Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal

My girls and I love to eat oatmeal in the mornings, and we love to try lots of different flavors in it. One of our go-to additions is peanut butter, but this week we went for something fruity. This is a great use for the quick oats and somewhat soft strawberries that we pick up from Gleaner's. It's creamy and tasty, with much more flavor and much less sugar than instant strawberry flavored oatmeal packets.

Want to make some? It's really quick and simple :)

Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal
1 1/2 C. quick oats
1 1/2 C. milk
1 1/2 C. water
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. butter
1-2 C. chopped strawberries
dash of salt

Throw all the ingredients in a pot over med-high, stirring frequently until creamy and bubbly. You can add any sort of fruit, such as peaches, blueberries, raspberries, etc. Apples or raisins are great with some cinnamon and vanilla, although the apples may need to be sauteed in a little butter first to soften them up. That's it! Amazing oatmeal on a budget. My kids always ask for more, even my picky little 2-year old.

Oh, and I just had to tell you about the amazing deal I got on Spray n' Wash last week. I stopped by Safeway for some drain cleaner and saw that Spray n' Wash was buy 1, get 1 free. In addition to the sale, each bottle had an attached manufacturer's coupon for 50 cents off. I got all these for $1 each, which is great since we get a lot of stains on our clothes with 3 small kiddos in the house.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

I really shouldn't be surprised when God brings things into my life that I've dreamed of. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of owning a home of my own. That dream might be finally coming true! Last week started as any other week. David was on vacation, but we had no big plans. That is, until his dad called us early in the week. He knew a couple that was getting ready to list their home and said if we liked it, they would sell it to us instead of listing it. And the great part? David's parents are gifting us the money needed for the down payment as an advance on our inheritance, which helps us to get a better interest rate on our loan.

Well, we went to look at it and liked a lot of things about it, so we're working on the buying process right now. We've already signed a sales agreement, and barring anything major on the inspection, it looks like things will go through just fine. The inspection should happen sometime this week, and I'm trying to be patient :).

So, here are some great things about the home:
*It's only about 5 minutes from our current rental home.
*The price is right in our budget. In fact, it's looking like we'll come out $100 a month less than we're paying now, with our money going into our equity instead of somebody else's.
*It's a good size for our family at around 1200 square feet with 3 bedrooms, plus a large, partially finished basement (that we hope to finish in the future).
*Raised flower beds in the front and a huge fenced back yard with 2 small storage sheds, 3 fruit trees, and a great clothesline setup.
*Wood floors that look to be in fairly good shape.
*The bathroom has been updated with tile and a jet tub.
*A wood stove that heats the home well (plus a whole season's worth of wood that they're leaving here). Not only should this save us money on heating, but also on electricity during the cold months since I can easily cook in a dutch oven over the stove.

There are a few things we'll need to work on, but most of them are cosmetic. The kitchen is a bit rough, but we're going to try to do things ourselves. Such as new hardware for the cupboards, replacing the counter top (with something attractive, but not super fancy), and replacing the dishwasher (we saw some good deals on Craigslist). We'll also need to paint throughout the home, as the walls were painted over wallpaper. I'm thinking I'll learn how to apply some texture and then paint over that so we won't be able to see the wallpaper marks any more. I definitely see a lot of potential for a great home.

Also, being that we're going to need a bit of cash for home improvements, I'll be waiting on my hair for a bit. I hope to do it later, but right now we're investing in our family's future. So exciting!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Many Blessings

We really have so much to be thankful for. We may not be rich by earthly standards, but we always have more than we need. One thing I am so very grateful for is our gleaning program, Birch Community Services. Because of this wonderful program, we have been able to pay off some of our debt, learn to budget more effectively, and feed our family much more abundantly. Thanks to Gleaner's and the affordable bulk section at Winco, we always have a fully-stocked fridge, freezer, and baking cupboard. As such, we can extend hospitality to our friends and family on a regular basis. We've always got family and friends stopping by for a snack or a meal.

Like a barbecue, spaghetti, stir fry....

banana muffins...

coffee cake...

and smiles:

I am so blessed to be in this wonderful rental home, where I can finally garden for the first time. I feel so at home here, and so ready to welcome those I love. Even if my house isn't always clean, it's always open. And the thing I am most thankful for? The people in my life that make it so rich! You're all I could ask for and more, and you love me just the way I am no matter what. Thanks for being a part of our lives.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Preparing for July 3rd

July 3rd is the day I set an appointment at Akemi Salon to get my hair put in dreadlocks. I suppose I could do it on my own, but I prefer neat and manicured locks, which is much more quickly achieved when you have someone do them for you. The great thing about this salon is that they don't use any product in the hair, so it's completely natural. I'm all for that!

I do realize that getting dreadlocks may not be the most popular decision, so I'd like to talk about a few reasons that I have chosen to get them.

First of all, I really embrace who I am as God has made me... with my likes, dislikes, talents, and quirks. As different as dreadlocks might be, I think they will really fit my personality. I've been drawn to them for a long time now and keep coming back to them. When I was in the hospital during my pregnancy with William, I constructed a Dream Board with pictures and words of all the things I wanted to do and be, as well as places I wanted to go. As silly as it sounds, getting dreadlocks was one of the things on that board. My goal is to fulfill as many of those things as I can, and I feel like this will be an important step for me as a person.

Secondly, they will symbolize my walk with Christ. Being a busy wife and mother can be difficult, and faith can fall out of view so easily. Many people who get dreads see them as a picture of their spiritual journey. In keeping with that, I will incorporate a few things I've discovered as I've read about them.
*They will remind me that I am imperfect, but still beautiful in the eyes of God. The first few months of dreadlocks will be challenging as they form. There will be some loose hairs and some bad days, just as I have bad days in my walk with God, but that there is always beauty in spite of the imperfections.
*They will remind me that Christ encountered opposition and hardship, just as I will in this life. People might judge me incorrectly, but God knows my heart. And surely many men judged Jesus incorrectly when He walked this earth. If they hadn't, He would not have been crucified. But how thankful I am that He was... because His resurrection gives me hope and a future.
*They will remind me to pray for others. I love one idea I read about a while back. Putting beads on some dreadlocks can be a reminder to pray for certain people. My first bead will be for my grandma. She's my last living grandparent who is battling with the progression of dementia. It's so difficult for her and my mom. They both need peace. I will also be adding beads for my children so that I remember to pray for them daily.

The third reason would be their simplicity. As I aim to simplify my life, dreadlocks just fit. Although they can take a bit of maintenance as they lock up, in the long run, I'll have to spend very little time on my hair. The care will consist of:
* Washing with residue-free shampoo and towel/air drying them. Contrary to what many people think, you can (and should) wash dreads on a regular basis. Clean hair actually locks up better.
*Using some essential oil as needed (peppermint or tea tree).
*Occasional palm-rolling to keep things under control.
That's it! No more frequent haircuts (mine grows fast), highlights, hair dryers, flat-irons, sprays, conditioners, gels, or pomades.

Last but not least, I think they are pretty :). I love how colorful, unique, and expressive they are. I can't wait to have fun with them as they grow and mature (like I hope to do along with them).

You can also see some photos of a couple gorgeous dready mamas here and here. This should be another interesting journey. Thanks for joining me!

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Must Try Cake Recipe

(photo credit)
I was in the market for a good chocolate cake recipe a couple of weeks ago. I looked around online and found this one and it was really good. I've made a few changes to it, but it's still great. One of the changes I made was switching the icing from vanilla to peanut butter. It's amazing. I've made this twice now, and both times the consensus was the same... you can't eat just one! Everyone went back for a second slice.

Best Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe
1 C unbleached flour
1 C whole wheat flour
2 C raw sugar
3/4 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice w/ 1 C milk. Let sit for 10 min)
1 C coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C hot brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 300*. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Stir together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 1 hour, or until knife comes out clean. Allow to cool.

While it's cooling, you can work on the icing.

Peanut Butter Icing
2 1/4-2 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/4 lb stick of butter, softened
1/4 C creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp milk

Cream together all ingredients except sugar. Add powdered sugar a bit at a time on high speed. I used about 2 1/3 C to get to spreading consistency. Spread on cooled cake.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The "Dread"-ed Compromise

I've been wanting some pretty little dreadlocks for a long time now. Really, for years. However, there has always been one thing or another stopping me from getting them. I've played around with my hair quite a bit over the years. I've done cornrows and tiny braids and even small little pigtails all over my head. I admit that the latter didn't work out so well... but, hey! I was 18 and having fun! I did like the braids, though, even though I think it was a little more out there than my conservative social circle was used to, as I always got a lot of comments on my hair. One time in my early 20's, I was even asked not to braid my hair before I sang a solo in church, in order that people would focus on God and not my hair. So I stopped braiding it other than once in a while. After all, I didn't want to be distracting people from worship.

Things have gradually changed for me over the years. One thing I've learned about myself is that I'm a people-pleaser. I don't like saying no and if I'm not careful, I tend to care too much about what people think of me. I can see my own heart, but if someone starts questioning my motives, I've always been likely to re-think what I'm doing. But the simple fact is that I'm an artistic girl. Some things people might see as rebellious, I just think are pretty (such as artful tattoos, belly rings, nose rings, big jewelry, bright hair colors, and cute dreads). I always thought it was something I would "grow out of", but here I am at 30, so I guess that's just who I am. And I'm good with that. I realize this might make me a bit different from a lot of people in the church, but it doesn't mean I love God any less or have a rebellious heart. God loves me! He made me to see beauty in everything and gave me a creative gift. When I express that, it makes Him happy because He loves that about me. He wants me to have fun and enjoy life as long as I'm living for Him the best that I can.

That being said, the hubs doesn't really like the look (or the permanence) of dreadlocks. So, we made a compromise. I'll wear braids, which I can take out easily enough, but still have a similar flair to them. This will also help me to grow my hair out more easily, since the length is driving me batty and tickling my face right now. I think they're fun and cute, and they only took me about 3 hrs to do (not all in one sitting, mind you).

So, here's me in my braids:

I'm still considering the possibility of locking them at some point, but for now, they feel fun and summer-y. That's a word, right? Yeah, I thought so. Happy almost summer!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Homemade Butter

I've always wanted to make butter myself, but never really tried. Well, a friend posted her butter-making adventures on Facebook, so I thought I would finally give it a try. It's actually really easy, and it turned out nice and creamy, too :).

Start with some heavy cream. Organic is nice, but a bit too rich for our frugal blood. I'll be checking into the price of Costco's organic cream really soon.

Put it in your stand mixer (you can add a bit of salt if you like salted butter), then turn that puppy on and just let it mix... and mix... and mix. Let it go until the buttermilk separates out and starts sloshing around in the bowl. Squeeze the remaining liquid out of the butter and place it in the desired container.

You'll have some nice buttermilk left over for pancakes or biscuits, which you can spread your creamy butter on when they're nice and hot.

Here are the final products of my butter-making adventure. I'm quite pleased, and definitely plan on making more! Thanks, Sarah :).