Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Favorites

I loved Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I loved being with my family, snuggling and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, singing songs, and telling each other what we were thankful for. What I didn't love was the food. I wasn't a fan of the dressing (I thought it was mushy), the sweet potatoes tasted too sweet to me, and I had not learned to like pie.


The first time I hosted Thanksgiving for my family, I decided to look for recipes tjat would be traditional, but that I also might have a chance of liking. I found 2 winners from Cooking Light® that have become favorites for our entire family. Please enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!


Blue Corn Bread Dressing

I usually make the corn bread the day before making the dressing.


Cornbread

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

5 tablespoons butter, softened

5 large eggs

1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup blue cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt



1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and dust with 1 tablespoon of flour.

3. Place sugar and butter in a bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Stir in buttermilk.

6. Combine 1 cup flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture, stirring until moist.

7. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until done. Cool completely and cut into 1-inch cubes.



Dressing

5 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less -sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

7 ounces bottled roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped

8 cups (1-inch) cubed French bread (about 8 ounces)

3/4 cup chopped green onions


1. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan; cook until reduced to 5 cups (about 30 minutes).

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup onion; saute 3 minutes. Add corn and bell pepper; saute 3 minutes.

3. Combine onion mixture, corn bread, French bread, and green onions in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Add broth, tossing to coat.

4. Spoon mixture into a 13. 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set.


Sweet Potato-Bake

The original recipe is actually called "Two-Potato Bake" and calls for both sweet potatos and red potatos. However, I only use sweet potatos. This recipe is best to make the day you serve it.


8 cups thinly sliced peeled sweet potato (about 2 1/2 lbs)

2 tablespoons minced fresh onion

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup fat-free milk

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons grated fresh parmesan cheese (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Coat an 11x7-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

3. Place 4 cups sweet potato in dish and sprinkle evenly with onion.

4. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

5. Repeat layers with remaining potato, butter, salt, and pepper.

6. Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan; pour over mixture.

7. Cover with aluminum foil; cut 8 (a-inch) slits in foil.

8. Bake at 42t degrees for 50 minutes. Unocver and bake 10 minutes.

9. Remove from oven; sprinkle with parsley and cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aaron James is on the Go!

We're never going to be able to keep up with him now!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You Veterans!

Today Hannah's school had a Veterans Day program. She's been practicing for the past 2 weeks and we've enjoyed singing all of the patriotic songs at home together. Luke, Aaron, and I went to see the program this morning, and it was a wonderful tribute to our veterans. The only problem was that we didn't see Hannah and she didn't see us. Everyone else's kids looked great, though! Here's our proof that we actually were there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What Am I Working For?

God blessed me early on in my life by giving me the desire to help and serve others. I always knew that whatever career I went into, I wanted it to be one in which I was helping. My parents, and especially my mother, helped me to cultivate that desire.

So I ended up working at M. D. Anderson, fulfilling my heart's desire - helping others who were going through really tough circumstances. However, when I had Hannah, my heart's desire changed somewhat. I still wanted to help others, but I desperately desired to be with her more so I could serve her entirely. Finally, 6 years and 2 children later, I was given my heart's desire to devote the entirety of my days to being a "homemaker." (That sounds so weird and archaic, but that's what I do and I love it!)

Even though God has provided these wonderful opportunities, work is work and not every part of it is really rewarding. Recently in church, Luke learned Colossians 3:17 - "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Actually, he learned the 4-year-old version: "Whatever you do, do your work for the Lord." Our family has taken hold of this verse and made it our own. Its a great verse for Luke to remember when he's coloring, for Hannah to remember when she's doing her homework, and for me to remember when I'm having to do my least favorite chore: laundry! No matter what I am doing - my heart's desire or a task I don't really like that much - I am working for the Lord. God gave me this work, he has answered my heart's desire on more that one occasion, and I am working for Him.

And how can I be successful at this homemaking job? At M. D. Anderson, the administration takes great pains to recognize its employees and acknowledge them for a job well done. Recognition may not be so regular or immediate in the homemaking business. But I recently remembered this quote from Sr. Mary Lauretta - "To be successful the first thing to do is fall in love with your work." I realized that my heart is fickle. I fall in "love" with many things. My desire changes as my life and circumstances change. But to be successful in any of it, I need to keep falling in love with who I'm working for - my Lord, my Jesus. My heart's desire is really to glorify Him. And although I will rejoice in the rewards I am able to experience here on earth - my children's smiles, their right choices, etc., I will also strive to one day receive the greatest reward - to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Matthew 25:23.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Letter from My Heavenly Daddy


My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.

Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.

Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don't know me.

John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.

1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.

1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.

Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.

Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.

Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.

Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.

Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.

Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.

1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.

Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.

1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?

John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32


Love, Your Dad
Almighty God


Father's Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications

©
1999-2011 www.FathersLoveLetter.com

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dad's Poems

On my visit home for my birthday weekend, my Mom showed me a couple of poems she found that my wonderful grandfather, whom I call Dad, wrote in his younger days. Dad's education mostly came from life, not schooling. He only completed the 8th grade and then later received his GED when he was in his sixties. I'm so very proud of my grandfather. I love him dearly. I thought I'd include his poems here to preserve and to share.



O Winter Wind

by Gene Bond


Oh winter wind, where blowest thou?

Wherefore this wild mad gale?

Singing a mournful song in the night

Telling a mournful tale.


Of death, of cold and darkness,

Oh yours is a tale of woe.

As you spread your cold and chilling breath

From the land of the great white snow.


The trees shiver to their bottommost roots -

Their leaves wither and die,

Even the stars in the Heavens,

Grow cold as you pass by.


Oh winter wind blow on and on,

Until your strength is done,

And you'll forget these fearful things

When you meet the warming sun.



Untitled

by Gene Bond


I live in a house by a river,

That is called the River of Life.

And flotsam and jetsam pass me by,

And driftwood of trouble and strife.


There are rocks of temptation to trap you,

And rapids where you may be lost,

But someday I'll gather my burdens

And this river I must cross.


For Someone has promised whosoever----

Will weather these dangers and strife,

They'll live with Him forever,

On the side of Eternal Life.


Thank you, Dad, for your understanding words that continue to inspire faith and hope even as you are on the other side of the river. I love you Dad.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mountain of Strength


My sweet Aaron turned one yesterday. How God has blessed us with our little Aaron James. He has such a strong, sweet, spirit. His body is small - smaller than most his age, but he lives up to his name; (the Hebrew name, Aaron, means "mountain of strength"). From the beginning, Aaron has been a calm, patient baby. He's been easy to comfort, easy to put down to sleep, and flexible as he is toted to and from his brother and sister's activities.

Like his brother and sister, Aaron is a joy to all those who know him. He is a fun baby, with a happy smile that is always ready to break out.

Hannah and Luke adore him and smother him with kisses and hugs. He loves every minute of it! He finds joy in watching his brother and sister play and always tries to get in on the action himself. He is so loved and gives us so much love in return. I treasure every moment I get to spend with my little Aaron James!

Aaron my angel, my mountain of strength,
You are so precious, so precious to me!


Monday, August 8, 2011

One More Cup of Water

I must admit that by the time I started having children, I had completely forgotten the many trips my parents had taken to get me "one more cup of water" before I would finally go to sleep each night. I now remember my attempts at stalling the inevitable, and I also remember how patient and loving my parents were about getting me those cups of water. Unfortunately, my attitude has not always been so positive when getting that last cup of water. However, about a year ago, I came across Matthew 10:42:
And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink; truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
I realize I am completely taking this verse out of context - Jesus said this when He was sending the disciples out to proclaim His kingdom - but, I remember this verse every time one of my little ones asks for a cup of water. I know that every time I serve them in any way, I am serving the Lord, but it is easy to forget. Now, every time I'm making a late night run to the kitchen for another cup of water, I'm able to smile inside and know that I am serving my Lord and He is smiling down at me!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Introduction to Tuna Melts


When I first saw a tuna melt, I was a freshman in college going through my dorm's cafeteria line. I actually had never had warm tuna in my life. My only experience with tuna had been my Mom's wonderful tuna fish sandwiches with crunchy red apple, and I believed tuna should be eaten cold. Also, the whole sound of a tuna melt just turned me off. Needless to say, I passed on the cafeteria tuna melts.

Since getting married, I have had tuna steak a few times and enjoyed it, but when using canned tuna, I always made my Mom's recipe. Until now! In the June 2011 issue of Cooking Light I saw a recipe for Tuna Melts with Avocado. I LOVE avacado, so I had to try them. Not only are they delicious, my whole family loved them! (I didn't call them tuna melts; I called them mini pizzas so they would actually try them). In case you would like to give it a try, the recipe (with my adaptations) is below.

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp thinly sliced shallots (I just used half onions and half minced garlic)
1Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper (I used a few twists of the pepper grinder)
1/8 tsp salt
1 (6 oz) can white tuna in water, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 avocado
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I think any mild, white cheese would do)
2 (6 oz) pieces French bread, halved and toasted (I used bollos from HEB Bakery and didn't toast)

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients.

3. Chop avocado and mix with lemon juice in separate bowl.

4. Combine avocado mixture with tuna mixture.

5. Sprinkle cheese over cut sides of bread and broil for 3 minutes

6. Divide tuna mixture evenly among bread slices.

(I actually put the tuna mixture on the bread first, sprinkled the cheese on top of that, and then toasted all of the ingredients together like pizza).

Hope you enjoy! What is your favorite canned tuna recipe?



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cooking Light®

I LOVE Cooking Light® (CL) magazine! My love for CL began in the summer of 2000. It had been almost a year since Ramiro and I got married and we had celebrated every night with mega amounts of food and Blue Bell ice cream. I had gained around 15 pounds in 1 year and knew I needed to make a change. There was a Weight Watchers® (WW) group that met at work, and I decided to join and give it a try. Around that time I also bought a CL magazine. Since CL listed all the nutritional data under each recipe, it was easy for me to use along with the WW Point System.

CL opened up a whole new world for Ramiro and I. We were foodies at heart, but didn't know it yet! Since I had to plan my points each day for WW, I began to write a menu for each week and put the number of points I would be eating by each meal. CL made that easy. Almost every day of the week had at least one CL recipe. Cooking became such an adventure. Many times I would go to the grocery store with at least one item on the list that I had never seen before, or if I had, I didn't know it. CL really helped us discover food!

After about eight months of being on WW and making CL recipes, I lost 15-20 pounds, but I was eating better than I ever had! Even though I have become a little more lax about my nutrition, (having 3 kids will do that to you) I still love CL. Many of the CL recipes have become old favorites. Every once in a while I will post a good one that I think everyone should try. If you have a favorite, please share!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Luke - my Mini-Olympian!



In June, Luke finished his first season of gymnastics and participated in a mini-olympics showcase. He did great! He showed the audience all the events he has learned on the floor, vault, bars, and beam. He even received his first trophy! We are so very proud of our little gymnast!




Hannah's Fantastic First Grade!

Well, we're halfway through the summer and things have finally settled down so that I can write about Hannah's wonderful 1st grade year. Thankfully, she loved her new school and her teacher, Mrs. James. In fact, during a game we were playing, she was asked: "If you could invite anyone in the world to your house for dinner, who would it be?" Her answer - "Mrs. James."

She learned so much in reading, writing, math and social studies, but her favorite time of school was when she went to the library. She even dressed up as a librarian on "Dress like a professional" day!

Not only did she grow in knowledge this year, she grew in character. For the school play, she really wanted to be a ladybug. For weeks she told me repeatedly, "I hope I get to be a ladybug!" How I hoped she would get what she wanted, because I knew she would be so disappointed if she didn't. Although she was disappointed when she found out she wasn't going to be a ladybug, she happily sang me her honey bee song when she got home from school. During the play, my little honey bee sang sweetly with a big smile on her face.
At one point, one of her antennae fell off. Even though she saw it right away, she didn't miss a beat - she just kept on dancing and singing and picked up her antenna at the end. She really is learning how to roll with the punches! This character growth must have been noticed by the teachers, because toward the end of the year she won 1st grade student of the month!

The end of first grade was jam-packed. She had a field trip to the children's museum, her first Field Day, and her first Awards Day. At Awards Day, she received the Excellence in Reading, Excellence in Math, Excellence in Spelling, Excellence in Writing, Citizenship, and Texas Readers Club awards. She also received the "Sweetart Award" for being a sweet child. How appropriate!

My favorite hugs to remember from 1st grade are the walks that Hannah, Luke, Aaron, and I took to and from school each day. I treasure the talks that we had, the loving "Goodbye Hannah" that Luke yelled each morning in front of her school after he gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek, and the hello and good-bye hugs and kisses she gave the boys and I each morning and afternoon.

Goodbye 1st grade! Thanks for the hugs!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weeds




Yesterday, while our family worked in the yard, I weeded the flower beds. Later, while rocking Aaron to sleep, I thought about how those weeds grow so fast. They come up all over, even penetrating the plastic barrier under the mulch. They're not always ugly looking plants, and for all I know, they may have been the plants that flourished and made our land beautiful before it was covered with homes, schools, and churches; but they take away from the beauty of the design of our flower beds. They also take the nutrients that we want our plants to use to grow bright and beautiful.

Those weeds are so much like the sin in our lives. Some might say that our sins are a part of who we are and we need to accept them as part of what makes us beautiful and unique. Like David said in Psalms 51:5, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." However, like the weeds in our yard, just because sin was in me first, it definitely doesn't make me more beautiful.

Like weeds, sin is strong and penetrating; it can sneak up in the blink of an eye. Even though we think we've pulled it up by its roots, it keeps coming back.

Thankfully, my Jesus said "...for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13). "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit..." (1 Peter 3:18). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9.).

Dear God, thank you for calling me, a sinner, to you. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to save me from my sins. Thank you for always providing a way of escape from every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Please take my weeds out, and help me to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let [me] run with perseverance the race marked out for [me]" (Hebrews 12:1).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Never Ending Grocery Shopping

Right now I'm in the middle of grocery shopping. No, I'm not walking the aisles of the grocery store, but I'm in the middle of trips. We go to at least 3 different stores and sometimes to farmers markets to find what we need. I wish we could have one-stop grocery shopping, but instead we are perpetual grocery shoppers. What are we looking for? Our 4 priorities are cost, bulk, organic, and convenience.

Costco.comWe go to Costco for bulk. Sunday we took a family road trip to Costco. Since it is 45 minutes away, it really is like a road trip. Hannah likes Costco for the samples. I like Costco because I like to have a lot of paper towels and toilet paper in my house at all times! In addition to my paper goods, I like to get canned black beans, canned diced tomatoes, pasta, cereal, eggs, pesto, mozzarella cheese, hummus, avocados, grape tomatoes, edamame, and fresh or frozen organic fruit at Costco.

Whole Foods MarketOn the way home from MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) on Wednesday, I took the boys to Whole Foods. I LOVE Whole Foods. If it wasn't so far away from our house and so expensive, I'd do all of my grocery shopping there. We go to Whole Foods for organic, minimally processed, and hormone-free foods. Even though it is more expensive,I think that keeping added hormones and pesticides out of my kids bodies is worth it. Even though we could do more, we consider dairy, meats and many fruits and veggies as organic essentials. We use this guide from M. D. Anderson to help us decide when to buy organic. We can buy most of the organic dairy and organic grass-fed beef at our local HEB, but we go to Whole Foods for many of the fruits and veggies. Wednesday we bought pears, sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, chicken, milk and provolone (all organic). Also, I love the cilantro and lime marinated chicken at Whole Foods. It's one of our favorites!

HEB logoOur next grocery shopping outing will be to HEB. It is super close to our house, so we actually make lots of runs there. We will probably get more milk, more eggs, more cheese, more fruit, and our favorite treat - Blue Bell!

Please share any ideas or advise on how to make grocery shopping more concise!



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Victory for Tato

Yesterday, Joseph Dueñas, the father and grandfather of the Dueñas family, a family we hold very close and dear, went to be with our Lord. As he and his family have always made us feel like we are part of their family, we call him "Tato."

Tato's presence and smile seemed to bring peace to a room. When he spoke of Godly things, he brought wisdom. We will miss him.

After visiting Tato in the hospital last week, Hannah asked me why people have to die. Death is so mysterious. We live in a world in which it seems we can control almost everything. We can make plans and many times carry out our plans just as we have hoped. We can live as though there is nothing supernatural, like everything happens because we make it happen. But illness and death - they happen despite our well-made plans.

The short answer I gave Hannah last week was that we die because of sin. Paul said in Romans 5:12, "...just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." That's very bad news, but I'm glad I have the good news to share with her!

Paul later says in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (I can't believe that there's not an exclamation point at the end of that sentence!) What good news! Jesus tells us how to receive this gift in John 5:24:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
So, how is this possible? Isaiah, the prophet, told of what Jesus would do long before Jesus walked on this earth. Jesus "poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). He tells that the Christ "will swallow up death forever" (Isaiah 25:8).

So Tato has victory today - the victory that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin,and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We were blessed to know Tato and we continue to be blessed by his family. We are so thankful that God "made known to [Tato] the path of life" (Psalm 16:10) and that Tato followed it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

I don't know the meaning of "Strawberry Fields Forever," by The Beatles, but it will always have special meaning for our family, as it will remind us of the first time ever that we picked fresh strawberries. In anticipation of our trip, Hannah and Luke sang along with the song in the car and we all imagined what fun we would have.

After church on Sunday, we drove to Froberg's Farm in Alvin and had a wonderful time picking two full buckets of sweet red strawberries. Hannah wanted to fill her own bucket, but Luke allowed us to help him. We were all on the hunt for the reddest, purist, strawberry we could find! Enforcing the rule of no eating before buying was VERY challenging!


After Hannah and Luke had their fill on Sunday night, I began planning what I could make with the rest of the strawberries. See our strawberry feast below!

Strawberry smoothies


Strawberry Bread


Shrimp and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
Our salad ingredients were: spinach, shrimp, strawberries, walnuts, queso fresca, and balsalmic vinegar.


Angel Food Cake with Ice Cream and Strawberries


Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup
Recipe from Ellie Krieger, of the Food Network


Super delicious strawberry pie
Crust recipe (I substituted unsalted butter for the shortening)
Pie recipe (I omitted the butter)




Thursday, April 7, 2011

How do you like YOUR beans?


Our family loves beans. As funny as it sounds, when I eat beans, I almost feel like my grandparents are in the room with me. When I was growing up, I would go spend at least one week each summer with my grandparents and they would always cook beans. The smell of brown beans cooking just makes me feel like I'm in their house! Even though there was only one pot of beans, we could eat them in different ways. My grandfather could have beans for dinner every night, and never had the same meal. One night he might have beans and cornbread. The next he might have beans with onion slices on top and tomato on the side. The next he might have mostly broth (he called it bean soup) in a mug with a piece of bread to sop up every last drop. Even though I loved the beans by themselves, I usually would mix in crumbled Fritos and cheese.

Since they are such a cozy treat for me, I've tried to pass on my love of brown beans to my children. I serve them with Fritos and cheese, and even though this probably makes them a little less healthy, they still are very nutritious. Here is a link to an article I found by Dan Gill, who seems just as sentimental about beans as I am, but knows the facts about their nutritional value: http://www.pine3.info/Brown%20Beans.htm

Recently, a friend told me she went to a bean seminar. Isn't that one of the funniest things you've ever heard? A seminar about beans - just my kind of thing! I hope they have another one and that I get to go! I want to learn more ways to cook my beans! And not just beans, but all legumes. I think I could really become a legume lover!

Brown beans were really the only legume I would eat until high school. That's when my friends, Coco and Miel, introduced me to lentils! We were on a vacation at the beach, staying in a condo, and they made lentil soup for our lunch. At the time, I didn't want to admit that I had never had a lentil, didn't know what it was, and thought it was a very strange food to eat on a vacation. But the soup was pretty good and an interesting memory. Then, after Ramiro and I were married, I started cooking more healthy recipes. I found several recipes for lentils that we really liked. I still make our favorite two - a creamy potato and lentil soup (with bacon on top because we still like our meat) and a lentil and brown rice casserole. However, since Hannah and Luke don't really like these, I'm on the lookout for more kid-friendly lentil recipes.

Luke's favorite legumes are definitely soybeans. I like to buy the prepackaged edamame bowls from Costco. He can eat a bowl all by himself. You'd think they were candy the way he gobbles them up! When he eats them, he's on a mission. He won't stop until every bean has been eaten!

Hannah's legumes of choice would probably be peas, but not the way you might think. She loves to eat them right out of the freezer. They're one of her favorite treats. In fact, she used to ask for them for dessert as if they were as tasty as ice cream! I really don't like peas, but I tried them frozen just to see if I could have another option to Blue Bell, as well. Unfortunately, frozen peas don't taste any better to me than cooked peas. Things may be changing for me, though. One of my sweet neighbors from India brought me some curried peas and potatoes yesterday. They were delicious! The spices completely covered up the pea flavor. I'm looking forward to getting her recipe and trying it for my family.

You may be wondering why I decided to write about beans. I saw this blog from The 99 Cent Chef: Cuban Black Beans. I'm definitely going to try out his method of fixing up canned black beans, which we always have a good stock of in the pantry.
I'd love to hear how you cook your beans (or other legumes). Please send me your recipes!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wonderfully Made


On Saturday, we celebrated Luke's 4th birthday with a Mickey Mouse party, because Luke LOVES Mickey Mouse and likes to carry his Mickey Mouse toy everywhere. At the party we served Hot-Diggity dogs, Mick-a-Roni and cheese, Mickey Mouse cake and snow cones. For fun we played Pin-the-Tail on Mickey, hit a piñata, and bounced till dark on a big inflatable moonwalk in our back yard. It was a success - Luke really enjoyed it, and I think he felt very special. He wasn't the only one who had a great time - I loved it so much that I told Ramiro I would like to get a moonwalk for my birthday!

While running last-minute errands for the party on Saturday morning, I heard the song, "What Do I Know of Holy," by Addison Road. I've heard the song so many times, but Saturday I picked up on the words, "What do I know of you, who spoke me into motion?" I started thinking about how God spoke my beautiful children into motion (and boy are they moving)! He wasn't like me when I try to do something creative. When I begin to create my own recipe, make up a song, or draw a picture, I have an idea of what I want it to be, but I never really know what its going to be like until its done. My results usually have a lot more to do with a feeling, a whim, or chance rather than design. However, God created my children with careful, thoughtful, precision. Psalm 139:14 says:
I will give thanks to You, for
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

God created Luke, and all of us, in a specific, purposeful way, knowing exactly how we would turn out!

Luke is such a joy and brings laughter and happiness to all of those who know him. He has a big personality and a big voice - I can't wait to see what God has in store for him! Thank you, God, for giving us your wonderfully-made Luke!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

PJ Party!


Last weekend Hannah had a pajama party (an almost slumber party) for her 7th birthday. As other moms said when they dropped their kids off, I was "ambitious" with this one. I had several activities planned for the girls - decorating pillowcases, fingernail painting, making homemade bubble bath, face glitter, and a movie to watch while snuggling in their sleeping bags. The party was from 4pm-8pm. You might imagine my surprise and horror (that may be too strong of a word) when all 11 girls had finished all the activities, except for the movie, by 4:30! What was I to do with the girls for the next 3 1/2 hours? We went ahead and opened presents. Thankfully, one of the girls gave Hannah the game Twister. My heart leaped with joy - another activity!

Of course, the most fun the girls had was running around the house screaming and giggling. I said over and over all the things any responsible parent would say - "settle down," "don't jump on the bed," "keep all the doors open," and "no running," but there were times when I wanted to just keep my mouth shut and let the girls just revel in all their girlish excitement!

During the party they also rehearsed their singing and dancing for their upcoming Bugz Play at school. They were so cute, but it was scary - they didn't look like 7-year-olds at all, but more like middle school cheerleaders practicing their cheers.

Even though Hannah is growing up so fast, she is just as sweet as ever. As she wrote in one of the books she made at school, she loves to take care of her family. She spreads her love to all of us by writing us sweet notes, drawing us pictures, entertaining her brothers, and giving the best hugs and kisses. How we love our Hannah!




Monday, March 28, 2011

Visiting M. D. Anderson


Today I came to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to be with a friend for her first appointment at M. D. Anderson. As I drove up to the building I experienced a feeling I wasn't quite prepared for - I was homesick. I LOVE M. D. Anderson. It still feels like a second home to me. Much of my growing up was done here at M. D. Anderson. Some patients before they get here incorrectly imagine it as a place where death looms. Patients and employees know that it is a place of hope and life. While working here I learned so much about living and serving others. How surreal it is to be here and not be wearing a badge and assisting patients with their needs. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a full-time mom and wouldn't give it up for a second, but I am also so grateful that I had the opportunity to serve others and feel the love and joy of this place for so many years.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

She got it!


This morning Hannah and I read and talked about Proverbs 9:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." We mainly focused on the first part of the verse, because there's a lot to understand there before going on. We talked about why we fear the Lord, and what that type of fear looks like. We then talked about wisdom. I told her wisdom is "knowing what the right thing to do is." I know that's not good English, but after googling for the definition, I see that I was pretty close. We talked about how wisdom comes from God and that we can pray for wisdom everyday and he will give it to us.


After a good talk and a prayer, I went to go get ready to take her to school. I could see her mind working as I told her to go brush her teeth and make her bed. She said she would, but she wanted to show me something first. She ran away and came back with Dr. Seuss's book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" She turned to the 2nd page and read, "You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own, And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go." She then said with confidence and a smile, "That's not right. God has the directions, right?" I said, "You're right!"



I'm so proud of my sweet Hannah! Thanks to our dear Lord, she's becoming so wise!

False Alarm!


Luke had a hands on learning experience about fire alarms yesterday! When you pull the alarm, it makes a piercing sound that hurts your ears. The firefighters then come to see if there is indeed a fire. If there is no fire, they turn the alarm off. You then get lectured about when it is okay to touch a fire alarm and when it is not. After that, you cannot leave your Mommy's side for a very long time!


Yesterday at Hannah's ballet class, the fire alarm went off. Of course, the first thing I did was cover Aaron's ears because it was so loud. Then I started wondering if there was really a fire, but then another Mommy saw that the fire alarm near us had been pulled. We knew it was either her son or Luke who probably pulled it, but her son was laying under a bench. We all scurried out, the little ballerinas took their class outside, and we waited for the fire department to arrive to turn off the alarm. After the alarm was turned off, the worker at the front desk came to question which boy pulled the alarm so I told her nobody saw, but it was probably Luke. She then started questioning him about his name and age for the report! She was definitely not happy! The firefighters, however, were very kind and laughed about the whole thing.


When we went back in, I looked at the fire alarm. It hangs very low on the wall and is not covered by a glass box or anything. I think that maybe Luke used it to try to climb up on the bench, but I don't know. Whoever placed that fire alarm in that location, must have never had small children!



After talking to my Mom and searching the internet, I found that pulling a fire alarm in a Texas school is a felony offense! I'm glad he's only 3 and that this happened now and not later. Hopefully he learned his lesson! Luke, you're such a handful!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Running the Race


Today marks 2 weeks since Ramiro ran his first half-marathon. Even though I was looking forward to that proud moment when Ramiro crossed the finish line, I wasn't too excited about waiting 2 hours in the rain for it to happen. (Especially since I forgot my umbrella!) What a pleasant surprise it was for me to find that the 2 hours were going to be filled with joy and celebration! I was able to see all of the 5K runners, some of the half-marathoners, and a few of the marathoners finish the race. It was so much fun to see all of the different kinds of people with different physical abilities and different personalities come together with their common goal of finishing the race.

The 5k run had a variety of runners and wheelers (athletes in wheelchairs). There were kindergarteners, tweens, teens, college kids, middle-agers, senior adults, and older senior adults. Some walked, some stayed at a comfortable jogging pace, and some sprinted to the finish. There were those who walked or ran just for fun, those who were there for a great cause, and those that walked or ran to show they had not been beaten by infirmity. Some wanted to be first (or close to it) and some just wanted to make it over the finish line. For some it was an achievement to just be there.

While watching the difference in how everyone approached the finish line, I couldn't help thinking about the way Paul talks about the way we are to live our life in 1 Corinthians 9:24:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

It made me think about how I'm running the race. Am I running like I want to win, or like I am barely going to make it over the finish line?

Watching the runners was fun, but it was also fun being surrounded by all the great spectators. We were all there standing in the cold rain to cheer on and encourage our loved ones. Everybody was for someone, not against anyone. We didn't just cheer on those we knew, we cheered on all the participants. It was such a great feeling!

I am NOT a runner, but now I am sold on running. I want to be in the middle of all of the excitement! I am so glad that Ramiro started this hobby. Even if I can only walk/run a 5k, I want to be part of this running fun! Like Ramiro says, I don't want to be a sipper from the cup of life, but a gulper!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Want to be Beautiful

I admit it. I really want to be beautiful. Unfortunately, I sometimes let this desire torment me as I compare myself to others. My sinful nature takes this desire and turns it into insecurity that puts a shadow on God's love for me and my love for others.

Why did God give me this desire? Maybe it was the best incentive for me to strive for the gentle and quiet spirit he wants for me. For the past several weeks, my prayer each morning has been for God to give me a gentle and quiet spirit as talked about in 1 Peter 3: 3-6.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."

A few weeks ago in Sunday school, our teacher asked what God was teaching us right now. He called on me and I said with a smile, "to be quiet." Ramiro chimed in a cute remark (I don't remember exactly what it was) but something that showed his great surprise to that revelation. Of course it gave everyone a good laugh. It was probably such a surprise, because although I start out with good intentions and a sincere heart, my sinful nature comes out way too often. As everyone who knows me can attest, especially those closest to me, I do not have a gentle and quiet spirit. I am passionate - I have robust thoughts and feelings that want to come out, sometimes at the most inopportune times. So those that I want to be the most beautiful for, see me at my ugliest.

Yesterday I visited Julie Goolsby, a friend who has that beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. I went to her for tips on organizing my day with my kids. She had no idea that God was working on making me gentle and quiet. When going through her books to find ones that she wanted to loan me, she gave me one that had "meek and quiet spirit" in the title. I know this was not a coincidence. This was God saying, "you're praying the right thing every morning, now let's work on it." Julie reminded me of another one of my favorite passages in Phillipians 4: 4-9.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Fear seems to be the poison here. 1 Peter references fear as a contrast to beauty. Phillipians 4 gives the remedy to that ugly fear and anxiety. This medicine is the daily dose I need to become beautiful.

How I want to cultivate this Godly beauty so that it can be seen by others! How I want to teach this to my sweet Hannah!

I'm so thankful to my Lord who put the desire to be beautiful in my heart and for his Spirit living in me that will give me the power to do so. And I will continue to pray each morning for that gentle and quiet spirit.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Good Night Baby, Good Night Mommy!

Last night was the first good night Aaron and I have had in almost 2 weeks! He's had a lot of changes in these past 2 weeks. First, the doctor said we should go ahead and start feeding him solids. Although he has put away his rice cereal, applesauce, and sweet potatoes like I put away a good, thick chocolate shake (as though it may be taken away from me forever if I don't eat it as fast as possible), his tummy has not adjusted as well as his taste buds. So, he's had a little tummy trouble. Then, it seems, that overnight he grew too big for his cradle that he's slept in next to our bed since the night he came home from the hospital, so we moved him into his baby bed in his big brother's room. Not only did he outgrow the cradle, he also outgrew his receiving blankets that we've swaddled him in since day one. No wonder he hasn't been able to get a good night's sleep! But last night, that all changed thanks to a miracle product called "Swaddle Me" that comes in a large size and promises to fit babies up to 9 months! :) We put him in the swaddling clothes (which he resisted at first) and voilà! He slept through the night and so did I! Now that the baby is sleeping in his own room, we can get back to working on Hannah and Luke sleeping a whole night in their own rooms. Too bad they don't make swaddling clothes for ages 3 to 6!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loving God and Your Neighbor

Thanks to Project Gutenberg, which produces free ebooks, and to my husband who gave me an iphone, I have recently been able to re-read Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte. The last time I read this book I think I was in high school, so I had forgotten the entire thing.

I love Christian romance novels (I know that sounds funny to lots of people!) This is a good one, even though it's probably never been classified as such. The hero in the story is a clergyman who at one point encourages a distressed older woman by reminding her about who God really is and describes how she can love her neighbor. I loved how it was written and thought others may like it as well. Here you go!

You say you cannot love God; but it strikes me that if you rightly consider who and what He is, you cannot help it. He is your father, your best friend: every blessing, everything good, pleasant, or useful, comes from Him; and everything evil, everything you have reason to hate, to shun, or to fear, comes from Satan—His enemy as well as ours. And for this cause was God manifest in the flesh, that He might destroy the works of the Devil: in one word, God is love; and the more of love we have within us, the nearer we are to Him and the more of His spirit we possess.”

‘“Well, sir,” I said, “if I can always think on these things, I think I might well love God: but how can I love my neighbours, when they vex me, and be so contrary and sinful as some on ’em is?”

‘“It may seem a hard matter,” says he, “to love our neighbours, who have so much of what is evil about them, and whose faults so often awaken the evil that lingers within ourselves; but remember that He made them, and He loves them; and whosoever loveth him that begat, loveth him that is begotten also. And if God so loveth us, that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us, we ought also to love one another. But if you cannot feel positive affection for those who do not care for you, you can at least try to do to them as you would they should do unto you: you can endeavour to pity their failings and excuse their offences, and to do all the good you can to those about you. And if you accustom yourself to this, Nancy, the very effort itself will make you love them in some degree—to say nothing of the goodwill your kindness would beget in them, though they might have little else that is good about them. If we love God and wish to serve Him, let us try to be like Him, to do His work, to labour for His glory—which is the good of man—to hasten the coming of His kingdom, which is the peace and happiness of all the world: however powerless we may seem to be, in doing all the good we can through life, the humblest of us may do much towards it: and let us dwell in love, that He may dwell in us and we in Him. The more happiness we bestow, the more we shall receive, even here; and the greater will be our reward in heaven when we rest from our labours.”

10 Day Forecast: Tornadoes


Every day, without checking the weather, I can know for sure that we will have a tornado in the house that day! It is unbelievable! Even when Ramiro and I work together very hard to get the house in ship shape condition, in less than 5 minutes, 2 little tornadoes run through and we have a mess on our hands again.

Having a clean, picked up house can feel so relaxing, but having a home in which toys are played with enthusiastically, new ideas are played out, discoveries are made, and life is enjoyed can be so much fun!

It's so fun to watch how these tornadoes work, too. Hannah plays with toys, especially educational ones, exactly in the way they were intended to be played with. She favors reading, arts, and crafts. We always receive the most creative and thoughtful gifts and notes from her that show us how much she loves us. Luke is very imaginative in his play, creating his own worlds, with his own characters and stories. I always wanted to be able to play like that! And little Aaron? We look so forward to seeing what kind of tornado he will be!

Now please don't think that we are allowing these tornadoes to take over the house (even though it feels like it sometimes)! We are working on them putting things up after they use them, cleaning their rooms, and taking initiative to clean even if they weren't the ones to make the mess. But these are hard lessons, and ones I'm still learning myself! That's right - I'm a tornado, too!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

High Tech? Not Really.

A few days before Christmas, Ramiro gave me a smart phone. And you know what, it IS smart! It might even make me feel smarter! I had big reservations about this phone, but I LOVE IT!

Then after Christmas I began my blog! A good friend of mine e-mailed me saying, "Wow! A smart phone and blog in the same time frame! You really are high-tech!" That gave me a laugh!

This weekend I asked Ramiro to help me improve the looks of my blog - and of course, I chose a kind of old-fashioned look - quilts! I love quilts - they remind me of my grandmother (Gommy) and snuggling and love. I wanted to spiff up the blog even more, adding a beautiful header and fancy bells and whistles. Ramiro was VERY supportive, trying to help me do everything I wanted to do, but to no avail. Neither of us could figure it out. Turns out, even my husband who has become a master at litigation technology, internet tv, facebook, and YouTube, isn't as high-tech as I thought. So, as far as blogs go, we're staying old-fashioned! And maybe we can keep the rest of our lives a little old-fashioned, too!

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Got the Blues, Baby

When Hannah was a baby just learning to talk, her first name for me was "Mimi." Of course I thought it was really cute and thought that it wasn't such a bad name to live with if she chose to call me "Mimi" instead of "Mommy." But then, she didn't stick with "Mimi." She moved on to calling me by my first name, "Amy!" Although I still thought it cute, I didn't really want to be the kind of mother whose daughter calls her by her first name. I began singing a bluesy, yet silly, tune:

I got the blues, baby,
Cause my baby won't call me Mommy,
Oh no she won't
She won't call me Mommy

Eventually she did start calling me "Mommy;" however, I don't know if I can give credit to my singing, although it did make her laugh!

Then Luke came along. He began calling me "MommyGirl," but the name evolved into "MyGirl." I loved that I was his girl, but I also really enjoy singing silly songs to make my kids laugh, so again I had the opportunity to sing my bluesy song.

Now, I'm singing again. Luke has decided he wants to shorten my name to "Mom." I knew this day was coming, but had no idea so soon. That's okay, at least I have a song to cheer me up! (And I'll still hear Mommy from his sweet voice when he needs me to rescue him from a crisis and when he calls me in the middle of the night!)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Celebration of Life

This morning I experienced a wonderful hug of the heart. I attended a celebration of the life of David Robbins, the husband of my friend, Nancy, who I used to work with at M. D. Anderson. The service was full of joy and happiness. The reverend, James Tucker, began the service by quoting Karl Rahner, a Jesuit priest, who wrote that although we have no examples of Jesus laughing in scripture, He surely must have laughed, referencing His love of children and His performance of miracles. Can't you imagine Him laughing with the children and laughing in delight at the reactions of those who witnessed His miracles?

The reverend began the service this way because he said that David had a wonderful sense of humor and could bring joy and laughter to those around Him in almost any situation, even when his own heart was breaking. It reminded me of my grandmother who had that same great gift of making everyone smile, no matter what pain she might be experiencing. Oh that I would bring smiles and laughter and joy to those around me no matter my situation.

Just as Karl Rahner thought about Jesus laughing, I have often thought of Jesus hugging. One time in college I was preparing to lead a devotional and decided I wanted the topic to be hugs. However, as you probably know, I couldn't find one mention of a hug in the Bible. But Jesus must surely have loved hugging! A hug seems to me to be one of the best ways to express to someone that I hold them dear to my heart. Isn't that what Jesus's life, death, and resurrection was all about? Showing us all how dear we are to Him?

I'm thankful that I was able to celebrate David's life today and think about how I want to help others celebrate everyday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bathroom Sounds

Isn't it funny how bathroom sounds coming from a baby can sound so sweet to a parent's ear? They may not sound so nice to bystanders, but every time Aaron's little body makes bathroom sounds I know his body is working the way it is supposed to work. Its like he's giving me sweet reminders saying, "Mommy, my body is really working well today," and then asking "Would you mind changing my diaper?" Those bathroom sounds really make me smile! I'm so thankful for my 3 healthy babies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Remember

Luke, my 3 year old, is starting all his new conversations lately with the word, "Remember." Today, I not only found it adorable, but also inspiring. I want to remember. I want to remember how sweet and precious he is today. I want to remember how after he puts a batman cape on his teddy bear he gives it to my 4 month old, Aaron, to hug. I want to remember how my 6 year old daughter, Hannah, looked today as she kicked her way to school on her new scooter she got for Christmas with a HUGE smile on her face! Each memory is like a hug to this Mommy's heart. These 3 blessings from God give me so many sweet hugs to remember I decided to write them down so we will all remember. Luke, thanks for telling me to "remember." video