Monday, October 28, 2013

Jesse Tree

I join things.

You know "groups" "challenges" "aerobics classes" and the such.

It commits me.

And Besides, as Donald Miller says, "Shared experiences feel more meaningful."
And all that jazz.

My friend Rebecca started a Jesse Tree group.

An advent celebration that involves 25 Christmas ornaments that correspond to Bible Stories.

I imagined this might be fun for Eli.

25 women in our group.

Each woman commits to make 25 of the SAME ornament and then we meet at an exchange and leave with a whole set!


I decided to sign up for 2 spots.  I wanted a set for Eli and a set to give to my little sister's girls.

I choose -- as I'm sure others did as well -- my ornaments based on how easy they looked.

I choose...

And this...

And...last night I started on the grapes.

Truthfully, I should have gone with something like this...

But it felt like cheating.  Like I wasn't pulling my weight.  (Although, I wouldn't mind be given one that looked like that.)

Of course, I couldn't find a package of multi purple colored pom poms, so I had to go with a single color.  

There was also (probably) a better route than hot glue.  But....

Well, they will still need some beads -- or sequences -- or SOMETHING to cover up the hot glue.  

I hope that the women in the group believe that I am, indeed, ACTUALLY taking this seriously.  It's just, painting things isn't the same as being crafty.  And, well, why on earth didn't I think to just paint the grapes?

I've already given the ladies a speech about how the exchange MUST be a no judgement zone.  Selah.

My next project...

And, well, before I started to actually make the things, I imagined displaying them like this...

Now, maybe more like this....

Or something...

Tis the Season!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Warning:  There is absolutely no wisdom to be found in this blog whatsoever.  There are no points.  IF you require well thought out, nuggets of truth, I have none.  You may want to turn around now.

Recently, I got into my VERY FIRST Facebook fight.  

I'm not proud of it.

In fact, despite the host of instant messages I received from friends the next day stating "I'm so sorry I missed that!"  - I would place it among one of the most absurd things I've done to date.  And, well, those who've known me longest will know that says a lot.  I've done some absurd things.  My desire to protect the underdog aside, it was still lame.

When two people argue on Facebook, the bystanders can fall into one of three categories (I'd love to know if you think there are more).

Remember, I say this with humor's just my opinion...

Category 1
You are among those in Category 1 if you are generally not given to internet intimidation are delighted to join in the argument.  You can't even help yourself really!  With glee and an OH GOODY attitude you jump in with both feet to the defense of whichever party you deem most worthy.  If you have the time, you'll stay in the fight to the bitter end.  And, when your head hits the pillow at night, you'll feel satisfied, like it was time well spent.  I admit to doing this on some of your threads when I didn't know the person you were arguing with.  :)

Category 2
You are among those in Category 2 if you ARE opinionated in real life, however, for some reason, you suffer from internet intimidation. You tread lightly.  But, you do tread.  You attempt to diffuse the situation by making light.  A funny comment.  Maybe it contains an element of truth, but not what you're really thinking.  You passive aggressive people know who you are.  I respect you.  Because, well, I am you.

Category 3
You are among those in Category 3, if you'd never even THINK about commenting.  It's your worst nightmare.  So, you remain a looker...a lurker.  You read the fight but you wouldn't DARE comment.  You shake your head and wonder why people even bother having impassioned conversation via the internet when sarcasm font hasn't even been invented yet.  You feel these conversations are best done in person (if had at all) because then people can really "hear your heart". Bless you.  You may prove to be the wisest of us all...

I made someone mad.

I'd like to say that I didn't mean too.  But truth be told, I knew she'd be annoyed with any "disagreeable" statement I made and well, I shamelessly plunged ahead laying my thoughts right on out there.  People, that's what's commonly referred too as "picking a fight".

A friend messaged me afterwards:

"Right when I wanted to comment on your controversial post, you delete it!  That normally doesn't happen on your wall!"

My friend is category 1.

I admit to her, "It does happen in my real life though."

I'm category 2.

When my head hit my pillow that night, I told myself I wouldn't think about it.  The other person would get over it.

But, when I woke up at 4am, I was thinking about it.

I lay there listening to Billy's strong heart beating, and I prayed...

My conversation with God went something like this...

I choose to forgive.
I don't want to ruminate about this in my head.
She's been hurt by life.
She'll get over it.  Or...maybe she won't.
I choose to forgive.
I'm naive when it comes to people.  Naivety is bad.  Or, is it good?
Why do things like this surprise me?  Shock me even?
I don't want to over exaggerate this, make a lot of statements that aren't true.
I choose to forgive.

About this time, a thought popped into my head.  A statement that's come out of my mouth a million times.  And, I will admit to the world, I believe it to be true.


For my non church going friends, I will try to limit my churchy vocab, but I need to explain this in particular to you.  I believe that along side my own mind, will and emotions, the Spirit of God lives within me.  I believe I am able, at times, to sense His leading, His voice.

In that moment, I understood the following more clearly...

In the above statement, I, Shanna Touchton Ramsdell, am a part of "All People."


We have all experienced hurt.
We, all broken, working through something.
All having to over come something.
All, our natural tendency is to judge quickly.
We all feel entitled, if to nothing more than our rightful opinion.

My father was a Southern Baptist Pastor.  When it came to being Southern Baptist, I "married out" so to speak.  Once, after visiting our NOT SOUTHERN BAPTIST church, my dad felt the need to comment, "Charismatic people feel like they are better because they believe in speaking in tongues."  

I nodded to my father agreement.  Then I said, "Baptists feel like they are better because they don't believe in speaking in tongues."

He considered.  Then, he nodded in agreement.

People are essentially the same.

You are right because you homeschool.
Ironically, your neighbor feels right because they do not.

You are right because you'd NEVER allow your kids to Trick or Treat.
Ironically, your neighbor feels right because they do (and on top of that they feel
 sorry for your kids).

You feel right because you eat healthy.  You'd never let a Krispie Kreme doughnut touch your gut.
Billy feels right because well, KK is where "dreams come true and the magic happens."  He speculates he's happier than you are.

You are right because you hate Joel Osteen.  He could not POSSIBLY be making ANY contribution to the Body of Christ.  You dislike him, because you read that one article on Facebook by John Piper.  Or wait, there was also that other article that  you "shared".  The one where Joel "infers" "indirectly".  And, besides John Piper sits closest to your side of the denominational line, so God obviously sides with him too.  After all, your side has the right hand on Biblical doctrine.

It's ok.  I get you.  I really do.  


Shanna, have you ever read any of his writings?  No.  Have you ever sat under his teaching, consistently for ANY amount of time.  No.  Care to know anymore about him?  No.  Already decided he has contributed NOTHING to the church and that NO ONE could POSSIBLY be legitimately walking with God under his ministry? Yup.  Already decided that his purpose is to stir up dissension among the very people he desires to lead?  Absolutely, I have.   

All people are essentially the same.

You hate Obama.
I hate my HOA.

You say your soapbox simply shows your "concern about America AND about the church."

I say if you're so concerned, why aren't you out serving, showing love to the marginalized in our society, like welfare recipients.  Why aren't you adopting?  Oh wait, ADOPTION, that's my soapbox.

I realize I have opened a door for concerned emails about absolute truth and common sense, about all that's right about your particular brand of rightness...and maybe I deserve that or maybe I'll delete it.  (Truthfully, I am up in the air).

As I drifted back to sleep that mind trailed even further...

Maybe we care about being right so much, because when we are, we also get to feel righteous.  And that is an easy righteousness to obtain.  We can be right and feel righteous and not really have to sacrifice anything. 

Humility, hearing others, inviting others to speak, being quiet, NOT sharing an opinion, saying we are sorry, cooperating with someone, forgiving, staying friends, giving up something -- even if it's only -- especially if it's only -- our entitlement to our own rightful opinion...well...that's hard stuff.  These things cost and they hurt.

Being right means we get to stay in control.  Asking for forgiveness puts our situation, our hearts, our feelings in someone else's control.

I'm not good at that.  You?

As I acknowledged the wrongful rightness in my own heart that evening to a loving, kind, generous God, I wondered...

If we now "see through a glass dimly lit" (1 Cor 13.12), then just maybe there is some rightness to leaving some blank space.  Blank space where others can talk, and we can listen.  And whether we agree or not, we can trust God with the blank space -- for without God's grace AND THE GRACE OF OTHERS -- things do not go well for matter what my opinion is. 

My relationship with God is one of a truly, TRULY rescued person.  I mean truly.   I'll say it again for good measure, T.R.U.L.Y. rescued.  And, I haven't forgotten it these past 20 plus years. 

I was invited to leave a lifestyle of mire and nastiness.  I have not forgotten loneliness, sadness, anger.

I heard a message of Heaven and Hell all my life.  But it was God's kindness that drew me in.

Encouraged, blessed, and made joyful and grown up -- when I had been so angry and so sad.  A heart that is constantly being offered healing, and a mind that was more than ready to welcome a Great peace.  Did it cost me something?  Only my heart knows the depths of what it has cost.  Billy and I could write a book on suffering.  But, we navigate two truths, that whereas we have suffered, we have also experienced, lived a Good News.  Blessed more and more in every realm in a rich way.  Much blessing...

Billy told me the next morning, "Shanna, you are living a good story."  What a great, ridiculas joy to be able even to live a good story!

I am thankful for my family, my friends from my church and my community, for the people who come to this blog weekly for God knows what...thankful that you walk with me.  That you are interested in this story or The Story, humbles me.

Until next time, when I'm sure to have figured it all out...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What's for Dinner?

This past week, was a great one.

It was Fall Break here in Colorado.

For my Florida family, "Fall Break" is exactly like "Spring Break" except it's in the Fall.

Trees everywhere are yellow, orange and red.  Pike's Peak is covered with snow.  We've reluctantly packed up our flip flops, and to soothe the loss of summer, we've busted out the hot cocoa and turned on the gas fire place.

Last week I worked less.  Wore my fuzzy socks more.  Read.  Wrote.  Cooked.

In keeping with my current tradition of "Once a Week Cooking" --

For dinner, this week, I made the following menu on Sunday afternoon:

Pot Roast, with Hashbrown Casserole and Green Beans
Chicken Noodle Soup
Fettuccine Alfredo, with Caesar Salad

Pictured here just like I'll store it in fridge.

When asked "What's for dinner"?  I answer, "Mexican, Italian, Soup or Pot Roast.  
Help yourself."  They love me.

The Fettuccine Alfredo, salad and garlic bread were left over from Victoria's birthday party.

The Hashbrown Casserole left over from last week too.

So, today, getting a week's worth of meals together involved cooking a LARGE pan of lean hamburger with taco seasoning and prepping the veggies, putting a roast in the crockpot that cooks on low through the night, sauteing the green beans I froze last week,  and adding left over roasted chicken to Bear Creek's Chicken Noodle Soup Mix (we haven't been crazy about ANY other flavor, but THIS one is really good).

And, in an hour and a half, meals for the week!

Including a few items, single packaged for me -- like greek yogurt with frozen fruit!

As well as the ingredients to make my current favorite lunch:

2 oz roasted chicken (with various seasonings)
Grated Cheese
Roasted Peppers
Diced Onion and Tomato
Sliced Avocado and Spinach
1 T salsa
1 T fat free sour cream

Flavor in a bowl I tell ya!

So, here's to no more cooking this week!

Be blessed!

And, Victoria, makes 4 TEENAGERS...

This past week, Victoria turned 13.

I'd post more baby pictures, but I honestly can't find any.

I now have 4 teenagers.

But, I find that ALOT easier than a newborn, 1 year old, 4 year old and 5 year old.

When Liz went to Kindergarten, I still had Hosanna, Ben and Victoria at home.

Fourth born in our family.  Only 13 months behind her brother.

Enough said.

To say I remember much of the pregnancy or her birth or even her baby years -- would be a lie I couldn't make seem believable.

During the 9 months of my pregnancy, my father died, my sister got married (and 4 of us were in the wedding), Billy had a job change, and my family at large had a small nervous breakdown...

The day I went into labor, home with a 1, 4, and 5 year old, I didn't call a single person.  B came home from work around 9 pm to find me playing solitaire on the computer.  By the time I said I needed to go to the hospital, we thought she might be born in the car.

We didn't even have a name picked out.

Significant.  We took naming our children seriously.

The day after she arrived, I was on a quest to figure something out for "Baby Girl Ramsdell".  I asked EVERY doctor, nurse and orderly who came into my room, "What's your name?  What's your mothers name?  What's her middle name?"

Victoria Anne.  

"Victory comes Easily" for her as she is "Highly Favored of God."

And, she had a voice right from the start.

We like to make 13 a special year.  An affirming year.

They aren't children anymore.

And, really, Victoria's long since not been a child.


I believe in speaking to my children prophetically.

I speak to them in LOTS of ways actually...

But there are moments that I know I am speaking a truth to them, about them, that comes from such a place within me that I know that I know that I know --My voice is simply in agreement with Heaven.

It's not always a scripture.  It's mostly not scripture.

It's not always deep.

It's not a mommy voice.  

It's not encouragement.  

It's more than that.

Text from College kid, "I have a job interview.  I am nervous to meet the people and their kids.  I hope they hire me."

Text response, "You are naturally likable.  You have good interpersonal intelligence.  You are anointed, strong and favored.  You know what it feels like to interview for a job and get it.  You know what it feels like to win over clients and maintain them.  They will love you."

That wasn't me being encouraging.

It is agreeing with The Truth about College Kid.


At other times it goes like this...

Mom, "Son, you need to write the problems out."

Kid works problems in his head.

Mom, "You missed 10 out of 20.  You need to write the problems out."

Kid works problems in his head.

Mom, "Now, you missed 15 out of 20.  There are too many steps.  You can't work them in your head.  Write them out."

Kid works problems in his head.

Mom, astonished, "Now they are all wrong."

Kid, "Mom!  It's your teaching!  You are stressing me out!".

Mom, "No.  Your stubbornness is stressing you out.  Your problem is NOT math, and it's NOT me.  Your problem is that you are not a man under authority.  If you would submit, and write the problems out -- all of a sudden -- you'd find I'm a better teacher and you're better at math!"


For Victoria's birthday, I had some very specific things on my mind.

I wanted to speak words from the Bible that we have literally prayed over her since before she was born.  I knew we talked a lot about these words, even singing them to her in song when she was little -- but honestly -- I couldn't remember a time RECENTLY I had talked about these things with her.

These were the words, ancient words, I spoke...

Isaiah 62:1-5
For Zion’s sake you were not created to keep silent,
    for Jerusalem’s sake you will not remain quiet,
till Christ’s vindication shines out like the dawn,
    and his salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see this vindication,
    and all will see God’s glory;
God calls you by a new name
    that his mouth bestows on you.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called God’s Delight,

   for the Lord will take delight in you,
  As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on you,
    because the Lord has anointed you
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent you to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release prisoners from darkness.
He has sent you to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve —
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
You will be called an oak of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
You will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
you will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
You will be called a priest of the Lord,
    you will be named a minister of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

This morning, I missed church.  Billy would be gone all day and I had an early afternoon piano recital to prepare for.  As I listened online and prayed these Words began to resonate strongly in my spirit, "The plan God has for you IS moving towards you.  Have faith."  I knew this was not just for me -- but for my family.  I sent a text to my husband and children...

"What God has for you, for us, IS coming towards you.  Have faith today."

God still speaks.  And, if you believe His Spirit resides within you, you hear Him.

Speak the things deep from your heart.  Speak them out loud so your child's ears can hear.  Then, when a little time passes, speak them again!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm Wide Awake...

95 days.

I will turn 40 years old in 95 days.

I feel pretty good about it, honestly.

Maybe that's my 78 lb weight loss talking? (On that note, I feel good about a lot of things.)

Maybe it's how much I've been enjoying my marriage lately?

Maybe it's the FABULOUS young adults my kids are turning out to be?

Maybe it's that I've learned more in the past year about being thankful?

(I am absolutely sure that has a lot to do with it.)

Maybe it's the hope I feel concerning our business and our ministry -- and all it could turn out to be?

Or, maybe my senile mind is just kicking in.

Turning 30 seemed really weird.

I imagined my parents to be 30 -- when in reality they were approaching 50.

40 just seems like I've arrived some place significant.  Like I'm due some respect now.  ;)

For my birthday, I am asking my family to each do 40 Random Acts of Kindness and to keep a list of things that they do.

On or near January 17th, 2014, we will make time to get together and read our lists.

I've got my own Pay It Forward 40 List to pull off.  And, it's ambitious.  In order to pull it off, I'll be working hard over the next 3 months.

Check back with me and I promise to keep you up to date!

Here's to turning 40!

Many blessings,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grocery Shopping 101 {and other REALLY boring things}

Alright, here's the deal.

You've heard me say it before.

Martha Stewart is boring.

Whereas her aesthetic can't be beat, no one, NO ONE really wants to read Omelettes 101 or an article tracing the history of Brooms.

Besides, there's pinterest.

So, if you are prone to boredom when reading about VERY mundane, domestic things.  Turn back now.

This is your warning.

Here comes the mundane.

Truth is, we aren't 19 Kids and Counting.

We're just a simple family of 7, with some specific dietary needs, trying to be healthier, who stays on a budget with coupons, tries to do only 1 large shopping trip a month, hosts various families and groups of people each month, birthday parties, packs our lunch, seldom goes out to dinner, and has absolutely, positively no time during the week to cook anything.  Ever.

Really, it's not that complex.

First, let's all agree that a shopping/cooking plan for any family has to be organic.  No, I don't mean grown without pesticide (although that is a good thing).  I mean your plan has to be real - living and breathing - able to change from time to time too meet your families needs.  The plan serves you, you don't serve the plan.

Repeat that often and you'll have a happier life.

Currently, my plan involves cooking 3 LARGE meals a week, on the weekend, and having those meals in the fridge at my families beck and call.  I do not cook during the week.  At all.  Ever.

It's not that I HATE cooking.  It's more, rather, that I loathe it.

Actually, that's not it at all.

I hate cooking when I feel like I HAVE to cook.  Don't get me wrong.  It's right that I take care of my family -- and that THEY are my highest priority.  But, Billy and I are both able to play the "Get up and do it because you are responsible for it regardless of how you feel " card until we've literally sucked all of the joy out and life feels like there's nothing left but work, work, work.

3 years ago, I wrote this into my journal in reaction to the phrase MY LIFE:

"Always striving.  Always working.  Always responsibility."

At the moment, that was reality pouring from my EXHAUSTED heart.  I needed more joy.  More enjoyment.  More whimsy.  More of what I LOVED to do built into my weeks.  I am glad to say, I (ironically) worked hard at it -- and accomplished that goal.  These days, I protect that part of my life.  You'd be hard pressed to get me over committed.  But, that's kinda deep.  And, this blog is about how I go to the grocery store and cook food.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz


Soooooo, inorder to accomplish my goal (which essentially to feed my large family by cooking no more than 4 days a month -- and grocery shopping only once), I plan (1) LARGE shopping trip at the beginning of the month.  The kind of trip I can't do alone.  I need AT LEAST one other family member with me to push a second buggy.  As you can imagine, my peeps FIGHT over who gets to go with me.  No, they don't.  But it's most often Billy, Victoria or Hosanna (in that order).  My other three should feel no guilt that they aren't mentioned.

Beyond that, I will check the couponing website once a week (Unless I get too busy or just don't want too BECAUSE THE COUPONS SERVE ME, I DON'T SERVE THE COUPONS) and plan to ONLY go to the store if there is some deal I can't pass up, and to replenish our produce.  BTW, we EASILY go through 30 apples, a bunch of bananas, a few pounds of grapes, a watermelon, a bushel of fresh green beans, a container of baby peppers, a head of lettuce, a box of baby spinach, a tomato and at least 3 packages of frozen veggies a week.  Selah.

And, this is a plan I can live with.  At the moment.

This whole (2) day endeavor starts with a quick inventory of my fridge and pantry.  I want to use up what we have.

Then, I sit down with my computer to build my lists.

While at my computer, I have readily available to me my cookbooks, my calendar, my pinterest account, the "We need this next time we buy groceries List" from the side of the fridge and my brain filled with things I've tried, want to try, blah, blah, blah.

And, if that's not enough, I yell out things like, "Ben, what do you want to eat for dinner?"  And, "Really Billy, I need more to go on than mac-n-cheese!"

Now I'm boring myself.

Trudging on...

For October, my meals list ended up looking like this....

1.  Ribs,  BBQ beans, scalloped potatoes*
2.  Spaghetti, garlic bread
3.  Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops, Asparagus
4.  Cheeseburger Soup
5.  Tacos
6.  Chili
7.  Chicken Cor Don Blue, mashed potatoes, green beans
8.  Steaks, red potatoes, salad
9.  Roasted Chicken, Asparagus
10.  Chicken Noodle Soup
11.  Pot Roast, carrots, green beans
12.  shredded pork for sandwiches
13.  soup and sandwiches
14.  Montery Chicken, frozen veggies
15.  Homemade Pizza
16.  Hamburgers

The meal list also included some ideas of meals I could grab at a moments notice that are high protein and easy for me to eat:

Chicken Salad (made with grapes and pecans)
Shredded chicken with avocado, onion, black beans, and tomato
Egg Salad
Protein Bars
Greek Yogurt with Frozen Fruit

* A NOTE here about HEALTHY EATING:  For me, this is truly a process.  I have progressed through a series of "goals" given me by my Gastric Bypass Surgeon, and I have taken them very seriously.  Currently, I need things that pack a high protein punch in a small serving.  At least 10 g of protein in a 2 oz. serving is ideal.  Since I can eat a 1/2 - 3/4 cup serving at a time, this allows me to met my protein goals by the end of the day AS WELL AS include trace amounts of fruit, veggies and whole grains.  That's called VARIETY.

Where as a baby bell pepper, stuffed with mozzarella cheese isn't "healthy" for everyone, for me, at this time, it is.

Another thing, when my husband specifically asks for something, like "scalloped potatoes", it is also healthy (albeit in a different way) for me to oblige his desire (especially since he only occasionally requests things like this).

Our conversation went like this...

Me, "What do you want to eat"?

B, "I'd really like to have scalloped potatoes."

Me, "You mean those nasty dried out potatoes in the little box we ate as children?"

B, laughing, "Yea, that's what I mean."

I couldn't bring myself to buy the nasty little box.  So I searched pinterest and made them homemade in the crock pot.  Everyone was happy.

Once my meals list, and subsequent shopping list are generated, I clean out my pantry, 2 refrigerators and 3 freezers.  After all, I have to have a place to put all the stuff.  If you are going to ONCE A MONTH SHOP for a large family, you're gonna need 2 refrigerators.

This is a great way to identify duplicates and move those dusty cans from the back to the front.  To REALLY save money, you have to EAT the stuff you BUY!

Traditionally, at this point in the 2 day process, I threaten my family that if they mess up my cleaned out fridge or pantry -- I'll refuse to actually buy the groceries.  They like food.  So, this works on them.

Next (I don't know about you, but this feels like step #547 to me), I sit down with my coupons.  I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. I do it to be a good steward of our money.  I like getting free stuff.  And, there has to be someone for all you people who willingly give too much of your money to the grocery store chains to make fun of.  So, I volunteer.

I don't clip them ahead of time.  I keep about 3 months worth in a drawer.  And, well, all this is for another blog.

The just of it is, I don't JUST use coupons.  I go to a website that matches coupons with current sales in my store.  For instance, when Dawn Dishwashing Liquid is on sale at King Soopers for $1.00 a bottle, my website tells me that in the Smart Source section of the Sunday Paper on 10/6 there was a coupon for .50 off Dawn Products.  Since my store doubles all coupons up to $1.00, I will get that item FREE.  Since I happen to have (5) of those coupons, I will get (5) free.  5 is my stores limit.  EXTREME COUPONING is fake.  At least in Colorado.

Along with produce, this is what I grabbed this week...

(5) Cliff Bars FREE
(5) Think Thin Protein Bars FREE
(5) Brawny Paper Towel Single Rolls FREE
(5) Dawn Dishwashing Liquid FREE
(5) V8 Veggie Juice FREE - will be a donation to our church food pantry

(5) Men's Deoderant for .29 (each)

All that for $1.45.

For those who question if you can really save money doing this, I will just say that first you have to know how much money you normally spend.  Then, you have to have a couponing plan...and PRACTICE.  Couponing is a skill, and most people don't "get it" right away.

A NOTE ABOUT PREPPING:  Couponing and couponing "stock piles" are not the same thing as PREPPING.  Prepping for an emergency is an ADVANCE SKILL.  Trust me.  They are different.

Now, I'm off topic.

Once I have my lists (meal plan, grocery list, and couponing list), I head to the store.  I go to King Soopers (East Coasters this is the closest thing to a Publix we have) and Sam's.

Once the groceries are put away, I drink a protein shake for dinner and soak in the hot tub.  AND I have earned that, yes?

If you are interested in how I prepped this weeks meals, then I'll humor you.  All boring people can click here.

In the meantime, I'll reiterate that just the planning, shopping and unloading takes me TWO FULL DAYS.

But once it's over, I enjoy 28 straight days of NOT thinking about it!  Those 28 days are what make the work WORTH IT!

Many blessings

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All in a Days Work

When I don't HAVE to cook...

When I can do it on my own terms...

When I'm not coming in from work at 7pm and thinking, "If I don't cook for my family, no one else will think about it, and they'll just order pizza, and then they'll be unhealthy, and I can't afford for all of them to get gastric bypass surgery, and if I don't cook I won't have anything to eat either, and I'll have to have yogurt for the rest of my life"...

When I can cook WHEN IT'S A BLESSING TO ME then it feels like a creative endeavor vs a drudgery.  And that's important to me.  Very important.  More creative.  Less drudgery.

6 months later, weight loss surgery has taught me this:  Whereas it may be my  responsibility to provide healthy food choices for my children, IT IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY TO COOK FOR 4 TEENAGERS EVERY EVENING.

Since I've taken the weight of HAVING TO COOK off my own shoulders (because after all Greek Yogurt with Fruit, a salad, or a protein shake can all be fine dinners)...I've had more time in my life for things I enjoy doing -- and my family has become more grateful for my efforts.

A recent statement by Hosanna, "Mom, thank you for cooking for us -- even though you can't even eat it!  It kinda makes me want to cry."


I usually set aside 2-3 hours for cooking on the weekends.  Today, I had a little more time.  So, I choose 3 meals that were a little more creative (read "intensive").  Again, most weeks, my meal plan is less work, but here goes...

This week, my family will eat:

Cheeseburger Soup
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Homemade Sauce
Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Carrots, Green Beans, and Spinach

Also, for my lunches, left over from last week, placed in small, single size serving containers there is...

High Protein Chili
Chicken Salad (made with Grapes and Pecans)
Roasted Chicken with diced tomatoes, avocado and onion

In a quiet home, with soft music playing, fire place going and my "fall leaves" candle burning...

I started by browning 3 lbs lean hamburger meat.

Next, I made the veggie base for the soup.

My recipe (given to me by friend Debbie Northway - an AMAZING cook in her own right) calls for 3/4 cup each of onion, carrots and celery.  I double that.

I boiled 4 cups diced potatoes about 10 minutes, then assembled the soup in the crock pot.

If you have a large family (or even if you don't), having 2 crock pots and 1 large roaster is a real bonus.

I also HATE when produce goes bad in our fridge.

I took this opportunity to cut that off at the pass, sooooo to speak.

To save the produce, I did the following:

I blanched a pound of fresh green beans and tossed them in the freezer.

I sliced up the carrots NOT put in the soup, and tossed them with olive oil and sprinkled with orange zest.  Roasted in the oven for a few minutes, they'll be delicious.

I cut open the remaining 4 mini peppers, stuffed with mozzarella and placed under the broiler for a few.  Yum.

Then I took a little break to pick up the kids up from our church's fall retreat.  A break to hug my birthday girls neck and watch her open a couple of gifts.  A break to visit with some friends who got their messages crossed and thought the football party was at my house.  It was funny and I loved the spontaneous moment of visiting with them!

I took a break to run to the grocery store with B to get a bunch of things FREE with our coupons.

Once I returned home, I did some Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops.  They smelled good, but I HATE FRYING THINGS.  This was more work than I will ever do again.

My family will enjoy them with the orange zested carrots, as well as with the green beans and scalloped potatoes left over from last week.

The pan smelled so good after cooking these, I couldn't help but wilt a container of baby spinach to eat as well.

Finally, I made this homemade sauce and tossed it all together...

And, TA-DAH!  Gourmet (to us) meals for a week (or more) -- and NO MORE COOKING!  

No more cooking -- that's the very best part!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Just Regular Old Wednesday Night

Tonight, my things-to-do list went something like this:

1.  Print Invitations for Victoria's 13th Bday party.

     (This sounds easy enough.  She wanted this adorable "print yourself" one from
      Etsy.  You know, you pay $16 for the file and print them yourself.  They
      claim to be super easy.  I knew better, but she had her heart set on them...
      So, I downloaded, but you see all the color!  My home printer wouldn't do.             Printing them means saving to my flash drive.  Where is it again?  Driving to           Kinkos and printing to the tune of $1 a sheet -- for 2 invites on their colored           printer with card stock.  I told her we'd do 20).

2.  Update Craigslist Posting and Make a Flyer for Pianos.

     (We currently have 4 pianos for sale.  We average about 3 weeks to sell
      them.  Updating means getting the passwords from B, who's in Canyon
      until late this evening -- and well -- I didn't get them.  The flyer means
     more saving and printing at Kinkos...blah, blah, blah).

3.  Work on the new business plan for Creative Music Concepts.

     (Well, NOTHING about that seems to easy to me...and I've told B I needed
      at least 2 weeks of uninterrupted time to work on it.  Meaning, I'll have it
     ready by 2034.  We have a presentation to make to KinderCare Learning
     Center, 3 possible locations in the Springs for Kindermusik and are expanding
     to Canyon City.  Ei yi yi.  All good.  GREAT even.  But ei yi yi.).

So, some how I figured I'd do that between the hours of 6pm - 10pm.  All while I did homework with Eli, bathed and fed Eli and cleaned the kitchen.

In reality, I blew it all off.  Again.  Because I got this text from Hosanna:

"I need to go to Target later to look for shoes.  Wanna go with me?"

Why yes, I do.

If I ever heard the voice of God directing me, it was at the beginning of this year.  The Word was simply, "Say 'yes' more often."

And that has brought me joy.

On Wednesday evenings, everyone else is busy.  So, me and my quiet Hosanna generally have a few hours together.  Sitting side by side doing homework and work in complete silence (we both enjoy silence) or tonight -- going to the mall.

It's my delight.  And business plans, are so not my delight (although I admit it will have to get done).

While at the mall, I was able to order a beautiful aquamarine ring for Victoria for her 13th birthday present.

Soooooooo excited about giving her that gift!  She's wanted a ring for so long now.

My pinterest progress:

I am almost finished with this...

My home office or Indian Jones office?  

It gets used a lot and has to house a lot of...stuff...

So, I'm happy with the neutral colors.  It's a restful room actually.  Will double as Elizabeth's bedroom when she comes home.

I also finished this...

Which I'm NOT happy with, but it'll have to do.  I'm sure I'll find a use for it.

Speaking of Liz, we head to see her weekend after next.  Ben and Victoria will be headed to Corem Deo with a bunch of their friends.  The rest of us will head to Fort Collins in enough time for Hosanna to attend classes with her older sister.

We're all really looking forward to the weekend!

Once we're back, we'll not only have Victoria's 13th birthday party to look forward too, but also Eli's and Billy's the very next weekend!  

It's a full month!  But I do love October.  I love how the wreath looks on the front door, all the fall scented candles, the windows open...and the use of our hot tub on a crisp, starry night.  Yup, it's that great!

Mostly, soooo many people I'm just sooooooo happy were born in this month!

Hope your week is blessed!