Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Bite--Week 1, Task 1

Chaos is my middle name, along with stress, clutter, walking disaster... It seems like I'm always missing something. That saying about losing your head if it weren't attached--yeah, that's me. It seems like I'm always trying something new to keep myself together. I try a lot of things, but usually get bored or overwhelmed with it before any real progress is made. I've been struggling to get things in order and I need help.  Fortunately, I have found a group of ladies who are willing to help me with both the motivation and encouragement.

I was eavesdropping following along with a Twitter conversation last week between two of my Tweeps who were talking about starting a new series called "One Bite At A Time." Tsh Oxenrider has created a fabulous e-book about small and easy steps you can do to get (and stay) organized. I think it is the perfect opportunity to get started and have my much needed motivation. Every Friday, I will check-in over at Sam's Noggin and link up with the group, encourage others and be encouraged. Sound like fun?

So here's the rundown--Week 1, Project 1

Cleaning the kitchen completely after dinner--3/4 nights I cooked--not so hard. The night I didn't do it, I regretted it the next day.

Updating my billing at the office--1/1--made a big difference in my day.

Overall, I think I did pretty well considering my natural lack of motivation. Up next week, Project 26. I was going to try to go in order but I decided against it. I am actually considering spending more than one week on #26. I will link back up next week with my progress. 

If you would like to join us, head on over to Sam's Noggin to check in. You can even buy the e-book directly from her site or go to 52 Bites to purchase it.

Coming up this weekend (hopefully!)--my 3 in 30 Challenge for October plus I am going to add some pages to my blog with links for people and things I love and more about me (with pictures if my amazingly wonderful photographer friend will pitch in). Also, I'm working on a button and some design tweaks (again, I need my photographer friend for creative details). 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall, Football and Finger Foods

Sometimes, Fall is my favorite season. It would be my favorite season all the time except where I live, the seasons seem to skip from Summer to Winter back to Summer with very little transition (like Spring or Fall). Most years, the calendar tells me what season I'm in, not the weather. The last 2 Saturdays have been spent watching the kids play soccer. The 1st Saturday, it was freezing. The temperature was warm but the wind was cold so I spent both games wishing I had gotten out the winter coat instead of just the hoodie. The 2nd Saturday was hot. Before I left home, I debated with myself about whether I should grab my hoodie in case it was another windy day. I should have debated whether wearing shorts and a tank top was appropriate for the end of September! 

Fall also means football. Now if you have ever lived in the South, you know that football is king. And if you've never lived in the South, well bless your heart. So football is king. You either play along or get left out. I'm not a *huge* football fan but I can appreciate a good game and I love the social part of it. It is so much fun to sit in a crowded stadium with tons of other fans and yell and scream and do the wave. Unfortunately, unless it's high school football, I only manage to get to the crowded stadium games once or twice a year. To make up for that, I like to have people over to watch the game. I don't do anything fancy for snacks and we always have finger food. A couple of my favorite finger food recipes are below.

*Both of these recipes are original in that I have never seen them published anywhere and they came to me by either word of mouth or by experimenting in the kitchen. If you recognize either of them from a cookbook or website, let me know and I will be happy to credit the publisher.

Apricot Dip

2 containers whipped cream cheese
1 jar apricot jam or jelly
1-2 packages real bacon pieces
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Spread the cream cheese in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread the jam over the top of the cream cheese. Top with bacon pieces and green onions. Serve with crackers. 

This is really delicious. You may be tempted to double the recipe so you can eat more but I advise against that. It doesn't last but a day or so in the refrigerator before it starts getting watery and gummy. 

Crunchy Chicken Strips

1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 box corn flakes

If you are using chicken breasts, cut them into strips. Mix the mayo and mustard in a bowl. Crush the corn flakes. Dip the chicken in the mayo/mustard mix, then roll in corn flakes until it is well coated. Place on a well-greased baking pan. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Turn all the chicken over and cook for 15 minutes more. *Cooking time may vary depending on your oven.* 

One of the best parts of this recipes is the gooey crunchy corn flakes that stay on the bottom of the pan when all the chicken is gone. When you are eating that off the pan with your fingers, you will appreciate having greased the pan.

I don't have pictures of either of the recipes. My cooking is never pretty and my phone doesn't take great pictures. Someday, I will cook pretty stuff and get a camera that will let me edit my ugly food. Until then, you will have to try the recipes to see what they look like.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why I'm Not Skinny--The Dessert Edition

I am completely addicted to Pinterest. It's really pretty sad. I can start a sentence with "I saw the neatest thing" and my husband can finish it with "on Pinterest." I pin everything! It if looks like something that is anywhere close to my skill level, I will pin it. If it has instructions, I will pin it. If it looks like it has 1200 calories per serving, I will pin it. My favorite of my boards is named "Why I'm Not Skinny." 

Today I bring you "Why I'm Not Skinny--The Dessert Edition" (because dessert should always come first.

Triple Chocolate Pound Cake

Don't be fooled by the picture. This pound cake doesn't require a pastry chef to create. There are 9 ingredients. 9! I've made casseroles with more ingredients, and I doubt any casserole has tasted this good. It is chocolate heaven.

Pumpkin Cake with Cider Caramel Sauce

Proof that a girl cannot live on chocolate alone. She must have pumpkin. Doesn't this look heavenly? Pumpkin is very high in fiber and Vitamin A, and apple cider is made from apples, making this part of a healthy, balanced diet. Hey, it has fruit in it; that counts for something, right?

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Loaf

I love blueberries. In fact, they are my new favorite fruit. New because I went most of my life hating them. My experience with them came in the form of blueberry "flavored" food, not the real thing. I had no idea what I was missing. The first time we ditched the kids for the weekend, we stayed in a charming bed and breakfast called the 5 Ojo Inn. It's a wonderful place and it's our home away from home when we manage to get away for the weekend. 

Our first time staying there, breakfast started with blueberries and bananas and cream. My husband had to choke back a giggle. See, I'm a polite Southern girl (Southern for sure, polite I have to work on). And as a Southern girl trying to be polite, I would never dream of insulting the cook by not eating what was put in front of me. And my husband was well aware of that. We exchanged little glances and he was choking back that giggle (and I was ready to choke him for it!) and I dug in. And it was good. But I hate blueberries! These tiny, fresh blueberries were heavenly. It was all I could do to refrain from asking for seconds. Until then, I had no idea that artificial blueberry flavoring didn't taste anything like fresh blueberries. I still don't like to eat anything with fake blueberries in it but if it has the real thing, bring it on. Like this bread/cake.

Banoffee Pie

Toffee and bananas. And whipped cream. This requires no further explanation.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Strawberry=healthy. Enough said.

That's all the yumminess I can handle at once. 

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Missing: Kitchen. Reward Offered.

My kitchen is missing.  Ok it's really not missing, I know where it is. It's in the middle of my house, buried in boxes and furniture. Yes, I said furniture. At last check, my chair and ottoman were sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor, blocking my access to the stove and sink. My husband moved furniture and (not unpacked) boxes before bed last night. Since the tv guy is coming Saturday to hook up our satellite, he felt the need to actually make room for the tv and find all the equipment. Smart move, bad execution. We were sort of using the living room as a storage room for everything we need to sort through and unpack (and get rid of). Since the tv guy is coming, now the dining room is the box room. And the kitchen is close enough to move stuff into temporarily, hence the reason my chair is in there. Needless to say, cooking dinner is not going to be easy or fun. I need something that is going to be fast, easy and use as few dishes as possible (since I can't get to most of my cabinets right now). Generally when I need something fast we have a skillet meal. Anything qualifies, as long as it all cooks in one pan. Our favorites are breakfast burritos (sausage, egg and cheese) and what I call the Sausage and Veggie Skillet. I created this myself and I do not write recipes very well--it usually ends up being more like instructions. No matter how you read it, it's a delicious and relatively healthy way to have a fast dinner.

Melanie's Sausage and Veggie Skillet
serves 4-6

a splash of olive oil
1 package chicken sausage (I like Johnsonville or Al Fresco), cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 ears fresh corn, removed from the cob
1 large onion, sliced
1 large bell pepper (any color), sliced
1 package fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
Your favorite seasoning salt (I like Lawry's, husband prefers Cavenders)

Pour a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the sausage until it's slightly browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan, add a little more olive oil and toss in veggies. Saute until they are as cooked as you want them to be (because some people want them crunchy, some people want them not crunchy). When the veggies are cooked to your liking, add the sausage back into the skillet. Season with salt, pepper or whatever other seasoning you like. 

We just dump some into a bowl and eat it with a fork. It is also pretty good in a tortilla, taco style.  

I have teamed up with Aetna's Healthy Food Fight and She Speaks to spread the message of healthy living and eating in America. The recipe is my own creation :)


Monday, September 19, 2011

God Made Me Do It

There is a monster inside me today that really wants out. Normally, I would just let it come out, for better or worse (usually worse). Today I will hold it back, sort of. Today, instead of retaliating in anger at the person who has been mean to me, I will just breathe. And pray. And type. And I will feel better when I'm done. 

Someone I thought was my friend has said some things and done some things that aren't very friendly. Since I live in the town that's the size of a postage stamp, these things have gotten back to me. I want to send her a nice message asking her politely to stop saying hurtful things about me. Yeah right. There's a long list of things I want to do to her, none of which are even remotely nice or polite. I keep reminding myself that we are adults and this is not junior high school. That doesn't make it easier though. 

So why the sudden desire decision to be nice? God made me do it.

I have been trying to be a better person--doing more of the good stuff (praying, smiling, holding my tongue), and less of the bad stuff (skipping church, gossiping). I wish I could say it was all my idea and these were changes that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside but that's not completely accurate. I know that these small things are all part of His plan for my life and I did make the conscious decision to submit to His will. As far as the warm fuzzy feelings, eh, it's more like a roller coaster of emotions that makes me think of the little Angel/Devil on my shoulders. I'm trying to be good but it's exhausting--it's much easier to just be myself. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy

It’s Friday! Today will be my 1st attempt to link up and try something out of the ordinary—it’s 5 Minute Friday. So after my brief (or not) rambling introduction, I’m going to try to pour out my heart for 5 minutes on the topic of “joy.” Oddly enough, I almost got out of bed last night and wrote a post about joy before I knew about 5MF. Ultimately, I decided that my bed was warm, my laptop was in the kitchen, and I was lazy. Before I get started, and before you read it, can you do something for me? Go meet Sara. You can thank me later.

I’m still new in the blog world and I like to hop around and read different blogs. Reading tons of posts really helps me be me. Sometimes I can read a snippet of something and my brain just takes off in a completely different direction. If I were better and more disciplined at putting my thoughts on paper/computer screen, I could come up with a pages-long post most days. But I’m not there yet. Anyway, I digress. I’m a bit addicted to Twitter and a couple of days ago I kept seeing tweets about Sara. Everyone was praying for her, cheering her on, and just gathering together for her. It piqued my curiosity and I found her. And I’m so glad I did. Please take a few minutes, or hours, or days to read her story, bookmark her blog, and pray for her. In honor of Sara, I choose joy.

And my 5 minutes begins…now.

I have never given much thought to the difference in happiness and joy, until now. Now this is not a scientific or expert opinion, I’m not even consulting the dictionary for accurate definitions. If I did, I might find that I was off the mark with my thoughts, and that just won’t work for 5MF. To me, happiness is how you feel about what is going on around you. It’s about your situation, your family, your job, your life in general. Being happy, well, sometimes that takes work. You can be happy or you can choose to be happy, despite your situation. But it isn’t easy. I have tried. Sometimes, your situation just brings you down, no matter what you try to do or think. But joy is different. Joy comes from what is going on inside of you, not what’s going on outside of you. Joy is a reflection of your heart. True joy comes from knowing your Creator and your Savior; from knowing that you have something better waiting for you. Joy is the direct result of the choice you make to fill your heart with God. Happiness comes and goes, but joy remains with you, just like God. When He fills your life, He brings joy with Him. And He comes to stay. 

So that's it. 5 minutes of writing, not too much editing, just writing. And since I still have an empty space in my brain when it comes to formatting and all things that make blogs pretty, if you see a weird something on here that doesn't make sense, just ignore it. I'm *trying* to link up and stick a 5MF button on my page. If you see it and it looks normal, you can safely assume that the empty space in my brain is shrinking, even if ever so slowly. If not, just say "bless her heart" and pray that someday, I will get it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Giving Up

At our mid-week church service last night, the pastor preached a message about giving everything up to God and not holding anything back. He used the example of God telling Abraham to give up his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, and then, providing a ram at the last second so Isaac could live. If you don’t know the story, take a look at it here. Pastor challenged us to “give up our Isaac,” in other words, don’t hold back in turning our lives over to God. He can’t work with what you don’t give him. As it would happen, my husband and found ourselves in a situation recently and did just that. It was not easy. By “not easy” I really mean “what have we gotten ourselves into” hard. I was nervous and anxious. I knew God would provide for us but change and uncertainty make me crazy(er). Here we were, with 2 moderately successful careers, 3 kids, and potentially homeless.

A little over a year ago, we rented a house that seemed like a dream come true. We agreed to rent the house, paying the rent to a down-payment and then buy the house. I have no doubt that God brought us to that place. From the beginning, it was clear that we were there for a reason, and, at first, that was a good thing. Everyone was happy, things were going well, we were working toward buying the house and the bottom dropped. Sparing you the outrageous and unbelievable details, I slowly came to realize that what we initially thought were trials that we were to overcome, may have been warning signs to tell us to run fast in the other direction. So we quit fighting, threw in the towel, rolled over and played dead. About 3 weeks ago, we gave notice that we were moving out, starting Labor Day weekend. One major problem though—we didn’t have a house to move into. We had found another house to buy but didn't realize what a process it is to buy a house; a process that we weren't completely ready for. Our last-resort plan was to get an RV, put all our stuff in storage, and live at the RV park or the lake for a while. As the days ticked by, that became a likely solution. On Wednesday of last week (2 days before we were to start moving), God nudged us toward an older couple from church with a 2nd home in a great location, that was empty, except for a few of their things. We started moving in last weekend, just as we had originally planned, even though our initial decision was full of missing pieces. By handing the situation completely over to God, He was able to provide for us in a way that is better than anything we could have come up with on our own. And going back to the sermon last night, that house, the one we thought was perfect, was our Isaac. It was the very situation that we needed to give up to Him before we could experience what He had in store for us.

So we are moving and get to do all that fun stuff that comes with it, besides the heavy lifting. Changing my address and switching utilities over (most of them are with completely different companies, even though we are only moving 7 miles). If you think I’m missing a few washers in my brain now, just wait til the moving stress takes over. I will be useless.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brits Before Breakfast

Sometimes I wonder why I’m a little unbalanced. Then I look at my relatives and wonder how I have even an ounce of normalcy. I do have an ounce, just not much more. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this conversation snippet from this very morning—some things you just can’t make up. To fully understand this, you must know a few things about the family:  

1.  I am not a morning person. Not even close. 
2.  I live with 4 others who are morning people. 
3.  My oldest is 11, she is very smart and likes to make things up, like jingles and limericks. And she prefers to speak with a Monty Python-esque British accent.

It’s morning at my house, I am moving slow, the husband and kids are not moving slow. My brain doesn’t fully function before caffeine, generally in the form of Diet Dr. Pepper, by the gallon. Then comes the singing. There are songs about fish, songs about feet, songs about fish with feet, and other random jingles the oldest has made up in the last few days. Loud songs, in British accents. The oldest is singing at the top of her lungs, the other two are giggling at her, trying to sing along, and my husband is encouraging them. This would be funny if it weren’t pre-caffeine. So we got in the truck to go to school and I just had to say it:

Me: We have a new rule. No British accents before school.
Meg (oldest child): But they’re fun.
Me: You know I’m not a morning person. I can’t handle tomfoolery before caffeine.
Baby boy: What’s tomfoolery?
Me: Um, Meg, explain to your brother what tomfoolery is.
Meg: Kind of like goofing off, acting silly.
Middle child: Like singing with British accents?
Me: Exactly like that. So no more accents before school. My nerves can’t take it.
Meg: Mom, I hope I inherited Dad’s nerves.

I hope she did too.