Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: Supermarket Healthy by Melissa D'arabian

"Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well without Spending a Lot" -- yes please! That is exactly what I need. This is the promise that Melissa D'arabian makes on the cover of her recent cookbook "Supermarket Healthy." This book came out of the desire for D'arabian to feed her family of 4 healthy without breaking the bank at all those fancy health food stores.

Something dangerous happens when you pick a cookbook to review from a small snippet of a description and a well worded sub-title. You take the chance that there is nothing in this book your family will eat. The struggle is real with 2 picky eaters in the family. And no I am not referring to the kids. Little Mr. is rather picky and I am in a high sensitivity season where 90% of what I eat sends me right into stomach aches and other delightful things that a lady does not discuss.

When I received this book from Blogging for Books I jumped to flag all the pages of things that we might be willing to try. Let me tell you there are several. I go to make the grocery list to add some of these items to the list to try out some new recipes to find out that The Mr was let go from his job. Grocery budget just went from having some buffer to barebone basics, no extras not trying nothing new. If it is not something we know we will eat, it cannot be purchased.

So I held off on reviewing thinking he might land something soon and we could try out a recipe. Well, he is still looking ...

Seeing this beautiful book sitting there I just had to re-open the pages. I happened to open to a page called "Blue Prints".  These are pages that tell you how to do make xyz without giving you the actual ingredients. So you can step out of recipe box. I could used things I had and still make something newer.

So I tried out one of these blue prints and they are great! You just follow the 2 or 3 steps and you are done.

Here are some of my highly scientific and completely quirky ways that I look at cookbooks - and how "Supermarket Healthy" stands up against them.

1. Is it pretty? Do you want to open it? Do you want to hug it, love on it and treat it well?

Yes. The cover is what drew me in.

2. When you open it ... How many pages do you need to turn to find pictures? Just a few (yeah!)? Are all the pictures in the middle of the book (boo)?

When I opened the book I happened to land on a dual page recipe, but I turned the page and there was a beautiful picture of "Soba Noodles with Garlicky Clams and Fennel" smiling up at me -- not that this picky eater would ever consider putting that in my mouth.

3. Are the recipes easy to read and follow?

Now although I have yet to make one I have read several of them. Very easy! Now, I am somewhat of a natural in the kitchen. I like to be in the kitchen. I like to cook. So ... would my sister who can bake, but ask her to make more than dessert and she might have a bit of an anxiety attack, be able to make these? Definitely! There are no fancy terms or difficult directions.

4. The real test -- would we eat the majority of the recipes?

No. To be honest, I flagged things that we would try, but of the over 150 recipes I would venture to say we wouldn't even eat more than 50 of them. My mom made a good point, the author is from California and they have a different style of eating than we do here in the midwest. That shows in this cookbook.

You can tell that Melissa D'arabian really started this cookbook to take care of her family. Very few of the recipes take more than an hour from start to finish (according to prep and cook times) -- that is good for busy moms, but the recipes are fancier than I would make on just "any night".

Overall, I think this is a good cookbook and worth the investment if you are looking for healthier options while still only shopping at your local supermarket. I also think you have to be more open minded to the things you are eating and preparing for your family to really enjoy this book.

I mentioned it above, but I want to make it clear. I did receive this cookbook from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are 100% mine.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Struggle is Real

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

Romans 7:18-19

The struggle is real.

The struggle is never going to go away.

As long as we are sucking wind on this planet, the struggle is real.

This struggle is that of sin. I am sure you have heard it, “sin is sin.” I have, many times. My exact thought -- “I am good, I am not sinful. I don’t do the big ones.” Yeah, well what about the little ones? What are you talking about Sara?

What about listening to that little nudge, and doing what it tells you to do? Not obeying. Living in fear. Doing just enough to barely survive. THOSE are the sins that I struggle with.


When it comes to these sins -- I am a SINNER. I fail daily. Thank God for His grace and mercy.

But when I don’t sin. When I obey, when I stop trying to make it work my way, when I respond in love -- oh my then I give God room to work. Then I give God room to bless others. Then I give God even more reasons to want to bless me - even though He has all the reasons He needs, I am His and He loves me!

Let me explain it the way Jesus would have with a story.

I really don’t like grocery shopping. It is a chore that I just like to ‘get done’.

Well last summer we were on the hunt to replace the kids kitchen. It was too small for both of them to play at the same time. It was falling apart. It was really cheap to begin with. I had looked at a few places but found nothing that I felt was a great deal. I would scan every single garage sale as I passed to see if it was worth stopping and really looking.

Back to the grocery shopping. I was on the way to the store - I decided (God lead me) to take the time to drive to my favorite Aldi rather than the one right up the street. On the way I see this garage sale. I slow down and peek … toys, but nothing big. I keep going.

After I am done shopping I am putting the cart back and I think to myself, I am going to leave my quarter in the cart and bless someone. (This one probably was me, not God.) Then I feel that nudge, that hey you are about to be told to do something from God. “No, you are going to leave 3.” “What? Then I have to go back to the car, get two more quarters, walk back over here … and God there are people coming! I will probably have to talk to one of them! (All of a sudden 4 people were heading toward the carts!)”

Then there is that split second -- are you going to obey or not. Sin or follow directions?

Mentally kicking and screaming I walk to my car, get two more quarters and walk back. I put one in the first cart. I put one in the second. As I am walking away I get the look … the look that registered as “crazy lady what are you doing?” I respond to the look by saying, “Random Acts of Kindness. Have a quarter!” Then I high-tail it out of there.

I get in my car and breathe out … I don’t think I took a full breathe during this whole thing - what was God wanting me to do! I was way out of my comfort zone, but a few seconds later I was back in my car, breathing and safe. Back in my little cocoon of pseudo invisibility. I am heading home, feeling rather good that I obeyed.

As I get up to this yard sale I see it. Front and center, big and calling my name. A KITCHEN! This was the same yard sale that I passed on the way to the store. I stop. I walk straight to that kitchen. “How much?” willing to pay up to 20 … “$5” WHAT?!!?!?!?!?!?! (mentally) I pull that money right out of my pocket and I give her $6.

Moral of the story … I had that nudge … I heard the request … I had a split second to decided obey or sin … I obeyed … God rewarded me.

Do I get ‘rewards’ like that everytime? Of course not. I would guess that if I really looked at it I would see more rewards than I do. Am I more willing to listen to that nudge that says … do this. You bet. God needed me to see that listening and obeying are important! Do I fail at it? EVERY SINGLE DAY! Does God give me chance after chance? Yep. That is why He is such a better parent than I am.

So, Paul lays it out for us. The struggle is real.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Focus Friday


First things first it is 8:30 on a Friday and my family is still sleeping. So Praise The Lord - I am getting some quiet time even with having decided when I went to bed I was going to let God wake me when it was time to get up and not my alarm clock. ... FYI this is a dangerous prayer, there have been times when God wakes me at 3:30 am. I looked at the clock and was like ... Okay God if I am really supposed to get up THIS early you will fill my head with scriptures about how the lazy sleep. Then those scriptures come an hour later! 

I have started getting up around 5 lately and it is actually really nice to get those several hours of quiet time before the house gets up and running. As Franchesca says ... before the Crazy Kicks in.

Oh my has this song spoke to me lately. I have tons of plates to keep spinning. I feel like I keep adding more too.

1. I sell Educational Resources on two websites. I have been really active with one and more passive with the other. I am trying to be equally active on both and that is harder than I thought.

2. I am a blogger. I am a reviewer. I am a writer. I feel like this is one of the plates that keeps falling and crashing.

3. I am a Jamberry Nail Wraps Consultant. (This one is super new.)

4. I have joined Boom Boom Prints to sell artwork.

So many plates. So many plates. Because all of these are online ventures I also have to do all the marketing, promoting, relationship building -- crash, spin, crash, spin. Oh man that plate does not like to keep going.

Let's not even mention the fact that I am Mama. I am Wifey. I am friend. I am sister. I am sister-in-Christ. I am daughter. I am princess (I am the daughter of The King after all).  Ohhh.. and I am Sara, I forget her often. That is the plate that is usually sitting over there on the floor.

(Time to take care of kiddos and finish while they eat breakfast.)

I have big jobs and life likes to spin out of control. Not only do we have my plates, but we have Hubsy's plates to keep spinning.

Here is what we need -- we need to be two octopi united as one (since we are married and united as one anyway). We would have 16 arms and we would be able to keep it all going.  God has it all wrong!

God made us with two hands, that is it. When we get married we both only have two hands ... our hearts and lives might be united, but our bodies ... not so much. God did it this way so that we would lean on HIM.

I heard something (again really) but it was really profound the way that I heard it this time.

It is time to take some time and focus. So today will be Focus Friday. Take all these plates, list out what I need to do for each. Make a schedule to work like it all depends on me. I also am going to write something around my schedule that reminds me that I need to extend myself grace and I need to quit trying to achieve way more than is realistic.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"How I Tricked My Husband" a Thoughtful Response

Recently this article was shared on Facebook. "How I Tricked My Husband to Think I Cleaned - when I didn't".

Go ahead, jump over and read it. At first I really thought it was written to be humorous. As I read it, it really doesn't seem that way.  I mean honestly she posted before and after pictures.  Then I skimmed the Facebook comments - always a mistake, when will I ever learn - of course their were the the ... "what?" and the "that really sounds like cleaning". Many of the comments centered around the whole notion that if he wants a clean house he can do it himself.

So my first notion was to try out her "tips" and I did. You can read that here. Strange thing happened when I was tricking my husband I cleaned. MY HOUSE GOT CLEAN.

This author did her job because I am writing about her post, it was shared on Facebook who knows how many times, I am even still thinking about her post - so good job (Keeping Life Sane)

Here are my thoughts --

1. If you truly have to trick your husband to think you cleaned when you didn't there might be something missing from your relationship. You shouldn't have to trick your husband on ... well almost anything. I mean if you are throwing him a surprise birthday party some tricks may have to happen -- everyday life not so much.

2. Yes, as a Stay At Home Mom time can get away from you. Yes, as a Stay At Home Mom there are going to be days where you get nothing done. Yes, you will feel guilty -- the enemy is good at that one. Yes, as a Stay At Home Mom you will think it is SOLELY your job to parent, cook, clean and kiss the boo boos - you are not alone in this ... your husband is part of the team!

3. For those who think "He should do it himself". What if you had to switch roles? What if you had to be the parent out of the house working? Would you really want to come home to a house in such a mess that you then had to clean yourself? The answer is no. That would lead to more problems. We are women, we are emotional by creation. We would be all up in his stuff while we were throwing stuff around "putting it away" and "do I have to do everything around here?"

4. We all have different standards of "clean". Mine have actually really changed over the last 2 years.

A quick story --

In 2013 I was the working parent. My husband had lost his job and had been doing a 100% commission position that was just not taking off in the market we live in. We HAD to pay our bills. We HAD to put food on the table. We HAD to do something. So we talked about it and he would continue to look for a job that paid well. While he was looking I would get a job. He was the staying home parent and responsible for finding babysitting when he had a job interview. I would be the working parent.

He got to see first hand what I do, day in and day out. He even said to me during that time ... how do you get it all done? I would come home from work at 6:30. He would have dinner done. Man we ate A LOT of spaghetti and egg mess at that time. He would have attempted to get laundry done and have the living spaces straightened up. I would get home and he would collapse. It is tons of work taking care of at the time a 1 and 3 year old.

When the words "What did you do all day?" came out of my mouth it was not in that accusatory tone -- wow this place is a mess what did you do all day -- it was from that place of "I want to hear about your day - the good, the bad and the ugly."

Fast forward to 2014, he had gotten a job and I had all intentions of keeping mine until he made me quit. No one had ever met him at the daycare I worked at. The one time he came in to pick up the kids he was able to get all the way to our son's room in the back of the school without any security measures. When we got home he said, "You are going to work Friday and you and the kids will not be back in that school ever." He never puts his foot down like that, so of course I listened. I would rather be home with my babies anyway.

Remember there are always two sides to every coin.

Now, I have a husband that has never said to me, "What did you do all day?" accusing me of sitting around doing nothing. Has my husband walked into a house a straight up hot mess of hurricane Miss and volcano Mister? You better believe it! Has he walked in and I am just starting to cook dinner ... YEP! Does he know that I take my job as Wife and Mama seriously? Of course. If our home is a HOT MESS he knows one of two things. One the kids have been horrendous and are probably in their rooms until Daddy get's home. Or two, we have had so much fun playing that time just got away from us. It could be either really.

Are there times that he has come home to dinner being cooked and the house being clean. OF COURSE, more times than the other really.

If you are finding yourself "tricking your husband to think you cleaned" ask yourself ... are your expectations of what your husband expects unrealistic? My husband does not need to come home to a dust free house. Of course he prefers to come home to a straighten up house so he is not tripping on toys the moment he walks in, but clean is not necessary. Ask yourself are you taking on more than you can handle? This was me for a long time. I thought it was my job as the Stay at Home Mom that I had to be the one to do all the cooking and cleaning. We are a team, and if I ask my husband to do this or that ... it is OKAY! Most ... okay really all ... that pressure I was putting on myself.

Now, truth of the matter is that I do 97% of all the cleaning and cooking -- because I want to. And yes, I work from home. Truth be told, I want to spoil my husband. I know he works hard and I know that it is really cost inefficient for me to go out and get a job. The least I can do is make sure he has a clean home and dinner waiting.

Tricking My Husband to Think I Cleaned -- The Test

Have you seen this article? How I Tricked My Husband to Think I Cleaned, When I Didn't.

So here we go! I am going to put her tips to the test.  Here are the BEFORE's.  Yes, my house is a straight up HOT MESS.

I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old. The only way this test was going to happen is if I had them busy doing something else. Hurricane and Volcano are outside playing during this test.

Trick 1. Change the Table Cloth. 

As you can see in the before picture ... I do not use a table cloth. However if I were to use a table cloth I would have to remove all items from the table and it would look like this. 

I had to do something with all that stuff. So I put it away. Please pretend this is a clean table cloth.

Tip 2: Make the bed
Okay, this one I am not testing. Right now our bedrooms are turned upside down. Puke-Apocalypse has just ended and literally every laundry basket is in there and full to the brim needing folded and put away. Making the bed would not help a single thing. Not.A.Single.Thing.

Tip 3: Go through the Mail 
SKIPPED! It doesn't usually pile up.

Tip 4: Clean out the sink.

Taking a before picture of our dishes would just be gross. Funny thing happens when you wipe out the sink. You also wipe off the counters around the sink since you already have some soap and water on the paper towel you just dried the sink out with. 

Tip 5: Remove junk from the counter.

Our things never end up on the counters. Our counters on in the joint living spaces with my in laws, so we always have our stuff off the counters, so this is not an applicable tip for us. Untested.

Tip 6: Pick up the living room floor.

I will refer you back to the before picture. HOT MESS. I have a 3 and 5 year old. My 3 year old thinks that to find the specific car you are looking for you turn the box over and dump it out!

Our living room is where we play. We live in less than 700 square feet for all of our daytime living space. The bedroom is maybe 6 by 9, so not room to play in bedrooms. So yes picking up all the toys off the floor does make it look much cleaner. She had a bonus tip to vacuum the center of the room. The vacuum lines make it feel and look much cleaner. It was not possible to vacuum at the time of these pics due to sleeping family members.

So in conclusion -  these tips make it look like you have a clean house -- because you do.

For more thoughts on this post click here

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ebb and Flow of the Work at Home Mom

Just over a year and a half ago I wrote about the ebb and flow of our schedule.  We are in flux again, and this time it is much more stressful. After a minor mental breakdown over the weekend and break-through I think we are going to be okay.

So instead of showing you my "Facebook Happy Life" I am going to keep it real.

I am sure I don't have to tell you this.

LIVE IS HARD. Life as a Work At Home Mom is HARD.

Our reality.
1. Our 3 year old is out growing naps. Goes from full gear to crashed in the matter of nanoseconds. He wants to nap from 330 to 5 and be up until 1030 pm. Our 5 year old can make it until 7 without a nap then she goes into full meltdown mode.

The struggles with this

-- if I let them stay up they are a little unbearable the whole time they get to spend time with Daddy during the week. Then he doesn't get to spend all that much time with them after work.
-- if I force them to nap bedtime needs to be pushed back and I am worn out by the time 730 rolls around. (It literally is forcing them to nap. Threats of lost toys and lost playtime. Yeah, it's bad.)
-- I work during nap. This is when I get the most done. It is my laser focus time. ... for the last 2 to 3 weeks it has been discipline every 15 minutes and I have gotten nothing done.

2. I have been sleep deprived for 4 years now. -- but Little Miss is 5 ... yeahp. She was a great sleeper. She slept through the night by 4 months. She took naps great, and for the most part still does. HOWEVER she tosses and turns like she is sleeping in a darn washing machine! Her blankets end up who knows where, she can't find them to cover herself up when she gets cold at 3 am. So what does she do ... Mommy, can you help me? Listen to crying or just get up and do it? Ongoing discussion in my house. Then there is Little Mister. At the same time when Little Miss is getting cold so is Little Mr. instead of asking for help he is coming over with blanket and stuffies in tow to sleep with Mama.

The struggles of this

-- when is Mama supposed to get rest and recover from a full day of being Mama?
-- of course Mama has been trying to get work accomplished so she has been staying up late. When this insanity starts at 3 am I have maybe gotten 2 to 3 hours of sleep.

3. The job front is not as secure as one would like. That just adds a whole different level of anxiety. Is it ever going to end? Is it ever going to stop raining?

So I say again. Life is hard.

I went looking for some answers.

I went to church and walked out feeling so beaten up spiritually. Here is the funny thing - that is not AT ALL what the message was even about. I left church wondering if the love of Jesus was in my heart of just plain hatred. I didn't go home (Hubs knew I was going to take some alone time before I even went to church). I started venting - in the form of a blog post that will now, never see the light of day.

That is when I had a breakthrough.

The biggest thing I realized is that my schedule, my work time and non-work time needed to be revamped. The second biggest thing I realized is that I had to stop playing and delete Farmville2. It was doing nothing but causing anxiety and taking time away from important things -- like my kids. I realized that the enemy was using my attempt to get time in The Word against me. I was having thoughts like "It is not okay to read just 1 chapter a day -- if you can't read more you should read it at all." and "listening to The Word be read to you is not the same as reading it yourself -- you aren't even paying attention to it."

I realized that without changes my life would continue to spin out of control and fall apart.

Changes I am going to make - mainly I am going to go back to things that worked before.

1. I feel better when I go to bed, lights off by 10:30.
2. Life is better when I get quiet time in the morning. BEFORE everyone gets up.
3. I am going to find ways to adjust our schedule and keep the kids happy busy when I need to be working.
4. I am setting work hours and non - work hours.

I will keep you posted on how things are going.

Feel free to leave your work at home tips in the comments.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Against the Grain by Nancy Cain

What happens when you are a mom known for your homemade pizza Friday nights and your son is diagnosed with celiac disease? You realize that gluten is in everything! You head out on a mission to find a way to make pizza. This is exactly what happened to Nancy Cain, owner of Against the Grain Gourmet and author of "Against the Grain."

The introduction to "Against the Grain" tells the Cain family story that lead them to creating a gluten free baking company. She then explains the fundamentals of gluten free baking and why gums are not necessary. In the fundamentals you find out so many things about the importance of the pans (much more important in gluten free baking than standard baking) and the essential items for a gluten free pantry.  

I had wanted to experiment with gluten free baking in November since I was tired of the constant stomach aches. I had gluten free pizza at a friends house and it was the first time in a long time I was not in pain 15 minutes after eating. I purchased a gluten free flour mixture, gluten free bread mix and xantham gum. I had made the bread and that was nice to be able to eat a sandwich. I had cut it out for the most part in bread and pasta for a week. I realized that I am sensitive to gluten - I can eat some, but when I hit a limit I then get 'sick' again. 

When I saw this cookbook available to review at Blogging for Books I jumped at the chance. I had experience with a few gluten free mixes and although it was nice not having stomach issues after eating, the texture of the foods left much to be desired. After the introductory pages I found myself leafing through the recipes. I found things that I was SO excited to try. I had The Hickmans pick out things to try and I added the items to my grocery list. 

Now I typically get everything I can at Aldi and Dollar Tree. This is how I feed us typically for around $75 for a week.  Knowing I was going to be trying out some new recipes I added $25 to our budget for this week. I also knew I was going to have to head out to some other stores. I found most of what I needed at Kroger. I think I would have found it all, but they were out of the Buckwheat flour. I got all the extra I needed (except the Buckwheat flour) for 17. The coconut flour and coconut milk were on sale, it would have been 20 without the sale.

I found a recipe for pancakes and instead of the flours suggested I just used the flour mix I had. They turned out. They were good, but not great. I knew it was because I didn't follow the recipe exactly I used different flours. I read the introductory pages, I understood that different flours need different hydration levels. I knew not using the exact flours listed would make a difference. 

So with the next recipe I followed it, to the letter. We are trying the little Hickmans pick. Tater Donuts. Gather your supplies and helpers.

Follow the directions and get this scrambled egg looking dough. Be fearful that it is going to taste like fried eggs and potatoes, but keep going and trust the process.  

Taste the donuts with a little hesitation ... the whole fear of fried eggs and potatoes. Then realize that your fears are -- once again -- unwarranted. 

These are delicious! 

I called my dad (a chef).

D: "Hello."
M: "Dad, I may never buy donuts again. These are as if french crawlers and cake donuts had a love child."
D: Laughs at me.

Then I text the husband.

"Oh my these are a little bite straight from heaven. As if it is a tantalizing dance just for my mouth. Seriously, you might not get any!"

The kids are crazy and didn't like them. These are very airy and they like a dense cake donuts, so that makes sense to me. 

There is something else that I just love about this cookbook. With each recipe there is a little story, reason behind the recipe, or tip to make the recipe even better. I love aspect. 

I had mentioned it earlier, but I want it to be known. I was given this book in exchange for a review. At no point was I asked to give a positive review and all the opinions are 100% my own. 


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