Friday, January 29, 2010

the birthday boy

happy golden birthday brettlee! i've never seen god's hand more clearly in my life than in giving me you to walk with through it. you are my soft place to land day after day, and the one i want to share every moment with, whether life is good and perfect or i'm down and out and thinking life is over (in all my drama). you are the sweetest, most humble, most gentle man i know. before i met you, it was cool to say you wanted a man who would be a "spiritual leader" (remember that phase all the girls went through?), so i said it too, thinking it was somebody who prayed with you and led you in a bible study or something. you gave new meaning to the term, and to what i never knew a husband could be. you live out the gospel for me daily by dying to yourself, laying your own selfish desires down for me, kennedy, and blakely. you give me grace when i don't deserve it, and forgive readily. you challenge me in my sin, but never through condemnation or pride. i understand the gospel of grace now because you have lived it out for me. reading about god's grace or hearing pretty songs about it couldn't reach my heart the way having someone live it out did. you know the extent of my sin and the wretchedness of my heart and love me anyway. i love that our girls get to grow up with you as their daddy. you are a sweet picture for them of their heavenly father, but honest with them about your own sin and your own need for a savior. i hate it for their husbands...they're gonna have big shoes to fill to compare to their daddy. you love all of us so well. today i'm celebrating all you are, my love.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

merry maids

i really struggle with knowing how much responsibility to give a 3 year old. kennedy and blakely are 2 messy little girls. i don't know if this is normal for a toddler, or if we have 2 future slobs on our hands. regardless, i'm OCD about order in our house and i hate it. brett is too, so k and b have been good for teaching us to somewhat relax over what our home looks like. i have to make a concerted effort to not run around after them all day long, picking up every mess they make and driving both them and myself crazy. i've been bad about cleaning up every mess they make because it's much more efficient than teaching them what to do, dealing with them whining over not wanting to do it, and waiting patiently for them to finish the job. if i've learned anything from having kids, it's that love and parenting are not efficient. whether it's being patient with them only when i feel like it, or doing things for them instead of teaching them how to do it themselves, i find myself wanting to live life efficiently rather than effectively molding and teaching. parenting is not efficient, and it's not always convenient, but it's been really good for me to learn what it looks like to lay down my own desires for the good of my kids. i wish it came naturally to me to be selfless, but it's not my forte, and something i must rely on the holy spirit's work in me for.

anyway, since k and b's messes keep getting bigger and bigger, and i feel like they have no respect for our home or their stuff, brett and i have decided that it's time to give them more responsibility. i'm working on a chore chart (if anyone has one they use, please send it my way!) and trying to decide how much they can handle. we started yesterday with making them clean their room. we have attempted this before, but yesterday it was the biggest mess you've ever seen. i should have taken a picture of it, but didn't. since they share a room that's not very big, all we can fit in there are their beds, so we put their dresser in the closet. about a year ago we moved all of the clothes from their dresser into our closet downstairs because they kept getting in their drawers and having fashion shows and wrecking their room with clothes. this has worked so far, but yesterday they figured out how to get to the clothes that were hanging in their closet. they were in their room playing and kennedy was whining. i thought they were just fighting over something, so i ignored her for awhile. when i finally went up there to see what was going on, she was standing in the top drawer of her dresser and was stuck. they had pulled out each drawer to make stairs and had climbed up to their clothes and pulled every one of them down. i guess she was getting them down and handing them to blakely to model all of them. while i wanted to yell at them and hang all of them up, i decided i needed to just teach them how to put the clothes on hangers and make them do it. they're lazy and hate to clean. every time i tell them they have to clean something they say they're tired or cold, so of course they started in with excuses. i taught them what they needed to do to clean their room, dividing the clothes into one pile to put on hangers, and their toys into another to put into their toy box. i also told them that they couldn't come out of their room until the job was done. i'm sure it sounds mean, but i watched them to make sure they could put the clothes on hangers, so i knew they were capable. this was at 2 o'clock. when brett got home at 6, guess who was still in their room? we both went up there and talked to them, and brett reinforced my message that they weren't coming out of their room until it was done, even to eat dinner. the problem with 2 is they can't stop playing long enough to get anything done. by this time, it was principal, and i knew if i let up then, they would "win". food can get them to do pretty much anything, so they got more serious about their job. at 7, they came out of their room with "mommy, come look!". they were so proud. and here's what i walked up the stairs to:

they had taken every single thing out of their room except their beds and put it in the hall. 5 hours later and the room was spotless. i had to laugh, but teach them too the lesson i've learned on efficiency. they way they did it was certainly efficient, but not very effective! we finally got it cleaned up together, but hopefully they learned that it's not very fun to clean up things they've destroyed. we'll see if it makes them less messy, but i'm not holding my breath until i see a change.

oh, and if you're wondering about the shirt on blakely's head in the picture above, that's her new thing. she wears a shirt on her head at all times now (i make her take it off to go somewhere of course, but as soon as we get home she puts it back on). k and b are at an age where they're realizing that all the other little girls have long hair and they want it too. this has been blakely's version of extensions. she thinks since the sleeves hang down her shoulders and the rest of the shirt hangs down her back that she has ingeniously found a way to have long hair. seriously, she's wearing it now too. she sleeps in the thing.

happy tuesday!

Monday, January 25, 2010

homemade: energy bars

brett is not a big breakfast eater, which i don't understand. i spring out of bed ready for a 5-course meal, so i don't understand what it's like for my stomach to not be "awake" as he puts it. to get anything in him before lunch he has to have something available that he can eat on the go an hour or so after he leaves home or he will go the whole morning without eating, then be ravenous for lunch. i've been buying energy bars for him to take with him, but now i'm mad at myself for spending over a dollar on each of these because in my goal to not buy anything i can make myself, i have 2 great recipes to make my own! if you've ever had either of these bars, the below versions don't taste identical, but they are really good, healthy, cost efficient, and brett and k and b all like them. it's great for me because i've always got something on hand to send with him for breakfast, or a quick snack to grab k and b that i know is healthy. if you like either of the recipes, it's definitely worth a bake day once a week to have something healthy and convenient on hand.

clif bars
i'm not super excited that these have processed cereal in them, but i'm not sure what else to use to replicate the consistency of the original bars...

1 1/4 cups rice krispies
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3 T ground flaxseed meal (healthy of course, but if cost is a concern and you don't want to buy unnecessary ingredients, feel free to leave it out)
1/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (i use whole foods brand...they're dark chocolate chunks with 70% cacao. most chocolate chips' main ingredient is sugar, but their's is chocolate liquor. again, you can leave the chocolate out, but it adds not only taste but extra antioxidants)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (toasted is better but you can make them without toasting first)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract
a few dashes of sea salt

in a large bowl, mix the rice krispies, oats, flaxseed, craisins, chocolate chips, and almonds. in a pot, heat the honey, then add the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt, stirring constantly until melted. pour this mixture over the cereal mixture and mix well. let it sit for a few minutes until it stiffens, then press it into an 8x8 or 9x9 pan. cut into bars. i haven't figured out yet how to make the bars not crumbly, so i wrap them each individually in aluminum foil. i buy the individual reynolds wrappers, then cut these in half. i put one bar on each sheet, form the bar again if it has crumbled, then wrap the bar up, forming it as i go...does that make sense? store the individually wrapped bars in a big ziploc in the refrigerator. ours have never lasted long, but i'm guessing according to the ingredients that the shelf life should be several weeks.

i'm often intimidated by recipes with long ingredient lists because i automatically think it will be more expensive for me to go out and buy the name brand than make them, but you can make a lot of bars by buying all of these ingredients. brett takes them for his office to eat so i make tons of them. i sixed the recipe (i'm well aware that's not a word, but i don't know what else to call it...think doubled but did it times 6) and made 40 last night and still had leftover ingredients. i've calculated it and these seem to come out to about 50 cents each.

peanut butter cookie lara bars
my sister-in-law kary sent me a blog with an idea for homemade lara bars, which i made a few weeks ago. this recipe called for dates, which is the main ingredient in lara bars. i tried it out and they tasted fine, but i figured that raisins would give a similar taste and they are way cheaper, so that's what i went with. i also don't think lara bars have salt, but i love sweet/salty combos, so i added some sea salt in...

in a food processor, combine 1/3 cup raisins, 1/2 cup peanuts, and a few dashes of sea salt to make 2 bars. for each bar, form it with your hands and wrap in saran wrap or aluminum foil as i described with the clif bars.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

homemade: dishwashing detergent

here it is...

1/2 cup dr bronner's sals suds (you can order this from amazon, and i'm sure they probably have it at whole foods or another natural store, but i get mine at natural foods warehouse...definitely worth a trip if you live in the johns creek area because a big bottle is less than $7)
1/2 cup water
1 t lemon juice
3 drops tea tree oil
1/2 cup white vinegar

mix and use about a tablespoon per load. it has worked well for me, but i'm anal about dishes and wash food off completely before i put them in the dishwasher. let me know if you try it with stuck on food. i'd be interested to know if it still works the same as commercial detergent. also, i keep an olive oil bottle next to my sink and mix this recipe with more water, then use it for any dishes i handwash. i don't know if it will be drying to hands, but i guess i'll see soon enough.

Monday, January 18, 2010

craft hope for haiti

click here to help those in need. 100% of the proceeds of anything you purchase will benefit doctors without borders and their work in haiti.

homemade: laundry detergent

this is the first of my homemade concoctions, and it's working pretty well. i use lavender castile soap and it leaves our clothes with a nice smell. i read somewhere to use vinegar for fabric softener, but i can smell really well...way too well for vinegar. as of now, i'm not using any fabric softener, but if anyone has a natural suggestion, please send it my way.

if you've never used castile soap, but want to start making your own products, stock up now! this stuff is great and can be used on anything. you can even brush your teeth with it (not that you would want to, but it's that safe). you can get it anywhere...whole foods, kroger, target, online, etc. i use dr. bronner's brand, and the bottle is a little weird (you'll understand when you read it), but the product is good.

this recipe comes from

1 cup castile soap
2 cups water
1/3 cup salt
1 cup baking soda
mix the salt and baking soda with warm water until dissolved. add in castile soap and mix well. use 1/4-1/2 cup per load.

i keep mine in a carafe, along with my dishwashing detergent and vinegar. you can put it in in anything obviously, but i'm a sucker for packaging...i guess i feel like housework is more glamorous if my products are packaged well :) i've gotta run, but i'll try to get the dish detergent recipe up tomorrow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

the case for homemade

since i've been gradually making the switch to natural, organic, and homemade products, i often get the question "isn't it as cheap to buy the stuff after you've bought all of the ingredients to make your own?". the answer is yes and no.

to start with, i'm not making the switch to be cool. maybe it's becoming the thing to do in this economy, and maybe organic is what celebrities do and that makes it trendy, but honestly it's just what works for our family right now. as i've studied the affects of chemicals, pesticides, artificial elements we put in our bodies, etc., and compared that to the crazy rate of infertility, cancer, and other ailments our country is stricken with, i'm led to believe that all of this could have to do with what we are exposed to/put in our bodies. i'm not saying all this to say you should do it too, or that if you have an ailment it's because of any of these reasons. i'm not a doctor or scientist, and i don't know enough about any of this to be a credible source. this is simply my opinion, and again, what works for our family right now. i have free time since k and b are in school 2 mornings a week, and we are still on a budget. basically, i have more time than money right now. as most of you know, brett started his company a little over 2 years ago. as happens when you start a company, we went to no income and decided to live strictly on our savings to avoid having to take out a business loan. i've grown up pretty frugally, but this was a whole new (honestly fun) challenge. i got into the whole art of couponing and loved to see what i could get free at the grocery store each week (it was a game that i drove myself crazy with...and a lot of you as i talked about my deals :)). i was able to get tons of free and/or cheap stuff, but the thing i realized over time was that most of it was processed, packaged food, or conventional cleaning products. over the past year, i've tried to transition slowly to organic, but my goal continues to be sticking to my current food budget. i was already buying organic dairy, and some organic fruits and vegetables, but with the ridiculous price of organic meats, i stuck to conventional (and the oh-so-cheap tyson plant). this year, i am trying to transition to organic meats as well as more organic fruits and vegetables, thus my decision to go homemade with a lot of other things. pretty much everything i find myself making homemade has the same basic ingredients, so i'm able to buy organic ingredients in bulk, along with adding in organic meats, and stick with our budget. so the basic answer to what's cheaper is if you use coupons and buy conventional, there's a chance it's cheaper that way, but if you want to take your family to a more natural plan, it's most definitely cheaper to make your own stuff than buy natural/organic. not to mention, there's such a sense of satisfaction in the hard work you have to put into it. i feel like a 50's housewife and i kinda like it ;)

all that to say, i am a stay-at-home mom. since i bring no income in, i see it as part of my job to take care of our family and home while saving us money anyway i can. if i worked full time there's no way in the world i would be able to do all of this. and i still haven't found a way to do it perfectly. so if you read my blog and roll your eyes, remember that if there's a day i've made my family's bread, shampoo, deodorant, and laundry detergent, there's a good chance i've ignored my kids. give my family preservatives, spend $1000 a month on food, or ignore my kids. not really a good option there, huh? it's all about balance, and i'm still trying to figure it all out. if you read my blog long enough, you'll see that i get on kicks. i've always got a project or interest. if you listen to sandra mccracken's song i posted yesterday, you can think of me, because often these are just the kingdoms i'm building on earth, and i'm ever thankful to have a savior to offer me redemption when i turn things that should be good into idols. it might look like i'm doing good for my family, but sometimes it becomes something to fill my time or make me feel worthy of who knows what.

anyway, i'm really not trying to turn my blog into a food and health blog, even though that's the direction it seems to be going. i'm just trying to document the things i'm doing this year to work towards my goals, and this goes along with it (plus it's what i do for fun, so i naturally like to talk about it in hopes that other people like it too. you're thinking i need to find a hobby if i think this is fun, right?). if any of you tune in to hear stories and see pictures of k and b, i'll try to keep those coming too. have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


"though the apple is still in her fist she swears it shouldn't have to be like this. she is now strung up and strung out from wherever you look, it doesn't matter now how much she took.
where are you now? when your kingdoms have crumbled down, where are you now?

i live in a house of pain and lust, before the glory and after the rust. some of it's yours and some of it's mine. if i could just love you enough maybe i could let it lie.
where are you now? when your kingdoms have crumbled down, where are you now?

your fallen worth and your falling tears have left you stranded there in the garden of your fears. sweet redemption rings in the air; sweet redemption will hold you there.

where are you now? (i am calling you by name)
where are you now? (come to me and leave your shame)
though your kingdoms have crumbled down...sweet redemption."

-sandra mccracken

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


well, i guess it's time i put my 2010 goals in writing for everyone to see in hopes that i'll live them out this year. i'm hoping that having a blog will help, as i can record my progress. i love setting goals and i love the new year for it's new beginnings. i know i can make new goals and start working on them at anytime, but the new year brings a new energy for me. here they are (and there's a good chance more will be added since it's already mid-january and i've added a new one almost every day this month.)

1. limit wasted time. i spend WAY too much time getting lost in stalking people in blogworld or on facebook. i want to make my "free time" more purposeful. i like having my goals as a gauge to ask myself if what i'm doing during this time lines up with what i want to accomplish/work towards this year.

2. blog more. i'm a sporadic blogger, but writing organizes my mind more than anything else, plus i love having a virtual family scrapbook that i can look back on one day.

3. recycle. i've been convicted about how i give no thought to taking care of god's creation. i used to think this practice was reserved for tree huggers, but apparently i'm one now (according to brett) because of my next goal...

4. go natural/homemade/organic. this is probably the goal i'll give the most attention to this year because of so many reasons. i'm already experimenting with the many, many things you can make yourself, so i'll be recording a lot of those here if you're interested in joining in with me. i started this last year, but i've been working heavily towards it this year already. part of this goal is to not buy anything i can make myself (a lofty striving when you start to learn everything you can make from scratch). there's a good chance i'll burn out so i may need some encouragement here.

5. stop treating my awesome camera as a point-and-shoot (i.e. take a photography class).

6. learn to sew. my mom and grandmother both sew, so i'm going to get sporadic lessons from them. i'm horrible and impatient, so i'm not sure it's my thing, but i want to work towards it.

7. be more consistent in teaching scripture to k and b. we bought them a little bible that we are reading with them every day, but all they ever want to read about is baby jesus. they don't really care to hear about him as a man. not sure how to get there?! :)

8. start playing tennis. i'm thinking i'll need lessons here too. my mom plays and just started like 5 years ago, so i think it's ok to pick it up at 29.

9. learn to ski. this is brett's favorite thing in the world, and i really want to be able to go with him. we went to park city last year, but i just couldn't do it. i think people who ski look so cool, but i don't know if i'm not built for it or what. we got to the top of the mountain, and the first problem is he didn't tell me i had to ski off of the lift, so he skied off without me, then i had to jump off and about broke my hip. once we started down the mountain, every time i would gain momentum i would get nervous and fall down on purpose, so after an hour of 3 feet then fall, 3 feet then fall, brett held my skis, put me on his back, and skied down that way. after awhile, we saw a guy on a snow mobile driving food up to one of the restaurants and i asked him to take me down. needless to say, i might need a miracle for this one (or atleast lessons on a bunny slope).

10. yoga atleast once a week. i started yoga last year and am now hooked. i used to avoid it because i felt like if i was going to spend an hour working out, i needed to be efficient and burn calories. i've seen an improvement in my weight training and cardio workouts because of it, so i want to be more consistent with it. plus, it's the most relaxing thing i do and forces an hour of selfishness.

11. drink more tea. in making our family's plan to go natural i'm learning about all of it's benefits.

12. start k and b in gymnastics.

13. wallpaper my half bath (if you're thinking i might as well go ahead and put a border halfway up or stencil some folk art at the top, be assured it's not gonna look 80s...there's some awesome wallpaper out there now. i just ordered a sample of the one i think i'm going to use, so hopefully i'll get it done soon (actually, i should probably say my mom will get it done soon. i don't know how, and don't really care to learn :)).

14. decorate k and b's room. brett's mom just gave us some old twin beds for their big girl room, so we'll be painting them and the room and working on bedding. i've got the idea in my head, so it's just a matter of putting it into action.

15. do something to our backyard. it's hideous.

16. start a garden (goes along with the backyard and going natural). i want to plant herbs and fruits and vegetables, but i've killed everything i've ever tried to plant. i don't mind planting stuff but i think it's supposed to keep itself alive. i'm not very diligent in following through with the many projects i begin, so maybe that should be my goal instead.

17. start making k and b do chores. not sure what all a 3 year old can handle, but they are MESSY right now, so i want to figure out how to give them more responsibility around our house.

18. go to orlando. brett and i lived there our first few years of marriage, and i've been wanting to go back and visit. we haven't been since the girls were 1, so it's time to pay a visit. i'm thinking it may be time to take the girls to disney anyway.

19. brush k and b's teeth. this is the most embarrassing one because we sound like a dirty family, but does anyone else HATE brushing their kids' teeth?! it's such a fight, so i usually end up telling myself they'll fall out anyway (so brett ends up doing it and i feel like an irresponsible mom).

this is a lot, but remember it's goals, not commitments :). i wish i was a marathoner, but i'm definitely a sprinter. i tend to start strong and burn out quickly, so wish me luck. good thing there's 352 days left. i'll post my progress along the way!

Friday, January 8, 2010

it's a marshmallow world

...and we're stuck. i watched the news yesterday and laughed at all of the people rushing stores to empty the shelves of milk. you know who's laughing now? the people driving down the street who pass brett hiking to kroger in his ski gear and back pack. yep, we're stuck in our neighborhood, and we're not gonna starve to death, but combine my boredom driving me to cook with a man's drive to provide for his family, and the hike began. i got an e-mail this morning from our home owner's association saying the street going into our neighborhood was a solid sheet of ice, preventing anyone from leaving. most people in the neighborhood were atleast smart enough to move their cars to the street so as not to be stuck in their driveway (a lot of the houses are on a steep hill)...

not us. and the blanket you see on our driveway looks like pretty snow, but underneath the beauty is solid ice...

the 4 of us bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood to see for ourselves, and we ice skated on the streets for most of the way.

on the way, we met the UPS man who has been stuck in our neighborhood all morning, and heard of the guy delivering the AJC who has been stuck here since 5 am. when we got to the main street, we saw a minivan attempt to climb the hill that leads out of the neighborhood and saw it scurry backwards, do a 360, and jack a mailbox.
k and b have been talking about making snow angels for weeks, so they were excited to finally try it...

looks like we'll be here all day, but i can't say there's anywhere i'd rather be than cozied up by the fire, relaxing with brett and roasting marshmallows with k and b. enjoy your snow day!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

fun food find

i've purchased flatout bread before for wraps, but wasn't totally crazy about it. it was impressive nutritionally but a little dry for me. BUT...i'm really excited about the crisps they just came out with!

(odd picture but all i could find online)
i don't love serving my family anything processed and out of a bag or box, and there are definitely more ingredients than i like to see on a label, but for weeks you don't have time to make your own bread and chop fruits and veggies all day (wouldn't that life be lovely?) they're a really good alternative to crackers because each serving has 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein (and i think about 130 calories). i've only tried the multigrain and four cheese, but both were really good. i've served them with hummus and cheese, and i even put them on my sandwich today (i'm still 6 and like chips on my sandwich). brett and k and b all love them too. it's a great time to try them because publix has them on sale buy one get one free this week (remember though that publix's sales run thursday to wednesday, so the sale will be off after tomorrow. also remember that you don't have to buy can get one and it will ring up half price if you are afraid of buying them and not liking them. pretty sure that won't happen though). you can find them in the bakery.
since i have to have something sweet every afternoon, i came up with this little treat today, and it was the perfect mix of sweet and salty (plus a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein). i usually end up eating chocolate or ice cream or whatever i can find when i feel like i'm gonna die if i don't have something sweet, then crash 30 minutes later when my blood sugar swings. this was satisfying because the sugar is balanced by fat, protein, and fiber (not claiming marshmallows as healthy, but you can get by with a really small portion of sugar here)...
spread the multigrain crisps with natural peanut butter, then top with either mini marshmallows or thinly sliced big marshmallows (that's all i had). so yummy! i'm thinking tonight we'll roast marshmallows in our fireplace and make semi-healthy smores, replacing the chocolate with peanut butter.
hope your new year is off to a great start!