Preparing for...

The 4th of July, of course. And as I am just about every day anymore, I found myself thankful and amazed at the talented women who blog. They share their creativity and brilliance with not only others of amazing talent but those of us whom God choose to endow with gifts other than creativity and artistic savvy.

I am not at all creative or artistic but I am most definitely capable of appreciating all those who are. Tonight, this beautiful bunting graces my living room window and it is all because a lovely woman named Hillary was kind and generous (and Lovely and Gracious) enough to share her creation with us. Freely offering it up to anyone who wants to use it for their own personal enjoyment

Here is what it looks like in my living room. If you decide to make it, post pictures and let me know. I'd love to see it. If you don't, enjoy mine and have a wonderful 4th of July!

This is Aaron hanging it up for me. My husband, by the way, is ingenious. Any guesses as to how it's hanging from my curtains without using pins or tape?


Sunday Strength

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10-11


Silhouette Giveaway

As seems to be the case lately, I'm finding out about awesome giveaways at the almost-very-last second. This one is no exception. You only have until Tuesday to enter and there are already almost 4000 comments (probably will be over 4000 by the time I add my link!).


Are you ready?

Imagine the drumroll now...

Yes. You read that right. Giving away. Silhouette Craft Cutter. Entry deadline is Tuesday, June 29th.

Get OVER there... Enter. And then...if you win and I don't? Send me a picture of you with your goodness. You know if I win I'll be posting pictures here!!!

A Silhouette Craft Cutter... do you know what this thing can do? No? Check out the post...

Before Tuesday.

Whatcha waiting for??? Go.....


Hurricane Ridge

Yesterday we all hopped into the van and headed west. The ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and then on up the Peninsula to Pt. Angeles. From there we headed up into the Olympics - Hurricane Ridge. I am reminded, every time we take one of these trips, just how fortunate I am to be living in this State.

I wish I could remember who told me this but I heard a joke recently. A young man, traveling across the country, would visit a church in each town he stopped. The lobby would always hold a golden telephone with a sign over it which read "Direct line to God. One call $10,000.00." An incredibly steep price to call God this man thought.

Then, he arrived in Washington State and in visiting a local church he found the same golden telephone only this time the sign read "Direct line to God. One call $0.25." Intrigued, the young man approached the church pastor and told him as he journeyed across the country, the phone call was always the same amount - $10,000. Not here. Here it is a quarter. Why so cheap?

The pastor answered his question with "Son, you're in Washington State. The home of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Puget Sound, the Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge. You're in God's Country. It's a local call."
It may be a joke but I can see what they're saying. Here are just a few of the couple hundred pictures we took yesterday. If you're ever looking for an amazing place to vacation - hike, camp, etc., the Olympic National Forest is a perfect place to check out!


House With Amenities

Do you know a bird family looking for a new home?

Roomy, one bedroom cottage available for seasonal usage. Comes complete with newpaper delivery and doorman...

Only occupant applicants acceptable are of the feathered with wings variety who are small enough to fit through the heart shaped front door.

Real estate photo:

All interested and qualified parties please leave a comment...

Welcome to summer!

Tangy Flank Steak

My husband loves beef. So it was only fitting for Father's Day that I come up with something involving beef. Now, flank steak is a pricey object to go experimenting with but it had to be done. As I said before, I'm looking to clear some cookbooks and recipes out of here if they aren't any good and I'm going to go through some duds as I'm discovering my keepers.
This one is a keeper. Tangy Flank Steak which, as my normal lament seems to be, wasn't really "tangy" at all. If you want some zip in your steak, you'll have to step up the chili powder. Or add something else to give the steak some zip. There is flavor and it's good flavor but it's not spicy. It was interesting - the taste reminded me of my mother's spare ribs. I haven't had them in years. It was a yummy flavor.

Again - my crock pot is a big one so I only cooked this on low for about 5 hours and then turned it to warm. It fell apart nicely but I'd probably cut it back by another 1/2 hour if I do this again. The beef was starting to get a little tough to chew (or is that just one of the downsides to a flank steak?).

Tangy Flank Steak

1 beef flank steak (about 1 1/2 lb.)
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies (optional), drained
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Cut flank steak in half, if needed, to fit in a slow cooker. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown flank steak in oil. Place in slow cooker.

2. In skillet, place onion, green chilies if desired, water, vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Pour over meat.

3. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or on low for 6 to 7 hours until meat is very tender.

4. Transfer meat to a warm platter. Slice meat diagonally. Remove onion from slow cooker with a slotted spoon and arrange around meat. If desired, baste with juices.

One of the side dishes I tried tonight was baked red potatoes. I took red potatoes and halved them, put them in a bag with 1/3 cup olive oil and one package onion soup mix. Shook them together until coated and then baked them at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.

That is a side dish I was not impressed with at all. I picked it up on allrecipes. I don't know if it was the soup mix I used or what the problem with it was (459 reviews and it scores a 4 1/2 stars on allrecipes... what's wrong with our taste buds?) but I didn't find it all that yummy. Simple, though. Maybe next time I'd try a little pepper when I go to bake them...

If you try them, let me know what you think. Or if you add anything to improve the flavor. I think that was the problem - they didn't really seem to HAVE any flavor beyond potato. What's the point in that?

Hope you do try this one...! Don't hesitate to let me know if you come up with a way to "tweak" the recipes to make them yummier. I'm hoping you do!


By the way...I may not post much for the rest of this week. My son is out of school and he leaves on Saturday to spend the summer in Iowa with his mom. We have a few things planned for the next couple of days before he goes and there is a good chance we'll be in places I won't have access to a computer. A mini-vacation, I suppose. Have a great week and I'll be back next week with more forays into recipe trying...


Spicy Turkey Lasagna

This meal was good and incredibly easy. It did and will make a great dish for a Saturday when you have a lot of errands to run and things to do and the idea of slaving over a hot stove just doesn't appeal to you. Getting this ready to go into the crock pot took about 10 minutes and 3 1/2 hours later, voila! Dinner.

If I were to have any complaint about it, I'd say it was a little bland (I'm learning that about recipes...). Next time I'll try to perk it up a bit. It wasn't "spicy" at all. It only calls for 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I'd probably up that to 1/2 or even 3/4 of a teaspoon for next time.

Another thing I'd watch is the type of spaghetti sauce you pick up. Prego didn't have a "chunky pasta sauce with mushrooms and green peppers" that I saw so I picked up "chunky garden." It has carrots in it. A no go for this dish, let me tell you! Additionally, the recipe calls for one 26 oz. jar of sauce. I used two. I don't know if it's because my crock pot is too large for the recipe or what the issue was but one jar just didn't seem enough.

Make sure you allot yourself enough time to thaw & dry the spinach. Also, know your crock pot. Again - I think mine might be too big for some of the recipes I'm trying so I'm finding that I need about an hour less on low than they're calling. This I only cooked for 3 hours and then switched to warm. It was cooked through and if I'd let it keep cooking for another hour and a half, we would have had a burned, dried mess, I think.

Finally, this is a a very pretty dish when cooked. The spinach and spaghetti sauce invite you to try them. It's fun. I'd definitely suggest it for company (three of us ate less than 1/2 of what the recipe made) but only after you've tried it and played with the recipe so it tastes perfect for you. Unless, of course, you're trying to dissuade your guests from coming back for anymore dinners... then, go for it as is!

Spicy Turkey Lasagna

1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta
2 cups (8 oz. package) shredded Italian-blend cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 lasagna noodles (12 oz.), uncooked and broken in half
1 jar (26 oz.) chunky pasta sauce with mushrooms and green pepper
1/2 cup water
grated Parmesan (optional)

1. In nonstick skillet, brown turkey over medium-high, breaking up clumps, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with oregano, salt and pepper flakes. Remove from heat.

2. In bowl, mix ricotta, cheese blend and spinach.

3. In oval, 5 1/2 quart slow cooker, layer half the noodles, overlapping as necessary. Spoon on half the meat mixture. Pour on half the pasta sauce and half the water. Spread half the cheese mixture on top. Repeat layering.

4. Cover slow cooker; cook on low heat 4 1/2 hours.

5. To serve, cut into 8 equal pieces. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.



Sunday Strength

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

~Psalm 103:1-14

On this the day we celebrate fathers, let us offer our sincerest praise and thanks to the Father who shows us just who a Father is to be.


Italian Meat Loaf

Found one. A meat loaf recipe that is a beyond amazing. Keeper. Big time. Even the 10 year old - one bite and his eyes lit up and he gave it a big thumbs up. Happy even to have leftovers last night.

Wednesday night's dinner was a real surprise. I wasn't really expecting too much but one bite and I knew I'd found a meat loaf recipe I could share. See, my meat loaf (which tastes remarkably similar to this one) is a "I'll put in some of this. Add a bit of that. Mix in a whole lot of the other..." and off I go. There is no rhyme or reason to my recipe. It's hard to share that way. This, though, solves that problem instantly.

And you cook it in the crock pot! A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!! (Ok... ok... there is a drawback... it leaves a lot of grease in the bottom of your pan. That grease isn't cooking "out" anywhere but right back into your meat. If you don't want all that ugh in the bottom of your crockpot, this one may not be for you. To me? The taste FAR outweighed that negative. I will be making this one again.)

Italian Meat Loaf (makes 8 servings)

2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
1 large egg
2 tblspn. dried chopped onion
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. dried Italian herbs, crushed
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tblspn. spaghetti sauce

1. Fold 30 inch long piece of foil in half lengthwise. Place in bottom of slow cooker with both ends hanging over the top edge of cooker.

2. In large bowl mix beef, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce, egg, onion, salt, garlic salt, Italian herbs, garlic powder and pepper until well blended. Shape into a loaf. Place in slow cooker on top of foil. Spread 2 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce over top.

3. Cover tightly and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on low for 5 to 6 hours or until beginning to brown and juices run clear.

4. Use ends of foil to lift out meat loaf and transfer to a serving platter.

Serve with spaghetti, any remaining spaghetti sauce and a spinach salad. Or chill, then slice and use for sandwiches.

I took their advice and had spaghetti on the side with some garlic bread. My family smiled for hours...



Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart

Aaron. How do I write this post about Aaron? Five years ago today I stood in front of our family and friends and promised to love him. To respect him. To submit to him as the church submits to Christ.

At 38 years old, I really didn't think a day like that would have ever happened for me. I was 18 when I married my first husband, we separated when I was 20 and made our divorce final a few years after that. I spent the next 16 years raising my son as a single mom. A few long term relationships, a lot of failed dates and all of that ick in between and I really figured a second marriage was not going to happen for me. When I gave my life to Christ, I continued thinking the same thing - believing I had to live with the consequences of all I had done (No - not punishment. I knew I was forgiven in Christ but I also know there are consequences for what we do.) and the consequences for all of my previous mistakes was a life of singleness.

Then, in all that I was reading in the Bible and learning, I realized I didn't really believe that. That was just my excuse for hiding from dating again. Men - and my choice of them - were something I didn't WANT in my life. It was my fighting it, not God's keeping it from me.

I did not believe that good, Godly single men who wouldn't be either too old or too young for me existed. I also believed I was far too ugly and tainted and... well... you get the idea. I wasn't good enough.
Then Aaron came into my life and when he did, there was so much going on that created an incredible amount of stress for me. He was my oasis. He was the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, smartest man I had ever met. He fell for me (hard...) and I did the same.

One year to the day of our first meeting, we stood before our friends and family and promised to stay together until one of us dies. There isn't a man on this planet I have met since to whom I would be willing to make that same promise.
It's not just that Aaron cooks (cooks well AND likes to cook!) or holds the door open for me (insists on it, actually). It's that he's funny and makes me laugh so hard sometimes I cry. It's that he is so patient and good with our son. He teaches Christopher, he doesn't order him about. I, on the other hand, am a drill sergeant. Thank goodness Christopher gets a break with his dad! It's that he works so hard and doesn't complain. He works when he's sick. He brings me roses. He listens to me. He loves to check out garage sales. He lets me drive when we're going places. He sends me away with my friends for girls' weekends because he knows I need them. He doesn't question me when I shop a bit more than I should (Online shopping is DANGEROUS for a woman who hates to go to the mall!!). He gives the dog his bath.

Above all of that, though. First and foremost. My husband loves Jesus. My husband worships God. My husband turns to his Father first before he does anything. My husband puts me before every other person on earth but he puts God before me and that... that is why I love my husband. That is why I would marry him again today if he asked me and that is why we will be together until death do us part.

Happy Anniversary, Aaron. I am so honored God chose me for you.


Chinese Beef and Broccoli

Last night's dinner was another success. This time of massive proportions: even Christopher said the pepper part wasn't "too bad." For a boy who really can't stand most vegetables, that was a very high compliment. He does like broccoli so it was only a small torture. About the only thing negative I can say about this one is I didn't make enough. I probably need to double it next time or at least do it 1 1/2 the recipe.

It was fairly simple to put together, too. Without counting cook time for the rice, it only took about 1/2 hour from the start of gathering ingredients to having a finished meal. The rice cooker took care of the rice and that takes about 45 minutes. All in all, a fairly good dinner for a weeknight around here.

One thing - watch step one. You want to do that in the morning, let that beef marinate in the teriyaki all day long... Yum!

The recipe:

3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, divided
3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
1 lb. lean beef, such as top sirloin, sliced for stir-fry
4 cups broccoli florets (I used fresh veggies... yum!)
1 cup sliced red peppers
2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (smells HEAVENLY!)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
Quick-cook brown rice, prepared according to package directions (here I used my rice cooker...much more trustworthy than me cooking rice on a stove top!)
1. Combine 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch and the beef in small bowl. Refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 10 hours. Place broccoli and peppers in large bowl and cover tightly. Microwave on medium-high for 5 minutes. (I'm not a fan of microwave cooking but since it was only 5 minutes and at medium-high power, I went for it.)

2. In large non-stick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with vegetables.

3. Dissolve remaining cornstarch in tablespoon water. Heat remaining oil in skillet, add ginger and garlic. Cook 30 seconds, then stir in broth and remaining teriyaki sauce, bring to boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and boil 1 minutes. Stir in beef, broccoli and peppers and cook until just heated through. Serve over brown rice.

Most definitely a keeper. Enjoy!


Sausage & Potatoes

I don't believe it. I'm a horrible blogger. Last night's dinner? No pictures. Not. a. one. Don't ask me where my head was. I'm not quite sure. There were a couple of times I thought 'Oh - I need to take a picture of that' and then? No picture.

Dinner was really, really good, too. Sausage & Potatoes cooked in a crockpot. A soup, really. Not sure how else to describe it. It's not super-brothy, though, which I can't stand. It was yummy. I paired it with a salad and sourdough pull-apart rolls (Not homemade, unfortunately. I'm not that good!!!). All in all? A keeper. I will definitely hold onto this recipe for future reference. Even my little one likes it and he doesn't like anything with tomatoes in it...

Sausage & Potatoes

1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/4 pounds sweet or hot Italian turkey sausage
2 medium-sized, all purpose potatoes, scrubbed & cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large zucchini halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch half moons
1 medium-sized onion, cut into wedges
2 tblsp. plain bread crumbs
3/4 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese

1. Add tomatoes and their juice to a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Break apart tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper flakes.

2. Tuck sausages down into sauce. Add potatoes, zuchinni and onion. Cover. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or on low heat for 8 hours (Either my crockpot cooks fast or they just tell you to cook stuff for far too long. I'll cook this for 6 if I do it again.)

3. Uncover pot and remove sausages. Slice into 1 inch thick coins and return to mixture, stirring gently, along with the bread crumbs. Serve in bowls; sprinkle each with shredded cheese.



Sunday In The Park With Christopher

Christopher & I met up with my mother at a local park for a bit yesterday. It's an athletic park, has several ballfields. Fortunately it's a big enough park that the noise from the ballgames didn't infringe on the quiet and beauty where we were sitting. Christopher took off with my camera for a little while, took some pictures of the wildlife. I took a few of these, too. It was a family effort. A nice, quiet, relaxing couple of hours at the park on a Sunday afternoon...


Sunday Strength

Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.

Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

~Psalm 97:10-12


Screamin' Beans

No dinner menu for last night. We ordered pizza. It was Friday and the sun had come out...I just wanted to enjoy the evening.

I've decided to share, via How About Orange, this perfectly giggle-worthy fun way of wasting time:

Screamin' Beans.