I have a confession to make. As soon as the Bible in 365 reading plan finished, my quiet time has been spotty at best. I have had a hard time consistently taking the time to read the Bible and pray. As much as I want to blame it on my 2-year-old who decided that fighting nap-time is her top priority, I know deep in my heart that I find the time to do the things that are truly important to me.
Anyway, some members of my church are doing an in-depth Bible study plan and this week we began the book of Hebrews. The plan just tells us to study Hebrews from March 24th through April 20th and leaves what we actually read or study on a day-to-day basis up to ourselves. I like the flexibility of the plan, but I soon discovered that I needed to create a day-by-day study plan in order to stick with it. I did not make this just so I could check off a box but so that I would take the time to study God’s Word every day. This plan is still flexible; if I need to spend more or less time on something, then I will, but I needed a simple outline to follow.
One note: You will notice I have access to many different study Bibles. This is one of the benefits of marrying a man who was already a Christian. We both had our own bookshelves of Bibles and Bible resources when we got married. Of course, we also added to it over the years. Don’t feel like you have to pay for special Bibles in order to study God’s Word. You can find a wealth of information free on-line at BibleGateway.com or BlueLetterBible.org. And let us not forget that the best study guide is the Holy Spirit. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) For without Him, nothing will be revealed to you. And with Him, you can unlock the secrets of eternity. All Bible study must be bathed in prayer.
Maybe you will find this helpful too. Am I also sharing it to hold myself accountable (so please feel free to pester me about having my daily quiet time). So, here it is in case you need something a little more specific like I did.
- March 24th: Read introductions to Hebrews in various study Bibles or on-line
- March 25th: Read the whole book of Hebrews (this is not the time to look into the nitty-gritty but to get an overview of the book)
- March 26th: Listen to Hebrews 1-6; I absolutely LOVE the Bible Experience audio Bible (the best audio Bible out there in my opinion…you feel like you are listening to a movie), but there are also plenty of free audio Bibles you can find on-line
- March 27th: Listen to Hebrews 7-13
- March 28th: Study Hebrews 1 (When I say “study” I intend to read the chapter, read the study notes in my NIV Study Bible, and write down any questions I have about the chapter)
- March 29th: Study Hebrews 2
- March 30th: Study Hebrews 3
- March 31st: Study Hebrews 4
- April 1st: Study Hebrews 5
- April 2nd: Study Hebrews 6
- April 3rd: Study Hebrews 7
- April 4th: Study Hebrews 8
- April 5th: Study Hebrews 9
- April 6th: Study Hebrews 10
- April 7th: Study Hebrews 11
- April 8th: Study Hebrews 12
- April 9th: Study Hebrews 13
- April 10th: Tackle questions from chapters 1-6 (dig in deeper; read cross-references if needed, read other commentary, and/or ask others)
- April 11th: Tackle questions from chapters 7-13
- April 12th: Read the whole book of Hebrews in The Message
- April 13th: Read study notes for the book of Hebrews in my Chronological Bible(as a side note: this is probably my favorite Bible; I love the lay-out and the information found in here; reading through this Bible cover-to-cover truly helped me to organize the historical events in my mind)
- April 14th: Read study notes in the Life Application Bible (chapters 1-6)
- April 15th: Read study notes in the Life Application Bible (chapters 7-13)
- April 16th: Pick a passage to memorize
- April 17th: Memorize the passage; write out what this passage means to me
- April 18th: Write out memory passage 3 times; re-read chapters 1-4 and pick one item to apply today
- April 19th: Write out memory passage 2 times; re-read chapters 5-8 and pick one item to apply today
- April 20th: Write out memory passage 1 time; re-read chapters 9-13 and pick one item to apply today
What Scriptures are you studying lately, and what method have you found that helps you study one Bible book in-depth? Please share your ideas with me.
I recently gave a nutrition talk at a local elementary school’s PTA meeting, and I thought I would share the ideas and resources here on my blog, so all of you can share in these delicious (and nutritious) breakfast ideas.
Inspired by the Eat This Not That books, I organized my talk by discussing quick, easy, delicious, and healthy alternatives to some of the most popular children’s breakfast items out there today. For each unhealthy breakfast item, I list a better option and then a best option. The main difference between my lecture and the Eat This Not That books is that in general, I tried to focus on healthy, whole-food alternatives that are not pre-packaged whereas the book gives you packaged alternatives. Here goes:
1. Instead of sugary cereal
Try a cereal with less sugar and more fiber like Cheerios or Kix
Interested in reading some nutrition labels and finding your own best cereal option? Click here for some strict guidelines you could follow to choose a better bowl of cereal, or try these more flexible guidelines developed by a registered dietitian.
The best alternative would be oatmeal.
Three different ways to make oatmeal quick and easy:
- Instant – Yes, you could buy the instant flavor packets, but you are also buying plenty of added chemicals when you do that. Try making your own instant oatmeal packets for a better bowl of oatmeal at a fraction of the cost.
- Regular – You can easily cook regular oats in the microwave in less than 3 minutes! Some delicious topping ideas are yogurt, fruit, drizzle of honey, cinnamon, apple butter, or applesauce. My all-time favorite bowl of oatmeal is made by mixing in 1 or 2 Tbs peanut butter plus one mashed up over-ripe banana. Yum!!!
- Overnight, No-Cook Oatmeal – I cannot believe it has taken me this long to try it. Basically, you mix old fashioned oats with milk, yogurt, and any flavorings you want and then refrigerate overnight. The oatmeal is ready to eat in the morning; just pull it out of the fridge and enjoy cold! This is absolutely perfect for our hot summer days and it is delicious! Click here for some recipes and awesome flavor ideas. I love the cocoa banana; I consider it a valid and healthy reason to eat chocolate for breakfast. One note, I have made these recipes with the chia seeds as recommended, but you could leave them out if you want. You would probably need to add a few more oats if you do that, but I highly recommend you try to find the chia seeds and add them. Chia is an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Enjoy!
2. Instead of Pop-Tarts
Try toasted whole wheat English muffins spread with all-fruit jelly. Even better, top it with peanut butter* and strawberries.
*A note on peanut butter – Unless you absolutely want to consume extra sugar, unhealthy oils, and various chemicals, your peanut butter should have only 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt. Yes, you can find this in the regular grocery store; just read your labels! Some will argue that peanut butter like this is annoying because the oil separates. All you have to do is mix the peanut butter once really good when you purchase it and then store it in the fridge; if eaten in a reasonable amount of time, the oils will not separate that badly again.
The best option (and super portable just like Pop Tarts) would be homemade trail mix. You can make it super simple by just mixing peanuts and raisins together, or you can get fancy with other nuts and dried fruit. Want to be a super saavy nutrition oriented person? Anytime you consume a vitamin C rich food along with a source of iron, the body will be able to absorb more of the iron. Therefore, add a small glass of orange juice or an actual orange to this meal to help the body absorb the iron in the raisins. And yes, oranges are very portable as long as you purchase the mandarin orange variety (commonly sold as Cuties); the skin peels easily and there are usually hardly any seeds.
3. Instead of white flour pancakes or waffles topped with butter and syrup
Try a variety made with whole wheat. Better yet, make your own using whole wheat flour.
The best option would be to top the waffles with something healthier than butter and syrup. Try peanut butter and bananas or apple butter and blueberries. Yogurt or applesauce are also good toppings. Another fun and healthy idea that falls into this category is to make a banana dog, which is simply an entire banana placed inside a whole wheat hot dog bun spread with peanut butter.
4. Instead of Toaster Scrambles
Try Triscuit crackers and cheese* slices (microwaved for 20 seconds if you like it hot). I specify Triscuits because of their simplicity. They have only three ingredients: whole wheat, oil, and salt. Try finding that in any other store bought cracker! Have you ever read the ingredient list on Wheat Thins? It is riddled with words I cannot pronounce. I don’t know about you, but when I buy crackers, the last thing I want to buy is a ton of chemicals! Another hot breakfast option is simply to reheat leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner.
*A note about cheese. Make the switch to block cheese and you will not only save yourself money but will also decrease unnecessary ingredients from entering your body. Here are the ingredients in block cheese: Milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, and sometimes annatto which is a coloring agent that can be avoided if you purchase white cheese. The ingredients in a package of pre-shredded cheese include all of the above PLUS: potato starch, cellulose powder, calcium sulfate, and natamycin (yes, this is basically an antibiotic…it is added to shredded cheese to prevent mold growth). No wonder cheese tastes better when you shred it yourself!
The best option to replace a Toaster Scramble would be to make your own breakfast burrito using eggs, whole wheat tortillas, salsa, and cheese. Some may argue that this is not quick or easy, but I will tell you that eggs scramble in no time at all on the stove. If you do not want to mess with dirtying a pan to cook the eggs, you can easily make scrambled eggs in the microwave. Here is a tutorial that shows you how. It does not get an easier than this! Oh, and the eggs made in the microwave taste great; I have tried it! Bonus points if you have any leftover beans you can throw into the burrito for some extra protein and fiber.
5. Instead of a Starbucks Frappucino
Try making your own chocolate or strawberry milk. You will not only save money but will save your body from ingesting the whopping 39 grams of sugar found in the frappucino (homemade chocolate milk has only 13 g of sugar). I’ll admit that a glass of chocolate milk is far from a complete breakfast, but it is a vast improvement to the frappucino.
The best substitution in this case would actually be to make your own smoothie out of yogurt, fruit, and milk, but I must admit to you that I never do this because I absolutely hate cleaning the blender! Does anyone else out there agree with me that washing a blender is the absolute worst kitchen chore? Anyway, because I am trying to make these suggestions quick and easy, I say the best thing to have for breakfast instead of a frappucino would be a delicious bowl of plain Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and a drizzle of honey. This is actually my go-to breakfast and snack and is a fabulous option for anyone trying to increase their protein intake (Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein). If you use frozen blueberries and microwave them for 30 sec to 1 min first, then you will have some blueberry juice as well that helps to flavor and color the yogurt.
Now, I am not saying that all of these options are the perfect, wall-balanced breakfast; but I am saying that all of these options are better than the unhealthy, pre-packaged variety shown at the start of each suggestion. You could easily add a glass of milk and a piece of fresh fruit to make a more complete breakfast.
What if you need something even simpler? What if you literally do not have the time or frame of mind to think about combining a few things to make a breakfast? You can opt for two other easy ideas:
- Fruit and cheese
- Fruit and nuts
The best fruits that require minimal preparation in my opinion are: bananas (they have their own wrapper!), kiwi (just slice in half and eat with a spoon), mandarin oranges (otherwise known as Cuties), Apples (wash and go), and avocado (slice in half, remove pit, and eat half with a spoon).
When all else fails, just pour a tall glass of milk and call it a breakfast! It may not be the ideal balanced breakfast, but that is much healthier than eating nothing at all.
I hope you found these ideas helpful in your busy life. Please pass along any of your own healthy breakfast ideas my way. I would love to try them.
Are you looking for more information regarding healthy eating for kids? My favorite sites are:
- Eatright.org/kids – This is our American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- RaiseHealthyEaters.com – This is a very useful website made by a registered dietitian. There are plenty of recipes and interesting articles here.
- Weelicious.com – This site has a plethora of unique, fun, and mostly healthy food ideas for children.
Here are our at-home dates for the month of February.
1. Wedding Memories
This is exactly what it sounds like. Pop in your wedding video and watch it together. You can also look at wedding pictures, make a toast, and eat cake too!
Bonus: I realized I could still fit into a dress I wore on our honeymoon. Woo hoo!!! Here I come pre-pregnancy clothes.
Don’t worry…these cupcakes were not frozen for 8 years. I made them fresh.
Go ahead, pull out your toasting glasses from your wedding and use them! I just have to say that the silver was not dirty or tarnished…that is condensation on the glasses you see in the above picture. And, you don’t need anything fancy to toast with. We used the ever-exciting but life-giving beverage of…WATER.
2. Candlelit Picnic Dessert
You could go all out and have a candlelit picnic dinner, but my husband and I have a difficult time waiting until both girls are in bed before we eat dinner. So, we ate dinner as a family, then once the girls got in bed (I think the baby was in bed by 10Pm this night), we enjoyed our dessert.
I tried to go all out by setting up a nice atmosphere on our back patio. A tarp (because the concrete was a little damp from rain), plenty of blankets, pillows, and lots of candles helped transformed our backyard into a romantic getaway. For dessert, I made sautéed cinnamon apples served with vanilla ice cream. Yum! We read a chapter of our Love and Respect devotional together and just chatted while cuddling under the stars. This may be my favorite at-home date ever!
3. Writing Letters
We spent the evening writing letters to the child we sponsor for World Vision. We also had fun researching a little more about his country (Sri Lanka) and taking the time to create a special birthday care package for him.
Too often, we let ourselves get so busy that we do not take the time to serve others together. This was a small way we are able to do just that. Plus, it gave us a chance to count our blessings and pray together. Looking back, we could have extended this date to then go on and write letters for each other to tuck away for the other person to discover at a later time. That would add an extra element of romance to this practical date.
There you have it, our three at-home dates for February.
Bonus Away From Home Date: Valentine’s Day
My husband took me to Santa Barbara Italian Cafe, a local eatery in Pearland, TX. The food was absolutely delicious. Here you see the Chicken Verona which was the tastiest chicken dish I have ever eaten. We also had the homemade carrot cake for dessert, which was so good that we devoured it before we could take a picture. One word of warning, do not expect stellar service at this restaurant (our waitress was a little absent-minded, but charming none-the-less) and the water at this establishment had a strong chlorine taste. Other than that, I highly recommend the food. If you are in the area, you should definitely check it out.
Going out to eat was all we did for this date, as I am still paranoid about leaving my (still totally breastfed) baby for too long. In the coming months, I’m sure our at-home dates will get a little longer.
Still want more date ideas? Check out my first post in this series and stay-tuned as I share our future at-home dates each month. And as always, I would love to hear your at-home date ideas. Please share in the comments section.
When I find something I like, I just have to share. I am writing this post simply to share with you a neat new company that I recently found out about. The company is called Stitch Fix. Have you heard of it yet? Well, if not, let me explain what it is and then I will share with you my first experience with the company.
Stitch Fix is basically a personal style assistant that picks out clothes tailored to your own taste, size, and preferences. The company mails you five items any time you request it. You then get to try on the clothes in your own home and have three days to mail back (in their postage paid package) anything you do not want to purchase.
Here is my first Stitch Fix package.
And here are the five items I received in the package:
Item #1:V Neck Cap Sleeve Jersey Top
This shirt is definitely my favorite item from the bunch. It goes with so many of my current clothes and is very comfortable to wear. Plus I love that dark plum color. By the way, please ignore my not completely put together look. It was late at night when I tried these on (after my kids were in bed); I was literally ready to fall in bed myself.
Item #2: Cotton Plaid Shirt
I liked the shirt. My husband commented, “I have never ever seen you in plaid before.” I do not know if that was a good or bad thing.
Item #3: Horse Bit Bracelet
This cute bracelet is definitely my style.
Item #4: Colorblocked Dress
This dress was my husband’s favorite item from the bunch. I think he would have been mad at me if I did not keep it. Anyway, this is a classic example of something I would have never chosen to try on at the store. Even when I took it out of the box, I did not think I would like it, but once I tried it on, I loved it.
Item #5: Jersey Maxi Skirt
A very modest skirt that I could wear many places.
And for the fashion dummies like me, they send styling cards with each of the items to give some ideas as to what to wear the item with.
Things I did not like about my first Stitch Fix experience:
- Cost – This is the only negative thing I have to say. The cost to receive a package is $20 (styling fee), but that $20 is applicable toward anything you purchase, so as long as you buy one thing from the box, you are using that $20 toward the clothing purchase. I think that is a very reasonable price to pay for the convenience of it all. Anyway, it is the cost of the items in the package that was a bit of a downer for me. It was not absolutely ridiculous or anything, but this resale-shop girl had a hard time spending $48 for one clothing item. Though, overall, I really do feel the convenience justifies the cost. I would have loved to keep all five items from the box, but I narrowed it down to my two favorites (the purple shirt and the colorblocked dress) and sent back the other three. As a side note, the company does give a 25% discount if you keep all five items in the box.
Things I like about Stitch Fix:
- Convenience – This is the perfect solution for any moms with young children who cannot get out to the store to try on clothes, people who hate shopping, and fashion dummies. I happen to fall into all three of those categories, so I am completely in love with the convenience of this service. Plus, it is really nice getting to try on clothes at home with other clothes that are already in your closet. I was able to very easily see if these clothes would go with other things I already own.
- Adventure – Okay, it is not exactly a sky dive or anything, but it was rather fun trying on a set of clothes that I would have never thought to pick out for myself. I love variety and trying out different things, so this is perfect for me.
- Fit – I couldn’t believe it, but everything they sent fit me perfectly. Way to go Stitch Fix!
- Quality – I could tell everything they sent was very well made and would last a long time.
- Style – Stitch Fix pegged the style I would love.
Interested in trying out Stitch Fix? Please click on my referral link here and if you sign up, they will give me a $25 clothing credit (we all know I could definitely use it!). If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. Just leave a comment to this post.
As a side note, I was not paid to review Stitch Fix or their services. These are my own opinions shared with you just because I thought you might love it too.
Well, last month, my husband and I started making a very concerted effort to have a date night once a week. Most of the dates are at home after our two daughters go to bed. They have been planned by yours truly as part of my anniversary gift to my husband. Here is what we did last month.
To start the year off right – Our Anniversary!
We made homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, enjoyed some time walking around and talking at the local park, and then had a delicious meal at The Cheesecake Factory (including my first ever piece of cheesecake from this restaurant). It was delicious but overpriced in my honest opinion. We will probably not go back.
At-Home Date #1 – A Night in Italy
This date consisted of enjoying pizza, gelato, and watching the movie Angels and Demons (set in Rome). There are plenty of other movies one could choose that are set in Italy, but I chose this one mainly because it was available to check out from the local library that day. Yes, I am frugal even on date nights. Anyway, I didn’t think I would like the movie all that much as it is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code (which I’ve never seen and honestly have no desire to see), but both Doug and I really enjoyed this movie. It was a captivating mystery and I feel they even honored the church in one of the last lines of the film which basically states that all churches have problems because they are made of imperfect people. Ah, so true. That is what church is: a group of imperfect people pursuing a relationship with a perfect God (see, Pastor Kevin, I was paying attention in church on Sunday).
Date #2 – Breakfast and Crosswords
So, we had breakfast for dinner…which I tried to make as romantic as possible with candlelight and my husband’s favorite meal (Homemade Biscuits and Gravy). I added fruit and yogurt parfaits to the menu because to me any meal that includes berries is romantic. Before the date, I printed off a few word searches and crosswords from the Internet. We got in the kitchen and cooked the meal together. Then we utilized our competitive nature in a word search race and afterwards put our heads together to complete a crossword puzzle.
Date #3 – Reading Together
I know, I know, this does not sound all that exciting, but it is all in how you approach it. We rearranged our living room furniture to put the loveseat directly in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace, turned the lights down low, sipped some delicious hot chocolate, and read a chapter from Love & Respect and then followed up with a chapter from the Love & Respect Devotional. I cannot recommend these books enough. They are so very good. In fact, every time we have made an effort to read these books together, we have had some of the best and most memorable conversations of our marriage!
Date #4 – Time to get out of the house!
My husband plans our dates away from home. We went out to eat at Boudreaux’s Cajun…okay, not the most romantic restaurant, but the Chicken Fried Chicken is simply THE BEST. Plus, we get two free dinners to this restaurant every time we talk to our insurance agent, so you cannot beat free. Anyway, the good ole’ Love and Respect Devotional came along on our date and we read and discussed a chapter together while waiting for our meal. The chapter was on the 80/20 principle and it has already enhanced our marriage! Basically, it helps a couple remember that 80% of the time things are awesome, fun, and happy, but 20% of the time, things may be tough and not very fun. The goal is to realize there is nothing wrong with your relationship. Every relationship has ups and downs; just hang in there for that 80% because it is bound to come around! Anyway, we continued chatting with each other during a lovely walk at Stevenson Park in Friendswood to wrap up the date.
I’d say January was a fabulous month! I am so proud of my husband and me for making the effort to continue to date each other. We are closer than ever before. I love how every year my love for him grows more and more. Anyway, some things I have learned about at-home dates:
- It is important to dress for the occasion. Even though you are not leaving the house, get dressed up for each other. Fix your hair, put on some nice clothes, and get ready for a real date. If you do not do this, you will likely feel like you did not go on a date at all.
- Sometimes it is very difficult to make these date nights happen. Inevitably, our baby would stay up later than usual on date night. By the time we would get her in bed, we were both tired and really just wanted to go to sleep. Thanks to my husband, the dates still happened. He encouraged me stay up late and do the dates anyway. We were always both so glad that we did. Being a little tired the next day is a small price to pay for an enhanced relationship. I’d say it is worth it!
- Change things up. Whether you rearrange the furniture, light some candles, or do something totally different together, it is important to change things up from your usual routine. For example, if you always watch a movie together, then choose a different activity or find a way to make it special.
Next month I will let you in on our at-home dates in February. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, please let me know your own at-home date ideas.
This was my husband and my second year to intentionally give each other homemade Christmas gifts. Since last year went so well, we figured we would just keep it up. I have been looking forward to sharing what I made for my husband for months now, so I am so happy to finally get the chance to write this post.
For Doug: Homemade Photo Blocks
Yep, I went to The Home Depot, bought some cheap skinny pieces of wood, cut it into blocks (with my dad’s help), painstakingly painted each side (multiple times…with my mom’s help…this sort of thing is more fun if you have someone to chat with while you do it), cut up 6 different family pictures, glued them to each block, and took the time to coat each one with Mod Podge (multiple layers). The result: a lovely homemade puzzle that has all my husband’s favorite pictures of us that he can display on his desk at work (and rearrange whenever he needs a little stress reliever).
Total cost of this project was just under $10 to purchase the wood, print the pictures, and purchase the Mod Podge. Want to make your own photo blocks? Here is the tutorial that I used.
- This project is super easy but super TIME CONSUMING, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to let multiple layers dry.
- I personally had an awful experience working with Mod Podge. It seemed harmless enough, but I must have been allergic to something in it as I began having breathing difficulties every time I would work on the project. I quickly realized I needed to move outdoors to work with it, but even that did not help the situation. So, I ended up outside with my dad’s carbon filter mask on to finish the project. Baseball hat on, leaning over the tailgate of my father’s pickup truck, it was not a pretty sight. Needless to say, I was so glad when I finished the project and I will definitely never make another one again, but overall it turned out to be an awesome (and very professional-looking) gift to make for my husband.
For me: Music and lyrics
Yes, he wrote me a song! My husband is a fabulous musician, but writing lyrics is not something that comes easy for him. This gift means so much to me. I know it took a lot of time and effort to come up with such beautiful words. I was in tears by the end of the song, as it was so sweet and touching to hear my husband proclaim his love for me in song.
We chose to give homemade gifts for our anniversary too, which was in January, so I’ll go ahead and share those homemade gift ideas now.
For Doug: At-Home Date Nights in a Jar
This gift consists of 40 painted popsicle sticks with a different at-home date idea on each. Why 40? Well, our goal is to do one date a week this year. They will consist of mostly at-home dates (once our girls are in bed for the night), but we will aim for one date per month away from home (those dates are Doug’s responsibility to plan). I color-coded the sticks, with red ones being indoor dates and black ones being dates for outside.
Here is where I got my inspiration for this gift idea. For those of you interested in at-home date ideas, I will be posting our dates for the month in a series titled “At-Home Dates.” Be looking for the first post in the series sometime in the next week.
For Me: A “coupon” list to redeem for everything awesome my husband can do, like give me a back massage, make me breakfast in bed, serenade me with guitar music, watch both girls to give me some time to go shopping, etc. Plus, he bought me a book about prayer because he knew my biggest goal this year spiritually is to focus on prayer and make prayer a larger priority in my life (not homemade, but a very thoughtful gift indeed).
I hope these gift ideas inspire you to gift your special someone a thoughtful, homemade gift in the near future. Please let me know what homemade gifts you have given in the past. I am always looking for more ideas!