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Wife to Adam, mommy to Alexa & Adlee Grace, Christ follower, owner at NewSpring Church, lover of Clemson football, and all things monogrammed. Looking for ways to simplify, serve, and teach my girls what life is all about.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unprocessed: Granola

I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan of granola.  I know that might seem odd because it can be truly delicious, but my typical experience has been one of two things: 
  1. I loved it and could eat my weight in it, but the fat content was so high I would've been mourning the expansion of my waistline at the same time.
  2. It was dry and gross...no thank you!
So a few weeks ago when Adam started perusing cereal boxes at Trader Joe's I had to take a 2nd look.  Their granola was not only high in fat (as most are) it was also pretty expensive for a bunch of ingredients I have on hand a good portion of the time.  I was sold, it was time for an experiment.  I gathered my supplies (shown above) and got to work.  I will confess, I'm not always super great at measuring, but I did my best to come up with a recipe that is quite delicious.  I did a little research first and found a similar one at 100 Days of Real Food as Lisa does a great job of feeding her family of 4 unprocessed food.  I took her version and changed it to fit my personal style.

One of the great things about this recipe is the simplicity of it.  You grab a handful of ingredients, throw them together, and end up with something that is delicious!  I'm a big fan of throwing different things together, but I'm sure my husband and daughter would attest to the fact that they are not always delicious.  You can't win all the time right? 

This is my 2nd batch of granola, so I'm gonna say it's a hit.  I have used it each morning as a crunchy addition to my greek yogurt with honey.  It takes an already delicious breakfast to the next level of wonderfulness when you mix creamy, slightly sweet yogurt with the crunch of this goodness.  YUM!  Now, I have to be honest I'm not sure exactly where this falls in the realm of  clean eating because I don't do a good job of following rules.  What I do know is the ingredients in this recipe are all natural and organic.  That's good enough for me. 

Here's the skinny on this treat.  Mix together your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add honey mixture and stir until well coated.  Spread on a piece of parchment paper.  Mine makes about a 3/4" layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees.  I let mine bake a little bit longer this time and the edges got a little too brown.  To be honest I like burnt stuff, so I liked it, but I think I've eaten the majority of the slightly dark parts.  When you finish let it cool completely, it will harden as it cools.  Then crumble and store in a ziploc bag in the pantry.  It most likely won't last more than a week if it makes it that far.  So far that's been my experience!  

Ingredients:4 cups rolled oats
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened coconut (I promise even if you don't like coconut if you buy this kind you will change your mind)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup millet (small grain used in bird seed, quite delicious and can be used in place of rice in other recipes)
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (it's fall after all)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Mix first 9 ingredients in a large bowl.  Warm butter & honey in a sauce pan until butter is melted, stir to combine.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix until well coated.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread granola on parchment paper to form an even layer.  Bake at 250 for 1 hour.

What ingredients would you add/change to make this granola something your family will gobble up?

Friday, October 19, 2012


One of my many goals as a parent is to do everything in my power to make sure Alexa becomes a well rounded, contributing member of society, and the person Jesus wants her to be.  At times I struggle with finding balance in this.  I want her to have a fun life, and have and do fun things...but in the end I know that won't always be possible.

Since Adam and I got married just over a year ago, we made the commitment that we wanted to get out of debt and over the past year we have paid off quite a bit of it.  Almost $13k actually.  And while I view this as a great accomplishment, the sad fact is, we weren't consistently being diligent.  A very sad fact, indeed, when I see how far we have to go.  As part of this endeavor we enlisted Alexa's help...no she doesn't sell lemonade on the side of the road to pay bills, and we don't steal her birthday money (ok occasionally when I'm low on cash, but I pay her back!).  I want to pass along a great legacy to my children and grandchildren, and part of the way we're going to do this is by teaching them about money from an early age.

I am fortunate that my parents have always been good with money, and have done a great job of managing it over the years.  Unfortunately for me, it wasn't something they really discussed with us as kids, so when I was out on my own I felt lost at times.  Debt is so easy to get into, and nowhere as easy to get out of so it is a horrible trap too many Americans fall (and by fall I mean willingly walk) into.  Most of them permanently because they believe the lie that this is normal.  I was one of these unsuspecting people who fell jumped with both feet into the trap.  How did this happen?  I never witnessed my dad use anything but cash, and my mom has a credit card, but she is not the monthly minimum kind of girl.  It happened because well quite honestly I'm stupid at times, and because I have no sense of delayed gratification.

One of the ways we share this with her is by discussing our debt freedom plan, and telling her the steps we are taking to get there.  It means we don't go out to eat often ever, and we don't buy all of the things we might have before when we go to the grocery store.  It means if we go to Target to pick up something we need we aren't going to look for a toy while we're there.  On top of these things Alexa also understands that the payoff is big time.  Our goal of debt freedom will be celebrated with a BIG vacation.  Most likely 2 big vacations...a fun one for the family, and a getaway for mommy and daddy!  Come on, what child doesn't want to go on a big vacation???  This is something we remind her of when her consumer mindset takes over (I mean who would've thought that was possible at 6??) to help her keep our goals in site.

We believe God is going to bless these efforts and honestly already has.  It wasn't until we established our first budget and lived by it for a few weeks that the opportunity to partner with my sister and her husband at Back40Life became a reality.  God took our single income family and multiplied it with the blink of an eye.  There have been other blessings along the way, and somehow the money just seems to go further.  Amazing how that happens when you handle money God's way right?

I want to record the remaining steps of our journey here each month with an update on our finances so we have a record to look back on, and see how Jesus has poured out his faithfulness upon us.  We feel this is building not only our character, but our daughter's as well, and that alone is worth it.  When she is my age and possibly married with children, I hope she will be able to look back at the life we lived and be proud of it.  That she will feel like we paved the way for her to have a successful future.  I have no doubt there will be moments along the way where she doesn't see it, but if she appreciates it later that's just fine too.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cows & Pumpkins

Between our budget and eating better I have made a discovery.  Eating clean, whole, organic food can get rather expensive.  Especially if you make the leap to the high end products like meat and cheese.  I don't have too much trouble finding produce at a decent price, but paying $6.50 a pound for ground beef is a little more than our budget and my stomach can handle.  As a result I've started looking for other options for buying such items.  I am sad to admit I haven't found a fabulous source yet, but in my search this week we did find some other neat things!

Tuesday I got off work early after an all day staff retreat, so we drove to a farm a few miles from our house. When we got to the store we found out they were in the middle of milking.  Alexa was so excited to see the cows in action!  Granted, she did think it was pretty smelly.  Interestingly enough, I remember going to the dairy when I was little, so it is rather comforting to me.  We grabbed some raw milk and some cheese when milking was over and headed home.

The cow pictured was not fond of the experience...she kicked the suction cups off of her and busted out of the milking parlor...according to the farmer, she doesn't like people.  Oops!

Today we visited 2 other farms on the East side of the city.  Tuttles is an apple orchard and pumpkin patch, and as you can see there were plenty to choose from!  I was a bit sad this year that we didn't get to go to Nivens, we've been every year since 2007, but it is a bit of a drive these days.  I was more than excited when Deborah mentioned Tuttles.  We also went to the Apple Family Farm, but we didn't get any pictures there.  I'm toying with the idea of buying a cow share from them...we'll see how that goes.

Alexa trying to decide on the perfect pumpkin for her

The whole fam

Alexa and Annabeth seeing how they measure up.  

All in all our week made me realize how much more I want to live on a farm.  I love the idea of our kids growing up in a more natural environment & learning to live off the land.  I'm not sure how long it will be before we get there, but someday it will happen!  Goodness, never thought I'd say something like that!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Keep it simple

With the busyness of life these days it has become increasingly important to Adam and me that our life become as simple as possible.  This isn't always possible as we are involved in so many different things.  Take yesterday for example, Alexa's school sent home a paper for the PTO meeting that was LAST NIGHT!  I actually found out the night before when an automated call came through, and later also received an email.  Who gives 1 day notice for that type of thing?  This morning when she brought the note from school to me she informed me the class with the highest attendance got an ice cream party.  Great, now I feel guilty for not going.  Do you think if I buy her ice cream it will make it all better?  Fat chance!

A simple life.  Sounds lovely to me.  And so simple.  But if you walked into Alexa's room right now, you would see anything but simple!  Her room is not very large, and her furniture takes up a good portion...but on top of that, she has more toys, books, and papers (I'm raising a pack rat, she wants to keep every scrap she cuts and every piece of something she finds) than one child house should be allowed.  And the stuffed animals OH MY!  I swear they take over her bed at night and I'm honestly not sure how she sleeps with them beside, behind, under, and on top of her!

It seems like every year around her birthday and Christmas we clean out and give away, and yet with each event it seems the pile has grown to even greater proportions.  After reading some different blogs we decided this year would be different.  For Christmas she will receive 4 gifts from us, and they will fall into the following categories:
  1. Something she wants
  2. Something she needs
  3. Something she wears
  4. Something she reads
Obviously it is easy for us to control what happens at our house, but that's not the only place she receives gifts, and let's be honest, as her mom I don't want to give her practical gifts and gifts of necessity while everyone else gets to give her fun stuff.  So, I decided to write a letter to our family and ask them to partner with us on this venture.  After all, there is so much more to Christmas than presents.  Now that we are 9 hours away we cherish the time we spend in SC more than ever and see that time as a gift.  And of course without the gift of Jesus we wouldn't have anything to celebrate.  I am so thankful my Savior came to earth all those years ago knowing he would die on a cross for my sins.

You might notice in the letter I only listed 3 options instead of 4...this was by design!  The whole point is to cut down on the number of toys she receives.  If I gave the fun option to everyone, they would choose fun, and once again I would be stuck with practical and necessary.  NO THANK YOU!  I accept that this is probably an flaw on my part, and that I should probably work on it, but if the whole point of this exercise is to help control what she receives I have to limit it in some form...admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

I would love to hear your thoughts on our letter.  It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, but our plan is to continue this for the years ahead.  That doesn't mean there will never be an exception, but certainly at this point in our journey this is the best way.  Are you looking for simplicity in your life?  What have you found that works for your family?  Please come and share with us!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The BEST is yet to come!

It is hard for me to believe that this time last year I was waiting to marry the man of my dreams.  Nervous about timing, rain, and everything else a bride can think of, and excited out of my mind that the day we dreamed about and planned for was finally here.  On one hand it doesn't seem like it's possible that an entire year has passed, and on the other so much has changed it seems our wedding is a distant memory.

I can honestly say that day was a dream come true for me.  Every girl dreams of that day for so long, and at times not only do we put more effort into the wedding than the marriage, but I also think we can put it on a pedestal so high our greatest efforts to reach it fall short.  That was not the case for us.  I think back on that day often, and thank Jesus for bringing this wonderful man into my life and Alexa's life.  I couldn't have asked for more.  I see Ephesians 3:20 come to life more and more each day in our marriage, and the words in my head do not come close to doing justice to how I feel.

This year has brought some crazy changes our way, and what seemed like huge leaps of faith at the time.  No doubt onlookers still see them that way, but when they become every day life it goes from crossing a canyon to stepping stones.  I have joked that with a step of faith as large as moving 500 miles from our home and family, nowhere to live, and no jobs, I could only imagine what our next step of faith would look like! God is so gracious to provide for us each day, and I pray we never take it for granted.

I am looking forward to the leaps or steps the future holds, and pray Jesus will prepare the way each day so we will know the way when we happen upon them.  I've been told the first year of marriage is the hardest, and if that is true all I can say is the best is yet to come!

To my dear sweet husband, I love you so much and there is no one else I would want to walk this journey with.  Thank you for standing by my side every day, even when I'm irrational, crazy, and make dumb decisions.  Thank you for leading our family each and every day toward the next step God has planned for us.  Thank you for working diligently to reach our goals.  Thank you for loving me and our daughter.  It means more to me than you'll ever know.  If we've come this far in a year, I can't wait to see what the next year holds for us!