Round Two of Getting to Know My Chicken Dinner (or, My First Attempt at Making Chicken Stock)

A week or so ago, I shared my first attempt at de-boning a whole chicken that was more like a wrestling match than a warm-up for dinnertime. Well that was more like Round One, and fortunately, Round Two went much better. Quite a success, really!

Round Two: Making Chicken Stock

Once I'd gotten over the calamity of the de-boning itself, I found myself with a tupperware full of chicken bones and left-over meat that I wouldn't be using to cook with. I shoved the tupperware in the freezer, figuring I'd had enough of a culinary workout for the day.

Part of the whole reason I'd decided to buy a whole chicken in the first place was because people raved about using it to make your own chicken stock. "So Easy!" "So Delicious!" "Much Healthier!" "So Cheap!"

It was about a month later before I got up the courage to try to attempt the chicken stock experiment. I did some research online, and it seemed as though you couldn't really go wrong with what you pitch in the pot. There often weren't any exact measurements for the stock recipes I found, so I figured how hard could this be to mess up?

Armed with a couple stalks of celery, some whole carrots, two cobs from last night's corn-on-the-cob, a potato, onions, garlic, salt and pepper, I threw them all in the pot with the defrosted carcass. Poured in water, until it was just covering the chicken, and let the stove top work its magic.

I let the pot simmer for about an hour, until the juice was a consistent color of light brown and clear of any fat. I took a sip and it tasted pretty good. Another sip, and I started to suspect that maybe this thing actually worked...

I drained out the liquid and decided to freeze it, ladling it by the 1/2 cup into small tupperware and into ice cube trays (1/8 cup per ice-cube section, I determined). For a whole day, I froze batch after batch of my homemade chicken stock, which you can see just a fraction of in the photo above. My one single chicken and few measly veggies produced more than 6 cups worth of homemade stock. (I didn't count, so that's just based on what I have left now!)

It's for this reason alone that I haven't given up on the "whole-chicken" idea. Able to control what I put into the stock (organic veggies and pasture-raised chicken), as well as seeing it simmer in my own kitchen and reap more than enough for my humble cooking needs, make the whole process—even the discouragement of Round One—feel like a win.


My To-Do List for the Week (plus Link Up!)

Well, this past week turned out to be a pretty productive week! All I didn't end up getting around to was mopping the floors (I have no problem letting that wait another week!), and I didn't write as many book reviews as I'd hoped.

But, instead, our week was filled with lots of visits with friends and rounds of various games, especially Settlers of Catan, which we've recently gotten into, thanks to Carissa and Ben! We also got our fill of Cranium and Scene It, and got to visit some friends who just had a baby, all of which were such nice ways to spend our time. I imagine this week will be a little quieter, but we'll see what it dishes up...

For now, here's what's on my to-do list for the week:

  • Check out a new farmer's market, based on friend's recommendation
  • Memorize Scripture verse this week: "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." - Romans 14:13
  • Organize book shelves more aesthetically
  • Write some more book reviews I've been putting off (I got one done last week, but still have three more on my list!)
  • Write my "End of the Month" update for my list of 27 Things To Do While I'm 27
  • Pay our rent and bills
  • Tally up our spending and finances for the month
  • Mop kitchen and bathroom floors
  • Figure out menu and shopping list for the week
  • Repaint toe nails
  • Try to go to the swimming pool one last time this summer!
  • Laundry (which has been piling up!)
  • Stop by bank and post office
  • Michael is playing a concert on Thursday night (let me know if any Atlanta locals want details!)
Link up and share your own to-do list!
If you want to join me in posting your to-do list (for the day/week/month/eternity!), all you have to do is copy one of the lil button codes below (a variety pack assortment, just for you!) and paste it with a link back here at the end of your post. (If you're reading in a reader, the code probably won't show up, so just come to the site directly to copy-and-paste.) Then just come back here and leave a comment with the direct link, so that we can all pop over and pay it a visit. Fun, right?! I hope a few of you chime in and participate. I'm looking forward to it!


Related Posts
My To-Do List from Last Week

A Lesson About Love from the Cereal Aisle

It was the in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store that I learned one of my first lessons about love that has stuck with me ever since.

We were dating long-distance and Michael was in town for the weekend. I had to run to the grocery store and, still in the get-to-know-you phase of our relationship, I asked him what kind of cereal he'd like. He pointed to the Cheerios.

"Cheerios?! Ugh. What instead?" I responded, suggesting a frosted-wheat cereal instead. I don't remember what we ended up picking in the end, except that it wasn't Cheerios. And that for the rest of the trip, I pushed the cart and Michael lagged a few steps behind, not talking.

When we left the store, I asked what was wrong with him, completely unaware of the gravity of the situation that had taken place in the cereal aisle, where cheesy cartoon characters and cheery cardboard boxes leered in the background.

"You asked what I wanted," he said, reminding me of the Cheerios.

"Yeah, but I don't like Cheerios," I told him, hoping he'd appeal to compromise.

"Well, you shouldn't ask me for my opinion if you're not going to take it."

There! That sentence, right there!
That hit me smack in the forehead. Of course, I didn't mean any disrespect by the cereal veto. I merely wanted us to get something we both liked, and Cheerios certainly was not that.

But I realized, for the first time, that if I'm going to ask him for an opinion, I must be willing to accept it. I realized what it means when I ask for his opinion and then disregard it, like it doesn't matter. Though the scenario was innocent on the surface, I now saw it in a new light, that my actions spelled out disrespect and insult.

I realized--yet again--the power of words, and even more so, the power of respecting those words. That lesson has lasted with me, and the morale leaps to life again whenever I think about asking Michael for his opinion. If I'm going to ask it, I prepare myself to accept whatever he says. So if there's an option I don't want, I have to be upfront about that rather than expect him to read my mind. Sometimes, I have to be willing to make a choice (say, to wear this blouse and not that one) with confidence, rather than indulge the desire to fish for a compliment by way of asking for an "opinion."

I've learned to think a bit more before I speak. Lest we take another trip down the cereal aisle and memory lane.

Related Posts
Words of Love: 5 Ideas from the Challenge

The Power of Words: Learning to commend rather than complain
Becoming Vulnerable: The Power of Confession


Recipes for Making Your Own Cosmetics

Having already succumbed to making my own shampoo (and still going strong, months later!), it's likely not too long before I try my hand at other beauty essentials. So when I came across this article in ReadyMade (thanks to my mom's subscription she sent me recently!), I immediately ripped it out to hold on to: "MacGyver Your Makeup."

There's a recipe for whipping up your own lip/cheek stain, eye liner, eye shadow and mascara. That's more than my daily makeup routine right there!

Caveat: I haven't tried a single one of these recipes, so I can't personally vouch for them. But I love the idea of at least trying them out and giving them a-go to see how well they do perform. Let me know if you get around to trying them before I do...

Make Your Own Lip and Cheek Stain
You'll need:
  • Raw, organic coconut oil
  • Beeswax
  • Beet root powder (available at or a beet
  • Bowl
  • Grater
  • Pot
  • Glass Jar 
1. In a bowl, spoon out 1 tsp dried beet root powder.
2. Add 1½ tbsp coconut oil and mix.
3. Grate 1½ tbsp beeswax into your oil paste and put it into an old pot (better if you don’t care about it). Heat on low, being careful not to let it burn, until melted.
4. Remove pot from heat and pour the mixture into a glass jar to cool. Once it hardens, use your finger to apply the best, easiest lip and cheek stain out there. Will last 6 months unrefrigerated.

Make Your Own Mascara
You'll need:
  • Activated charcoal capsules
  • Aloe vera
  • Mascara wand, cleaned 
1. Empty an activated charcoal capsule into a small bowl.
2. Put in ¼ tsp pure aloe vera gel and mix.
3. Using an old (but thoroughly cleaned) mascara wand, sweep it onto your lashes. Make and use (don’t store) as needed.

Make Your Own Eyeliner

You'll need:
  • Activated charcoal capsules (available at
  • Small angled-tip eyeliner brush
1. Empty the contents of an activated charcoal capsule in a dry, clean bowl.
2. For a liquid-liner look, add a few drops of water, dip in your angled-tip eyeliner brush, and sweep it neatly. If you want a more smoldering eye, put it on dry and smudge to the desirable smokiness. Make and use (don’t store) as needed.

Make Your Own Eye Shadow
You'll need:
  • Spirulina powder (available at the
  • Coconut oil (optional)
  • Round eye-shadow brush
1. Spoon ½ tsp powder into a clean, dry bowl or into your palm.
2. With shadow brush or your index finger, smear it onto your lids. For a glossier look, first apply a little coconut oil to your lids. Shadow will keep for months, but check the spirulina bottle for storage advice to be safe.
(They say that this recipe will create a naturally pigmented, "universally flattering blue-green" hue.)

Related Posts
Recipe for Making Your Own Shampoo

Why I Started Making My Own Shampoo

Garden Daydreams

Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming.

I look our window at the towering trees, lush with leaves and squirrels and my favorite cardinal darting to and fro between their limbs. I wish I could walk up to them and sit by their trunks, with a book in hand like Rory always managed in Gilmore Girls.

But these trees are deceiving. Though they stand tall and stately outside our windows, they are planted ever so out-of-place in the parking lot outside our building. There's no lounging to be had and no stretches of grass and moss like you'd be led to believe.

No, we live in the city. In an apartment. With windows that don't even open. There's no hope of bringing vegetation into this place, although, trust me, we've tried. I tried my luck at various houseplants, all of which clung for dear life for a few days, weeks, but eventually surrendered to limp leaves and shriveled stalks.

So, when I glimpse the vibrant vista out our window, I imagine our someday-yard. When I go to the fridge to pull out some spinach for a salad or slice a tomato for a sandwich, I find myself wistful for our someday-garden. I paint myself into the reverie with a green thumb and a big floppy sunhat, while I tend to the garden rows that sprout and flourish with abandon...

It's a rainbow of colors, filled with the greens of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, string beans and bunches of kitchen herbs. Reds push through with bell peppers and tomatoes. Beneath the ground, potatoes and carrots grow without much fanfare, while I walk through, admiring all the handiwork.

I try to keep these daydreams from going too wild. (No, there won't be a citrus tree. No, an apple tree takes too long. No, I've heard watermelons are pretty fickle.) I try to be careful, knowing all too well that a garden is more than just dropping seeds in the ground and singing in the rain. I know that it is difficult and often results in more sunburn and backaches than plentiful harvests.

But sometimes I can't help it. From this side of the window, the grass sure does look greener...

Related Posts

This Week's To-Do List (plus Link Up!)

Last week I asked whether you like reading these to-do lists of mine that I've been posting for the past few weeks. A few of you responded to say you do enjoy hearing them, and so I figured why not share the to-do list love? I whipped up some fun little buttons that, if you want to join along in sharing what's on your to-do list (for the day or week or month or rest of your life!), you can make your post and link up! You'll find the directions below...

In the meantime, last week was pretty productive. I finally got around to dropping our donations off at the thrift store that I've been putting off for months now. I just never looked forward to having to cross our busy street with two big bags. (And I always forgot to take them with me in the car.) But now that's checked off and there's a nice new corner wide open in our living room again!

One of my favorite items on last week's to-do list was researching ideas for Michael's birthday, which is coming up next month. I can't share those details here (obviously!), but we're making progress and I'm getting excited!

So without further ado...

  • We have some extra apples that are likely to go bad if we don't get creative, so I'm going to try making some applesauce or apple chips and see how those turn out
  • Wipe down the inside of the fridge shelves/drawers and reorganize freezer
  • Write some more book reviews I have been putting off (more for your kitchen collection!)
  • Make new batches of granola bars and bread-machine bagels (and try swapping in some wheat flour into the recipe)
  • Mop kitchen and bathroom floors
  • File away magazine clippings and recipes from my latest round of reading (I got a new box in the mail of magazines from my mom this past week!)
  • Figure out whether I want to get my hair cut and make appointment, if necessary
  • Browse through a book I got from the library, Organic Housekeeping, and see what I learn! (By the way, check that out: Amazon is selling that book for $700! Not sure why, but another reason why I love libraries!)
  • Bible reading & praying
  • Play bingo Saturday morning at the local nursing home that our church volunteers at each month!
  • Look into local blueberry picking and dairy farmer (I never got around to doing either of those last week)
  • Figure out menu and shopping list for the week (thinking this week will involve a bunch of green beans...)
Link up and share your own to-do list!
If you want to join me in posting your to-do list (for the day/week/month/eternity!), all you have to do is copy one of the lil button codes below (a variety pack assortment, just for you!) and paste it with a link back here at the end of your post. (If you're reading in a reader, the code probably won't show up, so just come to the site directly to copy-and-paste.) Then just come back here and leave a comment with the direct link, so that we can all pop over and pay it a visit. Fun, right?! I hope a few of you chime in and participate. I'm looking forward to it!


Related Posts
My To-Do List Post from Last Week


Getting to Know My Chicken Dinner

I was sitting at my kitchen table, my sleeves pushed up to the elbow, fingers covered in chicken juice and a huge knife in hand, trying to press replay on my computer without dripping any of the juice on the keyboard. 

What was I doing?! 

It all started a few months ago when I read the praises of buying a whole chicken at the grocery store instead of the prepackaged pieces. Having always bought the assortment of tenderloin pieces, I read intently as the writer talked about the merits: You can buy a whole chicken cheaper than when it's packaged individually by piece. Less chicken goes to waste, and you can use the carcass to make your own chicken stock. 

I watched a few YouTube videos of how to de-bone a whole chicken, and the chefs made it look easy: Cut. Slash. Snip. Done. They had the whole thing sliced up in minutes. 

So, I figured I'd give it a try. 

I picked up a whole chicken the next time I was at the grocery store, and took it home to discover the pastime of carving your own chicken. I watched a few more videos to make sure I knew what I was doing. With my confidence high, I cleared the kitchen table and decided to dive right in.

I soon realized that, like most things, life is never like how it's portrayed on TV (or YouTube, as the case may be). As I pushed and prodded the poor creature, memories of 9th grade biology class and frog dissection came back. I couldn't figure out where I was supposed to cut and tried to pause and rewind the video to get a better understanding. It felt like the videos were in fast-forward mode, as the chefs sliced and diced with super-human speed. It wasn't nearly as easy as they made it look. Perhaps that's why they're the professionals?

Whereas the videos took less than a minute for the adept cooks and butchers, it took me about 45 minutes of snipping and tugging and sweating (seriously) to finally get my chicken carved up, although one drumstick and both wings got mutilated in the process (not sure how).

I shoved the cuts into the fridge, and washed my hands about 5 times once I was done, slightly grossed out by the hands-on experience I just had with my dinner. (Not to mention the extra parts that rolled out from the inside of my dinner during the operation .) 

I'm all about "getting back to basics" in the kitchen and trying to learn how to do as much myself as possible. But I think with this endeavor, I was a bit over my head. I still think I'll try again in the future (probably with better instructions than a YouTube video), but when I went to the grocery store the other week, I went to the meat section and picked up my trusty old tenderloin package without a second thought.

Related Posts

The Truth About Conflict in Relationships


It seems like people are always vying to get rid of conflict in marriage. I know I, for one, would love to be done with it and live happily ever after.

Here's an interesting vantage point on that though, that has been stomach-punching food for thought for me lately: That conflict is good for a marriage. Wha?!

Of course there's a caveat...conflict is good when it's done right. Like I've mentioned already, I've been reading up on relationships quite a bit lately, now that Michael and I are a year into our wedded bliss. And I've read some interesting insights and statistics on the subject:

Why Conflict is Healthy for a Marriage
"Marriage researcher John Gottman has a fascinating theory about conflict," Tara Parker-Pope writes in For Better, a book I recently reviewed that shows what research and scientific study has to say about what makes marriages work best. "He believes a certain amount of conflict is necessary to help couples 'weed out' problems that can harm a marriage in the long run. In his own research, he discovered that the 'temporary misery' of conflict can be healthier long-term for a marriage. He checked in with couples early in their relationship, finding that peaceful couples reported more marital happiness than couples who bickered. But three years later the peaceful couples were far more likely to be headed for divorce or already divorced. The bickering couples, meanwhile, had worked out the kinks in their relationships and were more likely to be in stable relationships."

Healthy Ways to Deal with Conflict
It's not how often or what you fight about, even that matters, Parker-Pope has found according to research. It's how you fight about it that is going to bolster or burn your relationship. In fact, the first three minutes of a conflict are the most pivotal because it's here that the stage is set. Will the argument start out respectfully and gently, or harsh and full of criticism?

Couples must learn to present their problems in terms of complaints vs. criticism from the outset of the argument. Such as, "I was upset last night when I came home and the dishes were in the sink and the floor wasn't swept," vs. "Why can't you do the dishes and clean up after the kids?" Criticism places blame and can lean towards contempt, which is hugely debilitating to marriage. (Studies have also found that eye-rolling is the single most important facial expression and is "a powerful predictor that your relationship is in serious trouble," because it, too, belies contempt.)

Conflict Won’t Disappear Any Time Soon
Parker-Pope also noted that, according to studies, the conflicts that arise between couples are never resolved 70% of the time. "In one study, couples who were tracked for a decade were still fighting about the same things they had been arguing about ten years earlier."

So it makes sense that I should be reading about conflict and how to best wield it, since it's likely that it'll never fully disappear. No matter how much I wish it would!

Related Posts
Complete Review of "For Better"
The Power of Words in Marriage: 5 Ideas to Encourage Your Husband


Inviting Anne Shirley Over for Dinner. (Or, the Answer to Getting Stuff Done Around the House.)

(So, uh, I accidentally posted this a couple days ago. I tried to correct it immediately—so that I wouldn't overwhelm your blog reading too much in one day—but I think it still might have posted in some readers. My apologies for that!)

It's not so much that I minded spending almost an hour or so a day in the kitchen, between cooking and cleaning up. I think it's a worthwhile investment to take the time to see what's going into our food, to get more acquainted with cooking from scratch and to experiment with finding more ways to make our diets healthier. (And besides, I can't complain because Michael makes breakfast for us every morning!)

But at some point, it became boring. Sure, the silence offers a respite to the busy day of working and writing that lets my mind relax and contemplate all sorts of curiosities. But, sometimes, after the counters were wiped down, the dishwasher emptied and our bellies full, I'd look at the clock and wish I could have just a smidge of that time back for something more than routine chores.

And then I remembered a dear chum of mine, The Audiobook. Back before my days of working from home, I had a 30-minute (or so) commute to work and the church I attended was about 40 minutes away. Me and my car stereo got to become pretty tight during those long hauls of trying to pass the time as I drove to and fro over the Cincinnati highways. When my collection of CDs had worn thin and I gave up on trying to find something decent on the radio stations, I started listening to audiobooks during my drives.

This was the way for me to spend my drives more productively, more peacefully, more intentionally. It also was an outlet for me to make my way through some titles that I probably would never otherwise get around to reading. For whatever reason, even though my staple bedside read is nonfiction, I couldn't manage to pay attention and listen closely enough to piece together the information they were
spouting. So, fiction became my book of choice for those drives, and I listened my way through many great books, including like the Chronicles of Narnia series that I'd been wanting to read for years.

And so, the audiobook and I struck up our friendship once again. I've been listening my way through a book while I'm cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or going for a walk, and can make my way through one book in about a week. Which tickles the multitasker in me quite a bit!

Where to Download Audiobooks for Free
One of my favorite sites for sourcing books to listen to is, where you can download for free books that are in the public domain. If you're interested in catching up on any classics, this has been great. I've downloaded and listened my way through all of the Anne of Green Gables books they have available, as well as Alice in Wonderland.

I've also discovered a great many tales that I've bookmarked to come back to: The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield; Paradise Lost by John Milton; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; A Garland for Girls by Louisa May Alcott; and a slew of other L.M. Montgomery titles that I didn't know existed!

The only thing about using LibriVox is that they are recorded not by professionals in a studio like audio books you'd buy, but by everyday folk like you and me on their computer. Usually, chapters are read by different people, and sometimes there are those people's voices that are hard to understand. But, for the price of free, I'd say the benefits outweigh those negative points.

You can also try your local library. I've noticed more and more books on cd available, as well as some that offer you to download the book directly from the website, but I've not tried that yet.

Other Favorite Sites to Buy Audiobooks
If you're looking for more contemporary or hard-to-find titles, you're probably going to have to pay for them. iTunes has a whole collection of downloadable mp3 books for sale. Otherwise, you can always get the old-fashioned CD kind. has a pretty extensive collection to flit through.

Do you ever listen to audiobooks? Any titles you'd recommend?

Related Posts
10 Books I Want to Read
Read All My Book Reviews

My To-Do List for the Week

Inspired by Frugal Trenches and her weekly "Must Get Things Done Monday" list, I started posting my weekly to-do list a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying sharing it here, although I'm not sure if anyone else finds it all that compelling of reading material! (Let me know if you do; I'm kind of curious...)

I took last week off from posting my list because all that was on it was traveling: Michael and I were lucky enough to get to go on not one but two little getaways! From Monday through Thursday we were in Virginia Beach with his family (sunshine! sand! waves! dolphins, oh my!), and then spent the weekend in Chattanooga with the newlywed group from our church. Lots of fun, laughter and memories crammed into seven little days.

Needless to say, after all our jet setting, there's much to get done now. So here's what's on my to-do list—not only for today but for the whole week. (I need the flexibility of a week-long to-do list rather than just one day!)

  • Deposit paycheck at bank
  • Finish grocery shopping for the week (it's a good week of sales down here in ATL!)
  • Drop off recycling
  • Post office to mail package
  • Daily quiet time & prayer (here's the reading plan I use; right now I'm reading through Solomon building the Temple)
  • Prepare press releases and create mailing lists for work
  • Create weekly menu, incorporating new recipes and as many fruits/veggies as possible!
  • Put away laundry
  • Research gift ideas and surprises for Michael's birthday next month!
  • Come up with a list of "Favorite Posts" to feature in one of the blog sidebars
  • Update my Books Wishlist (which you can see in the right-hand sidebar of the blog)
  • Look into going blueberry picking (a friend recommended a great farm that I want to check out!)
  • Call local dairy farmer we met about buying some milk next time they're in town
  • Call our apartment office to have them fix our kitchen light
  • Drop off donations at thrift store across the street
  • Finish reading "Love and Respect" and decide what to read next 
What's on your to-do list for the week? Feel free to link up in the comments!

Related Posts
My Last To-Do List Post
Keeping a To-Do List During Quiet Times

    A Year Ago We Moved to Atlanta...

    It was a year ago today that my husband and I packed all our belongings into boxes, shoved them into a moving truck, and drove 1,000 miles to our new home in Atlanta. Even when we were strategically piling wedding presents and parcels onto the truck, we had no idea what really would await us down South. We had no idea what this new life would look like; it all was pretty much in the air. It was our first real leap of faith together as a couple.

    As most of you know, my husband and I met and dated long-distance for the first 10 months of our courtship. He had long-intended to spend his summer in Grand Rapids with me, but when we got engaged and decided to get married over the summer,
    we had a decision to make: Stay in Michigan or move to Atlanta?

    There were benefits and drawbacks to each option:

    In Michigan, I had a well-paying, full-time job with good benefits. In this economy, that is not to be taken lightly. 

    However, it would mean having to figure out an alternative for Michael finishing up college. Ultimately, our goal is that when we start our family, he will be the breadwinner so that I can stay home and raise our kids (which is the way both of us were raised and has been my heart’s desire for raising my own family). So it was very important that we not delay him finishing up his degree and getting a job, plus he was studying to be a teacher and the teaching market is pretty nonexistent in Michigan, so we guessed that eventually we’d have to move anyway for him to find a job. (Turns out the teaching market in Georgia is no better!)

    Moving to Atlanta, though, was full of question marks. Michael would be able to finish up his last year in college, uninterrupted. He had a scholarship that would cover his entire tuition, which we both consider a great perk because we want to keep our debt to a minimum--even if it is “good debt.” However, it would mean me leaving my job and us not knowing what we would do for income or how we would get by.

    Once Michael moved to Grand Rapids, we spent the first month praying about this decision until we ultimately decided to make the decision in favor of our future rather than our current circumstances: We would move to Atlanta.

    Now, at the time, as I was praying through it, I didn’t feel that we had to move to Atlanta. I really felt like God impressed upon me that both decisions were good decisions and either one would be OK. 

    However, the Atlanta decision was a greater leap of faith while staying in Grand Rapids would mostly be made out of fear of the unknown. And I don't want to live based on fear. With that on my heart, we decided in favor of moving to Atlanta.

    And I have to say it was a great decision. 

    Time after time, God has awed me with his provision and blessing during this move, from a surprisingly steady income to enough wedding money to pay for our entire move down here, and then some. 

    We continue to thank God for each day he has given us, our manna that provides us with our daily bread. Leaping into the fog of question marks has been an incredible lesson for us, and a great way to start off our marriage, if you ask me. We're still walking through those question marks, but each time we do, God always comes to the rescue and, in doing so, builds my faith more and more.

    Though we still don’t know what awaits us or how this will all work out, we continue to trust that he will be faithful to his Word and his name: Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider.

    Related Posts

    Discerning God's Will for Your Life
    Decision-Making: Out of Fear or Faith?


    No-Fail Brown Rice (Without a Rice Cooker)

    I always love the idea of eating rice and feeling healthy about it . But when it came to actually cooking it, there was always one little problem. I could never get it right. We'd sit down to eat and it would be too watery. Or too crunchy. Or too something. Michael kindly suggested we get a rice cooker to solve the cooking qualms.

    But I tried one last-ditch effort...which worked! I went to our trusty pal Google (well, actually Swagbucks), and typed in "no-fail rice recipe." And the recipe that popped up really lived up to its name. The secret is that you bake this rice. Word of warning, you bake it for about an hour, so you have to be able to plan sufficiently ahead. But it's worth it. The rice is perfectly fluffy without being sticky or soggy.

    See for yourself:

    No-Fail Brown Rice
    3/4 cups brown rice
    1 1/4 cups water
    1/2 T unsalted butter
    1/2 t kosher salt

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Place rice in an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
    In a covered saucepan, bring water, butter and salt just to a boil. Pour over rice and stir to combine. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Serves 2.)

    Related Posts
    Learning to Cook: An Art I Neglected for 26 Years
    Maple-Walnut Chicken Recipe

    What Does Science Have to Say About How to Make Your Marriage Better? A Lot.

    Whatever happened to "happily ever after"? It seems like most places you look in mainstream society, everyone is shaking their heads at the thought and advising you to take your head out of the clouds and prepare yourself for the worst. Sometimes it seems like the worst is what's expected.

    Which is why when I first read about For Better by Tara Parker-Pope, I was relieved. Even though she herself has gone through a dissolved marriage (which is what prodded her to research and write this book in the first place), she is refreshingly optimistic about the state and success of matrimony.

    Parker-Pope writes about marriage from a strictly scientific vantage point, using medical studies and research findings to probe into what makes love and marriage work. She looks at what research has to say on a variety of topics, including:
    • How marriage affects your health (married folks’ are healthier and live longer);
    • How to make conflict work for you rather than against you (and why the first three minutes of an argument matter the most)
    • The science of passion, romance and commitment
    • How children and parenting affect marriage
    • How the division of housework plays into a marriage—and what women need to learn if they want their husbands to help
    • How finances affect marriage (“debt is the number one source of marital strife for newlyweds”)
    • How researchers can tell which marriages are destined for trouble and which will last based on ten innocent questions about how the spouses met. 
    It was incredibly enlightening to read what research studies have to say on these kinds of topics, especially in areas of conflict (which I’ll share more about later; the research was fascinating regarding what makes conflict work and what doesn’t!) and childrearing. The thing that struck the most as I read through much of the research was how it makes sense. It makes sense that you don’t roll your eyes at your spouse when you’re arguing. But the statistics that support that? Wow. Eye-rolling is one of the greatest signs of contempt, and contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce. When you have research to back these kinds of things, it makes it all the more real.

    And there were so many others, such as the fact that studies have shown that merely holding her husband’s hand reduces a wife’s stress levels. Or that “Among couples who score high on marital happiness tests, a distinguishing characteristic is that they typically do not have major debt problems.” Or, since housework is one of the biggest complaints women have, that wives need to learn how to ask for their husband’s help around the house—and not micromanage or critique how he gets those things done. Or that the best way to take care of your children is to take care of your marriage.

    What I also appreciated is that Parker-Pope didn’t just drop the research on the table and then walk away, but she analyzed and translated the findings so that readers can put them to use in their own marriages. She also includes quizzes that mimic the scientific research questionnaires, making the science interactive and personal. (You can find some of these quizzes on her website.)

    While I was reading For Better, I found myself reciting many of the statistics and findings to Michael because they were so intriguing. My copy is filled with post-it notes and underlining, proving to be a nontraditional relationship book that I’ll keep on my bookshelf and doubtlessly refer to in the future.

    Find For Better by Tara Parker-Pope on Amazon. 

    Related Posts 
    Notes from Love and Respect: Insights for Wives
    This is Your Brain in Love Book Review


    A Handy Resource for Discerning God's Will for Your Life

    When I was trying to figure out whether to move to Grand Rapids or not, I sat down with the youth pastor at our church who I volunteered with (and who later introduced me and Michael and officiated our wedding). We went through why I wanted to move and I remember saying something about wanting to do God's will.

    He shared a great illustration with me about how he understands this idea of God's will: Picture God's will as a big golf-style umbrella. Though the umbrella is small compared to the storm outside, it's big enough for you to stand various places under the umbrella. And so long as you're under the umbrella, you'll be kept dry from the rain. There's not just one, single spot and if you're not standing directly under it, you'll be pelted with thunderbolts. Rather, God is merciful and gives us options of where to stand under the umbrella of "his will."

    This was the first time someone had introduced me to the concept of God's will as being one that is freeing rather than one that is confusing and condemning.

    Last winter, I read an article that I found particularly insightful. In it, the author shares basic insights into discerning God's will. He points out that much of what God cares about most, he has revealed to us in the Bible--sure he cares about what job you take, but what he cares about most is your heart and your relationship with him. The author says, "Much of God's will has already been made plain....We must be willing to do his will in those things he has already revealed, if we are to know his will in those things he has not yet made known."

    He then goes on to remind us that God usually doesn't make everything plain upfront, but leads us (often times unnoticably) as we go along. "However much we would like to know things in advance, there is no need for it. God wants us to trust him to open the right doors at the right time. And if we get to a door and it doesn't open, maybe God is asking us to wait as he has some more work to do on us first. Or maybe he is turning us in another direction," the author writes.

    He also encourages readers to remember that God has gifted us with wisdom for a reason--and expects us to use it. "If God gives us wisdom to know what is the best path to take, that is just as much his guidance as giving us some special sign. This may involve hard work in grappling with issues, seeking advice and weighing up the options; but all this is part of our growing up."

    Finally, he lists some of the things to consider as we weigh a decision with wisdom: What is God saying to me through the Bible? Do I have "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" in regards to this decision? What do other godly Christians say about this decision? Are circumstances aligning to open doors or are they pulling closed?

    (You can read the article in it's entirety here.)

    I've found these reminders especially encouraging, as I find myself looking to the future, and wondering where God will have me. What's his will for me in all this?

    Related Posts
    Are your prayers big enough?: The 'whys' and 'hows' of "praying big"
    Why I Keep Looking Back and Reminding Myself…


    Soft and Chewy Homemade Bagel Recipe

    I mentioned awhile ago, that I've been doing some experimenting with my bread machine. Well, I am happy to report that I had an astonishing bit of success making something I would have expected to be a disaster: homemade bagels!

    I'm pleased that the first batch turned out just like how you'd expect, golden and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Perfect, with a little dab of butter.

    (You might be interested to know that the trick to making them involves boiling a big pot of water and dropping the dough in there for a minute before baking them in the oven. Who knew?!)

    See? I'm learning! And feeling very encouraged, culinarily-speaking. Maybe next time I'll put on a little apron and heels to feel every bit June Cleaver-ish...

    Bread Machine Bagel Recipe
    1 cup warm water
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    2 tablespoons sugar
    3 cups bread flour
    2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
    3 quarts boiling water
    3 tablespoons white sugar
    1 tablespoon cornmeal
    1 egg white
    1. Place 1 cup of warm water, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting and press start. (By the way, here's the newest version of the bread machine I use.)
    2. When cycle is complete, let dough rest on a lightly floured surface. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of white sugar.
      Cut dough into 9 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a small ball. Flatten balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger to enlarge the hole, and to even the dough around the hole.
    3. Cover bagels with a clean cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
    4. Sprinkle a baking stone (here's the baking stone I use) or an ungreased baking sheet with cornmeal and set aside.
    5. Carefully transfer bagels to pot of boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Drain briefly on clean towel. 
    6. Once drained, arrange boiled bagels on baking stone with cornmeal. Glaze tops with egg white, and sprinkle with your choice of other toppings.
    7. Bake in preheated 375-degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden.
     P.S. If you are new to this blog, thank you so much for stopping by! You can feel free to browse all my other posts about my journey toward a lifestyle of simplicity and DIY, as well as some of the ways my husband and I are learning to save money. I also write about my faith, my marriage and everything in between, which you can explore in the archives.

    If you like this recipe, click here to pin it to Pinterest. You can also follow me on Pinterest here. 
      Related Posts
      A Love-Hate Relationship with my Bread Maker
      Misadventures in Cooking: From "Polenta" to "Placenta"


      Swagbucks 101: A Primer for Getting Started & Earning Free Prizes!

      I've had a few people ask me to share more about Swagbucks—what it is and how it works. So, I decided to compile a little "Swagbucks 101" to hopefully provide some more insight to those interested in learning how by simply switching the search engine you use, you can get free gift cards and prizes. Read on to find out how to sign up for Swagbucks for free, what kinds of prizes you can win and more!

      What is Swagbucks?
      Basically, is a new search engine, with the perk that they reward you for searching with them. Swagbucks uses Google and to generate its search results so it's not really any different if you already use either of those. Except that you can get rewarded for it!

      You sign up for an account with them, and they reward you with points as you perform your searches through Swagbucks. When you rack up enough points, you can cash them in for gift certificates or selected products. If you want to sign up, follow this link. If you do, it'll show that I referred you, and I'll get extra points for doing that!

      And I can vouch from my own personal experience that Swagbucks is 100% not a scam. I was a little weary at first of whether it was legit or not. I've been using it for more than a year now, and have accumulated thousands of points which I've redeemed for more than $100-worth of gift cards.

      (My assumption is that they earn money through advertising and rather than pocket all that money like the other search engine sites do, they pass some of that off to users in the form of Swagbucks and rewards. I'm not certain that's how it works, but that's my educated guess!) Plus, I don't receive any spam from them; the only emails they ever send are to let me know when one of my prizes is available.

      The kinds of prizes you can get
      Prizes run the gamut and it seems like they're continually expanding options. Most of the rewards I've chosen have been for gift certificates, however you can also choose from gift certificates to Starbucks, Target, iTunes, Macy's,, Red Envelope, as well as PayPal Cash.

      They also offer products as prizes, including perfumes, magazine subscriptions (including Woman's Day, Shape or Paste), DVDs, reusable water bottles, video games, school supplies, and even electronics like a turntable or flat panel tv (although, as you might guess, those last ones cost a lot more points!). 

      Do keep in mind is that when you redeem your Swagbucks for a prize, it will take about a week to fulfill your request, but that hasn't been too much of a problem for me. I normally just make sure to redeem them as soon as they add up in my account so that they're ready whenever I have the whim to do some online shopping.

      Try Swagbucks for yourself
      Type in a search in the box below, and see how easy it is for yourself:

      My experience using Swagbucks
      I originally found out about Swagbucks from a coworker in April 2009. Since then, I've cashed in more than $100-worth of rewards.

      Looking back at my rewards history, it seems pretty consistent that I've earned enough points every month to cash in for at least one $5 Amazon gift card. The $5 Amazon card is worth 450 points. I tend to get between 8 and 13 points for my searches, although not every search will result in points. And recently I got 47 points for a single search! It's usually random, but if I do a few in a row, one of them is bound to add points to my account. And make sure you definitely search on Fridays, because every Friday is Mega Swagbucks Day where they award extra points.

      Plus (and most importantly), I haven't noticed any difference in the "answers" I get from my searches. Since Swagbucks is an aggregate of and, the search results remain pretty spot on. You can also limit your search to images and news items, which I love!

      Making the most of Swagbucks
      One of the best things I did to make sure I am earning as many Swagbucks as possible, is that I changed my internet settings and set my search toolbar to automatically direct any searches through Swagbucks. (Usually in your internet browser window/toolbar, there should be a place where you can change your options. When you go in there, you can type in the address of the search engine you want your browser to use automatically. Add, and then you can search without having to open a new window for every search.)

      Swagbucks has been expanding a great deal since I joined over a year ago, adding a variety of ways to earn additional points beyond just your regular browsing. You can download their toolbar, answer surveys and polls, shop through the Swagbucks site, as well as earn points for trading in old electronics. 

      I haven't really done any of those extras; just the normal everyday search engine usage and I've still done quite well! It's been a nice way to pay for some of our little extras; I know some people who save up all their Swagbucks points and redeem them at Christmas so that they don't have to spend any money out-of-pocket on presents. I just don't have that kind of patience :)

      How to sign up for Swagbucks
      If you want to sign up, please follow this link. If you do, it'll show that I referred you, and I'll get extra points for doing that!


      Cookbook Review: The Homesteader's Kitchen

      When I was growing up, I loved reading books about life on the frontier and wondering what it must have been like to churn your own butter or go mushroom picking in the woods. There was something that always fascinated me about this do-it-yourself, homegrown spirit. Perhaps it was because all I the hunting and gathering I experienced took place in grocery-store aisles.

      Which is why when I first got my hands on The Homesteader's Kitchen by Robin Burnside, I felt that nostalgia from girlhood come back. This is the cookbook for me: A refreshing cookbook filled with more than 100 recipes that get back to the basics of cooking and baking and making foods from scratch. 

      And I don't just mean homemade pizzas or pies. That's one of the things I like best about The Homesteader's Kitchen. While those kinds of entrees and recipes are included, Burnside digs deeper and provides recipes for making even the simplest of ingredients and pantry items from scratch, down to the gravy for your turkey, breads for your sandwiches, dressings for your salads or cheese for your pasta dishes. There are recipes for making your own mayonnaise, chai tea, tortillas, vegetable stock, crackers, sushi rolls, teriyaki sauce, as well as complete meals (vegetarian, meat and fish options) and desserts. Many of these simple recipes also offer a tasty twist on a familiar favorite, like a Kiwi Vinaigarette, Thai Cilantro Pesto or Hot Carob Cocoa.

      And the recipes themselves are stocked with real and fresh ingredients. I didn't see one recipe that called for canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, for instance. The cookbook is intended to be used as a resource for making use of your garden-grown fruits and veggies. She even includes guides for edible flowers or growing your own salad sprouts! Even though we aren't able to grow our own food just yet, I love that that's the premise of the cookbook, and one that I hope to make baby steps toward in our future.

      The only drawback I do have about The Homesteader's Kitchen is that, more often than not, there aren't photos of the finished recipes, which is usually a priority for me in cookbook buying. But, the whole-food aspect and down-to-earth recipes more than makes up for that. (And, from a publishing point of view, I can only imagine how costly it can get to photograph every recipe.)

      I love being able to have this sort of variety of recipes for making everyday foods from scratch compiled into one go-to resource, and I find the idea of cooking from scratch to be freeing. I love being able to turn to my pantry and, in just a couple of hours, make my own daily bread, rather than have to run up to the grocery store. And baked into that little loaf is a labor of love and a sense of satisfaction at what my hands hath wrought. It's like stepping back in time and delivering some of those culinary basics and how-tos from generations past to the dinner table tonight.


      Mid-Summer Update on My Goals for the Year

      Last month I just didn't feel like posting an update about my 27 goals for 27. So I didn't. Did you notice? 

      Well it's okay if you didn't. I wouldn't expect you to. 

      But I still feel like it's my duty to press on and persevere with them. I can't let myself give up on the project only three months in! (If you want to see my past monthly updates, they're all linked here, as well as my original list of 27 goals for this year.)

      So here's the update, for June and July, aka my mid-summer update.

      Goal #2: Buy more locally grown food.
      While my ideal version of buying locally grown food would be from my backyard, that isn't possible right now. We've tried growing house plants in our apartment, but trees and buildings cast too much shade over all our windows, turning everything verdant to a bruisy shade of brown or purple within weeks. (At least that's what I blame it on.)

      So instead, we've tried out a couple of the farmer's markets around town. All we've ended up picking up are a box of Georgia-grown sweet potatoes (though I agree that that's better than nothing). While I like the idea of farmer's markets, I have discovered I don't actually like them in real life. You see, I prefer to go to grocery stores when the aisles are empty and I can stand around and take my time figuring out whether I want this or that, compare and contrast. Farmer's markets tend to be more of the hustle-and-bustle variety and crowded with folks, which I find overwhelming. (Am I the only one who feels this way about crowded farmer's markets?!) I also really don't like when you have to ask for a price tag. Whether it's on a card table with a picnic cloth or on the Target clearance rack, I don't like to do that and normally skip it entirely.

      That's why I really want to go to a pick-your-own farm, where (I imagine) things are at a more leisurely pace and the only fighting there is to do is between you and mother nature. To this end, I've done some research about these kinds of farms, and there are 2 within 30 miles from Atlanta that specialize in one or two crops.

      Goal #4: Get a blog layout I like (which likely translates to another goal: Learn more HTML/CSS).
      Nope, I didn't learn a lick of CSS, even though I did check a couple of books out of the library with good intentions. But I did give the blog a little facelift, as you can see. I like the bigger buttons along the side, and I added some fun "widgets," including a link to Michael's MySpace page (it's the cassette tape, on the right-hand column) and my wishlist of books to read. 

      Goal #6: Continue learning how to respect and honor my husband and strive to be: “A wife of noble character is her husband's crown.” (Proverbs 12:4)
      Oh, gosh. I feel like calling this one a "goal" is such an understatement. More like a mountain. (Though, Psalm 121 comes to mind when I think of it in this way: "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip...")

      Still, this "goal" is something I do want to always be striving toward. To this end, I've been reading two books, actually, regarding marriage. I already mentioned that I'm reading Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I read this book while Michael and I were dating and am revisiting it now, to see what I missed the first time through and what I can learn and apply and recognize. I'm also reading For Better by Tara Parker-Pope, which I will review in the coming weeks, once I'm completely finished with it. It is not a Christian book, but looks at marriage from scientific studies and research. And should we be surprised to discover that almost all of the findings seem to fall in line with biblical wisdom rather than against? I love being able to see the numbers and percentages line up right alongside God's word!

      Both books have provided insights and words of wisdom for me about how to cultivate healthy relationships and treat your spouse. Reading is one thing, but acting is another. Let's pray that God helps me bridge the chasm between what is and what ought!

      Goal #17: Have a photoshoot! 
      Yessir, we checked this one off! I wanted some more recent photos of Michael and me, now that our wedding and engagement was more than a year ago. So armed with our regular camera, a sunny day, my obliging sister and Michael's photo-editing skillz, we did our photoshoot in my parents' backyard! If you missed them, you can see all the photos here!

      Have you created any "life to-do lists"? If so, link them up in the comments section below. I'd love to read them!
      Related Posts

      Next Post Previous Post
      Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...