Dollars like Pine Straw

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It was a few short months before we would move. We were under contract with our house, but still using “if” and “maybe” terms with the girls just in case something fell through. Boxes were piling up and our already crowded living space was growing smaller by the day.

Some days I just couldn’t take it anymore and would announce to the girls, “Put your shoes on! We’re going outside.” It didn’t really matter if it was lunch time, nap time, something-else-important time, we would go out. One of the girls favorite places to go was the tennis courts. They could run around, play kickball (sort of), play baseball ( no apparent relation to the game you and I know), or sing the latest national anthem they had composed.

The little girls would often tire of the organized games the older girls attempted to play and begin to find fun of their own.

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I was sitting there holding Zoe in a sleepy wrap, a little hot and so much on my mind. Gracie ran up to me with a piece of pine straw.

“Here! This is two dollars. You can buy a house with this!” she said with excitement.

I laughed. “I think we’ll need a little more than that.”

“Okay. No problem.” She ran off merrily.

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It became a great game. She and Mckayla would hunt pine straw all over the tennis court and bring it to me for various things. Dollars for a house, dollars for food, dollars to buy the girlies a present, dollars for McDonald’s…

I received it all with great excitement – “thanks!”

I think I also received a gentle little reminder from the Lord.

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Dollars really are like pine straw. He can find them wherever He wants and give or take them at His good pleasure. As silly as it is for my girls to pretend like a few needles of pine straw could pay for a house, it’s equally silly for humans to think that we can or cannot manage whatever God places in our path.

It’s easy to turn our attention once again to dollars at this Christmas season; but this is just a little reminder for me and maybe for you that our God really does own the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine. The whole universe is at His disposal.

Our thoughts, plans, or worries regarding money – to Him might as well be pine straw.

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Giveaway winner and Cookoff Recipes

Hello! I’m so happy today to tell you about our giveaway winner and to share the recipes from the Food Lion Frugal Cookoff.

First up, the winner of the $250 gift card to Food Lion is… Kelly! Congratulations, Kelly! I hope this prize will be a blessing to you this holiday season. You’ll receive an email from me soon.

And now for the recipes! Remember we came up with these with only ten minutes to plan, ten minutes to shop, and forty-five minutes to cook – wow! Malise, I love your name for the turkey burgers! She and I both prepped the meat mixture; she totally did the squash fries – you have to try them! – and I prepared the apples and onions. If apples and onions doesn’t sound good to you, I dare you to try it! Just the right amount of tart, sweet, and savory. (I actually got the idea while feverishly looking through an old church cookbook while nursing my baby before the cookoff. Ha! You never know. And Kate Troost, I owe you.)

Okay, enough history. = ) Let me know if you try these!!

 

Makes 4 servings
Cost of meal: (not including pork chops and spices) $15.70
Approximate cooking time: 45 minutes
Grocery List for our Complete Menu Ingredients (not including the staples pantry and protein that were provided):
Ciabatta bread
Parsley
Green Onion
Garlic
2 Onions
Buttercup Squash
Parmesan cheese
Fresh Mushrooms
2 Apples
1 Orange
1 bunch of Spinach
Southern Surprise Perky Burgers
These burgers are from an original recipe my mother, Perky, used to make. She was a Greensboro native and a fabulous cook for our family of 7. She always made a Southern Surprise Burger similar to this so they are named after her recipe. She was an early adaptor of ground turkey as a healthy alternative to ground beef. We always loved it and we hope you do, too. ~ Malise @CarolinaMama
1 .lb Ground Turkey
Olive Oil – coat non-stick pan
¼ c. Parsley
2 T. green onion chopped
2 T. yellow onion chopped
½ t. each Pepper, Cayenne
1T. Italian seasoning
1 t. salt
¼ c. Balsamic Vinegar
4 Garlic Cloves – diced
Topping and Surprise:
½ c. yellow onion
4 Garlic Cloves – diced
¼ c. Real Parmesan Cheese – shredded
1. c. Fresh Mushrooms – rinsed and sliced
Flour to dust
Ciabatta Bread – sliced into squares
Directions: Heat Olive Oil in non-stick pan over medium heat. Mix ground turkey and the next eight ingredients on the list. Mix thoroughly. Separately, saute the topping and surprise ingredients in the pan for about three or four minutes. (except the flour) Back to the turkey mixture, form balls that are the size of sliders/thick 3-4 inch burgers. Press the center, spoon a bit of onion and garlic into the center and then, spoon in a teaspoon of parmesean, form a ball, and dust with flour, grill evenly on both sides about 4 minutes each. Do not press burgers while grilling. Remove burgers from pan, place on bottom of Ciabatta bread, sliced in squares, take the top of the bread and wipe the pan adding the oil mixture and flavor from the pan to the bread. Spoon some of the mushroom and onion mixture on top of each burger. Add Spinach to burger. A slice of orange for color. Enjoy.
Buttercup Squash Parmesan Fries
Buttercup Squash
½ c. Parmesan Cheese Shredded, Fresh
2 t. salt and pepper
½ t. cayenne pepper
½ t. garlic powder
Olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour Olive Oil onto non-stick baking pan, distribute evenly.
Slice squash open, clean and rinse. Begin slicing into long slices for french fries. Use small
slices as well. Once sliced to desired size, spread the buttercup squash onto the cooking pan,
evenly and where each slice of squash is flat on the pan, not stacked. Evenly sprinkle the seasoning including the parmesan onto the fries. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the pan out and
flip fries over with a spatula and cook for 10 more minutes. Enjoy.
Simple Apples and Onions
Green apple, chopped
Red Apple, chopped
½ of sweet onion, sliced
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Orange Slices
Saute apples and onions in olive oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir. Cover and cook five more minutes. Squeeze fresh orange over the apples and onions. Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy.
Orange BBQ Sauce

(serve on burgers or use to dip fries)
BBQ Sauce, Food Lion Original
Orange Slices
Pepper
Cayenne
Sugar
Squeeze 1T of fresh orange into 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce. Stir in pepper, cayenne, and sugar to taste. Enjoy.

Food Lion Frugal Cookoff – giveaway

This giveaway can’t wait any longer!

In case you’re short on time, here’s what you need to know: Food Lion hosted a super fun Frugal Cookoff and I had the privilege of being one of the contestants! (If you’ve read this, I promise I have not turned into Pinocchio.) As a result, I get to give away a $250 gift card to one of my readers. Hooray! Who wouldn’t want free groceries? Please enter the giveaway! Scroll down to the portion in bold and follow the directions for your chance to win!

Now for the story! = )

Out of the blue one night, I received a message from my friend Malise at Carolina Mama. She has a “fun idea/event opportunity for me.” After talking to her I found out about the Food Lion Frugal Cookoff. A chance to participate in a cooking contest – mystery meat ingredient, fifteen dollar budget of Food Lion essential brand products, forty-five minutes to prepare a main course and two sides – what could be more fun than that? At this point I have to tell you that my husband and I watched Chopped for a loooooong time; and I always wanted to try it. I was so happy it worked out to participate!! Thanks, Malise, for thinking of me!

My emotions took turns being excited, being nervous, being mad at myself for getting into something where I would probably make a fool of myself, and being completely uninvolved as I went about the daily tasks of taking care of my five girls.

I found out that we would be on teams… and Malise would be my partner – yay!!

We also found out that our meat for the main dish would be one of these four choices, boneless chicken breast, ground turkey, boneless pork chop, or tilapia.

I’ve used all of these except ground turkey so I decided to “research” a little. (Ahem, Pinterest.) The only things that looked good were turkey burgers or turkey meatballs, but turkey meatballs seemed a little too risky. I looked up ideas for the other meats, emailed Malise all my ideas and thoughts and then said, “Whatever you want to do is fine with me because you’ve been cooking way longer than I have!” = )

On the night of the cookoff we were given ground turkey! Our menu consisted of Southern Surprise Turkey Burgers, Parmesan Buttercup Squash Fries, and Simple Apples and Onions. Later I will share recipes and more about the competition – it was so fun!!

And… drumroll please… we won!!!

Can you believe it??? I sure couldn’t!!!

Actually, I was looking around at everyone else’s plates thinking they looked so good, so pretty and yummy. But, when I tasted ours, I thought, Hmmm…. we might have a chance!

It was all so yummy! You’ll have to check back for the recipes!! = )

Before I finish talking your ear off about this, I have to say that Food Lion was such a great sponsor! They explained their effort to provide fresh produce, fresh meat, and quality staples, all at their very lowest prices. They have even have new lines of organic and natural products – and, they gave us a goody bag that sampled these products – yum!! You should try them!

Now for the good part: I have one $250 Food Lion gift card to give away to one of my readers – yay!!

Here’s how to enter: Leave a comment here, like the blog on facebook, or share the giveaway via facebook, or all three for three chances to win!! 

Let me know in your comments what you’ve done! I will announce the winner a week from today – next Tuesday!

A huge thanks to Food Lion for the opportunity to participate in the Frugal Cookoff! Thanks also to Malise of Carolina Mama for letting me know about the event and for being such a great teammate!

I can’t wait to tell you more of the story, show you more pictures; for now here’s the youtube clip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can and Can’t

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Pardon a thought train here.

I look out the window and see my two oldest daughters attempts to free a kite that is stuck in a tree about twenty-five feet in the air. I’m fairly sure they will not be able to get it down.

But what if they could? If one of them figured out how to climb the tall pine tree and get out on the branch would I let them?

In the battle of attempting and achieving the impossible or staying safe, where do my loyalties lie?

We have certainly heard enough of the “if you can believe it you can achieve it” mentality. So many waste their life on useless pursuits, passing by a meaningful, ordinary existence.

I recently read (was it by Tim Challies?) “Seven things Fathers should tell their sons.”

One of them was “You can’t do it.”

And I totally agree. As finite human beings, and especially as believers we must admit our limitations.

However, when dealing with our kids – where do you draw the lines of hard, impossible, and foolish?

What if the Wright brothers parents had stopped them?

Which brings me to the next boxcar on this train – is there anything left to be discovered like that? If you could conceive something that had never been done before, something that would change human history – what would it be?

This is what I think about on a Thursday afternoon while making burritos.

Helloooo up there!

Hi there! It’s me. You can’t see me because I’m down here buried under halfway unpacked boxes, mile-long Target lists, and paint samples.

We moved!! And we’re rather in love with our new house. I hope that I will be able to write about all the wonderful experiences, challenges, and blessings this change has brought. We’ve been incredibly blessed by our church, friends and family.

School started back today, and we are woefully behind if you are speaking of lesson numbers. However, everything (especially homeschooling) always seems fresh and exciting after a little break. Or a long break, as the case may be.

Last, and certainly not least, I have a huge giveaway for you so stay tuned! Well, maybe you won’t be interested in it. It’s only for people who need to grocery shop. Hello! You will not want to miss it, but I’ve said enough already. = )

On to working on that giveaway post!

Talk to you soon!

Christie

This picture serves no purpose but to have a thumbnail to go along with the facebook post. It was however, taken at our new house, and will certainly amuse the Nanas, Grandmas, and Aunts. = )
This picture serves no purpose but to have a thumbnail to go along with the facebook post. It was however, taken at our new house, and will certainly amuse the Nanas, Grandmas, and Aunts. = )

 

 

Hope, a birth story

She was such a special baby, such a timely gift.

I guess since this isn’t titled “A pregnancy story” or “The life of the mom and dad story” I’ll start as close to her birth day as I can.

Just a few hours old
Just a few hours old

Our little Hopey was due on January 1. She was our first baby and we were ecstatic about having her! At a mid-December appointment, our doctor predicted that we would have her by Christmas. I was already dilated at least two to three centimeters.

I was feeling great and if I experienced any Braxton-Hicks contractions I wasn’t aware of them. We were busy with Christmas preparations, Paul’s responsibilities at the church, and my piano teaching.

Christmas was on a Tuesday that year and several things had been planned for the days right before the big holiday. Some friends were having a Christmas party on Saturday night. A man had planned a special Christmas service on Sunday afternoon for the inmates at the local juvenile justice center, and my brother and his family were going to be in town. My sister was also coming in from a few hours away and would be staying with us.

On Friday, a friend and I went to Target to do some Christmas shopping. While there something abnormal happened which I would later realize was what they call “losing the mucus plug.” Lovely. Right before the Christmas party on Saturday, we dropped by Barnes and Noble to pick up some other gifts. (Seriously, Christmas is a great season for staying active and doing things to help you go into labor.) = ) While there, I began to feel quite poorly and felt a great, sudden need to use the restroom. It seemed to go away, but when we got to the party, I knew I wasn’t quite myself. After sitting down on the couch, I did not want to move. Usually the independent one, I was quite content to have Paul get my food and refill my drinks. I started to notice that every so often I would feel really bad. So I asked my sister on one of those occasions what time it was. When it happened again, I would ask her again. It didn’t take long to realize that the “bad feeling” was happening every fifteen minutes. Later, I would realize, duh, the contractions were beginning. That was around six pm on Saturday night.

We went home when the party was done and stayed up late. I was wrapping Christmas presents for bus kids and Paul was assembling some nightstands I had just bought. I kept careful track of how often the contractions came. They worked down to seven or eight minutes apart, but never felt unbearable. When all our work was finished we went to bed.

In the morning, the contractions were still there. But as they weren’t really that hard to take, we got up, got ready and went to church. I was definitely walking different. My pastor’s wife took one look at me and said, “Are you in labor?”

“I don’t really know.” I answered. “Maybe?” Ah, first round ignorance. I just didn’t think it was that big of a deal since the pain was not that bad.

I played the piano for the church service noticing that every now and then it did take some extra concentration if it was during a contraction.

We ate lunch at my parents house with all the family. I remember walking in the door and my brother saying, “Hi, Labor Lady!” It was decided that my sister would play for the service at the justice center.

This was great for me, because I still hadn’t found the perfect Christmas gift for Paul yet. So where did my sister-in-law and I take off to? The mall! I happen to be a very picky shopper so we literally walked through every department store of the mall. I found the right gift and then headed to Walmart. Of course it was crowded, we had to park very far away, and once again, did quite the walking regimen.

By now I knew I was in labor. I didn’t know if it would be it for sure, but the contractions were regular and a little more painful.

We went back to my parent’s house to switch cars and people. Paul and I and my sister headed back to our house. At this point, my sister had a movie she wanted us to watch, so we did. It was horrible. There we were on the couch and my contractions were consistently every six to seven minutes. Sometimes I would look up at the ceiling or breathe really hard through one of them and Paul and Laurie would look over at me and ask, “Are you okay?”

After it passed I would look back at them and say, “Yup.”

This went on until the end of the movie (for which we all rejoiced). = )

I decided that I would go to bed. If I could fall asleep, then there was obviously no reason to go to the hospital, but if the pain kept me up, then we would go from there. We made sure the right phone numbers were on the refrigerator and headed to bed.

At about 1:05 AM I realized the contractions were too painful to sleep through. I told Paul that I was going to get up and call the hospital. The contractions were five minutes apart so the hospital told us to come in.

I remember having a great quandary over what to where to the hospital to have a baby. I didn’t want to go out in my pajamas, but it seemed silly to get dressed. I ended up wearing some of Paul’s basketball shorts and his Duke sweatshirt.

My sister came with us. We were all very excited. I kept wondering if this was really it.

We arrived at the hospital around 2:30 am. The people did not take us seriously at all. They nonchalantly called for someone to wheel me up to the maternity floor. That guy wasn’t the greatest; he laughed at us and said, “If you were going to have a baby tonight, she’d be cursing.”

I don’t remember too much about the first little bit of being there. I think I was only dilated to four centimeters. Thankfully we had an older nurse who thought it’d be great for us to walk around a bit. So we walked around the floor while the contractions continued. Once they were too bad to continue walking, we went back to the room. Again, I don’t remember too much; only asking for a ball to sit on, trying it and realizing it would never work for a short girl like me; and being very hot. Paul and my sister would take a washcloth and wet it with cool water to put on my forehead or neck. This felt amazing.

For some reason, I climbed up on a loveseat and kind of leaned my arms and torso over the armrest while kneeling on the seat. The pain was very bad. I rocked back and forth a little bit trying to do different things with my breathing to just stay in control and not give in to the pain. It was kind of like a zone. I knew other people were there, but still felt all by myself.

The next time the nurse checked me I was at nine centimeters!  We all cheered. Apparently, the weird rocking on the loveseat experience had been “transition.”

From there I stayed on the bed.

Again, the exact details here are a little sketchy. I think the nurse asked if I wanted to try to push. Of course, I did and she gave me this long explanation of what to do. I was excited as everything I had heard was that labor was bad but pushing was good.

Well let me tell you, not for this girl. I tried pushing a few times and stopped. That was not for me. To this day, I hate the pushing part!

Through all of this, my water had yet to break. They said they would call the doctor to come break my water. Then we found out that our doctor would not be there, he was out of town.

This didn’t seem like a big deal. A doctor’s a doctor, right? We’re pretty laid back.

I remember somewhere around five or six in the morning telling Paul that he needed to pray for me. I’d been doing pretty good, but was beginning to lose my trust in God. Why is this taking so long? It really hurts!

When the doctor walked into the room, a new wave of confidence was given.

He broke my water, which I thought was pretty cool. If nothing else, childbirth is a feast for curiosity.

I started trying to push again and was miserably unsuccessful. Let’s just say I push like I’m trying to play a trumpet or something and all the force does not go to the right place. And no, another explanation of how to properly do it will not be helpful, thank you.

The doctor gave the nurse a look and she told me they were going to do something to numb it because he was going to cut.

For some strange reason, this bothered me not at all. I don’t remember feeling any pain until recovery.

A few more pushes and there she was. (I have to say that the moment when the baby comes out is really cool! I thought for sure that that part would hurt quite badly, but for me it really didn’t.)

In just a moment, there was a beautiful red and purple skinned, dark-headed screaming baby on my chest.

“Hi! Oh, you’re so beautiful!!” I said to her over and over again.

I looked up with tears in my eyes at Paul and saw his first proud daddy smile.

“She’s here!”

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Happy can’t even describe how we felt.

They took her and cleaned her up all while Paul followed and watched.

I remember being sewn up and not even caring. (Whatever they did to numb me worked really good!)

When they brought her back to nurse, it was so precious. She latched on beautifully and I watched in amazement at what was happening.

She was six pounds even and nineteen and a half inches long. Such a little peanut. An absolutely perfect little peanut to me.

One funny memory from after delivery is when the nurse informed me that I needed to get up and try to use the restroom. I looked at her like she was crazy and thought, “Hello, just had a baby! I don’t need to get up and do anything!” 

But sadly, I discovered, that yes, I did have to do something. And from there the pain and annoyance of recovery began.

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We spent the first Christmas of our married life in the hospital. It was great. Everyone was being so sweet, bringing us gifts and miniature trees. All the while I was thinking, We just got the best Christmas present of all! Nothing can top this.

We held our sweet little Hopey and tried to take in all that she was. I was so surprised by how many faces and expressions and noises she already made. I had never been around a newborn before.

She was such a sweet baby, nursing and sleeping so well.

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All the pain of delivery didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was thankful and surprised to have gotten through without any medication. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, setting myself up for it to be really bad and trying to breathe and concentrate through the pain seemed to do the trick for me.

I will say that recovering from the episiotomy was very painful and unpleasant. To this day I have no idea how many stitches I had. I didn’t want to know and didn’t ask.

Also, unexpectedly painful were the contractions that returned with nursing during the first week. I was totally caught off guard by this and a little mad that no one had told me about it.

Baby

The whole experience was only about half as bad as I had prepared for. Someone had let me borrow some Lamaze magazines and much of what I had read in there was helpful for ideas on how to breathe through contractions and for the overall “You were made to do this!” mentality. It wouldn’t be true to say that I followed it completely and I think that some women have a lot harder time than I do, but overall what I read  was helpful.

I remember the week after we had settled back down at home my sister-in-law sitting down and saying something like, “So tell me the birth story.” As I talked it out for the first time, I realized just how special it was and how special it was to be able to share it with someone else.

Even as I’ve written this I realize how many details I’ve already forgotten. But at least what I still remember and what was really important about those hours is recorded here. I can’t wait to write out Sophia’s! Hers was quite the whirlwind.

 

For family and friends

We all know people really just want to see pictures of the girls. = )

So here you go!

 

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I love this picture! Neither of them had any idea I took it, but it was too precious to miss.
I love this picture! Neither of them had any idea I took it, but it was too precious to miss.
Getting bigger = (
Getting bigger = (

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She took a three hour nap on the couch. So cute.
She took a three hour nap on the couch. So cute.

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It's a rough life.
It’s a rough life.

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Do you think these two look alike?
Do you think these two look alike?

Love to all,

Christie