I occasionally make fruity smoothies, but most of the time I do some variation of this one. It’s sooo yummy and helps with my ice cream cravings. Ice cream is probably my all-time favorite food, but I know that this is healthier and just about as good. I like to make it thick so it’s almost the consistency of soft serve ice cream. I don’t have exact ingredients, if you like it more peanut buttery, add more peanut butter. If you like it thicker add more frozen bananas, thinner, add more milk. I’ve done it with out the chocolate powder and chocolate chips. I’ve even thrown in raw spinach and leftover oatmeal.

  • Frozen bananas-This is one of many great ways to use up those browning bananas!
  • Milk
  • Peanut butter – I’ve done it both with natural peanut butter with no added sugar and with the regular peanut butter.
  • Cocoa powder – This is optional.
  • Chocolate or carob chips – Also optional.

Mix it the ingredients (except for the chocolate  chips) in your blender, then top with the chips and enjoy!!!

I’ve told people before:

“God can use you anywhere!”

“Where you’re at doesn’t matter as much as what you’re doing.”

And a favorite quote from a Bible School teacher on where to serve as a missionary, “The worst that could happen is if you go to the wrong place, the wrong people get saved!”

But now I’m seeing how much I really believed those statements…or rather didn’t believe them.

As you know Little Dude is back with us again, just a couple of days before we were about to move from Missouri and start our travels around the States before heading to West Africa, we were notified that he might need a home again. Talk about crazy emotions, VERY excited to get to take care of this precious little boy, confused because we thought things were going pretty well at home, and lots of wonder about what this meant for our plans.

Prior to Little Dude moving back in with us, our plans were for us to be traveling, to New York (which we did do with Little Dude), to Mexico (which ended up just being Cameron instead of all of us), to Texas, and probably some other places as well. Instead we’re staying here in Missouri to maintain our Missouri foster licence so we can continue to take care of Little Dude. The plan was to be homeschooling, which we’ve been doing, but will end next month when the 2 kids go to public school. It’s taken me some time to get used to the idea of sending my lil’ 1st grader and kindergartener to public school all day. And while we’re still hoping to get to West Africa in January, things with Little Dude are going sloooooooow, and we’re wondering if we’ll really make it by then.

All that to say, because we feel a responsibility to and love for Little Dude, we are staying here for now…and we’re not quite sure how long “for now” is. It’s been tough for me to come to grips with all the unknowns looming in our future. I’ve been discouraged thinking:

“What if we don’t get to West Africa in January?”

“What will people think of us changing our plans?”

“Why does it take so long to find anything out about Little Dude’s situation?”

“My little 5 and 6 year old at a school almost all day long?”

And my thoughts and anxieties go on and on.

Some friends/mentors recently were talking with us and we were expressing some of our frustrations. He responded by reminding us to bloom where planted.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that little phrase. With God’s help, He’s helping me to remember to look at the here and now, after all we don’t really know how much longer we have, but we do know we have RIGHT NOW!

I’m trying to re-focus my CURRENT responsibilities…like taking care of the 2 kids I have now. Teaching them about their Rescuer, loving them, growing in my many areas of weakness (time management, patience, trusting the Lord, just to name a few).  I’m also hoping to volunteer at the kids’ school and I’ll be helping 3 mornings a week at the missionary training center’s childcare, and as time goes on we’ll see if more opportunities come up for me to “bloom” right here where I’m at.

But I’ve gotta tell you, this growing into a beautiful blossom thing isn’t easy. I’m realizing more and more all the time how much God needs to peel away me. These situations reveal that I really don’t trust Him and in my prideful arrogance I think I know best. But I know it’ll be worth this discomfort if it rips away more of me and helps me cling more to Him.

 

Amy

AProverbs31Wife.com

Today I made a big ol’ batch of this soup, some we ate for supper, some I’m going to freeze.  Its both a  super frugal meal, yet very nutritios. It’s filling and everyone in our family likes it. You can top with tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos and cheese.

You can switch out the recipe in so many ways depending on what you have on hand, but here’s how I made it:
Ingredients:

  • 2.7 lbs. of chicken thighs – You can use any kinds of chicken parts, but the thighs were on sale, so that’s what I used.
  • 8 cups cooked white beans
  • Veggie scrapsThis is one of the things that makes this so cheap, instead of buying broth for the soup, make your own while cooking up the chicken. I like to keep a bag in the freezer with veggie scraps.
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped – If you wash the carrots before peeling, add the peels to make your broth!
  • butter or oil
  • salt & pepper
  • taco seasoning – I don’t have a particular recipe, but it’s usually a combination of chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin. Although there are lots of homemade taco seasonings on the web, if you want exact proportions.

Other options: Diced onions sautéed up with the veggies would be tasty too, I was just out of onions this time. Corn is good in it too.

I had my white beans, soaked and cooked up the day before. So I started my cooking session with putting the chicken, veggie scraps and lots of water in my pressure cooker. I chopped the celery and peeled and chopped the carrots and included their scraps in the pot too. I added some salt and pepper, then cooked up the chicken. I love how I just have to turn the cooker on, let it cook at pressure for about 8 minutes, then turn it off.* It uses a lot less energy than just cooking in a regular pot. But you could also cook it up in a pot, or even use a crock-pot and do this part the day before.

Once your chicken’s cooked (and the pressure has released on the cooker) let the chicken and golden broth cool, then strain out the scraps and chicken. Toss the scraps and cut up the chicken into pieces.

Put the broth, chicken and beans all into a pot and add the sautéed veggies. Cook until every thing is heated through and the flavors have all melded, you can taste to see if you want to add more seasonings.

Cool and put in ziptop bags or containers for the freezer. And maybe enjoy some for supper tonight! :)

Dinner is served!

 

Amy 


*If you use a pressure cooker, make sure to read the instructions in the manual for your own saftey.

I  started reading Families Where Grace is in Place thinking it was a parenting book….which in a lot of ways it is, but it’s much more than that. It not only discusses parenting, it also talks a lot about marriages, but in reality this book could serve useful to anybody in any kind of relationship, parent-child, husband-wife, or even friend-friend.

It’s not a book full of little tips and tricks to successful living. It’s not the answer guide to life. And it most certainly isn’t telling you how to do the right kinds of outward behaviors. In fact that’s what I loved so much about it, it’s about dealing with the deep-rooted heart problem.

I could relate on so many levels. It talks about trying to find value and approval from others, whether it’s in your spouses’ actions, or how well-behaved your kids are. But it’s so evident in Scripture that Jesus isn’t concerned with outward behavior, He’s after the heart. He slammed the Pharisees, who followed the rules, but He knew the gunk in their hearts.

So much advice out their stays on  the surface level, or acts like if you get your actions fixed, then the heart will somehow get fixed. This book really delves into the hard-to-admit secrets of our hearts that serve as the engine driving our actions.

I borrowed this from a library, but it’s so good….I might….just might actually buy myself a copy. I wish I could post the whole book here, but since I can’t here’s a few quotes:

It’s okay for outsides to match insides (vs. empty people learning to act full). In grace-full families, what is real is more important than how things look.Having a safe, unconditionally accepting place where outsides can match insides is really the only way to find out if there are inside needs and problems that must be addressed. pg. 163

Always remember this: Under the best circumstances, the most healthy, most sensitive, most educated person is still not capable of meeting the needs of another. This is God’s responsibility. pg. 168

It is never your job or mine to protect our loved ones from bad news. We can, instead, support them as they learn to cope with the tough challenges of life. pg 171

As I re-read this post before posting it, that last quote really hit home again, as I think about taking care of our little foster son. I so badly want to protect him from any hurt or sadness, but I have to come to grips with the fact that it’s out of my control…but I can love him through any hurts and point him to the True Comforter.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Amy

 

Reading to the kids

We provided respite for Big Sis and Little Dude this weekend. It’s the 4th time they’ve stayed with us. The first was when they first came into care and the other times were for respite. As I look back to the time they came to us 11 months ago, I see so many changes. I’m so thankful for the couple that they’ve been living with. We agreed to take the kids until a more permanent home could be found, they lived with that family for a while but then were moved again, to their current home. I can tell by spending time with the kids, that they’re taken care of. Big Sis has grown, Little Dude is talking so much better. They just look so healthy. Their foster parents weren’t even planning on taking any kids until after a trip they had planned, but eventually said yes to Big Sis and Little Bro. Then we provided respite when their trip came up.

These kids needed a safe home, a loving home, a consistent home and I can’t express how grateful I am that God provided that for them. Yes, just one couple (or one person for that matter) can make a huge change, they have in these kids’ lives. And as these kids are on a reunification plan, I believe that the influence of these temporary parents will forever affect them.

It’s easy to know there’s a need for foster parents, but when you personally know kids in need of a home, you don’t just know about the need, you feel it. We enjoyed having their foster parents over last night to get to know them, and it just made me all the more happy that those kids are with them.

And on another note….Cameron’s back and he had a GREAT trip! You can read all about it here, and see buckets of pictures here.

The completed water project!

 

 

You know how I recently learned how to can? Well I knew the next step would be to can something by myself, but I hadn’t decided what. I was looking at food that had been donated to the training center and noticed cucumbers and these handy-dandy packets of pickling mix! The only other ingredients were water and vinegar which I already had.

So one night I put the kids to bed and started canning. I only did 4 cans of 1/2 pints because I don’t have a very big pot, and most of my 1/2 pint jars were being used. I mostly wanted to do it for the practice. I did get worried though when I saw the big quantity of the recipe on the pickling mix. How in the world was I going to figure out how much to do for just 2 pints?? Thankfully I found this useful site that calculates size conversions for you!

The pickles turned out fine and all 4 of the lids sealed. I just love opening my cupboard to this!

Why did I wait so long to start canning? If you can, when and how did you learn?


Amy

  • I was this close (imagine my fingers just 1/2 inch apart) to grabbing a fast food meal this week…actually multiple times this week. But each time I managed to avoid it by the skin of my teeth telling myself it’d be cheaper and healthier to eat at home. One of the times it was actually a deal for a $6 pizza, that I almost ordered, but then I thought about how little nutrition was in it…how eating food we already had would probably be less than $6…and I wouldn’t have to drive to town if I just made lunch myself. The one time we did eat out was on Saturday when Long John Silver’s was offering a free fish and fries to each customer. The kids and I enjoyed our free and very greasy meal. :)

Completely free meal for me and the kiddos that Long John Silvers was offering Saturday!

 

 

Since this picture, the kids have gotten a second free ice-cream from a different place. I ended up buying one for myself too. :P

 

  • I’ve been earning more swagbucks recently. This is for 2 reasons, I have more time on my hands and videos aren’t blocked. During the semesters the training center blocks streaming because of all the bandwidth it uses. Sometimes I just play videos while I do other things on the computer, and sometimes I put the kids to work earning swagbucks for me by letting them watch animal video clips. They love learning about animals and I love getting swagbucks! And like I mentioned last week, about buying Cameron’s birthday present with swagbucks, it got in this week! :)
  • Cameron’s birthday was this week and he’s getting home tomorrow!!! We’re all so excited! We have home-made cards and a home-made banner all ready. We also wrapped all the gifts in bags or paper that we already had on hand.
  • Happy 4th of July! To celebrate, we’ll be having a cookout by the lake with some family and hoping to go watch fireworks after that. Enjoy your day!

 


Amy

An old picture....but I love it :)

Have you signed your kids up for your local library’s summer reading program?

Gracia and Little Dude are loving it so much!

What’s been cool about the reading program so far:

  1. Each kid got to pick out a brand new book to keep when we signed up.
  2. Each kid also got an activity book. They have a few activities they have to do for each section, and then read (or have read to them) 10 books.
  3. For every section they complete, they get a prize. The kids already earned their first prize…free DQ cones! :)
  4. It’s great motivation for the kids. While we did it last year too, this summer it’s even more exciting  because since last summer, Gracia has learned to read. So now, instead of me reading to her, I’m having her read books herself! Of course, she still needs help and it has to be beginner books, but it’s been great motivation and I can’t believe she’s done the first 10 books already!
  5. It helps the kids know what books to pick out. Usually the kids each pick a few books, and I pick some for them too, but this summer, I’ve been trying to help Gracia find ones that are simple enough for her to read herself. She’s having to think through what she gets more, instead of just grabbing things off the shelf.

I know every library is different, so yours may not be doing things exactly like ours is, but it’s a great FREE way to not only keep kids occupied, but keep their brains exercising too! And if you don’t have kids…the library still is an awesome place!

Enjoying their hard-earned cones!

I enjoyed these 2 lists, and thought you might too:


Amy

$88.38

I spent $88.38 today on groceries, this is including food and 2 make-up products and paper plates. I don’t buy paper plates very often, but the kids need some to make a tambourine for the library’s summer reading program.

Here’s the saving strategies I employed:

  • Coupon! Yes I actually used a coupon! We don’t get a newspaper or anything, but my parents do, so when I was visiting in NY I thumbed through it and clipped a few I thought I might use. I used a $2 off coupon to get the mascara. It’s not the brand I usually buy, but with the coupon it was cheaper than my usual brand. The sad part is I had another coupon for any Covergirl product (my usual brand) but I was just 1 day too late…it expired yesterday. :(
  • Price-matching. I price-matched the avocados for 29 cents each!!! Can you believe it? And the strawberries for 99 cents/16 oz. They’re one of Little Dudes favorite fruits.
  • Purchasing larger sizes. As you may know I like to buy my eggs in the big cases, cuz it’s cheaper per egg. I also bought a 2 pack of whole chickens since it was cheaper per pound and I can just freeze them until I’m ready to use them.
  • Generic brand. That’s one of the easiest ways to cut your grocery bill!
  • Sale purchase. I needed peanut butter and was pleasantly surprised that the kind I like was on sale.
  • Buying food that’s almost always cheap. As you can see looking at the picture I didn’t purchase things like steaks and wine, but I did buy things like whole chickens and pasta.

Now for my menu plan…or more like my ideas of meals that I’m sure I won’t stick with exactly:

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, breakfast rice, smoothies, eggs, and toast

Lunches: leftovers, burritos, and tuna sandwiches or tuna lettuce wraps. Lettuce wraps have been sounding very yummy to me lately. :)

Suppers:

And I just might stop by my favorite dent-foods/bulk store on my way to get Cameron. :)

Amy

  • The night before Cameron headed for Mexico, we had a spur of the moment date night. His parents watched the kids = free babysitting. :) We went to Subway where Cameron got a $6 footlong and I got 2 flatizzas for $5, cuz I had a coupon (thanks Mom!). We got waters = free again! Then we went and walked around the outlet mall, which always reminds me how out of touch I am with cool people. We didn’t buy anything, just looked at stuff. Then we finished the night off by going to Sonic for slushies.
  • I’m trying to make use of free and cheap ways to have fun with the kids. So far this has involved swimming in the lake, going to parks and enjoying the library.
  • I just ordered Cameron’s b-day gift off of Amazon.I paid it COMPLETELY with credit earned from swagbucks!!!* Woo-hoo! He’s always making fun of me for doing swagbucks, so I like to buy him things with my earnings, then he doesn’t have a right to poke fun at me! HA!
  • You know how I had myself a little canning lesson? Well…last night, after the kids were in bed, I tried canning all by myself and now I have 4 jars of pickles sitting on the counter. I’ll have to update you after we’ve tasted them.
  • I gave Little Dude a hair cut. Oh how I love the savings of cutting male hair at home!

 

The kids with their new haircuts...and the cones they earned in the summer reading program.

 

 

Not-So-Frugal: Speaking of cutting little Dude’s hair, we took Gracia to Wal-Mart this week and got her hair cut. I have tried to do trims on her before, but I have a bad track record with female hair, so I’m sticking with professionals for longer hair.

Amy


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