Friday, February 27, 2009

Just What I Needed

I was feeling overwhelmed. Frustrated. It was just one of those moments of the day when things were not coming together... I'd forgotten something important at the store... The weather was dismal... My computer locked up... I lost a good hour's worth of work... I was feeling cranky. I let out a sigh of frustration and lowered my head to the desk.

And I heard a little voice say,

"God bless you, Mama."

I started to correct my son, to tell him that I had not, in fact, sneezed. But before the words could leave my lips, tears sprung to my eyes.

What did all the rest matter? In the grand scheme of things, would any of those things really make a difference in my life? Would the world stop turning?

God had already blessed me beyond measure...

"God bless you too, sweetie..."
For more moments and things that are definitely Finer Things, check out Amy's blog every Friday!

One Yummy Deal!!

I've mentioned it many times before- I really enjoy cooking both WITH and FOR my kids. So how excited am I to be able to tell you about an amazing deal going on over at Life As MOM? Through the end of the day today you can still get in on a very special pricing opportunity...

FishMama is offering both of her e-books -- FishMama's Guide to Cooking With Children and Pretty. Cool. Cakes. for only $2. That's right-- you'll receive BOTH books for only two dollars. What a steal! That's almost ten dollars off their regular price.

Cooking for your family is not only a rewarding, healthy way to go... it will also save you a ton of money in the long run. In FishMama's Guide to Cooking With Children, you'll find:

  • Seasonal kitchen activities for parents to enjoy with their children

  • Over 25 kid - friendly recipes sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters

  • Safety tips and tricks for easy kitchen clean-up

And since we all have special people in our lives who deserve a special treat, Pretty. Cool. Cakes. will help you save you even more money by providing step-by-step directions to guide you through making 13 different fabulous cakes at home!

If, like me, you already enjoy cooking with and for your children and you would like some new, fresh ideas to make it even more fun and inspired OR if you're just getting started on saving money this way, you'll definitely want to go HERE and get in on this deal while it lasts.

Cooking for my family saves me a ton of money... and today FishMama's deal helps save some cash too!
For more Frugal Friday, be sure to check out Biblical Womanhood.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality Challenge: Week 1

I have a very kind neighbor. I shall call him Farmer Joe. He's always ready with a wave and does sweet things like plow our whole driveway without our ever having to ask. I wave back and let his big, goofy black dog romp through my yard. We don't "hang out" together; he's probably 30 years older than me. But we have a good relationship.

Recently, as I pondered just how gung ho I wanted to get over my garden this year- what-with being due to have a baby in June and all- there was a knock on my kitchen door. (To many people, this would be the "back door", but here in the country-- well, that's the door EVERYONE comes to!) It was Farmer Joe. He wanted to let me know that he was planning to plant a half-acre fruit and veggie garden on the land between our homes. He wanted to make sure we felt welcome to take and use whatever we wanted from that garden since it would be far more than he and his wife would need. I was so incredibly touched. And, well, relieved that I needn't plan a huge garden of my own to tend!

And so, for this week's hospitality project, I want to reach out to Farmer Joe. He has some early mornings. I often see him heading out to his tractor with the very first light. My goal this week is to meet him out there one morning with a thermos of vanilla coffee and some fresh apple muffins. It's still darn chilly around here in those early mornings (and often throughout the day too) and I think something warm might brighten his early day just a touch.

How about you? Do you have a neighbor who could use a lift? Is there something you could deliver that might make his or her day just a tad brighter? Feel free to join me! I'll tell you all about how it goes next Thursday. For more information on why I'm doing this, please see this post.

13 Ways I'm (Maybe) An Overprotective Mommy

I titled this (maybe) overprotective because, well, I think I'm very reasonable! But here are thirteen reasons I've been accused of being overprotective in the past... (And for those who might not know, I have a 4-year old, a 3-year old, and I'm pregnant with our third.)
  1. I skip over anything even remotely scary on movies... and I'm talking Disney movies here.
  2. I don't let my kids ride on 4-wheelers with their uncle.
  3. I don't let my kids drink soda.
  4. I expect my kids to wear shoes when they go outside. (except on the beach)
  5. I still cut my 4-year old's grapes in half.
  6. I threw a huge fit when someone suggested my 25 lb but not yet 1-year old baby could be turned forward-facing.
  7. I don't let my kids ride on riding mowers... even with grandparents.
  8. I still water down my kids' juice.
  9. I don't let my kids chew gum.
  10. My gigantic 4-year old son is still in a 5-pt harness car seat and I like it that way.
  11. I really like cribs and bed-rails for as long as possible.
  12. I also really prefer skid-proof socks.
  13. I don't let my kids watch any network or cable TV, play hand-held video games, or do anything on the internet.

Do I seem unreasonable to you?
What Mommy-decisions have made people call you "overprotective"?
I'd love to hear!
For more Thursday {Thirteen}, be sure to visit Happy to Be at Home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality: A Lenten Journey

With today being Ash Wednesday, I wanted to share with all of you a project that has been brewing in my little head since before the Advent season.

Back in November, I read an article in The Catholic Moment entitled A slice of pumpkin bread: How hospitality heals. And I was touched very deeply by the author's words:

"Lately I have been reflecting on hospitality, a virtue that doesn't get nearly the air time as charity or forgiveness, patience or moderation," Capecchi writes, "... this neglected virtue can invite holy exchanges. And we can practice it every hour of the day- no matter the size of our bank accounts or our knowledge of Martha Stewart tips. Hospitality is not just a virtue you exercise when hosting a party in your home; it's something you carry wherever you go, whether you serve are are being served.... it's not just about refilling empty glasses; it's about refilling confidence and resoring hope."

How true is that? Don't get me wrong- I appreciate a beautifully set table as much as the next gal, but true hospitality goes beyond that. It involves anticipating one another's needs and striving to meet them.

And so, throughout this Lenten season, I will be embarking on a journey to provide more hospitality. I learned a very personal lesson in the value of hospitality when my daughter was in the hospital for almost four months. My life was made so much richer by the selfless acts of others.

Each week I will take on a new "project", if you will, that I think will brighten others' days and meet unspoken needs. The "sacrificial" element comes from the fact that any time or materials needed to complete these projects will have to come out of the money in the budget and hours in the day I already have. I am confident I can make it happen.

My original plan had been to involve all of you, to invite you on this journey with me. I had intended to set up weekly Mr. Linky's so that you could all document your hospitality projects and share here. But, hmm, did I mention that it's already Ash Wednesday? It would be unfair at this point to expect you all to jump on in. So, instead, I will be sharing my experiences with you each week. I'll announce my project for the week each Thursday and give an update on how the previous week's went.

Be on the lookout tomorrow for my first mission. I'll be starting kind of small. :) Please feel free to join in! I would love to read about your experiences in the comments or, if you blog about it, leave your link in the comments so I can be sure to hop over and read it. If there is significant interest in this type of project, I'll be more than happy to host a more organized version later in the year-- after all, hospitality is most certainly not something we need to limit to Lent.

My Wipe Warmer

Some people will disagree with me, but I always felt those "baby wipe warmers" you could buy were a real waste of money. Plus, it seems like there have been an awful lot of recalls on those suckers...

Still, I have to admit that, perhaps since we don't turn our heat up particularly high, there were winter mornings when it seemed downright cruel to put that frigid wipe up against that sleep-warmed infant skin.

My solution?

Before I start unzipping jammies, I wrap a wipe around my coffee mug. By the time I'm ready to do the wipe-up, it's nice and warm to the touch.

Works for me.
For more Works for Me Wednesday, visit We Are THAT Family!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Portrait of a Pregnancy After a Preemie, part... 4?

Well, I'm 20 1/2 weeks into this pregnancy now and feeling fantastic. My energy levels are good and I have not one bit of lingering nausea. Hurray! I do deal with the occasional bout of heartburn and the random obnoxious headache, but it's certainly nothing worth complaining about. For the most part, I'm living in second trimester bliss, just enjoying feeling all sorts of fetal movement while still fitting through narrow spaces. ;)

Despite the rather small size of that bump I'm sporting in the picture above, the baby is actually measuring big- at 22 weeks rather than 20. I am delighted to hear it! I've always measured small in the past and we sure love big, healthy babies around these parts!

Last update, I asked for your help fattening me up. You all gave me some great suggestions and some helpful links- thank you very much! As a result of your excellent advice and my determined effort to keep to a 2500-3000 calorie diet, I managed to put on 12 pounds in five weeks. Now, that is a staggering number and, to be honest, it makes me almost embarrassed to admit it. But it's the grand total of weight I've gained through the whole pregnancy and the doctor is happy, not concerned. You can bet I will NOT be putting on another 12 pounds before my next appointment, however! I gained 29 pounds total with my full-term pregnancy and that is my goal for this one as well.

All my blood-work from last visit came back negative, including the quad-screen I hadn't realized they slipped in there. (We don't usually elect to have that screening test because of the high false positive rate.) I wouldn't have chosen to have the test but, since they did it anyway, I guess it's comforting to know that our baby doesn't have any of several chromosomal abnormalities...

My restrictions have officially started, including a lifting limit of fifteen pounds. Happily, I will still be allowed to walk on the treadmill, as long as I avoid jogging or running. I also have housework restrictions-- crazy! But nothing so bad that my home will fall apart. :) Just don't expect glistening floors every single day around here...

Perhaps strangest of all, we now know what our baby's birthday will be. I've never had a scheduled c-section before, so this was all very new to me! Anyhow, I found out yesterday that I'll go in for surgery at 7:30am on June 17th. That means that baby and I *should* be released from the hospital three days later, on MY birthday!

Finally, I go in for the "big" ultrasound tomorrow. But, alas, I will have no gender news for you all...

We never find out.

You'll have to wait 'til June 17th, just like us!

Monday, February 23, 2009

No, Really, You Shouldn't Have...

Mine is not the kind of blog that regularly receives awards. And that's okay! Because, you see, this site is not the most creative, funniest, most frugal, yummiest, cutest, or any of the other bloggy award categories I see fly around. I love seeing bloggers I admire receive awards, but it is not something I have ever really expected or aspired to.

So when I received this award from Matt:

(If you can't read it, you're not alone- I couldn't either!)

... I was surprised.

Here's what the award is for-

"The award acknowledges a blogger’s effort to transmit cultural, literal, ethical and personal values every day."

Wow. I am incredibly flattered to receive such an award. I can think of few other descriptions that would make me feel more proud. That being said, I- like the recipients before me- feel humbled by this and unsure whether I'm really worthy of that description. Nonetheless, I thank you, Matt, and I am honored to pass the award on to a few other fabulous bloggers. The original rules stated that you should name 15 worthy blogs. But that's a LOT. And so, like Matt, I think I shall name about half that many...

Here are a few blogs that I think accomplish the above and why I think so. If you haven't already, you should really check them out!

  1. Neonatal Doc- This blog is no longer updated, but the archives are amazing and inspiring. These are posts written by a neonatologist that cover all manner of ethical dilemmas and decisions. I am forever intrigued by his posts.
  2. The Finer Things In Life- Amy celebrates and encourages others to celebrate all the wonderful small and simple things in life... like home and family- values I think are so important.
  3. Mom of Littles- Crystal writes three blogs and this is the newest of them. Her Biblical Womanhood certainly fits the bill too, but I love Mom of Littles for the inspiring values she offers to mothers raising young children.
  4. Life As MOM- Jessica offers practical advice for keeping a happy (and sane) home. A mom of six children, she has down-to-earth, ethically sound recommendations for being a more joyful mom.
  5. Like Merchant Ships- Meredith's gift for hospitality is unparalleled in the bloggy world, in my opinion. She practices cheerful frugality in beautiful ways.
  6. Kristie McNealy, MD- A great blog for informative and straight-forward articles and breakthroughs regarding all manner of issues affecting preemies.and premature birth (among other interesting stuff!).
  7. Freebies4Mom- What? A freebie site? Heather's blog fits the bill because she truly strives to offer ethically-appropriate deals and suggestions every single day. I have never once seen her advocate doing anything anything even remotely "shady" to save a buck.
So there you go. Seven exceptional blogs written by individuals with strong value systems. Who else should have been on my list? Please share with me in the comments-- I'd love to check out something new!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Holding Your Baby For the First Time

Today is Finer Things Friday over at Amy's and that means it's a great time to talk about a little moment that has a big impact...

Holding your baby for the very first time.

Now, I don't care who you are... your gender, race, religion, or profession- none of it matters... that's a huge moment. Fortunately, it's a moment that usually takes place very soon after the birth. Such was the case with my first-born. Shortly after the cry of "It's a boy!" rang out, my little red-faced newborn was placed into my arms.

My vanity almost kept me from posting my "right after labor" shot...

I was the first to get to hold my daughter too. But she was nearly a month old. And still weighed less than 800 grams (454 grams= 1 lb... stick around, you'll learn the metric system yet if you hang around me long enough ;)) I held her against my bare chest with tubes and wires dangling all around us. I could barely see her tiny face from that position and there was no way in the world I'd be able to nurse her for a very long while.

But you know what?

It was still an incredibly powerful moment. Maybe even a little more so just because of how long I had had to wait. I wish I had a photo of that time to share with you, but I don't. The closest I can come is this shot of me holding her in a blanket which didn't occur until she was over 2 months old...

Isn't she TINY? Not yet four pounds here...

Holding a baby at any time is a Finer Thing in Life... holding your baby for the very first time is one the very finest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tapped Out

There's one big way that we save money around here that no one in our household even notices. We never think about it and not one of us ever feels as though we're suffering. From baby to grown-up, we all enjoy it without batting a lash. It just seems normal in our home, but I know it's unheard of in some homes...

What is it?

Tap water.

That's right. My family drinks tap water. Right from the sink. No fancy fridge filter. No spiffy pitchers. Definitely no bottled water. Just good old fashioned water straight from the well.

And you know what? It tastes good. It costs us nothing. We generate no waste. We have an almost limitless supply. We like it.

Furthermore, study after study has shown that almost all tap water is perfectly safe and, in fact, is often healthier because of the natural minerals it contains thanks to our friend the Earth. Go figure, huh? We pay extra to filter out stuff that's good for us! Ask your local doctor to be sure about your area, but chances are good that your faucet water is just fine. Even our "tiny, frail" daughter had the green light to have tap water...

Finally, I am happy to use tap water in our home because I like my children to grow up with the idea that water comes from a faucet, not a plastic bottle. I'm not sure what that says about me, but it's important to me that my kids do not feel the need to rush to the store to pick up... water.

Tap water absolutely works for me and my family!

For more tips and tricks, see Works for Me Wednesday hosted at Rocks in My Dryer!

For more frugal ideas, be sure and visit Frugal Friday hosted at Biblical Womanhood!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winner of Some Valentine's Bling!

Thanks to all of you who participated last week and helped to make our Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas such a success! We all had a great time doing it and we learned so much from all of you thanks to the great posts you linked. We look forward to doing something similar in the future.

It took awhile, but I compiled all the names from our Mr. Linkys and comments and there were close to a hundred of you eligible for our drawing. And the winner is...

Jessica@Finding Joy in the Journey!!!

Congratulations, Jessica! I look forward to hearing from you. Once I receive your choice of jewelry pieces, I'll get it right out in the mail to you!

She's Sick

My little girl is sick. A truly rotten cold with a deep, mucus-y cough that sometimes makes her hack so hard that she vomits. She's pale and run-down and looks, well, rather pathetic.

And I am so grateful...

... grateful that my former-preemie is one of the strong ones, whose lungs are as capable as any other 3-year old's.

... grateful that I can now treat this with lots of fluids and not frequent nebulizer treatments.

... grateful that God and our pediatrician have given me the faith and confidence to understand that I don't need to freak out at every cough just because she was born early... a cold does not automatically equal RSV.

... grateful that my daughter is so incredibly tough and has been through so much worse that she never really complains.

... grateful that I'm an easy-going enough mommy to let her eat donut holes if that's all that sounds good.

... grateful that the rest of the family has so far dodged the bug.

... and grateful that this too, like all bumps in the road, shall pass.

May this find you all in good health.

For more reasons to be grateful, be sure to visit Laura's Gratituesday.

(On a related note, I'll be back later today to announce the winner of the Valentine's giveaway, but that'll be it for today... sick babies come first!)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

12 Days of the Valentine Queen: Day 12

12 Days of the Valentine Queen

Day 12: A Man Who Makes It Special

So let me just say this- you can absolutely have a happy Valentine's Day by celebrating with girlfriends and you don't NEED a man in your life to make it special. But it sure helps. ;)

I am blessed to be married to that guy. You know the one. The one who never forgets it's Valentine's Day. The one who chooses beautiful, sappy cards and then writes two lines that arrow straight through the heart. The one who went out of his comfort zone and talked at length with the guy at the wine shop to ensure he chose a quality chardonnay for our first Valentine's together. The one who's been known to start my special day at midnight and continue to give me little surprises throughout the day. The one who made all the girls in our dorm ridiculously jealous of me my senior year in college. The one who my firiends BEG to take their husbands shopping. Yep, that's my guy.

And so it should come as no surprise that I love Valentine's Day. I fell in love with a man who makes me feel like the most treasured woman on the planet.

May you all be blessed to feel exactly the same!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

In case you missed the first eleven posts of this series, here they are!

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11

Giveaway Review... Don't Miss Out!

Just in case you missed it, this whole past week I teamed up with four amazing ladies to put together a Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas. It's been a wonderful week and a whole lot of fun!

To wrap up the extravaganza, I will be drawing one name to determine the winner of some Valentine's sparkles. What woman doesn't deserve a little bit of bling?

To make sure your name is in the pool of entrants, be certain you've visited all five posts this week:

Monday: Kate shared some Valentine-y meal ideas over at A Simple Walk.

Tuesday: Laura hosted a special Gratituesday about things we love to be thankful for at Heavenly Homemakers.

Wednesday: I shared fun ways to celebrate Valentine's Day with little ones right here.

Thursday: Jessica hosted a Sweetheart Treats Recipe Swap over at Life as MOM.

Friday: Amy rounded out the week with a special Finer Valentine Things Friday at The Finer Things in Life.

Leave a comment or link up and you'll receive an entry. Participate each day and you'll receive five entries! It's that simple. You have through Sunday night, February 15th, to leave your comments. I'll be drawing a winner Monday morning. Why in the morning, unlike every other giveaway you've probably seen? Well, because I'm just about dead to the world by 8 pm every night. But I'm one of those obnoxiously chipper morning people. :)

Good luck! Thanks to all of you who have already participated this week and helped to make our celebration a success.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

12 Days of the Valentine Queen: Day11

12 Days of the Valentine Queen

Day 11: Lacy, Girly Things

I am really not an "overly fussy" kind of a girl. I don't much like knick-knacks (aka dust collectors) and I don't own one single throw pillow. But I DO really enjoy little touches of lace and femininity sprinkled throughout my home.

One example? Hand crocheted doilies. I have several that were made by my grandmother and a couple that I made myself. I always have a couple of these doilies out but, at Valentine's Day, I love to let them really take center stage... under a vase of pretty flowers, under a cut-glass candy dish, where ever a little lacy-ness is in order!

How about you? Do you enjoy some pink and frills and lace once in awhile?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Perfect Holiday Cookie

Since I was a very little girl, I remember these cut-out cookies as part of our holiday traditions.

My mom would make dozens upon dozens of them at Christmastime, but she also made small batches for other holidays throughout the year. I didn't do much Christmas baking this past year (first trimester and all), but I've been a busy bee in the kitchen again lately!

These cookies go back at LEAST to my mom's mom. We believe they probably go further back than that. These are similar to sugar cookies, but a bit softer and with a little richer flavor, thanks to the sour cream. There are very few ingredients and there's nothing very difficult about them. But, oh, are they yummy... and so much fun to enjoy with the entire family!

Sour Cream Cookies

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup margarine (I follow the recipe and use margarine here, but I imagine butter would be fine too!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • approximately 6 cups flour (you'll use more during the rolling and cutting phase)

Mix all ingredients. Chill dough (it's best to chill for at least a few hours- otherwise it's pretty sticky).

Roll on floured surface to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies and re-roll dough, as necessary.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheets in 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on size of cookie. Makes about 10 dozen. (This is a BIG batch of cookies! I made a half-batch for our family of four and still had plenty to share at a family gathering.)

I like to put a clean towel on my kitchen table and cool the cookies there.

Once the cookies are completely cool, you can frost and decorate them! I make a very simple icing out of powdered sugar, a few drops of vanilla, and a splash of milk (sorry for the lack of measurements!) and I tinted half of it pink for these Valentine's Day cookies. Some red sugars and heart-shaped sprinkles finished off the decorating and gave the kids something to do as I frosted away.

The result?

Over five dozen truly delicious, completely homemade cookies. To buy that many frosted holiday cookies at the grocery store would have cost me close to $20. I'm not even kidding you. The cost of these? Less than three bucks. And these were better, if you ask me... I mean, c'mon... they're Grandma's cookies!

Grandma's Sour Cream Cookies... definitely a Finer Valentine's Thing in Life! For more Finer Valentine's Things, visit Amy's Finer Things Friday! Her special edition this week is the conclusion of our week-long Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas.

For more ways to save some dough (get it? ;)), visit Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood!

12 Days of the Valentine Queen: Day 10

12 Days of the Valentine Queen

Day 10: Wearing Rubies

Alright, let me just confess right up front... I'm a tad spoiled. I have a husband who truly knows how to make my life special in ways that remind me how lucky I am! I spoil him too, so it works out beautifully. :) Anyway, while I have absolutely zero weakness for shoes, handbags, clothes, or chocolate, I have a definite weakness for jewelry. The real kind of jewelry. The kind that's measured in carat-weights and set in gold or platinum.

These days, jewelry doesn't fit as easily in our budget as it did in the past, but I've had a lot of years to build up quite a collection. This time of year, I gravitate toward my garnets, my pink tourmaline, my pink sapphires and, above all, my rubies...

My rubies include a vintage ring passed down to me that goes back several generations and an impressive necklace picked up in the Cayman Islands. They include a ruby bracelet my husband gave me the first Christmas after we were married and ruby flower earrings my children gave me this past Christmas. My rubies hold beautiful memories for me and this time of year is a wonderful time to re-visit them!

How about you? Any other ladies out there who have a weakness for the sparkle?

13 Top Search Words That Land On This Site

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you the thirteen words or phrases most often typed into search engines that result in hits to my blog. I find some of them quite surprising!

  1. Jello Cookies- It amazes me that this is my number one. I shared my recipe for Jello Cookies here and, though it has not one thing to do with micropreemies, it is the number one reason people land here.
  2. Parenting the Tiniest Miracles (and various approximations thereof)- No surprise here!
  3. NICU- I certainly talk about the NICU quite a bit, so this isn't a shock.
  4. Basket of Indulgence- I hosted giveaways of three of these... guess some people really wanted to win one!
  5. Causes of prematurity- I'm proud to come up for this one!
  6. Bank of America paternity leave- I wrote about BOA's amazing leave policy here.
  7. Micropreemie blog Niagara Falls- This one makes me laugh! Someone was clearly trying to be specific enough to find me! I wrote about Niagara Falls here.
  8. Birth Story- I can hardly believe people find me with such a general search term, but it may help account for why my Birth Story is, by far, my most frequently read post.
  9. Formula Scoops- I shared uses for old formula scoops here.
  10. Playskool Busy Ball Popper replacement balls- I know everyone who visits me because of this query is disappointed... because I certainly do not answer the question in this post.
  11. Blanket sleepers- Who knew so many people were looking for blanket sleepers in sizes beyond toddler?
  12. Best NICU- This is one of my top posts but, ironically, has received NO comments at all...
  13. Dealing with insensitive people during pregnancy- I wrote a whole series on this early on. It generated a lot of response and I truly hope it has helped some women out there...

So there you go! Those are the words that lead to me most frequently. What's the top search word/phrase that lands on your site? What's the funniest? I'd love to hear!

For more Thursday {Thirteen}, be sure to stop by Happy To Be At Home!

Chicken Marsala

When I was in my very early 20's, I worked in a fancy Italian restaurant whenever I was on break from college. It was a fantastic, lucrative summer job and, as a perk, I got to eat some pretty phenomenal food. One of my very favorite dishes on the menu was their Chicken Marsala. Now perhaps you've had the kind of Chicken Marsala I most often see- a chicken breast floating in a brown gravy-looking sauce with a few mushrooms tossed in. And, hey, if that works for you, then great. That's not what this was... this was a dish that included tender, bite-size pieces of chicken, tons of fresh mushrooms, all tossed in a wine-rich, intensely flavorful sauce. Not as a thick as a gravy, but thick enough to top a pasta. Ohhhh... yum. Of course, people also had to shell out $17.99 for the privilege of eating that delicious Marsala.

I searched a whole lot of recipes before finally stumbling upon one on the back of the Holland House cooking wine bottle that seemed like it might approximate that dish. I still tweaked it and adjusted things, but I had a starting point. After more than eight years of adaptations, I can say I am completely satisfied with this recipe:

Chicken Marsala

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips or bite-sized pieces (strips are prettier, little pieces are easier for little children!)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups asst. mushrooms, sliced (I like a combination of button and baby bella)
  • 3/4 cup marsala cooking wine OR 3/4 cup marsala wine + 1/4 tsp salt (Cooking wine has salt added already; I actually prefer to use drinking wine and add the salt myself because I think it has better flavor. You can find Marsala in with the dessert wines, usually, or in with the Italian wines)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary or poultry seasoning
  • 1 lb. pasta


Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Melt another 1 Tbsp. butter. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Add chicken to skillet and cook through. Remove. Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter and add flour. Stir constantly with wooden spoon or small whisk until the flour and butter are incorporated and lightly browned, about one minute. Stir in wine, water, parsley, and rosemary. Bring to a quick boil, then immediatly reduce heat. Sauce will thicken as it simmers. Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce and warm through, about 2-3 minutes. Serve over pasta. (We prefer linguine or angelhair.)


Serves: 4 hungry people

(Image from Harry's Fresh because, well, mine was scarfed down too quickly!!!)
For more Recipes for Your Sweetheart, be sure to visit Life as MOM, where Jessica is hosting a special Valentine's swap as part of our Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas! Be sure to stop by and see Amy tomorrow for a holiday Finer Things Friday too!

For the complete schedule, go here.

To see what you can win, go here. Be sure to leave a comment each day in order to get your full five chances in our drawing!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

12 Days of the Valentine Queen: Day 9

12 Days of the Valentine Queen

Day 9: Hearts

I love hearts! Always have. I was never a "rainbow" or "unicorn" kind of little girl, but I always loved hearts. I remember a tiny mirrored pink heart pin I had as a child that I thought was the most beautiful thing in the world. These days, I have heart shaped faceted garnets that I wear in honor of the holiday, but I still love those hearts!

I also love that hearts are a simple shape for children. It is something they can recognize and draw early on. Even very young little ones learn that it represents love... how great a shape is that???

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Celebrating Valentine's With Little Ones

I am blessed to have a 3-year old and a 4-year old. These are fun ages! Both kids are so eager to participate in crafts, songs, and cooking projects with Mommy. How great is that? I think it's important to come up with a project that your child can do largely independently. It's fine (and recommended!) that you supervise, of course, but for the most part your aim should be to find something that your CHILD can do and have some success at.

This Valentine's Day, I chose to do a keychain project with my 3-year old daughter and a sun-catcher project with my 4-year old son. Both did a great job and we all had a blast! Here's how to complete these projects with your own children:

Here are the materials you will need:

For keychain-
  • approx. 25 beads (pony beads are the easiest for young children to string because the holes are a little larger)
  • one pipe cleaner
  • one key ring
  • pliers or wire cutters for trimming pipe cleaner when done (not pictured- sorry!)

For suncatcher-
  • clean plastic lid (any size will do!)
  • a variety of transparent/translucent beads
  • Elmer's glue (will dry clear)
  • petroleum jelly (not in pic)

To assemble keychain-

1. You should start it. Choose one bead and thread it onto pipe cleaner about one inch from end. Fold over short end and give a quick twist. Your child can take it from here!

2. I like to put the beads in half a jewelry box because it's more stable and shallow than a bowl but still keeps them contained. Whatever works for you!

3. Let your child string the beads on one-by-one in whatever order he/she chooses.

4. Keep an ear out for falling beads- especially if you have a baby in the house.

5. Once all the beads are on the pipe cleaner, help your child thread the key ring on.

6. At this point, you can thread the long end through the first bead to create a circle. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the key chain a few times for security, then trim.

Voila! Let your child enjoy her handiwork!

To make a sun-catcher-

1. Start out by spreading a thin, even layer of petroleum jelly inside the lid. This will help the finished piece pop out more easily. We did this as a "group effort"- he started it, I smoothed it out and made sure there was even coverage.

2. Fill the lid with a layer of glue.

3. Allow your child to start randomly covering the glue-y surface with beads.

4. You may need to help adjust the beads at the very end to make sure the surface is as covered as possible.

5. Set the filled lid in a safe, warm location. I like a sunny windowsill, myself.

6. Wait. A couple days at least. You need the glue to dry almost all the way. At that point, you should be able to easily pop out the beads all in one piece. The remaining tacky glue will dry quickly once removed.

7. Add a skinny ribbon loop. There will be natural holes to thread this through created by the dried glue and beads.

8. Hang in the window and pray for sun! We had none on the day I took this shot- sorry!

Once your kids have put in all this hard work, why not reward them by baking some festive cookies together?

I'll be sharing the recipe for the above cookies on Friday. Be sure to join us for all the rest of the Valentine's festivities during our Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas!

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day with YOUR little ones? Any fun plans this year? What types of activities do you all enjoy? Please post about it on your blog and link up! Don't have a blog? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

**Don't forget! Each day you link up or comment, you'll be entered in the final drawing to win either a blue topaz ring or a garnet necklace! See your choices here.***

12 Days of the Valentine Queen: Day 8

12 Days of the Valentine Queen

Day 8: Sharing Valentines With Others

It's obvious that I give a valentine to my honey. And, to his credit, he has never forgotten to give me one! But I also love to send valentines to friends or extended family. There is something unexpected and extra-special about receiving a valentine from someone who loves you but who isn't necessarily married to you. ;)

Congenital Heat Defect Awareness Week

I've mentioned many times how incredibly blessed we have been that our micropreemie daughter has no ongoing health problems. Being born four months early usually leads to a lot more issues that we are facing. We dodged brain bleeds, digestion issues, and heart problems.

Not all preemies, or babies in general, are so lucky. I want to share with all of you that, not only is this Valentine's week, it is also Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. You can go here to learn more about it.

One of the sweetest young families that we got to know during our NICU stay has a little girl the same age as ours who has as a CHD. It is from them that I have this poem to share with you:

Somewhere…someplace… today…
A family is waiting to hear…
Is something wrong with their baby?
The answers aren’t quite clear…
This family has entered an unwanted world…
And they just don’t know what to expect…
Somewhere…someplace… today
They first heard the words: heart defect.
And how they hoped this was not true…
And thought… this cannot be…
I too… know just how this feels…
For one day…this was me.

A man and a woman embrace…
Their baby is in surgery…
They long to see her face…
They haven’t got to hold her yet…
Without…a cord or line…
They pace the room awaiting news…
And hope she’ll be just fine.
Prayers fill this busy waiting room…
And mom and dad are scared…
The tiniest hearts are repaired.

A child’s growing fast…
His mom thinks…can this last?
It’s almost easy…to forget…
That anything is wrong…
Her child seems so strong.

Somewhere…someplace… today…
A little boy fights…just to live
A father holds his tiny hand…
His love…all he can give…
The doctor’s are all baffled…
They fear that he might die…
A family says goodbye…

Somewhere…someplace…each year..
More than 40,000 families will see…
What it means…when something’s wrong…
They’ll face a CHD.
Today…for just a moment…
Make time to tell someone you know…
“I’ve been changed by a heart defect”.

Author - Stephanie Husted

I've been changed by this amazing little girl's story. She is one tough cookie and has the most beautiful spirit. Today, I am thankful for my family's health. I am thankful for good friends. I am thankful for the amazing medical advances we see every day. And I am thankful for the power of prayer...


For more stories of gratitude this Valentine's Day, be sure to visit Laura's site for a special edition of Gratituesday!

A Day to Spread Love

I am always so happy when Valentine's Day rolls around. I simply love this time of year. I am so thankful that we are on the cusp of Spring. I am happy to have the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season behind me for the year. This year, I'm also delighted to have the first trimester well behind me and to be enjoying more energy and no nausea!

I love the whole premise of Valentine's Day... that it is truly a day to celebrate and embrace love. First to our minds, of course, are our husbands or sweethearts. The holiday is certainly marketed with that in mind. But do we have to limit it to that? Can we not celebrate our love for our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends, and those others who have touched our lives?

In my family, we do! My mom views all her kids and grandkids as her "valentines". I love picking out little treats for people other than my hubby (though he certainly deserves them too!). I think of this season as a time to spoil those who mean the most to us... through words, treats and gestures.

I'm grateful for a holiday that is all about spreading the love!
To see what others love to be grateful for, stop by Gratituesday hosted by Laura at Heavenly Homemakers! This week's edition is a special part of our progressive Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas. Tomorrow, yours truly will be sharing ways to celebrate with little ones! Please join us all week. Check out the schedule here. Take a peek at what you can win here.