Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Freezer cooking update

I posted earlier this month that one of my goals for May was to have a good store of Freezer meals for post baby. We won't be needing to use them right away. The first week after Baby comes our church will provide meals for us, or at least dinners. The next few weeks four of my husband's sisters will rotate staying with us, and they will make the meals. Baby will probably be about 4 weeks old before I'm required to actually get back to shopping and cooking on my own. (Blessing on blessing!)

That said, I want to ease back into full swing as gently as possible. One way I can lighten the burden is by providing freezer meals for that transition time. My goal was to have about a month worth of food prepared, including breakfast and dinner for the whole family, and pre-made brown-bag-lunches for my man.

I was pretty faithful in posting about my progress earlier this month. I posted about breakfast pizza, french toast and Freezer Burritos. I pulled together 18 meals worth of Tilapia thanks to Zaycon. My biggest cooking day was when I got 30lbs of chicken breast, and with the help of my doula, Vanessa, packaged it up into pre-made freezer meals.

My favorite recipe of the month was Calzones. I can't believe that I never made them before--they are so much fun to make, GREAT for brown bag lunches, and can be stuffed with pretty much anything you have in your fridge/pantry (so long as they have cheese)! Basically, they are the Italian equivalent of burritos--and I prefer calzones over burritos. So that works out great!

I haven't posted as much the last couple weeks about the progress, but I have still been working on it little by little. The posts wouldn't have been interesting anyway, because most of the cooking days were simply making more (in different versions) of recipes I'd already made. I made at least two batches of breakfast pizza, and 3-4 batches of calzones (including one "breakfast calzone" experiment). I definitely went crazy on the calzones!

All in all, I'd say this month was a smashing success in the freezer cooking department. I'm not sure what the final count of meals is, but I think I overshot my goal. My mom, MIL, and a friend each have been given bags containing one full week of food to store in their extra freezers. If I can make up a few more breakfasts/lunches I will probably give my mom another bag, as I have nearly enough food to make another. That's the full month of food, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Even after that I'll have more dinners, thanks to the many pounds of fish and chicken I got earlier this month. Those are helping me make it through the last couple weeks of pregnancy more comfortably. IT really is nice to have my choice of dinner available with minimal preparation required.

So there's the update on May! Thanks for following along with me! It's really great to know that once this baby comes I won't have to worry about meals for awhile! :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

39 weeks

It's been quiet around here, and that wasn't planned on my part. In fact, I have a handful of posts that are completely ready to go, and just didn't post them. Writing is one of my first loves, but sometimes even the process of writing must be put aside for a time. Late pregnancy is one of those times I need to be a bit quieter.

Pregnancy is progressing well--as of today I am at 39 weeks. Based on statistics and what I've been feeling in my body I am expecting about 2 weeks more before I meet my little one. Of course, that may be a little more or a little less--there is no way to tell.

Late pregnancy has had its challenges, as my husband can attest. The diminishing energy levels truly have been the most difficult for me to deal with. Slowing down is not my strong point. I've fallen into a pattern of "one day on, one day off." I will work hard and get a great deal done one day, only to find the next that simply getting out of bed is a challenge--much less doing anything more than preparing the most basic of meals. After a day of recovery I'm able to get up and about again. When I skip the day of recovery, and try to push through the tiredness, I pay dearly for the indiscretion. It takes much longer to recover from two "on" days back-to-back. This makes weekends rough--as the Friday, Saturday, Sunday string doesn't lend itself to a "down" day.

Baby is still being a wiggle worm, but has much less space to work with. Instead of feeling kicks and punches,  I feel squirming. Sometimes I know Baby is trying to stretch out, because I will suddenly feel short of breath. Baby is pushing up and I don't have as much room to breathe. Other times, especially in the evening right before bed time, I feel baby much lower--creating the strangest sensations. I can only imagine that s/he is turning his/her head back and forth.

Last week my cousin Jenny took my hubby and I out for maternity pictures. She did an amazing job, as you can tell from the pictures! Even my hubby enjoyed getting our pictures done, and he's not usually too crazy about the occasional obligatory picture session. If any of you live in the area, Jenny is the owner of 100 Years From Now Photography, and does a fantastic job all around (though my favorites are the maternity and babies... For obvious reasons :-P)

Friday we had our first sonogram. I won't tell the whole story, but when we went to the doctor we hadn't planned on getting a sonogram done. It was a miscommunication. However, once we realized the error we decided to go ahead with the sonogram--but not find out the gender. With less than 2 weeks till the "due date" I didn't want a doctor to tell me. I want my husband to make the announcement just before handing me my little one. The sonogram did assure us that we are carrying one very healthy baby, in the realm of 7-8 lbs, about as far along as we expected. All good things to know.

Can you see Baby's face? Both are face shots--the one on the left is clearer. I love it! I'm so used to seeing mid-term sonograms that I didn't realize how developed and clear the picture would be! Seeing Baby is so incredible.

One thing that has been on my mind is the parallels that God has given us in our relationship with Him and pregnancy. Perhaps the most vivid picture God has given us of Christ's return is the wait a mother has for the delivery of her little one. With all the advances that medical science has made, we still cannot predict a woman's true "due date" with any more accuracy than "sometime between week 38-42." We toss around "estimated" due dates (the 40 week mark) while knowing that only 7% of babies are actually born ON their "due date." When a woman gets to late pregnancy, the closest she can know is that she will meet her little one soon. But soon is undefined. It could be a couple days, a couple weeks--or even a month, she doesn't know. But she has to be ready for the moment of labor to come at any time. She finds a tension between her desire to meet her little one, and her desire to be fully prepared for his arrival.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
In the same way we can't know when exactly Christ is coming. We know he is coming soon--but soon is undefined. It could be a couple days, a couple months, or not in our lifetime. We don't know. But we do know that the moment of His coming could be at any time, and we must be prepared for it. We find a tension  between our desire to meet our Jesus face to face, and our desire to be fully prepared for his arrival.

A good picture, isn't it? Such is our God.

In the meantime, if things progress the way I expect them to, I hope to get one more pregnancy post in before the baby comes. But if the next pregnancy post is to announce a new little blessing, I can't say I'd mind!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Italian Sausage Calzones

My freezer cooking posts have been sparse this week, and not because I haven't been working on projects! Tomorrow I'm getting a 40 lb shipment of chicken breasts from Zaycon. Yes, 40 lbs. So, outside of a few burritos, my freezer cooking this week has been focused on preparing for the influx of chicken my home will see about 10 hours from now. Thankfully one of  my Doulas is coming over to help me tomorrow--otherwise this would be biting off more than I can chew!

In the meantime, I wanted to do a test run of one of the recipes we'll be making tomorrow, so I whipped up a batch of calzones. As I don't have the chicken yet the stuffing is a little different than it will be tomorrow. I used Italian sausage, homemade marinara, and mozerella cheese.

I got a dozen calzones out of the batch, and my hubby and I each "tested" one. So, 10 for going in the freezer, or five lunches. Not bad for an evenings work! The calzones were so good and so inexpensive I really can't believe I'm only now getting around to making them. This recipe will definitely be seeing more use  in the future.

Now I'm going to head to bed and get some rest before tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have a good report to share Friday evening or Saturday!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

37 weeks--and full term!

Yes, indeed--I have made it to 37 weeks, which means that I am now considered full term. Yipee!! Even though I'm expecting this baby to go to about 41 weeks (the average length of pregnancy is 41 weeks and a day, and this is especially true for first time moms), it's nice to be at this final stage.

Pregnancy has treated me well--I've felt "pregnant" but I haven't felt poorly. I'm moving slower than I used to, needing more breaks, taking more naps, and needing to conserve energy. But that's a good thing, and the fact that I'm no longer working outside the home makes it easier.

My major project this month has been final prep on the nursery, and freezer cooking. My goal is to have at least one month of freezer meals ready to go before baby arrives (5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners). I'm going to divide the food by weeks, and have four different friends/family members keep each week. These meals won't be used immediately following the birth--our church will provide the first week. After that I'll have at least a couple weeks of help from my extended family. The freezer meals I'm making will be for when I'm back to doing the cooking, and need to ease into the responsibilities.

As the time draws closer speculation about the gender of our little one has increased. At my first baby shower one of the games we played was going through the old wives tales and seeing what they say about ME. According to that game, 9 of 12 predicted a girl. :P

Sunday My hubby grabbed his granny (who thus far has had a near 100% correct prediction rate) and asked her. We've asked her a couple times in the past, but she said she couldn't tell because I was so small. At this point she can't say that anymore! With just a few weeks left I won't be getting a lot bigger than I already am! But again, she said she couldn't tell with me. My torso is long and I'm carrying the baby long--not high or low, but both! So, still no verdict from Granny. I think she's just playing it safe.

Of course, I've had some totally random un-asked-for predictions--like when I visited a new store a couple days ago and a man came up to me and announced I was having a girl (there was no other conversation, just "oh, hello, you're having a girl, by the way.") I told him we didn't know one way or the other yet, and with a good deal of conviction he replied, "Oh, no. You ARE having a girl. You can tell whoever you like that the man from Jamaica you met in the store today has said so."


Just for fun, here are a few old wives tales I found online (it's a different list than what was used at my shower, as I don't remember all of those).

1.Do you crave the heals of bread or the middle?
Heals: Boy
Middle: Girl
Answer: Neither? I eat both. 

2.Hands Chapped/Dry or Softer?
Chapped: Boy
Softer: Girl
Answer: Dry--but they were always dry

3.Eating more or sick/nauseated?
Eating more: Boy
Sick: Girl
Answer: Eating more! Boy!

4. Can people tell you are pregnant from the back? Or are you pregnant all over?
Can't tell from the back: Girl
All over: Boy
Answer: I don't look pregnant from the back--Girl!

5. During the pregnancy, have you been crabby or happy?
Crabby: girl
Happy: boy
Answer: Uhmm.... yes? Happy overall, but its been mood swing city here. Which I guess would lean toward a girl. :-P

6.Carrying low or high?
Low: Boy
High: Girl
Answer: Personally, I think I'm carrying high. But what do you think? 

7.Do you crave sweet foods or sour/salty foods?
Salty/Sour: Boy
Sweet: Girl
Answer: Haha--this is a "yes" too! I'm not big on salty, but I totally go for both sour and sweet. 

8.Is the heartbeat high or low:
High: Girl
Low: Boy
Answer: High--girl!

9.Which side do you lay on when resting:
Left: Boy
Right: Girl
Answer: Either. Left mostly, but that is a conscious decision. 

10.During the pregnancy, have you been clumsy or graceful?
Clumsy: Boy
Graceful: Girl
Answer: I haven't noticed a change, so graceful. Girl! 

 11.Has the husband put on weight during the pregnancy?
Yes: Girl
No: Boy
Answer: No--boy!

12.Consider the Mother’s age at conception and the year of conception.
Both even or Both odd: Girl
One is even and one is odd: Boy
Answer: Odd/odd--girl!

Boy: 4
Girl: 6
Either: 2 

So it's still pretty evenly divided. I guess we'll find out in just a few more weeks!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mothers Day...

This is my second Mothers day. This time last year we announced my pregnancy when my husband bought me a corsage and I wore it to church on Mothers Day. Some people guessed as soon as they saw it. Most just wondered why I choose to wear one on Mothers day, even though I wasn't actually a mother. A few asked. The "slow reveal" was perfect, as I got to enjoy each person's reaction one by one. I still remember the shocked delight as I surprised each one of my siblings with the news.

I was even able to tell both sides of the family at the same time, because with some creative wheedling I'd managed to convince my unsuspecting parents that they really DID need to visit our church on Sunday (mom and dad are pretty involved with their own church, as we are with ours, so visits one way or the other are rare treats). It helped that we were doing our Easter play two weeks late--hence the Bible Costumes in the picture.

Of course, I didn't know that God would take that little one home just six weeks later, and my husband and I would be plunged into a fight for joy such as we'd never known before. It's a good thing we don't know the future.

Now it is Mothers Day again. Instead of waiting on pins and needles for the day to arrive when I can make my announcement, my pregnancy this year is already quite evident to the world. No one will wonder this year whether I "really am" a mother. The next baby announcement coming up for our family is the birth of our little one--and I certainly hope that announcement WON'T be made today!!

All the same, ever since the sonogram three weeks ago Christian, my first baby, has been on my mind constantly. I realized that day, yet again, that a mama's heart never truly stops missing her little ones. We can move on, we can trust God, we can have faith--but the longing ache is never fully gone.

This Mothers Day has definitely been a different experience. I'm a mama, and not exactly a new one. At least, not as new a mama as I was last year. It's a happy day again--one full of joyful expectation. But there also is sorrow as I remember the baby I lost along with the baby that has been given. But that's what being a mother is--it's bitter sweet.

Always bitter sweet.

Friday, May 11, 2012

French toast and pineapple (day 6)

Yesterday's freezer cooking project almost didn't happen. In fact, the only reason it DID happen is because I had a smallish dinner, so when bed time rolled around I was hungry. French toast seemed like a quick option--but why make enough french toast for one meal when, with just a little more work, I could make extras to freeze?

So, I made 10 pieces of french toast--two for that evening, plus two meals.

While the french toast was cooking I chopped up a pineapple that I've been needing to do something with for a few days. I'd originally intended the pineapple to be frozen for smoothies, but with my great success with freezing oranges and grapes as snacks, I decided to cut the pineapple a little smaller. After letting it freeze I tasted one, and it was pretty good! I think we'll keep this pineapple as snack food.


Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Identity.

Where is my identity? How do I define myself? Is it by the moments, the actions, the thoughts?

My first identity was found as a child--my identity in Christ. This is the identity that should define every moment of my life-sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But regardless of whether I am fully surrendered to Christ, He has had a profound impact on my life. Is that even enough? I cannot say what I would be without Christ, nothing. I can't imagine my life without Him. Even on the days that I'm grumpy, cranky, annoyed, frustrated, and definitely NOT living the surrendered Christian life (or even taking time for Him), even on those days I can see my identity in Him. Because Christ is what defines my existence, and without him I would have no worth. 

The second role that defines me is that of being a wife. I am my husbands wife, and this is a relationship that transcends all other earthly relationships and loyalties. My parents are dearly loved, but God has commanded me to leave them and cleave to my husband. My children will come, and eventually they will leave me and cleave to their spouses. But my husband, he is mine. I am his. And this relationship is worth everything I can give to it. It is part of my identity.

My third role is that of mother--I am the mother of two little ones. One is with Jesus. One is due to make an appearance in just a few more weeks. Although I've never met either of my little ones in person, they have in many ways defined my life ever since I got that first positive pregnancy test. I have prayed for them, wept for them, loved them, planned for them, hoped for them, and dreamed for them. As much as I have identified myself as a mother for the last year, after this little one is born I will gradually find even more of my identity in motherhood. 

I have many other identities... I am a daughter, a friend, a leader of young ladies, the wife of our church's Music Director, a sister, a neighbor, and a writer. I am creative, thrifty, and a home decorator. All of these roles and more come together to define who I am. And ultimately that is a good thing--so long as those first three roles stay at the top and in that order. 

What roles define your identity?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Budgeting With Mama

Lessons from mama is a weekly guest post from my mother, sharing different lessons on homemaking she has learned over the years. This was inspired after I interviewed her for the series "Teachers of Good Things."  You can head over to her interview to see a more complete list of the topics we will be covering (it is under the 5th question, What would you have done differently as a single woman to prepare for this?).

For budgeting I highly recommend either checking out the book by Dave Ramsey called “Total Money Makeover” OR take his Financial Peace seminar. The thing that has worked the best for us is to use the cash in envelopes system. Figure out your budget and with each pay check set aside cash to put in envelopes for the categories that you will be paying cash for. We have the following cash categories: Groceries, Gas, Giving, Date night, Savings, and allowances for Jeff and I.

It is easy to stay in the budget for groceries. When the cash is gone, you quit spending.

The best tip I can give you is: Don’t spend more than you make. This means don’t use credit cards. Learn patience and pray about needs.

When figuring out your monthly budget, here are things to consider:

SAVING (Emergency Fund; Retirement Fund; College Fund)
HOUSING (Mortgage; Real Estate Taxes; Homeowners Insurance; Repairs; and Furniture)
UTILITIES (Electricity; Water; Gas; Phone)
FOOD (Grocery and Restaurants)
TRANSPORTATION (Car Payment; Gas and Oil; Repairs and Tires; Car Insurance; License and Taxes; Car Replacement)
CLOTHING (Children; Adults and Cleaning/Laundry)
MEDICAL/HEALTH (Health Insurance; Doctor Bills; Dentist; Optometrist; and Medicine)
PERSONAL (Life Insurance; Toiletries; Hair Care; Education; Gifts (including Christmas); Date night; Miscellaneous; and *BLOW $$)
RECREATION (Entertainment and Vacation)
DEBTS (Hopefully -0-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baby List, one month to go!

With about four weeks left before my due date, I've been buckling down and getting ready for this baby. My hubby has been telling me for weeks that I'm nesting, but when he first started saying that I didn't believe him. People throw around the term "nesting" so often, that the minute an expecting mom decides to do a major house clean she's determined to be "nesting," even if she would have done that same clean on the same day were she not expecting a baby. So, I didn't go for the "nesting" theory. I was just doing what needed to be done, and I'm pretty sure I would have done it even if I weren't pregnant.

But.... now it's official. I've spent the last few days getting the nursery ready, cleaning, organizing, planning--whatever your definition of nesting is, I've been doing exactly that for the last three days. To the point that I genuinely dislike anything slowing down my nesting projects ("Bedtime, Shmed-time! why would I stop putting together the baby's book case just so I can get some sleep?" or, "Ah, man.... sewing? Do I HAVE to? Baby's closet needs to be organized! Now!").

Yeah, it's silly. But it DOES need to be done...

Part of my nesting is making sure I have everything together for Baby. In less than a week I'll be considered "full term" which means I need to at least have the basics on hand! Here is my previous list, updated:


Carseat~I got this at my shower--hurray! And THANK YOU to the ones who gave it to me (it was a group gift)

Diaper Bag~I got this at my shower--and I absolutely love it. The bag is huge, and has a bunch of pockets. Isn't it pretty?

Diapers/wipes (cloth/disposable)~I still need these, but I have enough disposables to get through the first week or two if baby comes early. I've registered on Amazon for some cloth diapers, but will want a stash of disposables also. It's nice to have flexibility--especially the first few weeks when I'm getting used to having a baby around. :-)

Clothing~I have a few different sets of onsies already from grandparents and friends. I'm focusing on gender neutral colors (yellow, green, etc).

 Stroller~Still working on this one

Sling or carrier~Still need this. I'm thinking the Ergo looks best, though I've heard it doesn't work well for infants. If that's true, I'd go with the Moby wrap. 

Receiving blankets/spit up cloths~I have one package, but could probably use a few more. 

Baby Bath~Got it!! (or, going to get it, anyway. It's in the mail. :-) But I have some cute bath toys to hold me over)

Nice to Have

Bottles/pump~I have the bottles now, still need the pump. Having bottles and a pump will give more flexibility in the long term, but it won't be the main form of feeding  

Playpen~Already have this thanks to my aunt/uncle!

Swing~Definitely handy to have.

Diaper pail~Yeah.... Definitely a good thing. We'll probably just get a sturdy metal trash can with a lid. It doesn't have to be fancy.

Nursing cover/supplies~I have the nursing supplies, still need a nursing cover and a nursing pillow. 

Super-awesome-paci-that-a-smart-mother-with-a-sick-baby-invented--Okay, okay, that wasn't on my original list. But aren't those pacis neat? One is a medicine dispenser, the other is a thermometer. I have no idea if they will work for my baby, but the idea is brilliant. And very, very sneaky.  


Changing table/dresser combo~Have it.... sort of. :-) I am now the overly proud owner of a cube. Isn't it cute? It's also color coded, and I built it myself. The cube gives me the same amount of storage space as a dresser (but more organized), so the dresser is no longer a "need." I am going to keep my eye out for one, though, as any extra storage space is always useful and it would be nice to have the changing table top (the ONLY downside to my wonderful cube is that it isn't big enough to accomodate a changing pad on top like a dresser could). I'll look for one at a garage sale, and paint it to match the other furniture. 

Crib and mattress~I have the crib and mattress picked out now. We had considered waiting till after delivery to purchase them as they are more pricey and Baby will be with us the first little while, but I'm so eager to see the nursery finished I may not be able to wait that long! :P

Book Case~Got it! I put this together the same day I made my cube, and it is sooooo nice to get all our books neatly put away!! I'm seriously pleased with it. AND, most of the books on the shelf are kids books. Older kids, but still kids. As it is the "nursery" book shelf, I'm quite pleased.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tilapia--day 5

Today was, quite possibly, the easiest and most effective freezer cooking day I've ever had. This afternoon the Tilapia from Zaycon was ready to be picked up. It came in two 10lb boxes, which was nice because I had split the purchase with a friend. We thought we'd have to divide a single 20 lb case, so it was handy to have it already separated for us.
I started with a box that looked like this....
Each of the tilapia are about 4 oz, and were individually flash frozen. Because they were frozen already the only thing I needed to do to get them "freezer ready" was divide them into serving sizes. I decided to use quart sized Ziploc bags, and was able to get four tilapia per bag, or two dinners worth. It took me 20 minutes at most to get them divided. Easy Peasy. 
...And ended with 9 bags like this
I had one for lunch today (I don't recall ever having tilapia before), and while I still prefer salmon, the tilapia was pretty good. After I've had time to experiment, maybe I'll have some great recipes to share.

There were a total of 36 Tilapia in the 10lb box, so I ended up with 9 bags, and 18 dinners ($1.50 per meal). Not bad for a "days" work!

Orange French Toast

Awhile back I found this recipe on Allrecipes, and fell in love. The added orange flavor really kicks the french toast experience into high gear.

Of course, I never can leave a recipe be, so I soon began tweaking and changing the recipe to reach "perfection." Part of the tweaking was figuring out how to include more protein, because protein is one of my major pregnancy focus areas. It's also the one area that I must maintain if I want to feel good. Days I don't get much protein I'm constantly hungry, days I get a good amount of protein I'm satisfied. With that in mind, breakfast is a good place to start!

This recipe is the one I used for Freezer Cooking Day 3 this month. It makes more than we eat in a single meal, however it is nice to be able to freeze the extras for another meal.

1 dozen eggs
1 Tbs orange juice (optional)
1 Tbs orange zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 pieces of whole grain bread

Combine all ingredients in a dish except bread and mix well. 

  Dip bread into dish, coating in egg mixture on both sides, and allow to soak for at least 2 hours, but as long as overnight. The bread will not soak up all the egg mixture. When prepared to cook, place on skillet at medium-low heat.

To give it that extra boost of protein, I use a trick I learned from my mom. First prick each piece of bread generously with a fork...
...and then ladle spoonfuls of the leftover egg mixture into the bread. Take your time with this, the bread will not absorb the egg quickly. If I am patient I can usually use up the full amount of egg mixture, meaning I'm getting a ratio of two eggs for each slice of bread.

This is what the french toast looked like when I'd finished ladling--you can see how much of the egg mixture each slice took. Once it has cooked (and the egg mixture has firmed up a bit) flip and cook on the other side. When finished, remove from skillet and enjoy!

I usually make enough for several meals, and freeze the leftovers in ziploc bags.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Babies, marriage, and Gods gifts

Looking through the last few 1000 gifts posts I realize how incredibly intense the last few months have been for me. Spiritually, emotionally, physically--when I sit down each week and review what has happened just thinking about it feels exhausting. 

This past week was different. It was a week of recovery. I did spend a few days "flattened," but I rested through them. I stayed home. I worked on the house (and made great progress!). I did some fun things (like napping :P). It was a hard, abrupt stop after the busyness of the last few weeks. And God knew it was just the kind of week I've needed. 

After such a restful week, this past weekend we had my first baby shower. We had so much fun! The decorations were lovely--on the theme of Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter. The games were absolutely hilarious, and had most of us in stitches at least once. I got to see some old friends, a few of whom went VERY out of their way to make it there. And once the shower was over I was showing Richard my presents and realized were a lot closer to "being ready" for Baby than I realized. That's a very, very nice feeling for this mom-to-be. :-)

All in all, this past week has been a gift from God. First in giving me the time to relax and be productive at the same time (while I did rest a LOT last week, I also got a lot accomplished around the house--from cleaning and organizing to daily chipping away at my freezer cooking goals). Second, the encouragement that I've gotten this weekend from old friends, family, and on baby prep has been wonderful. I had been feeling overwhelmed with what I had left to do, now I'm not. We've got a month, we can do this!

446. A week with my mom and brother
447. Intense sessions making me focus on Christ
448. Making a list of my favorite books
449. purchasing the very, very best books
450. a york mint frappe

451. Lunch with my sister, Grace
452. Putting my feet up in the AC after a long, hot day
453. Seeing my man after days of being apart
454. Rest
455. A whole evening with my man--no planning, no figuring, no stress (and no dishes). Just us.
I thought the cabbage bowls (top L, and bottom middle) were so cute! (472)
456. A love letter
457. Being reminded of what marriage is about
458. Laughter in a room full of women as we gave each other shoulder rubs on a break
459. A generous gift
460. Seeing progress--little by little

461. Freezer meals, cooked and ready
462. Days of rest after a week of "on my feet"
463. An unexpected evening at home (and the foot rub that followed)
464. Encouraging numbers
465. Putting words to paper
466. Natalie and her arm rubs
467. Going to see a movie with my family
468. Getting all dolled up--pretty clothes, pretty face, pretty day
469. My first shower!
470. Seeing old friends
471. Abi, who flew down so she could come to my shower
472. Cabbage dishes

473. Cute, cute decorations
474. Beautiful, thoughtful presents--perfect!
475. Games that kept us in stitches
476. Hugs from friends
477. Looking through my baby supplies and realizing I'm not as far off as I thought anymore

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Warrior Princess


Walking With the Lord is a pause we take here at Ruby in the Rough to focus on the things of the Lord. Sometimes it will be a devotional, a poem, or a lesson from our church that stood out as being particularly applicable.

My Sister In Law, Grace, is a wonderful writer and gave me permission to share one of her recent posts for our Walking With the Lord feature. Enjoy!
The Warrior Princess lie in mud in a cloudy darkness and had been there for about a week, although she couldn’t really remember how long. She groaned as pain pulsed through her bruised body. Weak and head throbbing, she slowly pulled herself up from the ground to a sitting position. She was covered in dry blood and mud. Running her fingers through her mud-caked hair she tried to recall what had happened.

“Where’s my armor?” Horror filled her heart as she realized she didn’t know where it was. Squinting her eyes she could make out the outline of her armor strewn in the darkness around her. It all came back now.

It started when she took her eyes off the cross. She hadn’t meant to, she just became unintentional about her focus. After she had traveled on for awhile she put her sword in her sheath thinking that it was getting rather wearisome to hold out all the time. Plus, she saw no signs of the enemy, surely they wouldn’t attack. On she walked oblivious to the fact that her enemies’ greatest desire was for her to put her sword in her sheath.

She continued her way unaware that it slowly grew darker. Soon, she was lost in a thick dark cloud and instead of crying out for help she stumbled on. Her shield of faith slipped out of her hand and dropped with a slow, dramatic thud to the ground.

All of a sudden, she found herself surrounded by the enemy. Frantically, she looked for her shield, but it was too dark. In her nervousness she couldn’t manage to pull her sword out of her sheath. There she was, trapped and defenseless. Her enemies mocked and laughed at her as they danced around in glee. They were all there–Flesh, Pride, Emptiness, Failure, Depression, Loneliness and others.

In the darkness they spoke lies to her and tormented her. Fear filled her soul and she felt as if she’d never experience joy again. For as they danced round her, one would knock her down, another would throw a rock at her, another would slap her cheek, and so on. It was utter distress and agony for she could not see her attackers, nor what they would do next.

She felt so ashamed. “How could this happen?” “Will I ever live in victory?!” She wept, and groaned, and pleaded with them to stop. But it was of no avail, the enemies’ attacks didn’t let up—if anything, they increased.

“Look what you did! You failed again!” “You’ll never be like your precious Shepherd King—never!” “Just give up!” They called out in torment.
Want the rest of the story? Check out Grace's blog here: Uncommon Grace

Friday, May 4, 2012

Breakfast Pizza (day 4)

The last week or so I've been looking for higher protein breakfast freezer meals--and there aren't too many options out there that meet those specifications! When I say "high protein" I don't mean that it needs to have 50 grams or be the equivalent of eating a 16 oz steak. I just mean breakfast for my family needs to have a bit more "umph" than waffles, cinnamon rolls or pancakes. Sure, we enjoy those high-carb/low-protein breakfasts on occasion, but afterwards we either end up with a sugar crash (if we laden the meal with the sugary stuff that usually comes with it), or looking for something more substantial 2 hours later. A "normal" breakfast needs to have a bit more staying power.

One idea I found in a few places is "breakfast pizzas." There were quite a few different takes on how to make a breakfast pizza, so I just made what sounded good to me. Here's how it came out:

First I halved one package (six) English muffins, and soaked them in eight beaten eggs. Think "french toast" here. I added just a bit of salt to the egg, and enough Tabasco to add flavor but not heat. While the English muffins were soaking I chopped up some slices of ham and cheddar cheese (using shredded cheese would be easier, but I had a block of cheese and it worked). I also soaked my freeze dried onions and mushrooms to add as toppings (I  have a pretty good store of freeze dried veggies in my pantry, and they often come in handy!).

 Once the prep work was done the English muffins had soaked long enough so I put six on a pan lined with aluminum foil. I tried to spoon a bit more egg over the muffins, like I did with my french toast yesterday, but discovered they don't hold the egg as well. It started running all over the foil. Oh, well.

I topped the English muffins "Pizza style" with the chopped meat, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. One thing I really like about this "recipe" is that it really is as flexible as your imagination when it comes to the toppings. Whatever sounds good to you will work!

After adding the toppings I was then able to spoon a bit more egg over the top without it going everywhere. Not only did the added egg add a bit more protein, it also helped hold everything together. I popped the pizzas in the preheated oven (400 degrees) for about 15 minutes (ish... truth be told I wasn't watching the clock at all. But I think it was about 15 minutes).

After pulling the first batch out of the oven I went ahead and ate a couple for breakfast. I've never made these before and though the ingredients would be hard to mess up, it's always good to check before working in bulk (besides, I was hungry). The pizzas were wonderful. We'd be eating these tasty pizzas every week if I'd known how good they were!

I did learn on the first batch that the pizzas stick like crazy to the aluminum foil. I assumed it was because I hadn't thought to grease it. The second six I put straight on the well oiled cookie sheet, thinking this would fix the problem. Unfortunately stick-to-it-iveness seems to be a feature of the recipe--probably due to the egg. Next time I'll use aluminum foil AND oil it.

Once the 10 pizzas had cooled thoroughly I put them in ziplocks and popped them in the freezer. Two (and a half...) more breakfasts down.

Real Marriage

Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Real.

Life has felt very "real" lately. I've been moving and running and doing, and this baby is just around the corner. I'm an organizer, and with my due date a month away it's time to be organized.  But being real is more than lists and strategies.  It's people. The people are what make the strategies matter. Baby is only one side of my interests.

Last weekend my hubby and I went to a marriage conference where we both faced some areas in our marriage that needed work. I'd stopped being real in marriage, I'd gotten lazy and we were drifting into being partners instead of real spouses. Marriage can be so much more than that, and the conference was such a good wake up call. I've noticed that things have changed since then, we are both being more real. 

I wrote in a letter yesterday, "Biblically my highest earthly relationship is with my husband. If I'm too busy for him, I need to cut back. If I'm too tired for him, getting more sleep is non-optional. If I'm taking him for granted, I need to fix my attitude."

God didn't make me to be my husband's partner, somebody who just works beside him to get the jobs done. He made me to be a helpmeet, a home-maker, and being a home-maker is so much more than just being a partner. It's being a playmate, a lover, an encourager, a looker-on-the-bright-side, someone to laugh with. It's not just getting the housework done, or checking the relationship off a to-do list. When I let the fun side of being a wife (the laughter, the cheerful joy, the irrepressible good humor) slip, I become just a housekeeper, not a home-maker.

And "home-maker" is the REAL I choose for our marriage. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

French Toast and Orange pops (day 3)

Yesterday I spent some time mapping out a plan for my freezer cooking goals this month. I have a list of recipes now that I plan to make, and have divided them by weeks. If I do a little bit each work day I should have a pretty good store of food by the time baby makes an appearance. I'll post the full list sometime next week.

Today's project was French Toast. I'll share my recipe for french toast on Tuesday next week, but french toast has been a LIFE SAVER during this pregnancy. A couple months ago I discovered that french toast can be made in advance and frozen. I was so excited--though I did feel a little silly for not thinking of it before!! Now I can have a high protein meal for breakfast, and not spend the time making it (or cleaning it up). Perfect!
Prepared to be flash frozen
Today I made our favorite french toast recipe, based loosely on this one from AllRecipes. I've modified it for us, and will post my version next week. I made 12 slices, which should be enough for three breakfasts. Because I needed to zest oranges as part of the recipe, I flash froze the remaining orange slices and put them in snack bags to be Orange Pops.

After flash freezing the french toast slices, I divided them with small squares of wax paper. I'm not sure if sticking together would have been an issue or not, but now I know it won't be one!

I'd had in my head that I was going to store the french toast in the original loaf bag, protected by aluminum foil or something along that line. However, four slices (a meal for our family of 2) fit perfectly into a quart ziplock. That seemed simpler to store and use, so I made three baggies for the three meals.

Just as a note: My plan of having frozen fruit to substitute for ice cream cravings is working wonderfully. Last night my hubby got some ice cream for dessert after dinner. I wasn't craving ice cream, but did like the sound of dessert. I decided to eat one of the snack bags of grapes that I made up my first freezer cooking day to see if that sufficed. After finishing off my grapes I didn't feel any desire for ice cream. Score one for healthy treats!

Saving money with Mama

Lessons from mama is a weekly guest post from my mother, sharing different lessons on homemaking she has learned over the years. This was inspired after I interviewed her for the series "Teachers of Good Things."  You can head over to her interview to see a more complete list of the topics we will be covering (it is under the 5th question, What would you have done differently as a single woman to prepare for this?).

Money Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

Shop once a week, stick to your list, and shop with cash. I am not great with the shopping once a week but I know it saves both money and time.

Unit Pricing--My best tip is be sure and check out the price per ounce/pound/piece. Just because it's in the big box, doesn't mean it's cheaper! Sometimes two smaller packages are cheaper than the big box.

Avoid commercial baked goods (breads, cookies, crackers, chips etc) . Popcorn is a very cheap snack and water and tea are cheap drinks.

If money is a major concern, start thinking of meat as a condiment. Use it in small amounts with lots of veggies or pasta or rice. Learn how to cook with dry beans.

If you are new to grocery shopping, you can learn what a “good” deal is by making a Price Book. Keep a record of the items you commonly buy with a date, the store purchased from and it’s unit cost. $1 a lb for apples is a good deal; Cheese should not cost you more than $3 lb; Buy cream cheese when it is $1 lb and $2 for butter is a good deal. These things you will have memorized after you have kept records for several months. Though prices have gone up, you can still find great deals.

For the healthiest and freshest foods, shop the perimeter of the store. Dairy, Meat and produce are usually found there. Convenience foods are found down the aisles and they are more expensive than cooking from scratch.

Alter recipes. Try adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup less sugar in your baking and drink mixes; you probably will not notice a difference. Reduce the amount of cheese you add to casseroles and sauces by one fourth..
Stretch recipes. Dilute concentrated juice a little further. We drink a gallon of tea a day. I started using 2 bags of tea instead of 3 and didn’t get any complaints. Add extra noodles, beans, and vegetables to casseroles and soups for additional servings (seasonings may need to be adjusted slightly). I’m not good with gravy so I buy envelopes of gravy mix but make them go further by adding corn starch and more liquid. I add noodles to Hamburger helper and rice to Rice a Roni.

Conserve electricity when baking and cooking. If you have an electric stove, turn off the burner three minutes before your pasta or rice directions call for. The residual heat will finish the cooking. In the summer I try to bake in the evening to avoid heating up the house during the day. .

Asian Markets – I have found one close to Walmart where I do most of my grocery shopping. I stop by “KoMart” on the way to Walmart. I often find great deals on produce. I can always find green leaf lettuce cheaper there. Seasonally they will have Great deals on fruit. I will buy up huge quatities of blue berries and freeze them immediately. Also I buy soy sauce and sesame seed oil there for much cheaper than anywhere else. Their soy sauce does not have MSG. Though everything is labeled in Korean (I think), it is also labeled in English.

Buy whole chickens. If you want only breasts, save the dark quarters, freezing for later use. Buying breasts alone is very expensive.

Turkey offers better value than chicken. Larger turkeys are more economical than smaller ones because they have a higher proportion of meat to bone. Freeze leftover turkey for use in sandwiches and casseroles later. I will frequently buy 6 to 10 turkeys in November. I will cook them all up, take the meat off the bones and freeze them in meal size zip locks. This is very convenient!

When I was first married I organized my permanent shopping list by the aisles of the one grocery store that I shopped in. I kept the list posted on the refrigerator and when I used things up I would mark it down on the list. This worked great for a couple years until the store rearranged their aisles.

A tip: put a can opener in your car, along with a plastic fork and spoon. Then you can run in, buy one can of a loss leader you're not sure you'll like, open and taste. Stock up on the spot, if it suits you.

A Substitution: Mashed potatoes for Cream of chicken or Cream of mushroom soup in casseroles. (Good way to avoid the MSG in canned soups)

I learned from my daughter to save the chicken and turkey bones and make broth from them.

When buying eggs check to see that none is broken. Aldis has their large eggs for 99c a dozen all the time. Their milk is also $2 a gallon all the time.

Get a rain check if the sale item is out of stock.

If anything you buy is spoiled, return it.

Watch as the sales clerk rings things up. Mistakes are common.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Freezer Burritos, day 2

Todays's freezer cooking session was fairly impromptu. I hadn't been shopping, but had the energy to do some work in the kitchen. So I made what I was able to make with what I already had on hand. It was a fun experiment, and I think it went pretty well!

Because I was hungry, I started with a meal for me. I had a can of wild salmon I'd purchased last week and never used, and fish sounded tasty. While I'd never heard of a salmon burrito, I thought surely there was a recipe out there for one! I found a few different recipes, cobbled them together according to what I had, and ended up with this. It has salmon, black beans, rice, monterrey jack cheese chunks, onions, lime (lots of lime!), garlic and bell peppers. I think I also added a little chili pepper and salt to taste. I ate one and froze the remaining 7.  

After fixing my burritos, I made another 10 for Richard out of the things I had on hand. I forgot to take a picture of those. They had chili beans, cheese, taco meat (leftover from my last freezer cooking day), rice, bell peppers, onions, salsa, and corn. Maybe other things too--I forget! I love burritos because I can make them out of almost anything, which means my hubby can have a lot of variety while still sticking with a convenient brown-bag form (the wrapped tortilla). 

This picture made me laugh when I saw it. My belly gets into EVERYTHING these days--even this picture, apparently! 
For dinner I fixed a batch of beans and rice, based (very loosely) on this one from AllRecipes. With all the additions I made we came out with a pretty big pot of it. I asked Richard if he thought it would be good stuffing for a burrito, and he said it would. So after dinner I measured some of the leftover beans into a bowl, and added extra hot salsa, and a chopped up a spicy Nolan Ryan hotdog for a protein/flavor boost (it was the last one left, and usually Richard needs two hotdogs for a lunch). I only had three tortillas left, so I filled those up and set aside the rest of the mixture in a Ziploc bag for a future burrito stuffing day. There was just enough beans and rice left to make one more bag for either a dinner or more stuffing. 

While I was making the first batch of burritos I ran out of rice. I remembered reading on MoneySavingMom that she often froze her rice, so instead of making another small batch I made up nearly all the rice we had (it wasn't a lot). After using it for the burritos and dinner, I had about 4 cups left. I put them in freezer bags, and we'll see how well freezing rice works for me. I prefer not to use instant rice, so the idea of having normal rice in the freezer ready-to-eat intrigues me. I'd use rice a LOT more often if it didn't take so long to cook up. 

Here is a picture of the burritos I made today. Richard has 13, and I have 7 (they are divided in the middle because his are WAY spicier than I care for. If I accidentally grabbed one of his I probably wouldn't be able to eat it!). If you aren't sure how to make a freezer burrito, I give instructions here on how to wrap them.