Balancing is an Art

Balancing is an art.
Life is uncertain.
Moments so unstable.

We stand, sure-footed
And a wind, an unforeseen circumstance
destabilizes the most confident.

Falling is not failing.
It’s a lesson to persevere
Don’t ever give up.

We grow stronger
more confident
more flexible

Balancing is an Art
Not learned in a day
A lifetime of commitment.

My daughters learning to balance.

My daughters learning to balance.

Silent Night

Everyone knows the first verse from “Silent Night” which is  lovely, but have you stopped to listen and ponder the second and third verses?

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

The idea of this reverent silence reminds me of a quote from my all time favorite author, C.S. Lewis. This is from a passage in his book The Screwtape Letters:

“[The demon Screwtape writes:] Music and silence–how I detest both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell–though Cover of "The Screwtape Letters"longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express–no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it.”

In this past year our house has been anything but quiet. We now have a 21 month old and a 6 month old. Our daughters love each other tremendously and although they are young, I know they will be great friends…and our house will only get louder with the squeals of playful sisters. Life is full and life is good. We have been so blessed, but I need to remember the importance of silence. God speaks to us in the still, quiet moments, and he restores our soul in the absence of Noise.

So, for this Christmas Season (and into the next year and beyond) I encourage all of you to discover what is making the most Noise in your life (electronics, activities, work, everyday distractions?) and mindfully make a little more quiet time. Take a break from some of the holiday busyness a let Jesus’ light and love fill in the silence.

Grace and Forgiveness

Today I read this devotional from A.W. Tozer Grace and Forgiveness – Bible Gateway Devotionals.

It really struck a chord with me, especially this part:

What a gracious thing for us that Jesus Christ never thinks about what we have been. He always thinks about what we are going to be. You and I are slaves to time and space and records and reputations and publicity and the past-all that we call the case history. Jesus Christ cares absolutely nothing about anyone’s moral case history. He forgives it and starts from there as though the person had been born one minute before.

I find myself consistently dwelling on the past. Praise God that Jesus “never thinks about what we have been.” If He forgives me and sees all the wonderful potential in my life, then certainly I need to forgive myself (more), move on (why is this such a process!?) and focus on becoming who I am meant to be.

Just because I am forgiven doesn’t mean that I won’t still make mistakes. I am not perfect 🙂 There is a fine line, I think, in becoming complacent and having the attitude of “Well, if I mess up, I’m forgiven! No biggie!” and not giving yourself grace for the inevitable slip-ups we have from simply being non-perfect and, you know, human!

I could write a lot more, but I think I would find myself rambling just a little too much. And, as good as it is to write out these few simple thoughts I need to pry myself from the computer and get back to some mommyhood duties. Fortunately, since it is nap time for the kiddies that means a short nap for me and trying to clean the crayon off my table… 🙂

How to Make Money When Times are Tough

One of my favorite quotes is: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

One of the things I’ve been evaluating in my own home is how to help make a little money, but without actually leaving my house. Let’s face it, times are tough! However, I don’t want to sacrifice my most important job of staying at home with my two girls. I’ve thought about small business opportunities such as Pampered Chef, but let’s face it I am just NOT a salesperson. I’ve looked into whether it would be worth my time to do online surveys, mystery shopping, making money blogging, online tutoring, and a handful of other not very feasible options (at least for me!)

Then I realized I’ve had the perfect solution in my hands all along!

The BEST way to make money with times are tough is to SAVE money!

Thank you, Mr. Benjamin Franklin!

I am already a pretty frugal person. As in most instances, there is always room for improvement! So here are a few things I am already doing or plan on doing to make/save me some money!

1. Keep a Grocery Budget Less than $200 a month.
Right now I have two adults and two children, and one is a toddler and one is an exclusively breastfeeding baby, so it’s not difficult to feed 2 1/2 people on that budget. But, as food prices go up and our kids grow (or we become a larger family), I need to really buckle down and be making some wise and economical decisions.
One of the ways I keep a low grocery budget is by buying very little convenience food. A website I recently came across Grocerybudget101 stated perfectly what I have been thinking about these pricey items:

Consumers have been manipulated by marketing  companies for decades to believe  that we have less and less time and  “need” these products, which are often  loaded with colorings,  preservatives and lack any nutritional quality.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store, I challenge  you to take a  peek into the carts of folks that walk by. The majority of  items within the  cart is convenience items that people have been  manipulated into purchasing  under the false pretense that they “save  time” or are easier than preparing  real food at home.

I feel like I am not only doing my checkbook a favor from not buying many convenience foods but also I am making the best and healthiest choices for my family. Not all convenience foods are these awful, kill-ya things, but I see a choice between bad, good, and best…and in my humble opinion most of these “time saving” options just don’t fall in the “best” category.

2. Distinguish between wants and needs.
This may sound really elementary, but it is so helpful and so true. I often find myself asking this question, “Do I really need this?” The answer is usually no, and it saves us a TON OF MONEY. I am not suggesting it is wrong to buy things we want, even as far as food goes! I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t need ice cream. I do buy ice cream once in a while, but it is not on the weekly grocery list! It is okay to treat yourself and your family.
However, if you have a clear list of want you really need and what is just wants, I think you can save yourself a lot of conflict and cash.
In other words, prioritize! These are very personal decisions. If you truly want to save some money though, it might come down to cutting down some enjoyable “wants”.

3. Spending time can be better than spending money.
Family and friends are great! But sometimes we can get caught up in “having to spend money to do something “. Again, while this is not wrong, it is not necessarily true. Some of the best memories I have of family and friends are just spending time together, not necessarily going anywhere particular, just hanging out! It really is the simple things in life!
I think the same can be said about presents. Especially at Christmas my family has never really been about the gifts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, getting a great gift is awesome! But for us it is the togetherness and the celebration of the CHRISTmas season! I still like to give little gifts, but a lot of times they will be something simple and homemade… like cookies and fudge! (I am going to try to make some tasty yet healthier treats this year…)

4. Manage Time Wiser
And for me, that means getting off the computer now. Break time is over because the kids woke up from nap time!

More next time on how time management is a money saver!

To-Die-For, Amazingly Rich, Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Frosting. And it’s Healthy!?

To die for chocolate cake!

Yes, you read the title right. A healthy chocolate cake? That is to die for and richly delicious? It is true my friends!

Now, by healthy, I don’t mean it can replace your veggies or you should go and eat the whole thing, but as far as chocolate cakes go this recipe…takes the cake 🙂

One serving, about a 2.5 by 3 in slice, of cake minus frosting is ONLY 136 calories, just a hair over 2 g of fat, 15.4 g of sugar, and has 4 g of fiber and 4 g protein! Here’s the nutrition info thanks to sparkpeople’s recipe calculator.

I tweaked the chocolate banana cake recipe from the joyofbaking.com

The original recipe had a lot more sugar, all-purpose flour, canola oil, and a little less banana and cocoa powder.

Here is what I did, and it was soooo rich and moist and beyond delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon King Arthur’s Whole Wheat White Flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium-sized super ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional, but I sure love to add cinnamon to everything I can!)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax-seed (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (but since I used a glass pan I set it to 325 F!)
  • Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  • Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and flax-seed. Set aside.
  • The dry ingredients all mixed together

  • In another large bowl, beat together the eggs, mashed bananas, water, milk, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
  • Love to use my mixer to make sure the wet ingredients (especially those bananas!) are beat up really good!

  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir, until combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • batter in the pan, ready to go into the oven!

  • Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  • When completely cooled, use this frosting recipe!

Of course the frosting adds a bit more calories (just over 100) with some extra fat (9 g) and a tiny bit more sugar (5 g), but I think this is an improvement over the traditional frosting made with butter and tons of confectioners sugar. Depending on what recipe is used you can easily get just as many grams of fat (if not more), and exponentially more sugar (between 20-40 g!)

I made this as a birthday cake for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and they, along with everyone else at the party LOVED it and I just had to share this wonderful find with all of you too!

Meal Planning…The Quest Continues!

The truth is this: I’m starting to get discouraged with my meal planning efforts, which in reality are barely on paper; just wishes, hopes, and dreams in my mind.

After reading this wonderful the post Mastering Meal Planning from The Nourishing Home I realized what the number one thing that is holding me back. Her first step is “create a “Master List of Meals” that your family enjoys.” Really, really good advice I thought! And then quickly I realized we are a family of very few meals. I rarely use recipes. Rather, I just sorta bake a meat and a veggie or two (not anything fancy from a recipe mind you, just the plain ole peas steamed with maybe a dab of butter), and throw in a fruit for dessert.

We just eat very simply.

This is good and bad. I grew up with my mom always having lots of variety and trying out new recipes. My dad would eat anything, and if us kids didn’t like something we still tried it and politely expressed we preferred a different meal better.

The reason I don’t really use recipes is because I can’t make casseroles, soups, rice dishes/stir frys, I can’t make things that are too saucy, too spicy, too vegetably, too…DIFFERENT! The reason I can’t is because I would be the only one eating said exciting, flavorful, variety packed dishes, and that just isn’t very economical! Though Sweet C is not a picky eater, she does like to have her food prepared rather simply and separate. I have not trained her to do this, but she automatically separates her meat, pasta, veggies, whatever from each other. It’s okay if they touch, she just doesn’t like stuff mixed together…Know what I mean? And my beloved hubby, well, he is just sort of a meat and potato man. Although he does eat fruit and the occasional veggie on the side.

So, what’s a wise woman to do? I need to manage my home, be prepared, economical, organized, and feed my family in a healthy way. I also need to be respectful of my husband. And then it dawned on me…I mean, really, there must have been a little light bulb that flashed above my head!

Simple is GOOD!

Not the simple of “let’s just eat mac and cheese” and the easy, non-healthy processed food and fast food diet. (Which we have done in the past and are now choosing to leave those ickies behind!) The simple I am referring to is: don’t stress out and do what is good for your family. What is good for my family is not lamenting over recipe after recipe I can’t make and everybody else is making (or at least pinning over on Pintrest). I am choosing to no longer stress out over “if onlys”.

What I am going to do is be who we are as a family. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on leading a healthy lifestyle. There are still tons of ways we can improve, but it doesn’t have to be through all the other recipes people are posting. As long as we are getting the nutrients that our bodies need and we like the taste of what we eat and I’m not breaking the bank…then I am going to CELEBRATE!

So, I will make a master list of meals (or just plain old whole foods, sort of like fruit and veggie list). And if it only has ten meals on it, then so be it!

After I get a little routine going, then I have decided to have my fun, and experiment, and add variety through simple side dishes. I will aim to always have two side dishes. A guaranteed side hubby will love (ie mashed potatoes) and a side me and Sweet C can enjoy, and if dear hubby wants to take a taste he will be more than welcome to it!

Off the top of my head here is the beginning of my meal list:

Spaghetti with Prego Sauce and Ground Beef
Hamburgers
Baked Chicken
Beef Pot Roast
Pizza with pepperoni (and bacon if possible)
Eggs and Toast

Simple Sides I already make and no recipe required:

Mashed potatoes
Steamed corn
Steamed peas
Baked sweet potato
Steamed brocoli (but haven’t made in a while due to breastfeeding…)
Baked Carrots
Steamed green beans
Diced tomato (mainly for Sweet C, one of her absolute faves!)
and whatever fruit we have on hand, just plain and raw, but delicious!

Here’s to the simple life, learning to be content with things you can not change (perhaps this is also flexibility peppered with grace?), and also making the changes starting in your own life that need improved.

What do you think of simple is good?