He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

30 June 2010

Men at Work {in the garden}

We have been working hard on the gardens this year. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be one of those "live off the land" kind of families but the reality is, I just don't have enough interest and, well, I HATE bugs so I avoid being outside more than necessary. This leaves Sweet Hubs and CJ to keep up with the gardens.We started late this year since work keeps Hubby busy until Memorial Day so we're producing slowly but we've picked several huge green peppers and out tomato plants are starting to fall over from their fruits so things are happening.

29 June 2010

Closet Turned Nook

I admit it... I did not try this project yet and I'm only putting this in here because 1. I dream of closet space often since our house has little to no closet space right now and 2. I think it's adorable!

What a great idea to encourage kids to curl up with a book and read in their own little hide-out?!
I found this idea at Pretty Handy Girl under When is a Closet Not a Closet?

26 June 2010

A Day in "Bahston"

Dear Hubs, Miss Mak and I took a trip to Beantown yesterday and just thought we'd share our visit with you.

First... we went to the Museum of Fine Arts ...
We ran into a not-so-tough guy...

A grumpy, bald guy...

A naughty looking little boy... {Pretty sure that's supposed to be Jesus. Woops!}

Greek and Roman artifacts...

A mummified head from around 2000 BC...

Ancient flip-flops...

And something Hubs refered to as "the finest lookin' coffee maker ever crafted".

Miss Mak sure traveled well. She had her own personal chauffer for the whole trip...

We had lunch at Cheers at Faneuil Hall...

Walked Mass. Ave., Newbury St., Commonwealth Ave., passed through the Boston Gardens, and visited the bar which the show Cheers was based on...

Then we packed up, caught the T and headed home.

Miss Mak was born to travel! That's my girl!

24 June 2010

{Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic}

I've been wanting to try this recipe out for a while now and I'm glad I finally did. The steps were simple... you can skip the cognac if you'd like

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
On the table in under and hour
Main Ingred{s}: bone in chicken pieces, garlic, white wine
Goes great with salad and mashed potatoes

Bon Appetit!

23 June 2010

We All Have THOSE Days

I can be the queen of bad moods some times. I can be just plain ugly for no reason other than my irritating sin nature. Whereas I consider my temperament to be somewhat extreme, I realize that most everyone out there deals with crabby moods or rough patches sometimes. Sometimes we just need a break from people, even the people we love. It can happen to ANYONE at ANY age and for ANY reason. Maybe a rough start to the day depleted your patience so you're running short in the afternoon. Maybe a late night kept you awake and tired OR excessive whining, mischief or disobedience from the kids has worn you down OR your dear hubby has said something you interpreted as unkind OR your boss is driving you batty. We all have those days but we don't have to react to them out of anger or impatience. We can choose to handle them in a God honoring way.

You may be familiar with many of these strategies but a little reminder doesn't hurt

In the immediate
Breathe. Let's say your kiddo has just...oh, I don't know... broken the plate you bought to tell your husband you were pregnant with your first child {clears throat}. What to do? First, DON'T SAY A WORD! Stop... take a very purposeful deep breathe. Breathe in through your nose and count to 5. Breathe out through your mouth and count to 10. {I found several suggestions for how to de-stress through breathing and I bet you could find many more if you google "stratagies to de-stress"}
Start with 24 and count backwards to 9 slowly. This buys you a little time to think rationally and doing it backwards requires a little thought so you distract yourself to take the edge off your response.
Pray. Just a little quickie prayer for patience and wisdom will, once again, take your focus off the situation for just a second so you can rationally handle yourself.

If you've got a minute
Take a walk. Set a goal of a distance or number of steps and get moving. If you have the kids, throw them in the stroller and just go. Fresh air works wonders for the soul and your patience. The distraction of what's going on outside can be calming. Take note of things on the walk and share a moment of appreciation to the Lord for all the little wonders of the world outdoors.
Get some perspective.
Yesterday was a particularly tough day for me for absolutely no reason at all. I woke up in a comfortable bed in a home at a comfortable temperature {despite the humidity outside}. My two beautiful babies had slept through the night. Sweet Hubby was hard at work to provide for our family. There was food in the cupboards to make a healthy, delicious breakfast and I had the whole day to do exactly what I wanted. Sweet Hubs came home for lunch {a treat I realize many people don't get to enjoy} and I vented that there were dishes in the sink that needed to go into the dishwasher which was full of clean dishes, crumbs on the floor under the cabinets that stuck to my feet which annoyed me, and that I had a lot of clothes to put away which I didn't want to. {I know, I know... you are also thinking that I live a rough life and I appreciate your pity.} So Dear Hubs rolled his eyes and told me to stop what I was doing and come sit on his lap. As I curled up into the chair with him he asked if I wanted some perspective and, after telling him "absolutely not!", he told me "There was a Holocaust and millions of Jews were slaughtered. Some people in the world don't have clean water to drink today. Some people don't own shoes. People starve to death in this world daily. Many mom's have to work and can't stay home with their kids."
Need I say more?
Smile. Laugh. It's even better when you do it in the mirror. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got wasYou cannot feel yourself into a way of acting but you can act yourself into a way of feeling. You may not feel like smiling or being perky in any manner, but for just a minute, fake it. Smile so big your face hurts. Laugh so loud your neighbors think you've gone crazy. I looked up a couple of sites to support this and got a long list of sites and studies that agree. {How Stuff Works; Work Happy Now; Can Smiling Make You Happy?, to name a few}
Be Thankful.
Debi Pearl, the author of Created to be His Help Meet, has a lot to say about husbands and wives in her book but one of the things that I took away from the book has helped me in many situations outside of my marriage as well. Debi writes "Joy begins with thankfulness... Thankfulness is how you think; joy is the abundance it produces." The Bible, particularly Colossians, has plenty to say about being thankful. Colossians 3:15 commands it. I have found that when I'm stressing or getting upset about something, taking a moment to sit down and go through the long list of all the things I have to appreciate and, again, takes the focus off me and puts it on the blessings in life that God has given me.

For the long-haul:
Have you been in the Word lately? I ask only because that is one of the first questions I ask myself when I know my attitude is far from pleasant. I can almost always attribute my crabbiness to the fact the my devotions have been somewhat lacking. I often make the excuse that I'm a busy lady and don't have time to sit down and have a REAL devotional time of deep exhaustive prayer and meditation so I just skip it completely. WRONG! I have realized that even getting through half of a chapter is enough to get me through the day when I feel crunched for time. I am not suggesting one way or another how your should handle your devotional life. I am, however, suggesting that 5 minutes spent in the Word is far better than no time at all.
Do something for someone else. I am one of those people who happens to believe that pharmaceutical companies are makin' bank off of people who are diagnosed with depression when in reality, a dose of getting over yourself, would be more affective. {Disclaimer: everyone's case is different and I'm not a psychologist and yes, there are people who genuinely do need medical intervention. I'm just saying that I believe sometimes doctors should be skipping the pills and passing out maps to the nearest food pantry.} No matter what religious, race, or cultural background a person comes from, doing "good" unto others is accepted as a "good" thing. No matter what the motive {school requirement, "goodness" of your heart, work requirement, family tradition, religious obligation} treating someone else as you would like to be treated is good for the giver as well as the receiver. The benefits for the receiver are fairly obvious but for the giver, it gives a sense of purpose, accomplishment, pride and satisfaction. The more down and discontent you find yourself, the more you should do for others. This, AGAIN, takes the focus off YOU!

Remember... Anger happens when you don't get something you think you deserve.
By the grace of God we do not have to get what we deserve and THAT should make you smile!

{BBQ Chicken Pizza}

Another quick, easy Natalie specialty and easily made with stuff you may already have around the house

{Come on, now doesn't that look good?}

1 recipe pizza dough {uncooked; I use store bought}
shredded cheddar cheese
bbq sauce
2-3 cups chicken breast {cooked:cubed}

roll out pie crust onto jelly roll pan or round pie pan

TwO: cover with bbq sauce as you would pizza sauce

spread chicken to cover crust

FoUr: sprinkle with cheese and drizzle a little more sauce over top

bake according to crust directions and EnJoY!! {usually between 15-20 mins}

22 June 2010

{Croissant & Pan au Chocolat}

So, I'm not a good baker. Ask Dear Hubs and he'll be glad to tell you thatI ruin boxed brownies regularly... and since I love a challenge I decided to take on crescent rolls. {I say this in regard to the intro of the recipe from Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking that says "Mastering the making of of croissant pastry is considered a great achievement in the baking world" so you must understand how impressed I am that these even resemble croissants but for the record, they were delicious!}
By the way... these take a while so don't plan to try them when you're in a rush!

Have them on the table in 9.5 hours {you read that right}

Makes 16 croissants or 8 "pan au chocolat"
8 croissants and 4 "pan au chocolat"

You'll need: 2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp warm water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled &
1 cup butter chilled but pliable
1 cup cold whole milk
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

One: In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and a pinch of sugar, stir and let settle for 5 minutes until bubbles form.

Two: In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, salt, 2 tbsp melted and cooled butter, milk, yeast mixture and 1/2 cup of flour and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of flour {1/2 cup at a time} and mix until it forms a sticky mass.

{If you are familiar with baking, the texture of this may throw you off. I thought it needed more flour but I went with the recipe and it works out}

Three: Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Transfer to a jelly/sheet pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled for at least 40 mins and as long as overnight. {Since the dough is so sticky I had a hard time working with it. I'm sure you could just add a little more flour until it is easier to work with but, to stay true to the recipe, I just sprinkled flour onto two pieces of plastic wrap and rolled the dough flat between it. That way it didn't stick to my counter or my rolling pin and put it into the fridge still between the plastic sheets.}

Four: About 10 minutes before you're ready to take the dough out make butter package by pounding 1 cup {2 sticks of butter} into a 6"x8" square using a rolling pin or palm of your hand and chill in the fridge for about 5 minutes so that i was firm but still pliable {I used a gallon sized freezer bag and just cut the sealed sides off to get the block out easily after chilling}.

Five: To laminate the dough, roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface to a 9"x13" rectangle. Place butter block in the center of the dough and fold in all four sides so the butter is concealed {the picture above is just to give you an idea of what this should look like and is not one I took so the butter is towards the end and not centered as directed}.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to form a 10"x24" rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds {like you would a letter} and this completes the first "turn". Cover with plastic on pan and return to fridge for 45 minutes.

Six: Remove dough from fridge, roll out to 10"x24" rectangle, fold into thirds again and refrigerate for 45 minutes. This is your second turn. Do this 2 more times for a total of 4 turns. After rolling and folding the 4th time, leave laminated dough covered in plastic and in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight if you'd like.

Seven: To form croissants, roll out the pastry on a lightly flours surface into a 9"x18" rectangle. Cut it in half lengthwise to get two 9" squares. {I actually pulled out my ruler for this step.}
If you are making only croissants, cut each square in half both ways so you end up four squares. Then cut each square in half diagonally so you end up with 8 triangles. Gently stretch the triangle to double the length and, starting at the wide end, tightly roll into croissant shape. Place on a buttered baking sheet, about 3" inches apart, with point of the triangle under the croissant to avoid it from unrolling during baking.
If you are making only Pan au Chocolat, cut the 9"x9" square in half, both ways, to make four equal squares. Sprinkle 1-2 tbsp of semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate shavings or chips into a strip down the middle of the square and fold into thirds {again, like a letter}. Pinch the seam to seal but do not seal the ends. Place seam down on the pan about 3" apart.
If you are making 8 croissants and 4 "pan au chocolat", use one 9"x9" square for each and follow the steps above.

Eight: Cover croissants/pans with a towel and place in a warm, draft free spot to rise for aprox. 1.5 hours {until dough doubles in size}.

Nine: Mix 1 egg and 1 tbsp of whole milk in a bowl and brush to completely cover your dough.

Ten: Bake at 425 for 12-18 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Let cool and enjoy!

** This recipe is brought to you with some edits for what worked best for me and is not the exact replica of the recipe found in the Williams-Sonoma book.

21 June 2010

When all-natural goes too far

Sweet Hubby stumbled across this blog and shared it with me and I thought it was definitely worth sharing with you...

19 June 2010

Worry Kills {Psalm 127}

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stay awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil: for He gives to His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord... a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man who gills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

I am... well, I used to be a CrAZy Type A personality who stressed about every last detail because I wanted people to think I had it all together. I would go to some pretty ridiculous lengths to be sure that my room or house was always clean, my clothes always had the right labels in them, my room or house was always decorated the best {even if it was to my financial detriment}... I worked very hard to make sure man thought well of me. When I became a wife the worry started to pile up. Not only did I have to impress the people with my amazing ability to make things sparkle but now I had to have the perfect marriage. I wanted to be the woman you looked at and wanted to be. {As I'm writing this, being honest isn't so easy.} Along with the goal of perfection came some unpleasant side affects. Constant worry, exhaustion, insecurity, and, oh yeah... panic attacks {those are fun}. I can't remember a time where I didn't worry about something. Now it would be easy to go back into my childhood and bring up all my deep dark things that made me this way but the reality is that when I became an adult it didn't matter. I was {and am} responsible for my current actions and my worry was flat out wrong. Maybe there's nothing wrong with wanting to have it all together but I know that I was going about it to the detriment of my mental stability and the happiness of my family.

It was when I had kids that the Lord got ahold of me with the words of Psalm 127. The amount of pressure I put on myself was unbearable and I found myself constantly falling apart. I'm not talking meltdowns, but I got angry a lot and poor Dear Hubby and CJ got the brunt of it. Looking good in the eyes of the world had become my god.
Our pastor said something months ago that stuck with me and looking back it makes total sense

Anger happens when you aren't getting something you think you deserve.

I thought I deserved a clean home, and well decorated walls, and the perfect marriage, and perfect children who obeyed without question, and time to myself, and clean laundry in my drawers at all times, and the right labels on those clothes, and eating out at the right restaurants. I put so much weight into those things that I missed the point completely. I have been commanded, by God, to submit to my husband not complain when he doesn't do things the way I think he should {I Peter 3}, to be an example to my kids and to take pleasure in the gift of having them instead of pitching a mommy fit when they don't behave the way I want or when they whine, cry or fuss {Psalm 27; Proverbs 22:6}, and to love others as I love myself instead of trying to impress them to make me feel good about myself {Matthew 7:12}.
It is amazing how once I figured this truth out, my life became more relaxed. Even now, my impulse is to do things the "right" way {right=the way that would make me look good but not necessarily God-honoring} but I am now able to fight that temptation and move on without regret or worry. It is liberating!

17 June 2010

Room-Time... {a.k.a My Sanity}

I have been shocked by the number of mommies I've talked with recently who feel like they can't get a moment away from their kiddos. When I hear that, my first reaction is "well, what about room time". I cannot tell you the number of times the response to that question has been "what's that?"!! Maybe it's not standard to give you little man or baby girl some time to themselves but that part of our family's day keeps my kids from melting down and me from wanted to hang them by their adorably chubby little toes!

First, the concept of a set "room time" was new to me until I encountered BabyWise. I'm not hiding the fact that it's a BW principle because 1. I'm a huge fan of it and 2. It's something can be done in any family no matter what your level of flexibility with your kids. As I've said before, I consider myself a flexible scheduler meaning that I stick to a pretty basic routine on a daily basis but have little to no problem mixing things up as long as it doesn't drastically alter the all important nap-time {bad nap = unpleasant baby = less than patient mommy}.
So if you've never heard of or considered this idea, let me break it down a little for you.
What is room time: Time where your kiddo plays in their room alone, usually kept in with a gate so you can peak in, little to no parental involvement other than occasionally checking on the babe {unless that causes your little one to spaz, then consider just listening in every so often for healthy play sounds}.
When to start: BW suggests holding off until 12 months but CJ started for 15 minutes at a time around 10 months. {Just long enough for mommy to shower!} If you aren't familiar with BW, they recommend doing pak-n-play time starting around 6 months. This is the same concept as room time, it just limits the size of the infants world and their toy options which is more appropriate for their little minds.
How do I do it: Odds are, your first attempts will be rough. This is especially true if you haven't done any sort of independent play at all. You may be wondering what "rough" looks like... in our case, we skipped the pak-n-play time because our house is teeny tiny and we had nowhere to set it up so when it came to room time, CJ's world was mildly rocked. To give both mom and baby a fighting chance, schedule room time for a time when he/she is most alert. {We originally did room time right after breakfast and now we do it around 10:30 when Miss Mak goes down for her first nap that way mommy has real time to get things done.}
The first day, I committed to 15 minutes. I plopped him onto the rug in his room with some toys and all was well until CJ realized that the gate was up and mommy wasn't coming back. He cried, he screamed, he called out "mommy" in the most pathetic voice he could muster for the entire 15 minutes on days 1 and 2 {I did not go back to check on him on these days because past experience taught us that seeing me sent his world a'rockin' again}. By day 3, he started to realize that I was firm on his playing alone for those 15 minutes so he cried for the first couple of minutes until he got settled then happily played for the rest of the time. My goal was to be at 30 minutes of play time by 12 months so I slowly stretched him as he was able and met my goal. Around 18 months he started going 1 hour and now, at 22 months he goes 1 hour sometimes 1.5 hours depending on what I'm doing while he's playing. I still keep an ear out on him {he has learned how to pile toys up and reach the CD player that I play in his room while he plays; he has also learned to stick small toys into his diaper genie YUCK!}
Just like with anything else in parenting, it is unfair to your child if you are inconsistent. You can't do this one day and skip it for a week and expect your kids to be okay the next time around.
Safety Concerns: The safety prep for room time is pretty standard child-proofing. Unplug and place out of reach anything that is electronic and not kid friendly {we use hard to remove outlet covers}. Remove the diaper pale from the room or place it out of reach. Open bags or buckets of toys that babes cannot open alone. Be sure no choking hazards are within reach. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE your child! Room time is how we found out that CJ can open his clothes drawers {and empty them!} I recommend limiting the amount of toys that you leave for your little one. Consider the amount of time they'll be playing and don't offer too many options {this will require them to spend an extended amount of time on each toy so you don't run the risk of them bouncing from thing to thing and not focusing}. Along with limited quantity of toys, be fair and switch the toy options out every month or so to avoid boredom. Oh yeah... don't forget to keep LOTS of books handy!
Why we do it: This time has been tremendous for us! From the beginning I started taking a shower {with the door open so I could hear any abnormal crying}. Soon it I could shower and empty the dishwasher. Then I could shower, empty the dishwasher and pick up the house. Now I can do all those things plus spend some time alone with Miss Mak {if she happens to be awake} or read or make a phone call or write an email or BLOG! Those may sound like selfish reasons and I disagree with that completely for two reasons. Reason Number One: I am a mommy but I have always been an independent woman. If I can't take some time out to be that woman, I feel myself fade and that quickly changed my attitude. When I feel like I have freedom in my motherhood I can really enjoy being a mom because it doesn't feel like a duty. When my attitude is good, my kids are happier and that alone makes it worth it. But... Reason Number Two: It is good for CJ. I have always known that I would raise independent kids and this is one of the ways to start. CJ has to do some of his own trouble shooting. If he wants a toy in the bottom of his toy bin he no longer comes running to mommy for it. If he wants to reach something, he finds creative ways to get to it. If he wants to watch the puppies who play outside his window, he finds ways to get up high enough to the window sill.

The benefits FAR outweigh the risks if you are thoughtful about how you do it and for both me and the kids it is WELL worth it!

11 June 2010

GaRdEN mArkErS

{DaY 29}

I've had this project bookmarked for a while now with no reason to use it and I finally found one! Hubs has been working non-stop on our veggie garden since things slowed down for him at work and I wanted to add my touch to the garden too.

I stumbled upon a tag sale today and a woman sold me a set of pretty silverware {8 settings} for $2! Those, plus the $5 steel stamp set from Harbor Freight and I was good to go!

*NoTe: The directions say to sand off the marker... I just used nail polish remover and a paper towel

To end our wonderful day in the garden, we brought the kiddos outside and made mountain pies for dinner.

AND... MarSHmaLloWs!!

10 June 2010

{Chicken Florentine}

The spinach is the veggie for this dish so bake up some crescent rolls and enjoy!

Giada's Chicken Florentine
On the table in 20 minutes
Main Ingred{s}: boneless chicken breast, spinach, white whine
Goes great with: rolls

BaBy SHoEs {PaRT 2}

{DaY 28}
I had been looking for a free Mary Jane pattern for a while now with no luck so I finally caved and bought a pattern. This one offered me 9 different patterns in one so here are two that I liked the most.

I liked these a lot but the fabric I picked wasn't a good choice... it was too busy with the ribbon. I'll tone it down next time.

I really like this pattern and I think these shoes came out really cute. They look cute on Miss Mak but her little feet are so skinny they're kinda wide. I may fix that next time around.


{DaY 27}
Ever since we turned half of the garage into a mudroom and office I have had a bench in mind for putting on shoes and outdoor paraphernalia. Hubs and I drove an hour away to look at an old pew that was also a storage bench {super cool but just didn't work for us} and I've spent hours looking for a good option online with nothing to show for it. I finally gave in and went to one of my favorite sites, Knock-Off Wood, and here's what we've got.

This is the first time I've found a reason to let Little Man beat on the furniture. He LoVeD it! {That may have been a really dumb idea!}

{before the paint job}

08 June 2010

Not Just Any {Chicken Cordon Bleu}

This recipe is D-licious!! I realize I say this about most recipes since I won't share unless they're good but these are so good that I made them three times in two weeks and shortly after I made enough of it to serve 100 people for a dinner party. Oh yeah, they're ThAT good!

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Wine Sauce
On the table in 1 hour and 20 minutes
Main Ingred{s}: boneless chicken breasts, white wine, ham, swiss cheese
Goes great with Maple Glazed Carrots

Slight Delay

The last four projects are coming SOON. I have four in the works but they're all taking longer than expected. Check back soon!

04 June 2010


{DaY 27}
Last year for CJ's birthday, Hubs and I bought him a bike trailer but forgot the helmet. Since then, I have become a ridiculously cheap frugal individual and rather than buying him a new helmet for no less than $15, I picked one up through Freecycle and "boyed-it-up" with a little paint and electical tape {oh yeah... and a thorough scrubbing, disinfecting, run through the washer/dryer and dishwasher}

Short of dying the straps {which I may get to someday} this baby is good to go!
{This just goes to show that with a little elbow grease and imagination you can work miracles}

{ it goes without saying... I'm NOT an artist }


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