Friday, November 28, 2008


Dear Ladies,

Just a short word of encouragement for you all this holiday weekend.


It is OK to sneak in some "me time" this weekend.
Here are some ideas to get you started:

Do nothing- just sit and stare out the window,

Read a book during the kids nap time instead of cleaning, take a hot bath after everyone is in bed,

Watch a favorite TV show on line(most of the major networks have their shows on line, so you can watch it when you like),

Go shopping all alone or with a friend, go get a cup of coffee and wander your favorite store without worrying about Christ ma shopping.

Whatever you do, enjoy yourself.
It's OK.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Easy After Thanksgiving Day Dinner

This is a great recipe to help you use up some leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner.

Easy Turkey/Chicken Bake
Prep time 10 minues

1 pkg. cornbread stuffing mix or leftover stuffing
1 cup hot water if using the stuffing mix
1 1/2 lb. leftover turkey/chicken cut into 1" pieces
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup sour cream
1 bag frozen mixed veggies(or leftovers)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of dry stuffing mix evenly on bottom of 13x9" baking dish or use leftover stuffing. In separate dish add hot water to remaining stuffing mix if using and stir to moisten. Set aside.
Place turkey or chicken over stuffing mix. Mix soup, sour cream and veggies together in a separate bowl. Spoon over turkey. Top with moisten stuffing mix or additional leftover stuffing.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dear Ladies,
This week we tried a new recipe. The meal is simple to make and is a basic Mexican chicken and rice dinner that is bound to please most of the hungry people in your house. Below is the recipe. Since I rarely follow a dinner recipe exactly I also included the changes I made.

Foil-Pack Chicken Fajita Dinner
1 1/2 cups instant white rice, uncooked
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb)
1 each green ad red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded taco or cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Use four 18x12 inch sheets of foil to make packets. Spray foil with cooking spray. Combine rice, water and taco seasoning; spoon onto centers of foil. Top with chicken, peppers, salsa and cheese. Bring up foil sides and double fold top and ends to seal each packet, leaving room for heat circulation. Place packets on baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.(165 degrees) Let stand 5 minutes. Cut slits in foil to release steam before opening packets.
Serving suggestion: top each portion with sour cream
Make ahead: prepare foil packets and refrigerate up to 1 day.

Melissa's Variations:

The first thing I did different was to use regular rice. The amount of instant rice I had in the house was not enough to feed my family, so I cooked regular rice.

Quick rice in the microwave technique:
Measure 2 cups of water to every 1 cup of rice and combine in a casserole dish. Leaving the dish uncovered cook the rice for 20 minutes in the microwave. When the time is complete there should not be any water on the surface of the rice, cover the dish and allow the rice to set for about 10 minutes. This allows the rice a chance to steam and absorb the water.

I thought the foil packets would take too much time, so I layered everything in a 9x13"dish. I topped the seasoned rice with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, salsa, green peppers and cheese. I covered the dish with foil and baked for about 1 hour. The chicken was very moist, but the rice needed more seasoning. I used more rice then the recipe called for, but did not increase the taco seasoning amount enough.
This is a very simple recipe and will probably please the majority of the people in your household. The green peppers add a nice flavor and color to the meal, but are easy to leave out or remove later for picky eaters.

Our Growing Girl

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mothering Through the Sand Dunes of Life

Out in the middle of no where, among the Rocky Mountains are acres of sand. Great Sand Dunes National Park is a fascinating place to visit; it is like being at the ocean except the ocean is missing. Leading up to beautiful soft yellow mountains of sand is a vast, expanse of smooth, sandy ground. Some of the flat ground leading up to the dunes is easy to walk through as the sand is compressed; other places the sand is soft making walking more difficult. The national park service is unable to create a map of trails, because the sand dunes are constantly shifting and if you sit for a spell you can see whiffs of sand blowing passed.

During a visit to the park, the thought occurred to me that the adventure of motherhood is like exploring sand dunes. Some days mothering is easy, like walking on sand that is firm. Other days are tough, no major obstacles, just harder and physically exhausting, like walking through soft sand. But other days are like climbing a mountain of sand. Difficult!

We’ve all had difficult days. You wake up two hours late; the baby slept through her
6am feeding. Even though you enjoyed the extra sleep, you’ve missed the small window of time you had to take a shower. The day doesn’t get better. The toddler and the baby both woke up cranky, with a stuffy nose and sore throat. After an hour’s wait the doctor tells you they have a virus and it just will need to run its course. Back at home you remember there isn’t anything for lunch, because today was supposed to be grocery shopping day. After feeding the kids cereal you begin the process of getting everyone down for a nap. With naptime underway you quick clean up the breakfast dishes, begin a load of laundry, take out the trash and pick up the Duplos the toddler scattered all over the living room and kitchen. Feeling exhausted you decide to lay down for a 10 minute powernap, as you head touches the pillow, crying is heard from the bedroom down the hall. You feel like you have been climbing a mountain of sand and your day is only half over.

Visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park are encouraged to enjoy, explore, learn and recreate during their visit. We need to do the same as mothers; we need to enjoy the mundane days for their quietness, learn from the difficult days, explore with our children the beauty of each day and recreate together making the most of each day. Just as the sand dunes are a fascinating place to explore, mothering is a fascinating journey.

The above article is copyrighted by Melissa Steckmann.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Helpful Christmas Ideas

Dear Ladies,

My husband is away again, so we are going shopping. When Eric is home I like to be here when he arrives home after a long day at work. So when he is away the kids and I will use it as a opportunity to be out late. Today we are heading out after lunch to do some birthday and Christmas shopping. I have to finish up some birthday shopping for Caleb and the kids need to do some birthday shopping for dear OLD mom. We have 3 birthday in our household that are close to Christmas, so this season becomes one big party for us.

With four children and a large extended family I have a lot of gift buying to accomplish. I thought for this letter I would share with you a few ideas to help make your shopping season easier.

1. The best thing to do is start shopping right after Christmas and buy on sale or clearance, but I never know what the plan is for the next Christmas or what the kids will be interested in, so I don't buy many gifts for family members. After Christmas sales are a good time to purchase hostess gifts or Christmas decorations for the next year.

2. Make lists. I have each child make a list for me. I purchase some gifts that are on the list and some that I know they will like.

3. My children love books, so they always get a new book at Christmas. I have found it is best to buy them online at sites like Online you can find several sites that sell used books and many times I have paid much less for a book then if I went to a local bookstore. The sites are also good for purchasing music CD's or DVD's.

4. Magazines are fun for children; they enjoy receiving something in the mail all year long. Many magazines subscriptions can be found for under $10. One good site is

5. Purchase online. I love shopping online. I have been buying online for 10 years and never had a problem with a credit card information being stolen. I have found by shopping online I can find gifts cheaper then in a retail store, I can shop whenever I want while sitting in my pj's, and I can find difficult items, that would might be hard to find locally(this year I looking for fencing swords).

6. Start early and make multiple trips. If I putting together a box to send to someone I focus on that and then another trip I will focus on the kids.

7. Set a budget. I have an ideas in my head how much to spend per child and I try to stick with it. We don't purchase a lot of large dollar amount gifts for our children, but we buy a lot of little items and we wrap everything, so they have a lot to open. I also buy them a practical item that I have been wanting them to have, such as duffel bags for traveling, comforters and sleeping bags. Try not to over spend; no one wants to be still paying for Christmas gifts in July.

8. Look for coupon codes when shopping online. I check for codes to use, sometimes stores offer free shipping codes or a few dollars off your order.

9. Pick a day that you can hire a sitter or have your husband watch the children, so you can spend a day just Christmas shopping.

10. Make a few gifts. Don't over extend in this area; that will only add stress to the season. This year I am making homemade vanilla. I saw the recipe online and it was very easy. I have purchased some fancy bottles that I will put pretty labels on and I bought measuring spoons to give with the vanilla.
Here is the site for the vanilla recipes; it super easy to make.

Have a wonderful holiday season and set aside a lot of time to enjoy your children. Try not to let the holiday stress steal the joy of the season from you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Snuggle With Dad

Dear Ladies,

We have just returned from my home state of New York. We went up for a few days to visit with my family. We had the opportunity to attend church with my Dad and his wife. I can count on one hand the number of times my Dad has gone to church, but his new wife wants to go and he goes with her. After lunch at a local Chinese buffet, we went back to see my Dad's new place and visited for the afternoon. During our visit I decided to move over and sit next to my Dad. As I listened to the conversation around me I put my head on his shoulder and snuggled up with him. I guess you are never too old to snuggle with your father. It was a very nice visit and even though we sat in silence part of the time, I just enjoyed being with my Father.

Isn't that the way it should be with our Heavenly Father? We should just enjoy being with Him. Our relationship to God needs to be more then a few minutes of reading the Bible and a quick prayer for something we want. Our relationship needs to have some times of snuggling and some times of silence. Our relationship with God needs to be one we enjoy, but it does take time to have this kind of relationship. Just as I had to set aside several days and plan for a visit with my Dad, we have to plan for our visit with God.

Choose a time that works for you. I like to read and pray in the morning, but when my kids were little that was hard to do. I used nap time instead. When I was in college, I preferred right before bed. There is no wrong time.

So grab your Bible and find a few moments where you can snuggle with your Heavenly Father today.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas Recipe

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to enjoy Gingerbread boys and hot chocolate with real whipped topping and a candy cane stirrer.

Gingerbread Boys

Cream 1/2 cup each of butter and sugar. Add 3/4 cup molasses and 1 egg and beat well. Stir in 3-1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 2tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground allspice and 1/4 tsp. salt. Dough will be stiff-so use your hands(you can add a little water if needed). cover and chill f0r 1 hour. Roll out dough on lightly floured cutting board to 1/4 inch thickness. (thin boys will be crisp and thicker ones chewy-I like the chewy). Cut dough with cookie cutters. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Makes 22-24 boys.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cooking for the Weekend


I've added two easy dinner recipes to the blog page for you to try. Today if you have time think about a few meal ideas you can use for the weekend and begin to prep them now. Cook the ground beef or chop the onions, purchase sandwich meat and hogie rolls or start the chicken in the crockpot to bone tomorrow.

I don't like to cook on the weekends and I usually don't cook on Sunday, so we try to have something in the freezer we can pull out and fix quickly. It cost alittle more to purchase a ready made meal, but is cheaper then ordering take-out or going out to dinner. Many Sunday nights we have popcorn for dinner; when I was a kid that was Sunday dinner for us; my mom didn't want to cook on the weekend either. A little thinking ahead today will give you extra time with you honey and kids this weekend.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Easy Chicken Bake - recipe

Easy Chicken Bake

Just like the title says, this is an easy casserole. Next time you have chicken, freeze the leftover. Next time you don't have much time for dinner prep(that can be most nights), pull out the frozen chicken and in 10 minutes dinner will be in the oven. I like to buy the large packages of chicken thighs or quarters when they are on sale and put them in the crock pot overnight. The next day after they have cooled I bone all the chicken, put it into several quart size freezer bags and pop the bags in the freezer. This gives me several bags of chicken that are ready for casseroles, chicken salad, enchiladas, etc.

1 pkg. stuffing mix(we like the cornbread stuffing)
1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces or your bag of frozen chicken
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup sour cream
1 16 oz bag of frozen mixed veggies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, prepare stuffing mix as directed on package;set aside. Mix chicken, soup, sour cream, and veggies in a 13x9" baking dish;top with stuffing. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. 6 servings

Easy Beef Enchiladas

This is an easy Mexican dinner and if your meat is already cooked and in the freezer you would be able to prepare this meal quickly.

Easy Enchiladas
1 lb. ground beef(browned)
1 (19 oz0 can of Enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
12 Flour Tortillas
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir 3/4 cup sauce and 1 cup cheese into browned ground beef.
Spoon sauce/cheese/meat mixture onto tortillas and roll-up. Place seam-side down in lightly greased 13x9" baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over top, sprinkle with remain cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
I find that if the tortillas aren't covered with sauce they get too crunchy. Chicken could be substituted for the beef.

Election Day

Dear Ladies,

I walked out the door this morning to go vote knowing I might be awhile. I got in the car and then decided to return to the house for a heavier coat. I knew I might be waiting awhile and I wanted to be warm.

On my way to the polling place it started raining, but when I got their the line wasn’t too bad. I waited about 5 minutes before a poll worker came out and said if your last name fell between Q and Z to follow her. Five minutes later I was done, apparently there aren’t many people with last names in that letter group.

One particular election my husband and I were VERY disappointed in the outcome. When we went to church on Sunday it seemed that everyone else was also disappointed. Our pastor got up and said “God is still in control.” I needed to hear that. I felt relieved. No matter what-God is in control. Today as you listen to the results remember that no matter which man becomes our next president, God will remain King of the universe.

Blessed Because of Him,

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