eyes, then I need to put myself where I have never been.

Today I put myself in your shoes.

Much love,

Mom

In Your Shoes (An Open Letter to My Children)

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Burdened for the youth of today. Take a moment to pray for them, please.

                               Thank you so much for reading.

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{Gluten Free} Patriotic Fruit Pizza

The smell of food grilling, juicy watermelon slices, ice cold lemonade—these all scream summertime cookouts to me. You add the presence of family and friends, a dab of red, white and blue and moments of quiet reflection on the precious freedoms that we Americans daily enjoy and I am overwhelmed with the blessings of life in this great country.

Love. Pride. Gratefulness.

For our Memorial Day cookout, I decided to try a new dessert. Being the typical 2015 female, I scoured Pinterest for patriotic desserts. Don’t get me wrong. I still love and use my cookbooks, but when I need a specific recipe for an event, I need visual recipes. Pinterest, the King of eye-catching photos, fills the bill every time.

I wanted a light dessert with loads of fresh fruit. A fruit pizza would be perfect for our holiday cookout.

I quickly found one (original source) that was basically what I wanted and then I altered it to meet our lifestyle. We are not a gluten free family per se, but we have greatly reduced the amount of gluten that we consume. For now, our tummies are enjoying this change. We may jump on the gluten free bandwagon later.

gluten free patriotic fruit pizza

(Disclosure: Some of the links below contain affiliate links. I may earn a little bit of money which helps keep this blog up and running. All opinions are 100% my own. )

The cookie crust turned out delicious in spite of my worries of working with gluten free flour and xanthan gum for the first time. I seriously could not tell a difference.

gluten free fruit pizzaMake sure that the crust is pressed evenly and not too thin. I added a touch of arrowroot starch to make the crust super soft…and it did. Yum.

easy gluten free fruit pizzaArranging the fruit was where the inner artist in me rose to the surface. It was also when the perfectionist side of me came up to bat. Guess who won? Neither.

Sheesh. I had to remind myself that it didn’t have to be startlingly beautiful just to eat and nor did it have to be perfect in the eyes of Pinterest. Once I let go of both of these issues, I was thrilled with my circular stripes pattern and the single “strawberry star” in the center.

It was red, white and blue and that made me happy.

patriotic gluten free fruit pizzaLest you continue drooling on your screen, here is my recipe.

{Gluten Free} Patriotic Fruit Pizza
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
A classic fruit pizza on a health kick. This recipe is a gluten free and organic twist on this popular summertime dessert. The sugar cookie crust is soft and chewy and is layered with yummy cream cheese frosting and organic "patriotic" fruits.
Ingredients
  • Sugar Cookie Crust
  • ½ c. organic butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¾ c. organic cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ c. gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum, slightly heaped (this is to account for the extra ½ cup flour)
  • 1½ tsp arrowroot starch/flour (*optional- used to help make the cookie REALLY soft)
  • Toppings
  • 1 (8 oz.) block of organic cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ c. organic butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1½ c. organic powdered sugar (I cut back from the two cups recommended)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. of organic heavy cream or milk
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • Fresh organic fruit, washed and sliced if needed ( strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
Instructions
  1. In mixer, beat butter until it is soft and creamy.
  2. Add sugar and mix until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides when needed.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together soda, salt, flour, xanthan gum and arrowroot starch.
  5. While beating the butter mixture, slowly add the dry ingredients. Again, scrape down the sides as needed.
  6. ***Chill the dough for at least 30 MINUTES (or up to one full day). This prevents crust from flattening when baked.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Press dough onto a pizza pan (or into a circle on a cookie sheet)
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Do NOT overbake.
  10. Allow crust to cool completely. (pop it into the fridge if you have to speed things up)
  11. For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
  12. Add the powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp of cream (or milk). Beat for two minutes.
  13. Add the vanilla and IF NEEDED, the other Tbsp of cream (or milk). Mix well.
  14. Spread frosting on the completely cooled crust and arrange fruit in desired pattern. Chill before serving.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days. (three would be the recommended limit.) However if your family and friends are anything like mine, this treat will not last long. It was gone by breakfast the next morning.

Gluten Free Patriotic Fruit PizzaThis would also be perfect to serve at your Fourth of July gathering. Word to the wise, better play it safe and make two. Enjoy.

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So what did you end up making for your Memorial Day festivities? Anything special? Do you try to serve something red, white and blue? Share your thoughts and recipes. I’d love to hear.

                               Thank you so much for reading.

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How To Grow A Family Garden

 

On our quest for more fruits and veggies this year, we decided to branch out and grow a few more veggies than the norm. Eh? Well, the norm for us would be two or three sadly neglected and slumping tomato plants. My dad would be sorely disappointed at the sight of our annual mini-garden. Maybe three plants of the same variety doesn’t even count as a garden, but then again, we are not claiming to be farmers.

In an effort to boost the life expectancy of our plants and to encourage healthy agriculture that, ahem, that actually yields a modest harvest, I am recruiting some help.

It’s called family, people. And I need them.

How To Grow A Family Garden

 

Perhaps cultivating a family garden will help inspire all the non-hired hands to pitch in and make it a success. Considering that I’ll be nine months pregnant by summer’s end, I will certainly need all the help that can be mustered to push the plants to the finish line and harvest a decent crop. (Seriously, I won’t even be able to see my toes much less capable of bending over to a pluck a bell pepper from its bush.)

A tomato or two from each plant would make my summer. Any more and I’ll consider us a homesteading family.

Complete with our 4×8 patch of land.

Here are five basic tips on growing a family garden.

1. Pick the best area for your garden

For us, it is a given that we plant it in our backyard. We have HOA regulations that we have to abide by and pretty much eliminates any other option. It is the best location for our little garden anyways. The front of the house is clearly out, because, I mean really, who plows up their front lawn for produce? The west side of the house has some drainage problems and doesn’t receive enough sun and the east side has rodent issues that we are addressing. So we are left with the best choice (and the approved one), our backyard. Take the time to think through all of the pros and cons of each location before turning the soil. Doing it twice would not be fun.

2. Cultivate the soil

Everyone’s land is different. Here in the south we have quite a bit of red clay and sand which is not the best for growing a garden. Learn what you may have to mix in with your soil to create a garden bed in which your plants will truly thrive. In other words, know your dirt. Here’s a soil tester that may be of help to you as prepare your bed for your plants.

3. Choose your plants

Research plants that do really well in your climate. Talk with your friends and neighbors about what they are growing this year or have grown in years past. You may find that you can learn from their mistakes and avoid a costly and timely mishap. You also need to keep in mind, however, that sometimes specific plants do better than others for a myriad of reasons. Last year it may have been the tomatoes and this year the cucumbers may be the vegetable that surpasses your expectations…and that you can’t give away fast enough. A family can only eat so many jars of pickles, right?

You could also encourage your children in their love for vegetables by allowing them to be in charge of “their” favorite veggie, selecting the plant or seeds, weeding and watering and harvesting their produce for the family table.
*For those that may be curious: we have a variety of tomato plants, bell peppers and cucumber plants. Wish them luck, please.How To Grow A Family Garden

 

4. Care for your garden

This is where I typically fall off the wagon. Life gets busy with summer activities and I neglect my poor veggies far too often. Spend time nurturing your plants and they in turn will be good to you. Water them faithfully if your area goes through a dry spell. Remove weeds that may threaten your plants survival and stealing away nutrients that your plant needs. Keep your eyes peeled for bugs on your plants or even signs of rodents that have been nibbling your plants. I have already had issues with bugs on my tomato plants. You may need to research different methods to resolve these issues whether it be dusting your garden or perhaps even building a mesh cover (like seen on this blog) to protect your vegetables from pests, large or small. Or you may be like me and want to research all-natural ways for keeping your garden safe and healthy.

As a way to teach your children responsibility and how to work together, assign each child a section of the garden or their favorite veggies to weed and water during the growing season. They will enjoy watching their plants grow during the coming summer months.

5. Enjoy the Benefits of Your Hard Labor

As harvest time approaches, this is where your children will become increasingly excited about watching the produce grow and ripen, ready for picking. To be honest, I enjoy reaping the rewards of many hours caring for the garden. Make sure that the plants are still properly tied and staked so that you do not lose any produce rotting on the ground. Take the time to teach everyone what that particular vegetable should look like when it is ready to be picked. We recently picked over forty pounds of strawberries at a local farm and I spent a few minutes showing what a ripe strawberry looked and felt like to my girls. Whether you are eating your produce fresh, freezing or canning your harvest, you and your family will realize one thing.

Fresh, homegrown food tastes so much better.

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So make it a family affair this summer. Learn about agriculture. Make memories. Teach them about responsibility and hard work. Enjoy fresh, real food. Together.

how to grow a family garden pin

(Disclosure: Some of the links contain affiliate links. I may earn a little bit of money which helps keep this blog up and running. All opinions are 100% my own. )

                               Thank you so much for reading.

Please take a moment to share this post, and then click here to follow along on Facebook. You will find additional helpful tips, encouraging articles, personal stories and so much more. I would love to have you join me there.

12 Things To Buy From Costco

I get all giddy and excited about shopping at Costco. I’m not sure why I love that store so. Perhaps it’s because I can stock up and purchase the amounts of food needed to nourish my large, growing family. Sure, buying at grocery stores with sales and coupons may be more cost effective…on occasion. However, my time and the cost of gas for multiple store trips is also an important factor. Sometimes simplifying my grocery shopping to mainly this “Warehouse Giant” is exactly what our family needs during this busy season of our lives.

So, flashing my Costco membership card and entering the wholesale club is truly a special treat. Knowing that prices can sometimes be a bit more than what I may find on a given week at a local grocery store, I try my best to be savvy when I shop at Costco. Here are some of my top staples that I purchase from Costco.

12 Things to Buy From Costco

1. Butter

I have found that their organic butter is a better price than purchasing it at Target, Trader Joes or Whole Foods. It is a great deal for two pounds of butter. We have also recently started using Kerrygold butter which is made from grass-fed cows. It is absolutely delicious. We still use the organic butter for baking and cooking and such, but use the grass-fed butter to flavor bread, rice, potatoes, etc. Costco has the best price on the Kerrygold that I have found.

2. Sour Cream

I get Organic Valley sour cream when it is on sale and I have coupons or sometimes I grab a 16 oz. tub of Trader Joes organic sour cream. However, grabbing a 3 lb tub of sour cream from Costco has been easiest for me lately and saves gas and time from chasing deals at multiple stores. While I do try to do my best with purchasing healthy, quality items for my family to enjoy, there are times when conveniently getting the quantity needed trumps store-chasing. (And yes, we use three lbs just about every week.) We typically have baked potatoes, taco salad and other dishes that require sour cream. For example, I just made my favorite biscuit recipe this morning which uses two cups of sour cream. Sour cream is a staple for our family, for sure.

3. Milk

Costco seems to have the best price around for milk. However, I must admit that we have stopped getting it from there that often. The jugs make pouring difficult, even my husband and I are lucky if we manage to not spill any on the counter. For me, paying a little bit more for a gallon that I can handle without waste is worth it to me. I would LOVE to find a local farmer to obtain fresh milk, but until then or until we own a cow (laughing over that one!), we merely look for the best price in our local stores.

4.Produce

I purchase our produce here, there and everywhere, but there are a number of items that I nearly always pick up at Costco. It has become my go-to place for frozen organic broccoli spears, organic whole carrots, cantaloupe, organic spinach or spring mix and bananas. The prices on these select pieces beat Trader Joes and Whole Foods just about every time. For instance, a one pound bag of organic whole carrots costs $0.87 at Trader Joes, but I can get a ten pound bag of organic carrots for $6.79 at Costco, bringing it to roughly $0.68 per lb. I know that to most people ten pounds of carrots sounds like a lot, but if you make your own stock, eat them raw, make soups/stews/pot pies or cook them as a side dish, or use them in desserts like this one, you go through them rather quickly. You could also prep and freeze them.

5. Coconut Oil

I recently read an article on the coconut oil that Costco carries. It was persuasive enough that I purchased a tub from there the next time I was in the store. The price was decent and the quality of the oil was equally as satisfying. I enjoyed being able to get a large amount and not having to wait for a sale and/or free shipping from an online company. The fact that I am purchasing the coconut oil in a store such as Costco allows me to be able to get that particular brand at an even cheaper rate than you would find on Amazon or even on the company’s website. I love bulk buying.

Here’s the link to the article that I read:

http://wholenewmom.com/reaching-out/is-costcos-coconut-oil-junk-or-the-real-deal/

6. Baking Soda

While on our healthy living journey, we have found that we use quite a bit of baking soda. Like many, we obviously use it for baking and for numerous family favorite recipes. It is also used as a paste to help scour out our oven, remove film in our bathtubs and serves as a large component in my simple 3-ingredient homemade laundry detergent. Needless to say, we go through quite a bit of baking soda in our household. Buying it in bulk enables me to save nearly 50% per pound, even without a coupon or sale price. A 13.5 pound bag of Arm & Hammer baking soda is only $5.75. I’ll take it.

7. Yeast

Over the years, I had heard about people buying their yeast in bulk and pretty much ignored the sage advice until I sat down and crunched the numbers. Yeast packets typically run over a dollar (sometimes $1.99) for 0.75 ounces. You can imagine my elation to be able to nab a two pound bag of yeast for $4.49. Wow. I could not believe how much money I had been spending on the individually pre-measured packets. Granted, I was often buying them on sale and with a coupon, but now that we no longer get a newspaper with coupons, I was just buying them at the price available. No more.  Ten cents per 3/4 of an ounce tops two dollars any day.

8. Sugar

I had been buying our organic sugars from Whole Foods bulk section, however I found that Costco boasted better prices on organic cane juice sugar and turbinado cane sugar. Since I was already buying in bulk and had storage containers, switching to Costco was no biggie. I am buying a bit more at a time this way, but it has been great for prepping ahead and stocking our freezer with homemade goodies. Having plenty of dry goods on hand also inspires me to make as many things as I can from scratch…which is just the nudge I need. The raw sugar (turbinado) is $7.99 for six pounds ($1.33 per lb) and the cane juice sugar is $8.59 for ten pounds ($0.86 per lb). We try to limit our sugar intake, but when we do use a sweetener, it feels good to use a more natural and unrefined option.

9. Vinegar

Just like the baking soda, our family goes through vinegar at a fairly rapid rate. We use it in our homemade glass cleaner, during the monthly cleaning of our coffee maker (I haven’t missed a month since I posted this technique!!), as a natural rinsing agent in our dishwasher, in our homemade all-purpose cleaner (will share soon) and in various food recipes. I can’t live life without it. It is $3.29 for a large five liter bottle.

10. Raw Honey

This is one that I’m still wanting to try. It is a new product that they just brought in, but I didn’t have room in our budget this week. I will get it next week. It is a large bottle of raw, unfiltered honey that is produced in the USA. I can’t remember the size of the bottle, but the price was $14.99. I do know that it was a much better deal than the raw honey that I picked up from Whole Foods. I love using honey in my homemade bbq sauce, topping a generous spoon on my favorite biscuit recipe, and using it to sweeten my evening cup of Mother-to-be herbal tea.

11. Brown Rice

I shared last week on my facebook page that our family has started a new menu tradition. It’s called “Beans and Rice Wednesday” and we all love it. It helps relieve some of the typical Wednesday afternoon and evening chaos and takes the question mark out of dinner prep. I finally bit the bullet, put on my big girl pants and learned how to successfully cook brown rice so that we all enjoy it. I don’t even miss our old organic white rice. While strolling through the aisles and just browsing the shelves to see new products that they’ve added, I realized that buying my brown rice from Costco instead of Trader Joes would save my family several dollars. I was so excited to have another easy staple to add to my Costco list, an item that typically never goes on sale or has coupons at other stores. It is $12.39 for an eight pound bag which equals to roughly $1.50 per pound. Other store prices that I found for organic brown basmati rice was $2.50 per pound.  We eat rice at least twice a week, so saving money on this staple makes me happy.

12. Cakes

When you are in a pinch and need something quick for parties and special events, Costco has the best prices around on their sheet cakes. Most stores charge over $20 for 1/4 of a sheet cake, however, Costco sells their 1/2 half sheet cakes for only $18. Their cakes are delicious as well, excellent flavor and very moist. So when you need a helping hand as a hostess, Costco is your friend.

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I am truly trying to really reign in our grocery budget (again) and Costco is a huge help with reaching this goal for 2015. While I have gotten back into couponing (on a very limited basis), there are certain staples that are not effected by this decision. Shopping at Costco for the things listed above helps me not feel like I should be hunting for them at other stores. Costco has the best price for these twelve items—all the time—end of story.

     While Costco does not accept manufacturer coupons, they do offer their own coupons for some products. The coupon deals change every month and since 2014 the coupons are now automatically applied at the checkout. No need to haul around the coupon book or clip anything. (I am a HUGE fan of this change!)

I did want to add that you can use the electronic coupon rebates for Costco products. You can save even more money on the basics like milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fruit and veggies. You can also save money on household items like paper towels, paper plates, diapers, plastic storage bags and so much more.

Starting today Costco will have their Dixie plates on sale and their Ziploc baggies. I plan on submitting both of these for the SavingStar rebates next week. There is a $5/$30 SC Johnson rebate that includes the bulk boxes of Ziploc baggies and also a rebate for $1/2 Ziploc baggies. There is also a rebate for $5/$25 Dixie/Vanity Fair rebate. Again I will maximize this deal with Costco’s wholesale price, their store coupon and this electronic rebate. (Both of these rebates are cumulative until you reach the required amount…so no need to drop a ton of money all in one trip.)

Here are some of my favorite electronic coupon apps.

Snap by Groupon

Checkout 51

Ibotta

SavingStar

So what do you do to help save money on staples? Do you have a certain store that helps with non-coupon items such as these? Anything that you would add to this Costco list? Have a warehouse club membership to Costco or perhaps a similar store? Share. I’d love to hear your input.

Have a great day.

 

 

 

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