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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making Dates a Family Priority

I want to share something that we do as a family to make dates a reality-- not just for my husband and I, but the kids as well. This isn't meant to be another elf on the shelf fad that adds to a moms full plate, but to make your life simpler. About two years ago, our dating was sporadic-- maybe we'd get out as a couple once every 6 months and if we were lucky, maybe every three months. We knew it needed to happen and we wanted it to, it just seemed like the time flew by in between and we couldn't get our acts together. It was a little different with the kids-- we would find one child got to do a few more special one on one things with one parent and yes, I know, lifes not fair, but we felt we could make parent-kid dates more balanced.
So, we sat down and decided that one month is mom's month and the next is dad's and so on-- mom gets 6 and dad gets 6. Next, we set aside week one for our middle son, the second week for our daughter, and the third week for our oldest son. The fourth week is Mom and Dad's date week.
Now, kid dates have an est. budget between free- 20 dollars (sometimes more for really special treats), and they average 10 bucks. We do not tell the kids what they are doing ahead of time-- and they can make no suggestions. We want the excitement to be for our time together and not for the where and what. If they aren't behaving that week, they can loose the special activity, but not the time with the parent. We want to emphasize to them that the most important thing is investing into one another's lives. We hope and pray that by doing this, that by the time they are teens, they are so used to this one on one special time of conversations and fellowship that we can continue to build strong relationships with them during adolescence. We also hope that they understand that when they enter into romantic relationships, they know how to bless the person they're with not with things, but with their time and attention.
So, some things that we have done are bowling, breakfast dates, lunch dates, dinner dates, walks, bike rides, out for ice cream, snuggles in bed playing a game on the kindle, walks, hikes, shopping trip to the dollar store, grocery store shopping, errands, etc. Very very rarely will we do a movie-- maybe once a year if that. The reason is you can't really talk and get to know one another while the movie is showing so we don't see this as being high on the ideas list for us.
When it comes to my husband and I's turn, we schedule about four months at a time with our amazing sitter. This way, the stress of planning it is gone. We typically go out towards the beginning of the week so places are less crowded. Honestly, I don't think we have been to a movie just the two of us in a few years since again, we want to enjoy and talk to one another. We do talk about our kids and work and families-- and just about everything-- no rules there. We just share our lives and hearts and its also a sweet time of fellowship.
So, if you are like us and this is a struggle for you, I hope this can offer an encouraging solution. We've been doing this for almost 2 years and its become a wonderful way for us to budget our time and invest in our family's relationships.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Two Weeks of Meals

So we recently, well two weeks ago to be exact, shared a grocery shopping trip to costco. I wanted to share what we actually ate so you can see how things get repeated, enjoyed as a left over, and used throughout the week.
Just to clarify, a frozen feast night is a night when we clean out the freezer and eat all the odds and ends-- it also means mom forgot to wash the food processor to make black bean burgers and this was much easier. Also, I didn't mention when we ate our fruit, but it was eaten mostly at lunch time and breakfasts. For our morning oatmeal, we will add fruit, canned applesauce, or HM canned pumpkin. The smoothies are chia seeds, spinach, banana, water, and either strawberries, pineapples, or both. The combination of the two make for a hearty and nutritious way to start our days. We also do have a lot saved vegetable wise from the summer, so the mention of green beans or our spaghetti sauce, comes from that. Questions-- just ask :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Young Prude and Magic Mike

I am as the title of this blog suggests, a young prude. So, let me just begin by saying I did not see the first magic mike film; however, today the trailer for the second film blew up my facebook screen. And since it was relentless, I decided to see what the big deal was. Oh my words. Again, oh my words. Now, this is a personal opinion and a personal view about what I think the issues would be for me should I choose to watch magic mike. Firstly, Channing Tatum is married. He is a married man. He has a wife. There is someone who calls him hubs. Basically, he is NOT my husband. So, watching him just in the preview I thought, "Thats someone else's and whether she is okay with sharing her mate in such a sexual way with the rest of us, I'm not cool with it." I wouldn't watch my neighbor's husband do the same thing. I wouldn't watch the guy in the next city--- heck, what I saw in that tiny snippet made me turn away because my eyes need to be saved for my husband. I didn't just save myself for him on our wedding night-- I will save myself for just him every. single. day. of our married life.
"But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." 1 Corinthians 7:2. Mrs. Tatum might be okay sharing her husband, but my husband is not okay with sharing me. And I am okay with that because I don't think that I could share him with anyone either.
"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."Ephesians 5:3-- I also don't think I could watch the film and not covet someone else's husband or even any of the other actors whether married or not. Would I begin to think, "Why doesn't my husband look like that?" Or other things... and then dissatisfaction creeps in. Big time. Finding my husband falling or lacking in areas where I really don't even need to think about because he is my one and only. His body should be the only body I desire. Ever. I don't need to see some guys dancing around on the big screen because my husband swept me off my feet from the first day I met him. And praise the Lord, he hasn't stopped and I need not look any further-- nor do I want to despite Hollywoods blatant attempt to tempt me.
"But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28. i think its safe to say we could swap the man with the woman in this passage because in this day and age there is so much sexual imagery designed to tempt females. And yes, I would just be looking at the film. But, I would not in a million years want my husband to look at a movie about female dancers. I just don't think we are being fair-- not many woman want their husbands open oggling other woman. I don't want to do the same with men and call it all in good fun because it's a popular movie. Cause, let me be honest, I wouldn't go and see some male dancers in person-- so why let my eyes see it in film form.
Our marriage hasn't seen a perfect day since it began. We are two flawed people in need of some big time grace (both from the Lord and each other)-- but man, that guy is mine. He is my one and only. The only guy I need to ever view. To desire. To love. "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste" Song of Solomon 2:3.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Black Bean Burgers

I finally found my pictures of our black bean burgers that I took last summer and so I can finally share them with you all. I first had black bean burgers at chilis and then tried them at Bahama Breeze and then got my husband to try them and he agreed-- we needed to find a way to make our own because they are amazing. Seriously, the guy hates black beans. He loves meat. And yet in complete confidence he told me that these were even better than a beef burger. Yes, he likes them better than meat. His secret is safe with me.
Anyway, I tried some recipes on pinterest but finally took the leap and made my own recipe up and Bingo! Our family black bean recipe was born. These are delicious so I make a large bunch. Also, it seems we tend to serve them to others who are stopping by and they also love them and ask for the recipe-- so here it is!
With everything I make, modify it to YOUR tastes! I like spices, so I go heavy on them. Start with three drained cans of black beans or three cups of black beans that you soaked according to package directions. Add them into a food processor. Next, add two avocados. This will act as your binding agent-- tried eggs but avocados taste so much better and there won't be a trace of green left in a few minutes after blending if the neon green color weirds you out. At one time, I was that person, but I have come to love avocados in all their neon greenish yumminess. Okay, so begin pureeing. Now, add in 2 tsp of cumin and 2 tsp of chili powder. I also add a tsp of garlic. If I have cilantro on hand I add just a pinch since my husband is weird about it-- but if he isn't home, it's a big handful! Puree some more. Add in a 1/3 cup of salsa. Puree some more. Now, I add some serano peppers in and maybe a teeny tiny bit of red onion. Because I am weird about red onions. This is where personal preference comes in-- if you like bell peppers, add them. Jalapeno-- go for it. It really depends on you. Puree it all up. I wish black beans looked prettier than mud, but just like the black bean soup, the consistency looks like mud. I know, a HUGE selling point. But, hang in there-- the taste is amazing!! Okay, so now grab a spoon-- do NOT-- DO NOT attempt to shape these into burger patties by hand! Trust me, its a big mess. I know. So, scoop out a large amount that looks like it will fit on your desired bun of choice. Use a decent size spoon to get bigger scoops.
Let them cook on medium heat for about ten minutes on a lightly greased skillet, flip, add cheese on top if you aren't a vegan, and then allow them to cook for about another 5-10 minutes. I haven't tried these on the grill yet, but if you did, I'd use a grill pan or non stick spray.
We top them with tomatoes or salsa or both. You can add some lettuce and onions or cilantro (yum!)-- make it your burger, but this is a good jumping off point! Enjoy-- these are truly one of our favorite things to eat!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Healthy Black Bean Soup

The winter chill is upon us and our menu for the week or two has lots of soups on it! Warm the body up from the inside out-- this is one of our favorites and we enjoyed it tonight as the temps plunged under 20 degrees-- Brrr! This can be adjusted to your tastes-- like it spicier, add some chili powder or hot salsa or jalapenos-- it's a great base recipe that can be personalized to your tastes-- but here is how we enjoy it!
First, we add two spoonfuls of oil-- we used coconut, but olive oil is just fine and dandy (also, if you've never used coconut oil before, this is not the recipe to begin-- stick with some evoo and it will be delicious!)
Next, add a tablespoon of minced garlic. Notice my handsome helper? This is also a good recipe to make with your kids-- lots of fun and they get bragging rights at dinner.
We chopped one medium onion and one bell pepper-- don't worry about the size because this is one of those times where size doesn't matter!
We sauteed all of that with a few red pepper flakes and salt and pepper (this up to you on how much) and breathed in the heavenly aroma (disclaimer-- this soup will also open up your nasal cavity-- esp. if you lean on the spicier side of things-- added bonus if you have a cold!).
Next, we added two and a half cups of vegetable broth. We just made a Big HUGE batch two weeks ago and yeah, well, thats why we are going to be immersing ourselves in soup! I can't wait-- literally, I LOVE soups in the winter!
Anyway, back to the current pot of soup-- next, we added two cups of water.
Now, onto the beans-- the star of the soup! We added three cups of rinsed black beans-- a little nervous about how much you like black beans-- cut it back to two and just add one cup of water-- see, you can totally adjust this to your tastes!
We added one cup of salsa.
A tbs. of cumin and a bay leaf.
Now let it simmer to a low boil for about 20 minutes. While we wait, here is what we were up to this weekend:
Our Baby got dedicated-- it is such an honor to raise all of our children in the ways of the Lord and keep ourselves accountable with our church body as their parents. Our daughter celebrated a birthday and we had a fun afternoon celebrating with family. She is such a delight to our family-- she adds the sugar and spice for sure!
Okay, back to our soup-- time to blend it up. I start on low and then high (time will depend on your blender).
At this point it looks like mud-- but I promise you, it tastes amazing!!
If you stop here, it's completely vegan-- but we couldn't help ourselves and added a small scoop of sour cream and sprinkled on some cheese.
It was delicious!
I hope this soup makes it on to your table and would love to hear what you and your family enjoy on cold winter evenings! "Soup is a lot like a family-- each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor."- Marge Kennedy

Monday, January 5, 2015

Missing and Longing

I know we have been absent here on the blog but we just like many others succumbed to a busy holiday season. We enjoyed lots of special family time, birthdays, and most importantly celebrating Christ's birth. I had planned to begin blogging again by sharing our family's favorite black bean burger recipe-- but while I was searching for those pictures I kept stumbling across garden images. I have to be honest here, we are all aching to get back into the yard to garden. The produce we grew last year is still blessing us at meals, but I think that's just fueling the anticipation. We all keep peeking out windows and longing for the day when we can turn up the soil and put our first seeds in. I did find this pictures of some gardens we were able to visit last summer that I had hoped to share back then, but why not now on the eve before we are about to get some snow?
This is my parents back yard garden. My father was raised by an Italian immigrant who gardened along with many of their neighbors. I can remember helping in my grandfather and dad's garden. My dad's has always been what I call a salad garden-- lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant and squash. We are hoping to help get him going with peas and beans this summer and maybe some radishes. He has been adding compost and grass clippings to it for years and the soil is very productive.
While we were visiting my parents, they were watching a friends garden. Actually, it's way more than that. Their friend is a professor at a college and has turned some of the land there into rented plots for people to garden. All the gardens must be organic and pesticide free and it is amazing-- they are growing some really productive plants!
We helped harvest peas (which are now being enjoyed by us through out the winter) and some basil (our basil last year was a dwarf variety and not great for saving).
We love visiting Longwood Gardens and their vegetable garden is drool worthy! They have numerous gardens and this year it was neat to be able to identify the plants and see how we could incoporate some of their trellis methods (last year many of ours collapsed under the weight of the plants).
Finally, here are some from our own yard... ah how we miss you!
As we wait, the garden once again reminds me of a biblical lesson to wait upon the Lord and wait for Him. Do I anticipate Him? Long for him? Love how the garden reveals truths that God has for me. Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."