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!

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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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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.)
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