Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hugs and Kisses

Derek is home on break (hurray!!!) for a few weeks and we are thoroughly enjoying having him around! The kids are remarkably more happy when he's home. Even though I know he'd go stir crazy, I wish he could be home all the time!

Speaking of stir crazy, he just left for a long weekend trip with the school. So I'm a little nervous about how grouchy the babies are gonna be in the morning when they run into our room and daddy is not there. Jack has burst into tears in the past on such occasions.

It's very possible God brought along this pin to ensure that this weekend goes smoothly. (And also it's been a huge fear of mine since giving birth to Marie of losing or having a strained relationship with my kids).

Take the time to check out this blog post on Excellent ideas on how to strengthen your relationship with your babes! In the past, on not enough occasions, I've stopped in the midst of all I had to do while my kids were begging for attention and driving me crazy, and I gave them hugs and kisses and just played with them.

Can I just tell you, it works miracles! Even for just 5 minutes.

I am looking forward to some quality time with my babies this weekend, even if it means nothing really gets done. We're all gonna be missing daddy, so what better time to double up on hugs and kisses?

Please say a quick prayer for the group going on the trip this weekend. SAFETY, of course! And an overall wonderful time!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Littlest Brother Got Himself Married!

There really is very little better than a family weekend. But adding a wedding - and as a result a sister - to the mix is pretty fantastic.

Our drive to Chicago went so smoothly I told Derek I thought it another simple sign that Erik and Rebecca are meant to be! haha. Jack slept the entire time and Marie got an okay nap and sat quietly the rest of the time.

At the hotel we got some swimming in before the rehearsal.

 I spent the entire time with my kids, trying to rally them and keep them out of trouble. So for me the rehearsal was a little chaotic, but since it was super short, I think it went very smoothly for everyone else!

 Honestly, I was a little nervous about this wedding because it was nothing like the typical wedding in this family. It was an ALL DAY affair. With Derek in the wedding party and the wedding itself starting right in the middle of nap time, a lot of prayer preceded!

Jack sustaining 2nd degree burns from grabbing my hair straightener an hour and a half before start time did not help matters... at all.

But praise the Lord, he finally quieted down just in time for us to sneak into the front row. Marie didn't quite make it all the way down the aisle. My only real regret. I should have been back there encouraging her to go but I was hoping having Paw-Paw, Uncle Erik, Uncle Kyle, and Daddy all up front beckoning her would be enough. Oh well. She made it down for the rehearsal!

It was a beautiful ceremony. And even though there were plenty of stressful moments (for me) at the reception, it was overall a wonderful time! And what made it all the more wonderful was chatting with Derek afterwards about how much fun they had as a wedding party in the limo and during pictures. It all was totally worth it knowing that my new sis-in-law got her dream wedding and my littlest brother got his dream girl.

Derek managed to get Jack to sleep. I'm pretty sure he would have slept straight through the night right there on the floor.

And now my baby girl can't stop talking about getting married like Aunt Rebecca and flying away in a helicopter!

We were so blessed and grateful to be a part of this day. We paid for gas and that was it!! What a blessing! And we're so excited to spend some quality time with my baby brother and his new wife in the near future!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Derek's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hey, I have another recipe for you! And as usual it is ridiculously simple and a staple in this house.

Meet Derek's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies...

That is actually what my MIL wrote at the top of the recipe card. That is their name forever and ever.

First cream together:

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 small package vanilla or white chocolate instant pudding (we use white chocolate bc Derek loves white chocolate!)

Second add and mix:

2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Third add and mix:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz chocolate chips (or as much as you want/have in your cupboard!)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


As I type this I'm realizing I totally forgot to add baking soda when I baked these today! And they are still fantastic. Add enough butter and chocolate chips and you can make anything delicious! :)

Note: I made a double batch and used butterscotch chips along with chocolate chips because I didn't have enough chocolate chips. We usually use white and milk chocolate chips.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Jam

I posted a snippet about this amazing stuff last year but I thought this year I would give you the full recipe (which is found in the Sure Jell box). As soon as you finish skimming through this post, run out to your local farmers market and get to work! You will not regret it!

I bought 8 quarts of freshly picked strawberries from Bullards. Some of the most beautiful strawberries I've ever seen or tasted!

Here's what you'll need:

1. Strawberries (2 pt. make 5 cups)
2. Sugar (4 cups for one batch)
3. Sure Jell (1 box a batch)
4. Jars

Here is what I got for 36 (miscellaneously sized) jars:

1. That huge box of berries above - $28
2. 15 lbs sugar (I used about 13) - $10.08
3. 8 boxes Sure Jell - $20
4. Miscellaneous jars saved over the years - free
Total = $58.08

If you have any kind of coupon savvy-ness, this could easily be much cheaper! I made enough jars for 3 a month for the next year. Most people don't go through jam quite that fast, but if most people made this jam they probably would!!

Here's what you'll do:

1. Gather supplies.
Obviously you will need different amounts than what is pictured!
 2. Cut the tops and any bruises off strawberries.
Watch Biggest Loser on Netflix while you do this.
3. Rinse strawberries.

I just rinsed a couple of cups then moved right into the next step.

4. Mash strawberries.

A potato masher works great unless you are doing a million batches like me. In that case, a small food processor is your savior. If you use a food processor, just do a handful or two at a time so you have control of how fine you make your berries. Don't puree, tho!

5. Measure strawberries.

You need 2 cups of mashed strawberries. Pour them into a large bowl.

6. Add 4 cups sugar. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.

Sorry no pic for this one. I knew I'd forget a picture somewhere.

7. Prepare Sure Jell.

When you have 2-3 minutes left of your 10 minutes, pour the packet of Sure Jell and 3/4 c water into a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, stir constantly for 1 minute.

8. Add Sure Jell mixture to strawberry mixture.

Stir for about 3 minutes or until it is no longer grainy.

9. Pour jam into jars.

Make sure to leave about a half inch of space at the top for freezing.

10. Done!!

Let the jam sit at room temperature for 24 hours then freeze for up to a year! (Well, the year thing is what the box says, but it totally lasts longer than that).

What else I have to say:

-This is a messy (and delicious!) process. Be prepared.
This doesn't include the jar filling station!
-A lot can be accomplished during that ten minutes of letting your berries sit. I rinsed and chopped more berries, wiped down counter space, wiped down already filled jars and put lids on, put my feet up, etc.

-It took me between 4 and 5 hours total. I wouldn't recommend starting at 9pm. But I do recommend doing this while you are kid free!

-Once you eat this jam, you will never go back!!

Linking up! -

Friday, June 1, 2012

Watching God Grow

My mom encouraged me to watch this video about gardening and I have to pass it along! (Click the link below the photo to go to the website).


The video is like an hour and a half or so but worth the watch! It's just amazing how this man, Paul, has such an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe because of his garden. I love all the Scripture he whips out. And then, of course, I'm so pumped about implementing all the things I've learned!

I've officially started my second garden ever, by the way. And I love it just as much... oh probably more than I did last year!

Here's a glimpse:

I'm growing peas for the first time...

Last year I had no trouble with getting an abundance of spinach but this year, spinach just hasn't been in the mood! But I have gotten some...

My mom grew some pepper plants from seeds but they are still just little guys. While I have a couple of those planted, we did break down and buy some pepper plants from a local garden place. We've got colored sweet peppers and red hot peppers for the hubs, of course...

I gotta say, if you're wanting to plant something that is insanely easy and almost guaranteed to grow with basically no work, go yellow/red onion!

Potatoes take a little bit more maintenance but seriously, add them to the must-have list. These things are determined little boogers. You see the super tall one by the onions... that potato seed somehow survived the winter and grew all on its own! I have at least two more plants left over from last year, and they happened to be in the perfect places! I even have potatoes growing in my weed pile.

We've learned the hard way... don't toss old pumpkins in your garden over the winter unless you want a garden full of pumpkin vines come warm weather! We've been pulling them and pulling them. But I decided to leave a couple that grew in the trench around our garden that aren't too much in the way.

Hopefully they stay out of the way! It would be awesome to have pumpkins from our own garden, but I hadn't planned on them so there just isn't much room!

We actually expanded our garden by about a 3rd from last year and we're still barely fitting everything. In fact, the pepper plants are planted in the trenches around the garden. I'm hoping we can double the garden by next year!

This is a shot of the garden prep...


We were adding duck/horse manure. The dark part that has the manure already was the size of our garden last year. That last bit that hadn't been covered yet was the new part my rough-tough-buff-and-stuff ruggedly handsome husband dug up this year.

Then that same amazing man tilled until we had the most beautiful soil...

Don't worry, next year we will be using sticks and string to get this baby straight.

I'm so so grateful that Derek loves this gardening thing, too. He will go pull weeds and just admire it. And he's totally cool with the fact that he's probably gonna have to do most of the harvesting since I'll be HUGE or caring for a newborn post-major-surgery.

I really love gardening. It's so much like running in that I can't understand why everyone doesn't do it! Very rewarding, very worth every bit of hard work.

I was learning about the Feast of Unleavened Bread in my Bible study. In Deuteronomy 16:15 God is telling the Israelites to celebrate because "the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you shall be altogether joyful." I wrote next to that verse in my Bible - "Pray over our garden!"  Why on earth wouldn't I? It is the Lord who grows it and blesses us with the produce.

Unless the Lord is in it, it is all vain! (Psalm 127:1-2)

I would love love love to see how other gardens are growing this year! Comment with a link!

Also, check out the "Garden Journal" tab up top for all the veggies I've planted and for updates.

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