Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stroganoff - quick and easy dinner

This is a combination of our favorite stroganoff recipes from my mother and my mother-in-law:

1lb ground beef
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can of diced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced (use dried minced onions in a pinch)
1/4c water
1T Worchester sauce
1T kitchen bouquet
Egg noodles

Brown ground beef and onions in a large skillet. Add all other ingredients except the kitchen bouquet; simmer 10 minutes. Add kitchen bouquet.

Cook egg noodles according to package directions.

Serve stroganoff over egg noodles. We like to serve green bean casserole as a side dish.

If you brown the beef ahead of time, it will be an even easier meal to prepare!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Valentine's Garland and Scripture Wall Hangings

I just stumbled on this cute little blog, when I read about her cute Valentine's garland (THANK YOU Crafty Crow!!). I had fun making the garland with my kids this morning, since we're having another snow day.

Then when I was scanning her blog for other posts, I found this little laundry room tour. I've been watching for used kitchen cabinets to renovate my laundry room. When I finally find cabinets, I'd love to incorporate some of the really cute scripture hangings that this clever woman has hung.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Morning Chocolate Fix :)

I stumbled upon a new hot chocolate this week. It's the Dark Chocolate Sensation by Swiss Miss. It's great for satisfying a sweet tooth and getting a good dose of calcium.

Schools are out due to ice today, so I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with my 3 kids this morning. They wanted the generic hot cocoa with marshmallows, of course. I love leisurely mornings!

But now the leisure is over - my 4yr old is throwing a fit. So I'm off to intervene...

Happy day,


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

My kids don't love soup, but I like to make it on cold winter days. I also like taking it to potlucks or cooking it when people come over for dinner. It's inexpensive to cook, it's quite filling, it smells great in the house, and most people love the warm cozy feeling of eating hot soup.

I made this soup for our church community group tonight. It was a big hit!

1 pound chicken breasts (frozen or thawed)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 can of corn
1 can of black beans
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups water
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon minced garlic (the refrigerated kind)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf

Put all ingredients together in a crockpot. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Pull out the chicken and shred it into small pieces. Put the chicken back in the pot and cook for another 3-4 hours on low. Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese. (serves 8)

Thank you for all the comments on goody bags this weekend. It greatly encourages me when you leave comments. Blogging is a piece of my ministry to moms, and your comments help me know that I'm 'on track'. I know that sounds a little silly, but the gift of 'encouraging words' is my love language (from Gary Chapman's book), so your words mean a lot to me. Thanks! :)


Friday, January 23, 2009

Goody Bags for Marriage Retreat - please share your ideas!

Reader Question:
I am in charge of creating 74 goody bags for an upcoming marriage retreat for my church, and I am in desperate need for some frugal, creative ideas on what I could put in these bags. In the past I know people have put little candy bars, a bag of microwave popcorn, a couple of packs of hot chocolate, tea bags etc so I was looking for ideas that might be something similar, but maybe a little different too. Would you have any fun thoughts on this?

A Few Ideas:
  • Visit - Meredith does a fantastic time being incredibly hospitable on a budget.
  • Our women's retreat coordinators wrapped the following things in a cellophanebag: a mininotebook, a pen, a candle, peppermints, chocolate kisses,and a colored paper quote/scripture.
  • A friend just suggested packing candies that correspond to questions: an almond joy - share a joyful moment in your marriage, a hershey kiss - something about your first kiss, snickers - laughs, lifesavers - when your partner has 'saved you' in public, Big Red gum- something that gives your marriage energy/passion.
Do YOU have any ideas? What would you love to find in a gift bag at a marriage retreat?

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When I led a "Great Group Games" workshop at the Healthy Communities Healthy Youth conference last fall, a young person shared a really cool game with us. It's called the Animal Game, and I just posted directions on our Great Group Games blog. It would be a fun game to play with your kiddos - perhaps minus the elimination component, depending on the nature of your family or play group. You can read the directions here.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ravioli Casserole

I'm posting this recipe as part of Lindsey's Nutritious Freezer Carnival. Head over to her site to see lots more recipes!

-2lbs frozen ravioli
-One jar spaghetti sauce
-sprinkle garlic powder and Italian seasoning over the top
-12oz Mozzerella cheese

Boil the ravioli (it only takes about 5 minutes). Drain it, then put it in a 9 x 13 pan. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Heat at 350 degrees until cheese is melted.

Serve with homemade French bread and a salad.

This works well to freeze and it’s great to double for a family in need.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Super Heroes Party

We hosted a double Super Heroes Party for my 4-year old and our friend's 6-year old yesterday. We had a blast together!

I searched on google to find great activities for Super Hero parties. I can't remember the websites where I collected my ideas, but I'm really grateful to the creative minds that fueled my planning! Here's what we did:

Kryptonite toss (hot potato game using a glowstick and the kryptonite song)
Xray vision game (trying to guess items in a bag without looking)
Design your own superhero (with construction paper & crayons)
Obstacle course (crawl through the bat cave (under the table), somersault away from the bad guys, walk the tightrope like Robin)
Follow Superman (like follow the leader - we let each child lead the line around the house)
Super Heroes book (each child chose a character to role play)
Dinner (chicken nuggets, banana halves, celery with peanut butter) (the adults had white bean chili)
Birthday cake (a chocolate sheet cake with chocolate icing and the batman logo outlined in butterscotch chips)
Gift exchange

I think the total party cost including food was $15 for the 7 children and 5 adults, because we were able to use almost everything from around the house.

Mary’s tip: choose a generic theme, like superheroes or princesses for your birthday party instead of choosing something specific, like Batman or Cinderella. Then you can watch for sales or clearance items at the Dollar Tree or the Party Store, as you’re buying cake decorations or party favors. She was able to buy little Superman gift bags with 6 toys in them for $1.50 at the Party Store – and the kids loved them!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

MVParents - Beat the Winter Blues

Lynette wrote a great post last week at MVParents titled Dealing with the Post-Holiday Letdown. She gives a lot of ideas for helping children/youth/teens transition from the holiday season back into the routines of everyday living.

One of her ideas for children ages 6-9 is playing games - and she highlights our book, Great Group Games. She's right - playing games (whether cards, board games, games from our book, or other family favorites) is a great way to spend time together. It keeps everyone engaged, it keeps minds active, and it's a great way to make memories.

Check out her other ideas for 'beating the winter blues'.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Word World - A Big Hit!

My MIL introduced us to Word World (PBS) over Thanksgiving. She gave us the Word World Rocket to the Moon DVD. All 3 of my kids (7, 4, 2) love it.
The animation is really cute, but the clever part is that the words are spelled inside of the animated characters. If you look closely at the DVD cover (right), you can see the word 'rocket' spelled in the body of the rocket, and the word 'frog' spelled inside the little frog. They do the same thing for mountain, house, sun, or whatever images they create.
This week we discovered the Word World kids website at PBSKids. My 4-year old has had a really good time exploring the games. He loves it because it's fun, and he's proud that he's learning how to spell simple words. I love it because the stories teach good values and it teaches so many early-literacy skills.
Hooray for more fun learning games sites online!

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Locks of Love, Wigs for Kids, and More

Amy just posted a picture of her daughter, who just donated her hair to Locks of Love.

It reminded me of some research I did last spring. A friend wanted to donate hair, but it wasn't long enough for Locks of Love's 10 inch requirement. So I started searching for other alternatives.

I found 3 reputable organizations that use donations of hair to make wigs for cancer patients. They have varying requirements for lengths and they serve different sets of clientele at various costs.

Beautiful lengths, = 8inches
Locks of Love, = 10 inches
Wigs for Kids, = 12 inches (this group is the favorite of my friend who works for American Cancer Society)

If you know of other groups, I'd love to hear about them!


Friday, January 09, 2009

January - National Mentoring Month

Think about how you have grown from the mentoring (either casually or formerly, either one-on-one or in small groups) from other people.

Think of how the world would be different if every child had at least 3 caring adults in their lives - 3 mentors to guide them in the ways of life. Research says "that mentors can play a powerful role in reducing drug abuse and youth violence while greatly enhancing a young person's prospects for leading a healthy and productive life."

Think of how different the world would be if every parent had a mentor. Someone to guide and encourage them through all the ups and downs of childrearing. I think it would greatly affect marriages, home life, attitudes, characters, and so many other aspects of society.

National Mentoring month is a time to remember the importance of mentoring, and a call for
individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits to join together to assure brighter futures for our young people.

So I ask you a series of questions:

How are you impacting the lives of children this year?
How could you challenge your peers to more intentionally impact children this year?
How can you encourage other mothers in their journey of parenting?

Do your children have caring adults (beyond you) in their lives?
What can you do to help surround them with caring adults?
How can you be a caring influence on the kids that are in/out of your home each week?
Do you have other moms that are mentoring you? (face-to-face, on the phone, blogs, books... - I think they can all equip you to be a better mom)

For more information, visit

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Great Gift Idea - Playdough Kits

I love Aimee's idea for making playdough kits for gifts. Check out her instructions, and the cute gifts that her children made for their cousins.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Finding Meaningful Service Projects, MLK Day

MLK Day is a national day of service - Congress challenges individuals and families to make it a day ON (volunteering together, celebrating Dr. King's legacy of social justice) instead of a day OFF.

Volunteerism offers a great opportunity to teach about (and model) character, selflessness, responsibility, and sacrifice, while exploring a plethora of social needs that are important to your family. It's also a great opportunity to build family relationships and make memories together.

I wrote an article about finding good volunteer projects on my other Giving Kids The Edge They Need to Succeed blog. Go check it out and find a way that your family can make a difference this month and throughout the year.

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Giving Kids the Edge They Need to Succeed

I spent yesterday moving my "Giving Kids the Edge They Need to Succeed" blog to blogger. I've used the blog associated with our website for 6 months, but it's archaic in comparison to blogger.

Here's the blog description - it has great info for moms, so I hope you'll stop by to visit!

We give kids the edge they need to succeed – the asset edge. Based on research in the Developmental Assets, we empower youth and adults to live healthy, caring and productive lives; and we help build healthy, caring schools and communities. We hope our ideas will inspire and equip you to nurture the youth around you!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009


(originally from allrecipes)

We've been enjoying this for dinner this week. It's great comfort food, but it's also yummy enough to share with special guests. Best of all, my DH prepared most of the meal for us!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup skinless, boneless chicken breasts - diced
1/2 pound pork healthy choice sausage, thinly sliced
1 cup olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 quarts chicken broth
1 (12 oz) can beer
6 stalks celery, diced
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, with liquid
2 tablespoons chopped fresh red chile peppers
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Cajun seasoning
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1.Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat, and cook chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear. Stir in sausage, and cook until evenly browned. Drain chicken and sausage, and set aside.
2.In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, blend olive oil and flour to create a roux. Stir constantly until browned and bubbly. Mix in garlic, and cook about 1 minute.
3.Gradually stir chicken broth and beer into the roux mixture. Bring to a boil, and mix in celery, tomatoes, sweet onion, diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, red chile peppers, parsley, and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes, stirring often.
4.Mix chicken, sausage, and shrimp into the broth mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.
5.Serve over rice.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

My Son's Favorite Books - age 7

My son loves to read! I was just helping him look up the AR (Accelerated Reading) levels of the books on his bookshelf, so he could know when he could take comprehension tests on them at school. I thought I would ask him about his favorite books, and share them with you. He said:

  • Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne. "I learn a lot from them - especially their research guides. I think you would enjoy them too - they taught me a lot."
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. "I like their mysteries."
  • Beverly Cleary books - Ribsy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and Henry books.
  • Flat Stanley books by Jeff Brown
  • Jigsaw Jones Mystery books by James Preller
  • A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
  • Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars by Eric Stevens

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Great Gifts for Kids - Lite Brite

Do you remember the lite brites that we played with when we were little? They were big bulky cubes, but they provided hours of fun for our family.

Gramma surprised my 7yr old son with a flat screen lite brite for his birthday. He loves it!

Sometimes it's challenging to get the pieces to stay in, but he really enjoys the puzzles & the creations. Since it's battery-charged, he can carry the screen into a dark closet and look at his brightly lit designs.
Cost for the fun - $9

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Great Gift for Kids - Dress Up Capes

Amy from the Motherload shared lots of great gift ideas for boys last month. I especially liked this reversible Superman/Batman cape for my 3yr old son, so I put it on his Baggle wish list (if you haven't tried this free wish list service, you need to try it!).

Gramma bought it for him, and he's been wearing it ever since. So if you know a 3-6yr old who enjoys imaginary play, check this out! Walmart has their nice plastic Batman masks on sale for $1 - they have also been a big hit in our house!

They also have a princess cape set for the little girls in your lives. See this clever lady's full selection of items here.

Cost - $26
Big Bonus - easy to store!

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