Friday, February 27, 2009

February 2009 Menu

I'm now nearing the end of my first monthly menu-planning test run. I loved it! It took more time at the front end but it was incredibly nice to have only minor grocery shopping to do (with my grocery lists already completed and ready for me to walk out the door) the remaining three weeks of the month. I'm definitely going to give it another try in March.

I will say that I'm already planning to have corned beef at least twice in March. I LOVE corned beef!! I can't wait!! Hooray for St. Patrick's Day! My favorite holiday! Oh ... wait ... I always say every holiday is my favorite holiday. :)

Several people asked to see my February meal plan. So here ya go.

February 2009 Menu

Week 1:
- Spaghetti, roasted vegetables
- Chicken pot pie (from freezer), homemade applesauce
- Reuben sandwiches, green salad, oven fries
- Fettucine Alfredo, Italian bread with dipping oil, Caesar salad
- Gruyere chicken, wild rice, winter squash with corn, bacon, and spinach, lemon cake

Week 2:
- Lemon ricotta pancakes, eggs with ham, melon
- Burrito pie, salad
- Beef stroganoff (from freezer), hot vegetables
- White chicken chili, mandarin almond salad, French loaf
- Chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, asparagus with orange glaze, chocolate fondue

Week 3:
- Honey and cinnamon muffins, eggs, sautéed potatoes with peppers and onions
- Meatball sandwiches, salad, cherry pie
- Chicken noodle soup with cilantro and lemon, whole wheat rolls with honey butter
- French dip, oven fries, fresh fruit
- Orechetti with turkey, pinenuts, and pesto, French bread, salad, sautéed carrots
- Chicken and dumplings with applesauce

Week 4:
- Crème brulee French toast, eggs with bacon, cheese, and onion, fresh fruit
- Potato soup, salad, white bread with cinnamon butter
- Grilled pork fajitas with adobo sauce, Spanish rice, chips and salsa
- Real Italian calzones, green salad
- Blue cheese burgers, vegetable
- Tangy turkey and Swiss sandwiches, fruit salad

Snacks, Etc.:
- Fruit bricks
- Cupcones
- Apricotties
- Surprise Shake
- Almond Maple Granola
- Apple Oatmeal

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Meredith has become very interested in sign language lately. ASL was my mom's first language and it was sweet to watch her work with Meredith a little bit during their visit. Here they are signing "M" together. Meredith loves the "Signing Time" series and is often informing me of how to sign something or another.

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Turning Green

We are now doing our small part to recycle and reduce our (what’s the phrase?) “ecological footprint” on this earth. This is the third week in a row that we have faithfully recycled every milk carton, cereal box, and Perrier bottle.

What prompted our decision to begin recycling? Was it the fact that we are convicted about this and finally decided to just do it? Was it the fact that it’s become extremely popular to be Green? Was it the fact that ALL the other neighbors are doing it, so there is positive peer pressure? Was it the fact that our new community makes it easy (and free!) to recycle? Was it the fact that Kevin installed a double trash can in our cabinet so it’s easy to set stuff aside? Or was it the combination of all these forces working together simultaneously?

Hmmmm …

Here are some “Fun Facts” about recycling, taken from the brochure that came with our recycling bin. If I wasn’t convicted about it before, I guess I should be now.

- By recycling 1 ton of paper you save: 17 trees, 6953 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution, 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space, and 4077 kilowatt hours of energy.

- Recycling all of your home’s waste newsprint, cardboard, glass, and metal can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 850 pounds.

- Each of us generates an average of 4.4 pounds of waste per day per person.

- Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours or to light one 100 watt bulb for 20 hours.

- You can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one new one.

- In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. This means that each adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash for his or her children.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sourdough, Take One

Patience is not a virtue that I naturally possess. Baking homemade bread is akin to gardening in that they both take great amounts of patience. (I haven't ventured too far into the world of gardening for this reason; but maybe someday I will.)

I think baking bread is really good for my character development, as well as my five senses. And in the end all the waiting is worth it. Nothing—absolutely nothing in this world—tastes better than fresh, homemade bread straight from the oven.

Recently I decided to expand my bread-baking horizons and attempt to make sourdough bread from scratch, with a homemade starter. This was a five day process. Three days for the starter. Overnight for the sponge. Another overnight for the first rising. And then you bake it the next day.

I have to be honest—all the waiting and anticipation ended with slight disappointment. In the end, the bread was a little too dense. I’m not giving up easily though. After just one bite, I realized that sourdough bread is worth perfecting. The bread had indescribable character and depth of flavor. Homemade sourdough has a much more rich and complex flavor than anything you would get from a bakery.

So I will begin a new starter in the next few days.

Here is an excerpt from the cookbook I used, which provoked my interest in beginning the sourdough process:

“The best way to understand the miracle of sourdough bread is to bake it regularly. This bread is a paradox. It is both simple and complex. Every loaf has just four basic ingredients yet it can taste different every time you bake it. The yeast in sourdough bread is airborne and influenced dramatically by its environment. A simple change in weather can affect it, and the same recipe will bake differently from one house to another. More than any other bread, sourdough takes on the personality of the baker. The process of making it is time-consuming but it is not labor-intensive. In other words, a good sourdough bread requires a little human intervention and a lot of time alone. Once you have successfully made the starter, you will need 3 days to produce a loaf of incomparable depth and flavor.”

Here are some pictures of my first sourdough bread attempt.



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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Fresh New Decade

My family came into town to help me ring in the new decade. We had a great time introducing them to Indiana winters! Here are a few snapshots.

Kevin stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the night before decorating the house with balloons and streamers, and wrapping presents. Sweet!

For lunch I wanted to go back to this Indian restaurant I recently discovered through our church’s mom’s-night-out group.

Here I am opening presents. We went out to dinner with family and then came back to our house for cake. Kevin got me these beautiful diamond earrings.

Sledding with Kev. Sledding is one of my most favorite things. I love it.

We had a really nice and relaxing visit with my family. It was so great to watch my parents and siblings interact with the kids. Meredith remarked, “Next time Aunt Melissa comes to Indiana I won’t let her go away anymore.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's

When asked what she wanted me to write on a friend's Valentine's Card, Meredith said, "Everybody loves somebody on Valentine's Day. I love you!! Happy Valentine. Love, Meredith"

Hope you all have a happy Valentine's Day, spent with the somebody(s) who love(s) you!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bringing the Outdoors Inside

Despite the fact that it's the dead of winter, there are still some pretty things outside--if you look very closely. Meredith and I took a walk on Saturday and enjoyed finding things to collect and bring inside our house. Here's what we found:
And bless my dear friend Heather for giving me these tulips, a wonderful reminder that Spring Is Around the Corner!!! Aren't they pretty?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Hate to see it go ...

It’s supposed to be 50 degrees over the weekend. The snow will all melt. The warmer weather will be a nice break but I will be sad to see the snow go.

Meredith has been playing heartily in the snow every day. Each afternoon I’ve been bundling her in all her snow gear. The first thing she does is take a leap (belly flop) off the porch step onto the snow covered ground, allowing her body to sink into it.

Then she plows out to the backyard to stomp around, make snow angels, eat snow, throw snow in the air, roll around, kick snow, pile snow, and generally explore the snowy territory.

Seriously!! She’s out there for like an hour each time. I often will shout out to her, “Do you want to come in?” She shakes her head and marches off to do some other fun snowy thing.

It totally cracks me up. I love seeing her enjoying herself to her heart’s content. I am amazed that the cold doesn’t bother her more. She hates being cold whenever we get into the car to go someplace. She always complains about it. But I guess she’s so distracted by the fun involved with snow-play that she doesn’t mind the chill. Yesterday she took the sled out and tried to go sledding down a very small pile of snow that had drifted next to our driveway.

I could watch her play in the snow for hours and hours and not get tired of it. We will miss you snow!!

And these snowflakes, shown taped to our fridge, were constructed by none other than Kevin and Amy last Friday night. Kevin said, “You know we’re an old married couple if this is what we do for fun on a Friday night.” Pretty sad.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Haircut Tip

When you get a bad haircut, DO NOT try to make it better by cutting your own bangs after you get home. It will only make matters worse. Trust me, I know.

And, seriously, I wonder how some people manage to earn a hair license? I told this hairstylist to give me an A-line and she gave me a very short page-boy bob. Even she realized her mistake at the end when she said, “Next time grow out the front a little more if you want more of an A-line. I wanted to say, “Hello? That’s what I came to YOU for.”

Thank goodness hair grows and I’m not stuck with it for life. Now I continue the search for the perfect (talented, visionary, artistic, listens to what you want, and reasonably priced) hairstylist. I wonder if she exists.

A New Venture: Monthly Menu Planning

This is the first month I’m trying monthly menu planning (vs. weekly menu planning). My goal is to hit up certain stores only once a month and then go to the “regular” grocery store weekly for fresh produce, dairy, bread, and other perishables. I usually stock up on meat whenever the local grocery store has good sales, so there’s always assorted meat in the freezer.

Although I think monthly menu planning will save me a lot of time, the main reason I am doing it is because I really hate going to WalMart more than I absolutely have to. In fact, Kevin encouraged me to stop going to WalMart altogether but, after a six week hiatus, I couldn’t justify the higher cost for the same food. The savings were especially huge on canned goods, cereal, etc. Maybe when we get the student loans paid off, I can celebrate and finally drive the nail in the WalMart coffin!

So, if it works like I’ve planned, I’ll only have to go to WalMart once a month. I think that’s something I can live with! I will also only go to Costco once a month under this plan.

In order to make the monthly menu planning go smoothly, I made a master menu (which is obviously subject to change, but is something I will shoot for). Then I made a master grocery list for the various stores I will go to on the “Big Monthly Shopping Day.” Then I made a sub-list for the remaining three weeks of the month, which has three short lists of the perishable groceries I will need for those weeks’ meals and kids’ snacks. Then I can add to those lists when I run out of stuff and need to make the shorter, weekly shopping trip.

Compiling these master lists took several hours and, I will confess, I was repeatedly interrupted and that was frustrating. Maybe next month I will go to Starbucks for a few hours one evening so I can focus better. But now that it’s done, I’m ecstatic that ALL of the menu planning is done for the month of February. This includes meals for two holidays (where I try to have special food), several dinners for company, and meals for when my family comes to town mid-month.

I’m really not a super-organized person. But menu planning saves me from popping a few gray hairs every day at 5 o’clock. So therefore I keep doing it.

Now we’ll have to see how this new twist works out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Full of pancakes and exhausted.

Today I had what I originally thought was a brilliant idea: “I’ll take the girls to get that free Denny’s breakfast and won’t that be so much fun. A mommy-daughter date!”

So then I found myself standing in the snow outside of Denny’s, holding the 18-month-old, and trying to convince the 3-year-old that maybe we should go across the street to McDonald’s instead. But by that point she already had it in her mind that she wanted “pancakes at a restaurant.” (It was early afternoon and McDonald’s wasn’t serving pancakes at that point.)

To my relief, we got inside the restaurant about five minutes later. But then I looked and saw that there was yet another line that wrapped up and down next to the bar. The place was a zoo. It took 45 minutes before we were finally seated.

What was I thinking? Why on earth was I participating in Denny’s Feeds America?

Oh yeah. In addition to our “free” breakfast, we ordered hot chocolate and juice for Clara. Considering that, and the fact that I gave the server a humongous tip because I felt really bad for him and he was unbelievably patient, breakfast wasn’t even all that cheap.

I left the restaurant completely exhausted, with my back hurting from holding Clara so long, and my belly full of greasy bacon and pancakes.

When will I learn not to be baited and hooked by this “free” stuff?

Kevin had this “I told you so” look on his face, and a huge smile in his eyes, when I told him what I did. I told him I was NEVER going to do something like that again.

But then, as I was walking out of the room, I mentioned, “You know, maybe it would be kind of fun if it was just me and you, with no kids, or me with a girlfriend. Then we could talk while we waited in line.”

Yes. I’ll be a sucker for life.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Amy Reconsiders Why She Stays at Home

Recently I read an excellent book called Feminine Appeal (Carolyn Mahaney), which is basically a commentary on the seven virtues of a Godly wife and mother listed in Titus 2.

This book really got my cerebral wheels spinning about the topic of staying home to raise your own children. It has completely changed my outlook on the ultimate reason why staying home to raise my own children is the best choice I could make.

The choice to leave the workforce and stay home with my kids seemed like the natural thing to do when I first did it—my mom did it for me, most of my friends were doing it or planning on doing it, and it fit nicely with my biblical worldview.

Since I quit my job to stay home, I’ve done more soul searching on the topic. Before I read Feminine Appeal, I felt like there were basically three compelling reasons for me to stay home. Despite all the sacrifices of stay-at-home-motherhood, these three reasons were ultimately purely selfish.

1) I feel like it’s the best thing for my children;

2) I feel that the quality of our home life is better; and

3) I think that, years down the road, I would regret not having been able to spend all that time and make all those memories with my young children.

You see—it’s been all about ME.

This whole time—three-and-a-half-years—I have missed the MAIN point of why I should stay home with my kids. The “grand purpose” as the book says, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is an excerpt from the book (p. 26) that really changed my way of thinking and gives me a lot of hope and renewed joy for what I am doing and the sacrifices I make for my kids every day.

Now there are many Christian women who agree with and adhere to the virtues listed in Titus 2, but are unaware of the ultimate purpose of these practical applications. These women are avid proponents of society’s need to return to “traditional values,” yet that is not what this passage is advocating. We are not commanded to love our husbands and to love our children so we can have strong, happy families like those from a previous era. To be sure, we experience enjoyable and fruitful family relationships when we follow God’s instructions. But there is a far higher call.

On the other hand, there are Christian women who reject some of these virtues because they regard them as restrictive and outdated. They single out “working at home” and “submissive to their own husbands” as purely cultural requirements that are not applicable in modern society. However, that idea is erroneous. This passage remains authoritative and relevant for women today.

The commands found in Titus 2 have been given to us for an all-important reason that transcends time and culture. That reason is the gospel of Jesus Christ. These virtues are not about our personal fulfillment or individual preference. They are required for the sake of unbelievers—so that those who are lost might come to know our Savior.

This purpose is stated in verses 5, 8, and 10. We are to love our husbands and children, pursue self-control and purity, be workers at home, kind and submissive:

that the word of God may not be reviled (v. 5)

so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (v. 8)

so that in everything [we] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (v. 10)

Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel. The world doesn’t judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior. People don’t necessarily want to know what we believe about the Bible. They want to see if what we believe makes a difference in our lives. Our actions either bring honor to God or misrepresent His truth.