Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade: Baking Mix

Yay for a new homemade solution! This mix can be used in place of Bisquick. I particularly enjoy using it to make these cinnamon roll biscuits. We made them on Christmas morning 2012 and they were so, so good, we decided that was our new Christmas morning tradition!

Here's what you need to make homemade baking mix:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 4 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/8 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 1/8 cup coconut oil or shortening
Here's how you make homemade baking mix:
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a storage container.
  2. Cut in shortening or oil until you have fine crumbs.
  3. Store in a cool place.

Monday, April 29, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cherry Crisp

You are likely to not see a pie recipe on this blog ever as I'm not very good at making them. But crisps are a fantastic alternative to a pie: they are easy to make and just as delicious to eat. Cherry crisp is our favorite of all the fruit varieties and this one lives up to the crisp reputation: easy to make and delicious to eat.


Ingredients
  • 21 oz. can of cherry pie filling
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a 1.5 - 2 quart baking dish. Pour pie filling into the dish and spread evenly.
  3. In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add melted butter and stir.
  4. Spread over pie filling in the baking dish.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool 15 minutes before serving.
A scoop of vanilla ice cream always goes well on the side of crisp.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Creamy Pineapple Dessert

My wife whipped up this fantastic dessert in just a couple of minutes, which is one reason why we love it so much. We also love it because it reminds us of another recipe we've made before: Cake on the Beach. But this dessert is even simpler, plus you can customize it to your preferences.


Ingredients
  • Large box of vanilla pudding mix
  • 8 ounces of Cool Whip (or store generic brand)
  • 15 ounce can of pineapple chunks with juice
Directions
  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Store in fridge until cold.
  • You can serve this with coconut flakes on top if you'd like, which we do.
Customizable!
  • Add in a cup of blueberries to go with the pineapple if you'd like.
  • Or add in a cup of chopped strawberries to go with the pineapple.
  • Or go really nuts and add in both with the pineapple!
We found the original recipe here.

Please enjoy!
-Chef Jason

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This Book Room: Duchess

The golden age of Hollywood is in the business of creating stars. Rosie Worth, now starlet Roxy Price, has found everything she’s wanted in the glamour of the silver screen. With adoring fans and a studio-mogul husband, she’s finally silenced the voices—and grief—of the past. Her future shines bright…until the fated Black Friday when it all comes crashing down. When Roxy loses everything, she finds herself disgraced and penniless. Her only hope is to join forces with Belgian duke Rolfe Van Horne, a longtime film investor. But Rolfe is not who he seems, and he has other plans for Roxy and her movies—plans to support a growing unrest in Europe, plans that could break her heart and endanger her life.

When her country needs her, will she have the courage to surrender her glittering world and her one true love?


Additional notes: This is the third and, I believe, the final book in the Daughters of Fortune series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here.

My thoughts: This series is a must read. I am such a fan of generational sagas - North and South trilogy, Marta's Legacy series and this series are all fantastical generational sagas. This series is absolutely compelling. This book is extra fantastic because it is set during one of my favorite time periods ever - World War II.

The characters in this book are compelling, particularly Rafe/Rolfe. He is a mysterious character and I really couldn't figure him out for most of the book. It added a great sense of intrigue to the book and made me feel some sort of sympathy for Rosie, which was brilliant on the author's part because Rosie isn't an easy character to like in this book.

This is a series where you'll want to read the other books before picking this one up. In fact, unless you're reading them all right in a row or within a few months of each other, I would recommend re-reading each book before moving on to the next.

I would love for the author to continue these characters' stories, particularly the next generation's stories, in another book, but I have a feeling, a very sad and bad one, that this series is done. You will be sad to leave these characters forever, and if you're like me, you're imagining their futures and what is next for this incredible family.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 22, 2013

This Book Room: The Heiress of Winterwood

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.

Tragedy strikes when the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts. Fear for the child’s safety drives Amelia and Graham to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.

Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

My thoughts: To describe this story in one word: intriguing. The plot is incredibly unique and heart wrenching. Amelia will do anything for the child she loves, especially since they share a common bond: they both lost their mothers at young ages. The people in Amelia's life, however, all seem to want Amelia to give up the child and do what is "best" for the family, which would certainly not be best for the child.

It can be a serious struggle to give up your family's desires to pursue your own, especially when one's family doesn't understand or support your dreams. I'm a lot different than my own relatives, and while we've always agreed to disagree, I would absolutely give up a relationship with them rather than give up a relationship with my family {Jason, Preston and Bug}.

There are quite a few sinister characters in this novel, which made the story exciting and completely unpredictable. I didn't know who kidnapped the baby or who was all involved. The plot kind of felt like a game of Clue: who, where, what, when, why? I loved it!

And like any good book, this one had a mostly happy ending. I ended up feeling empathy for a character I never thought I would feel empathy for, and that's one of the marks of a really good book: to evoke emotion for a disliked character. I truly enjoyed this book!

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This Book Room: The Potluck Catering Club series

Being the foodie fan I am, I really enjoyed this series. Among the reasons why: each book in this series was better than the last, there are tons of great recipes at the end of each book, the drama and mystery were superb.

In particular, I really enjoyed the second book and I loved the third book. The second book was super unique and intriguing - the ladies are part of a reality show competition and if you've watched any reality show and believed it was all fake, this book will prove you are right!

The third book nicely tied up each of the ladies' lives, although in ways I did not expect, particularly the plot line with Goldie and Jack. I was actually shocked by how the Donna, Wade and David story line ended, too. The two authors who penned this series kept me on my toes and did not just write fairy tale endings for all. This made the series all the better because who wants predictable endings? Not me!

If you like reading about food, mystery, romance or are just looking for a good series to dig into, you won't be disappointed by this one.

Additional notes: The Catering Club series is a continuation of sorts of the Potluck Club series. You can read my review of that series here, here and here.

The women of the Potluck Club have decided on a bold move. They're launching a catering business that's a lot like them: saucy, spicy, and well-seasoned. But will personal secrets cause the business to crumble before it gets off the ground? As the women focus on their new venture they will have to deal with a steamy past that threatens a marriage, the scalding truth about those they thought they knew, and the outrageous situations that come out of an unexpected--and revealing--trip back home.

The women of the Potluck Catering Club have a growing business. They even became the subject of a budding filmmaker's class project. Problem is, they didn't read the fine print when they signed off on his documentary. When he enters the club in the reality show "Great Party Showdown," the ladies of Summit View, Colorado, head to the Big Apple for the unexpected adventure of their lives. Between navigating New York City, dealing with other cutthroat contestants, and trying to maintain their close friendship in the high-stress world of reality TV, the Potluck women must keep their eyes on the prize--a cool million dollars--and work together if they're going to make it back to Colorado in one piece.

The ladies of the Potluck Catering Club may have thought that winning "The Great Party Showdown" reality show in New York City would be the biggest adventure of their lives. But they weren't counting on the strange goings-on they would confront when they returned to Summit View, Colorado. When a shocking event rocks their small town the ladies are stunned--especially when one of them is accused. And a 100-year-old legend about buried gold unearths some unsavory characters. Will old friends stick together through their trials? Or will they be torn apart by tragedy?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Beef Stroganoff with Buttered Noodles

I like beef stroganoff and have made many different recipes for it over the years. I have found a most delicious recipe (it might just be the buttered noodles, but I don't think so) and would love to share it with you. The original recipe can be found in the In the Kitchen with David cookbook. The version we're sharing has been modified to fit our family's tastes and preferences.


Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp oil 
    • Vegetable, canola, olive, peanut; I have found that it doesn't really matter what kind you use.
  • 2 1/2 pounds of beef, chopped into bite sized strips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup onions, diced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 Tbsp dry red wine
  • 1 lb cavatappi noodles
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground mustard
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Directions
  • Put the oil in a large skillet and heat it over high heat.
  • Over two batches, cook the beef just until brown on all sides.
  • Remove the beef to a bowl and set aside.
    • I put this bowl in the microwave to help keep the beef warm.
      • Don't turn the microwave on; just put the beef in there.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-high.
  • Let the pan cool for a minute or two and then melt the 2 Tbsp butter in it.
  • Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes, making sure to scrape any beef remnants from the pan while stirring.
  • Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for about 12 minutes, or until the liquid from the mushrooms is gone.
  • Add the beef broth and wine and cook for 14 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  • After adding the broth and wine, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cook the cavatappi noodles for 8 minutes in the second pot.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the noodle water, and discard the rest.
  • Mix the cooked cavatappi with the remaining butter and set aside.
  • Whisk together the flour and the reserved noodle water. Whisk in the ground mustard.
  • Pour the mustard/flour mixture in with the mushrooms.
  • Add both types of cream and the beef and lower the heat to medium low.
  • Cook until the beef is heated through.
    • Which takes much less time if you kept the beef in the microwave, just letting you know.
  • Serve the beef over the buttered noodles and try not to lick your plate.
This makes about 8 servings.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saving the Moola: earn gift cards for shopping + dining


Jason and I are always looking for ways to earn gift cards that we can then redeem for groceries, gifts or household items. We are huge fans of Swagbucks and always earn $20 or more in amazon.com gift cards between the two of us each month from Swagbucks.

Recently, we learned of Plink and have already earned enough points to redeem for a $5 amazon.com gift card! Plink is super easy to use and rewards users for shopping or dining at certain establishments. Here's how Plink works:
  • Sign up for an account here.
  • Link a debit card to your Plink account. We linked up our "fun money" card - our PerkStreet card. We put a certain amount of money on this card each month to use for clothing, crafting and entertainment, which includes dining out. We also earn cash back for using our PerkStreet card so with this deal, we're earning in two ways!
  • Add deals to your "wallet" on Plink's website. We have four slots right now, and we added the Arby's, Burger King, Taco Bowl and Dunkin' Donuts deals. You can also opt for retail establishment deals, such as Old Navy and the Gap. We may add Old Navy in the future when shopping for special outfits for Bug.
  • When you visit one of the establishments you added to your wallet, be sure to use the card you linked to your Plink account when making a purchase. After you've made your purchase of the minimum account, points are deposited in your Plink account. Reach 500 points and you can redeem them for a gift card!
I love that Plink is super easy to use! When we signed up, we received 500 bonus points. We redeemed them right away for a gift card and have since accumulated 70 points. It will likely take us a while to earn another 500 total points as we don't make it a habit of eating out regularly. But any time we do dine out, you can bet we're going to see what Plink deals are available and make our decision accordingly. Any way we can earn extra money by just living our lives is fantastic and a great deal for sure!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

This Book Room

When the six members of the Potluck Club meet once again, things are about to heat up. Wedding plans and romantic desires abound as Summit View buzzes with rumors and revelations about the past. Has Deputy Sheriff Donna Vesey finally found the love of her life? Will Jack and Goldie Dippel--and their marriage--survive a dangerous mountain avalanche? And will the Potluck Club be able to put their differences aside and help each other survive the storms of life and love?
 Additional notes: This is the third and final book in the Potluck Club series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here. There is a second series that directly follows this one: the Potluck Catering Club series.

My thoughts: One thing I really love about this series is that it's really action packed. There's so many characters, so there are a lot of different plot points going on at one time. If one character's story doesn't appeal to you, one of the other five will.

Starting a new life in Cedar Key, Florida, Berkley Whitmore, plagued by self-doubt, is delighted when her new store, Berkley's Chocolates & Gems, draws a wide circle of new friends and the admiration of English mystery author Saxton Tate III, giving her the courage to find the truth about her past.
 Additional notes: This is the fourth and latest book in the Cedar Key series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the second-and-a-half book here and the third book here.

My thoughts: While I enjoy this series overall, there are several things that bug me about it that I have to share. First, it's kind of obvious the author doesn't believe in God. It doesn't bother me too an extreme level that the author doesn't believe in God, but it does bother me to an extreme level that it's obvious while reading the story. Also, the characters tend to be very stale and one dimensional. If you're looking for the next greatest book to read, you won't find that here, but if you just want to read a story that will catch your interest and provide some entertainment, this book will suffice.

Join three of today’s bestselling inspirational fiction authors in a collection of Christmas stories from Victorian-era America that are full of second-chance romances. Jilted by her fiancé, Karla packs away her wedding quilts and her plans for marriage. Widow Jane travels to marry a prosperous man she barely knows in order to give her daughter a better life—then is stranded in a winter storm. Ada, a wealthy ingénue, inadvertently causes grave injury to a poor man she once considered quite a catch. Each must search her heart, change her plans. . .and patch together a tender, unexpected life filled with love.
 My thoughts: It seems every Christmas season, there are a book or two released set in historical times with short stories. I find as many of these books as I can and read them all. They never disappoint. These stories were absolutely captivating. I was glued to the page and literally wanted to devour the stories as fast as possible. I truly wish more books existed like this one. If you're in need of picking up the Christmas spirit, read this book.

In this close-knit Amish family, nothing is as perfect as it seems...

When Viola Keim starts working at a nearby Mennonite retirement home, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with resident Atle, whose only living relative, son Edward, is living as a missionary in Nicaragua. Viola understands the importance of mission work, but she can't imagine leaving her father in the hands of strangers. Even though her family is New Order Amish, it's not the Amish way, and though she doesn't know Ed, she judges him for abandoning his father.

But when Ed surprises his father with a visit, Viola and Ed both discover an attraction they never expected. Despite her feelings, choosing Ed would mean moving to a far-off country and leaving her family behind. She can't do that. Her twin sister, Elsie, is going blind and will need someone to care for her all her life. Her family is reeling with the recent discovery that her grandmother hid her past as an Englischer. Her father seems forgetful and distracted--and to be harboring some secrets of his own.

Does Viola dare leave them all behind and forge her own life? Or will family ties mean her one chance at love slips away?

Additional notes: This is the first and latest book in the Days of Redemption series. This series is ongoing, and the second book is expected out this year.

My thoughts: This book was a bit unlike any other Amish fiction book I've read in that the family has some serious issues. Most Amish fiction books tend to feature near-perfect families or families with minimal problems. This family has alcohol issues, trust issues, faith issues - you name it. It makes for a very real story and one anyone could relate to. If you've been turned off by Amish fiction because the families are too perfect and do not seem real, this series is for you.
Wearing her highest heels and hottest pregnancy jeans, Amy Sprenger marched into her doctor’s office, latte in hand, ready to finally see whether her baby was a boy or a girl. Sure, sure, this appointment was supposed to be about checking the health of the baby, but everyone who’s ever been there knows it’s really about looking for what lays, or doesn’t lay, between the legs.

So when the doctor tells her she has an incompetent cervix, Amy does what any woman would do. She becomes immediately offended. Is that a politically correct way of saying her cervix sucks? Unfortunately, as she’s soon to learn, it’s a lot more than that. The only way to keep that baby from falling out on the sidewalk (probably in front of Starbucks) is for her doctor to stitch her cervix closed and for Amy to stay in bed for the next four months.

Four months that are carefully detailed in this “memoir.” A memoir that while basically true, has been embellished with Amy’s signature brand of humor and hilarity.

With more time off than a castoff contestant on The Bachelor, Amy took pen to paper and settled in for the ride. But instead of sitting around eating bon bons, she’s popping hypertension drugs to stave off preterm labor. And complications? Oh, she’s got your complications. She’s gut-rehabbing her house. Her mother moves in to care for her. Her husband takes a “mancation” while she’s stuck in the hospital. And every time she has a contraction, she’s convinced it’s The Big One.

Living by the adage that laughter is the best medicine, Amy fumbles her way through a series of sometimes serious and usually embarrassing situations. And just to be clear, using a bedpan qualifies as both serious and embarrassing. 


My thoughts: I had been wanting to read this book for months. While it was entertaining, it was not as funny as I had hoped it would be. That being said, if you work in the medical field or have ever  been pregnant, you will seriously appreciate this story. If you haven't been pregnant and have no interest in that kind of thing, I would advise you to skip this story.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In the Kitchen with Jason: Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

This is our first post coming from the In the Kitchen with David cookbook. For those of you who don't know, In the Kitchen with David is a show on QVC where David Venable sells kitchen wares and food. Jess and I enjoy watching it, even though purchases made by us from the show are few and far in between. Also you may notice similarities between his show's name and this series' name; I assure you that I stole it fair and square. :-) But onto the muffins. These muffins are super delicious  with the peanut butter chips adding little nuggets of extra sweet goodness.



Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips (or 1 cup chocolate chips OR 1/2 cup chocolate and 1/2 cup peanut butter!)
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced into 12 slices
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray
  • Sprinkle the first 2 Tablespoons of sugar evenly over the muffin tin so that it coats the sides and bottoms as evenly as you can get it.
  • In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt.
  • Set aside the flour mixture.
  • In a large bowl mix the 3/4 cup sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas until totally combined.
  • Add the flour mixture and mix just until all the ingredients are mixed in.
  • Fold in the peanut butter chips.
  • Scoop into the sugared muffin tins.
  • Mix the sliced banana with remaining sugar and place one in the center of each muffin to be.
  • Bake for 22 to 26 minutes.
  • Cool for about 8 to 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Friday, April 5, 2013

Saving the Moola: March in review

In case you missed the news, Jason and I welcomed a baby girl to our family in March! We had well planned for her arrival - or so, we thought. In all honestly, we really did plan well. I'm very proud of us for planning our expenses ahead of time.

And just like we knew it would happen, there were unplanned expenses that we either could not have anticipated or just did not anticipate. And that's okay. That's why we have a debt savings account and an emergency account on top of that! Thankfully, at the time of this writing, we haven't had to pull money from either of those two accounts since we still have money in the baby savings account, but I anticipate we will pull money from debt savings before I return to work.

In March, we were able to beef up our debt savings account to a level I was really happy with. But also in March, since we had Bug (our blog nickname for her), we began pulling money from our baby savings account. We were both happy and sad to do this - happy because it meant Bug had finally arrived! But it was also sad because we knew all the sacrifices we made to save that money and we really, really didn't want to spend it.

We paid a lot of medical bills in March and expect to pay others in April as they arrive. We also had some expenses for Bug we did not anticipate. We declined to have a baby shower while expecting, and we still stand by that decision, especially since the items we've bought since Bug arrived, we could not have anticipated wanting or needing. In fact, it wasn't even until Bug arrived and we started experiencing life with her that we realized some of these things existed and they actually had a use! Things like a mirror for the car so we can see her when she's in her rear facing car seat and a neck pillow for her while she's in the car seat - if someone had told me a year ago that I would actually buy these things, I would've laughed! But we definitely saw a use for these items (among others). It just makes us all the more happy that we bought virtually nothing while expecting so we can feel okay with buying new things now.

While on maternity leave and paternity leave, we're making a real effort to spend as little as possible. So far, this has been working really well. It helps that members of our church family brought us meals the first week we were home, and it also helps that we have so many meals in our freezer that we prepared ahead of time. We're keeping the menu super simple to save money, time and our sanity. You can more about that concept here.

If you're looking to declutter your home and earn some money, you'll definitely want to check out this post here on how we're using amazon.com's trade-in program. We love using amazon.com credit to order groceries and items for Bug. It helps stretch our grocery budget even further, and who doesn't love that?

Jason and I recently read a fantastic book on personal finance. This is the best book I've read all year and cannot recommend it enough. Check out the book here and read my thoughts on it. Then, head straight to your local library and check it out!

Jason headed back to work as of April 1, and I expect to be back in mid-May. I don't know what life will look like with a career and a baby, but I can promise it will be lots of craziness! I'm excited to see what traction we can make with our financial goals while taking care of Bug. I anticipate lots of compromises!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

This Book Room: What She Wants

Before I get into the summary of the book, additional notes and my thoughts, I have to share a bit of back story of how I came to read this book and any of Sheila's books. Many years ago, Sheila first caught my attention with her Christmas books, particularly On Strike for Christmas which was also made into a movie. Once I read that book, I was hooked. Sheila's writing is fun and quirky. She is a truly talented and unique author. 

Recently, I joined Sheila's street team - this means I will receive her books in advance to review for all of you! I am super stoked about this opportunity to read her amazing books before they are published for the rest of the world and to share my thoughts on them with all of you. 

What do women want? Jonathan Templar and his poker buddies can't figure it out. Take Jonathan, for instance. He's been in love with Lissa Castle since they were kids but, geek that he is, she's never seen him as her Mr. Perfect. He has one last shot—their high school reunion. Kyle Long is equally discouraged. The pretty receptionist at his office keeps passing him over for other guys who may be taller but are definitely not superior. And Adam Edwards might be the most successful of Jonathan's friends, but he isn't having any success on the home front. His wife's kicked him out.

When Jonathan stumbles on a romance novel at the Icicle Falls library sale, he knows he's found the love expert he's been seeking—Vanessa Valentine, top-selling romance author. At first his buddies laugh at him for reading romance novels, but soon they, too, realize that these stories are the world's best textbooks on love. Poker night becomes book club night…and when all is read and done, they're going to be the kind of men women want!


Additional notes: This is the third and latest book in the Life in Icicle Falls series. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here. So far as I know, this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: This is most definitely my favorite book in this series thus far. This book is one of the most unique books I've ever read - it's a chick lit book but told from a guy's point of view. This made for some interesting reading. I actually found myself feeling bad for my husband, Jason - he's told me he felt clueless when we first started dating and now that I've read first-hand what guys think, I feel horribly that I didn't clue Jason in more sooner! I didn't realize how difficult it was to know what women want.

I loved the little surprise midway through the book, and it totally caught me off guard. It's rare when a chick lit book can maintain some level of surprise - but Sheila absolutely does in this book. There are surprises and twists I didn't see coming, and I loved that. While I'm not such a fan of reading romance books and couldn't relate to the characters in that way, I found myself cheering the guys on (or silently yelling at them in my head) when the occasion called for it.

So what do women want? Here's what this woman wants: a man who will love her forever, no matter what. I've found that in my husband. He may have been clueless by his own admission when we began dating, but I can promise you that he definitely has a clue or two now. If you're still wondering what women want, I would start there. Love her. For all her mistakes and in spite of all her mistakes. For all she's done and all she hasn't done. For all she is and all she never will be. Just love.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

State of Our House Address: March in review

The big news is that in March, I gave birth to a baby girl! For the sake of her privacy, we'll refer to her as Bug instead of her real name. I won't share the entire birth story as it is quite long, but here are the highlights...

As the pregnancy progressed and March came along, I felt pretty positive about the progress my body was making toward giving birth. But on March 5, my doctor wiped away my happiness when she told me I must make significant progress within the next week or I would be medically induced.

I'm all for letting babies stay in the womb as long as they deem necessary, so I was more than upset. We talked about various scenarios, and I knew that if the doctor had her way, I would've been induced on March 8. We were all making compromises and we were all stretching ourselves past our comfortable limits. It made me feel good to know that at least the doctor wasn't getting her full way since I wasn't either! Call that petty, I don't care.

The next week was devoted to doing everything we could to induce labor naturally. We spent quality time together {ahem}, took long walks, bounced on my birthing ball, swayed my hips on my birthing ball, used a breast pump, took evening primrose oil orally and in another way {also ahem}, went on bumpy car rides {to the point I was scared for my car's well being!} and so on and so forth.

A week passed. We went back to the doctor around 10 AM on March 12 and I was so sure I had made significant progress and I would have nothing to worry about. When the doctor said there was no change, tears came spilling out of my eyes. The doctor handed me my induction papers for the next night at 9 PM. Among my many stresses was the fact that I had not checked in with work yet that day, which was highly unusual for me, I now had to be medically induced and now that we knew when the end was in sight, we had a million last-minute things we wanted to do, despite the fact that we had packed our hospital bag as much as possible.

My mom called me, anxious, knowing we had a doctor appointment that morning. The time was about 11 AM. I was sitting on a dining room chair, tears still in my eyes, when all of a sudden, I had pain in my lower back. "Ouch, that really hurts," I told my mom. "What, what?" she asked. "I just had pain in my lower back," I said. "This is it," my mom said. "You're in labor."

I wasn't so sure. I logged onto work at 11:30 AM, let my boss know of my scheduled induction for the next day and let her know I would be done with work that day around 7:30 PM until mid-May. Then, while working, the realization that my baby just wasn't ready to leave me and that my baby would be ripped from me {even if the induction worked, I still felt as though I would be forcing my baby from me when s/he wasn't ready to be forced from me} against his/her will really hit me.

I sobbed and cried out to God. I got incredibly honest. The conversation went something like this, "God, I know You know the plans You have for me. You can move mountains. If it is Your will, this baby will come by Your hand. You can make this baby come. You can induce labor. I have doubted You, Lord, You know this. I put this pregnancy, this baby in Your hands. Your will be done, God. Your will."

I could hardly control myself, even though I was still working through all of this conversation. Around 1 PM, my back pains became incredibly strong and measurable. I praised the Lord, grabbed my iPod and started tracking what I know realized was back labor. I was so happy! I welcomed each pain. I welcomed each contraction and envisioned my baby slowly moving out of my uterus. Jason was at work, and we kept in contact. He was so happy and let me know he could come home at a moment's notice. I kept on working and tracking my labor. It was still manageable and I was determined to finish out my last day. I laughed with Jason during one of our conversations that I know what finally sent me into labor: all that crying and carrying on. I had read that one way to induce labor naturally was to watch a sad movie and cry, but hadn't tried that. I'm rather sure and will witness til my last breath that my sobbing was what finally brought on labor {well, that, and God}.

Around 1:30 PM, my mom called. I was really multi-tasking now - talking to her, working and in labor! We talked for a while, and she encouraged me and was so excited to know the baby was finally on his/her way! Around 5 PM, the pain became too much. I hurriedly emailed my boss to let her know I was now logging off until mid-May - I couldn't make it til 7:30 PM. Jason came home from work, and the real work began. Until 12:30 AM, we labored at home. We made it to the hospital at 1 AM.

In total, the labor was 27 hours long. Even though my labor started naturally, and I was able to avoid a medical induction, baby girl was eventually delivered via section. I had very much wanted to deliver her vaginally, but that was not the Lord's will. Before the section, we prayed. During the section, I quoted Scripture. Baby girl was 8 pounds and 21 inches long upon birth. When it was announced baby was a girl, I cried. Her cry was the most beautiful sound.

Our little bug
We are all home now and settling into a routine. Jason just returned to work and I will be home with baby girl until mid-May when I return to work. Preston is settling in quite nicely, although he did not take to being left home alone for so many days alone while we were all at the hospital. He has since got over it and is adjusting to life with a new baby sister.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Life & Style: April goals + an update on March goals

March was super rough for me - the first couple of weeks, I was extremely pregnant and just focused on inducing labor naturally. Baby girl arrived March 13, and after that, I was rather focused on her! All in all, I would say I bombed most of my goals...

Personal
-Read my chosen devotional each day {this year, I'm reading 365 Meditations for Women by Women}
-Read my Amplified Bible each day {in February, I finished my regular Bible - YAY! - so I'm concentrating on just my Amplified for now}
-Read 8 books
-Work on one fitness habit - for March, I'm working on walking each day... until I deliver Monster
-Work on one other habit per month - for March, I'm working on sweeping the kitchen floor each day
-Craft weekly - for March, I'm planning to sew napkins, create/organize our kitchen binder, make two sets of customized coasters, and sew an earwarmer.

Marriage
-Pray for husband daily
-Have monthly date nights
-Have monthly movie nights

Financial
-Save any extra money we have into our Debt savings account {after Monster arrives happy and healthy and life is back to whatever normal it will be, we will immediately put all this money toward our student loan debt. We just want to be sure we have maternity leave and medical bills covered first, in case our expenses are higher than we budgeted.}

In hindsight, I guess I didn't do as bad as I feared! You can read my full goals for 2013 here. I'm incorporating some mothering goals as well now. Here are my goals for April:

Personal
-Read my chosen devotional each day {this year, I'm reading 365 Meditations for Women by Women}
-Read my Amplified Bible each day
-Read 8 books
-Work on one fitness habit - for April, I'm working on walking each day... again!
-Work on one other habit per month - for April, I'm working on getting up when there's a 6 on the clock each morning
-Craft weekly - for April, I'm planning to sew napkins, create/organize our kitchen binder, plant and water tomato seeds and sew an earwarmer.

Marriage
-Pray for husband daily
-Have monthly date nights
-Have monthly movie nights

Mothering
-Start tummy time with Bug
-Read to Bug each day

Financial
-Spend as little as possible while I am on maternity leave