Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebratin' Easter

Grateful that Christ arose from the dead! Grateful that I'm saved! Grateful that we're free to celebrate Jesus' resurrection! Grateful for family with whom to celebrate.

The older girlies had a great time decorating some hard boiled eggs with a kit from "Auntie Cheryl". In the picture below you see them adding some gold glitter to each egg. ☺

Quick tip: My mom suggested the BEST way to boil eggs for yummy taste and bright yellow (not gray) yolks: Put eggs and water in pot (duh!), put on med. heat and bring to boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, turn off heat, cover pot with lid and set timer for 20 minutes. Rinse with cool water and you've got yerself some mighty fine hard boiled eggs.

I do not know why I constantly resort to talking (or um... writing?) with a southern accent. I'm a Californian living in New York. This ought not be.

Easter morning, the girls woke up to Easter baskets and cinnamon rolls! By 8am, they had consumed an entire year's worth of sugar.

Too bad this pic is so blurry... =(

The girls got all fancied up for church... Maddie of course did not want to get into her brand new beautiful Easter dress. When I found it on a clearance rack for $12 (marked down from $65) she told me then that it was too fancy for her. Most of the time, I consent to Maddie's simpler tom boy preferences. But on Easter... everyone is fancy and that is that!! Sadly, I did not get a picture. But you'll have to believe me when I say they were adorable. I found cute Easter hats in Target's dollar bins to top off their pastel frocks.

Maddie and Eden joined their daddy on the bus route while Leila and I finished lunch prep and headed to church. Instead of Sunday School, we had a special Easter themed edition of "Bible Quiz", the choir sang about the cross and Pastor read the account of Christ's resurrection from the Bible. Then we assembled in our fellowship area for muffins and fruit. I'm told that the Sunday morning service was very special but... I spent it in the nursery. Where we had a special time too. ☺If you consider diapers, time outs and story book reading special. Which I do.

After church, some of our family, and some friends from church, came to our home for a big ham dinner.

I'm in the habit of making simple place cards for our extended family meals. Not because I'm formal. Not because they are cute. But because it drives me CRAZY to be asked 100 times "Where should I sit?" or worse, people just mill around. Just. Sit. Down. already and eat!

I'm such a gracious hostess, you can tell, can't you?

And for dessert, my mom made a beautiful angel food cake, and I made a pound cake and turned it into this bunny rabbit.

Just look at that face! Poor thing has no idea that in just moments, we will drown him with strawberries and whipped cream and shove him into our mouths.

Lest you think I'm a pagan for having a bunny cake, here is the cake I sent to school for the students and staff:

After dessert, a Easter egg hunt!

I borrowed this idea for Resurrection Eggs. As the kiddos opened their eggs and found something special (and so un-candy-ish) they would bring their little symbol to me and try to tell me what it had to do with Jesus' Crucifixion or resurrection. When they did, I replaced the token with candy. (Of course the wee ones had extra help figuring out what nails had to do with Easter...)

I absolutely loved all the children at church being dressed in their best. Every single one looked adorable. My nephew Eli looked great in his suit. But the hat really completes the ensemble, don't you think?

And this little man, my nephew Noah, is ALL business.

Personally, I would have done without the meal and the candy and the hunt and even church and just taken pictures of my cuties all fancy and cute all day long. But in reality, this is the only picture I got of a dressed up princess. The older too were way too busy having fun to sit still long enough for me to capture their Easter elegance.

It was a really pleasant holiday for us. Hope you enjoy the day as well!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

We have a special day planned for tomorrow as we celebrate our Savior's triumph over the grave. I'll share (with pics, if I remember!) soon. Hope you have a glorious Easter Sunday!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Public School Outreach

Although I'm several weeks late sharing this with you, I do want to take the time now to describe the public school outreach the our church sponsored about a month ago. My two reasons for really wanting to share this:

1. To praise God for the great work He did!
2. To possibly encourage some of my friends in the ministry to consider bring Bob Holmes for an outreach in their school district.

Bob Holmes has been an evangelist for decades. Burdened about America's public schools, he was praying for a way to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He had never been athletic and was the last kid picked for sports teams; but as a middle aged man, he suffered an injury and it was suggested to him that he try volleyball as a means of physical therapy. Surprisingly, he was quite good at it. So good, that by himself, he consistently beat large teams. Thus began a new ministry: Beat The Odds (That link would be the site for school princliples to learn about what Bob does in the school assemblies).

Bob travels all over the country as a one man volleyball team. Using a positive anti drug, anti bullying message, he is scheduled as a motivational speaker in public school assemblies. With 2-3 assemblies each day, he sees thousands of junior and senior high schoolers during the week he is in town. During these public school assemblies, Bob can not, by law, present the Gospel. He does, unashamedly, tell what Jesus means to him, but can not have an invitation or lead the teenagers to Christ at this time. However, during the school assemblies, the teens are invited to a Thursday evening rally, hosted by the local church. Pizza and awesome prizes are announcement, and Bob lets them know that he will tell them the rest of his "Beat the Odds" message at that rally. The teenagers really enjoy the assemblies. I will honest... I thought a middle aged man playing volleyball would not really get them excited. BUT... it is very fun and aside from how impressed the kids are with him beating entire teams on his own (which he does in the assemblies), his message really gets to their hearts. So many teenagers are hurting, and they open up to him in a remarkable way. Suicide, drugs, sex, bullying... they face these issues every day. His facebook page is loaded with grateful comments from the teenagers.

During the rally on Thursday evening, held at a gym that has been rented by the church, he plays "celebrity" teams such as the fire department. He has even played pro sports teams, like the Buffalo Bills. But as Seth said, beating them isn't such a great feat. ☺

My husband was preparing for the week's events for several months before Bob actually came. There were times when nothing was working out. School administrators weren't interested. Assembles weren't being scheduled. A gym wasn't available ANYWHERE for ANY price. We were praying. Seth was getting that horrible knot in his stomach that we all get when no matter how hard you work and try, things are just NOT coming together. I'd gather the girls several times a day and we'd pray. And then, about a week or so before the outreach was schedule to happen... details began to fall into place. I wonder if God just wanted us to keep in mind Who would be running this show! ;)

Here are the HUNDREDS of people who came to the Thursday night rally. We actually had to turn people away! We ended up with a very crowded gym, with about 800 people packed in.

As people entered, we asked them to write their name and address on a plain 3x5 card. They took the cards to their seats, for later collection.

(That crazy lady is my fabulous sister in law. Mother of 4. Looks 14 yrs. old. Plays piano awesomely. She is my friend. I ♥ her.)

Bob played several teams that evening, including our local police department and fire department, the riot team at the jail, and some varsity sports teams. He, of course, beat them all.

We had promoted free pizza for all in attendance. Some was donated, some the church bought. So this is what 800 slices of pizza looks like, in case you've always wanted to know:

After playing, and beating, every team, Bob went right into presenting the Gospel to the crowd. Here he is telling them of the One who beat all odds and can help us do the same.

800 people hearing about Jesus!

After leading those who want to trust in Christ in prayer, Bob asks them to take the 3x5 card with their names/addresses on it and fold down a corner if the just received Christ as Saviour. Then church volunteers collected the cards and the prizes were given away via drawing the 3x5 cards. We had a Game boy, bike and gift cards to giveaway. (Again, some were donated, some the church provided).

And then everyone is given a slice of pizza on their way out. Impressive stack of empty pizza boxes, eh?

When it's all over, we were left with a bucket overflowing with 3x5 cards. In our excitement, we sorted the cards that same night. 380 cards had bent corners! In addition, Bob was able to speak in a local Catholic school during the week of school assemblies. Since that was a private school, he was able to preach the Gospel there as well and approximately 180 high schoolers raised their hand declaring they had received Christ. WOW. To God be the Glory!

We then took the cards with bent corners and organized them by streets and have begun visiting each one. This was a perfect opportunity to start a bus route so that is exactly what we have done! Last Sunday was the second week of offering rides on the bus and we had 8 awesome kids and teens come to church on the bus! It's thrilling.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roasted Chicken: The dinner that keeps on givin'

And now it's that time (again) where Kayte pretends like everyone cares what I feed my family. ☺

Cooking from scratch sounds really hard to some people. But, the benefits- healthier, cheaper, tastier- are worth the effort. Whenever possible, I try to cook a BIG batch when I do from scratch cooking. Why not? It isn't much more work at the time and will save lots of work later on. Thank goodness for freezers! ☺

A few years ago, I kept noticing whole chickens going on sale for 88 cents a pound. I passed it by, simply because I didn't really know what I would do with the thing if I did buy it! Finally, when it came on sale again, I decided it was time to learn how to roast a whole chicken. And if I'm gonna roast one, I might as well roast two! Last week, I bought these whole chickens for 77 cents a pound. Digging through the pile for the biggest ones, I bought one for $4.74 and one for $3.73. I plan to make the most of that $8.46...

Chicken Marinade:
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 soy sauce
1/2 lemon juice (save the lemons)
Whisk together.... (look at me- doing fancy sequence shots like a cool blogger... instead of the negligent blogger I actually am ☺)
Unpackage, rinse and pat dry the cute little birds. They are kinda cute, right? Even though they are dead. Resist the urge to name them. It'll make it awkard when you're eating them.☺ Into each bird's cavity, I stuffed the 4 lemon halves that I previously juiced, along with some poultry seasoning. Over the skin, I sprinkle sea salt and cracked pepper, then pour the marinade over, followed by a sprinkle of poultry seasoning. Into the larger of the the two, I inserted a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. I set my thermometer to alarm when it reaches 180 degrees, which will take about 2 hrs.
Before setting the chickens into a 450 degree oven, I cover with foil, trying to create a tent to trap steam but without directly touching the chickens. Its easy on the bird with the thermometer in it... it serves as something to stick the foil to. It's harder on the other. After several frustrating minutes trying to create a tent on the second, I give up. Once you've got them looking nice and UFO-ish, put 'em in to bake. ☺ This is easy, right?
Now somehow my sequence shots went awry. Hmmm.... well the top picture shows them fresh out of the oven. Here, obviously, I carved out what my family would eat for dinner. We actually had leftovers from this serving plate, but wanted to be sure to have everyone's favorite peices.

So this is super easy so far.... the real work is after dinner. While we eat our moist and flavorful chicken (and sides), the remaining chicken cools off. Then I (with my hands) pull off every scrap of meat on those chickens. It is not glamorous. It's not gross either. Put on some happy music. It makes the whole thing better. ☺ And try to refrain from nibbling on chicken as you work. (Ok so maybe I did sample a little...)
What you end up with is a pile of delicious meat, a pile of skin/cartildge/unidentifiable chicken gunk.... and bones. The bones go into a BIG stock pot, along with some onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, sea salt and cracked pepper. Fill pot (almost) with water. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for several hours. (I let mine go for 4 hours).
The beautiful meat gets pulled or cut into smaller chunks and packaged for future use. I put 1 tupperware in the fridge for the next evening's dinner (enchiladas!!!) and 2 bags into the freezer for super easy meals in the next couple of weeks. So many meals require cooked chicken; having it handy and ready to use is fantastic. Plus this chicken has been raosted on the bone so it's so moist and gooooooood.
And here is the waste pile. Maybe I am freakishly frugal but it makes me happy to see such a small amount not be usable.
After the broth simmers for hours and hours, allow it to cool. For me, it was bedtime, so I strained the broth into pitchers and put in the fridge. The next morning, I skimmed the fat off and poured into ice cube trays.
After freezing, I popped them into freezer bags. Here are 182 broth cubes. 2 cubes = 1/4 cup. So this is almost 23 cups of broth. Broth that I don't have to buy. Broth I don't have to figure out what to do with the rest of the can, or worry about the carton not being used before going bad. Broth that will defrost quickly. Broth that is healthy.

I think 4 meals main ingredient, plus loads of broth is worth a little time. It really isn't hard. And it really did taste great!

I'm looking for more ways to cook from scratch. Any good recipes/ideas, friends?


Enchiladas, with Spanish rice!

We ♥ enchiladas.

Easy, doesn't take too long and a great way to redress leftovers. Here's what I do:

10 fajita size tortillas (I used 8, and then 3 low carb tortillas for my mom... the low carb ones are a little smaller)
1 big can enchilada sauce
1 small can re fried beans
A little over 2 cups cooked chicken (or beef....leftover pop roast? Shred it up!)
Cheese, salsa, taco sauce, olives, sour cream.... the possibilities are endless.

Since I like to make Spanish rice with this, I start soaking the tortillas in a pie pan filled with the enchilada sauce as I brown up 1/4 c. chopped onion, 1 tsp. minced garlic and 1 cup of rice in a bit of olive oil. Once the rice is golden brown, I add 1 small can tomato sauce, 1 and a half cups chicken broth (I just use the tomato sauce can to measure), about 1/2 tsp. chili powder and a bit of pepper. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, remove one tortilla from sauce at a time. Smear with re fried beans... I know, they are cold and straight out of the can. Ew. But it's all going to work out fine in the end. Top beans with a small handful of chicken, then cheese, and salsa.
It can get a little messy. But it's going to be fine, I promise. And let me just insert here that salsa should come from the produce department, folks. I'm a salsa snob.

After putting in your desired filling ingredients, fold the top and bottom down and then roll the whole kit and caboodle up. Place seam side down in your baking dish (I used 10x14). Once all your enchiladas are assembled, whisk in 1/2 c. of sour cream into the remaining enchilada sauce. Go ahead and mix it right in the pie pan. It will work. ☺ Then pour that creamy goodness over all your enchiladas. If you are one of those people who don't believe in TOO much cheese, you can sprinkle cheese on top. (And olives, or basically whatever you want.) I used to cheese to mark my Mom's low carb enchiladas.

Bake at 425 for 25 - 30 minutes. I usually cover with foil, but I was out, and guess what? It turned out just fine. ☺

By now, your Spanish rice is cooked, your table is set (hopefully), your kids are hungry, your baby is crying, the phone is ringing.... must be dinner time. ☺


Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy 6th Month Birthday, Leila!

{Drool gettin' ready to drip}
{Classic Leila furrowed eyebrows}