October 24, 2013

Recipe: Easy Chicken Pot Pie

My husband is a picky eater and I rarely find recipes that he is excited about eating. Well, this one did the trick and it made my day!

Easy Chicken Pot Pie
Prep Time: About 30 min
Baking Time: 50 min
Serves 6-8

2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2-3 cups cooked, shredded or diced chicken
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (corn, green beans and carrots), slightly thawed
3 cups southern style cubed frozen hash browns, slightly thawed
1 can (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent roll dough
1. Cook the chicken. (I just cooked mine in a bit of olive oil and salt)
2. Start thawing 3 cups mixed veggies and 3 cups hash browns. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
3. While the chicken is cooking, mix soup, milk, sour cream, chicken stock, pepper, parsley, and thyme.
4. Shred or dice your cooked chicken, then add veggies, potatoes and chicken to the soup mixture.
5. Spoon it into a greased 9x13 casserole dish.  
6. Unroll the crescent roll dough. Use a pizza or pastry cutter to cut the dough into half inch pieces. Create a lattice look by laying the strips over the mixture. 
7. Bake uncovered for about 50 minutes until bubbly and golden. 

October 23, 2013

Seeing the Signs of Human Trafficking [2]

Last month, I wrote about how to know if your community is at risk for human trafficking. I learned that it's happening in my community, which absolutely horrifies me. Click here to read more about that.

When I attended a training recently, I learned of many ways to get involved and how to notify authorities. I'd like to share some of those with you today. The information I am providing was presented by Women At Risk International, during the Civilian First Responder Training that I attended.

How To Report Human Trafficking and Abuse:

  • If you suspect a case of human trafficking, call the national toll-free Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888.
  • If you suspect sexually abused or exploited minors call The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST
  • You can also call Women At Risk International: 1-877-END-SLAVERY.  
  • Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE

Helpful Websites: 

Here's a little of what you might learn at a Civilian First Responder Training:

Keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to report something that doesn't look right. You could be that one person who sees the unseen.

October 22, 2013

Why I Choose A Relationship Over Religion

Yep. I said it. I loathe stuffy, judgmental religion.

Religion says that I have to do certain things or act a certain way to gain the approval of God and other religious people. I can only have fun when doing [these things] but it's just plain wrong to do [these things]. You fill in the blanks. Here are some that I've come across over my years of meeting many religious people:

  • You can have fun swimming, but only if you wear a one-piece swimming suit.
  • You can listen to music, but only certain genres.
  • You must wear shorts that cover your knees.
  • You can use swear words, just not around your church friends.
  • You can get drunk, just make sure to be at church and pay your tithe.
  • You can "court", but "dating" is for heathens.  
And this list could go on and on.

It's stuffy.

It's hypocritical.

It's far from having a relationship with Jesus.

I choose to have a relationship with Jesus. I communicate with Him through prayer and His Word. He speaks to my heart, guides my paths, and takes care of me in ways I could have never imagined. He has restored me more times than I can count. You see, I don't pray to a statue or a dead man. That sounds pointless and silly. I pray to a living God who actually answers my prayers (although not always in the way I would prefer...but that's another topic entirely).

Jesus accepts us as we are. He loves me. Period.  He can look right into my heart and know where I have sinned when nobody else has a clue. He also knows that what some religious folks label as "sinful" is actually not sinful at all because He knows my heart.

Sin starts in the heart and shows itself through actions. Sometimes I sin in areas where others have no trouble, and I avoid doing certain things for the preservation of my own soul and relationship with Christ. I don't swear because it feels (and sounds) like the opposite of love, joy and peace. I try to follow God's laws and listen to the convictions that He places on my heart, rather than just following the church crowd's behavior. Of course I fail. But I try.

There are many verses in the Bible that guide us toward living a life for the Lord. There are verses about how men and women should behave, alcohol use, fellowship, and sin. There are verses about pride, envy, murder, theft, and adultery. There are  verses about lying, cheating, paying taxes, and loving money. Did you realize that it's possible to follow these rules and miss out entirely on a relationship with Jesus?

Isn't that religion by definition? Religious rules are a prison. A relationship with Jesus means FREEDOM.

Rather than worrying about the rules, I focus on drawing closer to God. Once I admitted my sinful nature and recognized that I am nothing and going nowhere without Jesus, I asked Him to dwell in my heart. I surrendered my life to Him. I asked God for forgiveness of my sins. I gave Him all of me. Ever since, He has been there with me. I am never alone, never hopeless, never forsaken. I am forgiven, loved, and made new. That, my friends, is a gift of grace than no man could ever give. There is nothing I can do to earn it. Only God can work in my heart this way.

He can work in your life, too. All you have to do is ask. It will change your world in ways that you'd never dreamed. It won't be easy all the time. In fact, you're guaranteed hardships. But...Jesus will be there to walk with you through it. You'll never be alone again. And at the end of this hard life, you'll see Him there at Heaven's gate, welcoming you HOME.

October 21, 2013

Shopping For The Perfect Drapes

If you're like me, you want your home to feel custom but you don't want to spend a lot of money and you probably don't have a lot of time to shop around. Curtains are an easy way to add a custom feel and character to any room. Sure, you can buy generic curtains from any home store or you could be really adventurous and create your own. I fall somewhere in the middle. I love a custom look but I'm not a seamstress, so I opt to order them.

I love this company: Country Curtains. They will send swatches free of charge. They have many styles, patterns, and price points (but they tend to cater to a more traditional style). I think they are higher quality than you would find at your local home store. The best thing  is that you can have the samples (swatches) delivered to your door and all you have to do is choose the right one, measure, and place your order.  It's great to be able to feel the texture and quality of the different fabrics before placing an order. Being a busy mom now, I love the option of shopping like this without having to step foot in a store.

You can also order extra fabric if you're being really adventurous and want to have custom pillows or upholstery done to coordinate with your drapery. Lots of fun options!

I'm working on a project now and ordered a bunch of fabric samples, some of which you can see here:

All of my favorite samples went home with the homeowner so she could try them out in the space, but it won't be long before we're all done and I'll share the finished product!

Don't be afraid to play with fabrics and patterns and colors on your windows. It's not hard to find a custom look- just try a company that offers free fabric samples and extra fabric by the yard to get the ball rolling.

Happy Decorating!

October 14, 2013

Forgetting Labor Pain

They say you forget all about the pain of childbirth when you hold your newborn. This was not the case for me. I must be a wimp because I remembered it vividly for at least six months. When my precious boy was around a year old, I remembered it, but a little less vividly. I remembered it enough to know that I didn't want to go through it again any time soon.

And now, several months after that, I'm finally starting to forget about it. I was beginning to think that I might never forget, that I might never be "ready" to have another child. This morning I realized that thinking about childbirth didn't automatically cause me to relive the pain. I mean, I remember that it wasn't pleasant but I can't actually remember the specific pains. Weird.

Here's what I do remember: being completely exhausted and really, really swollen. Somehow, pain is not part of the equation anymore. And somehow, childbirth doesn't seem nearly as difficult as I used to remember.

Does this mean that I might be ready to have another baby?


I still remember vividly how hard it is to function on 3 hours of sleep.

Nope. Not yet.

I'm treasuring these days with my only child, these days where I can give him my undivided attention. Honestly, I still feel like I'm learning so much about being a mom. And we are settling into a routine, getting long, restful nights of sleep, and starting to enjoy getting out and about with other little ones his age.  It's a wonderful time and I don't feel the least bit bad about admitting it! :-)

October 12, 2013

4 Totally False Myths About Baby Boys

I suppose it's natural that many women dream of dressing their real life babies up in frills and dresses, putting bows in their hair, and finding matching shoes for every outfit, even if they will only fit for a few weeks. I was one of those.

When we found out that we were having a baby, I suddenly didn't care whether "it" was a girl or boy; I just prayed for a healthy little one.

And then we found out that we were having our precious baby boy and I realized that I had let myself believe some really silly myths. Let me save you some trouble and debunk these myths for good.

1. Baby boys aren't as fun to shop for as girls.  I'm naturally drawn to pink, floral, and frills. I'm not naturally drawn to blues, trucks, and dinosaurs...at least not until I had a boy. As it turns out, shopping for my boy is totally fun. I love to dress him up in preppy little boy clothes. His feet grow so fast that I get to buy him new shoes frequently...and I buy them to match his preppy little outfits. I absolutely LOVE looking for new toys that he will enjoy. It's actually hard for me to walk away from a store without all the fun things that I want to spoil him with.

2. Girls are sweeter than boys. I have no idea where this myth came from, but I see it emphasized often, especially with stuff that says, "Boys: a noise with dirt on it" or "Sugar and spice, that's what little girls are made of. Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of". Some people may think it's cute, but I think these little sayings give little boys a bad wrap. My little boy is precious. For the first year of his life, I rocked him to sleep every night because that's how he wanted to fall asleep. He loves it when I give him kisses, read him stories, put extra bubbles in his bath, and take him to see animals of any kind. He is noisy, but he is so cheerfully noisy that I love it. And we are learning that he actually doesn't like being dirty. Playing in dirt: yes. Having dirt on him: no. Boys are incredibly tenderhearted.  You can make them feel on top of the world or deeply hurt. Boys are just as sweet as girls, maybe even sweeter. They are different, but equally precious.

3. Boys are always wild and crazy. Ok, boys can be wild. Boys are wonderfully energetic (which can be exhausting, there is no hiding that fact), but they are also calm. For example, my precious boy is calm and cuddly and as sweet as he can be when he wakes up in the morning. He loves to get a few big hugs and then plays quietly for about half an hour. He is quiet and calm when he is eating (and he eats a lot), when he naps, when he wakes up from a nap, in the bath, when I read to him (and I read to him a lot). He is energetic but I think that his lack of fear is more exhausting. I'm always watching him closely because I know that he will attempt things without thinking for a second of the dangers that await, like plunging over the back of the couch head first. Sometimes I think we confuse boys' lack of fear with wildness. It's a learning process for moms everywhere. :-)

4. Baby boys will pee all over you when you change their diaper. Maybe this is true for some moms, but it's not been true for me at all. He's gotten me twice, maybe three times, and it's been well over a year now that I've been changing his diapers...thousands of diapers. Seriously, it's not anything to worry about.  I don't even know why people make such a fuss!

So if you are nervous about having a little boy, or if you are just finding out that you will be blessed with a precious little man, have no fear!  Boys are wonderful. You are blessed.

Check here for a great resource on parenting boys.

October 7, 2013

Easy Fall Centerpiece

Remember this photo?
See more fall decorating here.

I have been searching for just the right arrangement for this little pumpkin basket...and I found it this weekend!

I found the flower arrangement at Target, complete with a pretty mercury-glass-looking vase for a fairly reasonable price. The best part is that it fits perfectly and it's just the right amount of orange, green, and red to make the pumpkin basket "pop".

Happy Fall!

October 6, 2013

Fun Find: Antique Vanity Tray

One Saturday morning, my husband and I decided to take our little family out to explore our town. We happened to find some adorable antique shops (which I love hunting through). And I happened upon this little vanity tray for just $10. Obviously, I had to take it home.

 So now I have a great little place to set my earrings and do-dads without cluttering the bathroom counter too much.

Definitely a fun find! :-)

Have a great day!

October 4, 2013

Fall Decorating!

Well, I figured it must be time to break out the fall decorations when I went shopping and saw all of the Christmas displays in full glory. Thus, fall has arrived at our house. I've inadvertently started a little theme with pumpkins and sunflowers, and of course, berries!

I think it's more fun decorating for the seasons with a little one in the house. New colors and textures all around! He loves it.

Fall wreath on the front door
Tutorial here.

 Who says wreaths can't be inside, too?

 I love this centerpiece. It just doesn't get old.

This new pumpkin basket needs something more, 
but I haven't figured out exactly what to put in there...yet. 

 A little splash of color on the mantle. 

I love these new lamps! Decorating this table was more fun this year. 
Finally, it seems to make sense.

I found little, fall thingymabobs at Target in the dollar bins. Score!

It's easy to change the stems in this basket to fit the season.

And we're ready for Trick-or-Treaters! The candy will NOT be opened until the 31st!
At least that's the plan...but it wouldn't hurt to have just one little bite, right? ;-)

Happy Fall!

October 1, 2013

Parenting: Discipline

Click here to get the book for yourself.
It's pretty much official. We have a toddler. Honestly, I am loving the toddler phase for many reasons. He's more independent, he's developing a sense of humor, he is sleeping through the night, he is learning so much every single day, and he is starting to talk! I love it!

But there is one thing about this stage that is especially difficult...the temper tantrums. We (the newbie parents) are still learning how to deal with them. Thank goodness for our own parents who have been through these stages before and can help us figure them out!

My mom gave us a great book about learning to discipline in a Biblical way. There is one thing that we read that was particularly helpful to me.  So simple, yet so important. It's exactly the way I will explain our rules to our son.
Ready for it?

It'll go something like this:

"Son, I didn't make up right and wrong. God did. He gave us rules to follow. You have to obey them and I do, too."

So simple!  I didn't create right and wrong, but I will help my child follow God's laws. It's my God-given responsibility as a parent. Rules in our house will have an eternal and Biblical perspective. For example: no hitting is a rule in our house, but we have that rule because of God's word:

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

As I grow as a parent and encounter many instances where I have an obligation to discipline, I hope that I can continually explain why we have certain rules to my son. It will require me to be well versed in what the Bible says. It will challenge me to live according to God's laws in a much more conscious way.

Hopefully it won't create an authoritarian atmosphere, since God is the ultimate authority and our sweet boy will witness his parents submitting to God regularly. Hopefully it will help our son to understand God's rules are meant for our protection. Hopefully he will learn God's character and love in a way that will eventually lead to the most important decision of all: accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Have a great day!