Personal Encouragement

Sunshine in my kitchen: Lemon scones

I haven't done much "just for fun" baking lately, but last week Yehoshua (6) and I made these Lemon Scones with Sour Lemon Glaze. It was a fun project for the two of us, and a nice diversion from the usual school work, laundry, and general housework.

We had fresh lemons that needed used, so while I grated the zest and juiced the lemons, Yehoshua mixed the ingredients for the dough. Scones really are simple to make, and these lemon ones are so soft, flaky, and tangy!

Lemon Scones with Sour Lemon Glaze recipe

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers these past few weeks. I'm especially thankful for two things right now:

#1. Moshe (10 months) has been napping during the day without me holding him! (Yay for a bedroom for him with a door that can be closed!) This is such a relief to me, and thankfully he has gotten to this point with training but hardly any crying (and certainly no "crying it out").

Several months ago, I got a used copy of The No-Cry Sleep Solution from Amazon.com, and gleaned a number of gentle ways to encourage better sleeping habits for a baby. But, in our apartment Moshe's bed was in the living room and he was disturbed constantly by the noise and light. This house has 3 bedrooms and I am able to have children napping/resting in 2 bedrooms at one time WHILE still doing things with the ones who are up! I love that! :)

#2. I am doing better overall. God keeps sending bits of sunshine my way and I've been exercising, sleeping enough (but not too much), and eating well -- aside from the chocolate that Joshua has been giving me lately! ;) I don't feel like I'm "back to normal" yet, but then what is normal? Maybe this is it right now... as wearying as it is. But I'm still hoping and praying for the joy, peace, and exuberance I remember having.

I want a "good" day (e.g. a day where I wake up excited about getting out of bed) to be more than an occasional occurrence. How can a day seem dreary for no tangible reason? When nothing is wrong, everything is "right"... and yet something is not right still.

I really am thankful for the changes/improvement in the past month or so, though! Part of my absense in the online world has been due to my perfectionistic tendencies. When I am floundering (or what feels like it to me -- because of my expectations of myself) I want to just give up. I want to change those expectations, because if I wait until I can be a "perfect" blogger, I'll probably never blog again!! :)

So... here's to honest blogging from my little corner of the world. :)

A Cranberry Thanksgiving

We made this delicious whole-berry cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year. Simple, and such a fun treat! Cranberry sauce was always my favorite as a child. The bright red color and the tangy sweetness were irresistible! :) Cranberry Thanksgiving came to mind this week, and I'll have to find it at the library to read to the kids. I have such good memories of that book from childhood, as well! :)

I love it when November comes, and so many of my friends and acquaintances write or talk about all the things they're thankful for! :)

This month, I've composed (in my head) many such posts of my own during the day's happy moments. I wasn't able to sit down and actually share them here, though, and I've neglected to be thankful for THAT.

It's easy to be thankful for warm rays of sunshine, mugs of hot chai, white falling snow, or a baby's sweet laughter. Thankfulness even when the day slips away with "update blog" yet undone, as it has happened practically all month, and last month as well? :)

I know you'll forgive me for the lack of inspiration around here lately, and I appreciate that. My many good intentions have continued to slip through the cracks as I've struggled with balancing children and housework. I've struggled (but mostly SNUGGLED!!) with a baby who loves to sleep and nap ONLY in my arms. I've struggled with simply refusing to sit down and try to blog one-handed while holding a sleepy nursling, choosing instead to just take a nap with him, and then feeling guilty of laziness because I wasn't tired -- I was just tired of trying to get him to nap! I've struggled with fears (some real, some probably imaginary) and defeat. I'm realizing again (and again) that I am nothing without Yeshua.

I'm thankful for Joshua's guidance, understanding, and patience with my weaknesses. So many, MANY days he has stepped in to share the load of work that I would normally have taken care of while he was away at work. He hasn't complained, and yet continues to thank me for, well, I guess just for being me! And that's a really awesome, encouraging, NEEDED thing sometimes. :)

I feel like this has been an aimless blog entry... so I'll summarize. I've been mildly overwhelmed and weary for months. I hope and pray that I am on the road to recovery, with God's help. Pray for me if you will.

Confessions


Watching traffic from a bridge over I-5 in Seattle. Makes me dizzy!

The thought of turning on the computer has been overwhelming to me. We've had internet access for the past week, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it on and try to "catch up". Instead, I went to bed on time every night, and gave the kids my full attention all day. I wish I could do more things well, instead of feeling like I'm barely hanging on at times. But, as long as I'm hanging on to Yeshua and my family, those other things really don't matter...

We moved a week ago already, but the work involved still hasn't ended. Moving is just exhausting and disorienting to me. I do think we're nearing the end and I am so, SO ready to get back on track with regular homeschooling and a good daily routine for the children and myself. :)

I'm happy to say "good bye" to apartment life. I learned some things about contentment while there, but I'm still very much God's work-in-progress. "Things" will not bring me lasting happiness, so why am I still surprised when the same human emotions surface yet again?


On one of our lovely October walks...

We had the nicest October. Cool, but sunny. Finally! I waited all summer for sun like that. ;) It's turned rainy again, but this house has about 4 times as many windows as our apartment, making dark days seem less so. :)

I have an awesome husband and precious children, and I am so undeserving of them.

I had to make, and I do mean MAKE myself plug in my computer and write this post. I am planning, Yahweh willing, to post more regularly now that things are less hectic.

I just feel so... drained. I need Yeshua's living water; I am nothing without Him!

Your questions answered: Baby food, children's devotionals, spending time with my husband, and more

Yehoshua and Moshe

On the weekend, I branch out from cooking-related posts and write about my family, answer reader questions, or just blog about what's on my mind! If you have a question or topic you'd like me to tackle, send it my way! :)

These questions are from my friend Tanya. We did a "question exchange" and you can see my questions for her (which she answered on her blog) here! :)

1. What first foods do you like to feed your baby?

With all of my babies so far, I have started with mashed veggies and fruits, like avocado, cooked green peas, cooked carrots or sweet potatoes, banana, applesauce, etc. Cooked oatmeal was one of the first grains we introduced. I wrote a post about homemade baby food here. We usually just start by giving samples of whatever we're already having as our fruit or veggie for the meal, and work up to more complex things! :)

2. What age do you like to start your baby on food?

I think babies have differing needs, but so far, we've started around 10-11 months with solids (breastmilk until then and continuing after, of course!). I may have started giving tastes of foods a little before 10 months... but none of my babies have really decided to actually EAT much solid foods until after 12-14 months! :)

Word of Promise cds


3. What are your favourite books to use for worship/devotions with the children?

Oooh, fun question! Here are some of our favorites:

The Word of Promise  -- This is an audio Bible (NKJV) on CDs, which is dramatized. It is really well done! The kids almost think we're watching a movie when we're listening. Listening to these CDs is easier for me than reading to the kids myself for devotions, because I can hold a squirmy baby, etc. while we all listen -- PLUS the cool sound effects. :) So, we use this a lot. We usually choose a story/CD (like Jonah, Ruth, etc.) and then listen to it each day for a week or longer.

The DK Illustrated Family Bible -- This is our favorite "children's Bible". It uses Bible stories with Biblical text (NIV); sometimes they will do a summary with indented text if they want to get a longer story into 2 pages and don't have the room and/or there are breaks in the story and want to keep a unified presentation. Overall it is a decent compromise as you get a decent modern translation and focused reading units with great art. :)

The Book of Psalms for Singing -- This is our favorite family praise/worship music. We've memorized numerous Psalms and love singing them as a family! In fact, Tanya, I think we sang some of these with your family when you visited one time in Ohio. :) We have several CDs with these Psalms sung a cappella, which have helped us learn them.

Another non-traditional way that I like to do "Bible reading" with the children is using word-for-word DVDs. We have The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Matthew, and Acts, which are all "acted" visually, but the words are straight from the NIV or NLT. The DVDs do have some scary and sad parts (after all, they are portraying the Gospels!) so there are some parts that I do not watch with the children since they are so young right now. This isn't a problem, though, since the DVDs are all quite long and there is plenty that we can all watch together!

For bedtime music, we have been really enjoying Psalm 119 (KJV) sung a cappella. The recording we have is available online for free, so definitely check it out! :)

So, those are my top favorites for actual Bible reading and singing as a family. :)

4. How do you keep time free to spend with Joshua everyday?

I've made it a habit and it's not something I consider to be optional. :) No matter how poorly my day has gone, or how much remains on my "to do" list, we spend our evenings together (usually a couple hours of time). Sometimes (okay, usually!) Moshe tags along for part of that time, until I can get him to sleep.

We like to talk, pray, read, watch movies, or play games. I also really resonate with my friend Kate's post about the marriage bed. Along with spending time with/raising our children and our relationship with YHWH, our marriage is a high priority to both of us -- beyond having a clean house, an updated blog, etc. :)

Joshua's top two "love languages" are quality time and physical touch, so skimping on spending time together is really not an option for us. :) While my tendency is to split up and try to accomplish as much as possible, Joshua prefers to just enjoy the journey with me. :) I think it was about 4 years ago (we've been married 8.5 years) that I decided to MAKE that quantity time DAILY for us to be together and it has been such a blessing in our marriage! :)

5. What is your favourite things about being a mama?

Oh, I don't know! I think it depends on the age of the child. :) I love snuggling with a new baby, or breastfeeding... or those sweet first smiles and giggles. :) So that is my favorite part about Moshe (8 months) right now. Ruth, at nearly 3, is talking lots more and that is super cute and sweet! :) And then I love getting to have discussions with the older boys... so maybe it would just be that I love getting to have that close relationship with my children and seeing them grow. :)

Waffles + musings :)

Best waffle batter -- made into waffles!

I love waffles! Have I said that recently? Well, I do. Especially with whipped cream and fresh fruit. When I make waffles, it's hard to resist taking pictures, even though I have lots of waffle pictures already. :) I have come to really enjoy viewing a beautiful plate of food through my camera lens!

Waffles are even good for teaching multiplication. Now that's the kind of math I don't mind! ;)

Waffles, served with fruit

I've been feeling really worn down, between a needy (teething?) baby and 3 other active children spending too much time indoors due to rainy weather. :P I think I lost my train of thought when it comes to blogging and I'm left wondering "Okay, where was I?!" I know I have posts started, recipes to share, and emails to answer. Some day soon I would like to have 2 free hands to type for more than 5 minutes at a time. ;) I have trouble writing when distracted and interrupted constantly!

I'm having to remind myself that it's really truly okay if the only "things" I accomplish in a day are feeding my family and keeping up with the dishes or laundry! I'm also trying to remember to include my helpers, who really can do a lot to lighten my load. (Yehoshua is 6, Eliyahu will be 5 in a few months, and Ruth is 2 1/2!)

Speaking of the kids... One day last week, Joshua and I had given the 3 oldest children a snack and told them to sit on the kitchen floor to eat it (I think the table was a mess at the time). Moshe was crawling in the living room while Joshua and I talked.

A few minutes later, we heard "Mom, Dad, help! Help!" from the kitchen. When we came around the corner, this is what we saw! Three children holding their plates above their heads as little Moshe crawled towards them, ready to attack. ;) It was SO CUTE!! :)

So, anyway. I have a messy, MESSY kitchen to attend to while Ruth naps and the boys play with Moshe. I'll be back tonight with a kitchen tip! :)

Saying "Enough" in a World of "Stuff": 6 Ways to Gain Contentment

Happy Eliyahu :)

On the weekend, I branch out from cooking-related posts and write about my family, answer reader questions, or just blog about what's on my mind! If you have a question or topic you'd like me to tackle, send it my way! :)

From my inbox:

I often feel like my circumstances are not ideal and it gets me down. I know your living situation is not what your dream living situation would be (this is something I struggle with). And maybe other things? Because you seem happy and content, I thought you could share more on that subject! If I can get my eyes on some good reading to help me bloom where I am planted... well, I just devour it!

I would love to write about this topic! Thanks for asking! :) You are right that I am usually happy and content, but I do still struggle at times with feeling like a failure and not being content with my life. I have to remind myself that as long as I am giving my best right now (laying aside past sins or mistakes) I am not a failure in God's eyes! He has placed us where we are and we're trying to live by faith.

A few short years ago I was not dreaming of living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 4 kids! It's easy to look around and feel like my children deserve "more", but... what is "more"? We have everything we need, and well beyond that. "Things" will NEVER bring lasting joy or contentment! We have "enough" -- and enough is enough.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)

Those verses are such a great reminder to me. Here are some of the ways I've found to build contentment and happiness in life:

1. Build and/or maintain a relationship with YHWH, our Creator. Meditating on Scripture and spending time in prayer uplifts my weary spirit and helps adjust my focus. There's just no substitute! I'm blessed with a husband who prays with me each evening, and I pray with the children in the mornings during our Bible time. We seek to be "real" in front of our children and do not pretend that we are perfect as parents or people. They must respect us as their parents, but as humans we are sinners saved by grace. :)


2. Build relationships with others, starting with your family. Take your focus off YOU and off LIFE and focus on others. How often do we neglect what is right in front of us, gazing at what we do not have? Money can not buy time or love, so spend your time wisely, investing in those you love. Your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings -- whoever is near you, give to them. Laugh with them! You will forget the "stuff" of life because JOY doesn't care if there are holes in your carpet or if your teeth are crooked.

3. Enjoy life's little things. We may not have a lot of "big" things but surely there are some luxuries, even small ones, we enjoy. Some of those luxuries for me are a hot cup of tea, music, a good book, and sunshine! Take time to rest and enjoy the simpler things. For me, I have to remind myself to slow down and not skip the "little" stuff like reading a book to my children, putting on music, or getting out in the sunshine!

4. Thank God for your health. Not everyone is blessed in this area as we are. Joshua and I are both pretty healthy and so are our children. Being able to get up each day, pain-free, is an amazing blessing! Being able to walk, run, smile, see the sunshine, and hear lovely sounds -- wow! :)

5. Ban depression. I do tend to get "down" fairly easily, I think, unless I am actively working against that tendency. Getting exercise, eating well, and DOING things are what seem to help me (along with the things listed in this post, as well). Depression is an awful, slippery downward spiral where I can't even see things as they are. It steals happiness and joy! Being honest with my husband about where I am emotionally and then taking steps to pull out of it are essential.

Our sponsored child


6. Spend time and resources on others. Truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive. I list this one last, but really, it's so important! Along with giving to those we see in need around us, we also sponsor a child through Compassion International. (You can read more about Compassion International on their website.) Our family has done this for over a year and our child, Peter, is such an awesome sweet blessing to all of us! We are able to exchange letters and photos with him and the boys draw pictures and send him stickers, post cards, etc. We pray for him as a family.

Seeing someone who has so little compared to us just really, really brings it all into perspective! I can't describe it, really. Go read Ashleigh's post "From Afar". And then pray about being able to bless a child with financial support, love, and prayer.

Related:

Tips for pulling out of a slump

It's Happy and Sad. (about moving, and life)

Things YHWH has been teaching me (from 4 years ago)

Contentment in All Circumstances by Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking

Eliyahu watches us hang out laundry
These are the happy moments. Right now. Enjoy your now.

On the business of blogging

Moshe and me
With sweet Moshe (5 mo.) last week

This week marks 4 years since Joshua and I started "Tammy's Recipes" -- my own little site for blogging and an archive of our favorite recipes.

I love writing and sharing recipes, but who am I kidding? It is often very difficult these days to find make time to turn on the computer!

Honestly, I have 4 sweet children who are active and needy, and a super great husband whom I need. The house, well, occasionally it needs, you know, cleaned. And sleep? Some of that would be nice, too. ;)

I love baby kisses!

I certainly don't "do it all" but I regularly try to do too much, blogging included. ...Wading through all the possibilities to ask the hard questions like: If I don't need to blog to pay our bills, should I really keep at it? Do I really want to be a work-at-home mom -- sacrificing sleep or time with my family for a few dollars to add to the savings account each month?

Walking with Eliyahu
On a walk with Eliyahu (4)

But the great thing about blogging is that I can make time when possible... and let go when not. And I can't thank you all enough for being understanding and then coming back to read or leave recipe reviews... even when I take long breaks (like I did basically all last year!). You gals (and guys) are the BEST!! :)

So... happy birthday to my blog! I won't be hosting giveaways all week or any other fireworks, but here's to the year ahead -- and continuing to give my best to God and my family first! :)

How do you balance work (or hobbies) and family? I'd love to hear some tips or encouragement in this area! :)

Your Questions Answered: Passover plans!

Crystal wrote:

I was just wondering what you were planning for Passover this year. This is the first year that we will be hosting a Passover celebration at our home, and I'm really excited about it! Do you have any suggestions?

Yes! My Passover menu is similar to other years (see a past Passover menu and menu for the week of unleavened bread here).

Since Passover is the only time of year I make Matza Ball Soup, that is a delicious treat! I make homemade unleavened bread, which we actually really enjoy during Passover and Unleavened Bread. I also usually try to make a special dessert of some sort. This year, we're planning to experiment with cheesecake using a nut crust. I'll be sure to share what we create if it ends up being as delicious as we hope! ;)

Linda wrote:

We are Christians, who are starting to celebrate the Biblical Feasts. The more I read about Passover, the more variations I find.

We have looked locally to buy Matza bread, but can not find any. I would like to make my own, using regular flour. Is using regular flour acceptable? Can I make my own tortillas, using no baking powder, and use these during Passover? Or is Matza the ONLY choice for eating during Passover?

Since we are not Jewish, how much of the cleaning do we have to do? For example, we don't have separate Passover dishes. Do we have to follow Jewish regulations for scalding and scrubbing to purify our dishes and pans, or is a normal washing and scrubbing acceptable?

I am happy to share about what we personally do, based on our understanding of Scripture! While we respect the Jewish traditions surrounding the observance of Passover, we base our observance primarily on Scripture.

For example, in Exodus 12 we read that the Israelites carried their dough with them as they left Egypt. In our minds, this doesn't really line up with the "18-minute rule" -- that when the water and flour is mixed for unleavened bread, the bread must be made and baked within 18 minutes, after which time it is considered leavened.

It's certainly not wrong to make and bake unleavened bread within 18 minutes! But we also don't believe that mandate to be scripturally binding. For that reason, I make my own unleavened bread, using regular flour.

We have only one set of dishes, and I don't give them any special scrubbing or sterilizing before Passover. We aren't Jewish and aren't trying to be Jewish, only obedient to the Scriptures. :)

My Passover preparation is fairly basic. Aside from regular, normal housecleaning, I go through the cupboards and pantry and remove all leaven. We do a simple seder, eating unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and drinking grape juice or wine. We read Scripture and pray. We observe the appointed Sabbaths. Some years we have included footwashing as well, following Yeshua's example.

I hope this helps! For those of you who observe Passover and the feast of unleavened bread, I'd love to hear about what you do and why! :)

Healthy snacks, moderated

Favorite healthy snacks: almonds, cheese, cucumber slices, bananas, and oranges!

I've been posting about my healthier eating goals, but I should backtrack just a little. During my recent (4th) pregnancy, I ate fairly well, but I also ate a lot of food, since I was always hungry (and I love to eat and I love my cooking... which is not always a good thing!).

By the time little Moshe was born, I weighed a good 50 pounds heavier than my ideal weight. Even though I lost about 15 pounds in the first 3 weeks after Moshe's birth, I still only had a couple skirts that fit (the stretchy ones; not the size 16s!).

I also hit that point where as a breastfeeding mom, I was always hungry, always eating and always reaching for the "quick" and "easy" snack -- a granola bar, some homemade bread, a bowl of granola, or a big handful of nuts.

Eliyahu builds a "log cabin"
Eliyahu (4) builds log cabins with the cheese sticks I cut

The weight loss stopped... and then the numbers on the scale started going back up. With the thought of needing to lose 30+ pounds, the task of eating responsibly seemed too enormous. After spending all day tending to my four children (and varying degrees of disasters and emergencies!) the only thing I wanted to do each evening was to sit down with a bowl of ice cream or eat the last two (or three) pieces of cake!

My heart cried out to Yahweh. I can't do this. I need Your strength! Help me be a good mom to my precious children... and please, help me to eat enough but not too much!!

God sent lots of encouragement my way. The most significant encouragement was that Joshua hopped right on board with me (even though he was already eating in moderation) and got us into eating lots of salads. He's been doing the grocery shopping and has been bringing home loads of fresh vegetables and fruits! I am so blessed with a husband who cares and is willing to help make my life as easy as possible.

Along with eating a huge salad for lunch on weekdays, I've been enjoying a variety of healthy snacks -- again, in moderation. My food scale makes this very easy, and I can know just how much I'm eating. I want to eat enough to lose weight in a healthy way and counting calories makes it easier for me. No more "I'm hungry. I guess I'll eat a cup of almonds!"

Here's a breakdown of the snacks pictured:

Banana: 121 calories
Cucumber slices: 15 calories
Orange: 87 calories
Roasted almonds: 170 calories
Cheddar cheese: 110 calories

I've been eating 3-4 protein snacks (like almonds, peanuts, cheese, or cottage cheese) and 3-4 fruit servings throughout the day, which seems to be a good balance.

My sweet friend Ashleigh is co-hosting a healthy 10-week weight loss challenge, and if the Number on the Scale is something you struggle with, you'll want to read her heartfelt confessions and ponderings.

I also recommend Ashleigh's post about self-sufficiency (or not). Praise God for His strength, His love, His people!

Food Budgeting: Spending my calories wisely!

Layered taco salad

Raised by frugal parents, it's easy for me to put finances into a budget plan. I've found I need to think of my daily food intake as a budget as well, measured in calories.

When I had no idea how many calories I was consuming in a day, it was easy to just keep eating (and gaining). I didn't know how many calories I even needed per day, so if I was hungry, I ate. And I even ate when I wasn't hungry. (Cheesecake beckons at all hours!)

I had to ask myself, "Am I eating right now simply because I enjoy the taste of this food, or am I enjoying delicious food while satisfying hunger and nourishing my body?" There's nothing wrong with thoroughly enjoying every bite, but that enjoyment needs to be coupled with meeting my body's needs, not burdening it with excess.

Quick steps to a calorie budget:

1. Figure out your daily calorie needs. I used an online calorie calculator using my weight, height, gender, and activity level. Since I'm breastfeeding, I added an additional 300-500 calories to my "budget".

2. Keep track of your spending. I always cringe at the words "counting calories" but I've found again and again that keeping track of the calories I consume is the only way for me to maintain a healthy weight loss. I wrote more about calorie counting in this post, including a calorie-breakdown of our homemade pizza.

When I only have ~2,000 calories to spend each day, I start thinking of some "frugal foods" to eat!

Bananas, at about 100 calories each, remain one of my favorite breakfast foods. They're also a quick snack, and seem to give a lot of energy from those calories! Apples are another favorite.

In-the-shell peanuts are one of my favorite protein snacks. I know peanuts are very high-calorie, so we buy the ones in the shell. Shelling them takes time, so I get to enjoy them more! A half-cup of peanuts (in the shell) is 170 calories. And not surprisingly, those 170 calories really fill me up! (For an hour or so...)

I also love roasted almonds. You may laugh, but I have figured out that our almonds (from Costco) have an average of 7 calories in each. Sometimes I finish the day with  ~50 calories left over, and I "spend" the rest on almonds! Other days, I end up going to bed a little hungry, but I know it's okay since I know how much food I consumed that day.

Shredded cheese on my salads is another way to make a salad seem more like a full meal. I usually opt for mozzarella cheese rather than cheddar, since it's only 80 calories per ounce rather than 110!

What are your favorite foods that give "bang for the buck"? :)

Layered taco salad

Crystal has a guest post with frugal weight loss ideas on her blog, Money Saving Mom.

I especially resonate with "Go Outside"! As a mom of energetic, growing children, I know they need the fresh air and exercise just as much as I do! As I ease back into "everyday life" (yes... the babymoon has to end at some point, right?) it's my goal once more to take the children outside every single day.

A couple of my favorite "free" weight loss tips:

Drink plenty of water!

Get enough sleep!

And on that note, it is time for me to feed a little boy and head to bed myself! :)

P.S. My original weight-loss post, which I still re-read for inspiration can be found here!

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