Friday, July 25, 2014

From the Kitchen :: Oatmeal-Maple Cookies

It was brought to my attention the other day that my children have never eaten a homemade oatmeal cookie.  This is probably due to the fact that my husband would much rather have chocolate chip cookies, and I try to cater to his tastes.  Oatmeal cookies happen to be one of my favorites, so we pulled out the mixer the other day during the little ones' naps, and mixed up these delicious cookies.

There are tons of recipes for oatmeal cookies, and you probably can't go too wrong with any of them. Although adding raisins is a definite turn off for me. I knew I had a recipe from my Mom, so I rifled through my disorganized recipe box and finally found her recipe:  "Can't Eat Just One Cookie".

I tweaked my Mom's recipe a little bit, giving these cookies a hint of maple and cinnamon.  They are the perfect combination of crunchy and chewy, and quite delicious.  Adding nuts or butterscotch chips would also be tasty.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal-Maple Cookies

1 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1 1/4 cups oats
1 cup coconut
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together.  Add egg and maple flavoring.  Mix in dry ingredients until well combined.  Drop by spoonfuls onto greased or parchment lined baking sheets.  Push tops down slightly with a floured fork.  Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

PS -- The kids loved them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tasting the Sweetness of Jesus

"In our prosperity we love earthly blessings and dote upon things in this world as if our happiness and comfort were bound up in them.  In the day of adversity God convinces us of our mistake, and causes us to see the emptiness of this material world."

The beginning of an excerpt from Voices From the Past, for July 20.  After my post last week where I shared what God taught me through not having my stuff, I read this over the weekend, and had to share it.

I picked this book up again recently to add to my daily devotional reading.  Highly recommend it.  The Puritan writings are full of theology and convey it in such a way that it makes sense for practical daily life.  I'm pushed closer to Jesus and my perspective is pointed toward heaven when I read.

The whole entry is excellent, but I'll just finish with his concluding statements.  I pray that it is an encouragement to you today.

"Ah, but there is infinite fullness in Jesus Christ.  He is suited to all the needs of poor undone sinners.  No king was anointed with such power; no prophet with such wisdom; no priest with such grace, for God gave him the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), and of his fullness we receive grace for grace.  If we fill ourselves with the world, the less we will delight in Christ.  This is our sin and our folly.  But when God spreads sackcloth on the earthly, we discover the beauty of Christ and can taste his sweetness.  He infinitely transcends all the beauty and glory of the world.  He is our King to govern; our Prophet to teach; our Priest to save.  How precious!  Give me Christ, or else I die!"

-Thomas Case, Voices From the Past-

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Bits of Our First Month

Over the weekend I realized that we've now been living in Florida for one month!  In some ways this doesn't seem possible, and in other ways it has stretched out in what seems like forever.  The first few weeks were challenging, first in a hotel room for a week, then in our home without any of our stuff for almost two weeks.  Now, I think we're finally feeling somewhat settled in our home and getting into a rhythm with Bradley's new work schedule.

For the first time we're living in military housing.  It's been a stretch for both of us, but we're only here for about seven months, so it ended up being the best solution for our family right now.  Our little townhome is about 1/3 the size of our home in GA, so we had to get creative in fitting everything in.  Thankfully, we have a storage shed out back, and a large utility closet inside, where we've kept some things boxed up for now.  The girls are excited to finally have bunkbeds, and you can see from the above picture that they enjoy playing in their room.  I am loving having a smaller space to clean, but I am NOT loving the little mice that find their way into my kitchen and dining room.

Everyone is happy when we eat at Waffle House.  We ate out a ton during our first three weeks here, and as a family it was decided that Waffle House is our 'go to'.  Mason even starts getting excited when we pull into the parking lot.  He only eats the grits, but I guess they must be his favorite. On nights when we just don't feel like cooking, we can be there, eat, and back home in an hour, and everyone is satisfied.  Maybe a little bit greasier on the inside, but hey, Waffle House never disappoints.

Living on the Gulf Coast certainly has its the seafood market!  Joe Patti's is famous for the fresh seafood, and there are tons of options!  So far we've only purchased shrimp, but we're looking forward to trying out some of the other catches.

We live on a beautiful base!  It sits on one of the bayous, so we have access to a great beach, lots of walking, a museum, several playgrounds, a gym, and when I want to indulge myself, there's even a Starbucks less than a mile from my front door.  Taking walks, riding bikes, and fishing have become some of our favorite evening activities.  Yes, it's hot and humid, but the water is gorgeous and getting outside has been good for us all.

These girls have become great bike riders in the past two weeks.  Mallory is quite the adventurous spirit.  She rides past me saying, "Full speed ahead!"  I think we'll be able to take off the training wheels soon, and I know they'll be thrilled when they can really 'ride a bike'.

How is it possible that this girl is going to start school in a few weeks??  We registered her for Kindergarten, and she's super excited about going to school, making friends, and learning how to read.  This was a big decision for us, one we've talked about countless times over the past 5 1/2 years.  Maybe I'll write a post just on our decision, we'll see.  I can't wait to hear all the things she'll share with us when she gets home everyday.

These two rascals keep me hopping.  They are both into everything, together; we're eager to see who will walk first, although I'm secretly hoping it will be Mason; they're both learning how to feed themselves with a spoon; and they supply me with more kisses and cuddles than I ever dreamed possible.  Yes, they make me tired.  And, yes, to every stranger I encounter around town, my hands are full.  But as weary as I am most days, I wouldn't trade these little people for anything.

Bradley is in training right now, which means his schedule is fantastic {in my opinion} and we get to be together, which is always a blessing in the military.  Since we're only here for seven months, we can't help but wonder where our next assignment will be and how life might change come January.

There is never a dull moment, and God is teaching me everyday how to rely upon Him, rejoice in Him, and trust Him completely.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

From the Kitchen :: Ice Cream Cake

What do you do when your baby is turning one and you're still unpacking boxes and finding your way around the kitchen?  First of all, you rejoice that Cow Appreciation Day is on her birthday, so no need to make a birthday feast.  Secondly, you stop packing on her birthday long enough to round up some pictures from her first year of life for a blog post and load up the kiddos for a morning at the beach.  Thirdly, you purchase the necessary ingredients from your local Target, because that's the closest store that has grocery carts which hold more than one child, and you make an ice cream cake that is most. definitely. not.from.scratch.

 Somewhere on my social media feeds I saw a picture of an ice cream cake made from ice cream sandwiches.  Genius.  No baking, no mixing, just put it together and make it look pretty, or kind of pretty.  One year old children only care about getting messy and eating sugar for the first time. {Except when it's your fourth child and they've been eating ice cream since they were five months old.  You first time parents, don't judge so fast}.

Seriously though, this cake was good.  And if I do it again, I'm going to doctor it up for my adult tastebuds.  Bits of toffee pieces between the layers, coffee ice cream, homemade fudge sauce, the possibilities are endless.  I even saw ice cream sandwiches that were banana flavored, if that's your thing.  I don't think banana flavoring should have ever been invented, but hey, whatever floats your boat. :)

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
1 box ice cream sandwiches (my box had 12 sandwiches)
1/2 gallon ice cream, flavor of your choice, softened
8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 jar fudge sauce, warmed for easy drizzling

Line an 8x11 dish with saran wrap {this will keep the ice cream from sticking to the pan}, leaving enough as an overhang.  Line ice cream sandwiches along the bottom of the pan, breaking pieces of some in order to fill in the gaps.

Spread layer of softened ice cream over sandwiches.  Repeat layers.  Cover with saran wrap and freeze for about four hours.

Remove ice cream cake from saran wrap and place on a serving platter.  Spread Cool Whip over entire cake.  Drizzle with warmed fudge sauce and decorate with sprinkles.  Freeze for another two hours before serving.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lessons from My Whitespace

People talk about whitespace.  Spiritual whitespace, interior design whitespace, personal whitespace.  Minimizing, scaling back, intentional quietness, less is more kind of mentality.  There's a push for more of this, especially as we in the western world are pressed for time, maxing out our budgets on stuff, and filling every second of our days and every ounce of our emotional energy into relationships. 

The achievement of whitespace is a choice.  Get rid of some of your stuff.  Hang less pictures on your walls.  Spend more time reflecting, alone in conversation with the Lord.  Limit the time you spend with people in order to maintain a healthy relational balance.   These are decisions that an individual makes to have more margin in life.  

What if whitespace was forced upon us?  Would we be as happy about it as if we made the choice ourselves?  

This was my literal whitespace for 12 days.  White walls, white ceilings, white light fixtures, white appliances.  

Twelve days in a house with four children, minimal belongings, no furniture, no internet, no friends.  

Ultimate whitespace.

I started out pretty excited about this.  A good challenge always thrills me, but the romantic 'thrill' quickly dissolved by the time we ate our first meal.  Trying to corral our two youngest to sit still on the floor and our two oldest to hold their plates in their laps without spilling on the freshly cleaned carpets was enough to push me over the edge.

I just wanted my stuff.

I never would've considered myself  someone who found contentment in my belongings until they said I couldn't have them and it nearly drove me crazy. 

So, what did I learn?

I find way too much satisfaction in my earthly possessions.  No, I wouldn't have admitted to this if someone asked me.  In fact, most of our things are second-hand pieces or wedding gifts, so I'm not talking about big ticket items.  

Value isn't necessarily determined by price or memory, value is dictated by the owner.  I can have a diamond ring given to me by my husband, worth more than anything else I own, but if I don't have a bed to sleep in, my bed becomes more precious.  The value of our belongings isn't  in the item itself, it's in the heart of the one to whom it belongs. 

Isn't this why Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  My heart can hold a lot of treasures, and they aren't always the Best Treasure.

Misplaced satisfaction is a breeding ground for discontentment, anger, and bitterness.  If only we had  a table, then I wouldn't have such a hard time taking care of these children...If we could just sleep in a bed for one night, then I could get caught up on my sleep and stop yelling at everyone...God, can't you just make something go smoothly for us?  You're always making life more challenging and I'm tired of it.  

You can see the progression from discontent all the way to bitterness toward God.  Yes, God could have worked differently than He did, but He didn't.  And instead of grumbling and complaining, I should be more quick to rejoice in the fire of purification, knowing that He is working something that I can't see, something way more precious than the comforts of my home.

A rightly placed satisfaction dissolves discontentment and replaces it with joy.  The power of God's Word and the work of the Holy Spirit move wonderfully in the hearts of God's people.  We visited a church on the first Sunday in our home; the sermon was from Matthew 6, about seeking first God's kingdom, and how God takes care of the birds and the lilies, so how much more will He take care of us. 

I had been feeling abandoned, as if God wasn't caring for me.  God is never absent.  What might seem to us as neglect is often the most tender care we need.  

My satisfaction needed to be in God, in His kingdom, and His purposes.  He left me with nothing so that I could see the true state of my heart.  Once I started to refocus my heart, my whitespace became a joy.  

Having nothing to do gave me lots of time with my children.  We played on the floor, we went to the beach, we read library books.  

Sleeping on the floor, cooking with two pots, and having no internet....still we were living way better than most of the world.  I've seen how people live in Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Central America.  Many of them live with barely anything and they do just fine.  Somehow in my western mind, I feel entitled to comfort and easy living.  When my satisfaction was rightly placed, I began to think outside of myself and my perspective changed.  

Joy is found only in Jesus.  

When will I learn this?  I don't know.  Probably never fully, this side of heaven.  But I do know that God will use whatever tender care is needed to teach me when my satisfaction gets out of line.  

My whitespace became a precious teacher.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jennavieve's First Year in Black and White

//Happy 1st Birthday, sweet baby girl!  
You have filled our lives with more joy than we could have ever imagined.
   May you grow to know and love Jesus.\\

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

8 Affordable Essentials for the Beach Mom

Beach living now characterizes our family, and just in time for summer!  We've been living, or semi-living, we're still in a hotel --in sunny Florida now for five days and it didn't take long for me to realize that there are some essentials for me as a "Beach Mom". 

I love seeing people's favorite picks for various things, but when I go to the websites that they highlight, I usually find that the items recommended are WAY out of my budget.  So, I've rounded up some affordable essentials that I either have, or am planning to purchase for our summer at the beach.  

1// Extra Large Canvas Tote.  A classic from Lands End.  This has been on my secret wish list for a long time.  Now that we're carrying things around on our walks to the beach, I may have to order one. I would use this for books, towels, and other items that I don't prefer to get sandy.  {I'm not sure it's possible to go to the beach and walk away without sand on everything, but I'm sure going to try!}

2//Denim Shorts from Loft.  I bought a pair of these 6" inseam shorts when we visited Florida back in May.  They are my favorite shorts.  Not too short, comfortable, and classy.  Even better, they are on sale right now for 50% off!  Some colors are out of stock, but I'm going to keep checking because as hot as it has been, I'll be wearing out the one pair I have. 

3//Utility Tote from Thirty-One.  I have this in blue and it's great for anything wet and sandy because it's vinyl and you can just rinse it out.  

4//Studded Sandals.  I only tried these on in the store, but they were comfortable and affordable.  I usually purchase sandals from Target, and my current pair is on its third summer; not bad for $12.99, but I think they're on their last leg.

5//Straw Hat from H&M.  This is certainly not essential, but I'd like to have a stylish hat to help shade my eyes and face from the sun.  This one is super affordable and I love the polka dot sash.

6//Maxi Dress from Old Navy.  This would work great as a cover-up or just for running errands around town.  It's really hot here, and sometimes dresses and skirts win out on keeping me cool over a pair of shorts and a tank top.  These are also on sale right now, if you've been looking for one.

7//Surprised by Motherhood, by Lisa-Jo Baker.  Excellent book on being a mom.  I cried and laughed my way through this one.  Dayspring currently has this on sale for $12.99.  Reading at the beach doesn't always happen for me, but in the rare moment that everyone is blissfully occupied and relatively still, I might get in a few pages. 

8//Water Bottle.  Mine is currently packed away and in storage somewhere here in town.  We won't get our belongings for another couple of weeks, but as soon as we do, this will be filled up at all times.  I even bought some cheap ones at Wal-Mart for the kids.

What are your beach, or summer, essentials?