Friday, July 31, 2015

Our 6 Year Old and The New Evagelization

Awhile back, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, our Archbishop, was given "kudos" by the incomparable Fr. Z. Check it out.

Then we had an article in our local Catholic paper about him doing some street evangelization. What a surprise it was to see our Archbishop standing on the corner talking to people about our faith! He's a very approachable man and I admire him greatly.

We met him a couple years ago when he came to our parish to say Mass. We had thought he was coming the next week, so when we walked into the Saturday vigil mass we were really surprised to see him up in the Sanctuary. Our son, who was 4 years old at the time, was especially impressed and asked, "Is he the shepherd?"

After that Mass we had a chance to greet him in the gathering space. Our priests introduced us to him, though we had met him previously (not that he would remember us). He got down on his knees to talk with our old son, who wants to be a priest when he grows up. It was a very precious moment; one that he still remembers and talks about.
With such a focus on the New Evangelization, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that our son takes this call very seriously and has taken it upon himself to share Jesus with everyone he meets.

He used to cry at Mass because he wasn't able to receive the Eucharist yet (he still isn't). He would cry because he's not old enough to be an Altar Server. He would beg to go to Catechism to talk about Jesus (he goes now though and he loves learning about Jesus). He and the girls genuflect and wave to Jesus in the Tabernacle when we get to and leave Mass saying, "Hi/Bye Jesus, I love you!" He and the girls ask if we can go see Jesus when we pass our Church. He asks if we can just stop in for a few minutes to see Jesus in the chapel whenever we are on the campus. He used to talk about Jesus so much at his daycare center, they asked him to stop (and I told him he could keep right on talking about Him as much as he wanted). He was always telling his teacher to take good care of herself because Jesus loves her very much and has special things for her to do that only she can do.

For the longest time he carried a 6-inch crucifix in his pocket when we would run errands. He took it out to hold it all the time. He would hold it up to people we'd pass in the stores and says, "do you know Jesus? He died on the cross for you because He loves you." Once, he let an older woman hold and kiss his crucifix at the grocery store and when she gave it back to him with tears in her eyes he said, "Mama, she loves my Jesus too."

While walking through the hardware super store, he shouted out to some people that were passing by, "Hey! Do you love Jesus too? He sure does love you!"

Oh to have his boldness! I don't though. Here is my 6 year old leading me in the New Evangelization. He is not shy about sharing his Jesus and his love for God with everyone he meets. His utter and sheer confidence in his faith, as elementary as it may be, forces me out of my shell. When he talks to strangers about the Lord, he'll look over at me and ask, "is Jesus happy with me for telling that man about Him?" Of course He is, son. He is thrilled to see you sharing your love for God with everyone you meet.

Maybe when Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me" He knew that the adults would follow; parents would be right behind their children. Not many people, even in today's culture, can turn away from a bright-eyed child telling them that Jesus loves them. It always makes them smile.

So in that vein, I've stepped out of my comfort zone a bit and shared a part of my faith walk with The 3:15 Project. The project is named after 1 Peter 3:15 which says, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." 

I hope you'll watch my video and share it with others. Go to the site and watch some of the other videos of people's testimonies. God has worked in people's lives in miraculous ways and He wants to come into your life and transform it with his love if you'll let Him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#5Faves: Slow Cooker Meals

We've been having some non-NFP related Peak Days up here in Michigan lately. DTE, our electricity provider, designates "Peak Enegy Use Days" for energy usage and encourages us to conserve energy on those days during certain hours. For example, last Friday was a "Peak Day" and we were one of their top 100 customers for conserving energy during the Peak Day's Peak Hours. Pope Francis would be proud.

We had another "Peak Day" yesterday, so I tweaked the A/C so it wouldn't run as much, put on the ceiling fan during Lizzie's naptime, and kept the kids outside in the pool during that time so they wouldn't watch TV or turn on lights. I also prepped our dinner in the morning, so I would only have to re-heat it instead of cook it entirely during peak energy usage time.

I think if I know about DTE's Peak Days with enough notice, I can modify our weekly meal plan to use the crock-pot instead of an oven meal (or better yet - use the grill!). The slow cooker doesn't heat up the house like the oven does (causing the A/C to run more in addition to all that gas & electric use by the stove/oven).


I can't even express how delicious this meat is. It is so tender and perfectly seasoned and I could eat the whole thing by myself. I love to make my own buns to go with them too.

This one is straight-up comfort food. I've packaged this one up as a freezer meal for my SIL when she had a baby...I just combined all the ingredients (except the pasta, cornstarch, and water) in a gallon sized baggie, placed that sealed baggie into a freezer bag. Gave her the cornstarch in a small baggie and the pasta in another gallon sized baggie, put both of those in the freezer bag too! Then I wrote out quick instructions for her. Her family loved it - including all 4 of the big kids!

This is another easy one that is a crowd pleaser. My kids love it, my husband loves it, my parents love it. It's miam-miam-miammy. This is another one you can prepare ahead and stick it in the freezer (without the pasta) and pull it out to throw in the slow cooker on a busy day. It is very hearty and really fills up the belly.

I LOVE this pulled pork. And this from a girl who does not like pork other than bacon. Extra crispy. Please and thank you.

When I find a pork roast on clearance or on sale, I grab it up and stick it in the freezer so I can put this on the menu plan. It is so easy and delicious and there is a million ways to eat it. I like to make tostadas & quesadillas; Mr. Amen likes to make soft tacos; I eat it straight out of the slow cooker; I make homemade buns to enjoy it on.

This soup is also another stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. Crazy filling and delicious. You can use 1/2 the meat without the recipe suffering at all (and saving money!) or eliminate it all together in favor of adding some bacon as a garnishment.

Linking up with both Jenna of Call Her Happy for this week's #5Faves and Dwija for her Easy Slow Cooker & One Pot Round Up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v2

On a Tuesday, because life has been too crazy over the past few days.

So here is the plan:

Stuffed Sandwich & Salad
I have neither pictures or a real recipe for this one. I make a 1/2 batch of pizza dough and roll it out flat. Then I whip up a quick mixture of 1/2 stick of softened butter, 4 oz. softened cream cheese, 1 Tablespoon parsley, 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and spread that over the dough (leaving the edges free so the sandwich will seal closed). Then I pile on some ham, provolone cheese, salami, and mozzarella cheese. I roll it up so it looks like a loaf, with the seam side down. Poke a few holes in the top to let the steam out and bake it at 400°F for about 15 minutes. Serve it up with a fresh salad and it is delicious!

This doesn't sound like something kids will eat, because, let's face it - ONIONS. But they don't even realize that they are onions, so if you don't tell them, neither will I. I use French Fried Onions to make a coating for chicken breasts and bake them up in the oven. So, so good.

You know I always make some modifications, and here's what I do here: I make two smaller loaves instead of one big loaf and I cook them in a 9x13 pan. I also use regular yellow mustard instead of Dijon in the sauce. My husband loves the sauce, so I usually double that part of the recipe and reserve some for him to dip his meatloaf without drowning the rest of ours in sauce.

These are so easy to put together, especially if you have some leftover chicken on hand. Even if you don't have any leftovers on hand, you can quickly poach some chicken or use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It's made with frozen vegetables and frozen puff pastry. Really, it is much easier than it sounds.

Homemade (non)Refried Beans & Cheese Quesadillas
These beans are seriously easy to make, you just have to plan ahead. I put mine in the slow cooker before I go to bed the night before, so they are ready in the morning. I will give you a pro-tip...don't use a hand-blender as she suggests. Use your food processor or blender and do it in batches. The hand-blender makes the BIGGEST mess you have ever witnessed and unless you want to be cleaning non-refried beans off every surface in your kitchen and every clothing item you are wearing, and out of your me on this. Use the blender or food processor. 

This makes a HUGE batch of beans. We use them for breakfast and lunches until they are gone. I've never attempted to freeze them, so I can't comment on how that would work.

Pizza Night
I make the dough, and we will probably do a traditional pepperoni topping this week. I also make the pizza sauce at home too (one batch of this sauce will last through several pizza nights, so I freeze the sauce and pull it out when we need it). Of course, it wouldn't be pizza night at our house without Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks.

Grilled Chicken & Veggies
This is another one of those no-recipe meals. I just marinate some chicken breasts in Zesty Italian Dressing (I use Aldi brand). I chop up some zucchini, yellow squash and sweet onions and marinate those separately in more Zesty Italian Dressing. I put the veggies on skewers to put them on the grill. Mr. Amen mans the grill and we are eatin' in no time.

A quick tip: After I cut each onion into 8 wedges, they fall apart while marinating and are a mess to reassemble. I found that once I cut the onion in half and before I cut each half into 4 wedges, if I spear the half with toothpicks, so each wedge has toothpick through the middle of it - they stay together much better in the marinade. Then I just put them on the grill on their own or in a grill basket.

*NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I don't benefit financially or in any other way by linking to any of these blogs. is my personal food blog where I try to post my recipes from time to time. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#5Faves: NFP Memes

For NFP Awareness Week, I thought you might enjoy some memes. Because everyone enjoys memes.

I've made a bunch this week - here's my favorites :






Bonus memes for your viewing pleasure

Now head over to Jenna's for more #5Faves fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tell Me My Choices

After having taught 3 different NFP methods over the past 6 years to about 100 couples, I have to admit that abstinence is the hardest part to sell. Couples can get on board with the natural, hormone free, organic nature of NFP. They like the increased communication, the health benefits, the awareness of their fertility. The appreciation for children, the appreciation for each other, the reverence for life and how we cooperate with God to bring new life into the world.

But abstinence. Oh, abstinence. You crazy, fun-hating beast of burden who just waltzed into the bedroom with your muddy feet, swarm of flies and hot, stinky breath.
Yes, abstaining from genital contact during the fertile phase of your combined fertility cycle can be the worst of all bad bummers. It is even harder when your fertility signs are muddled and difficult to read and you desperately need to avoid a pregnancy and the abstinence stretches on for weeks and months. It can make you ache. It can feel like it is tearing your marriage apart.

If you struggle with long periods of abstinence due to health concerns or obscured fertility signs when using NFP, please, please, please make seeing a physician who will support you in your use of NFP a priority. NaPro doctors (choose Find a Medical Consultant on the left navigation) are specially trained to identify and correct health issues in ways that support the normal, healthy functions of your reproductive cycle. If a NaPro doctor isn't available near you, check for a health care provider at the One More Soul website or check with the local Catholic diocese to see if there is a doctor in the area to whom they can refer you. A healthy cycle is easier to interpret and can help reduce the times of abstinence when you need to avoid a pregnancy.

And while it can be difficult for many people to abstain during the fertile phase of an "average" or "normal" cycle, there is a light at the end of the fertile tunnel.
If you are happy with your NFP method - AWESOME!!!!!  I am so glad you have found a method that works for you and your spouse at this time in your reproductive life. Keep on keepin' on.
If you are not happy with your NFP method - let's find you a new one. There are so many effective, reliable methods available today to suit your needs. Your needs may change over time and what was once your dream method may become a nightmare for you and your spouse. Don't be afraid to switch to something that works for you now - you can always change your mind later and go back or change to another entirely different method.

There are ones that are highly regimented and the instruction is completely tailored to your unique fertility (Creighton - especially for people with known health, reproductive & fertility issues). Plenty of unmarried women chart simply for the information they glean about their health status from their charts or to manage their health in a holistic manner.
 There are methods that combine 2 or 3 major signs of fertility to determine times fertility (Couple-to-Couple League Sympto-Thermal, Northwest Family Planning, Serena). There are methods that only use 1 sign of fertility (Billing Ovulation Method, Family of the Americas, Temperature Method. There are methods that use monitors to test for Luteinizing Hormone (Marquette Method). There is a method that uses a monitor to track your Basal Body Temperature only (Lady Comp) and compares it to a database of more than 900,000 cycles of data points to determine times of fertility. There are mobile apps to track your cycle; there are cycle beads to track your cycle; there are ferning microscopes where you can observe your saliva or cervical mucus to watch for developing fertility. There's the 2-Day Method, the Temperature Method, the Boston-Cross Check method, Marquette method, Billings Ovulation Method, Family of the Americas Billings Ovulation Method, and the Standard Days Method. Many diocese and Archdiocese teach their own version of STM or OM.

There's even a great quiz that can help you figure out which method might suit your current needs. This is especially awesome if you have no idea where to start.

There are online courses, instructors who will teach long-distance, instructors who will meet with you in person or on the phone. There are group classes and individual private sessions. There are instructors who can work with you on the cost of instruction and there are instructors who only charge for materials, and I know some dioceses have scholarships for couples who need it. There are books (Taking Charge of Your Fertility, The Billings Method). Basically, there's a way to learn that can work for you.

If you like your method, but don't connect with your instructor - find a new one! I think most of us NFP teachers understand that not everyone can be best friends and our feelings will not be hurt if you switch to a different instructor or method. A good NFP instructor just wants you to find a method that works for you and your unique fertility and circumstances and will do what it takes to help you do that.

Most importantly, if you feel like you just can't do NFP anymore because it's too hard and too much and too difficult and too UGH - don't give up. As the great Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning (which I cannot recommend enough) says, "It's the worst possible method, except for all the others."

Welcome to Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! I have a couple posts about NFP this week. Please know that I am not speaking with a condemning tone towards anyone or towards the way anyone practices NFP. I am not putting down anyone's experience with NFP. As an NFP user and teacher, I have encountered people in every walk of life living NFP in difficult circumstances on all parts of the infertility/subfertility/average fertility/super fertility scale. In fact, I've moved along this scale myself over the years. Please know that you and your spouse and family are in my prayers. If you are using NFP - I admire you - not many have the courage to go against the grain and commit to such a radical view of and respect for their fertility.

NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I do not receive any compensation for sharing this information with you. I just thought you'd like to know. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Miracle Fruit to Prevent Pregnancy


There is a miracle fruit you can use to prevent pregnancy. Really.

I had no idea it was even possible to use a fruit for family planning, but you totally can.

I scoured the internet for information about fruit that could help plan a family and found this:

"In botany, a fruit is a part of a flowering plant that derives from specific tissues of the flower, one or more ovaries, and in some cases accessory tissues.
Fruits are the means by which these plants disseminate seeds."
Via - emphasis mine

And thought (and I quote) "HA! Ovaries, seeds...that's funny. And ironic."

OK - you want to know what the fruit is? Fine, fine...I'll let you in on this well-kept secret. The miracle fruit is...


Self-control? A fruit? Yes.
- Galatians 5:22-23 

Self-control, as a fruit of the Spirit of the new life into which we've been raised up with Christ through our baptism, is actually able to help you plan your family. Of course it's much easier to say than to do; most things are easier to say than to do.

Except "prodigious persistent procrastination" which is difficult to say, but easy to do. Just me?

I want to break this down a bit. There's so much in the statement that self-control is a fruit of the spirit. And so much in saying that we can use self-control to plan our family.

That fruit comes from a flowering plant makes sense. After all, flowers are a thing of beauty. Humans, animals, and insects like flowers. Flowers on the plant attract bees & insects to promote pollination & fertilization, so it seems apropos that a fruit could be used as a family planning tool. Flowers attract the eye, they are things of beauty and are typically sweet smelling, attracting humans and animals to the plant so we can use its fruit as food.

But when flowers are cut off from the branch, vine, or plant they wither and die quickly and do not produce their fruit.

Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5). I find it incredibly comforting to know that if I remain in Christ he will strengthen me to bear the fruit I am meant to produce. The thing about vines and branches is that it can be very difficult to see where the vine stops and the branch starts; conversely it can be difficult to see where the branch stops and the vine starts. They seem to meld to seamlessly into one another. I tend to think Christ had that in mind when he made this statement. Remain in me, and I'll remain in you and it'll be hard to tell where I stop and you start and vice versa.

Jesus promised us in Matthew 28:20 that he would be with us always, even until the end of the age. The Lord said he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8, Joshua 1:5). He remains in us - He comes to us in the Eucharist, literally entering our body, strengthening it and becoming one with us.

The farmer or vine grower prunes the branches so that they produce even more fruit. "He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit." (John 15:3)

Have you even gone to Confession and left feeling a bit, ummm, wounded? Like when the Priest cuts through your parsing of words where you tried to talk around your sin and he picks the one thing you wish he would ignore to counsel you in a way to help you grow and rip the sin out of your life? And it is for your own good, you know that. But it hurts.

That's pruning.

When we remain in Him by frequenting the sacrament of Reconciliation which allows us to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist, he truly remains in us strengthening us to bear fruit.

Can I just point something out about this particular fruit (self-control) though?

This fruit, self-control, is a stone fruit, Seriously, it's the pits.

The core of the fruit is hard, tough and when people encounter it, they usually want to spit or throw it out - but it is the seed - and if you use that hard part, you can grow more fruit!

I'd liken self-control to an avocado. It looks ugly on the outside (who would want to practice self-control?! That's no fun at all!). When you get into it though - mmmmm, so good (and good for you). Then you hit the pit. The big, hard, can't cut it, pit. And you think, "no way, this is too hard. I can't continue." But if you do - if you look at the hard part for what it is and use it like it is meant to be used (you plant it - offering it back to God), it bears more fruit. More delicious green avocado goodness.

Natural Family Planning (fertility awareness combined with self-control, a.k.a., abstinence) is all about helping us grow temperance, self-control and self-mastery in our marriages. Our marriages, a sacrament of communion, are all about helping our spouse to grow into the person God created him/her to be. And being the people God created us to be will lead us to our ultimate goal: Heaven.

And who are we meant to be? Someone who knows, loves and serves God. His disciples. "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." (John 15:8)

Spend a few moments contemplating Matthew 13:3-9, the parable of the sower who sowed his seed, some on the path, some on the rocky ground, some among the thorns and some in rich soil.

When you think about the fruit (of the spirit) as a way for the vine (Christ, God) to disseminate seeds - what does Matthew 13:3-9 mean to you?

Welcome to Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! I have a couple posts about NFP this week. Please know that I am not speaking with a condemning tone towards anyone or towards the way anyone practices NFP. I am not putting down anyone's experience with NFP. As an NFP user and teacher, I have encountered people in every walk of life living NFP in difficult circumstances on all parts of the infertility/subfertility/average fertility/super fertility scale. In fact, I've moved along this scale myself over the years. Please know that you and your spouse and family are in my prayers. If you are using NFP - I admire you - not many have the courage to go against the grain and commit to such a radical view of and respect for their fertility.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Accidental Fastastical Burger Buns

I accidentally made the most amazing burger buns the other day.

You want to check these out. They are so much better than any I have ever gotten from the store or at a fancy burger joint. So, so much better.

I had run out of time and was in a bind to get dinner on the table. I started to work some magic and these were done 45 minutes later.

So chewy & soft, yet they sopped up the French Dip sauce without getting soggy or falling apart.
Such winners these little guys are! A touch of garlic butter & Parmesan on top make them extra special.

I'm warning you, if you make these and eat will never want to go back to grocery store buns again.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Didn't Eat This for Breakfast

Or did I?

I did.

{Hangs head in shame}

{Feels all that caffeine kick in}

{Grins maniacally}

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#5Faves: Books to Read with My Kids

I am a reader. I hope my kids love reading when they grow up as much as I do.

While only one of my kids is a reader at the moment, we still do lots and lots of reading around these parts. The best way to pass on my love of reading is by reading to my kids often. I don't do it nearly enough, but we try to sneak in some reading as often as we can. I'll usually suggest we read a book before we allow TV or videos to come on at our house.

While I'm not against TV, and I don't necessarily limit screentime, I simply insist on doing some reading before the TV lights up (after I'm up for the day, of course. Before I'm up, they can watch all the TV they want provided they don't make a bunch of screaming + crying = racket.)

Here are five of our favorite books that we read to the kids:

Snuggle Up, Sleepy Ones by Claire Freedman
We got this book more than 5 years ago for our son when he was about 1 year old. Reading this book just before he was tucked into bed became a tradition. It is a rhyming book, but the rhymes are so sweet and simple that rather than riling up my kids, they calm them right down. My children all eagerly point out all the animals, moths and bugs which helps develop their speech and helps them learn new animals. The illustrations are delightful, with the nighttime colors lulling the kids to sleep.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A classic of epic proportions. My children have watched the movie and are entranced whenever I put it on. Even my 6yo boy will ask to watch Anne of Green Gables on a rainy afternoon...though he covers his eyes when she twists her ankle in the woods with Diana because he thinks it is too spooky (how cute is that?!?!). I started reading it while they are in the room playing and not necessarily making them sit and listen. Even though it is way above their reading, and truthfully, above their comprehension level, I still enjoy reading it to them. It helps to enhance and enrich their vocabulary to hear such lusciously descriptive narratives and words they have never heard before. My son will ask what new words mean and he picks up some more formal speech patterns every now and then. I love the wholesome nature of the books, the characters, the love of learning and the "each day is fresh with no mistakes in it yet" attitude.

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen
 Such a fun and imaginative read. My 2yo screams, "MOM, WHAT *IS* DAT?!" on every single page while we work our way through the little boy's imagined car invention. My 1yo likes looking at the pictures and shouting incoherently while trying to tear the pages from their binding. My 6yo gets all sorts of inspired and immediately asks for paper, crayons and markers so he can start designing his own car. Then the 2yo sits and draws for awhile too while the 1yo eats crayons (but not the asbestos crayons, I think hope). It is just such a fun book to get the kids excited about science and inventing. I find their little imaginations to be stimulated and their creative juices flow for hours after listening to me read it to them.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
 We received this book one year from some teacher friends along with a Snowman Decorating Kit. What a perfect gift for a small child! The book is adorably illustrated with hidden objects on many of the pages. The snowmen look like they have all kinds of fun at night and the book very cleverly "explains" why snowmen look so wonky and tired in the morning. My kids just love searching for the hidden objects and they have even more ideas about what other mischief snowmen get into at night.

This little gem has all the readings for each mass, the order of the mass, morning and evening prayers, reflections and devotionals. We get the adult version and use it to read Sunday's readings to the kids each evening all week long.

It's a lot of work to incorporate it into our evening routine, but we've found that the children get more out of Sunday mass if they have some idea of what to expect to hear each week. We spend the entire week doing the readings and taking to the kids about them. We ask what they remember about the various readings. We talk about what they mean, explain new vocabulary, and discuss liturgical seasons and feast days. Our kids are still young, but by starting this habit now hopefully they will carry it with them for many years.

And as a bonus for the adults...if we miss the readings due to the tiny tornadoes around our knees and ankles, we still know what is going on, what the priest is talking about and what we were supposed to have just heard.

Any books off the beaten path that you would recommend? We have quite a library going at home and would enjoy adding some of your faves to our collection.

Now it's time to go see Jenna, our hostess with the mostest, and check out some of the other bloggy favorites lists.

*NOTE:  These are NOT affiliate links. I was not asked to review these books, nor do I receive any compensation for recommending these books. I just happen to like these books. All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v1

I thought I'd start sharing our family's menu on a weekly basis.

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking, but menu planning was not a priority for me. Over the years, I've found that by planning our family's menus I can save money, time, frustration and sanity.

So here's this week's plan:

Chicken Caesar Salad
We'll be using some leftover Lemon Grilled Chicken from this past weekend to top some torn Romaine Lettuce, shaved Parmesan Cheese and croutons.

I'll make the buns fresh and we'll have veggies on the side.

Teriyaki Chicken & Rice
On the side, we'll have a romaine salad with ginger dressing. Nothing exciting here, just using a marinade/teriyaki sauce I got on sale.

To be honest, I use this pizza dough recipe, then follow the instructions from each of the other two recipes above to make the pizza & breadsticks. The dough recipe makes enough for both the pizza & the breadsticks for our family, typically with leftovers of each.

A nice meatless option for a Friday. This is basically frozen spinach tortellini with peas & Alfredo sauce. To speed up my prep and make it more "hands free" I've used Alfredo sauce from a jar, cooked it in a casserole dish topped with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. So delish & easy.

I'll have to take some pictures and post them later. This recipe is a fun twist on plain burgers. Again, homemade buns would be great, but I may not have time on Saturday to do them. We'll grill some zucchini & corn on the cob to go on the side.

Typically, I don't plan a meal on Sundays. We usually spend Sunday evenings with my parents and siblings having a family dinner. I love contributing to that meal with a side, dessert or sometimes the main dish (when my mom'll let me - a.k.a. rarely). 

Since they all know I love to bake, I get frequent requests for desserts from my sister-in-law and sister and I am delighted to try out the recipes for Sunday evenings. Just this past week, my SIL requested these S'more Cupcakes.

And how could I say no to that request?! I couldn't, so I made them. Plus I improvised a S'mores Bumpy Cake. I used my own marshmallow filling because we have an egg allergy in the family. Everyone's eyes rolled back in their heads as they ate 'em. So I know they were goooooooood.

That's this week's plan. I plan breakfasts, lunches and snacks too...but I don't want to overwhelm you with all my crazy at once.

What's your plan for the week? Anything good on the menu? I'm always looking for new things to try and would enjoy hearing your recommendations!

*NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I don't benefit financially or in any other way by linking to any of these blogs. is my food blog which is a personal blog where I try to post my recipes from time to time. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

One of Satan's Greatest Lies

"One of Satan’s greatest lies is that our suffering is so unique that there is no one who can understand or help us through our own struggles.  Being humble enough to recognize that we can learn something useful from people who are going through similar things as us, but somehow bearing up better than we are can be a real source of hope, strength, growth."

- Dr. Gregory Popcak, Dr. Strangelove (OR) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Natural Family Planning

Oh, how this stings. I am special. I am unique. And I am infinitely loved by my Creator. My struggles are my own. My suffering is my own.

And while my experience of my struggles and suffering are unique - the struggles and suffering themselves are not. Others are experiencing similar things now and some are faring better than me. Some worse. Many have experienced similar things and have overcome their situations. Many haven't.

If I wish to fight the good fight and finish my race (1 Timothy 4:7), I will need the help of those around me. Yes, even I can learn from those who have been victorious, from those cheering me on in the stands, from those who have received their eternal reward for a race well run. (Hebrews 12:1, Acts 20:24) I can choose which example I want to follow. I can choose blessing or the curse; life or death. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

And I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! (Philippians 4:13)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#5Faves: Make At Home Snacks

When I saw what Jenna put up today for her #5Faves, I knew I was in good company. Why? Because FOOD!

Typically, I don't force the "healthy snack" issue 'round these parts. I try to incorporate fruits with breakfast and lunch and veggies with lunch and dinner each day to ensure the kids (and adults) are getting the good stuff.

But when it comes to snacks...well, we just snack. I like my snacks to be real treats. We don't have them every day, so when we do, we make 'em count.

Here are a few of our favorites that I make at home:

Perfect Rice Krispie Treats
I love to throw together a batch of these Perfect Rice Kristie Treats every now and then. I modify the recipe (of course) by using 6 Tablespoons of butter instead of 5 and I do a smidge less salt than 1/2 tsp salt.

I find this is also a great, easy treat to take to someone when you are bringing them a meal. My brother had knee surgery recently, so I dropped off a meal to make my lovely SIL's life a little easier (hopefully) one evening. I added these on as dessert. I did forget that my nephew couldn't eat them with his orthodontic appliance...but I'll be sure to compensate fully when his teeth are perfect & appliance free.

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pretzel Bites

I was looking for a fun dessert for the kids at Easter this past year when I came across these beauties. I was making a Lemon Cheesecake for the adults and didn't think the kids would want that. So these to the rescue. I would rate them as a 5 out of 10 for difficulty...but only because there are several steps involved and they all take time. Let's just say that by the time you are ready to eat these, you have worked off the calories involved.

Gigi's Snack Mix
I love me some Chex Mix. But I had never found a recipe that quite fit the flavor profile I was going for. I had tried a few that I liked, but I had to just keep experimenting until I found one I loved. So I have gone rogue and made my own and I call it Gigi's Snack Mix. It's slightly sweet, slightly savory, very crunchy and with the cherries or cranberries added in, it has some chew to it as well.

Daddy's Granola
Mr. Amen loves to eat granola for snacks at work.

But have you seen the price of granola at the grocery store?!?! I have and I am NOT paying it.

For the same price I find I can make about 5-7x the granola I can buy pre-made. And when I make it myself I can adjust the flavorings and quantities of each ingredient. Here's my recipe. It does have almonds in it, which is usually a no-no in our home (food allergies), but I have separate nut-exposed tools & pans that I use for this recipe, so I let it slide.

Cake Pops
I've seen some beautiful cake pops decorated with intricate designs or characters. I prefer my food to be a little less fussy and more homemade looking - maybe that's just me. The cake pops pictured above were the first I ever made and I had decorated them for the 4th of July (last year). So pretty and delicious! I've made several batches since then and honestly, the harder I work at making the decorations look perfect, the less I enjoy the actual cake pops. Here's the how-to on these and here's another picture of my homemade, imperfectly decorated cake pops.

Be sure to visit Jenna's blog for her #5Faves and then check out the other #5Faves and make some new Friends & Faves.

*NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I don't benefit financially or in any other way by linking to any of these blogs. is my food blog which is personal blog where I try to post my recipes from time to time. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#5Faves: At Home Date Night Activities (Summertime Edition)

We have been married 8 years and have 3 small children. We are a one-income family which limits our financial means for going out and our time as together as a family is limited due to my husband's work travel so we prefer to spend time as a family.

But what's a couple to do when we'd like some alone time? Some time to not be exclusively mom & dad? Some time to remember what fun, vibrant, non sleeping-on-the-couch people we used to be?

Mr. Amen and I don't like leaving the kids in the care of non-family babysitters (we have in the past and they were fine, we just prefer family to watch them). Our babysitter of choice is my mom (and dad), but she has her own life and I don't want to take advantage of her generosity in asking her to care for our kids too at home date nights it is.

Creative at home date nights? Puh-leeeezzzzz! You've probably read about these before. AmIright? And you are kind of tired of the same ideas over and over?

Yup, me too.

So here's my top 5 ideas for an at home date night with your main squeeze:

Wow, starting off strong? No, really. Coloring.

If your kids have art supplies, you have art supplies. I bet even the most unartistic adult can do something decent with crayons, markers, water color paints or sidewalk chalk. I happen to enjoy coloring and do it to relax. My husband bought me a couple of adult coloring books (this one and this one) for Mother's Day this year and my dad let me borrow his professional colored pencils. So.Much.Fun.

But what if you don't have fancy adult coloring books? Well, grab your kids' coloring books and, together, color some pictures for them to surprise them in the morning. Get a big roll of art paper and start coloring your own wrapping paper to use for birthdays or Christmas (also a great project for the kids).

If it isn't going to rain overnight, go out and use some sidewalk chalk to decorate the driveway, back patio or sidewalk. Draw some shapes for the kids to color the next day. Trace each other's body on the driveway next to each other (holding hands...duh!) then plan your future "unlimited funds" date by drawing on your spouse what they would wear on that date (keep it clean, folks, let's not scare the neighbors!). You might just get some fun ideas for out-of-the-house dates someday.

I know my DH would like to go scuba diving (not a chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks!), and I'd love to go on a walking tour of France; so he'd draw me in flippers, goggles and a wet suit (what a sight!) and I'd draw him with a backpack, a walking stick, a baguette & bottle of wine!

Getting your creative juices flowing together can be a great way to share your dreams and hopes for the future.

Thought you said "at home" date nights? Yes, at home. Have you never camped at home? My kids like to set up their tent in the family room, drag in all the pillows and sleeping bags and pretend they are camping.

Grown-ups can camp at home too! Grill some banana boats or make some s'mores over the BBQ grill or fire pit (if you have one) or over your gas stove. Or just make these or these, crack open a wine cooler (or beer) and sit on the porch and watch the traffic nature go by. What sort of activities would you enjoy after the kids go to bed if you were camping? Cards, games, music? Go sit outside (covered in bug spray) and make it happen.

Now I'm not an outdoorsy kind of gal, so my favorite camping activity would be high-tailing it to a hotel to sit in bed and watch a movie...but zip your sleeping bags together on the living room floor and cuddle up for a Great Outdoors viewing party - that's right up my woodsy alley.

Pool Party
Do you have a kiddie pool for the kids? Fill 'er up (during the day so the water can warm up a bit), slip into your swimsuits and sit in the pool together. Make some homemade slurpees, grab a bag of snacks or popsicles and go sit in the pool. This may not sound all that exciting, but it is a nice way to relax at the end of a long day. No kids splashing you, no diapers needing changed or kids needing help with their wet swimsuits.

It would be fun to play cards, listen to music or a baseball game, or read each other an article or blog post you've found interesting.

Ice Cream Station
A cherished summer tradition at our house is going out for ice cream or frozen custard as a family. And I know that tradition is fun, but it's also expensive and messy. Wait for the kids to go to bed then make your favorite ice cream shop treat at home! You'll have to plan ahead a bit to make sure you have the ingredients for your & your sweetie's choices, but this is such a nice treat.

Imagine eating an entire ice cream sundae without your kids begging for a taste, without stopping to wipe the sticky off another tiny person's mouth and hands (and elbows and knees) with a wet wipe, without someone crying because they licked their cone and it fell to the ground.

Seriously. Think about that for a second. Wipe that tear from your cheek...this could be reality.

You could make each other's sundae or put one of you in charge of the ice cream concoction and the other in charge of the beverages. Eat them by Citro.nella candlelight out on the porch or patio.

For a fun variation - use your old shot glasses from college to make several tiny ice cream sundaes - that way you get to enjoy a variety of flavors. And you finally get some use out of those shot glasses you've been meaning to donate.

Foot washing
I know not every husband is into pedicures, but mine sure is. He just snuck out for a pedicure last weekend, in fact.

This is kind of like a spa night, but less intimidating.

We get a big tub of hot water with epsom salts and a drop or two of essential oil (like lavendar). Have your cuddle bunny soak his feet for a few minutes. Then break out your foot scrub. If you have some already, slather it on and massage away at his feet. If you don't have any - make your own For My Honey scrub. Sugar scrubs are easy to make and you probably have the stuff around the house anyhow.  After a nice foot massage, back in the basin for a rinse. Then with a nice, fluffy, towel, gently dry off your darling's feet, apply some lotion (if he'll let you) and switch spots!

Here are some other ideas for DIY at home foot soaks & scrubs.

This activity goes nicely with soft music, and a cold beverage to contrast the warm foot-soaking water. It's a very tactile way of getting connected with your lovey. Plus, because you are looking at their feet instead of their face, it can help get the person talking without all the visual pressure of so much eye contact.

Jenna is our lovely & vivacious host for #5Faves, so head over to her blog and check out everyone's #5Faves!

NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I receive no compensation or kickbacks for promoting these products, recipes or ideas. All opinions are my own. I just thought you might like to hear about them.