Archives for October 2014

Frugality this week


  • The flowers above are from my sweet mother in law to celebrate the launch of Forever Mom.  (Hope you’re not too, too sick of hearing about it! 🙂  )  Very sweet of her to help me celebrate!  We are enjoying the prettiness of the flowers on our table.
  • I did finally get around to canning grape juice– we did about 20 quarts.  That will be good either to drink as juice at breakfast or to make into jelly later in the winter when our jam stash is diminished.
  • I found chicken thighs on sale for 99 cents/lb.  I used some as a meal with rice, some in chicken and rice soup, and some in a stir fry. I like to cook them in a crock pot slowly with some water, which makes them quite tender and then also nets me some chicken broth to use for soup.
  • I made corn cakes this week that turned out yummy, and served them alongside a lime cilantro slaw that nicely complimented that corn cakes.  The recipe was pretty much the same as this recipe except I used gluten free flour mix instead of regular flour. FallCornCakes
  • I also made a chicken skillet pot pie this week with a biscuit topping and lots of garden veggies. (I have LOTS of cabbage and sweet peppers right now.)  Pot pie always feels like a treat, but it is actually very affordable to make.
  • I made some more homemade spaghetti sauce the oven-baked way.  It turns out so good that way, and gets very rich and thick.
  • The girls and I chopped some sweet peppers to go in the freezer.  They’re so lovely fresh that it feels like a shame to freeze them.  But we simply had too many to use quickly enough, so after using lots in stir fry, fresh on sandwiches, and in pot pie, into the freezer the rest of them went.  I’m relieved to be finally getting the excess produce cleared off my kitchen counters.  Though the abundance is a gift, the clutter and the knowledge that I need to do something about it gets to me after awhile.



  • Salsa was another thing we got done this week, finally.  Super spicy this year!  I was glad to use most of the last of the tomatoes, but then John brought more in from the garden, so we still have a basket full ripening on the counter.  We still haven’t had a hard frost, which is really unusual around here.  Lots of time the garden is completely done by the second week of October, and here it is, almost November.
  • I was in the mood for some more fall decor, and so instead of buying something, I found some Christmas lights that actually still worked– hooray! — and twined them in with several fall-leaf garlands that I’d bought earlier this month on a 40% off clearance.  It looked pretty and saved me a trip to the store. We also spread pumpkins around on our front porch from the garden.  No big ones this year, but lots of medium and smaller ones.  We’ll be making pumpkin pie soon too, I’m sure.  Yum!

How did your frugal adventure go this week?  I’d love to hear about it!  And if you an adoptive momma in need of a getaway, remember to enter the drawing for the Created for Care Getaway package!

Hearing shark music?

Photocredit: Jeremy Giddens

I’m very much enjoying the new book by Daniel Siegel titled No-Drama Discipline.  Last night I read a bit to John that had both of us laughing with rueful understanding.  Siegel was writing about how our kids’ actions can be very alarming to us at times, leading our over-active imaginations down scary paths.  He warns about being too quick to hear ‘shark music’ — you know, that stressful music in a movie that warns you that a bad thing is about to happen? He says, “Before you know it, your adorable ten-year-old has become a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart toward the cardboard box she lives in under the bridge down by the river— all because she got mixed up about which way the “greater than” symbol points!”

I’ve had moments like that even with toddlers.  But I’ve found ‘shark music’ moments to be increasingly common when parenting teens.  I think it’s because decisions begin to feel like they have higher and higher stakes. It can seem obvious to an experienced adult that a teen’s decision is unwise, but not nearly so obvious to the teen. Instead of viewing an action as a single isolated incident, it’s soooo easy to feel stressed, imagining a future path filled with similar (or worsening) choices.  Pretty soon your anxiety level is all out of scale with your kid’s current decision, making it almost impossible to respond in a wise and caring way.

Thanks to Siegel, John and I now have a new shorthand way to remind ourselves to chill out and stay in the moment:  SHARK MUSIC.  🙂

Ever hear shark music at your house?  How do you help yourself get things back in perspective?

Need a getaway with a friend?

So today is a big day at the Owlhaven– it’s release date for Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting!

The prayer of my heart for Forever Mom is that it will encourage and equip adoptive mommas to love their children well.  I went into adoptive motherhood having read many books, and thought I was well prepared.  But still I was surprised by some things, ill equipped to deal with others, and at times didn’t truly understand my kids’ hearts or love them as well as I longed to.

In thinking through and living through some of the challenges at our house, and in talking with lots of other adoptive mommas, I discovered that there were lots of us– ready to love our kids, but not quite aware of the different needs of kids who didn’t begin life in your home. Over the years I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned here on my blog.  Forever Mom shares what I’ve learned in greater detail, as well as telling stories from many other moms on this wonderful, blessed, yet challenging path of adoptive motherhood. And the crazy/wonderful bonus is that the skills that help us better parent adopted children also can help us more empathetically parent any child!

With Andrea, the lovely founder of Created for Care

So, to celebrate Forever Mom‘s release, I have a really, really fun giveaway.  For several years I have had the pleasure of attending and speaking at a wonderful adoptive-momma getaway near Atlanta, Georgia, called Created for Care.  The event is so popular that the creators of the event now host it twice a year, once in February and once in March.  And still it sells out completely  within hours of tickets going on sale.   The 2015 events, as we speak, are both completely sold out.

BUT, thanks to Andrea Young, founder of Created for Care, and my awesome publishing team at Thomas Nelson, here I am with TWO tickets to the February 6-8 Created for Care conference, as well as a hotel room for two nights.  Win this package and you and a FRIEND can attend the conference together!  All you have to do is get yourselves there, and all meals, lodging and activities will be covered from Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. Snacks, too–the Created for Care team will pamper you like crazy! Isn’t that a sweet deal?

If you are interested in this lovely package,  look below for the ways that you can enter the contest.  Make sure your friend enters too, to increase your chances of winning!  SO excited that two of you will have the chance to go to this fabulous adoptive-momma retreat!

And don’t forget– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!


To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to, and the free package will be emailed to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some most exciting news! (photos!)

JarednErika (640x427)

Something rather thrilling happened around here over the weekend.

Our oldest son Jared, who graduated from college in May, asked his Erika to marry him.

And she said yes! We are so thrilled for them!

The Proposal

proposal2PS:  The photographers were Jared’s brother Daniel and their roommate Luke, who were hiding off in the distance unseen.  🙂

Frugal Friday

At the corn maze

This week was quieter than we’ve had in….maybe months.  It was lovely to have no early appointments on multiple days, in fact, no place go *at all* some days.  Ahhhh. It bores my teens to tears, and truthfully I’d have happily watched at least twice as many soccer games as I did this fall.  I love watching Josh play.  But I just love the quieter days too.  They restore my soul. And funny thing– they also are good for our budget.

I think I did pretty well budget-wise this week. We canned another 9 jars of tomatoes, probably some of the last of the year. It hasn’t frozen yet, but by the way the flies are trying to get in the house every minute of the day, I’m guessing the frost won’t hold off much longer.  I’m trying to get up enough gumption to can some more grape juice– I hate to waste anything that’s in the garden– but I’m really getting tired of canning. And hey, the birds will eat the last grapes if we don’t, right?

With cooler weather, I’m always inspired to make soup.  I already mentioned my Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup.  Earlier in the week we also did a ramen noodle soup, which always makes the kids happy.  I know the nutrition of the noodles is terrible, but I feel like I improve it greatly by adding lots of garlic, slivered cabbage, onion, and chicken.  Sometimes even real bone broth when I have it.  (Here’s another version of jazzed-up ramen.)

I also made some really good spaghetti sauce– cooked pureed tomatoes in the oven in a dutch oven for a few hours to simmer lots of the liquid off, then pureed it even smoother with my immersion  blender, and gave it some fresh garlic and basil and salt and pepper.  It gets soooo rich and thick that way, and is very easy.  No worries about it boiling over or burning to the bottom of the pot on the stove top.  I’ve discovered that the kids like spaghetti the very best when I use sausage for at least half of the meat.  They really like the way the sausage flavors the spaghetti sauce.  They also like it best when I keep the noodles and the sauce separate, so that each person can decide on the perfect sauce/noodle ration himself.

Thursday evening I made split pea soup for dinner with cabbage, onion, carrots, and bacon sprinkled on top.  I cooked the bacon first, and then began the soup by sauteing the veggies in a couple tablespoons of the rendered bacon grease, which adds lots of flavor to the veggies.  Since we (still) had lots of corn tortillas but no tortilla chips, I made homemade tortilla chip by simply quartering corn tortillas, tossing them in olive oil, and baking them in the oven til light brown.  They were very firm and crunchy, but I think they turned out good, and people gobbled them til they were gone.

Today I think I’ll make some bread– I haven’t done this recipe for awhile and it always disappears quickly.

Before I forget, I also want to tell you about a few free things.

  • First of all there’s an e-book written by the author of an adoption blog called Copperlight Woods.   It is written to support adoptive families who are dealing with attachment issues, and to inform the friends and family of such familes.  It’s a great resource, wisely and compassionately written, and is free at Copperlight Woods.
  • Second, if you haven’t yet entered the drawing on Lisa’s blog for a free copy of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting, go do it quick!  She’s announcing a winner soon.
  • And if you’re interested in hearing more about FOREVER MOM, you might want to check out the radio show this Saturday on  Adoption Perspectives Radio where I talk with Rebecca about the book.

What about you?  Did you have some frugal wins this week?  I’d love to hear about them!

Josh, playing soccer

Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup (GF)

Soup (thin)Here’s a great soup recipe that I found on Pinterest and then adapted quite a bit to suit my preferences.  I really, really love the bright flavors and pretty color added by the fresh tomato and cilantro. I’ve served it to a crowd twice, and each time people really seemed to enjoy it.

Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup

Yield: 5-6 servings

Creamy Chicken and Potato Soup


  • 1 lb chicken, cooked and shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve for topping)
  • 2 tablespoons reserved bacon grease
  • 1 large red or green bell pepper, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (1 1/4 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced (3 cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (reserve for topping)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (reserve for topping)


  1. Cook and cube chicken however you prefer.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven until crispy, about 12-18 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove bacon to a plate to drain.
  3. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease and pour it into a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add bell pepper and onions, and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer.
  5. Stir in chicken broth, add cubed potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil stirring frequently, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes or just until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Whisk cornstarch into the half and half. Add it to the soup along with the cooked chicken and corn.
  7. Simmer, uncovered 10 - 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve warm topped with bacon, cilantro, and fresh tomatoes.

For an added boost of health and flavor, I make this soup with bone-in chicken thighs. For this recipe I cooked 5 bone-in thighs in about 8 cups of salted water to which I added some onion and carrot. When meat was soft enough to fall off the bone, I remove the meat and set it aside, then continued to gently cook the bones in the broth overnight (a crock pot works nicely). The next day I had a nice healthy bone broth, which I strained, discarding the veggies, and then used in place of store-bought broth. It adds extra cooking time, but very little additional prep time, and adds lots of rich flavor and nutrition to the soup.



FOREVER MOM giveaway!

Just wanted you all to know that Lisa Qualls of One Thankful Mom is doing a giveaway of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting over on her blog this week. She’s also sharing her impressions of the book, so if you’d like a free copy, go sign up for the giveaway and read what Lisa has to say about it. And remember that if you buy a copy of FOREVER MOM anytime between now and November 4th,  and want the freebies described below, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to, and the package below will be emailed to you.



Greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world.

Frugal Friday

With our sweet grandbabies

With our sweet grandbabies

I don’t feel like I’m completely ‘back’ after a busy couple weeks, but I decided I’d better write out a few of the things I’ve done right to get some momentum building again and work my way back fully into the frugal swing of things.

  • Ali

    Sweet Ali

    Last weekend I picked peppers and tomatoes out of our garden to bring to the adoptive momma retreat.  I’d been tempted to just grab ‘perfect’ veggies on a trip to the store, but a walk out to the garden scored me lots of produce that was almost as pretty as store-bought anyway.

  • Thanks to lots of leftover goodies from my retreat weekend, we haven’t had to buy much for groceries this week.  I’ve even pulled together the energy to cook a few times!  🙂
  • I decided to only choose one item from my Stitch Fix box, despite being greatly tempted otherwise.
  • We used coupons when bringing our youngest girls to meet the babies and our oldest daughters at the corn maze this week.  We also combined a couple of errands with that trip to save on gas.
  • I signed up to donate plasma after a friend recommended it.  We’ll see how that goes.  Apparently you can make about $45 for an hour of sitting around, and benefit someone else in the process. (Update: after reading more about risks, I’m feeling on the fence about this, and am going to think a bit longer before trying it.
  • I had the kids pick more raspberries even though we are all kinda tired of picking.  Ditto for more apples and tomatoes.  It is SO hard this time of year to get out there– I’m actually very eager for the garden to be done– but I feel good when we use what we have been so bountifully given.

How have you done in the frugality department this week?

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting (and free wall art)


My new book!

I wanted to tell those of you who are interested a little about my latest book Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting.  It is coming out on October 28th, and I must confess to a crazy mix of excitement and tremulous nerves about this book.  My greatest longing is that it will encourage and equip moms along this adoptive parenting journey.

This book is very vulnerable, a true window into my heart as an adoptive mom.  There’s been so much joy– adoption is an incredible gift– but also much struggle, much lurking fear that I wasn’t doing this hard job well enough. But praise God, He’s been strengthening and growing me all the way. Even as I wrote about our journey, God was gifting me with more growth, more compassion for my precious ones, and a greater ability to more clearly see my own personal ‘stuck’ points. I’ve come to a much better place as a mom, better at releasing my desire to control outcomes and speed healing and growth, instead leaning on God’s providence in my kids’ lives as well as my own. But wow, it has been a long hard path. I hope that sharing my struggle will help other moms know they’re not alone, and that there is a way through difficult waters.

If adoption is a topic that interests you or you’d like to read more of our story, I hope you might consider pre-ordering Forever Mom?  If you know me, you know I feel really funny about doing the pushy sales-person thing. But in the publishing world, all pre-release sales on amazon are counted as first-day sales of a book. It really helps a book gain more attention (and more orders in stores and from libraries) if those first-day sales are strong.  I’d love for this book to be widely available to prepare moms before adoption and to come alongside mommas who may be struggling, letting them know they’re not alone.

And here’s some really fun news– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!

  • Freebie#1– A little e-book I’ve written called ’50 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know’
  • Freebie #2- 8 custom Forever Mom downloadable prints for framing  (see samples below)
  • Freebie#3- all 8 of those same custom prints as phone lock screens/screensavers!

To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to, and the free package will be emailed to you.

Here are some additional ways to support this book:

  • Mention FOREVER MOM on facebook or your blog
  • Pin this post on Pinterest, mentioning the freebie
  • Request FOREVER MOM from your local library
  • Give it as a gift to adoptive families that you know

Feel free also to share the video and graphics below, either on your blog, pinterest, or on facebook.  Thanks so much for your support!!

Remind them how precious they are