Thursday, December 30, 2010

Presents for All!

Throughout this Christmas season, my husband and I have been trying to teach Noah the importance of "giving."  With a birthday two weeks before Christmas and as the only grandchild on my family's side, he's been blessed with more than enough presents from family and friends.  So we've talked a lot about how giving gifts to other people makes them, us and Jesus happy. 

A few days before Christmas, I took Noah out shopping with me.  As we were driving toward the mall, we were talking about all the family members we'll be seeing soon and the presents that we've gotten them - "making our list and checking it twice."  :)

We finished the list and Noah was quiet for a minute.  Then suddenly, he cried out "Oh, no!"

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Coda!" he replied.  (Coda is my parents' dog.)

"Coda!  Missing!"  he said, very concerned.

"Coda's missing?"  I asked.

"Yeah, Coda.  Missing present," he said and continued to repeat the entire way to the mall.

He was so insistent that we had to make a stop at the nearest pet store to pick out a present for Coda the dog.  When we got home, he helped me wrap the gift and when we arrived at Nanny and Papa's house for Christmas, Coda was the first one to receive a present from Noah.

I guess he's learning something. . .

The Great Cookie Adventure

Since Noah is so enamored with Thomas the Train, I thought it would be cute to have train cookies for his birthday party.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into. . .

I found a set of train-shaped cookie cutters on Amazon for $8 and set to work making a triple batch of sugar cookies.  Though time-consuming, baking was the "easy" part.

Once cooled, I had to icing them all.  I actually had never worked with royal icing before.  Thankfully, a dear friend of mine brought over her "tackle box" of cake decorating paraphernalia and gave me a crash course.  Who knew that egg whites would make icing harden?!?

So, we set to work about 7pm.  We had two batches of icing - one "thick" to outline and one "thin" to flood.  Each batch was divided in thirds for our three colors.  My "expert" friend outlined them all with her wonderfully-steady hand while another friend and I attempted to flood them.  Let's just say the first few were rather awful-looking.  But we eventually got the hang of it and turned out almost six dozen cookies by the stroke of midnight.

There was, of course, a "royal" mess to clean up when all was said and done.  But the cookies turned out rather well, all things considered.  They were very tasty and didn't look half-bad, either.  They were a big hit at the party and I had extra to share with the kids at church the following week.

In hindsight, I will think twice before undertaking such an "adventure" again.  But who can say "no" to this face when he asks for a "Thomas cookie"?  :)

Happy birthday, Noah!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Tea

Our little church hosted its first ladies' Christmas tea on Friday.  We literally transformed our fellowship hall into a sparkling "winter wonderland."

It was certainly a labor of love to plan, set up, decorate, bake for 50 ladies, but what a treat for everyone!  We were able to spend a quiet evening together as ladies, drinking tea and of course, eating desserts!

We played a few tea-themed games (see below for a PDF), sang some Christmas carols and heard a testimony on the power of prayer from one of the ladies in our church.  It was such a special evening.  Though, I'm glad that we have a whole year to rest up before we do it again!

I had a hard time finding appropriate tea party games online, so if you're ever in need of some tea trivia, feel free to use or adapt the games I created here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Soup to Share

White Cheddar Corn Chowder

I love soup, especially when the winter turns cold.  Last year, I came across this delicious recipe and I've already made it twice this year!  Both times, I've doubled the recipe and shared some with friends and other families.  It's somewhat labor-intensive (as are most recipes from Martha Stewart), but it's well worth the effort.

White Cheddar Corn Chowder
from Martha Stewart Living, Sept. 2007
Serves 6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 6 ears of corn)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add celery, and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Raise heat to medium-high, and add wine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add potatoes, stock, and milk, and bring to a boil (skim any foam from surface). Reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add corn, and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. *I added 4 oz of grated white cheddar cheese and let it melt before pureeing.*  Remove from heat. Transfer 2 cups soup to a blender. Let cool slightly, then puree. Return puree to pan, and stir. Reheat if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into bowls, and top with cheese. *I served with crumbled bacon.*  Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Baskets of Blessing

This year, my husband and I started a Thanksgiving ministry at our church called Baskets of Blessings, taken from Deuteronomy 26.  The ministry was designed to be both outreach into our community and "in-reach" for our congregation.  For the outreach, we asked our church families to collect non-perishable food items to donate to a local food bank.  Together, we were able to donate 8 complete meals for needy families, each including a $25 gift card for the turkey!

For the "in-reach," we asked families to compile a basket of items that represented God's specific blessings over the past year.  At our praise service, the night before Thanksgiving, families took turns sharing what was in their baskets.  What a sweet time of fellowship!

Here's what we included in our basket:

Our wedding picture
We've been blessed with five years together

Our high school diplomas and senior yearbooks
We've both been blessed with a godly family heritage and Christian education

An ice scraper
We considered the blizzard of 2010 to be a beautiful blessing.  Also, we used that ice scraper to hold open the hatch back of my 1989 Ford station wagon, which we were able to sell this year for $800.

My coupon book
We're blessed to have a little extra cash this year thanks to all that I've learned in the world of couponing.

My external hard drive
I posted about losing my external hard drive a few months ago, but this was a blessing in disguise - showing me my need for complete dependence on God.

Noah's new coat
Noah had been needing an "in-between" coat and I found a great one at a consignment shop for less than $5.  An added blessing was that on Black Friday, I saw the exact same coat in the department store for $70!

Mind Your Manners

We've been teaching Noah to say "please" and "thank you" for some time now.  While he knows that's what's expected and kind, he rarely says either without prompting.

Here's a rather humorous encounter from the other day, in my husband's words.  Obviously, we still have some work to do.  :)

Daddy kindly gives Noah an animal cracker.
Noah takes the cracker with a gleeful "Oooh!" and stuffs it in his mouth.
Daddy then asks Noah the all-familiar: "And what do you say to Daddy?"
*There is no answer at first as Noah is happily crunching his cracker.
Daddy waits, and then asks his son again, "What do you say?"
Noah gives a puzzled look in reply and then swallows.
Daddy cups his ear so his son knows he's waiting to hear from him and repeats the question a final time:
"What ... do you say ... to Daddy?"
Noah puts his hand over his ear (like a phone) and says, "Hello, Daddy!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Must Have Coffee!

I stayed up entirely too late last night and came downstairs this morning to make a much-needed pot of coffee.  I returned a few minutes later, only to discover I had neglected to put the grounds in the filter!  The worst part was, I honestly thought I smelled coffee. . .

Prayer Calendar

I've been needing a little extra "encouragement" lately in my prayer life, so I sat down this afternoon and created a prayer calendar.  I'm sure there are more "professional" versions available, but I think this will help me pray for specific people.

I came up with several different categories of people/ministries in my life (i.e. my family, my playgroup, my Bible study) and I assigned a category to each day of the month.  I left room below each category to add a person's name, so I'm praying specifically for one person every day.

I'd be interested in hearing your prayer "helps" too!

From Bare to Beautiful

We moved into our house a little over a year ago, so I'm ashamed to say that this "home improvement" project is just now getting done. . . But we have a large bare wall in our living room that's been begging for some color and creativity.

I have a beige, sage green and plum paisley print for my curtains and pillows, so I decided to echo the design on the wall.  I found great decals from Modern Wall Graphics (though some of the colors weren't quite accurate) and went to town spreading them all over the wall.

It turned out to be a much bigger project than I had anticipated.  I had about 100 decals total and quickly found that they each took about 3-4 minutes to apply.  So, after 5-6 hours of work (spread out over several days), the wall was anything but bare!

But I wasn't done yet!  The decals themselves were a little too "bold" for me, especially considering the colors didn't match exactly.  So, I hung some great frames I found at Hobby Lobby and filled them with prints of some of our most recent family portraits.

I must say, I'm quite happy with the end result.  I spent less than $200 on the whole project. I got a 15% discount and free shipping on the decals and the frames were each 50% off.  The decals are supposed to be "reusable," so it wasn't even a one-time investment.  

It's nice to be able to make your house feel more like home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adventures with Nanny & Papa

We're blessed to live close enough to my parents to be able to see them often.  The other weekend, we "met in the middle" at the Crayola Factory and National Canal Museum.

Noah was probably a little too young to appreciate the Crayola Factory. . . But I snagged a great deal online for half price admission, so I couldn't pass it up.  Plus, he was free because he hasn't turned two yet.

However, he really enjoyed the National Canal Museum with all the boats.  Best of all, they had a train display too!

A fun day was had by all.

Choo Choo!

Since Noah loves all things "Thomas," we dressed him up as a train conductor/engineer today and took him over to the retirement community where I work to visit with the staff and residents.

He and his buddy Jesse ("BamBam") were all dressed up!

I know I'm his mom, so I'm supposed to think this - but he's absolutely adorable.  I love our little guy!  Watching him learn and grow truly is an ordinary miracle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deals - October 18

I made a late-night grocery run last night and came home with some great deals.  The overall savings wasn't as good as I would've liked (spices are expensive!), but here are the numbers:

Shelf Cost:  $87.49
Store Discounts:  $19.16
Coupons:  $11.55
Total Spent:  $56.96
Savings:  35%

Here are some of the better deals I got:

Pepperidge Farm Soft-Baked Cookies (2)
$3.39, BOGO Free
-$1/1 coupon
=$1.19 each

Quaker Instant Oatmeal (3)
2/$5 or $2.50 each
-$1/1 coupon
-$1/1 coupon
-$2/1 coupon
=$1.15 each

Perdue Short Cut Chicken Strips (2)
$5.49, BOGO Free
-$0.75/1 coupon (doubled)
-$0.75/1 coupon (doubled)
=$1.24 each

CoffeeMate Creamer (1)
-$1.50/1 coupon

Shelf Cost:  $31.16
Coupons:  $6.00
Total Spent:  $25.16
Savings:  20%

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple Picking

Our playgroup, Connect the Tots, went apple picking on Friday morning.  The weather was a little chilly and rather windy, but we had a blast!

While we were there, we were able to learn about how a farm works, visit a few of the farm animals and run through a haybale maze.  Then, we took a wagon ride out the orchard, where each mom and "tot" got to pick four apples each.  There was even a cup of fresh-pressed cider waiting for us when we returned.

We had planned to eat a picnic lunch at the farm, but we decided to move our picnic indoors back at the church.  This was our first official activity and I was very pleased with how well it went, though, I must say, it's a lot of work to coordinate all the details!  But the fellowship with other moms and the smiles on all the kids' faces made it worth all worth it.

If you're interested, we visited Varner Farms in Collegeville, Pa.

Hot Chocolate in a Hurry

Our church held "A Purposeful Day at the Park" on Saturday where we rented a pavilion and had free food, music, games and literature for anyone that stopped by.  A few hours before the event was to start, my husband and I realized/decided that we should probably have something hot to drink, since the weather was only supposed to be in the 50s and rather blustery.

So at 9am, I set to work whipping up a batch of hot chocolate.  I didn't have the time or the budget to run to the store, so I had to use only what was already in my pantry and refrigerator.  By 10:30am, I was at the park with more than 5 gallons of very yummy hot chocolate.  Here's what I included:

-semi-sweet chocolate chips
-unsweetened baker's chocolate
-cocoa powder
-evaporated milk
-chocolate-flavored coffee creamer
-milk (a combination of 2% and whole)
-hot water

This is by no means a "recipe" for hot chocolate, but rather a testimony of resourcefulness.  Because I've been couponing more, I had many of these items in "bulk," waiting to be used for just such an occasion.  This proves that even people as un-creative as me can "rise to the occasion" when the need arises, you do what you can with what you have - making lemonade out of lemons - or hot chocolate out of various forms of milk and chocolate. . .   :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Soup Party!

For the past five years, my husband and I have been hosting a soup party.  The concept is not original with us, but I think it's become our "signature" event and we look forward to it every year!

We hold the event outdoors in the early fall.  Each guest/family brings a pot of their favorite soup.  We provide the rest of the food - breads, cheeses, "condiments," drinks and desserts - as well as small styrofoam cups for sampling each of the soups.  Everyone brings a muffin tin to hold their soup samples.  We assign each soup a number and at the end of the night, everyone votes on their favorite soup. 

We always have a great evening of food, fun and fellowship.  In the past, we've also carved pumpkins, played games and watched a short movie.  This year, my creative husband came up with a murder mystery that we played throughout the night.  The soups were the murder weapons and several of our guests were celebrity chef suspects (i.e. "Chef Bobby Fillet" and "Chef Julia Chives").  It was a lot of fun!

The soup party is an "event" in, and of, itself, requiring months of planning, its own budget and corner of the basement to store supplies throughout the year.  But we love being able to catch up with old friends, make new ones and enjoy the beauty of the fall season together.

The Blessing of Discovery

The other day had been a "rough" one in the obedience department and both mom and toddler needed to get out of the house.  The morning had been rainy and the afternoon rather blustery.  But I decided to chance it and head to a new park that I'd passed on my errands around town.

This little park turned out to be much better than I was expecting!  I had seen the playground area from the road, but tucked behind the playground was a pond with very friendly ducks, and walking trail.  We had such a fun time feeding the ducks and "exploring" around the pond.  Of course, the playground was fun too!  And the weather was absolutely perfect entire time we were there - warm sunshine with only a gentle breeze.

On an otherwise "dreary" day, our trip to the park was a welcome blessing! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Heart

We've been trying to teach Noah the importance of having a "happy heart" (i.e. a good attitude).  He's hasn't been doing terribly well with the concept lately and I was beginning to wonder if he was even "getting it."

This morning, as I was having my quiet time downstairs, I overheard him on the monitor as he woke up.  One of the first words out of his mouth (after saying "good morning" to his puppy) was "happy" (the "h" is silent, though).  Then "wo -why" (his pronunciation of his name) then the sentence "wo-why happy."

I had to smile and thank God for the encouragement He'd sent my way first thing in the morning.  I certainly needed it throughout the day as we continued to struggle with the fits and tantrums of the oncoming "terrible twos," but he's getting it.  Slowly but surely, God is creating in both of us a happy heart.

Coupon Blogs

I must admit that I'm new to the world of coupons and I'm still learning with each transaction.  In my efforts to learn as much as I can, I've found several other sites and blogs helpful in keeping up with deals.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Centsable Momma
Coupon Cravings
For the Mommas
The Krazy Coupon Lady

Mama Cheaps
Moms Need to Know
Money Saving Mom

Spend Freely
Stretching a Buck

Surviving the Stores

I also subscribe to Free Coupon Alerts.  I'm sure there are many more out there.  I'd be interested in hearing your favorites.

Always Have a Back Up!

I work part-time from home, so I keep all of my files on an external hard drive that I carry back and forth between my home and the office.  Well, I should say that I had kept my files on an external hard drive. . . that was, until I dropped it.  :(

After many attempts by well-meaning friends and co-workers, we've determined the data to be "irretrievable" - since we can't really afford to pay an expert to look at it.  I had good reasons for using the hard drive as my primary storage location (i.e. there wasn't enough disk space on either my home or work desktop to hold all the files), and I honestly never gave much thought to having a back-up.  Now, three and a half years of articles, logos, newsletters, advertisements, pictures and design work are gone.

It's been about a month since I dropped the drive and still, as I type this, I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I'll admit that I did cry over my "spilled milk," but I've had to move on - going back through my e-mail attachments to retrieve files and humbly recreating designs I'd originally spent hours working on.

I've learned a valuable lesson that, I'm sure, everyone else already knows and adheres to, but it bears repeating - always have a back-up! 

Connect the Tots

In addition to my many new roles as wife of the assistant pastor at our little church, I've endeavored to start up a playgroup.  We're calling ourselves "Connect the Tots."  Cute, huh?

We had our first playdate/lunch last month at my house.  It was another rainy day, so our play room filled up quickly with kids and toys, but it was a lot of fun!

In a few weeks, we'll be heading out to a local orchard for a tour and some apple picking.  I can't wait!  I haven't told Noah yet, because I know he'll be too excited to wait patiently (we're still working on the concept of "later").

I'm really looking forward to getting to the other moms in our group better.  It's an encouragement to know that you're not the only one struggling through the day-to-day life of a new parent.  If you're like to keep up with our little playgroup, you can find us on Facebook.

Tiny Trackers

I've recently begun teaching the 3,4 & 5 year-olds at our church on Wednesday night.  We use the Truth Tracker curriculum, so our little ones are called Tiny Trackers.  We're having fun "tracking down the truth in God's Word."  Every week we put on our detective hats and look for clues about the night's special word.  We play games, sing songs, do crafts & activities, memorize a verse and learn a Bible story - all to reinforce a truth from God's Word.  Every week I'm exhausted by the kids' energy and encouraged by their enthusiasm to learn about God.


We're a little obsessed with Thomas the Train in our house right now.  Noah would watch "choo-choo" all day, if we let him.  One grandma recently bought him a train table at a consignment sale and the other grandma just sent a pair of Thomas the Train PJs in the mail.  We know the songs (and have our own "dance moves") and the names and are even learning our colors, thanks to Thomas.  He really is a "really useful engine"!

Deals - October 5

Noah and I ran our errands today, despite the rain, and were able to get a few good deals.  Here's a recap:

Shelf Cost:          $22.87
Store Discounts:   $ 1.90
Coupons:             $ 5.00
ECB:                   $10.49
Total Spent:         $ 5.48
Savings:                  76%  (and I still have $2 ECB for next time!)

Shelf Cost:         $62.36
Store Discounts:  $23.36
Coupons:            $11.83 (I love $1 coupon doublers!)
Total Spent:        $27.62
Savings:                 56%  
Thanks to a dear friend who gave me her store coupons since she was going to be out of town when they expire!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Musical Inspiration

About Me

I am married to a wonderful and godly man, Jeremy.  I honestly don't deserve him.  But God knew that I needed him to balance, broaden, complete and challenge me.  I love him dearly.

We live in southeastern Pennsylvania, where my husband has just begun "full-time" ministry as assistant pastor of outreach at our local church.  We are both excited and scared about the opportunities that lay ahead of us in the months to come.

We have a 20-month-old son, Noah, who is both insanely crazy and absolutely charming.  There are days I wish for my "good old life" (before we had kids), but I honestly can't imagine it now!

I am very blessed to be able to stay home "full-time" with Noah while still continuing to work part-time at my job, handling the marketing and public relations for a local senior services provider.  Maintaining the "balance" of home and work is a daily struggle, but I do love being able to do both and

I am a born again believer, struggling every day to learn more about and grow closer to my God.  I trust that my blog may be help to you, as I share what God is teaching me and how He is working in my life.  I doubt you'll ever read anything "remarkable" here - just a bunch of ordinary miracles.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I've been meaning to do to set up a blog for a some time. . .  I know that my life is far from fascinating that my blog would be that popular.  But, honestly, I want (and need) to blog for more a more selfish reason - to remind myself of what God is doing in my life.

So thank you for sharing and bearing with my blogging endeavors.