Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009 ~ Hello 2010!

I can hardly believe that today is the last day of 2009!  This year has flown by.  The girls are all a year older (they just never seem to quit growing), we've been in our house for over a year now, and so much more has happened in the past twelve months.

This is my official "Goals for 2010" post.  Mostly, in the months to come I want to be able to check this post and see if I am keeping myself on track.  Hopefully, putting my goals out here for the world to see will keep me motivated.

Goal #1 - To read my Bible EVERY day, be it 5 minutes or an hour.  And not just to read it, but to actually give thought to what I read and apply it to my life and to share it with my family.

Goal #2 - To run a 10K on my 31st birthday in March.  That's 6.2 miles.  I've got two and a half months and a training program, now to get some stick-to-it-tiveness and get me behind in gear.  I know March is early in the year, so I will absolutely have more running goals throughout the year.

Those are my two big goals for 2010.  There are other lifestyle changes that I want to make, such as relaxing a little more and stressing less, leading my family in a healthier lifestyle and getting them to be more active, and making time to enjoy things.... my husband and kids, running, reading, cooking and so on.

My prayer today is that each and every one of you, my family, friends , and myself can look back on 2009 and give praise to God for his mercy and blessings.  And may we make the most of what He gives us in 2010, for His glory!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Recipe Recap - Sea Salted Smoked Almond Bark

This Christmas season I had the opportunity to get together with a few friends that I hadn't seen in quite a while.  This treat was was on the table and I kept going back for more.  I knew that I had to recreate it.  The combination of sweet, smoky and salty is wonderful.  It's incredibly easy to make.




Sea Salted Smoked Almond Bark  Adapted from Elles New England Kitchen

8 oz semi sweet chocolate
8 oz milk chocolate (you can by all means use all semi sweet chocolate if that is your preference)
1 1/2 cups smoked almonds - coarsely chopped (I used more)
1 tsp flaky sea salt (I used more)

Line 9 x 13 pan with wax paper.  Melt chocolates in double boiler or microwave.  If using the microwave, microwave on 50% power for one minute at a time until melted.  Stir in 1 cup of the almonds.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with remaining almonds.  Tap the pan several times to spread the chocolate and settle the nuts.  Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.  Chill for one hour or until firm.  Break into pieces.

* I added Craisins to some of mine and it was a hit!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Message from God.... through Dora the Explorer???

I have always believed that God speaks to us in a way that we will best understand and accept.  I think few people would be able to grasp the magnificence and meaning of a spoken word from God Himself.  Instead messages come through sermons, scripture, songs, friends.... and Dora the Explorer??  Maybe I've been a little stubborn lately, a little resistant to what He's been trying to tell me.  Maybe He finally decided to get down on my level.... and that seems to be a cartoon meant for a preschool audience.

It could be stress, it could be exhaustion, it could just be that I'm a little strange, but the episode of Dora that Tori was watching in my room this morning while I got ready for work really spoke to me.  We've watched it a hundred times on dvd, but it happened to be airing on tv this morning as well.

In this episode Dora is faced with a problem, a crisis even.  To resolve the crisis she has to overcome three obstacles and reach a goal.  How many times have we been in a similar situation.  How often does the solution to a crisis contain more than one obstacle or hurdle?  It makes it look like such a daunting and impossible mission.  Not to mention the evil one (in Dora's case, the witch) making the journey harder all along the way and just waiting for you to give up and give in.

As Dora overcomes each obstacle and completes each task she is given a magical tool that can be used at the next stop.  This is where the wheels in my head really started turning.  I was bothered that Dora was teaching children that there are magical tools that will just be handed to you.  Really, when was the last time someone handed you a bag of sunshine or a magical hair brush that would make your life easier?

Then it hit me.  I do have tools to conquer any crisis.  They don't necessarily come from friends and acquaintances, they come straight from God.  He has given us His Word to guide us, to use as a map.  The tool of prayer is a mighty one, a lifeline straight to God Himself.  His love, mercy, and grace can carry us through any obstacle.  Not over or around them, we will still have to endure them and overcome them.  But we never have to do it alone.

Dora's tools can only be used once.  She has to carefully choose when that time is.  Unlike Dora, the tools we are freely given never run out, their energy can never be exhausted.  No matter how many times we need it, God's grace can never be used up.  We are not given a set number of times we can call on God through prayer.  Everything He offers us is unending.

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nutella Cake..... Oh my!

Flourless chocolate cake is one of my absolute favorite decadent, indulgent desserts.  And once you realize how simple they are to make at home you'll wonder why you've never made one before.  They are dense and dark.... and just BEG for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

What could make this simple dessert better...NUTELLA!  What is Nutella, you ask?!?!  I highly recommend that you march right down to the nearest grocer and grab a jar and a spoon.  The chocolate-hazelnut spread can be found with the peanut butter and it wonderful on just about anything.




I made this recipe for a work pot luck and I must say, the addition of fine ground nuts and nutella made it so unbelievably yummy if you're a fan of rich chocolate desserts.

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache

I could not find hazelnuts, so I used ground almonds and garnished the cake with white chocolate snowflakes sprinkled with decorator's sugar.


Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Cake:

6 large eggs, separated

pinch salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 13-ounce container Nutellla

1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Ganache:

4 ounces whole hazelnuts

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.

Add a blob of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, or toaster oven shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 4 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. If hazelnuts came with skins on, put them in a towel after toasting and rub around; this will remove most of the skins.

Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with heavy cream over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So Far Behind! Playing catch up.

I've been a very bad blogger!  Things have been so absolutely crazy that I haven't posted anything in weeks.  So here is a catch up post on what's been happening so far in December.  I have some recipes to review and other stuff as well.  I'll get to working on those later this week.

It snowed in our area for the second year in a row!  We also set a record for the earliest snowfall and the lowest temperature.  It was great!  The kids got to play a while before it all started to melt away.










Tori also got to visit Santa.  She's been fascinated with him for weeks now and whenever we're at the mall she wants to see him, but she was also too scared to approach him or talk to him.  She finally worked up the courage to sit on his lap, and despite the look of apprehension on her face, she really liked him.




And last, but definitely not least, the girls and I got the tree put up and decorated while Troy was at work on night.  It's lovely... now I just need a free moment to wrap some gifts to put under it.




I hope everyone is having a relatively stress-free Christmas season so far.  Through it all I'm trying to keep my focus on the real reason to celebrate, the birth of our Savior!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tis the Season: Boodell-Blaker Bakeapalooza!



After Thanksgiving comes my all time favorite time of the year.  Christmas-time is here!  I love so much about this season.  The cold weather, the pretty lights, the family time, ansd especially the cooking.  Above all I love celebrating the birth of Jesus.  He really IS the reason for the season.

Saturday my sister and I got together for phase one of a ginormous Christmas goodie endeavor.  We're on a mission to fill ONE HUNDRED boxes with an assortment of nine different Christmas-time treats.

We each thought of several treats that we wanted to include.  Here are the final treats on our list.

Orea Truffles
Spice Cake Balls
Snickerdoodles
Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Fantasy Fudge
White Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
White Chocolate Chex Mix
Holiday Rice Crispy Treats
Pumpkin Bread

We started with the Oreo Truffles and Cake Balls because they freeze well.  We each prepared 400 of our designated type and had them ready to dip.  We spent more than six hours dipping more than EIGHT HUNDRED little balls into melted bark coating.  At the end of the day it was a success and the whole goodie box task doesn't seem so overwhelming.

This weekend it's time for fudge!  I'll be sure to post recipes and

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - The Finale



This is the final entry in my four week series of things that I am thankful for.  I saved the best for last, of course.

Absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the thing that I am most grateful for in my life is a loving, saving, grace-giving God.

God loves me and you with such passion and protectiveness.  You can even go so far as to say that God is jealous for us, for our affections and our allegiance.  He desires an intimate, personal relationship with each and every one of us.

For me, this means that I can put aside trying to be perfect, trying to do enough, be enough and accomplish enough.  He loves me AS I AM... sometimes weak, sometimes needy, and always imperfect.  I am made perfect through Him, through the sacrifice of His Son.  How many people are you willing to sacrifice your own child for.  I'm going to say no one.  I couldn't even bear the thought of it.  But God did.... He sent His only Son to atone for the sins of a lost world, for everyone who was, is, or ever will inhabit this earth.

Deep stuff, huh?  I understand love.... I love my husband, my children, my friends and family.  But take that love (and it's a whole lot of love) and multiply it by a million and still, you're not even close to the love that God feels for all of us.  How can I ever express how thankful I am for that?

When we receive God's love we are expected to show that love to others around us.  There are endless possibile opportunites to serve others and spread a little love.  Ask around.... at your church, your job, on the internet.  All For Good lets you search for volunteer opportunities by location.  Take your kids!  What better way to teach them to show God's love than by teaching them to serve.

I hope that each of you has a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

This past Thursday our department at work had a Thanksgiving potluck.  By the time I signed up all of the desserts were spoken for, so I decided to bring a salad.  I've had a salad similar to this before and I really enjoyed it.  I thought that the flavors would be a great compliment to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Lots of folks don't enjoy salads.  I, on the other hand, could probably live on them.  I like them all.... leafy salads, layered salads, pasta salads, chicken salads, fruit salads.... the list is endless.  I look for salads that aren't "boring".  Something that's more flavorful than just a bag of lettuce and a bottle of dressing.  This salad has so many flavors that mesh so well together.  Honestly.... I could have just this salad and some warm bread and butter and call it a meal.

For the salad greens I used prepackaged baby field greens from the local supermarket.  Since I prepared the salad at work this was the easiest option (and what I would have done even if I had prepared the salad at home).  You can use any salad greens that you like.

The original recipe called for toasted walnuts.  I chose to make candied walnuts instead and they were so good!  I did not use all of them for the salad, so I snacked on the rest of them for a couple of days.

My favorite part of the salad is the gorgonzola cheese.  Now I knowwhat you're thinking... it's somewhat pungent.... and it looks funny.... but have you ever tried it?  It's good, I promise.  If you just can't handle the gorgonzola you could substitute feta cheese, but it won't be as tasty.

Here is the recipe with the modifications that I made.  It presents beautifully and tastes even better.

Pear, Goronzola, and Walnut Salad adapted from Inn Cuisine

For the salad:

1 regular size bag (your choice) prepared salad greens

2 fresh pears, either French Butter, d’Anjou or Comice, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wide slices

Note: To prevent the peeled, pear slices from browning, I quickly swished them in fresh lemon juice and set aside.

5 ounce package (or container) of crumbled Gorgonzola (or feta)

3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces, candied (see below for recipe)

Optional – dried cranberries &/or dried cherries for extra color, flavor and texture

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt

freshly ground pepper

Assembly:

Put prepared lettuces in a large salad bowl. Add pear slices, Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts.

To make the vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, prepared Dijon-style mustard and salt in large measuring cup. Stir to dissolve salt. Mix in the olive oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or small, wire whisk.

To serve, mix the vinaigrette again and pour over the salad, tossing gently with your hands. If necessary, add additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to individual salad plates or bowls, arranging pears, Gorgonzola and walnuts as you find visually appealing.

If desired, serve with warm French bread.

Candied Walnuts from SimplyRecipes.com

Candied Walnuts Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or with wax paper or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.  Try not to eat them all before you make the salad.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part Three

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching.  My first Thanksgiving celebration is actually a potluck lunch tomorrow.  How crazy that we're starting the Thank-feasting a full week before the actual holiday arrives!  That just goes to show that it's never too early to give thanks.  In fact, giving thanks shouldn't be a seasonal gesture at all.




In this installment of my weekly posts of gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving I want to say just how thankful I am for my family.  In my life family means so much more than just those to whom I am related by blood.  I am blessed to have had in my life both a loving mother and a caring step-mother.  Troy has step-family as well, which means that my children are growing up with a wonderful over abundance of aunts, uncles and grandparents galore!  I have more sisters than some people have first cousins and it makes for great (though loud and sometimes rowdy) times when we all gather together.

These past few weeks have been rough with Troy working five or six nights a week.  Without the support of my family I don't know that I would be sane enough today to be writing this post.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for single parents who do this every.single.day.  You are super-heroes!

In additional to traditional familial ties I have also been blessed with a church family in which the members care for and love one another.  There have been a few storms in my life that this special family has helped me weather.  I am so thankful to have them in my life and they hold a special place in my heart.

I know without a doubt that my family isn't always sunshine and rainbows.  We have our share of drama and trials, but in the end we're always there for each other and I'm so eternally grateful for them!

For this weeks Thanksgiving craft I want to share an easy, tasty treat that my girls enjoy making at Thanksgiving.



Marshmallow Pilgrim Hats from Disney FamilyFun

Ingredients

24 chocolate-striped shortbread cookies

12-ounce package of chocolate chips

24 marshmallows

tube of yellow decorators' frosting

Instructions

Set the chocolate-striped cookies stripes down on a wax-paper-covered tray, spacing them well apart.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or double boiler.

One at a time, stick a wooden toothpick into a marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and promptly center it atop a cookie.

Using a second toothpick to lightly hold down the marshmallow, carefully pull out the first toothpick.

Chill the hats until the chocolate sets, then pipe a yellow decorators' frosting buckle on the front of each hat.

"For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?" ~ Rebecca Harding Davis

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Running Saga

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2




I haven't posted much about my running here but I thought it was time that I shared my running story.  It's something that I really enjoy and something that has become a part of me.  Running is also something that I truly believe anyone can do if they put their mind to it.

If you've known me in real life for any period of time you know that I am by far not athletically inclined.  I've struggled with my weight my entire life and have always been the picked-last-for-the-dodgeball-team kind of girl. 

Several years ago someone on The Nest (an online community for newlyweds where I met and made friends with a great group of gals) posted about the Couch to 5K program.  I gave it a shot and quit after no more than a week.  It was hard and I hated running.  Fast forward to three years and one baby later and I needed to do something, anything to get into a regular fitness routine.  I'm not trying to be supermodel skinny, I just want to be healthy.

I decided to try the Couch to 5K program one more time.  My fabulous friend Kasey had been doing the program with great success and was recruiting people for the Race for the Cure on October 3rd.  With exactly nine weeks until the race I had just enough time to complete C25K.  In a moment of insanity I registered for the race!

I cannot say enough  good things about  C25K.  Anyone on any fitness level can do it.  I'm not saying it's not hard and I'm not saying it doesn't hurt some days.... I'm just saying it works!  I believe the one thing that made this a success for me was realizing I was not alone.  A friend said to me the other day when I was nervous about something, "I see Jesus right there holding your hand."  How right she was!  Knowing that God was with me through every step, stumble, and gasping breath and that HE WANTED ME TO SUCCEED made the hard parts so much easier.

Now, on a good week I run most mornings.  My runs range from two to five miles depending on the weather, time constraints, and just how I feel in general.  I'll never be an elite runner or even a good runner by the worlds standards, but I AM a runner none the less.  Most days I listen to some great upbeat worship music while I run.  Other days I just listen to God and the world He created.  Every day I thank Him for giving me the ability to be out there.

In another post I'll share some of the tips, tricks and websites that I've come across these past few months.  But I do want to share this site with you.  Shelley at Running for Christ is following God's pull in her life to use her running to minister to others.  She is sending me a few Running for Christ shoe charms that I'll be glad to share.  Just let me know if you're interested and I'll get one to you.



For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline - 2 Timothy 1:7

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mini Weekend Recipe Review

My life is topsy-turvey crazy right now, so I'm making this week's recipe review a short one.  I made PW's Chocolate Sheet Cake for a get together Saturday night and it was AMAZING. 



Photo courtesy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

It's every bit as moist and rich as I remember my grandmother's chocolate sheet cake being.  It brought back great childhood memories.  Give it a try!  Head on over to The Pioneer Woman Cooks for her very, very, very detailed instructions.  You won't be sorry you did.... or maybe you will be if you're like me and eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part Two




This is the second post in my Thanksgiving series.  Before the big turkey day feast in a few weeks I want to continue to focus on being sincerely grateful for the blessings in my life.

I am so very thankful to have a great group of friends.  What I lack in quantity of close freinds is more than compensated for in their quality.  They are the kind of friends that a girl can laugh with, cry with and tell her darkest secrets to... usually all in the same conversation.  The common tie that binds us all together is our love of God and our desire to be strong women of faith.  They are my encouragers, my prayer partners, and are there to hold me accountable when I stumble.  Without them I don't know where I would be.

A simple and easy idea to get the family involved in the spirit of gratitude is a Blessings Box like this one found on Blissfully Domestic.  A simply box is decorated and placed in an accessible location with slips of paper.  Throughout the year family members write downtheir blessings and tuck them away in the box.  Then on Thanksgiving they can be read aloud.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weekend Recipe Review - Ham and Cheese Crescent Ring

This was such a hit at the soup swap and so yummy that I made it again for dinner that night along with the tomato soup that I got.




Ham and Cheese Crescent Ring adapted from Cooks.com

1 c. fresh or frozen chopped broccoli (uncooked) - I omitted this.

1/4 c. chopped parsley (or 2 tbsp. parsley flakes) - I used chives.

2 tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 tbsp. prepared mustard - I used dijon mustard.

1 tbsp. butter (softened)

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 c. shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

1 to 2 c. cubed cooked ham

1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain broccoli. In large mixing bowl, combine parsley, onion, mustard, butter and lemon juice; blend well. Add cheese, broccoli and ham; mix lightly. Set aside. Separate crescent dough into 8 triangles. On greased cookie sheet, arrange triangles, points toward the outside, in a circle with bases overlapping. The center should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Spoon ham filling in a ring evenly over basis of triangles. Fold points of triangles over filling and tuck under bases of triangles at center of circle.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot. 6 servings. To make ahead: cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours. Bake 30 to 35 minutes.

A Fun Fall Idea - Super Duper Soup Swap



Sunday I hosted my first ever Soup Swap.  It's a great way for you to stock your freezer with six different types of soup without having to buy ingredients for and prepare all six.  I used SoupSwap.com for guidelines.

Basically, each person brings six quarts of the soup they prepared and goes home with six quarts of different soups.  We only had five ladies attend, so we each got two quarts of one soup.

The Soups-

Tomato Spinach & Basil Soup
Creamy Turkey & Wild Rice Soup
Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup
Beef Stew
Beef Taco Soup

So far I have tried the tomato soup and the turky and wild rice soup.  Both are delicious!  It's great to know that on nights I'm short on time but still want to feed the family a "home cooked" dinner we have a variety of soups to choose from.

I also prepared a few snack foods for the ladies and their kids.  The biggest hits were the ham and cheese crescent ring, the cheese ball, and the gingersnap bark. 

I consider the soup swap a great success and hope to plan another one before the end of soup weather.... maybe in January.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part One



Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It brings together a few of my favorite past times.... cooking, eating and spending time with family.

This year during this holiday season I really want to focus on being truly thankful.  In a world where so many go hungry, thirsty, and without the basic necessities of life, I (and all of you reading this blog) have been provided with an overabundance of blessings.  When is the last time we showed sincere appreciation for them?

Each Wednesday until Thanksgiving I will post about something I am truly thankful for as well as an idea of how to get our children and families actively involved in giving thanks.

Today I give thanks for my husband.  Genesis 2:18 tells me that I was created with the purpose of providing companionship and help to my husband.

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Gen 2:18

God not only provided my husband with a help-mate, but He provided me with a husband who 99.99% of the time willingly shows his appreciation of my help.  He does not intentionally take me for granted as a wife and mother.  I am blessed that he strives and sacrifices to be a good provider, husband, father and friend.

Kristen from We Are That Family posted this Give Thanks Countdown Calendar on (In)Courage.  It looks like a fantastic way to get every member of the family to share what they are thankful for.

In closing I leave you with Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving from 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn [a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.

 
6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

 8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed."


Friday, October 30, 2009

What's Up for the Weekend?

This weekend it's just the Doodle and me again.  I'm sad that Troy will miss seeing Tori trick-or-treat for the first time.

Let's talk about Halloween for a minute.  This is always a touchy subject in the Christian community.  Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with dressing up in cute, fun costumes and going to HallowHim at our church or even trick or treating.  I'm not a fan of the gory or worse yet skimpy costumes.  I also don't judge those that choose not to celebrate.

Speaking of events at our church, beginning tonight and carrying on through Sunday is Baytown Bayou Blast.  You should check it out!

Tonight I'm headed to a friends house to make Pizza Mummies, carve pumpkins, decorate cupcakes and watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  Sounds like a perfect evening!

Saturday, my sister Stacie may be coming over to work out the details of what she has named "The Boodell-Blaker Bakeapalooza".  Can you say that ten times fast?  No?  Me either.  We're planning a weekend in December to bake and fill ONE HUNDRED boxes with holiday goodies.  Sounds like a daunting task for two full-time-job-working-child-rearing-ladies but I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!

In between this and weekly domestic duties I hope to have some time in the kitchen this weekend.  I don't have specific recipes that I want to try, or more honestly I have too many that I can't pick just a few.  It'll be one of those last minute decisions I'm sure.

Have a wonderful, blessed weekend and safe and happy halloween!

P.S.  Don't forget to set your clocks back an hour Saturday night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Girls Only Wilderness Weekend

I don't recall exactly whose idea it was, but several months ago one of my friends suggested a camping trip..... girls only!  That was all I needed to hear to go into OCD-camping-trip-organizing mode.  I researched locations.  Our first, second, third and possibly fourth through tenth choices weren't available.  October is prime camping season in Texas and the only available site within 200 miles was at Double Lake Recreation Area in Coldspring, Texas.




After weeks of planning, Camping Day finally arrived!  We loaded down the minivan with a tent, grill, bedding, firewood and enough food to feed a small army for the weekend.  A few people had expressed concerns about our ability to start a fire and our sanity for tent camping with forecasted lows in the 40's on the first night.

From left to right, Hope, Genn, Cory and me.  Genn and Cory were only able to stay Friday night so Saturday it was just Hope and me.



The four of us got the tent up in about 10 minutes.  Who doubted us?






And a fire wasn't far behind.




Friday night was COLD.  We should have realized that putting the rain fly on the tent, while obstructing the beautiful view of treetops and stars, would have held in the heat.  The others had snickered when I said I was bringing an electric blanket.  By the next morning they weren't laughing anymore...hehehe.

Saturday morning was clear and cold.  We had a fire going by 7 a.m. and after a few cups of coffee we were ready to set out and do a little exploring.  It was near dark when we had arrived the night before so the farthest we had been was the bathrooms.

The mist rising off the lake was beautiful.  We took the Lakeshore Trail, which was an asphalt and boardwalk loop around the lake.





By the time we got back to camp we had worked up an appetite.  We whipped up bacon, egg, chorizo and cheese tacos.  They were delicious!

After breakfast we needed to head into town to get more ice and fire wood.  We decided to try Coldspring and hoped that they had a few antique stores to check out while we were there.

We were in luck!  It was Trade Days and the town square was lined on one side with merchant booths and on the other with antique and gift shops.  I bought a few cookbooks from one of the antique shops and then we decided to try Crystal's Patio and Grill for a bite to eat and a place to sit.

Boy was that a wonderful decision!  The spinach, mozarella, garlic, goat cheese and sun dried tomato pizza was yummy and the atmosphere was fun.  They tell you straight up that they are slow and to enjoy yourselves while you wait.

Hope obviously needed a canvas to display her artistic side.



I was contemplating something deep and meaningful, I'm sure.  Probably if I would have room for dessert after the pizza.  I didn't.



We finished up in town and headed back to camp.  Cory, Hope and I headed out to check out a different trail before Cory and Genn headed home that evening.  This path was less developed.  It ended at a trailhead for the Lone Star Trail system and we decided to leave exploring that to Hope and I the next morning.






Saturday night was much warmer.  We would have slept well had it not been for a visit from some racoons in the wee morning hours.  They were treating themselves to the Snickerdoodle Cupcakes and White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies that I had brought for us to snack on.  At least they had good taste.

The next morning Hope and I packed up camp and decided to explore the Lone Star Trail.  It was beautiful!  There is nothing like being smack dab in the middle of the woods to make you realize the awesomeness of God the Creator.

We had probably hiked about 2 miles in when we began discussing the fact that we hadn't brought anything other than my cell phone and her camera.  Maybe not the best planned hiking adventure.  A loud noise in the distance brought us to our senses and we decided to head back.  I would love to spend an entire day, possibly more hiking the trail.  That's an adventure for another time.

All too soon it was time to head back to civilization.  I missed my dear husband and my babies, but I can't say that I missed the traffic, concrete, and hustle and bustle.  I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend Recipe Review - White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies

This past weekend three friends and I loaded up and headed to Double Lake in the Sam Houston National Forest to get away and spend some girl time together.  It was a wonderful time that I know will become a regular thing.  I'll blog more about that when I have pics.  Since my camera isn't working I am dependant upon my friends to post their pictures for me to borrow. :-)

I wanted to bring along some home baked treats for us to enjoy.  I had a dozen snickerdoodle cupcakes (Martha's recipe) that I had frozen from Brooke's birthday but I wanted something more autumnal to go with the beautiful cooler weather we would be enjoying.  I chose Pumpkin Blondies after seeing them on several blogs.

They were deliciously moist, with the fall taste of pumpkin and spices and the consistency of my favorite blondie recipe.  The addition of white chocolate chips just put them over the top.  We really enjoyed what we ate of them...... until the racoons got them on the second night there.  They also ate the entire dozen cupcakes.  They must have really good taste!

White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies adapted from Annie Eats

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. salt

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1¼ cups brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil. (I used an 8.5x12.5 disposable aluminum pan with lid for travel purposes).

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in brown sugar until the mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly then stir in the egg, vanilla and pumpkin until well combined.

Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined then fold in the white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

To serve, lift the cake from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and using a sharp knife, cut into 24 squares.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Testament Truths - Hosea

I am not ashamed to admit that I consider myself a relatively "young" Christian. Oh, I was saved and baptized as a young girl, but my faith never really grew until the past few years. For years I would read my Bible occasionally and think to myself... "what in the world is that supposed to mean?" This was most especially true about the Old Testament. Even if I did make it through the "begats" I could rarely see how the stories applied to my life.


Not too long ago, as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes, I see the value and truths in much of the Old Testament scripture that seemed so antiquated and irrelevant to me before. I can get downright giddy when the stories come to life in my head and I realize that what God spoke to the Israelites so long ago is still His Word today. I have come to realize that I need to write this stuff down, so here is as good a place as any to do it. I know that my ramblings may seem so simple and less-than-profound to those that may read this (if anyone does read it...lol.) but I want to be able to look back and see what God spoke to me on this day.

This morning I read through the book of Hosea after hearing a little about the story of Hosea and Gomer on the radio. It is an amazing look at God's love for the Israelites and for us, no matter how far from Him we wander.

In Hosea, the Israelites have turned from God.

Hosea 4:1-2

1 Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:

"There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.

2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed."

Hosea 13:2

2"Now they sin more and more;
they make idols for themselves from their silver,
cleverly fashioned images,
all of them the work of craftsmen.

It is said of these people,
"They offer human sacrifice
and kiss the calf-idols."


When I think about the world that we live in today I can see so many of these very things present, even in my own life. While we may not be sacrificing one another to false gods and kissing calf idols, how many idols have I made of my stuff, my very own silver?

The Lord was angry with the Israelites! They were His people. He had cared for them and brought them out of slavery.

Hosea 13:4-9

4 But I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Savior except me.

5 I cared for you in the desert,
in the land of burning heat.

6 When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.

7 So I will come upon them like a lion,
like a leopard I will lurk by the path.

8 Like a bear robbed of her cubs,
I will attack them and rip them open.
Like a lion I will devour them;
a wild animal will tear them apart.

9 "You are destroyed, O Israel,
because you are against me, against your helper.


How often do we forget what God has done for us? Do we take the blessing he provides and become proud?

Despite His anger, God loved the Israelites deeply and wanted so much for them to repent and turn to Him. God never quits desiring for us to come back to Him, no matter what we do, no matter how far we go. We can never get too far from God that He isn't asking us to come back!

Hosea 14:1-2

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!

2 Take words with you
and return to the LORD.
Say to him:
"Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.


Despite His anger and the punishment that Israel deserves God proves that He is a compassionate and merciful God. He can't bring Himself to destroy the Israelites with His wrath and fury.

Hosea 11:8-11

8 "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.

9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.

10 They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.

11 They will come trembling
like birds from Egypt,
like doves from Assyria.
I will settle them in their homes,"
declares the LORD.

Despite everything the Israelites did, all of their sin, the Lord still had plans for them. He has the same plans for us. One day we will be betrothed to Him in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion, and in faithfulness!  God still holds this promise for us just as He did for the Israelites of Old Testament days.

Hosea 2:14-20

14 "Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.

15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 "In that day," declares the LORD,
"you will call me 'my husband';
you will no longer call me 'my master.'

17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.

18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the creatures that move along the ground.

Bow and sword and battle
I will abolish from the land,
so that all may lie down in safety.

19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.

20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Brooke!!

Today is Brooke's TENTH birthday!  I can hardly believe it.  She's grown into such a sweet, beautiful girl and I'm so proud to be her Momma.



This was Monday night at her birthday dinner.  If I can be so bold.... Aren't they the bestest girls ever?!?!  I'm so blessed.




We celebrated with friends a little early.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROOKE!!!!  WE LOVE YOU!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weekend Recipe Review - Part 2 - Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars

The only thing that I got around to baking this weekend was Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars.  Well, I did bake a coffee cake for breakfast Sunday morning that I promplty dropped in the church parking lot, so we're not counting that.

Joelen mentioned these bars last week and I just knew that I had to find that recipe!



Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars from Bakespace

Bars:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1/3 cup rolled quick oats

Filling:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 3/4 cups mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

Drizzle:

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350

Bars:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and molasses until creamy.

Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Reserve 3/4 cup of this mixture and place in a small bowl.

Scoop the remaining mixture into a 10 x 15 baking pan lightly coated with nonstick spray.

Add the oats to the reserved mixture and mix until combined - set aside.

Filling:

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.

Add pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves - mix until well combined.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined.

Scoop the mixture over the uncooked base and use an off-set spatula to evenly spread the mixture over the top.

Crumble reserved oat mixture over filling.

Bake until the topping is a golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Drizzle:

In a small bowl, mix together confectioners sugar, butter and vanilla.

Mix in just enough milk until the mixture will easily flow from a spoon - drizzle over cooled bars.

They came out prefect and were so "fall" tasting.  After the first day I knew they had to leave the house, so I sent them to work with Troy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend Recipe Review - Part 1 - Caldo Gallego

I only managed to make one out of the three soups on my wish list this weekend.  And boy am I glad that I did!  I made a few changes to the recipe and the result was a hearty, spicy soup that any meat and potatoes person would be happy with.

Unfortunately my camera seems to be dead, so no pictures (again).

Caldo Gallego
adapted from Crepes of Wrath

1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices - I used bacon.

1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 large baking potato or 1/2 pound smaller potatoes, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

1 large turnip, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces - I ommited this, but only because they didn't have any at the grocery store I went to.  I will add it next time.

1/4 pound ground chorizo

1/2 pound turnip greens (or other dark leafy green, such as kale or spinach), washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped - I used kale.

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large soup pot, bacon and chorizo over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is just crispy.

2. Add onion and cook until translucent.

2. Add potato and turnip to the pot along with enough water (I used vegetable broth because I had it) to cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes until almost soft but not falling apart.

3. Add the beans, greens, and red pepper flakes and continue simmering until the greens are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread. Serves 8-10.

Sometime in the near future I'll post the recipe and review for Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What's Up for the Weekend?

"There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God." - 1 Samuel 2:2

I've had this verse marked in my Bible for a while and it's really been drawing me lately.  I thought I would pass it along.  I know that here recently there have been times (and still are) that I really need a Rock to anchor myself to.  I'm so glad that we have one!

This weekend may be the first real feel of fall for our area.  I may be jumping the gun a little on this, but it sounds like soup weather to me!  Troy will be working nights and Brynne and Brooke will be at their dad's so it will just be Tori and me.  I plan to try out three new soup recipes.

Ina Garten's Cheddar Corn Chowder - This has been on my list for a few years now and I just haven't gotten around to making it.

Caldo Gallego - I think I can get Troy to eat it if I don't tell him about the turnip.

Leek, Broccoli and Potato Soup from The Crepes of Wrath - This blog has one of the absolute best layouts for recipes.  She makes everything look so simple!  This will be my first time cooking with leeks.

And of course I'll bake something as well!  I hope to bake Gingergread Pumpkin Bars.

I'll post reviews and hopefully pictures next week.  I say hopefully because my camera appears to be on the fritz.  I have another one somewhere... if I can just find it.

To celebrate the Autumn season I'm hosting my first Super Duper Soup Swap next month.  If you want an invite, leave me your email and I'll pass it along.  It's going to be a great time!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Goodies for the Guys - Snickers Surprise Cookies and Spicy Snack Mix

Some Tuesday nights Troy meets up with some of the guys overgrown teenagers from church and they play video games.  Who am I to judge though, I have a bunco group. :-)  I had told him that I would make snacks for him to take this week.  So despite a killer sinus headache I kept my word.  I'm glad that I did because I love to eat when I have a cold and these made for great snacks while the girls and I cuddled up on the couch to veg.

I wish I had been able to take pictures for this post, but the batteries were completely dead in my camera.  You'll just have to take my word for it that it all looked delicious!

Spicy Snack Mix aka Trash

This is something that Joyce, my stepmom, makes by the bucketful during the holidays.  It's easy, versatile, and HIGHLY addictive.  Mix up the cereal, add-ins, and seasonings to your taste.

Ingredients:

2 cups each - Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Cheese Nips, Bugles, Pretzels
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
2 Tbs worchestershire sauce
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere's)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250.

In a large bowl combine cereals, crackers, pretzels and nuts.

In another bowl combine melted butter and remaining ingredients.

Pour over cereal mix and stir thoroughly to coat.

At this point I usually end up adding a bit more of whatever seasoning I want and stirring to coat.

Spread onto 2 sheet pans and bake for 1 hour, stirring at least twice.

It's going to smell amazing so be sure to let it cool enough that you don't scorch your tongue before you start eating it!  This will keep in an airtight container for just about forever.


Surprise Sugar Cookies

This recipe was inspired by the Snicker Surprise Cookies posted by Joelen the other day.  Candy bar inside a cookie!  What a great idea!  But I knew that I would be pressed for time and didn't want to make cookie dough.  I just happened to have a roll of sugar cookie dough in the fridge.

Ingredients:

1 large roll sugar cookie dough or your favorite sugar cookie recipe
18 fun size Snickers bars

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  It's okay if you don't do this step, just don't grease them!

Cut each candy bar in half.

Take one piece of candy bar and cover it completely in cookie dough.  I cut the log of dough into 36 equal portions because I'm nerdy like that.

Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.  A little underdone and chewy is better than overdone.

Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  This part might not be necessary if you're eating them as soon as they cool enough to handle, like I was!

These were yummy, but next time I will cut the candy into 3 parts and make smaller cookies.  They were bigger than I liked.

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Monday, October 5, 2009

What a wonderful weekend!

This weekend was packed with activities!

Saturday morning my friend Laura and I ran our first 5K together. We participated in the Race for the Cure My personal goal was to finish in less than 40 minutes and I did it! My unofficial time (using the stopwatch on my iTouch) was 39:20. Not the best time, but I have great starting place to improve from.

I will have pictures from the race photographer soon, but until then here are a few that troy took.



The start of the race.  I'm on the other side of the lady in the pink cap.  On the other side of me is Laura, representing with her maroon A&M top.  You can barely see her.



After the race!  We Did It!  I'm very sweaty and my hair is WILD from the humidity.  We celebrated with a yummy lunch at Olive Garden.  I'm sure I consumed way more calories than I burned during the race. :-)



And of course.... the obligatory picture of Tori.  The kids were great while I ran.  They also enjoyed the bananas, apples, and oatmeal cream pies that were handed out after the race.


That evening we took a group of Brynne and Brooke's friends to the Galleria to ice skate to celebrate their birthdays.  The plan for the corn maze was scrapped due to inclement weather.  We couldn't have made a better decision.  They had a wonderful time!



The entire group on our way in.





Everyone did great!  In this picture there are actually a couple of exta girls.  What can I say?  They make friends quickly.





And nothing makes for a better ending to a great day than a little ICE CREAM!

I hope that everyone has a wonderfully blessed week!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hellooooooo, hello, hello, hello.

It's been approximately a million years since I've written anything in this blog. Well, it's high time I started! Here's a quick run down of the past year.

- All of the kiddo's are a year older. Tori is now TWO, Brynne just turned eleven, and Brooke will celebrate her tenth birthday later this month. We're headed to Dewberry Farm tomorrow evening to celebrate the olders girls' birthdays with their friends. It should be great fun and I'll be sure to blog about it.

- I've begun leading a Wednesday night Bible study and prayer group. I am so blessed and thankful that God has chosen to use me for this. I have learned more and grown closer to Him through it. You will never hear me say that I'm teaching, since most often I feel I'm learning so much myself.

- A few weeks ago I successfully completed the Couch 2 Five K program and will be running my first 5K TOMORROW morning. Three months ago I would have thought this impossible. Seriously folks, if I can follow this program anyone can! I have big fitness and running goals and I promise to keep everyone posted.

- I've been cooking up a storm and have been stalking, I mean following, many wonderful food blogs. I'll be sure to share those blogs and their wonderful recipes with you.

There, that should just about cover it. And I promise that it won't be a YEAR before I post again.

Have a blessed weekend!