Blog Archives

Big Family, Little Garden

The organic things we planted in our garden box!

They say you have to start somewhere.  We’ll start here.

At least it’s a start!

We always had a large garden growing up.  Ironically, I ate almost everything out of the garden – except tomatoes.  I hated tomatoes.

I enjoy tomatoes now.  Perhaps I’ve matured, or my taste buds have.

I assumed we’d have a garden, when I dreamed of husband…  and my children-less family.

Little did I realize we’d build on land that was almost 85% CLAY.  {Not very fertile ground, if you catch my drift.}  The best soil made us able to have a septic system… and I believe that was by the grace of God.  This dirt is not the greatest.

Enter in:  Square Foot Gardening!

I’ve read about it in lots of magazines, and passed by books on the subject – but after reviewing what unit studies to do with my kids, I was sure NEXT SPRING we’d build a garden and learn about it in depth.

I ran the idea past my husband before the homeschool conference…  “it would be a great way for the kids to learn more about their food source, take part in building the box, getting the dirt, planting and caring for the plants…”

He laughed.  “Oh sure, we can do that… but next year – right?”

“Yes,” I assured him.  I knew we didn’t have the time to do one THIS year.

As Facebook would have it, I saw some neat square foot gardens my friends had made this spring… and they looked so cute, it seemed so simple.  Surely we could do this.  A few boards, some screws… some dirt and seeds – and wa-lah!  Right?

Or not.

Did I mention I have OCD?  When I get an idea… watch out.  It’s probably going to happen soon, vs. later.

Really this wasn’t that difficult… but a few more therapy sessions of encouraging my husband to get the wood, build the box and we’d take care of the rest…  I wanted his blessing.   So we set out on a Saturday and collected our supplies.  I brought my iPad so we could look at the Pioneer Woman’s blog again.

We made our box over the course of a few days.  Not because it was difficult, but because we had other projects going on.  Next, we filled it up with a mix of top soil, manure, compost and peat moss that we picked up from the local horticulture store (we did this part while my husband was out-of-town – to make it painless for him!)

The kids were all about helping unload. This is one of my comical children appearing as if I’m crushing her. They were good workers!

The older kids helped me, and we mixed it as we dumped it, and then used string to mark off our square feet to begin planting!

They are so stoked about their garden, and it’s been a great learning experience so far!

We’re not even one week in, and our cucumbers have peeked their green leaves through the soil!  The kids are so excited!!  Stay tuned to see if anything else grows!

“I planted the seed,   Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

1 Corinthians 3:6-7



Always Too Late!

I have a confession.

I like brown long grain rice.

I think about fixing it about an hour after I needed to fix it…. which does me no good and is even worse news for my family.

The rice sits.

I forget to get it made… and I must then substitute something else, which is generally NOT going to be as nutritious if it’s rice in the microwave!

My solution?

Finally get a rice cooker!

Yes, I know - excited about home appliances!

I did it!!  I’m excited to be  the owner of a rice cooker/vegetable steamer!

[ Yes, I realize it’s a big one, but let’s face it – someday I’m going to be fixing A LOT of food for 10 people! ]

Just think, for about 1/2 of a cup of rice – and around 100 calories, you can get about 30 grams of carbs, and about 5 grams of protein!!  Not to mention packed with vitamins, minerals and a low glycemic index for you health!  YUM!  Perfect to go with my steamed veggies!  Didn’t God do a great job of giving us so many whole foods to enjoy?

AND if you get a rice cooker…. you don’t have to sit it on the stove and babysit it for an hour or more!

Hope you have a great weekend!

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 

1 Corinthians 12:9

Broccoli, Asparagus, and Spinach Casserole

Hope this finds you doing wonderful on Holy Week!  What a great spring we’ve had so far – I can’t believe it’s April, can you?

What does spring make you think of?  Personally, I love it when every thing GREENS up!  The sign of NEW life!

Summer can be a difficult time to cook for the family, and I’m always looking for new veggies to try!  (Especially ones that are GREEN that my kids will eat and enjoy!)

This was a hit, I thought I’d share as you prepare to get some summer dishes in line!

Broccoli, Asparagus & Spinach Casserole

2 bunches of broccoli, diced

1 cup asparagus, diced

1 cup fresh spinach

1 slice each Swiss & Provolone cheeses

1 cup of plain greek yogurt

1 cup non fat or unsweetened almond milk

1 T garlic powder

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

2 T grated parmesan for garnish

Preheat over to 350 degrees

Place first three ingredients into bowl

Shred Swiss, provolone and mozzarella cheese slices and add to bowl

Add yogurt, milk and garlic powder to taste.

Mix gently and pour into 9×13 casserole dish.  Bake (covered) for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Add parmesan for garnish before plating.

Serves 8

 “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.   So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “

Isaiah 41:9-10

I Didn’t Die… Yet.

You should be the very first to know…

I actually DRANK some calories…  and I didn’t die.

You know how I feel about this.  Drinks with calories … are for people on the go.

I’m not on the go enough to drink calories.  I like to EAT too much.

Coffee, water and tea… all plain.  That’s just me.

I don’t juice, I don’t smoothie… I just don’t.

[Not to mention… the color of food on those veggie-drinks… bleck!]

I have a real issue with textures of foods, and foods that I eat – NEED to be apetitizing.   Do you think my stomach struggles, over the years, have anything to do with those issues?

No, huh-uh.

I decided I needed to figure out a way to get some more calories and nutrition in fast – that is plant-based vs. processed.

I chose to TRY…

A version of the “Green Monster Spinach Smoothie” by Iowa Girl Eats.

I can handle this…. I think.  I like spinach.  I like peanut butter. I like bananas…

OH wait!  I don’t like soy milk or greek yogurt… 

I’m desperate, I can revise this and scale it back – it’s worth a shot.

I mix it all up in the blender, and choke it down.

Definitely NEEDS ice.  (My banana wasn’t frozen and this {in my opinion} needed to be COLD!)

So I try it the next day…  colder.  With ice.

Mmmmmmmmmm much better.  My son agrees.

It does the trick, and my stomach didn’t hurt after I ate it.  Success!

Today I tried another recipe from Spark People.  (similar to = Weight Watchers) I would definitely change it up, and NOT put water in it.  I prefer it thicker, vs a water-juice type of drink.

That Silk stuff is a lot less disgusting than I thought! It has some great calcium, and no carbs! Only 35 calories per serving! (plus it's not super sweet like soy!)

Spinach Smoothie

2 cups fresh spinach

1/2  cup of light soy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

3 whole frozen strawberries

1/4 cup blueberries

1 clementine (aren’t they SO cute!?)

1/2 banana

1/2 cup of water (if I make this again, this is not going in – ice instead!)

144.6 Calories

1.7 g Fat

31.1 Carbs

5.2 Protein

My goal, is to search out a few good options to try now and then – when I simply don’t feel like eating but NEED calories, and need to feel full without processed junk.  There are LOTS of high calorie, high carb smoothie/juice recipes out there.  BE SELECTIVE.  Adding in some types of yogurt, and often times – lots of fruit – can add up the calories SUPER fast.

Know what you’re putting in.

Watch to make sure the SERVING SIZE for what you’re making… so you’re not eating for TWO!

Personally I tried to look for something that was “around” 150 calories with carbs around 30.

I had this and some low-sodium, oven-roasted chicken slices wrapped in some lettuce.  Not a bad choice at all, and 3 hours later – I’m NOT hungry.

I did learn that one of the benefits of “eating” your spinach this way is it goes directly into your system within 15 minutes, vs when you chew it up – it’s tough to chew, and a lot of fiber for your body to break down also… (meaning, you’re not able to absorb all of the great vitamins it has to offer!)  So if you like spinach, and I DO… then give it a whirl.  We just have a regular blender, and it worked great to mix it all up!

“Now these were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness,

examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”  Acts 17:11

Getting a Clue?

Now and then, it seems like some restaurants are getting a clue…  perhaps they’re actually listening to some of what is being said.

I know I hear more people paying attention to what they’re ordering, or being utterly shocked at how many calories are in (what they THOUGHT) was a “healthy salad”…

But oh my… we still have a LONG way to go to continue being educated.  We certainly can’t let the restaurants do the math, and assume they have our best interests at heart.  No, we have to consider what their objective is – for us to buy whatever it is they sell.  It’s not ultimately for us to be healthy.

But I’ll give them credit where it’s due, they’re at least TRYING.

One of our kid’s favorite places to eat when we’re traveling (and if they’re in the area), is Culver’s.  “Home of the Butterburgers”….  You can imagine how this sits with me.  I used to LOVE their Wisconsin patty melts.  (When I ate rye bread, slathered in butter… swiss cheese all melty and stuff.)  Some days I even ordered a “double”… 616 calories and 35 g. carbs.  Ouch on the calories especially.  Now I just get a double butter burger with lettuce and mustard only – and eat it (without the bun of course).  Sometimes I have a salad with it – no cheese, croutons or dressing of course…  it fits the bill for A LOT fewer calories and carbs.  Not the best choice – but much better for me.

I was a little surprised that with their “Mindful Choices” options, they failed to offer something less of a 4″ white-bread bun!  That’s 160 calories RIGHT THERE of no nutrition… Remember: Think! WHY am I eating this?  What’s the point?

Culver's "Mindful Choices" selections

Online Culver’s even has a “Nutritional Meal Builder” to give you the 4-1-1 on what you’re going to stuff on in, and pray it processes.  They also have an allergen “grid” for their products.  Very nice.  I think while their product offering is mostly of the “fast food” sort – they are trying to make better options available for their customers.  That’s more that I can say for a lot of other companies!  Just be more aware of what you’re eating.  Don’t just 500 calories is what YOU should be eating at a meal just because that is their smallest offering.  Most people need LESS than that.

“Share in suffering as  a good soldier of Christ Jesus.   No soldier  gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”  2 Timothy 2:3-4


Closets and Crock Pots

It’s rainy here in Kansas, and looking like spring might be arriving this week.  Can I get a fist pump?  What better thing to do on this day of rest, than to organize closets and sort clothes!  I really enjoy it when things are completed, but the process itself, is always an ugly one [sound like any other transformation process?]  No?  Yeah, me neither…

It reminds me of how thankful I am that we HAVE clothes, and it also reminds me that we don’t need so MANY clothes, so it steers me to buy less.  Hand me downs are great, IF you can remember to find every tub that you need each season.  Several of my children just pass right down, season after season – so that is nice [and easy].  For the ones that don’t, I sort, fold, label and tuck away – praying I will find that box when I need it!  This is when the family closet idea sounds a lot better than the set up we have!

Sundays are the day we set aside for our Lord.  It’s a day of rest, reflection, rejuvenation – and preparation as we begin a new week.  This week we add in swimming lessons for 6 of the 8 on Wednesdays – so we got our suits, warm-ups and towels all packed in the respective bags.  Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights we have soccer practices.  This means I need to start planning our meals. On nights we have practices – a crock pot meal is ideal.  I’ve tried to find more things I can cook without cheese – or add the cheese in later, so that I’m not making two meals every time.  I thought I’d share one of our new favorite dishes with you!

As you prepare for the new week that begins today – remember God wants our hearts ready at anytime, for we do not know when He will return!  Forgive, give grace, love and try your hardest each day.

I layer it like this, stir, then set the raw chicken on top!

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili


Calories: 203.7, Carbs 33.3 – Serving Size 1 1/4

-1 onion chopped (we never use this much)

-1  16 oz. blk beans

-1  16 oz. kidney beans

-1   8 oz. can tomato sauce

-10 oz. package frozen corn

-2  14.5 oz. cans Rotel (we use mild)

-1 packet low sodium taco seasoning

-1 T cumin

-1 T chili powder

-24 oz. 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine beans, onion, corn, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, and taco seasoning in slow cooker.  Place chicken on top and cover.  Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.  Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred.  Return chicken to slow cookie and stir in.  Top with fresh cilantro.  ** Top with low-fat cheese and sour cream (extra calories) if you desire.

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Matthew 24:44

Oatmeal Goodness

I really loathe change.  Don’t you?

When I know something works for me, I like to stick with it…  If it’s not broken, why try to fix it, RIGHT?

Well, sometimes even when we don’t change, our body makes choices without our consent.  I think it’s called…AGING.

For women, this is often dramatic with hormone levels – having babies, nursing, cycles…  lots of things can throw off our systems.

Often times I find myself going back to some core Scriptures of how I have been created with a purpose – by Him, and for Him.  It helps me embrace “unasked for” change.

I love Quaker brand (and boy haven’t THEY had a boost with the latest health craze, and their products!  Go Quaker! – Sorry, the marketer in me!)  For months I enjoyed these chocolate granola bars for 90-100 calories each.  Then they made a change, and about 2 months ago – I could no longer get them.  I guess they weren’t as popular with everyone else.

(*I even tried to order online – I was desperate!  No dice.)  So I switched to something new… it wasn’t AS good, but it was ok.  Then it seemed my body was rejecting something in them.  Chocolate chips.  Boo!  So I’ve had to get rid of them altogether for now.

Since I love oatmeal, I’ve found this great substitue that doesn’t contain lactose…  and if I’m around home, and don’t have an apple – this is a tasty option and filling!  (2pts for those of you who watch those!)

Yum! We get this at Target, but have found it at HyVee and Dillons/Kroger too.

What unasked for changes have you encountered, and how did you handle them?  Read today’s Scripture and be filled up.  Sounds like SOMEONE had a plan all along, whether we knew about the changes or not!  May God greatly bless your efforts and your weekend!

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Eph. 2:10

She Speaks My Heart


Throughout the book “Kisses From Katie”… Katie shares how God prepared her throughout life for what she is doing today.  When I read her words, it speaks to my heart.  I see a similar path I followed, in preparation of my future and how it led me to where I am.

As a parent though, you can understand why one might be concerned… your child, who has everything going for her from a worldly standpoint – willingly changes their course of life, not just a little bit – but in an unimaginable way – just to obey God, while in the process disobeying you.

If she doesn’t believe in a works based salvation… then why on earth would someone do that in this day in age?  Give up modern conveniences, parental approval, and “worldly successes” for… what?  To “follow God’s call”?  Does that sound like a little TOO MUCH God to you?

Well when God calls you to something – you know.  It’s not that you don’t question … why?  or how?… or “are you sure?”  But deep down in your soul – you KNOW the answer He desires for you and anything else just isn’t going to work.

I tell you, it was very humbling to read some of Katie’s journal entries – her struggles, and still – her victory in Christ, and her rejoicing… and yet, in some small way – I could relate.  I don’t live in Uganda, and I have nothing of the circumstances she has… but yet, often times I’m asked,

How do you do it?”… or

Why do you do this…?”

This could be having 8 children in 10 years, being open to life in a world that says two is almost too many (hey I agree, traveling would have been a lot easier!)… home schooling… you name it.  Even about being healthy, people think I must have some super-powers to be able to workout late at night, or not eat myself silly during stressful times…


It’s nothing of me.  I’m NOT special.  I don’t have super powers… and I truly don’t think of me as “doing” any thing as anything other than obedience to His call for us.  Sure, we could have chosen other things – but that wasn’t our calling… and not each call can be the same.  God uses ordinary people – He always has.  That is all I am.  Just like you.

In the book, Katie talks about all of the ordinary people God used – Moses, Jonah, David, Mary, Paul… and then she shared this:

“Sometimes, the everyday routine of my life feels so normal to me.  At other times the idea of raising all these children seems like quite a daunting task.  I realize that since I have chosen an unusual path it is easier for outsiders to look at my life and come to the conclusion that it is something extraordinary.  That I am courageous.  That I am strong.  That I am special.  But I am just a plain girl from Tennessee.  Broken in many ways, sinful and inadequate.  Common and simple with nothing special about me.  Nothing special except I choose to say “yes”.  “Yes” to the things God asks of me and “yes” to the people He places in front of me.  You can too.  I am just an ordinary person.  An ordinary person serving an extraordinary God.”

AMEN.  That about sums it up for me.
So, when you’re feeling like you can’t say NO to that temptation of food… or you’d rather say NO to exercising.  Remind yourself that you’re saying YES to God, and His plan for your health.  It’s okay to say no to things… it means we’re saying yes to something else.  Self-denial is unconventional for sure… but sometimes it’s really worth it.

“For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”  -Romans 11:29

For what it’s worth, Katie has a blog that tells what she’s up to.  Check it out if you feel led! 🙂

The Opposite of Easy

My last two sons LOVED these potties. I've already discovered my daughter is not a fan...

Often times, main reason people don’t make changes in how they eat, is because they don’t have the incentive to change.  We make excuses, and justify them.

At least… I do.

This was brought to my mind this week… as we’ve begun to potty train our youngest.

A girl.

My 8th child to potty train, this should be a cinch!

Should be.

*God laughs*

God made us all uniquely and perfectly for His purpose….anyone with more than 2-3 children can tell you just how different 2 children from the same two parents can be…  In fact, the more children you have, the more diverse you learn God’s design can be… from the SAME two people.  Raising children is similar to working on a marriage in that it’s a sanctification process… and we sometimes don’t realize the lessons we’re learning until afterwards.

It turns out my daughter’s strong personality and fighting spirit… the same spirit that probably helped her fight to live after being born at 36 weeks…

continues to be the fighting spirit that I’m battling each day right now.

Is she too young?  Too little?

No.  The girl knows what to do…

With 7 other cheerleaders in the house, I thought this might be the quickest one yet – but definitely not our earliest or latest.

She’s been showing signs for awhile… and I had been putting it off.

*I* wasn’t ready…

It’s too cold, and I’m too busy… and with school and the kids…

Boy – this was starting to sound like EVERY OTHER excuse I can come up with when I don’t want to do something, {and end up regretting it later}.

Like…. exercising… or making small changes in my eating habits that add up.

So amidst a painter having our main living area in a jumbled mess this week… and  my husband in between his two big business trips of the year… we both have lots of deadlines and stress and school and…

I thought this was a good time to start?

YES.  It was a good time to start…

There is never a great time to start.  If you wait for that “GREAT TIME” that “perfect time” to start we would NEVER do it.  We can always make excuses on why not to do the hard things.  They’re the opposite of easy for a reason…  they take work!  Commitment!  Incentive!

So make any day your Monday this week and start where you are.  If you’ve gotten off track – get BACK on track to be healthy for Him.

Mistakes are part of life.  We must learn from them and move on!

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:12-13

Out Eat Your Work Out

Do you really need tips on how to gain weight?  Probably not.

Most of us could figure out a way to gain weight….   add in more of our favorite fatty foods and desserts…  take about a month hiatus off of working out.

Seems easy enough.  It can actually happen more simply, and quietly than that, even when you’re working so hard for the opposite effect.

As our metabolism naturally slows as we age, we need few calories.

It’s a bummer.  I know.

The shorter you are, the fewer calories you need.

AGAIN … can be a bummer, and why a lot of women get frustrated with the husbands.  It’s true, if we’re built differently, and most of us are… our caloric needs are different too.

I look at my kids devouring things and burning calories like the pros.  Their heart rates are also going about twice as fast as mine while resting.  They’re growing… they NEED those additional calories from good nutrition.

I just WANT the extra calories.  My body certainly doesn’t need as many as I’d love to squeeze in on any given day…  especially the types of calories I’m prone to desire.

We hit on hidden sugar this week… a nice little eye opener on where things can get way off track quickly, but a great reality check.

Nothing burns me more than seeing a “balanced” breakfast portrayed with 2 eggs, 2 pieces of a “wheat toast” (Not even WHOLE wheat – but just to make it sound healthy!) and then a TALL glass of Orange Juice (worth 2 servings)…  all the while – people think they’re making good choices because this is what has been shown to us.

If you’ve just started your day off in the red like that – overloaded on carbs, don’t wonder why you’re crashing at your desk at 10am.  Unless you’re super physically active at your job – you probably don’t need that many calories, or carbs…  you can still make better choices.

If you’re going to be realistic with what your body NEEDS…  you’d be better off having a 1/4 to 1/2 of an orange, cutting out a piece of toast and skipping the added sugar in that juice!  Some might even suggest taking those eggs back to just egg whites… but for me, I need that protein, AND… I don’t fight cholesterol issues.

Here are just a few more examples on how small changes in your diet can subtract OR … add up!  (these are estimates!)

Apple = 130 calories, Banana = 170… a serving size is HALF that – so 65 calories. vs.  85.  Might not seem like much right?  But if you only chose banana servings vs. apples – after 7 days that’s  140 additional calories, and after 1 month, that’s 560 additional calories, and after ONE YEAR… that’s 6750 additional calories.. {and if not worked off} – over a pound of FAT without even trying!

That’s fruit people.  Yes, it’s something we need, but that’s why portion size, and calorie intake are so important.  Just because we’re eating real food, that is good for us… doesn’t mean there still isn’t knowledge to be had!  Be energized and aware!  Ask God to put a new song in your heart.

Let’s take a look at some others…

Green bean serving?  40 calories, Corn?  140 calories…. Hmmm….  YES, corn is more of a fruit, and fruits ARE higher in natural sugar.  Natural sugar… is still sugar.  Keeps your wits about you.  Personally I *love* my green veggies.  I love corn too – but we often mix a little corn in with our green veggies, for added color.  We can get our fix without having so much sugar (for what we consider our veggie serving!)

Bran flakes… good for you – right?  about 200 calories per serving.  Now let’s compare with granola… of course this can vary – but MOST people would consider granola a great choice.  I used to top it onto my yogurt and it is very tasty.  While it can be good for you – just like fruit, moderation is the key.  A full serving of some granola can load up to 780 calories!  Whoa!!!!   I won’t do the math for you… but you can imagine the difference in a year…  So while many people are working out, and consuming a bunch of “healthy foods” – you can see how easy it is to out-eat your work-out!

How about drinks?  Cooking with milk vs. water is always going to add in calories…. juices – as you saw on that website yesterday, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.  While again you can have a “good thing” – sometimes it can be way too much of a good thing.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth,  a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” – Psalm 40:1-3

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