A Very Cheap-o Christmas

There is a commonly expressed misconception that I hear all the time when people find out how many kids I have. It goes something like this, “How many kids do you have?” I answer, “I have 4.” They respond, “Whoa! You’re Christmas’ must be really really expensive!” I’ll briefly address my problem with this notion that our children need to get 81575642 gifts at Christmas and we need to break the bank to get the biggest and the best. What happened to quality instead of quantity? What happened to teaching appreciation instead of entitlement? What happened to the TRUE meaning of the season??? End rant, back to the topic at hand. In answer to the question: “is your Christmas really expensive?” I exclaim, “NAY!” (ok maybe I don’t yell “nay” in the middle of the check out line at Jewel but you know what I mean.)

So why is Christmas not that expensive for me when I have so many people to buy for (because lets face it, its not just the kids. Its grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles too)? The answer is simple: DIY. I have found that the best way to save money, and really the most heartfelt gifts are DIY gifts. So for the next several weeks until the week before Christmas I will be posting some of my crafty Christmas creations. 
Just a couple things to consider when you go to make your Christmas DIY list:
1. Consider the recipient- You can find the cutest, easiest, most inexpensive beer mug makeover tutorial, but if the person you are giving it to doesn’t drink beer it won’t mean diddly. 
2. Consider the budget- The worst mistake you can make is to set a budget and then not stick to it. Trust me, I know this is hard. I am the person who walks into the Dollar Store for 3 items and ends up spending $20! 
3. Remember… QUALITY not QUANTITY- Focus on only making a couple of crafts per person. The more you make, the more you end up rushing, and the less cute/crafty/legit the item will look. 
4. Some things are better left un-crafted- Please, PLEASE, I admonish you. No-one needs a hand crocheted bikini, a coaster set of pictures of your dead pet, or pe**s shaped soap.
I would absolutely love for you to share your DIY Christmas ideas! I’m always on the hunt for inspiration! Also, be on the look out for my first DIY Christmas project this year! I’m working on it now and its PREEEETTTTY fantastical! 

Pre-Cooked Goodness

Well it seems like its been forever since I had a cooking day! Unfortunately it has been about a month! (Ridiculous) But we finally got around to it. This week was a bit of a challenge though because my family is completely and utterly sick of crock pot meals. We needed to change things up a bit and make “freezer to oven” meals. Going into this cooking day I have to admit I was nervous. What are the logistics of freezer-to-oven meals? Can I just do the same thing and throw them in the bag and then cook when ready? Do things need to be par-cooked? How will the things taste if I cook them first and then freeze them? But most importantly will I have tiiiiime???

Right off the bat I found a couple of great recipes and it made me feel so much better. I had a “meeting of the minds” via email with my cooking buddy and after a couple of days of deciding we were ready to take this different kind of cooking day. The result was 7 recipes, for roughly $45! (This time I saved my receipt to prove it haha)

About 4 of the recipes came from the same webpage which was SOOOO convenient! The website says “Freezer Marinades for Summer Grilling” but you don’t NEED to grill this stuff… especially in the winter. Essentially what we did with these is make the marinade and add it to the meat of our choice.

Lemonade Marinade Chicken:
Bag of frozen chicken drumsticks
3 TBSP of Worcestershire Sauce (Why is it so difficult to say that word??)
2/3 cup of Lemonade Concentrate
1 TSP of Celery Seeds
2/4 TSP Salt
2/4 TSP Pepper
2 Clove Garlic- Minced

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Put the chicken in a foil pan and pour the marinade on top!

Mediterranean Rub Pork Tenderloin:
4 lbs Pork Tenderloin (We got 2 2lb Hormel tenderloins)
2 TSP Ground Sage
2 TSP Dry Thyme
2 TSP Pepper
1 TSP Salt
1 TSP Garlic Powder
1 TSP Dried Rosemary
1 TSP Olive Oil (We ended up using more of this to make the rub stretch a bit more)

Combine dry ingredients and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Put pork in a foil pan and spread mixture with a rubber spatula all over the pork.

Garlic Dijon Chicken
Package of Chicken Breasts
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
8 TBSP Dijon Mustard
4 TBSP Lime Juice (we just cut a lime in half and squeezed ūüėČ )

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Put chicken in foil and pour mixture over it. This was a little bit thicker so I used a marinade brush to make sure that it was even.

Lemon & Garlic Chicken
Bag of Chicken Thighs
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 TBSP Chopped Parsley (we used fresh parsley… yummm!)
6 TBSP Lemon Juice (Cut a lemon in half and squeezed!)
1/4 TSP Pepper

Mixed all the ingredients together, put chicken in foil pan, pour mixture over the chicken. (Are you noticing a trend?)

Balsamic Glazed Chicken
About 20 Chicken Tenders (I used breasts and then cut them in half… for some reason that ends up being cheaper)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar (we used balsamic vinaigrette dressing… that’s all we had lol)
1 cup Honey
2 TBSP Rosemary
7 TSP Minced Garlic

Mix all together… put in foil pan…. pour mixture over it. OR you can put it all in a freezer bag and put them out on a pan when you are ready to cook it.

The picture is only with about half the chicken you need….

ÔĽŅRanch Burgers (there is no link for this)
Roughly 2 lbs of Ground Beef (you can use ground turkey too)
One Packet Ranch Dressing Mix
One bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Mix all together… form patties out of them… makes about 9 or 10. I put them in the foil pan and separated each one with wax paper. (We made these last night and they were seriously AMAZING)
Herbed Turkey Meatballs – this is a little bit more involved… I recommend doing this one first
Roughly 1.25 lbs of ground Turkey (we used 93/7)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP dried thyme
1-2 minced garlic cloves (I did 2… but I love garlic)
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment paper (oops just realized I didn’t do this! lol). In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients. Then with your hands make walnut sized balls and put them on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Then let cool and put them in a freezer bag.
I didn’t get a picture of them but these are the perfect addition to pasta night!
Our grocery list was pretty simple. Some stuff we had at home so if you are going off of this list please make sure that you check the recipes too to make sure you have everything!
Jenny O Ground Turkey 93/7- $4.30
Chicken Breasts- $10.25
Chicken Drumsticks-$3.99
Chicken Thighs- $3.99
1.5 lb Ground Beef- $7.25
Pork Loin- $7.75
Fruits and Veggies:
Parsley- $1.39
Lime- $0.50
Lemon- $0.50
Dijon Mustard- $0.99
Ranch Dressing packet- $1.45
Shredded Cheese- $1.99 (we had a coupon for $0.40 off!)
Lemonade Concentrate- $0.75 (on sale!)
Celery seeds- $2.39
That’s a grand total of $47.49!! And the things like the parsley, mustard and celery seeds were split between two of us. The great thing about this is that so many of the items in the recipes are things you probably already have in your pantry.
Happy cooking everyone!

Quiet Moments

I tend to believe that when you are faced with impending parenthood you often think that there will be a lot of sleepless nights, you gear up for a screaming baby, maybe you even anticipate some sort of frustration due to your typical schedule being thrown to the wind. (Although, I could just be projecting haha.) All these thoughts are completely normal (right??!!), and getting used to the changes associated with having a new baby is difficult.

I’ll give you a scenario… it may or may not be true to life… and it may or may not have happened 3 nights ago. All of your kids are in bed by 7:30, you have the rest of the night to yourself. Your husband, who works afternoon/nights gets home at around 9 and you want to spend some time with him. Fast forward to 11 o’clock and you are finally pouring yourself into bed and excited for a good nights sleep. You snooze away until 12:30 when you are violently woken up by screaming coming through the baby monitor and in a fog you stumble to the kids room and pick up the owner of the scream: a teething baby. You nurse her (or him) and put them back to bed. Soon enough you are settling back into a deep slumber. All of a sudden you feel like someone is watching you. You open your eyes in the dark… AN APPARITION! No…. its a 4 year old and its 2:30am. She’s scared and wants to cuddle. “Two seconds,” you mutter. She crawls into bed with you and you count to two, after which she runs to her room, gets her pillow and blanket and makes a bed for herself on your floor. Sleep comes slightly easier this time, so you fade. 4:30am… screaming… hmmmm. Teething baby again. Its harder to get out of bed this time, but you manage. Boob, cuddle, rock/sway, back in bed. After what seems like 10 minutes you hear giggling, gurgling and the like over the stupid blessed baby monitor. Its 6am. Your angelic beings have decided that they want to get up with the sun this morning. So you roll yourself out of the warmth of your bed and embrace the day, tired but alive.

A night like this can be approached one of two ways. You can either be angry/frustrated/whatever or you can be thankful. “Thankful?” you ask. How in the world could one person be thankful for getting so few broken hours of sleep?? Perspective is how.¬†It might come as a shock but you could possibly go through your entire day and not get a single moment of alone time with your children. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos and busy-ness of life and completely miss out on quiet moments with our babies.

Consider this: every time that one of your kids calls out to you in the night, they desire something. Lucky for you, what they desire is exactly what you have in the middle of the night: TIME. When I am cuddling with my baby girl at 2 in the morning I am able to gain important knowledge of her. I learn the curve of her cheek as I run my hand down her face to settle her. I bask in her baby smell. In the still of the night I hear her subtle hum while she breathes heavily and falls back into a deep sleep. When my 3 year old yells my name in the night I am able to do something almost noone else can. He lays on my chest, hugs me tightly and I make him feel safe. My precious 4 year old believes that the best place that she can sleep is nestled in the curve of my stomach. And my big 6 year old, even still, just wants to know that he will always be my baby.

This way of thinking isn’t easy, and I need constant reminders of how precious this time is. However, it is so important to embrace these special opportunities, because they will be gone before¬†we know it.

A Lost Sacredness

There is an epidemic attatcking America these days. It effects 50% of marriages outside of the church and just about 38% of marriages of regular church attenders. This epidemic cannot be cured by a medication, a shot or being put in quarantine. It effects everyone it touches and touches more people than you realize. This epidemic is divorce.

God created marriage. He created it to be a beautiful partnership in which two become one. Matthew 19:5-6 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” The vows that are taken when two people get married are intended to be a serious covenant, a joining of souls, a lifetime commitment. So my question is… what happened??

This is what happened….

We have become a society of immediate gradification. We want dinner, we go through a drive thru and in 2 minutes our bellies are full. We want to buy something but don’t have the funds so we swipe a plastic card and walk out with our merchandise. We feel like our marriage is holding us back or things are harder than we had anticipated so we file some paperwork and our “freedom” is given to us. People think that this fast and easy way of getting exactly what we want when we want it has made our lives better, but I happen to believe quite the contrary.

There was a day not too terribly long ago when things had to be worked for, saved for and giving up just wasn’t an option. The food on the dinner table was made from scratch and therefore had more value to us. Divorce was taboo and therefore giving up on your marriage was almost out of the question. (Let me be clear that I’m not talking about the very serious and real cases of abuse, neglect, or infidelity. In those situations I think you have to do what you feel is right for yourself with guidance from God. I’m referring to the “just don’t get along” situations) Our spouses have become disposable to us and very easily replaceable. Our marriages hold very little value any more. People just don’t want to do the hard work that it takes to sustain a marriage and counseling is seen as a sign of weakness.

What can we do?

Hebrews 13:4a says, “Let marriage be held in honor above all.” It is our call to hold marriage as an honor, a holy gift and a blessing. As Christians (and even as non-Christians) divorce should be taken off the table and our vows should be taken seriously. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or health…as long as we both shall live,” (I get that in modern ceremonies those aren’t always the vows but I’m pretty sure that none of them feature an escape clause).

Probably the most important thing we can do to help our marriage is have a willingness to work hard at it. I talk to so many “soon to be married” couples and they say, “I just can’t wait to be married, it’s gonna be amazing” or, “I can’t wait to be his/her wife/husband, it’ll be the greatest job I have.” And don’t get me wrong, it will be amazing, and it will be the greatest job, but it will also be incredibly difficult. There will be days that you just want to cry. There will be times when this person you’re living with hurts you more than anyone else ever has or ever could. And there will even be days when all you want to do is give up. (Call me overly psycho-babbled but) I truly believe that every relationship can benefit from counseling. Open up those lines of communication and let the conversation get messy sometimes. It’s in that messiness that layers are peeled back, and wounds are opened to allow for a deeper healing and understanding of each other in your marriage.

I’ll leave you with one last thought. How do you love your spouse? Ephesians 5:33 says, “each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” What a great challenge that is for all of us!