Thursday, April 30, 2009

Healthy Living

I am sure that, just like me, the health and nutrition of your family is important. In my family health, nutrition and active living is something that I am constantly striving to teach my children daily. Encouraging them in picking healthy choices whenever possible, such as whole wheat bread over white, or keeping the fridge stocked with lots of fruits and veggies for them to munch on and to grab when they are on the go, preparing foods ourselves instead of buying pre-packaged and take-out whenever possible, setting an example in maintaining an active lifestyle daily are just a few things I try to do.

Another thing that I try and do is take our favorite foods, the ones that are not necessarily very good for us, and try to alter the recipe to come up with “healthy alternatives”. Some of my recipes are flops (but often my kids are too kind to say so), but some are really great (and easy). For example, whenever I make meatloaf, meatballs, or hamburgers I use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs. I will also throw in a handful of lentils or natural bran flakes, uping the fibre content significantly. My kids and husband can’t even tell the difference!

Breakfast is a big challenge in my home. None of us really like cold cereal, and none of us really want anything to heavy either. One of our favorite breakfast foods is pancakes. I have to admit I am the biggest culprit – pancakes are one of my all-time favorite foods! So in hopes of making this breakfast food pack a bit more of a healthy punch I made up an oatmeal bran pancake recipe (see recipe below), and instead of having a ton of syrup on them we use applesauce, bananas and homemade fruit sauce. If we need a bit of added sweetness, a touch of maple syrup or honey goes a long way.

If you have any tips, tricks or great recipes for healthy living I would love to hear them!

Oatmeal Bran Pancakes

1 cup Oatmeal
2 tbsp Natural Bran
1 cup Milk

2 cups Whole wheat flour
2 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt

2 Eggs
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
2 cups Milk

The key to this pancake is to soak the oatmeal and bran in the milk for at least 10 minutes. While it is soaking, combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl. Mix the eggs, oil and milk well, then add the oatmeal/bran mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

Drop batter by the spoonful onto a non-stick, hot pan. When bubbles appear and edges begin to dry, turn to brown other side.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WFMW - Mocha Meringues

Two of my children absolutely LOVE meringue cookies and my daughter will choose something coffee flavored everytime. So I combined their love of coffee and meringue to come up with this cookie recipe.

4 Egg whites (preferably room temperature)
1 1/3 cup of Sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
8 tsp Cocoa, shifted
2 tsp Espresso powder

Beat egg whites in glass or metal bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add in sugar until stiff peaks form and mixture is well combined and glossy. Stir in cocoa and espresso powder.

Drop spoon sized amounts on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (will make 2 - 3 dozen) and sprinkle the top of each cookies with chocolate sprinkles. Bake at 225 for 45 - 60 minutes. Turn oven off and leave cookies in the oven for an additional hour. Store in an airtight container.

For other dessert recipies try:

Fruit Pudding Cake
Double Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cookies

Visit We Are THAT Family for more WFMW tips.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Baked Manicotti

5 - 6 cups of your favorite Marinara (tomato) sauce
2 pkg Herb and garlic cream cheese
1½ cup Mozzarella
½ cup Parmesan
1 Egg
1 pkg Frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
24 Manicotti noodles, cooked until just tender, rinsed in cold water

Spread ¾ cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish (you may need two). Mix egg, cheeses and spinach until well blended. Spoon mixture into a large plastic bag. Cut a hole in a bottom corner and squeeze mixture into Manicotti noodles. Place stuffed noodles in the dish and pour remaining sauce over. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 35 – 40 minutes.

Serve with a big side salad and fresh buns or bread sticks.

My family loves to get crusty buns or bread and dip it in a garlic olive oil:
2 parts extra-vergin olive oil
1 part butter
LOTS of fresh garlic, minsed -but use to taste
Dash of parsley.
Heat to infuse oil and butter with the garlic flavor. Serve as a bread dip - just watch out, sometimes garlic can linger. But I have to say, this is a standby when someone is coming down with a cold!!

Ready, Set, CLEAN! - Part II

Did everyone have a fun week of cleaning? We have huge piles in our spare room of things we need to get rid of. Every year as the children get older, they grow out of not only clothes, but books, toys, and other such items, that need to be stored for sentimental reasons, passed on to friends with younger children, or donated. This week, not only are we going to be cleaning, but we are going to move things out. All of the piles that have accumulated from sorting through all of our stuff is move our this week to new homes. But before we can do that, there is one more important room left to go through...the playroom/games room!!

Playroom/Games room:
- Empty all toy boxes and storage areas: remove toys that your child is no longer interested in, all broken toys, or toys with missing parts, put back only what is age appropriate and in good condition, put all else in bins (move, garbage, get rid off).
- Vacuum and wipe down all shelves, furniture and large game items (e.g., air hockey table, pool table) and behind televisions and gaming units.
- Wipe down all electronic items, including cords, remotes and controllers.
- Go through crafts, board games and puzzles, put back only what is age appropriate and in good condition, put all else in bins (move, garbage, get rid off).

Get Rid of Bins:
-Go through the entire pile/bins of items to get rid off and decide what you are going to sell, give to someone in particular, and what you are going to donate to your local thrift store.
- Pile all of the items in your vehicle and drop them off - get it all out of your house! Delaying will only cause huge pile-ups, causing more clutter in your home!

Have fun cleaning and de-cluttering,

For more cleaning tips and trips, also see:

Ready, Set, CLEAN! - Part I

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Managing our Money – Part II – Spending Habits

Financial security is more dependent on how you spend then on what you earn. Stop and think about that. Do you believe it? For years I always thought “if we can just make $$___ more, everything will be fine”. Yet, when we made more, somehow the dollars did not stretch as I had planned. So, focusing on what we spend our money on and how we make decisions on what to spend our money on seems to the first step to achieving financial security. Here are some really easy tips to help you spend less.

1. Have a meal plan – whatever that may look like for you.

2. Have one shopping day a week.
Pick a day that you are going to have the time to devote to the task and not feel rushed, and always remember to eat before you leave (to avoid hunger shopping). Always have a list of all needed items for your meal plan and to re-stock your kitchen and pantry to avoid having to go back mid-week. If you truly can not go all week without replenishing perishables (those of us with a large families), have one other day put aside for buying more milk, fruits and so on, but remember, this is only a replenishing your fridge day, no more. Keep your eyes on the milk!

3. Have a plan to avoid impulse buying!

Our goal is that our finances will be God lead and God controlled, if we are rushing off and doing our own thing and making quick decisions, we are often not allowing the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives. I don’t know about you, but a lot of things can sound good to me when two of my kids are trying to convince me that some item is necessary, while the other two are bickering in the background, my cell phone is ringing, the person in line in back of me has a crying baby and all I can think of is getting out of that store as quickly as possible.

Some people have more problems then others with impulse buying, and often within a marriage there is a division, with one person being more the spender and one person more conservative with spending. No matter where your marriage falls, having an agreed upon plan of action can help avoid serious conflicts and problems in the future.

You need to have a plan for both small and large purchase items, even though it is more obvious if we spend foolishly on a large purchase, often it is small purchases that add up that get us into trouble. For all items, big or small, I go through this list:

1. Do I need this item?
2. Can I afford this item?
3. Is purchasing this item going to save me money (now or in the future)?
4. Is this item going to contribute to the health and happiness of my home?
5. In buying this item am I being a good steward with my money?

If you can answer YES to all 5 questions – go ahead and purchase the item.

If you can only answer YES to 4 of the questions, say a quick prayer that God will lead your decision and wait at least 10 minutes before making your final decision. If you feel convicted to put the item back, then DO IT. If you feel good about the purchase, then go ahead and buy it.

If you can only answer YES to 3 of the questions – PUT THE ITEM DOWN AND WALK AWAY. Do not try and talk yourself into the purchase, why you need it, or so forth. Walk away and ask God to either change your heart or show you the right time to purchase the item.

I believe that going though these questions diligently before buying items – both big and small – will help you avoid over spending and more importantly, your finances will start to be God lead, not self lead.

When making decisions about bigger items you should have a pre-agreed upon plan and time limit (from when you first recognize that you need the item, to the date in which you will meet again and talk about the purchase). When I say bigger items, I am not talking about your ever growing food bill or your always empty gas tank, I am talking more about consumer purchases. Examples of consumer purchases can be smaller like buying new bikes or a computer, to larger purchases like buying new furniture or appliances, re-modeling your home, or purchasing a new vehicle. How many times have we walked into a store and seen some item on sale (that we may even need) and bought it impulsively that pulled us into debt or caused us financial hardship.

Sometimes it is hard to be convicted of bad spending when life is noisy and busy. Sometimes I can feel God convicting me while I stand in the store contemplating a buy, but often my own desires can shout louder and it is not until a quieter time that God convicts me that I really don’t need it or that now is not the time to buy. Because of this, I always wait at least one full day before buying larger purchases so I can invite God to have a say in my purchase. Recognizing that every dollar is a gift from God is important (and the most talked about) – but recognizing that God has an opinion on EVERY purchase we make is equally important. It isn’t just about money, bills or budgeting, it is about allowing our spending to be God lead and God controlled.

Also see:

Managing our Money – Part 1

Blessings, Christine

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

About Me - My Family

I am married to my childhood sweetheart, Jeremy. We met when I was a mere 14 years old at a summer resort. Unfortunately, we lived in different cities, and as summer turned to fall, our romance did not last. Life after that summer took both of us down different turns, and at the time neither of us were following Jesus.

My first son, Brandon was born to me a few months after my 17th birthday. He changed my life; in many ways he saved my life. He was my pride and joy from the first minute I knew I was pregnant, and although I was young, mothering felt right, like where I was suppose to be. I married Brandon’s father and my second son, Jesse, came along just over 2 years later. Little did I know at the time, but just 16 days after Jesse came into the world, Jeremy’s first son, Justin, was born.

My teenage marriage started to fall apart right away. Although I took to mothering naturally, being a wife did not come naturally to me, and within a year after Jesse was born my marriage broke up. The same thing was happening the next city over for Jeremy. A rocky relationship, based on an unplanned pregnancy, was breaking up.

Jeremy and I had never fully lost touch, my family and him had remained friends and on the May long weekend when I was 21 years old, Jeremy ended up on my doorstep. He told me that he had never stopped loving me, that in his heart he knew that I was the one that he was suppose to spend the rest of his life with. Romance quickly turned into real life, and within our first year together his son Justin came to live with us, and our daughter, Tia, was born.

The roads that Jeremy and I took were not easy, but they were real. Jeremy and I have had to fight for our marriage, our children and our family. Some days we wanted to give up, but our love for each other and our children always kept us fighting through all the obstacles and difficulties we faced.

In May (2009), Jeremy and I will be celebrating 13 years together with our four children, Brandon (16 years old), Jesse (14 years old), Justin (14 years old) and Tia (11 years old).


Also see:

Introducing Me - My Testimony

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ready, Set, CLEAN!!!

Okay, I openly admit that one of my favourite things about spring is SPRING CLEANING!!! Broken and un-used items get thrown out, rooms get organized, the dirt and grim of a long (long, long, long winter here in Alberta!!!) gets wiped, scrubbed, polished and disinfected from top to bottom. Windows that have long been left closed get opened and things get aired out and smells like grass and families barbequing takes you back to the lovely days of summers past.

Now I know that I love to clean more than most, and I may even derive more pleasure from a clean and tidy house than many...but come one can admit that after a long day of spring cleaning you don't feel the victory of accomplishment, the physical satisfaction of a hard days work and a sense of peace in your newly cleaned home!

Now comes the second admission, no one in my family likes to clean near as much as I do…okay, that isn’t quiet honest…no one likes to clean in my family period, so to try and fool them I try to break some of it up a bit – outside one weekend, garage another weekend, and so on. My end goal though is to have ALL of my cleaning done within a month.

So here is my challenge, for the next month, each Monday, I will post a Spring Cleaning task and we can all do it together…we will dust, scrub, de-clutter and organize our homes and our lives. Are we ready???

Week One:

Get Three bins:
Bin One – Move (for all items that belong in your house – just not in the place you found them). Bin Two – Garbage (for all items in your house that are well…garbage).
Bin Three – Get rid off (for all items in your house that you are going to donate, give away to some one else, or sell).

Adult Bedrooms
-Replace winter bedding with summer bedding
-Launder or dry-clean blankets
-Empty closets and dust shelves and vacuum and/or wash floors
-Remove all clothes from dressers and closets that are no longer in good condition, no longer fit, or are out of style (if it has not been worn for the past two years it falls into this category) and put into bins (move, garbage, get rid off)

Kid Bedrooms
-Replace winter bedding with summer bedding
-Launder or dry-clean blankets
-Empty closets and dust shelves and vacuum and/or wash floors
-Take books off shelves, dust: remove all books that your child is no longer interested in or are damaged and put removed books into bin (move, garbage, get rid off)
-Take clothes out of dresser: remove all damaged, too small or unseasonable clothing and but into bins (move, garbage, get rid off) – remove all items that do not belong and put in their rightful place or throw away
-Go through desk: remove all crayons, markers, pencils, loose paper, notes, garbage that have been shoved in for safe keeping, put back only what is necessary and in good condition, put all else into bins (move, garbage, get rid off)
-Empty all toy boxes and storage areas: remove toys that your child is no longer interested in, all broken toys or toys with missing vital parts, put back only what is age appropriate and in good condition, put all else in bins (move, garbage, get rid off)
-Vacuum and wipe down all walls, shelves, and furniture

Have fun,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Country Style Chicken Pot Pie

My boys love casseroles of all types, and I love the convenience of just tossing something in the oven for them - especially if I will be gone and want to ensure that in their desperation for food they do not order out.

So here is one of my boys favorites. You do not have to use puff pastry, you can use a pie crust on top (often what I do) or even top it with biscuit dough (although your cooking times may vary).

2 - 3 cups left over chicken or turkey, cut into bit size pieces

½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced celery
1 can mushrooms, drained (optional)
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1 can mushroom soup (any cream soup will do)
½ soup can milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp thyme, divided in half (half in dish, half for pastry)
1 tsp each salt/pepper
½ pkg. (397g) frozen puff pastry, thawed

Put chicken and veggies into an 8” baking dish. Mix soup, milk, and spices in bowl and pour over chicken and veggies, stir to coat.

Cut pastry in half to form two small pieces. On slightly floured surface roll each piece of dough into a 10” square (fine if edges are uneven). Brush one square with egg and sprinkle thyme, put other square over top of spiced dough.

Roll dough onto roller and place over baking dish, tucking in edges and pressing onto side of dish. Pierce middle of pastry with a knife to allow steam to escape. Lightly brush top with egg.

Bake at 400F for 35 - 45 minutes, let stand for 15 minutes before serving (will thicken as it sits).

For other Chicken Pot Pie recipes:



Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's the little things...

Stealing the idea from friends (Bobbie at 40 Shades of Pink and ET at Titus2:3-5)

Today I am thankful for:

- Hot coffee

- Quiet dogs

- No rain

- ALWAYS thankful for HEALTHY and SAFE children (Praise the Lord for that blessing!!)

- For teenagers that still like to "hang" with me

- For 3 teenage BOYS and 1 daughter, NOT 3 teenage girls and 1 son!

- For a beautiful daughter that is my FAVORITE girl in the whole world!

- For a husband that got up at 8am to go to work after working 15 - 16 hours every day for the last 3 days (love you)

- For a morning with no sibling fighting (Praise the Lord that that blessing too!!)

- That every day we are moving closer to SUMMER!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WFMW - Easiest Icecream Cake Ever!!

2 Containers of Ice cream – 2 flavors of choice, just make sure it is good quality!
1 pkg Cookies, chopped into bit size pieces (I use Oreo, but use your favorite)
Fudge sauce (either pre-made or homemade)

Pan (I use springform pan or bundt pan)

Soften ice cream enough that you can scoop it and spread it out. Take your first flavor and layer it into your pan. Sprinkle cookies over the top and then pour over fudge sauce. Layer next flavor of ice cream and spread out evenly, pushing down to insure it is packed tightly. Freeze at least 4 hours.

If you are using a spring form pan then just remove sides, if you are using a bundt pan then place in hot water for about 10 seconds and flip onto serving platter. Layer with whipped cream. You can top with a couple of extra cookies or sprinkles.

Enjoy cake - knowing you saved yourself tons of money by making it yourself!!

For other WFMW tips, go visit We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Birthday JT!!!

It is one of my middle son’s 14th B-day today and we have a long standing tradition in our family (started by my mother when I was growing up – thanks mom!), that on your birthday you get to pick whatever you want for supper. In years past I would get lots of requests for hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, fries, stuff like that. But in recent years tastes have become more “sophisticated”. Tonight I will be whipping up:

Steak with mushrooms, crab and BĂ©arnaise sauce

Stuffed Tomatoes

Steamed broccoli

Baked potatoes with sour cream and green onion

Creamy mochachino pound cake with whipped cream (to share at school)

Ice cream cake (for at home)

Yummmmm…there are benefits to them growing up…I can’t wait for dinner :)


Monday, April 13, 2009

What is Your Food Personality???

I stumbled upon a fun quiz...what is your food personality???

I am a gourmet...what are you???


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Need more fibre???

I just found a web-site (is listed on side of blog) from All-bran that takes everyday recipes and adds more fibre to them. I am always looking for ways to add more fibre to my diet and my families diet (need to fill up all those teenage boys!!) So I clicking around on the web-site and came across a burger recipes. Any type of burger is a huge hit in my family so I decided to try the recipes. They were super great!!! You could not even taste the fibre in it!

***For those of you who count points on Weight Watchers, this could be a great way to lower your points (more fibre = less points right?).

I just couldn't resist...I have attached the recipe I used below, but if you want more recipes (there are tons!) then just click on the the All-bran link on the side of the page!

All-Bran Burgers

1 lb Ground beef
1 cup All-bran original cereal
1 Egg
¼ Cup chopped onion
2 tbsp Ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp EACH Salt, Pepper and Garlic

Combine all ingredients and shape into four patties. BBQ with your favourite sauce.

Enjoy, knowing that each burger contains 6.2 g of fibre!!! Who doesn't love that!


For articles on the benifits of fibre:

Heart and Stroke - Top 10 Fibre Foods

Cancer Prevention and Fibre

Health Check Fibre Facts

Weight Loss and Fibre

Friday, April 10, 2009

Managing our Money - Part 1

We all know that it is not Gods plan for us to be living under the strain of debt, but what we often forget is that neither is it in Gods plan for us to have everything we want – and yes, even everything we think we need. “But I need it” is not justification for a purchase, no matter how big or how small. God tells us that we need to look to Him to fulfill our needs, and sometime that means waiting even when it doesn’t make sense or is not comfortable to do so.

It is like anything else, Satan leads us into temptations often in small ways so we don’t see right away what he is up to. Satan speaks what is partly true, but is never truth. We can convince ourselves that we “need” a lot of things that if we first asked God if we needed them, He would say no to. For example, at this time I need a new van. My van is falling apart, piece by piece, things are going on it and I question it reliability. Plus, I will be honest, it is not very “pretty”, it is kind of old and the paint isn’t very nice anymore, there are a couple of stains I can’t get out of it (alright, they were made by my coffee, but that is not the point!!), basically, it is not fancy or new or even have a CD player (gasp!). I have my eye on a very pretty van, it is fancy, all the bells and whistles, when the sun shines down on it and it sparkles I can almost hear the Hallelujah chorus. But alas, whenever I pray or even take small steps forward, God keeps telling me I don’t really need a new van. He reminds me that my van gets me from point A to point B, that it is paid for free and clear, and saves us from living under the pressure of a large loan, and that when it is clean and well taken care it is pretty enough (only a few tears escaped on that one).

In our culture, finances are one of the leading causes of divorce and marriage breakdown. It is time that we open our eyes and to admit that temptations to not be good stewards with the money that God has blessed us with is a sin, plain and simple. When we are serving ourselves, it is impossible to serve God. In other words, when we buy what we think we need, without consulting God, we are giving Satan a foothold into our marriage and family.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

For the Love of Cooking

Have I mentioned yet that I LOVE to bake almost as much as I LOVE to eat??? There are a few recipes that are standby favorites that I can whip up in a pinch to satisfy my most intense cravings and to help calm my frazzled nerves at the end of a long day.

I came across a Fruit Pudding Cake recipe a few years back and have fiddled with it to make it perfect for me. This is one of the easiest cake recipes I make and calls for ingredients that I always have in my house, so I can make it in a pinch with little to no thought to what I am doing! If you do not know what a “Pudding Cake” is, then let me fill you in…you put all the ingredients in a casserole dish, pour hot water and sugar over the top, pop it in the oven. I mere 45 minutes later you have a layer of cake with a layer of fruit sauce on the bottom that is just shouting to be paired with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipping cream!

You can use any combination of fruit you like; all you need to do is fiddle with the sugar (use brown sugar for apple, white sugar for berry) and spices (add cinnamon to apple, omit for berry). I have made a ton of these, but my all time favorites are apple cinnamon rhubarb, rhubarb, apple cinnamon and mixed berry (found in the frozen section at Costco – has blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and maybe another berry…).

Fruit Pudding Cake

3 cups fruit, sliced if needed
¼ cup sugar (or to taste – berries need no sugar, apples need aprox ¼ cup, rhubarb may need more depending on your sweetness preference)
Cinnamon sprinkle (optional - to taste)

¼ cup margarine
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

¾ cup brown sugar (use white sugar if using berries)
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup boiling water

Place fruit and sugar in casserole dish, sprinkle with cinnamon (if using).

Mix together cake batter and spoon over fruit.

Mix sugar and flour together in a bowl. Stir in margarine, vanilla and water. Pour over batter. DO NOT STIR!!

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 oven for 45 minutes or until fruit is baked and pudding is firm to the touch. Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes then serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

***Remember, all calorie intake needs equivalent calorie output so not to land on your hips…I want no blame for busting beltlines!!


Monday, April 6, 2009

The goal of housekeeping…

Is not perfection, but the impression of order and neatness.

Okay, here goes, my “dirty” little secret…I totally over clean. Alright, deep breath, my secret is out. You are probably thinking that my house is super clean (not), or in perfect order (not), or that I look like one of those stepford wives (totally not!). Here is my problem, I can find something to clean all day every day and never be satisfied with the cleanliness of my house! Now who doesn’t love a clean and tidy house? Floors sparkling, mirrors gleaming, beds made, pillows placed, not a piece of paper or newspaper in sight…ahhhh…just writing that makes me want to get up and start cleaning! Here is the problem - I will put off other things (important things) in order to clean, clean, clean…and here is the whopper of a problem…it is just a vicious cycle…it is never enough! I have four kids, two dogs and a husband that all seem to oppose my goal of the perfectly clean and tidy house!

So what is a girl to do?

I have tried a new trick this week, which will work for those who tend to over clean (me) and those who tend to under clean (I mention no names…). I make my list in the morning of everything that needs to get done that day, pray over it, then crossed off all items that I feel God is saying does not need to be done (thanks for such a great tip!!). Then I write out a schedule to my day, determining how long each task will take. Then I put on a timer and try to “beat the clock”. How much can I clean in 15 minutes??? I was surprised to find out!

I know that this is not revolutionary or anything, but it does work in helping me keep my time and priorities strait. It is so easy to be distracted or get to the end of a day and think, “what did I do all day long?” I am learning that managing my housekeeping time is just as important as keeping a neat and tidy home, maybe more so for me.

My new goal of housekeeping is not perfection (deep breath), but the impression of order and neatness (exhale).