Category Archives: Wanderings…

D.I.Y. Student Divider Organizer

Colson's divider After finishing a Monday of schooling necessity was once again the mother of invention. The day was long for this home school mamma and for the students who were feeling defeated by their lack of concentration to get the assignments done. Listening, remembering and doing seemed the impossible goal—again. We have lost count through the years how many times my kids have heard and been shown how to put their blinders on by keeping their minds on the assignment, their eyes to their papers, and their mouths quiet. My oldest son, with the remnants of a severe traumatic brain injury, finds it impossible to do these things, and to not involve his brother in it.  So on this particular day I decided to make the boys some ‘blinders’ complete with school supplies and their most used paperwork. All through dinner preparations and the meal I took my turn daydreaming—about how I would make this divider tool.  As soon as my boys left for basketball practice I took inventory of supplies I had and supplies I thought I might need. My goal was to spend little money and use what I could find around the house. Then a made a quick trip to the store.

A Closer look.
A Closer look.

I was desperate to reign in daydreaming, distractions and endless chit-chatting. I’m still brainstorming  how to overcome the daydreaming but these dividers/organizers help tremendously to lessen distractions and chit-chatting between my two boys who are a year apart. Having almost everything they need within arm’s reach greatly reduced having to get out of their seat to sharpen their pencil or to retrieve a needed school supply. We had a school room where there were desks but after A.J.’s severs traumatic brain injury three and a half years ago he could no longer tolerate being in the basement school room, with one north window,  surrounded by large shade trees. We’ve tried on multiple occasions to move back to the school room to no avail. He needs to be in a larger open area, so we began schooling upstairs at the kitchen table, next to large windows with abundant morning and afternoon light. The boys sit at opposite ends of the table with their divider in front of them. There is plenty of room for a stack of books and workbooks or notebooks. I began with a 36″ X 48″  foam core display board from Wal-Mart which I measured and cut in half with a utility knife/box cutter. (Display boards located in the office/school supply department.)

Elmer's 36" X 48" Display Board $9.99, school/office supply
Elmer’s 36″ X 48″ Display Board $9.99, school/office supply
Double-sided tape $2.00
Removable Double-sided tape $2.00, office supply
Elastic from my sewing basket
Elastic from my sewing basket
Command Large Damage Free Hanging Velcro Strips $3.55
Command Large Damage Free Hanging Velcro Strips $3.55, office supply
thumb tacks
Thumb tacks from the school room
binder clips
Binder clips my daughter had in her room; or I would have used painted clothespins
Hobby peel and stick cork roll from our art supply/craft closet
Hobby cork roll from our art supply/craft closet, available at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s Craft stores

AJs divider marker board abcTop left: Marker board, from the school room closet, to record non-school questions/remarks. This keeps us from becoming distracted by topics that have nothing to do with school. So far my boys have not used the marker boards, which shows all of us the questions/comments CAN wait or aren’t significant. I used a binder clip to attach this which allows for other school assignments to be easily and temporarily added to the divider/organizer.   Bottom left: ABC cursive sheet of upper and lower case letters. I made this for free at Handwriting Without Tears Online Tools. You will need to create a free account and use the A+ GET STARTED Worksheet Maker. I used the Grade 4+ Spelling template. Red scrapbooking paper and ABC sheet held in place with removable double-sided tape. animal tracksMiddle top left: Peel and stick cork board cut to size for extras that may need placed on the divider. mult chart Middle bottom left: Free printable Multiplication Chart 1-15 which I printed on scrapbooking cardstock. Removable double-sided tape for adhesive.

Weekly Scripture Memorization
Weekly Scripture Memorization

Middle top center: Weekly Bible memorization is held in place by a removable binder tab. I make these at Picmonkey.com for free under the ‘Design’ tab. Design possibilities are endless! Background scrapbooking paper. Adhesive is removable double-sided tape. Middle center and middle bottom center: Scissors, ruler and calculator are held in place by elastic. I placed the objects on the board and made cuts thru the foam board on each side of school supply. I then pushed a piece of cut elastic thru the board and tied it in a double knot on the back of the board. (The white on white is not a terrible eyesore on the back side of the board.)

Math Measurements Chart
Math Measurements Chart

Middle top right: Symbols, tables, measurements and formulas sheet from Math-U-See student workbook. Adhesive: Removable double-sided tape.  Center bottom right: Pencil bag attached with Command Velcro strips. This creates a strong hold that will not fall off when zipping/unzipping and removing/returning supplies; yet is removable. Supplies include: Pens, erasers, high-lighter, marker board markers, and Mechanical pencils which are on sale through the month of August at most stores that carry school supplies. Mechanical pencils eliminatethe need to constantly get up to sharpen pencils. (I feel the need to sing: If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” Plus I have never found an electric pencil sharpener that lasts the entire school year. Grrrr! daily schedule schedule calendarTop right: Each week I add the new day-by-day schedule. This method has proved to work best for us. They know what has to be done each day and they place a check mark beside the assignment when it is finished. Bottom right: I printed this free mini calendar (2015 calendar UPDATE) Scroll down to landscape: 2015 Calendar / Small and cut it into monthly strips then used removable double-sided tape to adhere it, on top of colorful paper, to the display board. This keeps the boys from asking, over and over, for the correct date to write on their paperwork. This project took between 2-3 hours which included finding free printables and making copies on my home printer. I have included links to websites in bold red fonts throughout the blog post to make your search for printables fast. AJs divider These could be used at a desk or table. My boys were thrilled with their new dividers/organizers and I received several hugs, kisses and thank-you’s throughout the day. Two and a half weeks later—the boards have been used every school day.  Best of all we have saved considerable time. We have less distractions, a lot less talking while working on assignments, and no need to get out of the chair for school supplies or necessary charts. At the end of the day the boards are folded up and placed next to the school book shelves. This project was a Win/Win idea!

Tex-Mex Black Bean Salsa

Tex Mex Black Bean Salsa

My favorite time of year to eat this Black Bean Salsa is when I have fresh Roma tomatoes from my garden which usually places this salsa around the 4th of July. My daughter and I make this salsa throughout the year but tonight was the first batch with homegrown Romas.

My sister, one of the best cooks ever,  introduced me to this recipe years ago and I have since adapted it to my taste bud’s preferences. I like Roma tomatoes, Serrano peppers and lots of lime juice.

 

Fresh ingredients
Fresh ingredients
Black Beans and Shoe Peg Corn
Black Beans and Shoe Peg Corn
chopped veggies
Chopped Veggies
Serrano Peppers
Serrano Peppers

This Jalapeno Corer tool is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. It works for any type of pepper and also cores the tops of tomatoes. My favorite use is for coring Jalapenos. Cut the tops offs and rotate the corer down inside the pepper to remove veins and seeds. This allows you to stuff the Jalapeno for baking, grilling or placing in a smoker. The Serranos above are small and need to be cut in half, then deveined and seeded one half at a time.

I ordered my Jalapeno Corer at Amazon.com. I also ordered the Jalapeno Roasting Rack for use in the oven, on the grill or in a smoker.

Jalapeno Corer Tool
Jalapeno Corer Tool
Limes juiced
Juiced limes
Toss chopped veggies with lime juice, Canola oil, salt and garlic powder
Toss chopped veggies with lime juice, Canola oil, salt and garlic powder
Add tomatoes
Add tomatoes and mix
Enjoy!
Enjoy!

TEXMEX Recipes

 

Tex-Mex Black Bean Salsa

1 can black beans

1 can Shoe peg corn

1 bunch cilantro

½ Bell pepper—any color, chopped

1 small or medium purple onion, to taste, chopped

4 cups Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 Serrano peppers seeded and deveined, minced

Juice of 2 medium limes

1 T. Canola oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Drain and rinse beans and corn. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add cilantro, bell pepper, purple onion, Serrano peppers then mix in lime juice, Canola oil, salt and garlic powder. Add and mix chopped tomatoes. Serve immediately. Refrigerate left overs.

Serve with Restaurant style white corn tortilla chips or Tostidos Scoops.

 

DIY Mini Utensil Set

Mini Utensil Sets

 

DIY Projects

Okay—it isn’t completely DIY. You won’t need your own foundry to forge the utensils but since you will not find a mini utensil set/holder/crock in the stores; I will show you how spectacularly charming, efficient and necessary this set is to the everyday functioning of your kitchen.

Several years ago for my birthday my mom gave me the red tea cup filled with multiple measuring spoons. I am a stay-at-home mom who usually cooks a homemade meal every night of the week; plus breakfast, lunch and quite a bit of baking. Mom knew I would love the splash of red in my kitchen (everyone needs a splash of red even if their kitchen isn’t red) and the extra measuring spoons are time saving because I don’t have to stop, wash, and rinse spoons in the middle of meal preparations. DSCN3335

I immediately added a variety of utensils to my cup and have used the set every day since; so have my kids. We whisk eggs, stir pancake batter, spread jams, measure,  scrape bowls and jars, flip small pancakes, bake cookies, remove hot items from the toaster oven, squeeze the last flavor from tea bags and much more. Our kitchen would not function well without the cup which sits on top of our toaster oven in a centralized location. I am all about function; pretty—decorative function!

The tea cups with the front tea bag pockets are difficult to find and Ebay has been my only success over the last few years. I like the pocket for the Smidgen/Pinch/Dash measuring spoons.

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Here are my favorite places for finding miniature utensils. I order in quantity for future bridal showers and birthday gifts which saves on shipping costs. This is my favorite gift to give at Bridal Showers because it is almost guaranteed the bride does not have a mini utensil set.

You will need a short squatty type tea cup, soup mug, or creamer for the utensils to be visible and the side of the cup needs to go somewhat straight up; not curved out like a bowl or expensive China tea/coffee cup.

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Honey Dipper

Honey Dippers: Best prices for multiples (6 inch) https://www.etsy.com/listing/114462014/assorted-wooden-honey-dipper-you-choose?ref=sr_gallery_5&ga_search_query=honey+dipper&ga_ref=auto6&ga_order=price_asc&ga_page=1&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery

These utensils can be found at http://www.amazon.com/

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Mini Condiment Spoons
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Mini Wooden Condiment Spoons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Measuring Spoons
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Heart Measuring Spoons. Left: Expensive. Right: Inexpensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mini Whisks. Left: Individual. Right: Set of 4

The below utensils can be found at Main Street Marketplace – This is a local store located on Main Street in historic St. Charles, Missouri. Best prices except for the heart spoons http://www.mainstreetmarketplace.com/

Smidgen/Pinch/Dash Measuring Spoons
Smidgen/Pinch/Dash Measuring Spoons
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Miniature Whisks – Left: Individually sold. Right: Set of 4
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Mini Flipper/Turner
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Honey Dipper
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Mini Toaster Tongs
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Mini Scoop
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Dozens of Cheese Knives/Appetizer Spreaders
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Mini Condiment Spoons: Curved Handle spoon only. The other 2 are from Amazon.com
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Tomato Corer
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Citrus Zester

 

 

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Tea Bag Squeezer/Toaster Tongs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tex-Mex Creamy Serrano Enchiladas

TEXMEX Recipes

 

 

I like flavor—bold—can’t miss it flavor. These enchiladas are full of flavor but not heat.

I often create as I go and since Colson requested some type of enchilada for dinner I used what I could find in the fridge and pantry. I already had the Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip which I had made over the weekend. I had also loaded up the grill at the beginning of the week with hamburgers, hot dogs, fajita chicken and chicken marinated in Italian dressing. I use this chicken in casseroles, pasta and salads. I sometimes throw chops and steaks on the grill too. This saves me valuable time during the week because my meats are already cooked and ready to be used for meal preparations. I slightly undercook the meats on the grill to allow for reheating.

I only have one picture of the dish since I was attempting to quickly prepare dinner in time for Riley to take A.J. to Youth Group for his very first time— ever. I had tears in my eyes as they drove down the driveway. Where did time go? He was still a little boy in my heart. How did he advance to Middle School age? This was not right!

I digressed; back to the subject. When Riley finished eating she told me I needed to write this recipe down because it tasted like restaurant enchiladas.  A.J., who thought he would not like the enchiladas wound up drooling over them, Colson was thrilled with the final product, I could have eaten a whole pan by myself and Farm Boy, who is an Italian food fan, had at least thirds and suggested I write down the recipe.

My family knows I fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to preparing meals. They also know that if I don’t immediately write the recipe down I will forget within hours the ingredients I used and the approximate measurements.

If you skip the Grilled Fajita Chicken and the Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip you will have, in my snobbish Tex-Mex opinion, blah Mexican enchiladas—you will.

Here is the recipe with the only, end of the meal, picture I have of the enchiladas.  You won’t be sorry you made these!

Tex Mex Creamy Serrano Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 – 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • 1 packet McCormick Fajita Seasoning (My favorite)
  • 4 grilled, (small-medium) shredded chicken breasts
  • 10 oz. mild enchilada sauce (I used Great Value brand)
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 16-18 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup Creamy Serrano Ranch Sauce/Dip (See recipe below)
  • Canola or olive oil
  • Chopped Cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Rub 4 small/medium chicken breasts on each side with seasoning from a McCormick Fajita seasoning packet. Grill chicken; sprinkling more seasoning once on each side as it grills.
  2. Sauté cream cheese (smash with fork), green chiles, and pre-grilled chicken until they are warm and well combined. If it seems too dry add more Creamy Serrano Ranch.
  3. Heat and oil pan. Warm tortillas on both sides filling one as you warm the next. Reapply oil as necessary.
  4. Fill tortillas with meat mixture and some of the cheese, reserving some cheese to sprinkle on the top.
  5. Roll up tortillas and place seam down in a 9×13 baking dish and an 8X8 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray or olive oil.
  6. Spoon enchilada sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
  8. Top with fresh chopped Cilantro before serving.

 

Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip (Jalapeño)

IMG_0044

½ cup sour cream

½ cup real mayonnaise (low fat is not tasty in this recipe)

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar (this turns milk in to buttermilk)

1 (4 ounce) can green chilies

1 (1 ounce) packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

2 Serrano peppers (remove seeds and veins for mild) Remove seeds for medium heat. Leave seeds and veins for hot heat.

¼ cup cilantro

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

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Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

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Refrigerate for two hours before serving so ingredients can soak into the dressing.

Serve with chips or use as salad dressing on Mexican salads, or sauce for Mexican foods and casseroles.

*Heat oven to 350 degrees and place a cookie sheet of White Corn Restaurant style tortilla chips in the oven for 3 minutes. Enjoy fresh restaurant style chips and dip.

Original Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip post: https://chocolateorelse.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/creamy-serrano-ranch-dip/

 

Enjoy!

Pico De Gallo Recipe: My habit

TEXMEX Recipes

 

Spring brings great hope to my Tex-Mex lov’in taste buds.

Yes, my gustatory receptor cells know the salsa garden is planted and fresh cilantro is already being harvested. Ah, the scent the taste of fresh cilantro!

Here is my dilemma this spring: The lime supply is not sufficient.

I should not, will not, cannot eat Tex-Mex without lime and the cost of limes has tripled in price. They are sometimes teeny tiny, Key Lime size, and I can only express one to two teaspoons of juice from them. Other times the stores do not have any in stock.

Have you heard about this inconvenience?

The explanation for this disruption is one more reason to abhor the Mexican drug cartel industry. The drug cartels decided they need more money so they set their financial ambitions on lime groves. They are using armed force to take over hard-working farmer’s lime groves and the cartels are ambushing and robbing produce trucks on the way to market. In response to the crime, some farmers are burning down their groves and not giving in to the cartels.

Add to this the Huanglongbing, citrus greening disease, in Mexico, the California drought, and Florida’s poorly sanctioned diseased lime crop policy enacted shortly after Hurricane Andrew over a decade ago. (Read more at  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/25/lime-shortage_n_5191607.html)

This is why I am forced to pay $1.00 for an almost microscopic lime. Which makes me thankful that our family’s finances allow me the ability to feed my habit—my drug of choice; lime—because I’m a lime junkie.

Juiced limes

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today I am sharing how I make my favorite Pico De Gallo recipe. Some cooks use yellow onion, some use any type of tomato but I only use white onion and Roma tomatoes.

Because the heat and taste of onion can vary from crop to crop, I cut a piece off and inspect it by smelling it and tasting it. This is a necessary evil because not much is worse than taking the time to chop all your ingredients, mix your recipe and find out a bad onion spoiled the flavor of the entire dish. I use equal parts tomato, onion and fresh cilantro but if the onion is too strong I cut the amount back to ¼ to ½ depending on the onion’s strength.

This recipe can be made as small or large as needed.

In my house we consider Pico De Gallo a nutritious meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner and it is eaten as such; with tortilla chips. Yep, that’s it—nothing more—just Pico. I hope you don’t have a problem with that.

Homemade salsa is also served as a meal option. The salsa recipe will be posted soon.

Pico De Gallo

Pico De Gallo Recipe:

6 Roma tomatoes, rinsed  then core the top, chopped

1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped

1 large bunch of rinsed cilantro, chopped; remove long stems at the bottom of the bunch

1 large lime—juiced, you may use zest too if you like it

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

*Optional-2 seeded, deveined Serrano peppers, minced

 

The importance is equal amounts of tomato, white onion & cilantro. I add lime juice until I can taste it mixed throughout the entire batch. Sometimes I make it with Serranoes, sometimes hot by NOT removing the seeds and veins. Serrano peppers, to me, have the best flavor of all the Mexican peppers. My daughter occasionally likes to make Pico with 2 large chopped (yes, chopped not minced) Jalapeños in the mix.

Serve with restaurant style white corn tortilla chips warmed in the oven for 3 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Eat plain with chips or as a topping on your favorite Taco, Fajita, Burrito, Quesadilla, Chalupa, salad, meat or casserole.

~Enjoy!

Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip

TEXMEX Recipes

Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip (A.K.A. Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip)

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I recently traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, and visited my dear friend, Michelle, from years past. Once upon a time our families lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the same time where I taught her youngest daughter at a local Mom’s Day Out program. We later belonged to the same homeschool association and would hang out at each other’s homes while her daughters and my daughter played together.

Allow me to tell you what Michelle did to me; she interjected herself into my personal life. Ha! I tell you this in the most light-hearted way with a smile on my face because I absolutely positively love this woman. It’s a long story and one I am working on writing in it full detail. The abbreviated version is that several homeschool moms, led by Michelle, were praying for me behind my back and asking God to provide me a husband and to give Riley a daddy. I named Michelle the instigator of this but she insists it was the Holy Spirit. I heard through the grapevine that while some of my friends were meeting for homeschool playdates they would huddle in the garage and pray for me while their children played in the yard.

And they were not the only friends doing this! It began months earlier with my friend Pam speaking to me about the same subject.  Little did I know, God was working out His plan (definitely not mine or Riley’s) for my life and for Riley’s life.

Here is a quote by Michelle, “I figured out a long time ago, that when several God-fearing women walk into God’s throne room together…whatever they are praying about…better watch out!” – #moveoversatan #nottakingGod’sglory #getunderourfeetwhereyoubelong

I obviously got over Michelle’s Holy Spirit led intrusion and recently allowed her in-depth private details of every aspect of my life; beginning to present day, for Restoring the Foundations ministry. Michelle is training to minister in RTF and I can honestly testify that RTF was the most beautiful, personal, empowering, healing and tender time I have ever spent with the Lord. I love Him!

How does this connect to a Tex-Mex recipe you may be asking?

Well, before visiting Michelle I texted her and asked if there was a Chuy’s Tex-Mex in Nashville. To my delight she responded that Chuy’s was; in fact, located down the street from her home in Franklin, Tennessee.

Chuy’s is my all-time favorite eating establishment. If I were allowed to have only one option for eating out, from present day to the day I die, Chuy’s would be it. I believe it is impossible that I could ever tire of their deliciousness.

My boys crave Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip, but since we live in the heavily populated Italian cuisine city of St. Louis, Missouri, we have no Chuy’s Tex-Mex. We rely on our trips to visit my family in Texas to fulfill our Chuy’s longings.

Every time I eat at Chuy’s I attempt to pull apart the individual flavors; veggie, pepper, herb and spice in the salsas, Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip and meats.

I have made the dip with Jalapeños, Anaheim Chile’s, Poblanos, Serrano Peppers and blends of these peppers. I use fresh Serrano peppers in my Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip—no Jalapeños. We find this recipe every bit as flavorful, if not the same, as Chuy’s. I did ask a manager at a Chuy’s in Kentucky if there were Serrano’s in the salsas and dips and she confirmed that there were.

When it comes to preparing dishes with peppers you get to decide the amount of heat you want in your recipe. Here is the trick:

Mild heat: Remove seeds and devein the inside of the peppers.

Medium heat:  Remove seeds and leave the veins in. You can always add a few seeds if you want more heat.

Fiery heat: Leave seeds and veins in peppers.

I always double this recipe for my hungry guys because even Farm Boy likes this non-Italian Tex-Mex dip.

~Enjoy!

Post with introduction of Farm Boy:  https://chocolateorelse.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/peeper-and-stalker-and-harasser-o-my/

 

 Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip (Jalapeño)

IMG_0044

½ cup sour cream

½ cup real mayonnaise (low fat is not tasty in this recipe)

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar (this turns milk in to buttermilk)

1 (4 ounce) can green chilies

1 (1 ounce) packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

2 Serrano peppers (remove seeds and veins for mild) Remove seeds for medium heat. Leave seeds and veins for hot heat.

¼ cup cilantro

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

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Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

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Refrigerate for two hours before serving so ingredients can soak into the dressing.

Serve with chips or use as salad dressing on Mexican salads, or sauce for Mexican foods and casseroles.

*Heat oven to 350 degrees and place a cookie sheet of White Corn Restaurant style tortilla chips in the oven for 3 minutes. Enjoy fresh restaurant style chips and dip.

word filled linkup

 

CHOC-O-LOTTA-LOTTA CAKE

GiveMe Chocolate Recipes

 

In honor of A.J.’s recent birthday I am sharing my recipe for his favorite Birthday cake.

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My first memory of A.J. being introduced to chocolate, post utero, was walking in the house to find Farm Boy sitting in the recliner feeding my precious little baby milk chocolate  M&M’s.  I saw A.J.’s mouth smeared with chocolate and heard his sweet little lips smack with shear baby bliss while he sucked chocolate M&M’s from between Daddy’s fingers.

A.J.’s in-utero chocolate experience began day one of conception , with a mid-night Chocolate Buffet Extravaganza aboard the ms Massdam, Holland America, cruise ship and most likely occurred every day of my pregnancy; as well as, his nursing days. The child did not stand a chance of disliking chocolate.

A.J.’s first word was Ma-Ma but shortly after he learned choc-o-loda-loda-loda.

We all adored hearing baby A.J. ask, in a deep raspy baby growl, for choc-o-loda-loda-loda. Sometimes he would get severely stuck on the lodas and say seven or eight of them. He was serious about his chocolate. Still is!

I made this cake for A.J. when he was two or three years old and he has continued to request it every year.

 

CHOC-O-LOTTA-LOTTA CAKE Recipe

Cake

1 Box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge, follow recipe except instead of water add 1 cup milk.

Bake according to the directions, cool. (Aldi’s sell a terrific inexpensive Baking Spray which, in my opinion, works better than Wilton’s Bake Release Spray.)

I use Wilton’s Bake Even Strips with my cake pans to eliminate high-rise centers, cracked tops and over-cooked edges. Just dampen the strips and wrap around the pan before baking. The moisture in the strips keeps the edges of the pan cooler for level and deliciously moist cakes—every time! 

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Frosting:

8 Hershey Candy bars, place these in the freezer while mixing the frosting. If the candy bars are room temperature they turn soft when you chop them in the blender.

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese,  softened  DSCN3225

1 (16 oz.) container whipped topping

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup Hershey’s Cocoa powder

(Keep 1 cup of mixed white frosting out of recipe before adding the cocoa to use for decorating the cake.)

Mix together

 

Take the candy bars out of the freezer and place 2 at a time in the blender or food processor.

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Fold chopped candy bars into frosting and spread on the cake. This recipe is enough forDSCN3231 frosting a 9” triple layer cake.

Chill frosted cake in refrigerator for 2 hours or more; or overnight. The frosting is delicious enough to eat by the spoonful like a thick mousse so if you have leftovers it will not go to waste.

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Some years we pipe frosting around the edges and the bottom of the cake.  You can also use extra chopped candy bar to put around the bottom edge and on top of the cake.

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A.J. is perfectly happy eating the frosting by itself.

I am perfectly happy chopping an Aldi’s Choceur Dark Chocolate Candy bar for folding into the frosting and eating it straight from the bowl!

~Enjoy!

 

GiveMe Chocolate Recipes

Peanut Butter Cup Bars Soothe Super Bowl Wounds

Super Bowl season could not have been more exciting for this Denver Broncos fan. Until the game that is.

After 20+ years I still am, and will always be, a Broncos fan.

And that’s all I have to say about the game.

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But the food—well there is always plenty to discuss regarding the food; including, forgetting about eating Gluten Free  when I saw the Jalapeno Poppers come out of the oven. I couldn’t see straight or think straight. I wanted, I had to have; hot, ooey-gooey, cheesy Jalapeno Poppers. I was so overcome with glee at the sight that, “Wrong. Bad decision. Don’t eat those. Alert! Alert!” never entered my mind. An unknown force took over and before I realized what was happening I was half way through my second popper. Then I remembered, “Gluten, these are coated with wheat.”

I felt like a teenager experiencing the rush of an unknown force; otherwise known as, out-of-control hormones. My middle-age female hormones were screaming for one of my favorite appetizers.

I am resolved to never again lose my mind to the sound of Jalapeno Poppers seductively calling my name. The attraction is over!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The week before the Super Bowl required making decisions on what food to take to the party, compiling a shopping list and going to the grocery store.

My friend, Kim, always makes certain there is a delicious spread of food for her guests. Some attend the party for the food and some of us attend for the game.  We all attend because we enjoy each other’s company.

While preparing food Saturday; including, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread (I posted this recipe last week) I realized I did not have enough hours in my day to make everything on my list. Then, Colson added that he wanted to make homemade chocolate peanut butter candy to take to the Super Bowl party.

That is when I remembered my,  “Chocolate Emergency Preparedness” stash which included a case of Chocolate Almond Bark. Almond Bark! It is always easy and quick. It does take time to melt but I had plenty of other recipes to mix and bake during the wait. Plus my boys were helping me in the kitchen and Colson would take care of collecting the ingredients and mixing the dough/batter.

DSCN2999(Left)My helpers were busy using the side of a pan as a magic mirror. They laughed hysterically while making silly faces in the concave and convex curves of the pan. Free entertainment for boys.

I placed my double boiler on the stove with water in the bottom pot; on medium heat.  I Double Boileropened a package of Almond Bark and placed it in the top pot along with two cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stirring occasionally until melted. If you do not have a double boiler you may find alternative options in my, “Chocolate Almond Bark Recipes: There Might Be a Run on Chocolate!” post. (I’ve included 3 pictures of different options.)

Double Boiler using a pot and bowl Double Boiler with 2 saucepans

We lined a jelly roll pan, bottom and sides, with wax paper. (A jelly roll pan is known to some as a four-sided cookie sheet.)

We poured half the melted chocolate into the jelly roll pan and, for the sake of speeding up the process, placed the pan flat in my freezer.

Ten minutes later we spread the peanut butter mixture over the entire pan of chocolate and returned the pan to the freezer. I wanted the peanut butter firm before pouring heated chocolate over it. Then we poured and spread the remaining chocolate on top of the peanut butter and returned it to the freezer for ten minutes.

It came out looking like a giant candy bar. I used a sharp knife to cut it into 1 ½ inch X 3 inch bars.

DSCN2992I don’t know who enjoyed the bars more, the adults or the children, but they could not stop eating the Peanut Butter Cup bars and said they tasted just like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I returned home with an empty plate which hours earlier held a pan full of bars.

DSCN3005The worst part about me cooking and baking in the kitchen is that I make many of my recipes up as I go. Then when someone requests the recipe I have to recall the ingredients and measurements. Fortunately, I usually do not forget chocolate recipes. Here it is:

PEANUT BUTTER CUP BARS

2 cups peanut butter

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioners’ (powder) sugar

1 package chocolate Almond Bark

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Melt the Almond Bark and chocolate chips in a double boiler. Do not add liquid or oil to melted Almond Bark. It will ruin the consistency and make it crumbly. Extract flavorings are fine.

Cream together the peanut butter, melted butter and confectioners’ sugar in a medium mixing bowl until a uniform consistency is achieved.

Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper.

Spread half of the melted chocolate in the entire bottom of pan and allow it to harden.

Spread the peanut butter mixture over the entire pan of chocolate and place in fridge or freezer to allow the mixture to chill.

Pour the remaining half of chocolate over the peanut butter and spread until all the peanut butter mixture is covered.  After it hardens, use a sharp knife to cut it into 1 ½ inch X 3 inch pieces. When placing in a container or on a platter place a sheet of waxed paper between the layers of bars for easy removal.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Peanut Butter Cup Bars will make your taste buds happy! Gluten Free taste buds will be super happy!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread Recipe: Gluten Free

 

 

 

 

It’s fall.

The air smells like it, the rustling leaves sound like it, and the chilly outdoor temperature confirms it.

This means one thing in our home: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread baking time. Since we have a bon-fire to go to this weekend, and we committed to bringing this bread, our home is about to smell like the glorious scent of chocolate harmonizing with pumpkin. Our taste buds are preparing to dance!

GiveMe Chocolate Recipes

Life is hard.

Chocolate is good.

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But chocolate mixed into pumpkin in next to heavenly! Literally. I believe God made the cocoa bean specifically for women as a little gift to compensate us for the once a month hormonal upheaval we endure. And when we discovered the scrumptiousness of mixing chocolate into pumpkin, God may have smiled, leaned over to Jesus and said, “Do you see that? She discovered another little treasure we left for her.”

Make yourself a batch of this bread, which makes three loaves, and see for yourself that Gluten Free does not have to mean flavorless, fall-a-part dry bread. This bread is fit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack or anytime in between.

Eating Gluten Free means putting extra time and thought into almost every meal or snack we eat. I am thankful to have the resources to eat what we need and want but the planning is time-consuming. Plus, eating gluten free can make my boys’ taste buds whiny. They’re not whiny—but their taste buds are. The best way to hush them is with this dense, moist, bursting with flavor treat. If you have never tried chocolate and pumpkin together you are missing out on one of the finer things in life. Chocolate and pumpkin are perhaps the most perfect union since the pairing of chocolate and peanut butter. Don’t doubt it ’til you’ve tried it!

This is my own personal recipe I am sharing with you and the kids can NOT keep their hands off it. Prepare to gain a pound—or two.

Our dog became a thieving table jumper the first time she smelled it. She is willing to suffer consequences  to wrap her mouth around this delicious concoction of chocolate and pumpkin. To manipulate us in to giving her more she has, without being prompted, been known to perform every trick we have ever taught her; one after the other, until we almost die laughing and cave to her cuteness. When we have a say in the matter we remove the chocolate chips from the dog’s bread. Sometimes we don’t have a say in the matter. Like when she runs by, jumps and grabs a mouthful from our hands. She’s fast like that—for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

With no further ado I present to you:

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

This is a very forgiving recipe. Combine the  ingredients in the same mixing bowl in the order listed.

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

3 eggs at room temperature

1 – 29 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Mix

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Add 1 teaspoon each: Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg & All spice

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (located in the baking aisle near the yeast or GF items)

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix

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Add 2 cups white rice flour or All Purpose Gluten Free flour

½ cup Gluten Free oats (I mill these in my blender) If you do not have Celiac disease  you can put Quick Oats through a blender or food processor.

¾ cup Potato starch (Tapioca starch or Corn starch may be used)

¼ cup ground Flax seed (Flax seed helps hold the bread together)

*If you love Flax seed you can adjust the recipe to ½ cup pot. starch & ½ cup Flax seed; this slightly changes the texture.

Mix

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Mix in 2 cups chocolate chips.

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Pour into 3 ungreased 4 inch X 8 inch pans.  I use the disposable pans from the store because they bake the most uniform nicest looking loaves of bread and for some reason they bake more evenly than any of my other pans. This makes a nice size loaf of bread for DSCN3003gift giving. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips down the center of each loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Insert a toothpick. When it come out dry, except for chocolate smudges, it is finished. Test each loaf. Cool about 20 minutes then use a metal spatula to loosen the bread from the sides of the pans. With one had on the top of the bread and one hand on the bottom of the pan; turn the pan upside down to remove the bread. Completely cool before placing in a bag or container.

This bread freezes beautifully in a freezer bag.

DSCN3006I buy most of my grains from Whole Foods and mill them at home with my electric mill but many grains can be purchased already ground/milled. I am listing my favorite combination of flours for this post but I have used many combinations and never disliked any of them. I have used Millet, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Brown Rice, Sweet Rice, cooked Quinoa, and Almond Four. I do not care for Garbanzo and Fava Flour in any baking product.

Gluten Free baking needs to be done with room temperature ingredients.

~Enjoy!

Below is the recipe without the pictures or you may link to the recipe card format at http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/special-dietary-needs/gluten-free/gluten-free-chocolate-chip-pumpkin-bread-7/

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

This is a very forgiving recipe. Combine the  ingredients in the same mixing bowl in the order listed.

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

3 eggs at room temperature

1 – 29 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Mix

Add 1 teaspoon each: Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg & All spice

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (located in the baking aisle near the yeast or GF items)

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix

Add 2 cups white rice flour or All Purpose Gluten Free flour

½ cup Gluten Free oats (I mill these in my blender) If you do not have Celiac disease  you can put Quick Oats through a blender or food processor.

¾ cup Potato starch (Tapioca starch or Corn starch may be used)

¼ cup ground Flax seed (Flax seed helps hold the bread together)

*If you love Flax seed you can adjust the recipe to ½ cup pot. starch & ½ cup Flax seed; this slightly changes the texture.

Mix

Mix in 2 cups chocolate chips.

Pour into 3 ungreased 4 inch X 8 inch pans.  I use the disposable pans from the store because they bake the most uniform nicest looking loaves of bread and for some reason they bake more evenly than any of my other pans. This makes a nice size loaf of bread for gift giving. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips down the center of each loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Insert a toothpick. When it come out dry, except for chocolate smudges, it is finished. Test each loaf. Cool about 20 minutes then use a metal spatula to loosen the bread from the sides of the pans. With one had on the top of the bread and one hand on the bottom of the pan; turn the pan upside down to remove the bread. Completely cool before placing in a bag or container.

DIY Projects

DIY Prayer Box

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“I can’t do this but I’m doing it anyway,” is a quote by Nicole Lavelle that pretty much sums up my life.

How then does one do what they are not capable of doing? Prayer!

Do you have insurmountable obstacles? Do you know someone in need of a miracle? Are you desperate for an answer to prayer?  Are you concerned for someone close to your heart? Are you anticipating God’s activity in your life?  Are  you seeking a creative way to teach your children to pray and to involve your family in meaningful prayer? Are you finding it difficult to appropriately thank God for something He has done in your life?

I have encountered all of these scenarios and I have found prayer to be the tool I needed for every one of them.

I was inspired by my church’s Prayer Room, with various specific prayer stations, which we have utilized over the years while holding prayer vigils. When I compared my prayer time at home to my prayer time during the vigils it resembled  drive through fast-food compared to a sit-down steak dinner, with the One I love, at an upscale restaurant.  I enjoy and depend on my daily prayer time but my soul found uninterrupted intimate relationship, renewed strength and blissful zeal in the simple structure the prayer vigil offered participants.

The idea of dedicating a room in our house solely for prayer was a grand idea but did not realistically fit our family at this stage in life. So I condensed prayer tools, some of which were replicas of the prayer vigil along with some of my own, into a Photo Box. The box coordinates with our home, decorated in the seasonal colors of fall, because I could live in perpetual autumn.

I am teaching my kids to use this box of prayer tools which makes our prayer life richer, organized and meaningful. Although this could be used daily, we reserve it for special occasions or special needs. I want to ensure my children do not become bored and do not feel inadequate while praying. The disciples fell asleep in the Garden so I know we are capable of doing the same.

Here is a list of what I keep in our Prayer Box:

  • Directions that can be followed step by step
  • Scriptures
  • Candle and matches (keep out of reach of children)
  • ABC cards. Go through the alphabet to find an adjective for God that correlates with every letter, write a word/phrase that describes God to you in this particular situation or write how  you are asking Him to work in this situation.
  • Clay
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Psalm 100 cards
  • Hymnal
  • Journal
  • List of missionaries from our church
  • Small pad of paper and a sealed box
  • Current list of prayer requests for our church family
  • Bible
  • Essential oils: Cassia, Cedarwood, Cypress, Frankincense and/or Hyssop

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These are inexpensive oils I ordered from Edens Garden. If you are using essential oils for therapy/healing purposes I recommend using only Young Living Essential Oils.

Don’t forget a box of Kleenex or a travel size pack of Kleenex

We find a comfortable spot and gather close. (There are times when I utilize the box in private).

We do not consider quiet time during prayer uncomfortable but rather an opportunity for God to speak to our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is good to discuss something with the Lord and then be silent as we wait on Him. (This is a discipline I lack and hope to enjoy the benefits of before moving to my residence in heaven).

We follow the A.C.T .S. approach to prayer and worship time. We read the scriptures and instructions out loud. You may use all the tools/helps or choose according to your prayer topic. Pray the printed scriptures out loud; add your own prayers anywhere you choose.

A drop of Cedarwood may be rubbed into the palms of your hands before beginning your prayer and meditation and/or a drop of Frankincense to symbolize you are bringing your best to Jesus.

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” Revelation 5:8 (NIV).

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.” Revelation 8:3 (NIV).

“May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2 (NIV).

We read in scripture that incense represents the prayers of the saints and in the tabernacle the altar of incense was before the throne of God, the arc of the covenant, burning continuously because we are to pray without ceasing.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved…                    2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV).

Take a moment to light a candle, or light incense, and as you enjoy it’s sweet aroma, be blessed to know that your prayers are always a sweet aroma to our Heavenly Father.

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ADORATION

“But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,  knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 (NASB).

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him… Savior, Master, Yahweh. There is something about that name!

Use the abc card and go through the alphabet to find an adjective for God, or a word that describes what you are asking of God in this request, that correlates with every letter. When you are finished, take time to read the list back to God, just fill in the blank —

“Lord you are_____________________”

(We believe, therefore we speak!)

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When you have finished this card, pick one of your words and find a hymn or praise song for that word/adjective. Meditate on that song and sing it to God, either aloud or in your heart.

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 God “inhabits” the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). As your heart begins to adore him, you’ll sense his presence more deeply.

CONFESSION

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (The Message).

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“Change my heart, Oh God.” Make it ever true. Change my heart, Oh God. May I be like you. You are the potter; I am the clay; mold me and make me; This is what I pray…

Take a piece of clay from the bag. As you work the clay into the shape of a heart, use this time to search your own heart. What do you need to give Him? Pride, greed, selfishness, anger, lust…

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(Use the hand sanitizer to ‘cleanse’ your hands.)

Use a drop of Hyssop as a symbol of the cleansing work Christ has done for you. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7 (NIV)

“… let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.”                             2 Corinthians 7:1 (The Message)

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

 Accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing and thank Him for it.

Use a drop of Cypress which scripturally symbolized purification and can be used as incense.

THANKSGIVING

 “We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!” 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (The Message)

“For all that you’ve done, I will thank you. For all that you’re going to do, for all that you’ve promised and all that you are is all that has carried me through, Jesus. I thank you.

And I thank you, thank you Lord! Thank you for loving and setting me free. Thank you for giving your life just for me. Jesus, I thank you, gratefully thank you.”  -D Jernigan

Take time to meditate on Psalm 100.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

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On a Psalm 100 card, write your own personal Psalm 100  by filling in the blanks.

Know that the Lord is ________________________________________________

It is He who ________________________________________________________

And we are His ______________________________________________________

Enter His _____________________with ___________________________________

Give ________________________to Him and ________________________His name.

SUPPLICATION

 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

 If you are praying over someone in your presence you may anoint them with drops of Cassia, a holy anointing oil, used during Old Testament times.

Pray for the people on your prayer board, church prayer request list or your church missionary list.

Other prayer needs:

  • Church staff, leaders, teachers and members including families, singles, widows, sick and shut-ins.
  • Life’s difficulties, struggles, relationships, finances, studies or job.
  • Friends, loved ones, relatives, neighbors, co-workers. Talk to God about their needs. Ask for their salvation.
  • Our nation: President, legislators, justices, judges, governors, mayors, police and emergency personal.   Grant us wise leaders. Turn our nation’s hearts and minds to you, God. Pray for righteousness. Pray for the weak, the oppressed and the enslaved.
  • Internationally: Pray for the weak and oppressed and pray against modern day slavery. Pray that God’s word is accessible to all people in our generation. Pray for pastors and churches in countries where Christianity is persecuted. Pray for the poor and the starving that Christ will provide their every need.

Use the journal to record and date thoughts, prayers, dreams, etc.

Use the small pad of paper to write down your struggles and give them to God. For this I have a completely sealed box (glued & tied) where the struggle may be placed.

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Another option is to pray for ourselves or others and then give the request to God by releasing a seed outdoors. The seed symbolizes something we need to let go of. When we release it outside we are showing God it now belongs to Him. We may see the fruit of our prayer some day or God may be the only one who knows the outcome of the prayer/thrown seed.  We know whatever the outcome may be — it will be a supernatural work of God. (I have found gourd seeds to be vigorous.)

I hope you find this prayer time to be refreshing and that it makes you long for the next time you come before the Lord. I pray that God ministers to your heart, soul, mind and strength during these prayer times and that you begin to notice and remember answers to prayers.

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Completed Cards

More information on the above mentioned essential oils:

If you are using essential oils for therapy/healing purposes I recommend using only Young Living Essential Oils.

CASSIA* (Cinnamomum cassia) steam distilled from bark. Cassia was an ingredient in the Holy Anointing Oil given to Moses. This exotic fragrance of vanilla/cinnamon might be similar in its aroma to cinnamon, but it is physically and chemically much different. Care must be taken in topical use as it may cause skin sensation. It is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and an anticoagulant.

Scriptures: Exodus 30:24; Ezekiel 27:19; Psalm 45:8

Historical uses of Cassia:

  • A drop placed in the hands rub hands together and cup over nose for a joyful, uplifting feeling.

CEDARWOOD* (Cedrus atlantica) steamed distilled from bark. Produced mainly in Morocco, it is the species most closely related to the cedars of Lebanon. Of all essential oils, cedarwood is highest in sesquiterpenes, which are oxygen-delivering molecules capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier.

Scriptures: Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 52; Numbers 19:6

Historical uses:

  • Diffuse or inhale from bottle to enhance prayer and meditation.
  • A drop of oil in your palms and then cup them over your nose and mouth. Inhale, breathing deeply to help with mental clarity.
  • Used as an effective insect repellant).
  • A drop to a cotton balls and place in drawers to repel insects.
  • Egyptians used 1-3 drops rubbed into the scalp may help to inhibit hair loss.
  • A drop or two rubbed on wounded skin may help to clean, disinfect and protect from infection.
  • Rub a drop or two on the chest area to help relieve symptoms of (difficult breathing) bronchitis.
  • Applied to help with sleep.

CYPRESS* (Cupressus sempervirens) steam distilled from seeds. The oil of Cypress has been used since ancient times for purification and as incense.

Scriptures: Genesis 6:14; Isaiah 41:19; 44:14; I Kings 9:11; Song of Solomon 1:17

Historical uses:

  • Used to help with healing cuts and healing of scars.

FRANKINCENSE* (Boswellia carteri) steam distilled from resin. It’s a generational tree that takes forty years to produce its first resin. One of the gifts of the wise men to our Savior, frankincense would have been rubbed all over the body of the baby. Egyptian tradition says that “Frankincense is good for everything from gout to a broken head” or in other words “good from head to toe”. If in doubt, use Frankincense. Other names for frankincense are “olibanum” or “Oil from Lebanon”.

Scriptures: Exodus 30:34; Leviticus 2:1, 5:11, 6:15, 24:7; Numbers 5:15; I Chronicles 9:29; Nehemiah 13:5, 9; Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:6, 14; Isaiah 43:23; 60:6; 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; 17:26; 41:5; Matthew 2:11; Revelation 18:13

Historical Uses:

  • It was used improve concentration.
  • Spiritual oil that enhanced and promoted emotional and spiritual feeling.
  • Diffused to elevate mood.
  • A key ingredient in the holy anointing oils and the oil that stopped Biblical Plagues. 

HYSSOP* (Hyssopus officinalis) steam distilled from stems/leaves. It has a very long history as a cleansing herb.

Scriptures: Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52; Numbers 19:6, 18; I Kings 4:33; Psalm 51:7; John 19:29; Hebrews 9:19

Historical uses:

  • Used to prevent the Plague.

LivingWell     Thoughtful Spot

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DIY Autumn Project: Leaf Collage

Because I thrive in an organized and visually appealing environment I like our home to have a comfy, cozy, welcome, “Sit down and stay a while,” feel to it.  We had a big empty wall that screamed, “Lonely, void, help me,” which led to this project.

The concept came from the desperation of wanting a large piece of art for the lonely living room wall. I found a beautiful painting of a turkey at a Missouri Conservation Artists’ sale but the $2000 price tag did not fit in my budget.  Farm Boy is an excellent painter but since he already has a demanding day job I knew he did not have time to paint me a large — very large — turkey in an autumn landscape.  I brainstormed from March to September attempting to decide what to place on our large empty wall. Autumn descended and as I looked out my windows at the beautiful colors on the trees I realized I wanted these colors; all year long. How? Bring them in. Hmm? I knew I could do it. Yes, instead of colorful turkey plumage on canvas I would place the hues of fall foliage on canvas. So I began.

Here is how I created my Leaf art:

In Missouri, autumn has peaked which makes it the perfect weekend for collecting colorful fall foliage.

Four years ago I drove around looking for deep purple and red leaves which I did not have in my yard. I found them at a local lake along with gold Ginkgo leaves.  I also collected leaves from friend’s yards so I could think of them when I delighted in my finished project.  To this day the red Japanese Maple leaves, from my friend Ann’s house, are my favorites.

I am going to estimate I collected around 700 leaves, from small flaming red Burning Bush leaves to a few large dark brown Sycamore leaves. It sounds like a lot of leaves but it doesn’t take long once your begin picking. Other leaves included: Bright orange Sugar Maple, deep purple Red Maple, yellow Silver Maple, several types of brown Oak, gold Ginkgo, red Japanese Maple, purple Sweetgum, pumpkin orange Sassafras, bright gold Shag Bark Hickory, deep reddish brown Red Bud and various shades of tan and brown from Elm and Poplar. I also collected several very small branches with 4-5 leaves still  intact.

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I allowed the wet leaves to dry then placed them in large heavy books for pressing.   2/3 of the leaves remained pressed 4-5 months.  1/3 of the leaves were pressed for 2-3 weeks then removed so edges could slightly curl.

In a large ventilated area, our garage, I set up 4 sawhorses and placed large pieces of lumber or old doors on top of them. I covered the large flat surfaces with wax paper to eliminate sticking.

I watched for a 50% off sale and then bought a 4’ x 4’ wrapped painter’s canvas at Hobby Lobby  for $40.00.

For the base color of the canvas I used two coats of a coordinating trim paint which we had left over after painting trim in our house. You will notice in pictures we do not have baseboards finished yet. I will admit we have way more projects going on than we can keep up with or afford. As the cost of living continues to sharply and painfully increase our rehab budget keeps shrinking. Add to that doctor bills and therapy for a severe traumatic brain injury plus some newly added college costs and well; maybe we will finish the house during retirement — if we ever achieve retirement. Nonetheless, I still enjoy my home of perpetual autumn and I love the people who live in it.

I was after a natural look for preserving the leaves; nothing shiny, which meant wax was not an option. I watched the ads for Hobby Lobby and Michaels to purchase flat finishing/ polyurethane spray 50% off. I used 5-7 cans (memory is foggy here.)

To preserve color and ensure my leaves lasted for years, I used a flat spray and gave the slightly curled leaves two coats on each side, allowing dry time between each application and making sure the leaves did not touch/stick together.  When completely dried I loosely piled the leaves in a box and brought them back in the house to deter bugs from feasting on them during the winter months.

When the remaining 2/3’s were finished being pressed I spread them out on the saw horses.  Using the flat polyurethane spray I gave the leaves two coats on each side, allowing dry time between each application making sure the leaves were not touching/sticking together.

Attaching the leaves to the canvas proved to be tricky. I attempted just about every type of adhesive and glue a soul can find at the arts and crafts store. None held! Out of desperation I took a look through our garage. Neither wall paper glue nor wood glue worked. While considering Liquid Nails I spied: Henry Premium Multipurpose Carpet and Sheet Vinyl Adhesive. Out of curiosity I opened the tub and my eyes beheld thick goopy beauty! Just what I needed to grab hold of the veins on the back of the leaves. I applied this adhesive, allowed dry time, turned the canvas over, shook it and nothing happened. Nothing. It held the leaves in place. No falling off. No breakage.

Using a small craft/paint brush I turned over each individual leaf and generously applied adhesive to the back then pressed it down on the canvas; wiping away any excess with a damp cloth. I covered the entire canvas with the flat-pressed leaves allowing overage along the straight edges of the canvas.

I allowed the pressed leaves to dry then sprayed two more light coats of poly on the entire project.

Next I generously applied adhesive to the curled three dimensional leaves on the spots where they would touch the canvas base of pressed leaves. I set them in place and allowed them to dry.

I allowed the newly adhered leaves to dry then sprayed three more light coats of poly on the entire project, allowing dry time between each coat.

Done.

My boys know when playing with Nerf guns the guns may NOT be aimed at the leaves and they have been careful to obey. Someone did toss a pillow hitting a leaf and breaking a small portion off. To my knowledge this is the only damage to my leaf art. I have had minimal fading to the leaves but with the unfiltered direct light coming into our home I have had minimal fading on everything in the living room.  I do not have an expensive camera for taking quality photos but I believe I am showing a good representation of the final product.

I used just under ½ quart of the Carpet & Sheet Vinyl Adhesive for this project.

From start to finish, because of pressing time, this was a 5 month project.  My guesstimate on time spent is 25 working hours. (This does not include paint, poly & adhesive dry time.) Total cost was approx. $80.00. That’s $1920.00 less than the $2000.00 turkey painting!

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Above: View of the dimensional aspects.

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Above: View of edge                                                            Side profile

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I enjoy my little piece of autumn in winter, spring, summer and fall.

DIY PRAYER BOARD: Pass it on       

At this point in history, on our timeline, one way God shows proof of His existence is through individual believers. I have witnessed God beat great odds and do the impossible in my life on multiple occasions.  I must pass my testimony on which is the reason why I write on this blog.

I long for the return of Jesus when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; but until then, some of the prayers of my heart are: “Allow Your word to become accessible to all people in our generation. Let me be found faithful. Empower my offspring to be found faithfully loving God and loving others. Come, Lord Jesus, come.” The wickedness I hear and read of in the news causes me to frequently ask for the return of Jesus.

I want to make God known for who He is to people in my circle of influence but most importantly I must make Him known to my children by teaching them how to have a daily relationship with Him. I can joyfully say that all of my children have asked Jesus into their hearts and proclaim Christ yet there is more for me to do. My calling as a mom is to pass my spiritual heritage on to my children which is to include the stories of God’s deliverance, protection, provision and healing in our lives through prayer and fasting. I consider this heritage rich beyond words because there is no measure for sufficiently telling about God’s great works nor is there any way to adequately describe Jesus to them. Any attempt always falls short because there is no perfect way, on this side of heaven, to convey in words the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If my children are going to be found faithful with the life God has given them, and be found fulfilling their God-given purpose they must be comfortable praying to God, their Father. This cannot be left up to chance so I have provided ways of helping them with their prayer life and below is one of the tools we use daily.

PRAYER BOARD

 I made this Prayer Board out of an old picture frame I no longer used.Prayer board

Adoration, Confession Thanksgiving, Supplication

A.C.T.S.

What is your heart and will in this matter, Lord? _______________ I petition this in the name of Jesus.

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“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

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“I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” 2 Corinthians 4:13

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Box of blank paper on which to write prayer needs.

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A.J. added the below request to the board tonight. The National League Championship Series now stands at Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1. Go Cards!

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Praying for the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2013 NLCS. Go Cards!

Answered Prayers:

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There is relief, sometimes unexplainable, that only comes through prayer. So we pray for those we know and love and for those who ask us to pray for them.

My kids enjoy reading through the envelope of answered prayers.  Colson was just doing so and noticed that most of the prayers were answered in the way for which we had prayed. He also took note of the prayers that were not answered with the healings for which we had prayed. These were almost exclusively traumatic brain injuries.  Three of those were answered with complete healings in heaven. One did not have the complete healing A.J. received after his severe traumatic brain injury and another waits, after more than two months, to again be able to speak or move his body.

I do not understand God’s sovereignty regarding these T.B.I. prayer requests especially since I know there are no coincidences with God. He has for some reason brought to our attention the need to pray for several T.B.I. patients in the last year and a half.

We are thankful for the opportunity to storm the gates of heaven on behalf of others.

How I made my Prayer Board:

My nature inspired house is decorated with rustic and primitive style furniture in the colors of perpetual autumn so my goal was to make the Prayer Board blend with my other home décor.

  • I sanded, wiped clean and painted the frame the same pumpkin color as my wall.
  • After the frame dried I rubbed an old candle on the edges and in groves followed by two coats of flat black paint, allowing dry time between each application.
  • After drying, I used my Pampered Chef scraper to scrape off the candle wax revealing distressed pumpkin, then lightly sanded and wiped clean.
  • I sealed it with two coats of matte polyurethane.
  • I covered the original mat-board with coordinating fabric and measured where to place the twine in each direction (ribbon could be used).
  • I wrapped the twine all the way around the board and tied it in knots which are part of the overall presentation.
  • I used a hot glue gun on the back to help keep the twine in place then I stapled the twine along the edges for long lasting hold.
  • I cut an allergy medicine box to size then covered it with scrapbooking paper.
  • I folded and tore (or use scrapbooking scissors) brown paper grocery sacks into note size papers and placed them in the box for quick use when someone needs to add a prayer need to the board.

The Prayer Board hangs next to our table so every time we eat we can glance at it and pray for people and situations that we would otherwise most likely forget. This helped my, reluctant to pray child, become a ready to pray child full of confidence. We use the Prayer Board during our Bible study and prayer time in school also.

A chalk board, magnetic board, marker board or bulletin board could just as easily be used. My favorite part of writing the needs on paper is that when the prayer has been answered we write the answer and the date on the piece of paper and place it in an envelope to be kept for our future boasting in the Lord.

PROOF POSITIVE:

  • Create an atmosphere of prayer in your home with an easily accessible type of Prayer Board.
  • Date the prayer need when you place it on the board and date it when you know it has been answered. It will be your turn to brag on God!