Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Favorite Dips

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Photo Credit

Every great New Year's Eve celebration begins with great food.  Add in people you love and fun games...and you've got a perfect way to ring in the new year!

Part of our menu almost always includes our favorite dips.  What's more fun than a Dip Buffet, right?  Tonight, we'll be serving four of our favorites.

There's still time and run out and get ingredients if you find any of these calling out to you! ;)

Touchdown Taco Dip

1-2-3 Dip

Guacamole- Most people I know who LOVE Guacamole, make it their own special way.  But if you're interested in how I make mine....I like it with lots of fresh garlic, Kosher salt, a little pepper, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and a little Cayenne.  Sometimes, I will toss in a very fine dice of tomato, red onion, and jalapeno if I'm in the mood.  Tonight, I'll keep it simple!

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 box chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (I just buy the canned stuff)
8 oz package cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder (I use fresh minced)

Boil spinach and artichoke in one cup of water until tender.  Drain.  Add in cream cheese, stirring until melted.  Add rest of ingredients.  Pour into a square or oval baking dish.  I like to add a little more Parmesan on top.  Place under broiler for a few minutes until hot and the cheese is a light golden brown.

This is best served with Baguette slices that have been buttered and browned slightly under the broiler.  YUM-O!  If you don't have a Baguette loaf lying around, tortilla chip will do also!

We usually make homemade salsa as well, but not tonight.  I'll share the recipe in a future post. 

So, what yummy snacks are on your New Year's Eve menu?  Please share!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday: My Sweet Progeny

I am so thankful for these nine wonderful blessings.  Being a mom to these kids is an incredible privilege.  But it's also hard work.  Anything worth doing requires hard work....but with the Lord's help....He equips us for the task.

We were able to get pictures of the kids on Christmas morning before heading out to church. Sadly, they ALL turned out blurry to some degree. We realized the flash was not going off, but since the camera was set to auto, we figured there was plenty of light, thus, the flash was not needed. Upon further investigation, the flash was not working at all. 

Sooo...a little blurry in parts, but still thought I'd share!

Here's one with the wonderful Daddy...

This photo is special because my mom made these sweet dresses.  She made them for our two oldest girls years ago, and they've been handed down to each of the younger girls every Christmas since. 

We had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the incarnation of our precious Savior. We worshipped with our churh family, opened gifts, ate yummy food, and enjoyed the blessing of being together!

What are you thankful for?  Share here or head on over to The Marathon Mom to link up too!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Today I Was THAT Lady

You know that're at the grocery store, you're in line, and you suddenly realize the line is not moving?  You glance to the front of the line to see who the culprit is......and even though you know in your mind that it may not be her fault, you still find yourself frustrated at that lady!

Yep, I was her today.

I left the house early this morning to get to the store to browse Christmas decorations.  Not for my tree next year, but for the upcoming wedding.  Since my daughter's having a winter wedding, with colors of navy and ivory, with an accent of silver, we realized that we can fill centerpiece vases with Christmas ornaments...and get them on CLEARANCE.  If you turn them inward, no one will eeeever know they're tree ornaments instead of those fancy vase filler ball things.

I know what you're're thinking, "Now, why didn't I think of that."  And, "Wow, that Sacred Mommyhood lady is pretty smart." 


You're not?  Okay, then....

So, I get to the store and head straight for the clearanced decorations where I score six boxes of  navy, glittery, sparkly, shiny, and cheap hangy ball things.

While I was already in the store, I thought I'd also peruse the rest of the clearance stuff.  I came across a Little People's Nativity play set.  Our younger kids looooove Little Peoples sets, and have quite a collection.

So I think to myself, "Self?  I really wanted one of these when I first saw them out.  And look, it's 50% off."  So I head on over to the scanner and it rings up at $20. 

"Hmm..." I think to myself.... "Was this really $40 regular price.  That's pretty high.  Maybe $20 is the regular price, and I'll get it for $10 since it's a Christmas item."  At this point I'm thinking of my soon-to-be four year old who has a birthday coming up in less than two weeks.  She would love this.  I also know that I want to find a doll that has long hair that she can brush.  So, I head for the toy section. 

I end up finding a really pretty doll that has long hair that my soon-to-be four year old would love.  I check the shelf tag price and it's $21.00.  Not bad for a nice doll that has long, brushable hair.  I place it in my cart, go get some other things I needed, and head for the registers.

By now, despite it being early still, the checkouts are pretty full.  After all, the early birds are there stocking up on their Christmas goods for next year. I scan my cart to do a quick count of items.  I was pushing that 20 item limit for the quick check, but I go ahead and jump in line.

As soon as I get to the front, I warn the cashier that I need to check the Nativity for the price.  It rings up at $20, but I ask her to check if that was the original price, or if it's in fact the sale price.  She calls another employee over.  The employee, a lady, glances at the box and says that only Christmas items are half off, and that this toy was not.

Slightly confused, but with a smile on my face I say, "But this is a Nativity toy and it was on the 50% off Christmas shelf." 

The nice employee lady says, "But it's not a Christmas item." 

A little more confused, but still with a smile on my face I say, "It's a Nativity!" 

Again, she says, "It's not a holiday item."

By this time, I'm a little surprised that she isn't aware that a Nativity is specific to Christmas, but I'm also aware that this is an opportunity to show Christ.  But I'll admit, I was a teeny weeny bit perturbed that something they only bring out at CHRISTMAS, is not considered a HOLIDAY item.  Not to mention, it was on the 50% off shelf. 

So, I say again, "It's a Nativity...a Christmas Nativity.  It was over on the Christmas clearance shelves, but I just wanted to confirm the original price." 

Finally, the other cashier jumps in and agrees that it is indeed a Christmas item and finds out that the $20 was half off.  Okay, fine.  Didn't hurt to ask, right?  *sheepish grin*  Now nice lady knows that a Nativity, albeit a toy, is a holiday item.

By this time, the line had grown and I could tell that the customers were ready for the line to get moving.  I feel bad for holding up the line, apologize to customers behind me, and continue with the rest of my items. 

The cashier scans the $21 doll next, but it rings up at $30.  Huh?

Oh we go again!

I politely tell the cashier, that the doll is $21, not $30.  At this point, I could feel imaginary daggers piercing my back as the other customers in line grew tired of waiting on that lady! 

But now we're talking principle here, right?  One, I am not wealthy and $9 is a big difference.  Two, the tag says $21 by golly, and I'm not paying more!  And three, our Walmart is notorious for over charging on things at the register.  I must speak up!

Oh look!  Nice lady is coming toward us again.  Yes, the same lady who tells me the Nativity is not  a Christmas item now tells me, that the price of the doll is whatever it rings up at and that the tag the customer sees is wrong.

Oh. No. She. DI'int!

By now, customers are pushing their carts away in a huff and I'm feeling like Walmart's worst nightmare.  But I'm a woman of principle and this is just wrong! 

I kindly explain to the nice lady that as a customer, I base my shopping upon what the tag says, not the surprise price I get at the register, and that shoppers who aren't paying attention will pay more than they should. I also explain that this store is famous for charging more at the register and that I refuse to pay more than what the shelf tag says!

Just then the whole store erupts into cheers of agreement and I'm dubbed the Principle Hero!

Just kidding.

My sweet cashier agrees that I should not pay more at the register if the tag says otherwise, so nice lady heads to the back of the store to check the price of the doll.  I ask the cashier to go ahead and finish ringing up what I have so that I can pay and let other customers go while I wait for nice lady to come back.

Nice lady comes back with two other dolls and proclaims that not only are the dolls not $30, but they too are CHRISTMAS items (even though they are not Nativities) and are 50% off!  The doll is now $10.50!


I smile, tell nice lady that I appreciate her checking the price and apologize to cashier for holding up her line.  The cashier rings up my very nice, half-off, non-Christmas item toy doll and I went on my merry way.

The moral of the story, Friends, hold up a line at all costs while you argue your point based on principle.


Scratch that.  The moral is to know your prices, and remember that that lady holding up the line may just be holding the store accountable for their regular practice of over charging! :)

Have you ever been that lady?  What things are you willing to speak up over?  Should I have just paid the $30 for the sake of the other customers....or was speaking up best in the long run?  Share your thoughts!

Free Disney Planning DVD

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Craft Fun

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not a crafty gal! It takes effort and sheer will to pull out the craft box for the kids. But because I love them, and don't want to completely deprive them of craft fun, I do it!

Today, we actually did TWO crafts. Probably a record for me!  I knew we would set out to do the Paper Plate Snowman craft, but since it went so quickly, to the kids' delight, we did another.

We didn't exactly have the proper plates....meaning the ones withOUT the blue rims....but that's okay!  We were also short on cotton balls, so we couldn't even cover those blue rims.  ; )

These just crack me up! I love seeing what little ones come up with on their own. Some even look like Pilgrims, and I'm not sure any of them resemble a snowman, but I love them 'cause my babies made them. They did a great job and had fun!

Remember the dough ornaments from when we were kids?  My mom still has the ones we made from early childhood.  She even has one my dad made when he was five.  Sooo, when I pinned these on Pinterest, I knew we would eventually do them.  The kids were happy it was today!

A few of my sweet Rag-a-muffins anticipating their turn....

Aren't these adorable?  I used a toothpick to prick names/initials and dates on each one.

Here's the easy recipe:

Salt Dough Ornaments  (via Homemade Grits)

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix well and knead for 15-20 minutes

Bake at 300* for 20-25 minutes. Ornaments will continue to harden as they cool. Paint if you wish....acrylic paint works best. Oh..and don't forget to poke a hole in your dough before going in the oven. :)

Please share what fun things you're doing over Christmas break!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Calling All Crafty Friends!

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And by signing up (free, email only required), you'll also give me the chance to win an Amazon Gift Card...and you know I looooooove my Amazon Gift Cards. ;)

Check it out by clicking image or link above! :)

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Pinterest Find: Handprint Christmas Tree

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I am finally getting the hang of Pinterest. And though I don't have much time to spend perusing boards, I'm enjoying what I've pinned so far and am putting it to use.

I pinned this idea a couple of weeks ago....and recently, we made our own Family Handprint Christmas Tree.  Isn't it cute?

We did ours a bit differently than the one pinned here.  Ours isn't quite as neat and tidy, but I love all the varying sizes of all my babies hands.  We ended up using my husband's fingers for the trunk rather than printing his whole hand.  At 6' 6", my hubby has very large hands, so his handprint would have covered the whole tree.  I also painted the kids' names and ages on their handprint so that years down the road, I can marvel at how little some of their hands used to be.

I am not a crafty person by nature, so this was right up my alley....simple and fun.  And anything that involves getting their hands covered in paint is a win for the kids! :)

What have you made recently from Pinterest?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Quick Tip: How to Clean Your Coffee Pot

Coffee Maker

You know the time...when the coffee maker starts to gurgle and it takes four times as long to brew half a pot as it should?

This is what happens to ours about every six months, mainly due to hard water.

Thankfully, it just needs a cleaning.  And it's easy!

Fill your coffee maker half way with vinegar.  Fill the rest of the way up with cold water.  Brew.  Once finished, do 1-2 rinses with cold water alone.  The rinses should brew MUCH faster. 

I usually then do a quick wipe down just to ensure there's no hint of vinegar left. 

Now you can enjoy better tasting coffee in a shorter time....without having to buy a new coffee maker!  :)

So how do you keep your maker flowing?  Vinegar?  Something else?  Do you purchase a new one?

Photo Credit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meal Planning and Organization

If you struggle with getting meals on the table, or you wish it was easier and took less time, this may be for you!  I've posted this before and have received positive feedback.  The only downside I've heard is that there aren't a wide variety of Gluten Free recipes.  But perhaps that will get better as they increase fan base. 

Though it's a "service", you can plan up to three meals a week for FREE.  Not bad for minimal planning, or simply trying it out for a while.  But if you want the planning works, $5 a month is not bad at all.  Planning includes the meals, recipes, grocery lists, AND options to base your meals on your local grocery sales!  How cool is that!

Give it a try...and as always, please come back and tell me what you think.  Click on the image above to get started.

For other ideas in meal planning, check out how we keep our crew fed with little effort! :)

Another great find is this online organizer for getting your home in order.  As busy moms, having an organized home cuts down on stress and makes life easier.  However, finding the time and motivation can sometimes get the best of us.

Organize Yourself  takes you step by step, room by room, to get you organized.  There is even special tips for procrastination....which is so easy to do when you're feeling overwhelmed with clutter, right?  ;) 

If you've tried this, please tell me what you think?  If you'd like to check it out, click on image above to get started.

Happy organizing!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

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I'd have to say, hands down, these are my all-time favorite cookies. Though they're not a "holiday" recipe per se, I only make them around Christmas.   They're that special, so I reserve them for this special holiday.

This oatmeal-cookie dough can be baked immediately, refrigerated for one to two days, or frozen for up to a month.

I'll be making these tonight for my home school group's annual Christmas Cookie Exchange.  

I hope you'll love them as much as I do!

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cherries (sliced in half)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup toffee pieces, (5 1/2 ounces)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and baking soda, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice during mixing. Add egg, and mix on high speed to combine. Add vanilla extract; mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour a bit at a time on a low speed until well combined. Add oatmeal, cherries, chocolate, and toffee pieces; mix to combine.

Divide dough into three equal portions, and roll into logs using plastic wrap, approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. To bake, cut logs into 3/4-inch pieces. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a baking rack to cool.  Do not over bake!


Variations:  In place of dried cherries, sometimes I've used dried cranberries.  I've also used semi-sweet chocolate chips once or twice if I didn't have good chocolate bars on hand, but bittersweet chocolate is best.  I recommend following the original recipe your first time! :) 

*I've also thought about substituting the dark chocolate and cherries for white chocolate and cranberries, but I just can't bring myself to deviate from the original goodness! ;)

Photo Credit

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Big Day: A Recital and a Bridal Shower

Yesterday was a big day for our family. Aside from the usual holiday craziness, for good measure, we threw in a Piano Recital and a Bridal Shower...ON THE SAME DAY! 


This was Sophia's first piano recital ever. She was a bit nervous, but played like a pro! We were so proud of her!

Sophia was one of five other sweet kiddos who played varying arrangements of Silent Night. There were about 35 pianist in all, and they did a beautiful job!

Did I mention how hard it is to keep your seven youngest ones quiet and still during a long piano recital? I have to say...they did a great job. Thankfully, they've had a lot of practice at church since we attend a family church where our kiddos stay with us in the service. :)

Cheyenne's Bridal Shower was wonderful. What's more fun than getting a ton of ladies together, eating yummy food, playing fun games, and watching your daughter be blessed beyond measure? 

The lovely cake.....

About 30 of our closest friends and soon-to-be family....

The delicious spread......

The beautiful Bride-to-Be....

Our first game was a hoot! It's called "How well do you know the groom?" We all asked a series of questions about her groom...and for every answer she got wrong, she had to add a piece of gum to her mouth. I think she ended up with six pieces of gum out of 22 questions. Not bad. Though, I won't mention the hints we may have given her on some. ;)

The next game was called, "Advice to the Bride".  Let's just say that this advice personified  the term "blushing bride".   A-hem...moving right along...

Gift fun!  Cheyenne and Nathan were blessed tremendously with goodies for their future home.  They will surely be set.  Thank you to our sweet friends who came to celebrate and bless the this soon-to-be married couple!

What a great day it was. My heart is full over God's goodness and love.

It's hard to believe that NEXT month, I will have a married daughter! How did we arrive here so quickly! My little girl is all grown up and about to begin a life of her own with a wonderful young man!  

Thank you, Father!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Rowdy Holiness

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It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

For a Christian mom, there is sometimes an expectation of how much or how little she should be committing to personal time alone with God. With myriad books and devotionals available, and the expectation that moms will schedule quiet time into their day, the pressure is on! We feel less holy if we haven't had our quiet time.

While this would present an ideal situation, and time with God is parmount in our walk, for a busy mom, squeezing a devoted, daily quiet time into your day is just plain hard!

Even the best laid plans often go awry. We plan to wake up at 5:00am instead of 5:30 for time alone with God, but the baby decides to wake up at 5:02. We plan to study the Bible during rest time, but the two year old dumps the bucket of laundry detergent all over the floor, and we must now attend to that. How about when the kids go to bed? But hubbies want to spend time with us too, so it can't happen then.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.  Psalm 145:8-9

God understands our days. He's called us to sacred mommyhood and knows that some days are just rowdy and unpredictable. Therefore, we must find times of holiness in the midst of the rowdiness. Holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance. It's sactification!  It happens ALL day long!

If we're looking for moments to worship or spend time with God, look to our day. I can't think of a better environment for moms, rich with sanctifying moments, than in our own home! We're surrounded by holiness, if we're willing to see it.

It's in the wonder of a child's first discovery. It's in the tiny arms wrapped around your legs as you make lunch. It's in your children's faces as they read God's word aloud during morning Bible time. It's in a moment of loving correction. It's watching your older children graciously serve along side you. It's in the joy you feel as you look at your family around the table. The list goes on!

If we're willing to see, we'll see that those moments are meant for worship. They cause us to marvel at God's goodness. They recharge us and encourage us. They're moments of holiness in the midst of our hectic day.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Jeremiah 31:25

When the days are difficult, when we're weary, frustrated, and feeling alone, we can find worship in short moments of prayer. Those moments when we are crying out, we are communing with our Father. Even those are sweet moments of holiness. God wants us all day, not just at 5:00am for 30 minutes. Years ago, I read a book which referred to these very moments as "prayer droplets". What a perfect description for how we come to God throughout our day!

In my home, we are surrounded by rowdiness. Even when we are experiencing "quiet", diligent moments such as school or family worship time, there is rowdiness. I have many little ones, so that comes with the territory! There are toddlers getting into mischief, the baby is fussing,the dog is barking to go outside, etc. Indeed, there is rowdiness!

If I didn't find holiness in my day, or catch small moments of worship, I would be wandering, parched and dry.

Finding holiness, even through the rowdiness, keeps my soul quenched and my eyes focused on my Father. It's when I fail to see the holiness in my day that I stumble. And I thirst!

If your day affords personal time alone with God, what a gift! But if your day affords you only moments, or prayer droplets, find holiness and worship in these times and trust that God is pleased.

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:17

How do you find holiness in your day? Do you have a devoted quiet time? Or are you struggling to find moments of worship in your day?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

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Friday, December 02, 2011

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie

I'm a sucker for a really good Chocolate Chip cookie.

For me, the perfect Chocolate Chip cookie is warm, slightly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and never over-baked! I don't like them cake-y or spread out all over the pan. Achieving this requires a drier dough.

As you will see below, my recipe is pretty much the standard recipe with just a couple minor changes. But these minor changes make all the difference. My sweet friends always rave about my Chocolate Chip Cookies (uh...unless they're just being nice! hehe) You be the judge and give them a try!

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks of butter, softened (absolutely NO margarine or shortening....only the real thing will do!)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 granulated sugar
1 egg ( is all you need)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I like Kosher, but regular salt is fine)
2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Sometimes I add a 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped Walnuts, but most of my family prefers them without.


Preheat oven to 375*
In a large bowl, mix butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla until fluffy, usually a couple of minutes. Add in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the dry ingredients just until slightly incorporated. You want it to be crumbly at this point, not doughy. It's much easier to fold in the chocolate chips when the mixture is still loose and crumbly. 

Add chocolate chips and fold in with a wooden spoon. You'll see your dough come together as you mix in the chips. It will be on the dry side, but wet enough to have come together.

I like uniformity, so I use a (2 Tablespoon) cookie scoop. I also use a stone, but if you don't have one, a regular cookie sheet will do. Place cookies about 1-2 inches apart. Be sure oven rack is set in the middle of oven, not higher or cookies will be too dark on top.

Baking times will vary. On my stone, my first batch bakes for 11 minutes. But my second batch only bakes for 9 minutes since the stone is already hot. If I use a regular cookie sheet, I begin with 8 minutes, check them, and go from there.  DO NOT over bake.  You almost want to ever-so-slightly under bake. On a stone, the cookies will continue to firm up a bit as they sit. Allow cookies to stay on stone or sheet about 10 minutes before transferring to a rack for cooling.

What is your favorite recipe?  Is it similar to this one? 

Photo Credit (I couldn't believe that I didn't have my own photo considering I bake these often, but I found one that looks the same, minus the chocolate chunks.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Practicing the Fruit of the Spirit

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"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."  Galatians 5:22-23

I wish that I could say that exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit comes naturally to our family. That we show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all day long with smiles on our faces.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. We are imperfect, sinful  people.  Some days, it's much easier to display anything but the fruits.  And if we allow habits of ungodliness to take root, that becomes the norm.  But since we love God, desire to serve Him faithfully, and teach our children how to live godly lives, we must do our best to exhibit these fruits and make that the norm for our lives. And if you're like our family, that takes practice.

There are many fun ways to incorporate practicing the Fruits in your home, but when I stumbled upon this one over at Smockity, I thought this would be a fun way to encourage Fruit in our home. And not just for the kids...but for Mom and Dad too!

First, I printed this template and wrote all the fruits inside the grapes.  Then, I printed it onto colorful paper, put a name on each one, and hung them on the wall in the family room.

Next, we all went over each fruit and made sure that the younger ones knew what each one meant and what it looks like in every day life.  For example, when they sit quietly at the table, waiting for their meal, they're showing patience.  Or when an older sibling helps a younger one, they're showing kindness.  When they sit quietly in church, they're showing self-control, etc. 

When a family member sees someone else displaying a fruit, they get a sticker to place over that fruit.  And once we fill up all the fruits, we'll do something special as a family. 

The kids were very excited about doing this, and it really motivated them to "practice" these fruits.  Plus, they had a fun goal to work toward.  Everyday, I had kids coming to me and telling me how someone showed a particular fruit.  It was wonderful!  The kids were encouraging one another...and making a concerted effort to show the fruits throughout the day. 

Conversely, when someone was impatient, or not sharing, or speaking unkind words, all I had to ask was, "How can you show a fruit of the spirit in this situation?"  And the tone would change.  In most cases, a gentle reminder was enough to get back on track.  Likewise, we also gave the children permission to respectfully remind us when we were not displaying the fruits.  And they did.  ;-) 

Well, as you can see in the photo above, we've completed all the charts.  We gave the kids several choices of family activities and took a vote.  It looks like we'll be having "Make-your-own-Sundae Night" with all the fixings soon.

It's amazing how "practicing" the fruits can change the dynamics of your day and keep us focused on Christ.  We plan on printing more of these and starting over again.  I'll also be looking into other fun ways for our family to practice the fruits.

It's your turn.....and I need more ideas!  How do you teach the Fruit of the Spirit to your children.  How do you incorporate "practice" into your day?  Share here in the comments.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reader Question: Christmas Gifts

christmas present wrap

First, I'd like to say that I LOVE when my readers contact me with questions. I typically respond privately to my readers, but I thought it would be fun to answer some of the questions here.  'Cause you all want to know, right?  ;-)

So here is my first official "reader's question" post regarding Christmas gifts.

Question: "With nine children, how do afford to buy gifts for all of them?  Do you limit the number of gifts or have a budget per child?  Would love to know how you make this work?

This is a great question and one that I've been asked several times over the years.

The answer to this varies from year to year, however.  It all depends on how much we were able to put away that year.  Our goal is to give each kid three gifts, but some years it may be one or two gifts per child, and more shared gifts (like a big set of Lincoln Logs for the boys or art supplies for the little girls).  There is significance in the number of gifts we give.  It represents the three gifts the kings presented to Jesus.  This not only serves as a good way to point our children to Christ, but it helps us resist the temptation to buy more than we need to.

We do set a budget per child, allotting more for our older kids.  We ask the kids to write a list of desired gifts, and then we choose according to what the budget will allow.

As a fun tradition, we give one gift on Christmas Eve.  It's always the same and the kids love it.  They each get a new pajama set to wear that night.  There's something so sweet about all the kids coming down in their new, warm and cozy PJ's Christmas morning!  The jammies don't count toward their three gifts.

In a family of eleven, and one income, Christmas can become an overwhelming time if we let it.  We love giving our children gifts, but our main purpose for celebrating Christmas is Christ.  Remembering this helps us to not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, which can be easy to do sometimes.  And our limited budget demands that we be smart about our purchases.

Is there something you want to know about large family living in general, or about our family specifically?  You can click the "contact tab" above, or "like" Sacred Mommyhood on Facebook and post your question there.

It's your turn!  What is your method for buying your children Christmas gifts?  Set number of gifts?  Set budget?  Please share in the comments below!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Easy Thanksgiving Placemat Craft

If you're looking for something easy for the kids to do on Thanksgiving Day, why not let them help decorate your table with these fun Thanksgiving placemats?

Since we are having lots of children here for Thanksgiving, we thought it would be fun to let them make their own placemats for the kids' table.  It will make a cute addition to the paper pumpkins we made yesterday for centerpieces.

Here's what you need:  Fall colored construction paper (don't mind my Christmas colors here), scissors, a ruler, and glue.

Cut one inch strips of paper lengthwise for weaving, and one inch vertical slits on your background paper.  Older kids can cut on their own, but for our younger kids, we'll have these pre-cut.  Be careful to leave about a one inch border at the top and bottom as shown don't want to cut all the way or you'll have more strips. :)

Simply weave the strips of paper under and over each slit, incorporating your different colors for each row.  Once all the strips are in, use glue to fasten down the ends of the strips. 

While my mom was here in March for the birth of Amelia, she taught the kids how to make these (hi Mom!).  They're looking forward to making them again on Thursday!

Once the kids are done constructing their mats, let them be creative and decorate with markers, crayons, stickers, glitter glue, etc.   They can even write "Give Thanks" like shown above, or write things for which they are thankful around the border.  And if you happen to have a laminating machine, these would be great to preserve that way!

It's fun, it's easy, and will keep them busy while you're working hard in the kitchen! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quick Tip: Storing Bed Sheet Sets

This tip comes from Pinterest (via

How clever is this? Simply store bed sheet sets right inside their pillow cases.

Love it!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Clifford Breaks Down

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Last week, we had an exciting adventure at the Walmart gas station.  Our van, "Clifford", broke down.  At the pump. 

At first, it wasn't a big deal.  I thought for sure it was something minor that my older girls and I could fix.  After 30 minutes of trying to diagnose the problem, we didn't know what was wrong.  At this point, we knew we needed to move the van away from the pump in the event Clifford was going to spend the night at the gas station.

My future son-in-law had come to help, and one man pumping gas next to us jumped in to try and help as well.  All we had to do was move this 15 passenger van to a parking spot.  Just so happens, we were at the ONLY pump in the gas station that was in direct line to a parking space.  Thank you, Jesus, for directing me to that pump!

Just as we were about to push the van into the spot, approximately 50 ft away, a car pulls into it.  I immediately ran to the gentleman and kindly asked him if he would park elsewhere so that we could push the big red van into his spot.  Without hesitation, he moved his car....and we pushed Clifford safely into the spot.

By this time, the man who was already helping us had diagnosed the problem as a bad fuel pump.  I knew that we would not be able to fix the fuel pump in the parking lot, so at this point, we just needed to get home.  A friend had already been called to come and get us, and was on her way.

Before our friend had arrived, the man I had asked to move his car, drove over to us and asked if we needed help.  We told him that it was probably the fuel pump and that we wouldn't be able to do anything until the next day.  It was just getting dark by then.  The man, Frank, asked to take a look.  He suggested that it could just be the fuel filter..and that if it was, he would change it for us right there in the parking lot.  He got on the phone with Auto Zone, where he used to work, to see if they had the part in stock.  They did.  Frank took off to his home to get some tools and the part.  What a nice man!

Our friend, Bethany, had come by, picked up most of the kids and took them home.  The kids did great and had a wonderful opportunity to practice patience.  They were tired, bored, and was well past dinner time for them and they had been sitting for nearly two hours.  I was so glad when they were able to get home!

Frank returned, changed out the filter, but it wasn't the filter after all.  How sweet of him it was to check the less expensive possibility first...and do it for us.  Well, then...if that wasn't sweet enough, Frank gets back on the phone with Auto Zone to inquire about a fuel pump.  They have one in stock.  I told Frank that I would need to talk with my husband (who was at work) to find out if he would be able to fix a fuel pump on his own.  Greg is the one who fixes most things on our vehicles, but I knew he had never fixed a fuel pump, mainly because you have to drop the entire gas tank.  A BIG job on a BIG van!

So Frank says, "I'm off tomorrow and can fix it for you, free of charge!"  Say WHA???  Who IS this guy and why does he want to spend his day off fixing a total stranger's HUGE RED VAN? 

On a side note, when Frank got into our van to try and turn it over, before the kids were hauled home, he looked back at all the kids and asked, "Are they part of a daycare?"  I literally laughed out loud!

Back to the story!  We were so humbled over Frank's kindness.  And sure enough, the next day, he and Nathan (my future son-in-law), both spent their day off under Clifford.  For about five hours.  In the Walmart gas station.  In one little parking spot.  Isn't that incredible? 

There are so many more details about this story that I would love to share, but just don't have the time to get it all down right now.  Let's just say that God orchestrated this whole occurrence in such a unique way, and involved several  people.  Only God can do such an amazing thing.

We are SO thankful for Frank and Nathan, and all the others who helped over those two days.  As much as I did not like the fact that our van broke down, and with a costly repair, I couldn't help but marvel at how God worked in such a way to weave a beautiful tapestry of kindness, generosity, and grace.  I had no choice but to praise Him!

On another side note....we found out that Frank goes to the same church where my OB doctor attends.  Small world! :)

Please share what are you thankful for? 

This post is linked up to The Marathon Mom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Soup Series: Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup

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The third and final soup in my soup series is Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup.  This recipe came from Paula Deen years ago when she was first starting out on Food Network.  It's a little more work than my previous two soups, but sooo worth the effort.

I don't usually prefer chicken noodle soup....until I tried this one!  With the addition of fresh rosemary, freshly grated Parmesan, and cream, it takes chicken soup to a whole new level! 


1 (2 1/2 to 3 lb) whole chicken (or fryer, cut up)
3 1/2 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes
Kosher salt and pepper

2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
2 1/2 cups egg noodles, uncooked
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional
Kosher salt and black pepper


For the stock, add all ingredients to a soup pot.  Cook until chicken is tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.  Remove and discard bay leaves and onion.  You should have approximately 3 quarts of stock.  When chicken is cool enough to touch, pull meat off the bone.  Discard bones, skin, and cartilage.  Set chicken aside.

For the soup, bring stock back to a boil, add carrots and cook for 3 minutes.  Add celery and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add egg noodles and cook according to package directions.  When noodle are done, reduce heat to low.  Add chicken, mushrooms, parsley, and rosemary.  Add Parmesan and cream, if using.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Adjust seasoning if needed.

Enjoy with a hot loaf of French bread or rolls.

If you missed my last two soups, you can find Basil Tomato Soup here, and Zucchini, Potato, and Parmesan Soup here!

Photo Credit

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Look what I found!

Hmmm....bunk beds?  ;-)

Where have you found your kids hiding recently?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Donut Tradition Lives On....Maybe

Old Fashioned Donuts: Box of Donuts

Early this morning, Daddy surprised the kids with donuts!  Some of you may remember that we used to have a fun donut tradition. 

Back when Greg was an on-the-truck-Fire-Fighter (he is a Fire Inspector now), he worked 24 hour shifts (24 on, 24 off...7am to7am).  Every other Friday was "Payday Friday" and he happened to be off on payday Fridays.  The beloved tradition was that he would stop at Krispy Kreme on his way home from work, specifically on "payday Fridays". 

It's something we did for years.  And it's something our kids looked forward to and loved very much.  Sadly, the Krispy Kreme closed and our tradition came to a screeching halt.  Yes....there was always the grocery store, but buying donuts from the grocery store just wasn't quite the same.  In addition, Greg no longer works the 24 on, 24 off shifts, which means he works on "Payday Fridays".  : (

So for those of you who haven't read about how much our kids love donuts....or the story about the devastating day we realized Krispy Kreme was shut down, you gotta go back and read them.  These were written about five years ago, back when my blog was called Sabo Family Dynamics.  It was primarily a family blog that I kept out of the mainstream public.  But since I went public and have new readers (hi, new friends!), I'd love for you to read some of my older stuff.  :)

As far as this morning, well, a new donut shop opened up about 8 miles down the road.  But of course, it's Saturday and not Friday.  I suppose we could begin our tradition again, but "Day-after-payday-Friday" doesn't quite have the same ring.  And 8 miles down the road isn't on Daddy's way home (because he's already home).  So, I think we'll just make it an occasional fun surprise like we did this morning.  :) 

It was neat to see the looks on their faces when Daddy unexpectedly walked in the door with those iconic boxes.  They all thought he was still sleeping.  Sneaky...and so fun!

Does your family have a special tradition that would be utterly sad to see come to a sudden stop?

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Very Cool Meal Planning Help

Okay, know that I am pretty fanatical about menu planning. But this takes even my system a step further by incorporating your local grocery store sales into the planning....and does it for you!!!  How cool is that?

Here's how it works:  Food on the Table is an easy meal planning service that is based on sales at local grocery stores. With Food on the Table, users will be able to:  find thousands of easy, healthy recipes - save money by knowing the items that are on sale - and simplify your shopping experience with a well organized grocery list.

If you struggle at all with meal planning, then this may be your solution.  If you've got a great system already, this may help streamline your sale shopping. 

Okay ladies.....I'm very interested in your opinion on this!  Click on the banner above, sign up for the free trial, and tell me what you think! 

*Contains an affiliate link.

Monday, November 07, 2011

8 Tips for Surviving the Economy Crunch

Tighten Your Belt - Austerity

Anyone else feeling a bit tight these days?  Are you struggling to make ends meet?  Or just trying to put money away with little success?

As our family has grown, we've always been frugally minded.  However, with gas, groceries, and everything else on the rise...except my husband's paycheck...we've really had to tighten up and be wiser about our spending.  And did I mention that we're also planning a wedding?

Here are 8 ways that we have cut expenses to survive the economy crunch!

Calculate that trip!

We often calculate how much it will cost to drive to Grandma's out of state, or to the amusement park in the next city, but what about those frequent "short" trips?  Those sudden trips to the grocery store or those trips to Sonic for Happy Hour.  ;-)  It's important to know what even your short trips are costing because they add up quickly.

First, find out how many miles your vehicle gets to the city.  Now, think of a place you go often.  How many miles is it from your home?  Divide the total miles of your trip by how many miles your vehicle gets per gallon.  Then multiply that result by the cost of gas per gallon.  This will tell you how much your trip costs.  Formula here.

For instance, Sonic is 4 miles from our home.  So round trip is 8 miles.  Our van, "Clifford, the Big Red Van" only gets about 10 miles to the gallon (pitiful, I know).  SO, it will cost me $2.52 (current price per gallon $3.15) to get to Sonic and back.  So now, my half price large Diet Coke just cost me $3.52 instead of $1.00.  If I do this everyday, I've just spent $105.60 in one month for Diet Coke.  Scary huh?

It's so important, if you're struggling financially, to calculate your gas costs.  We've had to cut out a lot of frivolous trips to save on our gas budget.  If you've got a fuel efficient car, it may not be so bad.  But with a 15-passenger van and a Suburban, we really have to pay attention to our fuel costs.

Turn up (or down) that thermostat!

We've all heard that during the summer, we should keep our thermostat at 78 degrees or higher.  How many of us actually do this?  We do.  You'll be amazed at how quickly you acclimate to a warmer temp in your home.  Now that we're approaching winter, try setting your thermostat one to two degrees cooler than usual.

Check the unit price!

When shopping for groceries, be sure and look at the unit price when comparing prices.  Look at the price per ounce or pound to find the best bargain.  If you're set on a particular name brand item, search for a coupon first or price match it if your local store does this.

Buying in bulk is often a great way to save money, but be careful!  Buying in bulk may not always be the best option.  For example, we shop at Sams.  Sams carries mostly name brand items.  Even though they may be cheaper than the traditional grocery store, most time, buying the generic store brand will be less expensive than buying name brand bulk. 

Eat at home!

If you're accustomed to eating out a lot, you can save huge by eating at home.  Plan a menu and make a coordinating shopping list.  And stick to it!  This will also prevent those frequent store runs since you will already have everything on hand to prepare your meals.

Check for used items first!

If you need something for your family or your home, don't forget to see if you can find it used first.  Chances are, depending upon the item, you can find it on eBay or Craigslist.  If you need clothing or Children's clothing, don't forget about those great thrift stores.

Downgrade your cable package

About a year ago, we downgraded our TV package.  We went to just the basic package which means we can watch only local channels for news and weather.  We saved quite a bit by doing this and we haven't missed all those channels one teeny, weeny bit.  Okay, so I do miss my Food Network and HGTV, but I've gone on crying living without them. ;-)

Sell Stuff

Look around your home and let go of things you don't need.  Sell books, toys, baby items, furniture, etc.  It's always fun to bring in a little extra cash from things you weren't using anyway. 

After seeing a friend's FB status about cashing in her unused gold jewelry, and getting more than she thought, I went through my small stash and found three broken gold chains and a small ring I never wear.  I took them to Gold Gals and made a quick 76 bucks from broken jewelry I may have ended up throwing out. 

Join Swagbucks!

I'm tellin' ya!  If you haven't done this yet, you're missing out on free stuff.  I purchased most of my home schooling material last year from Amazon credit that I earned from Swagbucks for free.  In addition, anytime I want a new book, or birthday gifts for our children, I build up my Amazon gift credit by buying Amazon gift cards with my Swagbucks.  Currently, I am saving up for Christmas shopping.  450 SB gets you a $5 Amazon gift card.  I usually accumulate 450 SB every week to week and a half just by doing regular Internet searches.  But there are other ways to rack up the Bucks, too. 

Once you redeem your SB for a gift card, you then go into your Amazon account and credit it with a code.  You can let it build as high as you want.  If you're not an Amazon fan, there are pages and pages of redeemable prizes and gifts.  You've GOTTA jump on the Swagbucks train! :)

How have you managed to cut back on your budget?  What would you add to this list?

Photo Credit

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Soup Series: Zucchini, Potato, and Parmesan Soup


The second soup in the series is one that I got years ago on TV from Art Smith, personal chef to the big stars.  It's actually a hearty summer soup, but since you can get zucchini all year round, it makes an excellent fall and winter soup as well.  With the flavorful addition of fresh thyme and Parmesan, this soup is simply scrumptious! 

This soup takes a bit more time to prepare than the Basil Tomato Soup, but I still consider it a quick soup.  Give it try and tell me what you think!

Zucchini, Potato, and Parmesan Soup

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium zucchini, scrubbed but unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1 cup)
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1 cup)
3 cups chicken broth or canned low-sodium broth, as needed
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 cup evaporated skim milk (regular milk is fine too)
3 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh Thyme for garnish (a must!)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, and garlic.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the zucchini and potato.  Add enough broth to barely cover the vegetables.  Add the thyme and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low.  Simmer partially covered, until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese.  Heat until very hot, but do not boil or the soup will curdle.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle each serving with fresh thyme and freshly grated Parmesan.  Don't be shy on the cheese! ;-)  Serve with hot French or Artisan bread.

Serves 8-10

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