Saturday, March 31, 2012

Making The List

When I left my job, it took a significant chunk out of our income.  To compensate, we have put ourselves on a very strict budget to help pay off previous debt.  I have found myself making adjustments I never dreamed I would be able to do.  Part of my adjustment includes the way I shop.  You have to remember that my ride to a nice grocery store is almost an hour away.  I choose to go to a super store so that I can get all my shopping done at once.  I only go once a week, and some people wonder how I do it.  Goodness, considering what my life used to be like, I wonder sometimes myself!  If I must be truthful, I have grown quite accustomed to it.  When I go out to the little, "big" city, I am always glad to pull back into my driveway where life is simple and God is great!  I thought I might share how I keep my sanity in trying to shop for a full week's worth of groceries at a time.

Each week on Thursday, I sit down with my computer, menu, and grocery list. I write out each meal for each day.  What is the computer for?  I often go through my recipes on Pinterest or my favorite blogs for menu ideas as I work.  When I pencil in a meal, I immediately write on the grocery list any ingredients that I need to pick up to complete the recipe.  I have my grocery list set up to match the layout of the store in which I shop.  It helps keep me super focused so I don't have so much temptation to spend money on things I don't really need, pushing me over my budget.  It isn't a fool-proof method, especially when you are as naturally scatter-brained as I and/or have little ones running in and out while planning, but it helps me tremendously!  It's only about once a month I forget to add something that I really need.  This week it was the buttermilk!  Thank goodness we do have a tiny grocery store here when I'm in a pinch.  I don't shop there unless I am desperate because the prices are just crazy!  I thought you might like to see a blank copy of my grocery list and menu.  I have the template printed out, and I write on it by hand.  I used to do it all on computer because it was neater, but it became too much of a hassle to turn the computer on every time I needed to add one or two things the list or menu for the following week.  Usually, when I come home on Friday after shopping, I pull out a new template for the next week.  I'll add things to it as I see the need when supplies are getting low or run out (laundry detergent, dish soap, spices, toilet paper, etc...)

This is the menu side.  I easily made this template using a simple word program on the computer.

This is my grocery list side. When I am at the store, I fold the paper in half lengthwise to make it easier to handle.  The smaller size also takes up less room on my refrigerator when I get home and hang up the menu.

This sheet of paper is my brain for half a day one day a week.  What happens if I leave the house without it?  That, my friend, depends on how far away from home I am when I realize I have forgotten it.  If I am still in the driveway or just a short distance down the road, it is inconvenient, but okay.  If, however, I am twenty minutes down the road, I turn around and cry over the wasted gas all the way home!  I simply cannot shop without this list anymore.  Thankfully, the last scenario has only happened once.  Thanks to my wonderful friend, Appie, I have learned to put the list in my car the night before!

So, there you have it!  That is my sanity saver for today.  Please feel free to share any that you have!  Have a blessed Sunday!  I'll see you next week!

Friday, March 30, 2012

When Life Doesn't Give You Lemons

What a busy few days here!  Yesterday was such a special day.  One of my students from my first year of teaching stopped by on his way home from college!  I cannot believe I am that old!  For his visit around lunch time, I made homemade pizza again (brave of me, huh?  :) ) using Gina's pizza dough recipe.  I couldn't let the sweet fella go home on an empty stomach now could I?  I also took a dessert recipe I found a few days ago on  (The photos there were beautiful!) and put my own spin on it by adding coconut. (I've thought of some other variations, but I haven't tried them yet.)  I must have been feeling mighty brave!  I thought I would share the recipe with you.  I like to call my version of the recipe 

Creamy Lemon Coconut Bars

Ingredients:  1 lemon cake mix
                     2 eggs
                     1/2 c. oil
                     1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
                     1/3 - 1/2 c. sugar (The original recipe only calls for 1/3 c. sugar)
                     1 tsp lemon juice
                     1 tsp lemon zest, optional (Not listed as optional in the original recipe)
                     2/3 c. coconut  (My addition)

Mix  dry cake mix, 1 egg, and oil until crumbly, reserve 1cup.

Press remaining mixture lightly into an ungreased 9 X 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  ( Don't tell anyone you forgot to reserve 1 cup of the mixture causing you to pull a hot dish out of the oven five minutes into the baking process, quickly scoop out a cup of the mixture, re-spread the mixture, and then quickly pop it back into the oven!  LOL!)

Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth.  (I didn't use zest.  I don't zest anything unless I have organic fruit.  I wish I could find more organic fruits and veggies!)

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the baked layer.  Lightly sprinkle a small amount of reserved mixture over the top.  On top of that, sprinkle the coconut, and then sprinkle the remainder of the reserved crumb mixture over the top for the final layer.

                   Bake for an additional 15-18 minutes.                      

Cool completely before cutting into bars.  Enjoy!

After talking with a family member who cannot eat lemon, I came up with a few variations.  One is to use a yellow cake mix and change the lemon juice to any imitation flavor you like.  Another is to use either a yellow cake mix or strawberry cake mix and in the cream cheese mixture, use mashed strawberries that have been sweetened with a little sugar.  Let me know if you try one of these or any other variations before I do!

I leave you with a shot of the sky at sunset after the wonderful day.  May your day be blessed!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Transplants and Fruit Basket Turnover

We had a busy weekend.  Because of my husband's line of work, our "weekend" isn't always the real end of the week.  We have to squeeze in big projects when we can.  The biggest project we had this week was transplanting plants.

Last spring, two years after we built our home, we had finally saved enough money to landscape our yard.  My husband used to work on a landscape crew so we knew we could do the work ourselves to save a lot of money (Well, we thought we could, but that is another story!).  I designed what I wanted, Bill liked it, and he got busy working on it.  He did a wonderful job following my plans!  I can't begin to tell you the amount of time we spent working on our new yard, but it was all worth it!  This was the first real yard we have ever had.

Well, last school year the children and I had to live out of town during the week because the drive to my job was so long.  When I would come home there was lots to be done, and the flowers were never a top priority.  The weeds and ants quickly got ahead of me, and I just simply couldn't catch back up during the summer in our blazing heat, swarming gnats, and biting flies.  The weeds here have to be the fastest growing on the planet.  Sometimes I'm quite sure we live in the jungle instead of Georgia!  Bill said he would just tear everything out and toss it to re-plant with something that required less maintenance.  In the last few weeks, the plants that survived our very mild winter started coming back, and were so pretty despite all the ugly weeds.  The thought of just throwing them away simply depressed me.  I asked him if we could just transplant the surviving plants from four of the nine beds to one of our other beds. (I had to ask him, because I have never had flowers before and know very little about taking care of them.  I am a city girl that has ended up in the country!  I'm learning though!)  He felt like we could so we got busy.  I felt so much better knowing we were not throwing away time and money! 

I hope this gives someone else inspiration to not give up on their flowers!  Some of the most seemingly impossible beds to recover, can be salvaged with a lot of hard work and patience.  You wouldn't believe what my beds used to look like!  Well, maybe if I show you what some of my other beds look like now, you can imagine.  The beds that we were able to salvage didn't look quite so bad, but they were still quite a mess!  These are the beds I just gave up on and let go at the end of summer/early fall.  This is so embarressing, but I hope it gives someone else hope to keep trying!  I will do another post in a couple of weeks when we replant these beds.

The kids had such a good time helping and playing outside all day when we transferred the plants!

This is most of our finished project.

These are two of the five salvaged beds.  I wish I had a before picture.

One of the smaller projects I had to do over the weekend was to make a spot in my kitchen for our new convection oven.  Bill has been saying we really need one to avoid heating up the house so much during our incredibly hot summers, and it runs off of less electricity . ( You know he had to just twist my arm to get me to agree!  heehee!)  I have been doing a lot more cooking in our big oven since leaving my job, and the oven keeps the house warm.  We can only imagine what would happen to our electric bill in the summer with the air running constantly trying to cool the house back down.  That is a near impossible job in the summer once the house gets warm!  So, to prepare a spot for the new oven, I had to move my coffee station to it's new location.  In order to do that, I had to clean out my spice cabinet and a junk drawer so that I could put my spices in the wasted junk drawer.  Fruit basket turnover!  I love cleaning out and organizing new spaces!  This picture is a before and after.

I still have to finish labeling my spice lids so they can be identified easily without pulling the bottles out one at a time.

So, there is my weekend in a nutshell.  I would love to hear the projects you have planned for your home!

Not every post will have a moral, but how can this one not?!
The moral of the story:  Our hearts and lives are like flower beds and junk drawers.  If they are not guarded closely, they can easily be wasted and ruined.  Don't wait too late.  Jesus offers a free cleaning service.  All we have to do is accept the offer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Miracle Needed a Miracle!

Since leaving my job, I am finding that there are so many things I never knew I loved to do.  Cooking happens to be one of them.  I have been wanting to try my hand at baking bread, but I have been so intimidated by the thought.  One day at the store I got really brave- I looked that package of yeast in the eye, grabbed it by the seal, and tossed it in the buggy.  Okay, so it wasn't really that dramatic, but I did get brave enough to at least purchase it.  I came home, put it on the counter, and left it there.  Each time I passed it, I tried to turn my head and pretend it wasn't there.  It just wouldn't go away!

One day through the purchase of a dress, I met a new friend, Jane.  She shared a blog with me that is written by her friend Gina.  I love her blog, .  There is a wealth of information there including a whole section on bread baking.  After reading through her blog for a couple of days, I got brave enough to try her suggested recipe for first time bread bakers.  It was a pizza dough.  It was so easy and fun!  The kids even enjoyed helping.  They can't wait to help again this week!  Well, I decided since that was a success, I should try Gina's next recipe, Miracle Bread.   This is what happened.
I prepared the yeast and mixed all my ingredients just right.  It was so quick and easy.  I don't have a dough hook for my mixer yet, so I had to mix everything by hand.  It wasn't bad, but I probably could have mixed it a little more.
I formed my ball, sort of- it didn't look as nice as Gina's.  Then I placed it in a greased bowl and turned it over so both sides would be coated.  So fun!
I love this part!  It amazes me!  I let the dough rise for about 30 minutes.  I still can't believe I'm making bread!
Then I oiled my counter, cut the dough in half, and rolled out half the dough just like the directions said.
I rolled the dough up like a jelly roll, brushed it with an egg wash, sprinkled it with sesame seeds and repeated the steps with the other half of the dough except
I decided to do a regular loaf.  Then I put them into the preheated oven. 

What?  You didn't catch it either?  Look carefully.  No!  Not the poor shaping!

I was supposed to let the loaves rise again for an hour after I shaped them, then do the scoring, washing, and spinkling!  Silly me!  I was just too excited!  Well, this is what came out of the oven.
At this point, I did not realize there was a problem.   I was so pleased and impressed that I actually did it!  When my husband came in and saw the loaves, he couldn't wait for supper to finish.  He tore the end off the french style loaf while I was busy at the stove.  He loved it, and couldn't stop talking about it!  When I finally finished what I was doing and could turn around, it only took one look at and touch of the bread inside to realize something wasn't right.  My heart sank.  My bread was beautiful on the outside, but it was very wrong on the inside.  Bill didn't see anything wrong with the bread, but I knew it shouldn't feel so dense and damp.  I don't know if that is the proper way to describe it.  It was done, but the texture was just wrong. My Miracle Bread needed a miracle to make it right.  I was in a hurry to jump in the shower while my beans finished cooking and the cabbage finished roasting, so I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on the disappointment.  Afer returning from the shower, and snapping a few quick shots of the flower beds, I quickly glanced at the recipe and realized the error of my ways.  I vowed to try again.

Moral of the story:  What looks beautiful on the outside isn't always beautiful on the inside.  May God's love, through his son, Jesus, make you beautiful inside and out!  It's a miracle he is waiting and willing to give if we just ask.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What am I doing?

I haven't really figured out my purpose for creating a blog except to say I am here.  There is someone within that longs to find her way out during the day.  You see, I am at home alone most days with two children whom I absolutely cherish and adore.  They are both my miracles from God.  Perhaps I can tell you the story one day.  As much as I love my babies, the adult in me longs for interaction with other adults.  I use facebook, but I have so many thoughts and ideas and so much I want to share sometimes that I just can't get it all in with short status updates.

I thought for a long time what I would call my blog if I were to ever create one.  I knew tonight was the night when the name came to me.  The title "I Am Within" has a double meaning.  First, it has a Christian meaning.  God has many names.  When he revealed himself to Moses through the burning bush, He told Moses to say I Am sent him.  Through the saving grace of the shed blood of Jesus, the same I am is within me giving me strength each and every day.  Secondly, the title has a personal meaning.  Because I spend so much time at home with just my children, there are I times when I just need an outlet to "speak adultnese" and share my thoughts and journey.  Perhaps someone else out there is sharing some of the same experiences on her own journey through life.

Alissa holding Pearls
Look for pictures and stories of us testing recipes in the kitchen, playing with- I mean taking care of- animals on the farm, and having homeschool adventures.  I love photography and tend to take way too many pictures.  Please bear with me as I figure out this blog thing!  It is all Greek to me!
Alissa and Jake reading on the sofa.  I wish I had noticed
Alissa's skirt before I took the photo.  I was just excited about
capturing the sweet moment of them reading together!