Archives for January 2014

Our Menus: The Last 10 Days

Meatloaf and cheesy hash brown potatoes

We ended up spending $529 for the month on groceries– not as fabulous as the $400 I hoped, but a solid $200+ less than average, so I’ll still call that a success.  I also ended the month with a good bit of meat in the freezer due to stocking up on sales this month, so that will be helpful going forward.  I really would like to keep our budget more in the $600 range if I can, instead of edging up toward $800 like it is so easy to do. We are feeding 8-9 people most meals, with more on weekends, but I still think I can do it, and I know our budget would appreciate it!

Here’s what we ate for the end part of the month.  Nothing too thrilling, but no one was hungry!  🙂  I think this menu will show you how often I cook a bit extra, to save myself cooking time on a different day.  Fortunately my people eat leftovers reasonably well.

Wednesday, Jan 22

  • Breakfast:  Eggs, toast and oranges
  • Lunch: Grilled cheese
  • Dinner:  Creamy potato soup, hot dogs

Thursday, January 23

Fri, January 24

Sat, January 25

  • Breakfast: Pancakes
  • Lunch: leftovers
  • Dinner: Meatloaf and potatoes

Sun, January 26

  • Breakfast: Cold cereal
  • Lunch: Church potluck (we brought cheesy hashbrown potatoes)
  • Dinner: Chicken enchiladas (leftover)

Mon, January 27

  • Breakfast:  Eggs and toast
  • Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches
  • Dinner: Spaghetti

Tues, January 28

  • Breakfast:  Eggs and toast
  • Lunch: Spaghetti
  • Dinner:  Taco John’s  ($16)

Wed, January 29

  • Breakfast:  Eggs and toast
  • Lunch:Split peas with bacon over rice, cookies
  • Dinner:  Beef stroganoff, green beans

Thurs, January 30

  • Breakfast: Eggs and toast, potatoes
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Stromboli, with picnic cake for dessert

Fri, January 31

  • Breakfast: Eggs, sausage and potatoes
  • Lunch: Cheesy potato cauliflower soup
  • Dinner:  Pizza, eggplant lasagna (for the brave)


And just for random extra fun, here’s a video of Julianna, 9, singing her new favorite song. 🙂

~From Frozen from Mary Ostyn on Vimeo.

My hubby’s project

New bed!

Just had to share a link to my husband’s post about the new bed he made for us. Didn’t he do a great job?  He made the bed from walnut that he milled himself years ago.  Makes our bedroom look so upscale that I hardly recognize it.

Also, for any of you curious about what I picked out of my latest batch of Stitch Fix goodies, I ended up sending back the black pants and the grey sweatshirt. The pants were too spendy and the sweatshirt was just too ordinary for the price.

I’d been on the fence about the striped tank top since it is bare in back and I’d only wear it under a sweater. But then I realized it looks adorable with a t-shirt underneath it. (At least I think so?) Here are a couple tee’s I tried with it that I think look cute. The navy tee especially is good because the neckline matches perfectly.  It’d also be great with a plain white tee, I think.
tank with tee's underneath

In any case, being able to wear it over a tee makes it a much more versatile piece for me.   🙂   I decided to keep it, along with both the navy cardigan and the green top. I’ve already worn all the items at least once, and I’m really happy with them.

What’s new with you this week?  Hope none of you are separated from family in the terrible storms in the South.

What lies within

(drawing used with permission) The other day my 9 yo brought me this picture and said she’d drawn it for me. I looked hard at it, trying to make sense of the face in the drawing and said, ‘Wow, she has long eyelashes.” Though I couldn’t figure out why my daughter had drawn the eyelashes only UNDER the eyes.

My daughter pointed to those marks under the eyes and said, “Those are tears. She’s crying because she misses her first dad.”

And suddenly there was a quaver in her voice and I held out my arms and she came into my embrace for a long snuggle and a talk about her feelings.

If you know my daughter, you’ll see a bold, sassy, confident little fireball, a child who sings exuberantly and bosses freely and looks very secure in her own skin. She came home from Ethiopia at 6 months of age. She doesn’t have any conscious memories of any life other than the one she’s living now. And yet under all that boldness and confidence and true, honest happiness with her life, still there are feelings about her adoption, and sometimes very deep longings for the family that she doesn’t even know.

I think it’s easy for adoptive parents to assume that if kids seem happy, if they are doing well in life, if they don’t mention their first family, that all is well, and there’s nothing to talk about on the adoption front.  But being raised by a family other than the one into which you were born is always a very big deal.

Sure, there are kids who navigate the duality of that life very well.  But we can’t assume they aren’t struggling just because they aren’t talking.  We can’t assume that they aren’t processing hard feelings about that reality.  We as parents need to gently, boldly go there with our kids.  Sometimes that may mean broaching the subject even before they speak of it, making it known that they can talk to us about ALL their feelings, even the ones that are tangled and jumbled and unclear, even the ones they fear might seem disloyal to us.

Tangled feelings are a huge part of being a human, aren’t they?  Let’s talk with our kids about how it’s possible to be happy and sad within the very same soul, about the very same thing.  Let’s talk about how you can deeply long to see the face of the one from whom you were born, while still also holding precious the momma who doesn’t look a bit like you.  Let’s also remind ourselves of that truth too, mommas. The heart is a big, big place, able to hold so much, and ever capable of growing even more.

The more we can offer ourselves up as safe havens to our children, the more likely it will be that they’ll come to us when their hearts are confused or sad or burdened. Sometimes we may miss opportunities, or speak at moments when children are not quite ready to go there themselves.  But gently presenting ourselves as willing listeners– and as fellow strugglers on this confusing journey of being human– is also a great gift.  And what a great privilege it is when they truly allow us inside, allow us to help sort and treasure and honor all the feelings they’re holding, both the hard and the good.

Having fun being an auntie

Pin It

No One Higher

Weekend reading


I Am a Birth Mother

Made better by good conversation

Creating a supportive environment

The Simple, Hard Part of Motherhood

Made to worship

Don’t give up

The Way to Get You Here

The hair, and Stitch Fix!

The hair

First, as promised– the hair. I had to wash it today, and then went through all sorts of round brush/ wet hair/ blow-dryer clutziness trying to make it look like my miracle-working hair salon lady does.  I was in despair for awhile.  But it ended up looking somewhat similar to her results, and so I gave up for the day.  I can only hope that I will eventually master the art of working a round brush and a blow dryer in tandem.

grey thermalMoving on to clothes.  My much-awaited Stitch Fix  package came in the mail today– hooray!  As usual I am somewhat torn.  The grey thermal shirt is the least interesting item in the box and at $48 is insanely overpriced.  But it is super comfy, and has sparkles of all things– I love sparkles– and honestly, I’d probably wear it twice as often as the other dressier items, esp in the winter curled up on the couch listening to my girls read to me.

My girlieAnd speaking of my girls, isn’t the little girl next to me adorable?  Yesterday she and I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘Jig’  telling the story of a bunch of kids going to the world Irish step-dancing competition.  So now she has decided that she might like to learn to jig. Thus the white dance-style shoes and the bright outfit.

On the left here she is again, modeling another outfit she pulled together.  It is the longing of her heart to have real glasses, and so she has several pair with the lenses punched out of them to coordinate with various outfits. And yes, she does indeed really possess the level of sass that exudes from that photo.Green jersy top 🙂

Moving on to the other items.  The green dolman style top looked very shapeless out of the box– it is nothing that I would even try on in the store–  but it looks better on me than I expected.  It is super soft jersey and I think looks cute with the black pants, scarf and boots. I am wondering what else it would look nice with?  My jean jacket was ok…maybe a vest would be fun?

The black stretchy skinny jeans also came in this fix.  They are similar to another black pair I have but are bit less bulky.  At $78 they are the spendiest item in this fix, but they are very comfy for skinny jeans, are fairly flattering, and high enough in the waist that I wouldn’t be constantly pulling them up.  I’m tempted.

Navy cardigan and striped tank

Next is this navy cardigan. I have a black one that I wear a lot, and have been wishing for one of a different color.  Lots of my wardrobe blends with navy, so I think I’d wear this lots, and it is a nice lightweight comfy layer.

The final item is the tank that I am wearing underneath the navy cardigan.  It is racerback, which means I’d only use it as an under-layer.  But it is super cute with a neckline that is not too low. I love the design on the front and the way that the bottom hem is shorter in the front and longer in the back. Fun.

Except a question:  is the front of this top too busy for a big neckace? I have a blue-stone three strand necklace that fits in the neckline of the top, but when I had it on, I wondered if it was too busy with the busyness of the medallion on the front of the tank?

Anyway.  I really like a lot of this. The one I’d easily pass on is the grey thermal, except if you keep ALL five, there’s 25% discount, which adds up to just a dab more than the cost of the thermal.  Basically, if I decide to keep four, I might as well keep the thermal too. But I’m not sure if I can justify the black pants  (I have something similar) and I’m a bit on the fence about the green. It’s cute, I think.  But is it too shapeless?  I’d love your opinion.

If you’d like a Stitch Fix delivered to YOUR door, click here, fill out the survey, and give it a whirl!

Week 3 eats (and a splurge)

Splurge day for me today!  I got my hair cut like the picture I showed you the other day, except shorter, and added some subtle red highlights.  I’ll get a photo in daylight tomorrow. Looks tons different– I can’t remember the last time my hair has been short enough to show the back of my neck–  but I do like it. I’m just hoping when I wash it I can get it looking half as good as my salon guru Cindi does.

While at the mall, I went to Sephora and tried foundation til I figured out one that is just right for my skin. I’ve bought many different ones lately that were almost but not quite right– some too pale, some too dark, some too drying– and I just got tired of guessing. When I told the lovely ladies I was moisturizing and cleansing with olive oil, I expected them to look at me askance, but instead they showed me their own oil moisturizers for dry skin, one of which just arrived in the store this week.  Apparently oil moisturizing and cleansing is a ‘thing’ these days. Guess I’m not backward after all. They gave me some samples of their oil to try, but I will probably stick with my olive oilt. I managed to get out of the store with only what I intended to buy: foundation and under-eye concealer in the right tones for me.  Which, believe me, was spendy enough.

Speaking of spendy, I am officially over budget in the grocery department, thanks partly to sending others shopping on my behalf.  The good news is we’re only $25 over the $400 goal that I made at the start of the month– not bad– and we have oodles of food. Hopefully we’ll end up less than $500 for the month, which is still a cool $200-$300 less than we routinely spend.

Are you getting bored with hearing what we eat?  I kinda am. Especially this week–except for our lovely Ethiopian feast Saturday evening, and some YUMMY orange chicken– oh, and a really yummy creamy chicken soup– the food was kinda unexciting.

Wednesday, Jan 15th

Thursday, January 16th

  • Breakfast: Eggs, potatoes, toast
  • Lunch: Hamburgers, tater tots, salad
  • Dinner: Stirfry with chicken, veggies and rice

Fri, January 17th

  • Breakfast: Eggs and toast
  • Lunch:  ??? I don’t remember!
  • Dinner: Spaghetti

Sat, January 18th

  • Breakfast: Pancakes
  • Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Dinner: Ethiopian food

Sun, January 19th

  • Breakfast: Cold cereal
  • Lunch: Leftover Ethiopian food
  • Dinner: Lentils and rice, root beer floats

Mon, January 20th

  • Breakfast: Eggs and toast
  • Lunch: Ham sandwiches
  • Dinner: Creamy Chicken-Potato-Kale Soup, crackers, fruit

Tues, January 21st

  • Breakfast:  eggs and toast
  • Lunch: leftover soup and bread
  • Dinner: Fried rice with ham and kale
  • Snack: cookies

This evening I am making a big batch of chicken broth for more soups later in the week.  I need to get it into jars in the fridge soon.

I also made homemade yogurt. The yogurt met with a calamity though.  I left it in the oven like I usually do, to incubate while I was gone today. Then the kids decided to make cookies and turned the oven on.  They discovered it after about 10 minutes, and stuck it in the fridge.  But the quart jar that I’d only filled halfway looks a little watery, and not as thick as the other three.  So I’m not sure how it will taste.  Ah well.

What did you cook this week that was fun?

6 Ways to Avoid Food Waste


Statistics say that the average family of 4 produces 840 pounds of food waste a year. After being so careful when purchasing my groceries, the last thing I want to do is end up throwing them away. Here are some ways that I keep our hard-earned food dollars from hitting the trash.

  • ‘Soup’ any leftover veggies that you have.  I stash mine in a bowl in the fridge for easy soup starters. The soup pictured here is a great use for leftover green beans. (Related: MAKE soup at least a couple times a week.  It is filling, healthy, and affordable.)
  • Scrape containers out well. A dab of water added to near-empty condiment bottles, shaken well, will usually get you another serving or two. Obvious stuff, I know, and sometimes it feels like it isn’t worth your time.  But getting the last dab out of everything will save you many servings over the course of a year, and models wise stewardship to your kids as well.
  • Shake out and wipe out ziplocks and re-use when they’ve been used for dry things like bread or cookies.  I do this with thin bags I’ve gotten in the bulk food section at the grocery store as well. (Any bag that has been used for raw meat always hits the trash, however.)
  • Store leftovers in reusable containers as much as possible instead of using spendy ziplocks or yards of plastic wrap that will be thrown away.  Recently I got a nice pyrex set that makes it easy to see what I’ve got in the fridge, and more likely I’ll remember it in time to use it.
  • Stash single servings of leftovers in freezer containers and freeze them immediately to go in lunch boxes.  This keeps you from having to guess if  a leftover is still edible. My husband routinely takes frozen leftovers to work and reheats to eat at lunch time.  He says that the ladies at work often notice the good smells and asks what he’s eating today.  🙂
  • Serve it different ways.  When I’ve made a large quantity of an item, I rarely serve it the same way twice. Beans can be served with rice on the first day.  A second day I’ll toss a cup or two of beans into beef stew. Another day I’ll make the remainder into re-fried beans served with cheese in tortillas (hint for making refried beans yummy: butter).  I sometimes freeze extra items to be served a different week, saving my family boredom now and me cooking time later.  I also routinely have one or two leftover meals a week, where I set out all the leftovers and folks zap what they want.

Like everyone, we still waste food at times, but these tips keep us from throwing too many dimes, quarters and dollars into the trash. What do you throw away most often? How do you minimize food waste at your house?

The Only Name

Yours will be the only Name that matters to me
The only One Whose favor I seek
The only Name that matters to me

Yours will be
The friendship and affection I need
To feel my Father smiling on me
The only Name that matters to me

Yours is the Name the Name that has saved me
Mercy and grace the power that forgave me
And Your love is all I’ve ever needed

When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name

Feasts and Gatherings

This weekend we’re having a big crew of college students, friends of our sons, over for dinner.  We’re making Ethiopian food for a special treat: injera (Ethiopian sourdough flatbread made with a grain called teff), alecha wat (mild veggie stew), doro wat (spicy chicken) and misir wat(lentil stew). Rolled injeraSince the injera takes a couple of days to do, we started it yesterday morning.  It should be a lot of fun.  If I remember, I’ll take pictures of more of the dishes for you.  But pictured here is the injera (here’s my recipe), and the alecha wat, which is made with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions, with turmeric as part of the seasoning.

In February two of our sons will be taking drivers’ ed, which means EARLY morning rising for five weeks straight.  I am not naturally a morning person but I do enjoy the productivity that those early mornings tend to give me.  OK, and the chance to sit at the coffee shop for an hour sipping my americano with coconut flavoring.  Yum!

Another lovely thing about February and March is that I get to do some adventuring.   Feb 7-9 and March 7-9 I’m attending Created for Care, an amazing adoptive-momma retreat in Atlanta, GA.  I went last year and was sooooooo very inspired and encouraged.  It is an amazing experience, and was sold out almost immediately when registration first opened last summer.  But rumor has it that there have been a few cancellations, so if you’re interested in attending, check the website and see if there’s still space.

The other adoption conference that I’m attending is closer to home–the Refresh Conference in Seattle.  That event is for dads AND moms, and there’s even child care!  I’ve never attended this event, but I’ve heard great things about it so I’m really excited.  Registration is still open for this particular event.

In both places I’ll be sharing on two topics:  organizing a busy home, and trusting God in times of challenge.  At Created for Care I’ll be speaking on my own, and at Refresh I’m blessed to be speaking with Jen Summers and Lisa Qualls. Jen writes at Grace and Glory and has 10 kids. Lisa writes at One Thankful Mom and has 12. I’m so much looking forward to meeting these fellow mommas-of-many in person!

Now I’d love a bit of feedback from you all.  I’ve talked about organization and family management before, but this time around I’d like to add more wisdom about learning to say ‘no’ to what won’t fit well in your life.  I’d love to hear what you’ve said no to, and how you came to feel that was the right decision for your family.

One small example from my home:  I rarely iron.  Usually it’s when I sew, or very occasionally (as in maybe 4x a year?) I’ll help one of the boys iron a Sunday shirt if it didn’t get pulled out of the dryer and put on a hanger quickly enough.  We pick easy-care clothes and I have just decided not to sweat it.  It works for me but it wouldn’t work for everyone.  What DON’T you do to add to the peace and freedom in your home?