Two Years as a Mommy

Today I am celebrating being a Mommy for 2 years.  It is my son Macon’s birthday!  I am so thankful that God allowed Jonathan and I to be his parents.

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He really is an amazing child and has taught me so many things over the past 2 years.  Well- really 2 years and 10 months.  Here are just a few of the things I have learned during that time…..

No matter what other people tell you about how your labor and deliver will go, how much planning you do for the delivery, for when you come home, for feeding your baby, NOTHING will go exactly how you planned or thought.  I had planned on working up until the I went into labor. But when I was having such bad lower back and hip pain that I had to sleep on the reclining sofa for the last 2 months of my pregnancy and couldn’t stand to sit still for 8 hours a day at work, I called it quits a week before my due date.

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You can try to eat all the pineapple in God’s creation, walk for miles on end, eat spicy foods and all the other things people recommend to hurry the baby along, end the end, that little baby will come with God has planned for him to come.  Macon was 6 days late. We planned on inducing but I actually started labor very early in the morning. And proceeded to labor for over 19 hours (3.5 of which was delivery alone!).

When your husband is there holding your hand, giving you ice chips, keeping you comfortable, holding your legs and encouraging you along the way.  THEN when he is there helping you get up to use the bathroom, to nurse the baby and anything else you need, you will feel like the Grinch when his heart grew 3 sizes– you will LOVE him more than you ever thought you possibly could.

And those ice chips. Who ever knew just eating ice could be the BEST THING EVER in that moment!

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You will be exhausted. No matter how much help you get, no matter how many people bring food to your house or offer to let you sleep while they watch the baby, you will still absolutely be exhausted. For a significant period of time. You can’t really sleep when the baby sleeps like everyone says- because that is when you can take a shower and have a second to think straight. And if you’re nursing or pumping, get ready to be even more exhausted.

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But…. those midnight feedings with your precious baby will be the highlight of your day. When they open their tired little eyes and know that you love them, that you are there to feed them, comfort them and protect them, it will melt your heart. And as the days and weeks pass, you will start to get more sleep and not be quite as exhausted.

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Having a schedule and following it as much as possible will keep you AND the baby sane.  Some people (and specialists) say that children need to be free, that you should follow their lead and what they want. But when we were struggling to get Macon to eat regularly and sleep regularly, we turned to the Baby Whisperer and a couple other books of the same theory for guidance.  And what do you know? It worked!  By 8 weeks old when I had to return to work, Macon was sleeping through the night.  Now morning still came rather early (around 5:00 if memory serves) but it was through the night! The dream feed was KEY for us.  Macon typically went to bed around 8 when he was younger but around 9:30-10:00 just before we went to bed, we would pick him up (not waking him) and give him a bottle.  His instincts kicked in and he drank the entire bottle! We could lay him back down and leave the room without him ever knowing it.

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At that same time, Macon started going to day care and they followed a specific schedule with some flexibility based on the child’s needs. Since then we have followed his school schedule so that he has consistency.  Of course there are days when things are a little bit different and we make adjustments based on what Macon’s needs are. But one thing I have learned for SURE is that when a child is tired, they are NOT nice! And when he is too tired he doesn’t eat well, so then he doesn’t nap well because he is too hungry to sleep long enough, then he is too tired again to eat well.  When they are too tired they also don’t sleep well.  You would think- keep the baby up later and they will wake up later.  Nope.  Not for Macon, at least. So then you think, well if the baby is so tired then they will sleep great.  Nope.  When Macon is over tired, he still doesn’t sleep better. So that is why we find schedules to be so important.

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There is such a thing as the 4 month sleep regression. And it struck Macon at about the time that he was getting too big to be swaddled with his arms in anymore because he was trying to flip over, but he couldn’t keep his pacifier in his mouth to comfort him either. (We even tried the zippity zip above). After more than a week of Jonathan and I taking turns to go in his room, put the paci in his mouth, sit there and wait to make sure he was asleep ALL night long, we decided to try the “let them cry it out” method and get rid of the paci.

We read that it would be hard, we would want to cave, but if we stuck to it, it would work. So the first night we let him cry for 5 minutes before going in his room. The next time we increased to waiting 10 minutes, then 15 and so on. It was hard. I wanted to cry myself. But after about 2 days of this plan… it worked!  Turns out Macon didn’t need a paci… he figured out how to suck his fingers! From then on Macon was pretty much a really great sleeper- 10-12 hours a night (but don’t get me started on his past 2-3 months of waking up too early not matter what time we put him to sleep- we are working on that now!).

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Now- if you do not have kids, you will likely hear doctors say that teething does not cause ear infections.  That may be true. It may be completely true that teeth coming in doesn’t CAUSE the ear infection. But it may also be true that teething causes more inner ear and nasal fluids to back up resulting in ear infections. Maybe I do not have the physiology of that correct, but I can tell you that Macon has had an ear infection every. single. time. he had a tooth come in.

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Even with all of the difficult times, tired times, times when you just want to cry just as much as the baby, there are even MORE times where you are so unbelievably happy that you get to be a parent.  Like when your son pees in the bathroom floor when you are getting ready to give him a bath. When he starts to laugh then realizes that you laugh when he laughs and it makes the whole thing all the more funny for him. When he says his first word, crawls for the first time, takes the first step, throws his first ball to you. When he starts to talk to his Elmo or other stuffed animal when he wakes up in the morning. When he wants to be just like his daddy and get his “targ” (guitar) to play you a song. Listening to Macon’s vocabulary grow and develop has been so much fun and at times hilarious!  For the longest time instead of fire truck, he said “fartbooger.” When they are so pumped over their little art project they can’t wait to show everyone who comes in the house. The hugs and kisses, the “winky smiles”, “sad faces” and other fun little things you can get your children to do on command will be memories you want to cherish forever.

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Being a parent is the best job in the world. It is also the hardest. People will tell you what to do, how to do it, what you’re doing wrong and not often what you’re doing right. But when you are doing the best you can, and loving your child, their other parents- then you are doing it right.

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One thing we have made a tradition is to read to Macon every night before bed since he was about 2 weeks old.  That time has been so special for Jonathan and I and gives us a bit of special alone time with Macon. Above the chair where we read to him we have this scripture:

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28.

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And every night before he goes to sleep, we sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him, we tell him how much we love him, and we kiss him goodnight.  And thank God for blessing our lives with this sweet little boy. He gives the best hugs and kisses in the world.  Is so incredibly smart and opinionated! And has made our lives so much richer for being able to raise him!

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Easter

This time of year all the stores are covered with pastel colored decorations, candy, and bunnies. You can even go sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and ask him to bring you candy and toys on Easter morning.  I always wondered how we got to the point where the Easter Bunny has so much importance in this holiday.  Yes, it is fun for kids to hunt eggs and have school parties. It is fun to decorate eggs, give them gifts, put them in their new church outfits.  But it is so much more important to make sure that our children know the truth behind this day.

Over 2000 years ago, a man from Nazareth, named Jesus was murdered. Hung on the cross with nails in his hands, a crown of thorns on his head. They laid his body in an empty tomb. And 3 days later, the tomb was empty!  Jesus rose from the dead to save us from our sins. He suffered and died on the cross after living a perfect life so that we would be able to live eternally in heaven even though we never can hope to live a perfect life.

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” John 20:1-2

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:19-22.

Often times we can let the secular side of Easter overtake the true meaning of this day (same as for Santa at Christmas). While the traditions have gone a little haywire lately, we really need to find some grounding in what we celebrate to place our focus back on Jesus.  Take the Easter egg.  An egg is a symbol of new life.  When you decorate eggs, hunt for eggs, or eat that ever so delicious Cadbury Creme Egg, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God our Father, thank him for sacrificing His son for us and for Jesus resurrection on that third day so that WE may have new life in HIM!

We are blessed to be able to send our son to a wonderful daycare where he was able to hunt for eggs, and have a little party on Friday.  It was fun, but it wasn’t the most important thing we would do this weekend. Yesterday, we had our Life Group over for a celebration of our Savior and living our lives as Christians on mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And we had some yummy little Easter cupcakes for dessert (recipe will be below), but even that wasn’t the most important thing we would do.  This morning, we gave Macon some little treats in his Easter basket. And tonight we will be spending time with my side of the family.

But the most important thing that we did today had nothing to do with bunnies, eggs, or candy.

Today my family went to church and worshiped our Heavenly Father. We thanked him for His sacrifice in sending his son to die for MY sins. I am not worthy. But God created me and loves me so he wants me to be able to live eternally with him.  Macon is so young that he can’t really understand all of this yet.  We sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him everyday. We say the blessing at meals and he knows how to say “Amen.”  He knows when we go to church that we are going to see Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from he love of God that is revealed in christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38.

So while you are spending time with your families today, eating some candy, be sure to focus on the real reason for this day. This Resurrection Day.  Thank God for saving us from our sins, for allowing us to live in this world with the full faith and knowledge that He has a spot saved for us in heaven because of Jesus.  Thank God that He is Risen!

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For our Life Group, I made some mini-cupcakes and wanted to share the recipe with you.  Two of the children who are part of our community are actually allergic to eggs, so I found a recipe for Lemon Eggless Cake that was used for my cupcakes.

Ingredients
  1. Butter – 1/2 Cup (Softened, Room temperature)
  2. Sugar – 1 1/4 Cup
  3. Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  4. Lemon zest – 1 tsp
  5. Milk – 1 1/4 Cup (Room temperature)
  6. Lemon Juice – 3 Tbsp
Dry Ingredients
  1. All purpose flour – 1 1/2 Cup
  2. Baking soda – 1 tsp
  3. Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
  4. Salt – 1/2 tsp

Directions

First preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan with butter or line with butter paper and keep aside. OR line a cupcake pan.

Now take a mixing bowl and all the items listed under “Dry Ingredients” and mix well until combined. You can also sieve it to get them combined evenly. Keep it aside

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Now, in another large mixing bowl, add the room temperature butter, sugar and beat it nicely until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and mix well. Now add the room temperature milk to the bowl and beat well until combined.

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Now transfer the prepared dry ingredients to the wet ingredients little by little and fold it until it gets combined. Do not beat it. (I did beat it and it was fine).  Finally add the lemon juice and fold it to get mixed. Your batter will get slightly fluffy with the baking soda reacting with the lemon.

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Pour the prepared batter into a greased baking pan upto 3/4 th of its height or a line cupcake tin.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely to room temperature before icing.

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Then make the icing.  This is my absolute favorite, go-to, American Buttercream recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (do not melt, just leave on counter for 30 minutes)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions: In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with milk until combined, add in vanilla.  If desired, add a little lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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One tip I have learned for coloring frosting is to put the food color in the icing while still in the mixing bowl and then mix it until combined.  It is so much easier to get the icing completely colored that way.

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I also used packaged fondant to color and make a bunch of little eggs for decoration.

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I tried to decorate the mini-cupcakes using the green frosting as grass with the little eggs on top.  But I had some problems with my grass tip, so then I just turned to an old trusty star tip.  They turned out to be the perfect portion control tiny little cupcakes, were perfectly moist and not too sweet.

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These cupcakes are cute. They are fun.

But most importantly, I was able to use them today as a way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That he died for me, for you, for anyone who will place their faith in Him, die to their self and be reborn in Him!

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17.

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Old Favorites and New Experiments

Yesterday my sister-in-law was in town and we had the opportunity to do some baking for the members of my Life Group. Today I delivered treats to all of the families to thank them for being a part of our little community.

We made some old standbys that are delicious, but not necessarily clean and healthy. But, last week I had tried out a new clean, no-bake cookie and it was a HIT so we went for it again this week!

We wanted to include something that wasn’t quite as sweet and could qualify as a breakfast item if needed and found these really delicious and subtle Clean Blueberry Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (80 g) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (225 g) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) honey
  • 2 Tbsp (24 g) coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140 g) blueberries, frozen or fresh

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F (176C) and prepare a muffin pan by spraying the cavities with cooking spray or greasing them with oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg until it becomes slightly frothy. Whisk in the yogurt, honey, sugar, almond milk, and vanilla, mixing until well combined.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing gently until just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tbsp (7.5 g) of flour to prevent them from bleeding or sinking to the bottom of the muffins, and fold them into the batter.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Add a sprinkle of coconut sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for ~5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

The original recipe can be found here.  I thought they were really delicious and a nice little breakfast item. I would count 2 of them as a yellow if you are on 21 Day Fix.

If you are looking for the perfect snack to cary in your bag for when you need a little something but want to stay clean and healthy, you should try Lara Bars.  They are made with minimal ingredients- typically dried fruit and nuts.  Kind Bars are also such a GREAT snack that is 21 Day Fix approved (counts as a blue and a tsp), made of nuts and a little honey or maple syrup.

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Last week I bought some dried pitted dates because I remembered seeing them in a bunch of recipes.

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But then I had to try to find something to make with them.  We happened to have had a large bag of roasted cashews, so I decided to attempt to make a Copycat Lara Bar, that I found here.

Ingredients
  • 30 pitted medjool dates
  • 1.5 cups raw cashews
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Place 30 pitted medjool dates in a small food processor. Process until dates form a paste.
  2. Next, add in raw cashews and pulse until the cashews are coarsely chopped and mixed in with your dates. You may need to stop and scrape the sides a few times. At this point you are able to pulse in optional chocolate chips. Just make sure you don’t over mix and crush the chocolate!
  3. Form a ball with your dough, then using a rolling pin, roll out dough so that it’s about 1.5 inches thick. Slice into bars with a knife.

But…. they didn’t work.  I do not know why, other than maybe I should have used the dates the day I bought them instead of letting them sit in my pantry for two weeks.  Or maybe I needed to soak them in water for a bit first to reintroduce moisture.  But, they just fell apart and crumbled.  I tried to smoosh them into a baking dish, chill, then cut.  Nope, still didn’t work.  So then I added some raw honey and more dates, mixed and tried again.  Still didn’t work.  BUT the good news is, you can eat it with a spoon and it is still a delicious little healthy and clean snack!

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This afternoon, I did my weekly meal prep.  This is my planning board for the week.

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I started by roasting cauliflower and broccoli, roasting sweet potatoes and making some whole wheat crusted chicken nuggets for my little toddler.   I always like to fix some easy go-to recipes that don’t take too much time.

One of my FAVORITE things to fix on Sundays that will make up a dinner and lunches for the week is turkey burgers.

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Ingredients

  • Lean ground turkey
  • One egg
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Ground mustard
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • 1/4 cup- 1/2 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs (I just kind of eyeball it)
  • 2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • Olive oil

Directions

Mix all of the ingredients, except for the oil.  Patty the burgers. Heat the pan with olive oil then place the burgers in the pan.  They will be a little sticky and loose at first, but just let them cook on one side for 3-4 minutes before flipping.   Before serving you can add some cheese, lettuce, tomato, and any other toppings to suite your fancy!

We love Mexican food in my house. So I also typically try to have some sort of  taco turkey meat or chicken for the week.  This week I used turkey, and it is so simple.  Brown your ground turkey.  Add some taco sauce, ground cumin, ground red pepper, and chili powder.  You can also sauté some onions before you brown the meat, but I forgot today!  We typically serve this with cheese and vegetables, sometimes with a whole wheat tortilla.

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Last week I made Honey Sriracha Chicken and it was really yummy.  Today I decided to make it again, but didn’t have lemon as the original recipe recommends.  So I adapted it using what I had on hand- fresh orange juice! and actually fixed the quinoa this time.  Can’t wait to enjoy it later this week!

Ingredients:

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE QUINOA:
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups water
FOR THE CHICKEN:
  • ¼ cup organic coconut oil
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) chicken breast, cut into bite size cubes
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • ½ cup Sriracha (or more according to taste)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • ½ tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • fresh cilantro for garnishing
Directions:
To cook quinoa:
  1. Rinse quinoa 2-3 times with cold water. In a deep large skillet, combine water (chicken stock) and quinoa and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed. Optional: season with salt. Fluff with fork.
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To cook chicken:
  1. In a large sauce pan melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked, fluffing a few times with thongs (6-7 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

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  1. Whisk together honey, Sriracha and orange juice in a bowl.
  2. Add sauce to the pan and cook for about 8 more minutes. Chicken should be cooked through and sauce will thicken.

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  1. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with scallions, sesame seeds and fresh cilantro.

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I love finding new recipes to try out and Pinterest is definitely my best friend to do so!  Please comment below if you try any of these recipes and share this post so others can enjoy them too!!

The Shoes We Wear

The shoes we wear say a lot about us.  Most of us wear them all day. For most women, it is the most important part of their outfits.

This lady looks like she is going to work. I LOVE these shoes by the way!

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This lady looks like she is enjoying a nice stroll along a boardwalk at the beach.

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This lady is ready to be active and get some exercise.

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These shoes are all so different, but they do have a few things in common.  They will protect your feet from the dirt and other gross stuff on the ground to get you to wear you’re going.  They allow you to go in public places (No shoes, no shirt, no service!).  They show a little bit of your own personal style.

Have you ever thought about how shoes make you feel? I know that I LOVE to be barefoot but I also love shoes. Some shoes make me feel pretty or sophisticated, maybe more artistic and stylish than I actually am, even homey.

Women often wear shoes that hurt their feet, but they do not care because those shoes are just too adorable not to suffer through the pain. We can never really have too many shoes because there is always that new perfect shoe, that old favorite that you can’t part with, that outfit that just needs a new shoe. And then we spend way too much money on them at times!  They can even be the urban legend dream shoes….

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But have you ever heard of the Shoes of Peace?

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Ephesians 6:15

If you have been following along with my blog, you know that I have been studying through Ephesians with Pricilla Shirer’s Bible study, “The Armor of God.”

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We have talked about the spiritual armor that God has given us to be equipped for living in this world. So far we have learned about the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness.  Paul, the author of Ephesians, used the Roman Centurion to symbolize the different pieces of armor so that we could easily identify and remember the weapons at our disposal.

The Roman soldier wore shoes called caliga which were very strategically designed. These half boot, half sandal shoes included open designs to allow for good ventilation; many straps for adjustment to fit each soldier’s specific feet; the soles were made of layers of leather; and they were studded with hobnails- or spikes which provided a firm grip into the ground.

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We have discussed how the enemy is a master of deception and out to attack us where we are weakest. He wants us to be unsure of ourselves, always questioning and unstable, in a life of chaos, worry, anxiety and lacking peace.

A life without peace is simply unprotected, crippled, unable to move forward, hindered from maturing and developing in a healthy fashion. Pricilla Shirer, “The Armor of God.

We walk through many obstacles and hurdles in life, have to deal with family, friends, co-workers and others in our life that often result in the instability that we feel. But God has given us a way to stand firm and walk through any terrain we are faced with and to have peace within ourselves and those in our lives.

Therefore, I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united int he Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  Ephesians 4:1-3.

There are two types of peace being referenced in these sections of Ephesians: Peace with God and Peace of God.

Peace with God

Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1.

This one is actually the easy one for us. None of us are worthy.  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  But, by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, in his death on the cross and resurrection, we can be filled with God’s grace and a peace that no other substitute can provide.  “We need an anchor in our soul that keeps us stable and sound…. Peace with God is the answer. The only answer.”

But what about our lives beyond our relationship with God through Jesus?

We need the Peace of God

At the moment of salvation, we receive God’s spirit to purify us but it also empowers us live out our faith.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

Priscilla teaches that these verses tell us that when we choose to be grateful in prayer, instead of just “wallowing in anxiety and worry,” we are “demonstrating an unwavering trust in God.”

This is how we put on the shoes of peace- we trust and express gratitude. Then, we experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Priscilla talks about the conundrum many women often find themselves in on vacation- we have packed so many shoes, all different types of sandals and dress shoes, but we often forget to take the shoes for activity. As one of her friends said, “All those dress shoes…and no go shoes.”

The shoes of peace are not just pretty little slingback pumps that show off our calves, make us taller and complement that perfect outfit. Shoes of peace are the kind that make us ready for battle!

The HCSB translation of Ephesians 6:15 says “… your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.”  He is telling us we need to be READY to go out and spread the Good News. Not just keep it in our hearts to make our lives stable and peaceful, but to move forward against the enemy. They are not just defensive weapons but also offensive!

We use God’s mighty weapons, not world weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

In addition to taking back ground from the enemy in our own lives, we will want to share what is making us more stable, more comforted, and free!  We will strap on these shoes of peace to bring others into the harmony of loving and trusting in Jesus Christ.

When we been to see the supernatural effects of the gospel- when strongholds are demolished in our lives and we get a taste of true freedom- the result should be gratitude that overflows into action. Priscilla Shirer, “Armor of God.”

I don’t know about you, but the peace in knowing that no matter how much I screw up, now matter how many times I fail, that God has a plan for me and the ultimate point is to live an eternal life in heaven by his side, is more comforting than any outside force!  The peace with God is in me. Putting on the peace of God is a little harder, but I want to win. I want to beat the enemy. I want to be surefooted everyday and not being anxious over things that ultimately do not belong under my control. I want others to experience this peace and the joy that I experience daily in my walk with Christ.

Sharing this Good News is not always easy. But living my life in a way that shows my love for God and being prayerfully grateful of his design and trusting in him is something that I will strap on everyday to win victory over the enemy!

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The Shoes of Peace can be worn with any outfit, for any job, for any occasion and will keep us more protected, more stable, more comfortable, and more ready than any shoes in our closet.  Get your go shoes. Strap them on. And be READY!

New Recipes

I typically do my meal prep and cooking on Sundays. Throughout the week I try to find new recipes and get groceries on Saturdays. Then I spend several hours on Sunday afternoons to cook as much as I can for the next week.  Otherwise, dinner time will roll around and we will have nothing to eat!  When I get home from work and picking my son up from day care, he is usually hungry and READY to eat. So it is almost impossible to cook during the week.

This week I was just spent. I felt like I needed some time to myself and did not want to spend 3 or 4 hours standing in the kitchen cooking.  So I didn’t.  But then I didn’t have anything for us for dinner Monday night.  We chose to go to Moe’s instead.  But I didn’t want to eat out the rest of the week too!  So yesterday when I had some time, I cooked up some food for us this week and tried out 3 new recipes that I want to share with you!

My husband has been telling me that he wanted to try some cauliflower fried “rice” so I decided to give it a whirl.  I found a recipe on Pinterest to start from as an idea and adapted it from there.

Cauliflower Chicken Fried “Rice”— Clean AND 21 Day Fix approved!  (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onions (I use frozen pre-chopped onions for convenience and less stink!)
  • 1 head of cauliflower chopped (about 4 -5 cups) or 1 bag of frozen cauliflower florets, thawed (squeeze the excess water out using a towel).
  • 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli. (put in a bowl with some water, cover and microwave to get tender before adding to recipe below)
  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Lite soy sauce (to taste)

Directions

Place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and let that get warm, about 20 seconds. Then add chopped onions and let cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink.

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Meanwhile, chop cauliflower in food processor to resemble rice.  Remove chicken and set aside. Add in your cauliflower and let cook for about 5 minutes or until it starts to get tender.

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Make a well in the middle of the pan by pushing the cauliflower mix against the sides.

In a small bowl mix eggs with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pour egg mixture into the well of the pan and stir them occasionally, trying not to combine with the cauliflower mix. Once eggs are scrambled, stir them together with the cauliflower mix. Add in broccoli (or your vegetable of choice)

Add in 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and soy sauce. Stir to combine and season more to taste if necessary! Enjoy!

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I would count this as 1 Red and 2 Greens- depending on how much vegetables you use and 2 tsps.

Then I decided to try two new recipes from the Fixate cookbook by the creator of 21 Day Fix- Autumn Calabrese.  If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, you may notice that these recipes were supposedly on my meal plan for last week.  Well, they were. But then I remembered my husband was traveling for work, so I didn’t need to cook as much and saved these for this week.

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Chicken Stuffed Bell Peppers (4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 4 red (or yellow, orange or green) bell peppers, cut in half, seeds removed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all natural tomato sauce, no salt or sugar added (I used the Fixate, Grandma’s Tomato Sauce recipe, see below for recipe)
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (I left this out of my recipe)
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained, rinsked
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 5 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, reserve some for garnish
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
  • Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bell peppers, skin side down, in a large baking dish, set aside.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add garlic, cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute.

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Add chicken, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper; cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.  Add tomato sauce, quinoa, beans, corn, cilantro, and lime juice. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.

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Divide chicken mixture evenly between pepper halves; cover lightly with foil.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until peppers are tender; remove foil.  Top each pepper evenly with cheese. Back for additional 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and hot sauce (if desired).

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Original recipe with quinoa is 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red, and 1/2 blue for 21 Day Fix.

Turkey Sloppy Joes (4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (or green), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb raw ground 93% lean turkey breast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-natural tomato sauce, no salt or sugar added
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or raw honey) (just realized I left this out of mine! Might have to put it on the stove to heat up and add this ingredient!)
  • Fine chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent.  Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to a medium bowl.  Set aside.

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Add turkey to the same skillet, cook, over medium heat, stirring frequently to break up the turkey, for 8-10 minutes, or until the turkey is no longer pink.  Season with salt and pepper. Add onion mixture, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and maple syrup.  Mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low; gently boil, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.  Sprinkle each serving with parsley before serving it (if desired).

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21 Day Fix containers: 1 green, 1 red, 1 tsp.

You may serve this open faced on one slice of bread (for one yellow), or over a cup of plain zoodles, cooked quinoa, or romaine lettuce leaves.

Grandma’s Tomato Sauce from Fixate is a really great staple to prepare in advance and freeze small batches so you always have some on hand!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste, no salt added
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or red cooking wine for those of us who don’t use alcohol)
  • 2 cans (28 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed or pureed in blender or food processor
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar (or raw honey)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 (3 oz) Parmesan cheese rind (for added flavor, optional)
  • 3 tbs finely chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion; cook, stirring frequently for 5-6 minutes, or until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Do not let tomato paste burn. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, agave, salt and pepper, Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; gently boil, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.  Add cheese rind, cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Add basil, mix well.

As I continue to learn more about clean eating and trying new ingredients, recipes, and cooking methods, I will be adding them to this blog to share what I have learned.  If you try one of these recipes, please comment below and let me know what you think!!

Give it a Try

As you may know, I love to bake. And not only do I love to do the baking, but I love to eat baked goods. And candy. And ice-cream. But since starting my journey to a healthier lifestyle, I have been trying to make those indulgent treats be the occasional dessert instead of the everyday treats.

Every week we host a Life Group in our home. This is the perfect opportunity for me to do some cooking or baking and just plain ol’ hostessing- which I believe is one of my spiritual gifts.  Many people love to get together with small and large groups of people but cringe at the thought of having those people in their home.  Not me.  I love it. I love to make my home welcoming to others, to allow them to come in, kick their feet up, relax and have a nice meal or dessert with my family and me.  Our Life Group is the perfect opportunity for a group of people we love to get together, fellowship, share a meal, and talk about our Christian walks, and to live our lives on mission together. We challenge each other, encourage each other, and are working to build up our community so that we will be a family for one another.

In our most recent session yesterday, we talked about how God adopted us into his family by sacrificing his son, Jesus Christ, so that we may all live eternally with Him.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to the world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure….Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.  1 John 3: 1-3 and 18-19.

Since we are all children of God we are a family.  We are a community that shares one Father.  We are called to truly love one another and help each other to walk in truth.   We were all challenged to truly view our little Life Group community as a family. To ask for help when we need it…and accept help when it is offered. To reach out to one another for support, prayer, encouragement. When we are struggling with an area of sin in our lives, to go to someone in our community to hold us accountable and help turn us away from that sin and back to Christ.

Having this group of people to lean on for support every day has been so encouraging. Yet, we all discussed the fact that we don’t let our guards down enough and show who we truly are in our weakest moments the way we may with our spouse and children.  But why do we guard ourselves in that way? We are all part of the family of God, He is our father, he loves us all and because of the grace he has shown us, we are called to love our fellow believers in Christ as a family.

I host this group of people in my home very often. I cook for them. I bake for them. But do they really know the areas where I struggle? Probably not. But there is no reason for me to go through this journey and this faith walk alone. I hope they want the same things we were challenged to do yesterday, as I plan on trying to be much more intentional about asking how I can help and asking for help when it is needed!

And while we were all being challenged, we had some lunch and some desserts.

This week, rather than fixing the super sweet and deliciously unhealthy indulgent treats that I am known for, I tried my hand at some clean desserts.

First, I made some flourless chocolate chick-pea brownies.  Now I know what you’re thinking– No flour and then you go an put chick-peas in it?? What?! And some of you may not even know what chick-peas (also known as garbanzo beans) are.  But if you’ve had hummus, then you’ve had a chick pea.  They really are a versatile legume that is high in protein and served as the base for this dessert.

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I thought they turned out pretty well.  Not very sweet- but how could they be since there is no sugar.  The recipe called for honey but I was out so I used some pure maple syrup. When you’re eating clean and avoiding processed sugar and flour, this is a nice little treat.  Now don’t go eat one of my cupcakes then eat one of these brownies and you will be sorely disappointed in the lack of sweetness.

You can find the recipe here.

Next, I made this really subtle and moist Strawberry blueberry whole wheat banana bread.

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This will make for a really nice little breakfast bread to have when you need something warm and comforting.

Finally, I wanted to make something a little more indulgent and went with these No-Bake Cookies.

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YUM-O!  These were delicious!! Especially after putting them in the fridge to get a little firmer. And I actually used the recommended raw sugar. Expensive, but worth it.

If you are beginning a clean lifestyle, the biggest piece of advice I can give you it to take it one step at a time. You will likely never cut out everything processed from your diet. But it is important to try to eat clean about 80% of the time. You will find the balance that works best for you.  While a couple months ago the thought of using coconut oil or chick peas in my baking would have made me laugh out loud, I now know that most any recipe is worth a try! I don’t even have to consider these little treats as part of my 20% “normal” food because they were all clean and unprocessed!

A couple things you will want to stock up on as you begin to transition your diet and cooking/baking habits…. Coconut oil. It really works well as a replacement for butter and most other oils.  I am still figuring out how to use it, but I have it on hand now so that whenever a recipe calls for it, I am ready to go!  Old fashioned oats are a MUST!  You can use them in pancakes, as a base in meatballs, and in tons of different baked items. Definitely go for some organic raw honey and pure maple syrup- they will become your best friends! Used in baking, marinades, and salad dressings. Also- you can not go wrong with giant tubs of plain greek yogurt.  (Tip- if you hate the taste of yogurt, especially greek yogurt, like I did about 3 months ago, I would suggest getting some of the greek yogurt with fruit to mix in. Try it for a few days and gradually transition to the plain so that you are not getting all the extra added sugars that are in the flavored varieties. I now LOVE my greek yogurt!!)

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I am still building up my pantry and do not have all “clean” items- like whoever knew there was such a thing as aluminum free baking soda?? But every time I go to my neighborhood Kroger, I take a little stroll down the organic aisle and get something new to add to my arsenal of healthier, less processed pantry items to have at my disposal!

Get it Straight!

I am a very organized person. I love to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.  But when you work a full-time job and have a very active toddler, it is almost impossible to keep everything exactly like you want it.

Last fall, I spent a week doing a deep clean of the entire house. Cleaned windows inside and out, did baseboards, and did a deep clean of every room. And attempted to straighten up and organize things that had gotten disheveled along the way.  But some things had just gone by the wayside for too long and needed some additional focus.

Today I tackled my closet. Now, I do not have a custom designed closet with drawers and sweater racks. But I am making the best out of the lovely closet that I do have.

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Over the past 4 years I have gone from a closet full of clothes that fit to some that were just a little too tight. Then got pregnant and had a baby and had to buy clothes to fit after my son was born. All of those small clothes were relegated to the closet in the guest room so that I wouldn’t be so sad looking at a closet full of clothes that I couldn’t wear!

About a year after my son was born I lost enough baby weight to get back into most of my tops but it wasn’t until I started my the 21 Day Fix and my health and fitness lifestyle change that I was finally able to wear some of those ostracized clothes again.  I recently went “shopping” and brought back almost (there are a few pants still a tad bit too tight) all of those clothes back into my closet.  It feels so great to be able to walk in the closet and know that everything will fit!

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The only problem is that from the taking clothes out to adding and removing maternity clothes, post baby clothes, in between clothes and bringing my wardrobe back in, the closet has fallen apart.

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So my first task was to take everything out and start from scratch. If you plan to tackle your closet, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier and less painful.

  1. Use the same type of hangers– keeps everything at the same level and just looks nicer.
  2. Hang everything so that it faces the same direction.
  3. To save some space, you can get some pant hangers that multiple pairs of pants and skirt hangers that have clips to hold several skirts.
  4. Put extra bags and other items that are rarely used out of reach.
  5. Be sure to fold your sweaters to avoid stretching and deforming on hangers.
  6. A shoe rack is essential!

The question then becomes, how exactly should I organize all of the clothes?

I’m very lucky that I have one section in my closet without a bottom rack so I can hang all of my dressed without a bottom rack getting in the way. (But I do have my little doggie Memphis’ house in there hiding under all of my dresses).

Once upon a time I practice law so I have had a bunch of suits over the years.  I still have some left that I haven’t donated. Since these suits are not used very often, I put them in the far back. Next came my long sleeve collard shirts. From there I tried to organize the rest of the shirts by color.  In the past I have always organized by the type of shirt (long sleeve, short sleeve, sleeveless, etc). But I find myself reusing the same tops and forgetting what all I have. I thought this time it might be better to organize by color.  When I know I want to wear purple, I can go to the section of purple tops and find the one that I want for that day, and maybe remember which purple shirt I wore the week before so I can spread the love amongst my closet.

And in case you can’t tell from the pile, I have a bit of an obsession with sweaters. I hate to be cold, so a sweater is the perfect top in the winter. I also happen to believe that you can never have enough cardigans. They are the perfect addition to a spring and fall outfit and I just need one in every color!

After weeding out a few scarfs and other things to give to Goodwill, this was the finished product….

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I also have a fully stocked jewelry box and handing organizer that makes it so easy to find the perfect “costume” jewelry to match my daily outfit selections.

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(thanks Diana for this gift a few years ago!)

Now I really have no excuse to re-wear the same outfits every week!

One other thing that I am working to incorporate in my closet is a prayer closet.  If you have not seen War Room, I would highly recommend it. If you have been reading my blog lately, you know that I am currently completing the Priscilla Shirer Bible Study, The Armor of God. In the movie and the Bible study, the focus is on strengthening your prayer life.  Prayer is one of my weakest areas of my faith walk and I am really trying to make conversation and time with God a bigger focus. I am working on prayer strategies and hanging them in my closet.  After today’s organizing, I should have no reason or obstacles to get in there and focus on prayer and building my relationship with God.  Stay tuned for a post about my prayer closet portion of my closet in a few weeks.

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Now I need to tackle Macon’s toy cabinet, and the guest room closet and dresser- both of which are full of random things that really need to find a home and stay there!