Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012 was my due date.  I'm remembering a sweet little life who never got to see this world.  I know my baby is waiting on me in Heaven and I can't wait to meet him/her one day.  I find great peace in comfort in knowing that my Lord and Savior has a plan for everything.

Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. -Ecclesiastes 11:5 

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.  -Hebrews 11:11

I began writing this post at the beginning of the week, before the horrific, evil events in Newtown, CT on December 14th. But as I'm remembering a life lost in my own little world, I cry out for those who lost their precious little children and family members in a senseless, evil act. How do you even wrap your mind around something like this? You can't. As an elementary teacher, I simply can't imagine the horror that they felt. I begin crying everytime I read stories or watch the news. May we never forget the names of those lost. May we never forget the courage and the boldness of the school administration and teachers as they tried to protect those little babies.

My prayer is that this will bring our country to it's knees, open our eyes, and bring revival in America. We need Jesus. No doubt about it. Only He can save and heal the broken. There's evil in this world and there has been since Adam and Eve.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

Butternut Squash Soup

This may be my new favorite soup.  If you've never tried it, do yourself a favor and take advantage of this seasonal squash.  It's easy to make and so rich, buttery and savory.  I adapted this recipe from The Italian Dish.

Butternut Squash Soup

Photo courtesy of The Italian Dish

-3 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 cup chopped onion
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp chopped fresh sage (about 3 leaves) or 1/2 tsp of dried sage
-2 to 2-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
-1/8 cup sherry
-4 cups chicken broth
-1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/3 heavy cup cream
-salt and pepper
-4 ounces pancetta, chopped
-feta or goat cheese

**I roasted my squash at 400° for 15 minutes to soften it up.  Otherwise, it is very hard to dice**

1.  Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sage and saute one minute.  Add squash cubes and saute 5 minutes. Add the sherry, broth and cayenne pepper.  Cover and simmer on low for about 25 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a little skillet until nicely crisped.  Drain on a paper towel.

3.  Puree soup, either with an immersion blender right in the pot, or transfer to a food processor or blender. Return to pot and stir in cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.  Serve in bowls with bacon and feta or goat cheese on top.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November Wrap-Up

I feel like I start out every blog post by saying something about how it's been so long since I last posted.  I hate to admit, but this has definitely been put on the back burner for me.  I'm working on changing that!  I've got a little down time right now (I really should be grading papers, but my brain says no), so I figured I'd blog a little bit about what we've been up to!

November FLEW by!  I can only imagine what December will be like.  We spent the weekends of November doing a lot of visiting.  Although busy, it was so enjoyable.  Some friends invited us for a weekend stay at their beach house and it was awesome to just get away for a short break.  My mind needed the vacation!  My daddy's birthday was also in November.  He wanted a buttermilk chocolate cake so that's what he got!  I hadn't made one in almost a year and this one turned out great.


I've also been keeping up with my goal of making one soup a week for winter.  I made a butternut squash soup that was ah-maze-ing.  I had never made it before or eaten butternut squash, but it was so full of flavor.  I'll be posting the recipe soon.  Last week we just had white bean soup - a tried and true easy favorite.

Thanksgiving was spent in Arkansas and we had such a good time.  I ate waaaay too much, we played games, went shopping, drank a ton of coffee, laughed excessively, went out to the farm, rode 4 wheelers and shot skeet (not I) much fun.  I always look forward to our trips up there.  I wish we all lived closer.  I cherish those times though.  I guess it makes it that much more special.  Here are some pictures from Thanksgiving.

Our little family on Thanksgiving Day

J and I riding 4 Wheelers

My SIL and BIL riding 4 wheelers

The girls
My hubs and my sweet MIL
Me, MIL and SIL.  Love them.
Family is such a blessing.  I don't have any pictures with my folks since we weren't with them for this holiday.  I'm making a mental note to take lots of pictures at Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, can you believe it's that time of year already?!  2012 has flown by.  I've been reflecting a lot on what this year has meant to me.  It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies but I feel more joyful than I ever have.  My faith has grown exponentially.

We put up our tree this weekend along with a few other decorations.  Because my hubs is in a Christmas concert at our church, this weekend was consumed with rehearsals...we'll have to finish the rest of our decorating this week.  I love that he wants to be apart of helping me decorate our home for's the little things. :)

I opened my planner to December and felt my heart jump when nearly every day has something written on it...this is such a busy time of year!  But I'm making a vow to do everything with a joyful heart.  I know I will fall short, but I'm going to try my hardest.  This holiday is the greatest gift of all and I want to reflect that in my works.  I've made a daily to-do list so I don't feel so overwhelmed.  On it for this week...Christmas cards and finish decorating inside and outside.  Next week I'll tackle my baking.  OH!  One more thing and I really hope you'll join me in doing this.  I'm reading scripture each day of December to prepare my heart for Christmas.  Here's the version I'm using.  It's so important to remember what Christmas is really all about...the greatest gift of all...our Savior.

Have a wonderful week! XO

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I'm tuning out election news and choosing to blog on cooking instead.  It makes me much happier.  I'm sure some of you can empathize with me.  As I said in my last post, I'm planning on making one soup recipe a week through the winter.  I love soups but never cook them in the summer.  Hot soup with 100 degree weather?  It just doesn't jive.  But let it drop to 70 and we have a different story...  Also mix in this teacher fighting off all of these germs my students are trying to share with me and soup sounds pretty darn good.  This one was delicious, so I figured I'd share the recipe.  The key is fresh basil - don't skimp on this ingredient.

 picked fresh from my garden

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
4 servings

-2 28oz cans of whole tomatoes, peeled (I really like the Cento San Marzano brand)
-1 cup chicken broth
-14 fresh basil leaves
-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup of heavy whipping cream
-salt & pepper to taste (I used about 2 tsp of both)

1. Empty cans of tomatoes along with juice and chicken broth into a large pot.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Once it's done simmering, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend with basil leaves until smooth.
3. Return to pot over low/medium heat and add butter and heavy whipping cream.  Stir well until butter is completely melted.  DO NOT bring it to a boil.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. And of course, you know the 5 year old in you wants to add a grilled cheese sandwich to make this one great meal.  Or maybe that's just me. :)

I hope you'll try this out and love it as much as we did.  I'll leave you with a brief, to the point word of encouragement as we all await our country's decision...

Be blessed, my dears!  I hope you have a wonderful week! XO

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Feeling Better

These last few months have been really hard on me.  It's been one thing after another, and while I know it could be A LOT worse, I feel like I never have time to get over one thing before something else happens.  Such is life, right?  Sigh...

But I'm feeling much better here lately.  November always makes me feel good - there's so many wonderful things that happen this time of year that make my heart smile.  Above all, I know the Holy Spirit has been working overtime on me.

Our Pastor started our service with a quote this morning.  
"God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him." - John Piper 
 I needed to hear this SO bad.  It's not about me!  Sometimes I forget that when I feel like everything is falling on my shoulders, but it's really not about me at all.  It's about HIM - glorifying Him in anything and everything I do.  I must admit, I've been pretty bad about this lately.  I haven't been satisfied (due to my own selfish desires), so I know I'm not doing my job and letting His light shine through me.  This explains so much.  The light bulb finally went off in my head.

So, now that I've been feeling refreshed, it's time to shake this feeling off and get back to living.  I have so much to be thankful for - more than I could even God, my husband, my parents, my family/friends, my career, my church family...I could go on and on.  Things are finally back in perspective.

I'm doing a Bible study with the ladies in my Sunday school class and it has been such a blessing.  First off, these women are a God send.  I've made some of the best friends and I love the support and encouragement our group has.  We're doing the Unglued study.  I can't say enough good things about this study Lysa TerKeurst has put together.  It is so spot on for what I need in my life right now.

This is how I spend the majority of my mornings.  I'm getting so much out of this Bible study.  It's helping me sort through tough issues in my life and how to better handle hard situations when they arise.

Now that I'm back in the groove of things, I've decided to do some fun things in the upcoming months like...try a new soup recipe every week, get started on Christmas decorations early, make a list of Christmas movies we want to watch and actually MAKE TIME to do it, work out at least 3 times a week (it puts me in a much better mood), have people over more often, call my friends (I'm SO bad about this).  I'm hoping to make some positive changes in my life.  And if these soup recipes are any good, I'll share them with you.

I hope you have a wonderful week and take a moment to count your blessings, not your troubles. XO

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicken with Mushrooms & Cream Sauce

This might be one of the best things I've ever made.  It's a Julie Child recipe, so no wonder, right?!  This was the first Julia Child recipe I ever tried and I'm definitely going to be investing in her cookbooks.  My hubs was skeptic (because he doesn't like baked chicken), but even he was wanting me to make it again.  It has butter and cream, so what could be better?  If you want to change up your ordinary chicken, definitely give this a try.  It makes me happy just thinking about how delicious it is.  Does good food do that to anyone else too?  Or am I the only weirdo?  Anyways, here's the recipe.

Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms & White Wine Cream Sauce
adapted from Sugar & Spice

Ingredients for Chicken
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat trimmed
-Juice of 1/2 lemon
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp black pepper
-Big pinch of white pepper
-5 tbsp butter
-1 tbsp chopped green onion or minced shallot
-1/4 lb diced fresh mushrooms

Directions for Chicken
1.  Preheat the oven to 400°.  After trimming chicken breasts, squeeze lemon juice over them and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.  Set aside.
2.  In a dutch oven, melt the butter over med/high heat until it foams.  Stir in the chopped green onions or minced shallot and stir for about 1 minute.
3.  Next, stir in the mushrooms and saute for about 30 seconds.  You don't want the onions or mushrooms to brown.  Add your pinch of white pepper.
4.  Quickly roll the chicken in the dutch oven to coat well with butter mixture.  I left mine on each side for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
5.  Cover with a tight lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Check to be sure chicken is cooked all the way through.

Ingredients for White Wine Sauce
-1/4 cup beef bouillon
-1/4 cup white cooking wine
-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1 tbsp butter
-salt and pepper to taste
-lemon juice
-freshly minced parsley

Directions for Sauce
1.  As soon as the chicken is done baking, remove from the oven, place chicken on warming platter and return the dutch oven to the stovetop.
2.  Place 1 tbsp of butter in the pot and stir to loosen up any mushrooms or onions that may have gotten stuck.
3.  Pour bouillon and wine in with the cooking butter and mushrooms.  Boil down quickly over high heat until it gets thick.  
4.  Add the whipping cream, continuing to stir until it gets thick.  Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed.  I squeezed a little bit of lemon juice in mine, but you don't have to.
5.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and top with parsley.  Enjoy!

I served this with steamed asparagus and it was a great combination of flavors.  Seriously, you'll lick the plate.  I'm not kidding.  Let me know what you think! XO

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where have I been?

It's been quite awhile since I last posted.  I guess that's how you know I'm busy.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been all good, but that's how life works, right?  Quick recap of my life over the past month and a half:

We got our new living room furniture (before and after pictures one of these days)!  We are thoroughly enjoying it, parking our butts on the couch every chance we get and trying to have more people over now that we have room to sit. 

We hunkered down for Hurricane Isaac, which completely missed us...but we were prepared!

We celebrated my hubby's birthday.  He was in a play that following weekend and had rehearsals all week and weekend, so we stayed at home and I made him a yummy dinner.

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary.  I couldn't be more thankful for this man.  This year, we've seen some trials.  Although things have been tough on us emotionally and physically, our relationship is stronger than it has ever been.  Our faith is also stronger than ever.  I've watched his walk with the Lord turn into something truly amazing.  It's like God's light shines through him.  I love him so much.

He also bought me these beautiful earrings.  Not that they were needed to make our anniversary any better, but hey, I'm not complaining!  Jewelry is always an excellent choice. :)

I went and bought meal worms for my class to perform a science experiment and they have now become our class pets.  The kids LOVE them!  We're studying their habitats and watching them go through incomplete metamorphosis.  We should have beetles soon.

School has been crazy busy.  This year is very different for me.  It's taking some adjusting, but I am loving my class.  I have a lot of eager learners and we're doing some fun projects.  I thought that since I had a year under my belt that this year would be easier.  I was SO wrong.  I find myself constantly re-evaluating and thinking, "OH I can do this in addition this year!"  My days are even longer than last year, it seems.  But I only have 9 short months to make an impact on these kids that hopefully lasts a lifetime.

I have been trying some new recipes, some of which I will share with you because they are SO good.  But those will come in a later post.  Keep an eye out!

Lastly, most of my time has been consumed with family hardships.  My sweet cousin, Brian, was diagnosed with stomach cancer mid July of this year.  The doctors told him it was stage 4 and chemo wasn't an option unless he miraculously built up some strength.  Brian went to live in the Hospice facility at the end of July/beginning of August.  He went home to be with the Lord last Friday, October 5.  Today would have been his 36th birthday.  This has been so incredibly hard.  I have never lost anyone to cancer until now and I can't even put into words how awful and horrible this disease is.  I pray I never have to see it again.  I also pray for all of those fighting this disease or have loved ones fighting it. 

Brian was a bright spot in anyone's day.  He was so kind and humble.  I've never met a more humble person.  I'm trying to be more like that.  He was the reason my 90 year old grandpa got to come to my wedding.  He made sure to pick him up and take him, without ever being asked to do so.  I was reading in my baby book the other weekend and my mom had written about visitors coming to see me.  She had listed Brian and wrote that he didn't want to put me down - he loved me so much.  It made me bawl my eyes out.

Gosh, he was such a fighter.  Really up until the two weeks before he died, he was convinced that he was going to get out of there and get better.  His will was so strong that it even had me convinced at one point.  But he was too sick and God had other plans for him.  I'm not sure whether Brian was a believer or not before he got sick, but I know he was one by the time he died.  In the week leading up to his death, he kept seeing an Angel who was trying to lead him up a staircase. He talked of seeing other loved ones that he had lost before and even told my mom he got to hold my baby (that I lost in a miscarriage).  Now, I'm not sure how much of it is true, but I'm choosing to believe all of it.  I think God gives us this to comfort us when we lose someone we love.  I'm just thankful for the time he was here.  He had the most gorgeous eyes and the best beard around!  I'll love him always.

If you think of it, please be in prayer for my family.  My aunt and uncle are really hurting, as well as many others.  Be blessed and don't take life for granted.  Get right with the Lord.  Life is a precious gift we've been given and we never know when our time is up. XO

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread

It's halftime during the Arkansas game, so I'm going to post a new recipe really quick.  I don't know about you, but hubs and I are pretty darn happy that it's football season.

This morning, I did a trial run for a cake/monkey bread that I'm bringing to our Sunday School breakfast tomorrow morning.  Of course, I found it on Pinterest.  And ya know, I had to try it out before I fed 30 people.  It was so yummy.  Not so healthy (at all), but delish. 

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread
Adapted from Cookies and Cups

-3 packages of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (I bought the skinnier tubes)
-1 package of cream cheese
-1 stick of butter
-1 cup of brown sugar
-2 tbsp water

1.  Preheat the oven to 375°.  Meanwhile, grease a bundt pan and cut the cream cheese into little blocks.
2.  Take each cinnamon roll and tear it in half.  Put a little cube of cream cheese in between the two pieces of cinnamon roll and roll into a ball.  Drop it into the bundt pan.  Repeat until you have a can and a half of cinnamon rolls in your bundt pan.
3.  Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, heat the stick of butter over medium heat. As soon as it's melted, add the cup of brown sugar and water. Mix well.  Bring to a good boil.  Remove from heat and pour half of the mixture over the cinnamon rolls in the bundt pan.
4.  Finish rolling out the remaining cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese and pour the rest of the sauce on top.
5.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.  Just a tip - this can be very gooey because of the cream cheese, so I baked it for the maximum time.  It came out perfect in my oven.
6.  Let it cool for a few minutes and then dump it onto a plate.
7.  Take the left over containers of cream cheese frosting (that came with your cinnamon rolls) and drizzle it over the top.  I only used 2 of the 3 containers, and I put it in a different bowl and heated it up so that it'd be easier to drizzle.  You don't have to do this step, but I figured why not.  It came with the frosting anyways, might as well use it!
8.  Enjoy and try not to clog your arteries.  

This is very rich, but seriously good.  It's great for a large crowd or for a Thanksgiving/Christmas morning breakfast.  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Core Lies

This summer I started a Bible/book study at church.  Unfortunately, I couldn't keep attending the classes due to school and an Awana commitment, but I did continue reading one of the books that we were studying.  It was so eye opening.  And messy.  And hard to handle at times.  It revealed things about myself that were ugly.  But now I'm on a track to a healthy relationship with me.

The e-book is called "Core Lies" by Sarah Mae.  It's only 36 pages and it's completely free to download.  I just downloaded it on my iBooks for iPad.  I would highly suggest each and every one of you to download and read it as well.  It's about exposing lies that we believe to be true about ourselves.  For example, not being pretty enough, not being smart enough, not being good enough, etc... And then it goes further to make you uncover wounds in your life that caused these lies.

When I first started reading it, I didn't think any of them applied to me.  But then the author started giving examples.  I was doing or thinking almost all of those things.  It took me awhile to realize the grip that these lies had over my life.  But once I was able to uncover them, suddenly I was aware of my actions and behavior.  There were times when I really didn't like the way I was acting, but more so, I didn't like the lie I was believing about myself.

I believe women are especially hard on themselves.  We compare ourselves to these super models that adorn the front of magazines who are unrealistic and frankly, freaks of nature.  I mean, what normal woman is 5'11', 100 lbs, 36", 24", 36"?!  We compare ourselves to other women we know, wishing we had qualities and attributes they encompass.  "I wish I could cook like her, I wish my hair looked like hers, I wish I could sew like her, I wish I had her eyes, I wish I was that skinny, I wish my body looked like that."  We even relish in someone else's pain and weakness because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  How awful.  It seems we always want what we don't have.

We have to stop doing this.  
It's destructive and degrading to all of us.

Why do we act this way?  We are all each fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator.  We all have our own unique talents and we're supposed to use them to glorify the One who made us.  Besides, if I'm always complaining about the way I look or feel, what am I really saying?  I was made in His image.  Is He not good enough?  Surely not!  So what makes me think I should be any better than He made me?

I'm sure this is all just rambling, but I need to be reminded of this occasionally.  This study was very eye opening for me.  It helped reveal lies that I believed about myself and see the destruction they have in my life.  That's the devil's way of having a grip over me.  But I won't give in!  I hope you'll take the time and read this quick book.  The book is a fast read, but the lesson is never ending.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School

School is officially back in full swing.  I moved classrooms this year and I'm loving my new room.  It is so much bigger than last year's and I feel more included.  Since I didn't take any before and after pictures last year (I was in survival mode), I wanted to make sure I did that this year.  So, this will be a post FULL of pictures.

Before Pictures
(Many of these were taken after I had cleaned out most of the stuff.)

And After Pictures...

view from the front door

 view from the back of the room facing the board 

 view from the kids' cubbies

view of the back of the room

 view of my little area (I also have an office)

 view from the back door

computer/A.R. area

reading board/reading area

math board

student center

orientation letter and treat

I'm really happy with how it all turned out.  It was A LOT of work.  I don't think people realize just how hard teachers work.  But it's SO worth it.  I was going with a polka dot theme, but you see how well that worked out, right?  So, I just decided to use bright colors because they make me happy.  Since I teach older kids, I can get away without doing a set theme.  Plus, I didn't have the money to replace everything for polka dots.  I think I'll survive. :)
 Me on the 1st Day of School

I'm so excited to get the school year going.  We had a very successful first week of school.  I'm lovin' my new class!  Unfortunately, we're out today due to Hurricane Isaac.  Hopefully we'll be back by the end of this week.  Time's a-tickin' and we have lots of learning to do.  I'm praying for all of you other teachers, administrators, and students that you'll have a wonderful year! XO