2.25.2013

Antique Heart

Antiques…they have my heart. There’s a deep seeded appreciation within me for those who came before us – and how beautifully their former lives are represented today. Like a window into the past, they remind us of where we came from. They connect us to our roots.

Last week, Dusty and I snuck in a mini-date while Mackenzie was at dance class. We went to one of my all-time favorite places – it’s an old cotton mill in the older part of town that has been transformed into a massive antique emporium, stuffed to the gills with rented vendor spaces, each offering a different part of history. It’s called The Depot at Gibson Mill, and it’s like heaven on earth to a girl like me. It’s also a place that my husband and I have silently declared as “our place”.  Just the two of us, hand in hand in silent comfort, wandering and weaving our way through the maze of aisles that are filled with beauty and wonder that cannot be expressed in words.

















It has this magic - almost as if it takes me back in time - I think of my Great Grammy Gram Arlene cooking supper for the family on her mint green stove, circa 1925, with fresh corn picked just steps from their front door. It came from the same cornfield my brother and I picked from years later as children. I remember her sitting in her rocking chair on the porch with us as we shucked the corn and chatted. And I remember how much I’ve missed that since she’s been gone.




I think of my Grampy Gramp, Homer . Such a hard workin’ man he was – a farmer, a craftsman, a creator. I wonder if that’s where I get that part of my soul…or if it’s his way of living on within me, even though he is no longer here. I think of all of the amazing things he invented, many of them long before their time.  I think about the feature he got in the local newspaper when he transformed his water wheel by creating a system that would automatically open a door on the side, allowing for a life size scarecrow-esque man to lean out and wave at those passing by. As children my brother and I lived for running down his huge hill, playing hide and seek in his corn field, and riding on the special swing he built that was shaped like an airplane. I remember the looks on their faces as they watched us laugh and play – they were so proud.


Even though many of the antiques at The Depot came long before my days on this earth began, somehow they still give me that feeling of nostalgia, transporting me back to a time when things seemed much simpler. Less chaotic. More grounded.

















As we meander through the aisles, we come upon a vendor space, and immediately the scent of lavender fills my nostrils. It immediately takes me back to our wedding day. The vintage theme, the rustic feel of the decor, the lavender that filled my bouquet and adorned the front doors of the crisp white 1940's antique dairy barn where we exchanged vows. That scent is representative of so many things: our special day, the love we share, and the memories that go along with it. 




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The beautiful blue mason jars remind me of those that adorned the tables at our wedding, filled with daisies and greenery. The soft ambiance of the atmosphere as the candles flickered in the evening Spring air. The night we became a family. 




It's amazing how sentimental all of these little windows of the past have become to me. Antiques...those little treasures that live on regardless of when their era ended. They hold my memories. My hopes. My dreams...and my heart.



2.18.2013

Happy Birthday, Life. Family. Love.!

Can you believe it? Yep, my baby is now 1 year old! Geez, that went by fast. Honestly, I never imagined in a million years (or especially just one) that this blog would become not only an integral part of my life, but yours as well. This little baby of mine has blossomed into a beautiful part of my life, one that I look forward to each and every day.  Thank you SO much for coming on this amazing journey with me. Thank you for believing in me and my blog that went from one viewer (me) to over half a million (567,257 to be exact) page views in just 12 months.  Thanks for growing with me, learning with me, and supporting me along the way. Thanks for e-mailing, commenting, conversing, and coming back day after day. You guys are such rock stars! 


2.15.2013

Mackenzie's Turkey Pepperoni Bites

My daughter, Mackenzie, absolutely loves to cook and bake. Sister child would be in the kitchen every waking hour of the day if she could. I have no idea where she gets it from. One day while looking for a snack, she made up this recipe and it's been one of her favorites ever since. It's simple, kid friendly, healthy, and quick. We love to eat it with a side of carrots or fruit. P.S. They'll never know it's good for them. ;)


What you'll need:
15 slices turkey pepperoni 
1 laughing cow light cheese wedge, (we like swiss and garden veggie)

Preparation:
Spread a small amount of laughing cow light cheese wedge onto pepperoni. Fold in half and enjoy!

Nutrition Information:
Nutrition info is based on 1 serving.

Calories: 96      Fat: 6        Protein: 10         Carbs: 1          Fiber: 0          Sugar: 1

*Calories calculated using My Fitness Pal. Nutritional values may vary based on varied brands or amounts. 


2.14.2013

Homemade Bisquick

If there's one food item in particular that I'm known for, it's my pancakes. People love them, and I'm pretty sure my husband proposed to me based solely on my pancake preparation skills. ;) I'm always complimented on how thick, fluffy and perfectly round they are. I beam with pride. But I have a secret....there isn't one. I use Bisquick. So what makes my Bisquick pancakes any different than everyone else's? Well, if I told you it wouldn't make mine so special would it? BUT, what I do have for you, my lovely readers, is exactly what you asked for: more frugal living tips. So here ya go: a recipe for Homemade Bisquick! The best part? It measures cup for cup to boxed Bisquick, and since most people don't have a box of Bisquick just sittin' around, I'm going to provide you with the measurements to go along with it. I hope you enjoy!




What you'll need:
10 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups shortening
1/3 cups baking powder
1/4 cups sugar
4 tsp. salt

Preparation:
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except shortening. With a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Makes 12 1/2 cups. 

Store-bought Bisquick: $6.38
Homemade Bisquick: $2.80
Total Savings: $3.58 or 44%!

Homemade Bisquick Measurements 

Pancakes                                                             Waffles 
2 cups homemade mix                                           2 cups homemade mix
1 cup milk                                                             1 1/3 cups milk
2 eggs                                                                   1 egg
Yield: about 14 pancakes                                      2 tbsp. vegetable oil
                                                                             Yield: About 12 (4-inch) waffles

Bisquick
2 cups homemade mix
1/2 cup milk 
Yield: 10
 





 Recipe adapted from cooks.com. Measurement info adapted from bisquick.com 

2.13.2013

Slimmed Down Cheesy Mexican Rice

Remember awhile back when I posted that absolutely amaaaazing recipe for The Pioneer Woman's Mexican Rice Casserole? It was soooo freakin' good, man. Now that my family and I are making a transition into health, I thought it fitting to create a slimmed down version of this Mexican must-have that is so incredibly delish. Now, you might notice that there's an ingredient in my version of this recipe that seems....well, a little out of place. See, what had happened was, I was cookin' up the rice, jammin' to some tunes, singin' at the top of my lungs when I grabbed for the cumin. I just needed to add a little sprinkle more. I opened it, shook it onto the rice and noticed there was quite a bit more in the pan then I intended. I looked down at the cumin in my hand and realized............it wasn't cumin after all. No, it was an imposter! It was...cinnamon!? My stress level went through the roof as I realized I'd used my very last bag of brown rice....so I had to make a decision. Either dump the whole thing (since the entire batch was covered), or mix it in and hope for the best. I chose the latter, and to my surprise...it was excellent. In fact, it let the other spices shine and really added that extra something to the dish. I can't wait to hear how you like it.



What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (I used minute rice microwaveable bags)
7 1/2 oz petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can diced green chiles, undrained
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
small pinch tumeric (less than 1/8 tsp)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preparation:
In a medium skillet over medium heat, mix cooked rice, diced tomatoes, green chiles, and vegetable broth, stirring constantly until all liquid is absorbed. Add black pepper,cumin, garlic powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Mix in 1/4 cup of cheese, stirring until melted. Turn heat to low and top with remaining cheese. Cover and let sit until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Click below to PRINT this recipe!*
Printable Version

Nutrition information:
Slimmed Down Cheesy Mexican Rice 
(calculations based on 4 servings)
Calories: 189    Fat: 6g    Protein: 9g    Carbs: 24g    Fiber: 2g     Sugar: 13g

Regular Mexican Rice Casserole
(calculations based on 6 servings, as this recipe makes more)
Calories: 265      Fat: 9g      Protein: 11g    Carbs: 37g    Fiber: 2g    Sugar: 6g

*Calories calculated using My Fitness Pal. Nutritional values may vary based on varied brands or amounts.

Tip: This recipe goes great with Slimmed Down Sour Cream Enchiladas!

2.11.2013

Slimmed Down Sour Cream Enchiladas

Awhile back, I posted a recipe for one of my all time favorite dishes, Sour Cream Enchiladas.  As much as I love the dish...that's how much my hips don't. So I decided to try a healthier version. I substituted the flour tortillas for whole wheat, the ground beef for lean ground turkey, used low sodium taco seasoning, used less cheese etc. The difference? I couldn't even taste it! It was still oh-so-amazing, which was a very unexpected surprise. I did use regular cheese, because...well, I love regular cheese. It melts better than reduced fat or fat free, but you're more than welcome to substitute if you'd like. The moral of the story? You don't always have to sacrifice taste for health!




What you'll need:
1 pound of 95% lean ground turkey
8 burrito size whole wheat tortillas
1 packet of low sodium taco seasoning, or homemade taco seasoning
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. light sour cream
1/2-1 small can green chiles (undrained)
1 small can sliced black olives (drained)
1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 can 98 % fat free cream of chicken soup
1 cups cheddar cheese (may used reduced fat if your prefer)


Preparation:
In a large skillet, brown ground turkey with onion - drain if needed. Add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Set meat aside. In a medium sauce pan, add sour cream, green chiles, creamed soups and 1/2 cup cheese, melting just until thinned and warm. Evenly cover bottom of a greased 9x13 casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce. Tear four tortillas into quarters. Lay tortilla pieces in bottom of pan, covering all surface area. Evenly spoon half of the taco meat onto the tortilla layer. Pour half of the sauce mixture on top of meat, spreading out evenly. Repeat each layer, beginning with tortillas and ending with sauce. Top with remaining shredded cheddar cheese and black olives. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until enchiladas are bubbly and cheese is melted and golden.

*Click below for a printable version of this recipe!*

Nutrition Information:
Slimmed Down Sour Cream Enchiladas 
Serves 6-8 (calculations based on 8 servings)
Calories: 306    Fat: 15g      Protein: 21g       Carbs: 33g       Fiber: 4g     Sugar: 4g


Regular Sour Cream Enchiladas
Serves 6-8 (calculations based on 8 servings)
Calories: 418    Fat: 18g      Protein: 22g         Carbs: 36g       Fiber: 4g    Sugar: 4g


*Calories calculated using My Fitness Pal. Nutritional values may vary based on varied brands or amounts.

Tip: This recipe goes great with Slimmed Down Cheesy Mexican Rice

2.10.2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes....

As you can probably tell from my last post, me and my little family are making some most necessary changes. Say it with me: Ch-ch-ch-changes! This here nearly one-year-old blog (whaaat!?) is going to change right along with us. No worries, it's nothing too major. I'll still be posting tons of delicious recipes, some tips and tricks to make everyday life easier, lots of crafty goodness, and much much more. Since my family and I are transitioning from fat and happy to living a healthier, happier life, it  only makes sense that from now on, I will be including some healthier options along with my usual recipes. Eating healthy is not something that's always easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be delicious! You can also look forward to many more giveaways :)

So, what's your opinion on adding a healthy twist here at Life.Family.Love.? What would YOU like to see featured on the blog? What topics are you most interested in? Check out my poll on the right-hand side of my blog to vote!


2.09.2013

The Vigilant Parent: Giving your Child the Present of your Presence

Picture this: you're sitting in a park on a beautiful spring day. Beneath you is a blanket on which your picnic basket sits. The sun is warm and shining.  It's a perfect 75 degrees. Every once in awhile there's a nice cool breeze that blows through your hair. The children are running around in the grass, shoes off with the nice crisp, cool grass in between their sweet little toes.  You breathe in the scent of the fresh air as you glance up at the sky, full of pillow-y cotton ball clouds. Then you glance back down to your iPhone to check your e-mail. You decide to answer a few, just to get it out of the way. Just as you're finished, your phone rings. It's your sister, who just HAS to tell you the latest scoop on her crazy friend's ex-husband's new girlfriend. You laugh as you talk, paying little attention to the time. Life is good.

Now,let me ask you...is there anything in particular that stands out to you in the above situation? I'll give you a hint : it's everything after the word iPhone. In today's world of immediate gratification, our phones goes with us everywhere, and every call/e-mail/text must be answered as rapidly as possible. There's a sense of urgency unknown to previous generations. It's life in the fast lane. Some parents find are not being fully available to their child(ren), during times when they deserves their parents full attention. We notice this and can point it out rather quickly, but do we ever stop to think: am I that parent as well? It's much harder to recognize when its us who's answering the constant e-mails, texts, and phone calls.

Now, it's not that the distractions of life are more important that our dear children, not at all. But put yourself in their shoes. Imagine hearing this from your child: "We went to the park, Daddy! We played tag and swung on the swings.... but mommy was busy on her phone, so she couldn't play tag today or push me on the swings." OR "We went to the park, Daddy! Mommy played tag with us, we flew kites together, and then she pushed us on the swings!". Which scenario would be a better memory for your children? Which one would you be proud of?

I'll admit - I've been guilty of it myself. A few weeks back, I came across an article called Dear Mom on the iPhone. It literally changed my family's life in just a few short weeks. We keep the TV off in the evenings. We color, cook, and play together. We go for walks. It's glorious. I'm starting to be come the mama I've always wanted to be. It's much easier than you would think.

So take a minute, and ask yourself: am I giving my child the present of my presence? Not just our physical presence, but our emotional as well. If not, ask yourself, how can I become more engaged and attentive? What can I change to become the parent my child deserves?

Make a choice today to be a vigilant parent. Stay engaged, and soak up every moment with your kiddos.

God Bless! xoxo