Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The New Working Mom Wednesday!

I am so excited to be co-hosting Working Mom Wednesday with Julia from Work Wife Mom Life!  We have changed things up a now have the option of doing an open blog on any working mom topic you would like to talk about, or you can answer one of the weekly questions.  The questions for this week are:

1. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be? (the pay, the hours, the work you do...)

2. A time when you felt you deserved more (recognition, pay, whatever)

For me, question #1 is an easy one!  I love my job, and I can truly say that when I start my new career after college, I will miss my job and the many friends I have made there.  If I could make more money where I am now, I wouldn't leave.  I definately don't get paid enough, because it can be a stressful, busy job and the hours are not great, either.  I work four nights a week, plus two mornings, and I never get home before 7:30 p.m. on the evenings I work.  (In case you're wondering, I work as a manager and trainer at a women's gym.) 

But the trade-off is that I love what I do.  I love helping women meet their goals.  I see so many who come in feeling defeated and thinking they'll never be able to lose weight or get in shape.  I love seeing their confidence grow as they realize they can do this.  I love seeing them blossom as they lose weight, gain strength, and feel better about themselves.  It's not a perfect job, but I do love it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I love this traditional Jewish bread!  It's pretty simple to make, and it's delicious...a little sweetness, a nice crust, and a yummy soft center...wonderful!

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/3 cup sugar
• 3 3/4 cup flour
• 1 envelope active dry yeast
• 2 eggs, beaten, plus 1 egg for glaze
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing bowl
• Sesame or poppy seeds
• Butter for glazing

1. In a food processor, pulse the salt, sugar, and flour to combine.

2. Soak the yeast for 10 minutes in 1 cup water that is warm to the wrist; add the yeast to the food processor, then add the eggs and oil; process until the mixture forms a ball on the processor blade. (If the weather is humid, you may have to add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.)

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat on all sides; cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

4. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each into a long, skinny log; braid the dough, tucking in the ends; place the braided dough on a cookie sheet and let rise, covered, for one hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6. Brush the risen loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds; bake 30 minutes, or until golden; while bread is hot, rub with a stick of butter to glaze it.

Things Will Be Different This Time

My summer has flown by…I can tell school is getting close because I'm starting to get into panic mode. I know, summer is just getting started for most people, but I'm taking a class in Summer II, so mine is coming to a close. It's been a nice break, and a part of me hates to see it end, but part of me is glad to get back to class. Each semester brings me one step closer to my goal of becoming a dental hygienist.

I'm not as freaked out as I was before I started the spring semester, which was my first semester back in college in 10 years. I know more of what to expect this time. But nonetheless, I'm freaking out a little. I'm getting my note pages printed off the class website, getting my books and student ID and Scan-Tron forms together, and trying to make sure the house isn't too chaotic (even though I know it will be total chaos by finals week).

One thing that's different about this is semester is that I already know what I'll miss the most…I'll miss the time with my kids. Once school starts, I'll be working, in class, or studying pretty much 24/7. If I'm not at work or in class, my nose will be buried in my notes or my books. Even though, in the long run, I'm doing this so I can make more money while working fewer hours and having more time for my kids, in the short term, it's hard for all of us. It's hard for Robby, who shoulders a lot of extra responsibility while school consumes my time. It's hard for the kids, who don't get to see me as much they're used to. It's hard for me to juggle it all, including the guilt I know will be inevitable.

But another thing that's different about this semester is that I know I'll make it. Will it be hard? Yes. Will I feel like I'm drowning sometimes? Absolutely. Will I question my sanity? Often. But I'll make it. We'll make it. The kids will study while I study. They'll see that education and hard work are important to me and to our family. They'll see that reaching your goals takes sacrifice. We'll all learn a lot of lessons, and I think the most important ones have nothing to do with the classes I'm getting credits for…we'll learn the most important ones as we juggle this crazy life together, as a family. I'm so grateful to have them with me on this crazy journey through life.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Manic Mommy Monday - Lessons Learned From Family Trips

We just back a few days ago from a family trip to Alabama for a wedding. We had a blast, and it made me think about past trips we've taken. We always have fun, and we always have funny experience s that we look back on and laugh about…even if they weren't too funny at the time.

• If you child gets carsick easily and you hear the words, "Mom, my tummy hurts," it's already too late.

• Carry a change of clothes somewhere other than the suitcase…which is under the stroller…which is behind the cooler...

• Carry a first aid kit at all times and be prepared for anything short of major surgery - if you don't take one, you'll end up really needing it!

• Kids inevitably need to potty at the exits with no clean bathrooms.

• When you get out of the car to let you child potty beside the road (see above), be careful where you stand…make sure its not on top of a fire ant mound.

• Portable DVD players rival the light bulb as the greatest invention of all time…at least for traveling families.

• No matter how many belts, shoes, socks, etc., your children own, you will not be able to find the items you need the most while you're packing.

Ah, the joys of traveling with children!

Menu Plan Monday - June 27

This is going to be one of those totally insane weeks…the kids have swimming lessons, I've getting ready for the summer semester, Robby has a funeral to preach… Due to our crazy schedule (and several recent failed new recipe experiments), I'm keeping it pretty simple this week and sticking with some tried-and-true family favorite meals this week…and a couple of meals that can be thrown together in a hurry!

Monday Lunch: pirogues and kielbasa
Monday Dinner: slow cooker baked potato soup

Tuesday Lunch: chicken packets
Tuesday Dinner: omelets

Wednesday Lunch: pork chops
Wednesday Dinner: leftovers - slow cooker baked potato soup

Thursday Lunch: sandwiches
Thursday Dinner: chicken packets

Friday Lunch: chicken in a pot
Friday Dinner: omelets

Saturday Lunch: sandwiches
Saturday Dinner: Freedom Celebration Car and Motorcycle Show

Sunday Lunch: crouton dressing
Sunday Dinner: chicken in a pot

Sunday, June 27, 2010

VBS and Summer Class and Car Shows...Oh My

Summer is in full swing!  Our summer is going so well, in spite of a crazy schedule...of course, I don't know of any time in our lives when we don't have a crazy schedule!

Next weekend we're having our church's annual Freedom Celebration, which includes our car and motorcycle show.  I'm so excited about it!  Last year we just had cars - this will be our first year to have motorcycles as well.  It's so fun seeing the cars (and bikes) that people have poured so much time into - they look great!  One thing that makes it so fun is that the people who attend vote on the winners, so everyone gets invovled whether they have a car in the show or not!  Plus we'll have a huge cookout, so we'll all go home stuffed and happy.

We're also just over a month out from Vacation Bible School, which I always head up.  This year I'll be heading it up in the middle of summer class, so this should be interesting!  Last year, we went out on a limb, wanting to try something different, and did a sports camp VBS.  I have never had such a great reaction to any VBS before!  It was a smash hit, so this year we're doing another sports camp.  We're offering basketball, soccer, and cheerleading, with stories of famous atheletes and nightly Bible lessons on people who made a comeback.  The highlight of the whole week is parents night, when the kids show off what they've learned, and our little cheerleaders show off during the closing ceremony.

And in the middle of all this, summer school begins...more on that is crazy, but life is good.  It's going to be a great summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday's Fabulous Finds - Miche Bags

I posted this a while back, but Miche has come out with some awesome new products and I thought this was worth an update...

I discovered Miche bags from a friend and work and got mine almost a year ago. I am so in love with this purse! I love to switch purses around for a new look to match every outfit, but I hate the hassle of changing purses…which is why Miche is such a brilliant idea.

The concept is so simple but so amazing! The purse is a basic black or brown bag, but there are magnets on the outside lining - they use a special kind of magnet that will not effect your credit cards, debit cards, or cell phone. You can buy dozens of adorable magnetic shells for the purse, then whenever you want to change your purse, just pull off one shell and put on another. You can customize it further by changing out the handles. New shells and other products are being introduced all the time.

I have the original Miche, which works perfectly for me. My sister in law (and mother of five!) just bought the newest Miche, which is a larger, hobo-style bag. She loves it and says it's perfect for holding everything she needs for herself and her large family.

For a purse junkie like myself, this is a dream come true! I have 5 shells for mine now, and I already have several more picked out to buy. It is worth every penny you will spend on it, and it is very affordable. I don't see myself carrying anything but a Miche bag ever again. Check it out at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thankful Thursday - rain

Today is one of those wonderful rainy days...just enough to cool things off, but not enough to cause a nasty day.  I love rain, and I really love the smell of rain.  I grew up in south Arkansas, and I can still remember opening my windows on rainy days and letting that wonderful smell drift into my room.  Maybe its the Irish in me, but I love rain!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grandma Gowen's Hobo Bread

This is an original family recipe that my husband's grandmother came up with.  She didn't have enough ingredients to make biscuits one morning for breakfast, so she mixed together what she had and created hobo bread.  It's a delicious "accident!"  Robby's Grandma is in her 80's and still lays out an amazing breakfast spread…by the time we're done with it, we're too full for lunch!

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1/2 cup milk
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1-2 teaspoons oil
• Salt to taste
• Flour

Mix well, adding flour to desired thickness; heat oil in skillet and fry bread until golden brown.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I've been a very bad blogger

Wow - I haven't posted anything lately.  I was doing great with my blogging schedule, but life has been insane for us lately.  First it was the out-of-state wedding, then we came back to pick up our dog from the vet and found out she has ulcers in both eyes (which we're still trying to treat), plus a week packed with church activities.  I have been a bad, bad blogger.

I'm recommiting to my blog beginning this week.  I will get back to regular postings.  I will post daily, or at least almost daily.  I will be a good blogger from here on out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An amazing weekend

We had such a great time this past weekend!  My husband and I, along with our boys, went to Auburn, Alabama for our oldest niece's wedding.  It was the first time in 2 1/2 years that Robby, both his sisters, and all of our families were together.  It was awesome,  but I'm glad to be home and looking forward to getting back in the groove.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hash Brown Casserole

I got this recipe from someone at my job and just tried it this past week - it was a huge hit at our house!

• 2 lbs frozen hash browns

• 1/2 cup melted butter
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 16 oz. sour cream
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 cups crushed cornflakes
• 1/4 cup melted butter

1. Defrost hash browns.
2. Combine next 7 ingredients and mix with hash browns.
3. Pour into casserole dish.
4. Saute cornflakes in butter and sprinkle on top.
5. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Manic Mommy Monday -

Last week I talked about meal planning, which is something I cannot function without. The other thing I can't make it through a week without is my calendar system.

I often tell people that I'm a very organized person…at least on paper. (Off paper…well, that's another story!) I have a personal day planner and a family calendar, and I know that if it doesn't written down on those, it won't get done. Writing things down is the only way to make sure we all know what's going on. Here's what I'm learned about my systems…

Personal day planner

I've come to depend on my day planner so much that I refer to it as "my brain." It goes everywhere with me. I even have it color-coded (I carry highlighters in my car…I know, I sound really OCD) so I can tell at a glance what anyone's schedule is. In it are my important phone numbers and addresses, book and movie lists, a page of passwords and contact info for work, and more. Anything I might need on a daily basis is there.

There are tons of really good, affordable personal calendar systems available. Personally, I am a huge fan of Franklin Covey, especially their Franklin Covey 365 line at Target. I started out with a personal size ring-bound planner, which you can buy for around $20. It worked great until I started college, when I realized I would need a bigger planner with more space. I loved the flexibility of a ring-bound planner - I could add as many pages and whatever kind of pages I needed.

I switched to a Franklin Covey Simplicity for Moms wire-bound planner, which I bought at Office Depot for around $25. I paired it with a great cover I found at Target for $15 and I was done.

I love the cover because it includes pockets for loose papers, business card slots, and a pen holder. I found a cute one with a cover that can be easily wiped clean. The larger wire-bound planner is much lighter than a ring-bound of it's size, and the Simplicity for Moms has tons of useful pages, including school information, activity/lesson planner pages, and an allowance tracker.

To me, a personal planner is an absolute necessity. You can corral all your notes and information into one area and can find whatever you need at a glance. It's worth th

Next week I'll talk about family calendars and the great options I've found for those,  including a really awesome online family calendar.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thankful Thursday - thunderstorms

I love the sound of a good thunderstorm, and here on the Gulf coast, we get a lot of them!  I had the rare chance a few days ago to spend part of my lunch break curled up on a couch at the local library, reading my favorite author's new mystery, and listening to sound of a thunderstorm outside.  To me, there's something soothing about the sound of gently rolling thunder and pounding rain...I love it!

Living Out of Emptiness?

I have this article by Jane Rubietta in my Bible study journal. The article is called The High Chair Day, and it sums up what I think every Christian, and especially every pastor's wife, goes through at some point. One line really stood out to me - it says, "You (and I) cannot, must not, live and minister out of emptiness."

And yet, as I read that, I realized that's exactly what I'm doing. I looked back at my Bible study notebook, and I saw emptiness. Actually what I saw was one article (the one I was reading), four pages of meager notes, and lots of blank notebook paper. It's empty, it's depressing, and I hate it.

I started wondering how I got to this point. Busyness? Boredom? Lack of focus or self-discipline? When I was in college the first time, and when my husband and I first got married, I would spend 45 to 60 minutes a day in Bible study and prayer. I would wake up early every day, most days at 5:30 a.m., eagerly awaiting my quiet time with God. Where did that eagerness disappear to?

I know that I can't keep going like this. Five minutes of reading a devotional book and breathing a quick prayer for my family isn't going to carry me through the day. Having a quick and easy quiet time doesn't give me the strength I need to balance all my hats. I need a passion so I can be a wife, mom, pastor's wife, children's minister, manager, college student, and friend. I can't do it any other way.

A few weeks ago, I read Isaiah 44:3 and it seemed to jump off the page at me. It says (NASB), "I will pour out my water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants."

I want that…I want to be thirsty ground for God. I want a passion that drives me. I want my children to see my faith, to know that it's real, and I want that faith to be handed down to them. I want them to believe in Christ because they saw me believe in Him, and because they saw Him in me. That's my prayer.

The next few weeks, while I am out of school, I'm going to be working on putting together a new notebook…not really a Bible study notebook, but more of a spiritual journal. I'm taking a new approach to my quiet time. I'll post more about it as I get further into my new project.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kid Friendly Breakfast

My family LOVES this's our traditional Christmas morning breakfast...

• 6 eggs, beaten

• 1 lb. sage sausage, browned and drained
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp dry mustard
• 5 to 6 biscuits, torn into shreds

1. Repeat steps 1 and 2, pouring into a greased baking dish.
2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and sit casserole out.
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Our Love Story

I never get tired of telling our story!  lol 

I met my hubby in May 1999.  I was 19 and he was 24.  Robby had been a youth pastor for several years and had just accepted his first position as senior the small country church I grew up in.  His parents had both passed away by that point, so my famil "adopted" him - he came over once a week to eat dinner with us and play Monopoly.  We did the whole "courtship" thing without ever even realizing it!  lol

I liked him, but I knew nothing would happen as long as he was our pastor.  I dated some other people, and after a breakup with one of them, I decided I'd had enough of dating.  I told my grandma that I was going to start praying that no one else would even ask me out until it was the man I was going to marry.  Quite honestly, she thought I'd lost my mind.  I'd just turned 20, and she told me, "You realize it may be years before you get may be years before you go on another date?"  I said I was ok with that.

A year after he came to our church, Robby resigned and accepted a church an hour away.  I was heartbroken.  I lost weight, cried all the time...then three weeks after he moved, and six months after I started praying that unusual prayer, Robby called to ask me for our first date.  We dated all of three and a half weeks before he proposed, then were engaged for three months.  Later this year we'll celebrate our 10th anniversary.  Ten years, four cities, two states, two kids...  He is everything I could have asked for in a husband and more, and I fall more in love with him every day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - 5/31

Monday Lunch: sandwiches

Monday Dinner: parmesan crusted chicken

Tuesday Lunch: chicken ricotta bowls
Tuesday Dinner: breakfast casserole, hash brown casserole

Wednesday Lunch: creamy chicken sandwiches
Wednesday Dinner: parmesan crusted chicken

Thursday Lunch: chicken ricotta bowls
Thursday Dinner: slow cooker Italian chicken

Friday Lunch: lasagna
Friday Dinner: red beans and rice

Saturday Lunch: ravioli
Saturday Dinner: slow cooker Italian chicken

Sunday Lunch: lasagna
Sunday Dinner: red beans and rice

Overnight Stuffed French Toast

• 6 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 6 1 1/2 inch slices French bread
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 recipe strawberry or raspberry sauce

1. Grease a three quart baking dish and set aside.
2. In a small bowl beat together cream cheese, sugar, and nutmeg.
3. Cut a pocket in each slice of bread; divide cream cheese mixture evenly among the pockets; place in baking dish.
4. In a small bowl beat together the eggs, milk, and vanilla; slowly pour the egg mixture over the bread slices, covering all the tops.
5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
6. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

• 3 cups fresh or frozen slightly sweetened raspberries
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 tsp cornstarch

1. Thaw berries; blend until smooth and strain.
2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; add berries; cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, then cook another two minutes.
3. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

* For strawberry sauce, use 3 cups fresh or 16 oz frozen strawberries; reduce sugar to 1/4 cup; otherwise prepare as above.

Manic Mommy Monday (one day late) - Meal Planning Made Easy

When it comes to organizing my family, I would say that my strongest area is meal planning. I could not function during the week without a meal plan.

Some people plan by the month, but since our schedules are so subject to change, I plan ours by the week. Every Sunday (sometimes earlier in the week if I have time) I sit own with my day planner and plan lunch and dinner for the entire week. Then I make my shopping list directly from my menu, fill it in with other items we need (drinks, snacks, cleaning supplies, etc.) and I'm done.

I probably spend about an hour to an hour an a half a week planning it all out, but it saves countless hours of wondering what to cook or making extra trips to the grocery store. Here are a few tricks I've learned to make menu planning easier:

Double up and use leftovers.

Almost every time I cook a meal, I make enough to make two meals out of it. So if I make spaghetti on Thursday night, we'll eat it again on Saturday. This saves me time in the kitchen and money at the store by buying in bulk.

Use your slow cooker.

I am convinced that a slow cooker is a mom's best friend - especially for a working mom. I generally plan two slow cooker meals a week (and since I double the portions, that's four meals out of fourteen done!). If you haven't used a slow cooker a lot, start by checking out two of my favorite sites - A Year of Slow Cooking and Recipe Zaar.

Have a flexible plan for breakfast.

Some mornings I'm home and able to cook breakfast, but other days I'm off to work or school before anyone else is even awake. I keep a variety of breakfast food stocked - cereal, frozen waffles, sausage biscuits, yogurt, fruit, etc. I also like to use recipes that have to be refrigerated overnight, like stuffed French toast, which I've also posted a recipe for. Just pull it out of the fridge and pop it in the oven, and you have a quick, easy, and very yummy breakfast.

Keep a few "emergency meals" on hand.

No mater how well you plan, things don't always go according to plan. It doesn't have to be fancy - canned soup, chicken nuggets, frozen ravioli - but keep a couple of emergency meals on hand in case a ball game runs over or you forget to thaw meat for dinner.

It takes a little time and practice, but the time and money you save by meal planning is well worth it!
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