Summer is in full swing and around here, that means tomatoes!
Our big, beautiful tomato plants are putting off more produce than we can keep up with. And while we love to eat BLT's (bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwiches), the roofs of our mouths can only take so much. Who knows what I'm talking about!? So in answer to our produce problem, my mother and I found a salsa recipe long ago that we have tweaked and made our own. It's one of those family recipes that I hope will be passed down from generation to generation. And for my kids, that's saying a lot since I don't love to cook. In my defense, however, I did purchase and fill recipe books for each of the girls with recipes that their grandmothers have, so not all hope is lost. And despite my love/hate relationship with all things cooking, I've decided, in the interest of good blogging, that everyone should, at least once, post a recipe. Am I right? So here is mine.
Jennifer's Salsa Recipe
4 C. chopped tomatoes, gently squeeze, pour off juice
1 C. chopped white onions
2 TBLS garlic
1 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS lime juice
1 tsp cilantro
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Put all of these ingredients in a food processor (I use a Ninja) and blend.
Some handy hints and tips for you to consider when you try making your own batch:
1) Wash the tomatoes first. Just a quick rinse will do.
2) Chop them into chunks but they don't have to be tiny. Let the food processor do the hard work for you.
3) You can use any color onion you want, but the flavor will change slightly. I prefer the bite of the white onion. Purple and yellow will be a little sweeter.
4) The jalapeño plays a big role in controlling the heat. You can remove the seeds and the pith and cool it down a bit or throw it all in and spice things up.
5) You can adjust the salt to your liking. You'll notice the hand written recipe calls for ½ tsp but my typed recipe calls for 1 tsp. That's because I've adjusted over the years.
6) You can use fresh lime juice or not. I use the kind in the bottle.
7) I blend the onions, jalapeños, salt, cilantro, juices and spices together first. Then I add the tomatoes and blend as little time as possible to get them just right. Too long and you get it too wet and it's more liquid then chopped. Makes for a soggy chip.
8) Use your favorite chips to eat the salsa with. I use scoops. Holds the most salsa.
It is my hope that you will take this recipe and try it and the make it your own. I'd love to hear your comments about how your batches turned out.
P.S. You can make this with yellow tomatoes too. It's a slightly different flavor but equally delicious.
I recently took to Instagram @houseofmilkandhoney and took you with me on a photographic journey to my very favorite place - Silver Dollar City.
I wonder how many of you have been there? How many would go back? How many have no desire to go to this or any other themed amusement park? I hope that no matter where you fall on the Silver Dollar City spectrum, that you will adventure forward with me to discover why it's my happy place, to determine what makes it a happy place and to discover for yourself how to find your happy place.
My happy memories began the year I was born, or so I'm told. I've gone to Silver Dollar City every summer since then and sometimes more than once a year (Christmas at The City is breathtaking). For me, SDC holds memories of childhood and family. It is a healthy environment that strives to uphold Christian ideals and it's a great place to have some good, clean (& wet) fun. My great grandmother worked at SDC from the beginning of my time there. We used to come to Branson to visit and vacation. Back then she could get us free guest passes and off we'd go! We'd often meet up with her for lunch and in later years, when she worked in the pottery shop, we'd stop in and say hello and she'd introduce us to her co-workers. Now, after she's been gone some time, it's still a connections for us to her in that place. Her place. Our place. My place.
In recent years, the busyness of our life has made it difficult to find as much time as before to get down there and be in that place. Last year, we didn't even have a chance to go at all. It was during that year, in that first year of my life not to go, that I felt a connection. I felt the loss. I wished for the time to go. The kids noticed the absence of our time there. What a telling moment. When something I'd always had, always done and taken for granted was suddenly gone. Absent. Omitted. Boy did I notice. I mentioned often that I wanted to go and probably drove my husband crazy (I don't think it is his happy place, LOL). And that's okay. Most likely, the places and experiences that are so important and special to you will not be the same as those around you. Just as individuality in speech and dress are important, so is finding the people and places that can bring you joy. I encourage you, however, to share you happy places and experiences with others in an attempt to share your joy.
Consider for a moment what places or people create for you a feeling of joy and contentment. Where is your happy place? Perhaps it's a loved one's home with familiar surroundings and smells. Maybe it's a favorite destination that reminds you of times past and memories yet to be made. Maybe your happy place is found in the arms of your husband or wife and any setting becomes joyful. I encourage you to find it and share it. Much like the photos on my Instagram, try to bring others light through your joy. Fill up social media feeds and bonfire conversations with happiness and light. Be a happy place for someone near you. I'd love to hear where your happy place is and what makes it so special to you. Share in the comments and let's fill up this blog with happiness!
You've heard the expression, "falling off the wagon", right? Well, I fell off my wagon. Not only did I fall off, but the driver came back and ran me over a time or two for good measure. The horses pulling my wagon made sure to stomp on me a bit and in all the commotion, my wagon was broken into pieces. So there I was, sitting on the side of the road surrounded by all the broken pieces of my best intentions and all I could do was look around at my situation in despair. Now what? How do I get to my intended destination? Who will help me? Can my wagon ever be fixed? Is it worth fixing?
In case you were wondering, at the time of this break down my wagon was quite full. I was reading many books, one of which was a inspirational self help book that was helping me tame my bad eating habits - This morning I ate a bag of donuts for breakfast while reading my email. I was growing my little farm oasis in the city and building a soap business - We've re-homed the quail, the bees swarmed and I haven't made soap in months. I was exercising regularly - I now only run if there is a fire. I was a planner and an organizer - I am now the queen of procrastination. There is more, but I'm embarrassed.
My question is what happened to the previously sturdy and robust wagon? How did the wagon get in such disrepair?
When I stepped back and evaluated my broken mess, my first thought was that I was overdoing it. I was doing too many things, going too many places and trying to please too many people. So I stepped back. Way back. I cut things out. I said 'no' more than I said 'yes'. I eliminated the busyness. I withdrew from my own life. There in lies the problem with my thinking. I became detached from people I desired to have a relationship with. I developed an introvert-like personality when I've never been like that before. I isolated myself and refused to participate in my own life. I've since recognized the flaws in this way of thinking and am working my way back to normal. It's a deep pothole to climb out of and it takes time and effort.
My second thought was that my faith had wained. That I was not letting God choose the path my wagon should travel and that as such, I'd gone down the path of disrepair. So, I began to study the word daily. Obsessively. I threw myself into scripture and supplemental reading and prayer. All I did was read the Bible and pray. So much so, that other things began to suffer. Things like work and relationships and clear thinking were pushed aside in my quest to be holier. And might I add... holier than thou. I mean after all, look how studious I'd become. This attitude was obviously not going to fix the wagon.
Finally, after time passed and things weren't really any better it finally occurred to be that maybe the problem was balance. Maybe the wagon wheels needed an alignment. Maybe I needed some of all of it, but not all of any of it. Does that make sense? I need people and things and activities and study and scripture and prayer and house and work, but I don't need to do it all, all the time or all alone. Balance is the key! Finding the right amount of the right things at the right time. What a revelation! So I slowly added things back in. And sometimes it tips the wagon and I have to let a little back out. Think about when you were a kid and you and your friend tried to balance yourselves on the teeter totter, but you didn't weigh the same so you had to scoot forward and backward until the weight balanced out. You knew if you backed too far off too fast you could send your pal flying. Or if you got off all together, it could come crashing down. Hard. So I'm learning to balance. A little in. A little out. Slower. Faster. Up. Down. Breathe. I'm repairing the wagon and heading back out on the trail. My journey is not yet complete.
I leave you with this scripture: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to breakdown, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
The finished product turned out to be a very dark, rich honey. I've eaten it on rolls and toast so far. It's delicious!
Since the fateful swarming, we've ordered new bees. They arrived a few weeks ago and have been placed in the hive with some existing frames of comb which we hope they will use to jumpstart the season and boost honey production for the year. Luke has been doing faithful hive checks and we have been supplementing their natural diet with sugared water to keep them full and happy. Onward and upward, learning as we go!
Last time I wrote I mentioned I was reading a handful of books. One of those books was titled "What If" by Mark Batterson. We are using it in our Sunday night small group as our study.
The author opens with a story about a kiss he shared with his wife atop the Eiffel Tower and all the 'what ifs' that led up to that moment and all the ones that could have prevented it.
When you break down any pivotal moment into a series of 'what ifs', what you'll find is that it's nothing short of amazing how anything manages to happen at all. How one tiny alteration can shift all the other moments until you're on a different path completely. No where near where you intended to be. And while that can be a fun pastime, wondering 'what if' about moments from our past, it can also trap us in a cycle of worry when we 'what if' about our future.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" ~ Luke 12:25
What if my kids get sick? What if I oversleep? What if I don't get the job? What if I fail the test? What if? What if? What if?
I propose one final 'what if'. . . What if you give it to God?
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God." ~ Phillipians 4:6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." ~ Proverbs 3:5
Present your 'what if' situation to God and trust in the Lord with all your heart. This means give it to him and then let him keep it. Don't try to 'what if' it back. Accept the peace he offers in letting go.
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in everyway." ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..." ~ Colossians 3:15
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~ John 14:27
God doesn't work with 'what if'. He is omniscient. There is no mystery. He doesn't have to wonder. He knows. He designs. He orchestrates events. Relax my friend. You're in good hands.
I am currently reading 6 books.
In chapters 3 and 4 of Terkeursts book, she talks about getting a plan and finding accountability. What she says, basically, is to find a healthy eating plan that works for you. She doesn't tell you what to do ~ just be healthy, but GET A PLAN. For me, it's Weight Watchers.
Some people feel like it's too much with the point counting and the weighing in. I think it helps me to visually see the results of my choices and be able to adjust as necessary. It causes me to pause and think. Some people choose to simply count calories. Some choose to see a nutritionist. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a plan you can stick with and manage within the confines of your daily life. Yes, you'll probably have to make some adjustments but it should not turn your world upside down. The way the WW plan works for me is that it gives me guidelines. Parameters within which to work. Fruits and veggies are good. Processed sugars are bad. Portions are important. Leave yourself room to wiggle. If I can keep those things in mind I do pretty good. I will confess, I don't do much point counting these days. I did before, when I lost the large chunk of weight a few years ago. I counted everything! This time, I'm going at it from a more relaxed perspective and am trying to make it a lifestyle change not just a food count. I'm trying to re-align my mindset. That is why this time I'm using Lysa's book to help guide me on the journey with God's help.
Speaking of help ~ in chapter four Terkeurst talks about the important role friends play in both your healthy eating and your life's journey. The role of accountability partner. I will tell you, my most helpful and least helpful accountability partner is The Husband. If he's good, I'm good. If he's bad, I'm bad. But, sometimes the stars align and one of us can be found encouraging the other away from bad decision making and poor choices. We remind the other why were doing this and what we should or should'nt be doing. We encourage when morale is low and we sympathize with the struggle. I also have a few friends who are walking thier own food journey along side me and can be supportive and understanding if I need to bow out or take a pass or cry and lament on a shoulder. These supportive people also do an invaluable job of keeping me from becoming task saturated. They help me to not make the food thing the most important thing. It's not. I pray that you and I both remember that this journey we are on is designed to seek, renew and strenghten our relationship with God. To put him first. To make him the most important thing.
Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the yellow brick road. Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road.
You sang the song in your head didn't you? Admit it. It's fine. I did too and I've been singing it since I read chapter two of Lisa Terkeurst's book, 'Made To Crave.' The chapter is entitled 'Replacing My Cravings.' In chapter one she talks about how, once you've identified the cravings, you need to replace them with scripture. In chapter two she tells you how ~ BRICK BY (yellow) BRICK.
She refers to 'tearing down the tower of impossibility before you and using those bricks to build a walkway of prayer. A (yellow) brick road to victory! Let's look at a few of my personal bricks. Maybe you can relate.
It will be impossible for you to remove this brick from your tower if you don't acknowledge the bricks existance. You are not fine this way. You are full of doubt, self-pity, self-loathing and a (maybe somewhat small-ish) desire to change. You may be feeling depressed or even physically ill. That is your brick talking! Tear it down. "... All this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth." Daniel 9:13 Now Daniel was obviously not talking about our struggles with healthy eating but I do think he makes a valid point about suffering the calamity with loud complaint, but refusing to aknowledge the truth. God's plan, his truth for us on this matter, is to seek him first over all things and to acknowledge our need for him in our lives.
Well, baby, life's not fair. And God's word never promised it would be. But he does promise to be with you. When I removed this brick, I did it begrudgingly and with attitude. I flung it at my slowly growing yellow brick road. My inner three-year-old was laying on the path, pounding her fists, declaring the unfairness of it all. But when the tantrum ceased, I could hear, "I will bless you with a future filled with hope ~ a future of success, not of suffering." Jeremiah 29:11 I'm sure I will have a different attitude about that success. What about you?
If this is one of the bricks in your impossibility tower then you are absolutely right. It is hard! To that I say, #wecandohardthings #pullupyourbiggirlpanties Please enjoy this picture gallery as my response to this brick.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13 Not easy things. All things. Through Christ. Not alone ~ or even with friends. Through Christ. WE MUST NOT ELIMINATE HIM FROM THE PROCESS. He is the brickmaker.
Lord, give us courage to knock down these walls and give us the strength and endurance to build our own beautiful brick road that leads to you.
WWTip #1: Take a time out: Grab some TLC.
There is more to weightloss than eating smart and exercising. Taking time for yourself matters, too. For one thinkg, it makes the hard work of losing easier. For another it just feels good. Jot down thre things you like to do - pleasurable things that aren't about food or exercise. Now figure out when you can make just one of those things happen. Treat your time seriously.
WW Recipe: Ranch Chicken Salad
Combine 1 1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce, 2 oz cooked sliced chicken breast, 1/4 cup each canned black beans, chopped tomatoes, canned corn and chopped orange pepper. Add 2 Tbsp chopped avocado; toss with 2 1/2 Tbsp reduced fat ranch dressing. (6sp)
Let's not forget, this all began with soap. After the holidays, however, sales dropped and the soap got sad and lonely and I began getting antsy and that is never good. Thus the writing picked up and the weight loss goals were set and we were off on this blogging journey. I aptly named it 'The Dish'. See the play on words there :-)
<Let me interject for just a moment. My daughter just walked in from spending the night with her grandmother and dropped off a big, beautiful bag of caramel popcorn. Guess who must not read my blog for cryin' out loud!!!! My mother-in-law is fired.>
I digress... soap...
So, in the beginning there was a girl who desperately wanted to be able to find a job she loved and to make a career of it. I love organizing and managing and coordinating and I'm really good at it. I also love planning and creating and all things artsy. I also wish I had some freedom to be able to serve and help and minister when there was need. A traditional 9-5 job doesn't allow for that. Working for myself seems like a dream job, but I don't provide company insurance, LOL, so that's out. So instead I decided to have two jobs. (Looking back now this doesn't make the most sense.) The traditional one and the artsy, organized by me, flexible, amazing one. Thus 'The House of Milk and Honey' was established. I experimented and researched and found products I liked and recipes that I liked and started making soap. I took that soap to my 9-5 job and let the ladies there sample. They loved the smells and offered feed back on all manner of soap related things ~ suds, smell, cleanliness, dryness, oiliness ~ and placed orders. Yay! Then they started asking if I made other pampering related things ~ lotions, balms, salts. So I did. And they were great. And then it was Christmas and sales were high. Presents and all, I guess. But now we are post-Christmas but pre-Valentine's Day and it's quiet. Reflection isn't always good for me. Time on my hands and all. I find myself wishing for ways to make my dream job a reality. While I am waiting to win the lottery, what I'd like to do is to fill the silence with YOUR voices. Reply and tell me what job your currently doing and do you feel fulfilled? Is your job awesome and you feel complete in your work or do you long for something more and different? Do you work from home or at a location away from home? Do you homeschool? Do you like it? Let's share and hopefully my cup will be filled with stories of longing, laughter, life, love and joy. ~ Jennifer
So, let's talk about how the last few days have gone. I'll go first. Wednesday I did pretty great except for those pesky Olive Garden mints in the bottom of my purse and the forkful of red velvet cake my youngest daughter busted me sneaking. Oops! I did eat lots of veggies and lean chicken though. Thursday was awesome. I stopped and bought yummy fruits on the way to work and ate my Progresso Light Soup (4sp) for lunch. Plus when I weighed myself I was down 5lbs from when I started. Woo Hoo! Unfortunately, the husband and I finished off the cake (so it wouldn't tempt us anymore) and I'm pretty sure that's against the #letmenoteatcake rules. Alas! Back in the saddle today. Leftover veggies for breakfast, fresh fruit for snack and Progresso Soup for lunch. It's gonna be an awesome day. On a side note, I've already put away 64oz of water and I've only had one cup of coffee. That's gotta be worth some bonus points, right?! Tomorrow I have plans to try a tasty Weight Watchers recipe for an Open Faced Egg Sandwich at breakfast. I'll share the recipe and some tips at the end of this post. In the meantime, let's get to the core of today's message.
In this world, as it relates to food (and most things) it feels as if we are constantly surrounded by those things we crave. For me, it's cake. For Eve it was a piece of fruit. (I wish!) And the more we eat these foods, the more we want them. Well, what if I told you that God made us to crave? The catch there is that we were designed to crave...Him. Not food (or sex or money or anything else).
In Psalm 84:1-2 David writes, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord! My soul longs (craves), yes faints (craves) for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." Craving is defined as: to long for, want greatly, desire eagerly and beg for. Unfortunately, instead of craving God, we tend to take the 'Eve approach'. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the pride of life - is not from the father but is from the world." 1 John 2:15-16 In Genesis, Eve 'saw that the food (cake, apple) was good and pleasing to the eye and desirable.' It was the object of her affection ~ the apple of her eye. Just as cake is the apple of my thigh. Oftentimes we don't think, we don't consult, we just eat. But don't despair! There is an answer. Jesus teaches us how to handle the the cravings (temptation).
Pull out your Bibles and read Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus used SCRIPTURE to refute temptation. Is anyone shocked by this? No? Me either. Duh! The sword of the spirit is the word of the Lord. Quote scripture in the midst of a craving attack! Here's a verse for you to start with. "Everything is permissible ~ but not everything is beneficial." I Corinthians 10:23
Lord, I ask now that you give us easy recall of the scriptures we have hidden in our hearts so that in the midst of an attack we can respond with confidence.
WWTip: It's up to you what you eat! But if you want the most bang for your buck, stick to foods that are higher in protein and low in sugar and saturated fat. And remember, most fruits and veggies are basically free food!
WWTip: As a rule of thumb regarding portions; 2/5 of your daily intake should occur at dinner, 1/5 at breakfast, 1/5 at lunch and 1/5 divided into two snacks throughout the day.
Recipe: Open Faced Egg Sandwich ~ 1 light english muffin divided, 1 scrambled egg divided, 2 slices of tomato & 1/4 cup part skim mozzarella cheese. Assemble and broil until cheese begins to brown. (7sp)
"START WHERE YOU ARE. USE WHAT YOU HAVE. DO WHAT YOU CAN." ~ Arthur Ashe
If you've looked around my website at all you have seen that we began raising Asian Quail some time ago. Why, I have no idea. It began as a babysitting job for some eggs and now we are quail parents. The quail mom & dad if you will. A whole quail family!
We agreed to watch the eggs for a man the husband works with while he was on vacation. Incubating eggs take some watching. You have to monitor and adjust temperature and humidity. But mostly you watch and wait.
Recently, we began the incubation process with a batch of eggs that our original egg babies laid. Our babies were gonna have babies of their own. How far we've come! We're gonna be quail grandparents!
So, we gathered the eggs, placed them in the incubator and we were off! Now this incubator is their whole world for the time they are inside. They don't come out. You only open the lid to add water and the temperature must remain constant! It is key! Well, some time into this process, our house lost power. It was out some 4-5 hours one Sunday morning and that means lost heat. This was awful news for us and our eggs. We just knew we'd lost them. However, always the optimist, Luke said we should give them until the new year. Just to see. My thought was 'Great! Cooked eggs!' <insert eye roll here>
Christmas morning I was sitting at the bathroom counter doing my make-up (because we incubate our eggs in the bathroom. Don't you!?) and lo and behold, I heard chirping! What!? At first I didnt realize what I was hearing, but then it dawned on me. One of the babies had made it! Our very own Christmas miracle. Our Christmas Holly.
She's a beauty, and so tiny. She was the lone survivor. What a champ!
Time has now passed and in bird time Holly is nearing her teenage years. Her big girl feathers are starting to come in. She's got lots of room that she uses to run all over the place and stretch her legs and practice flapping her wings. She does poop in her water which is irritating. But, I love her. I'll be sad when she graduates to the adult coop - when she 'leaves the nest'.
So, why this particular post at this particular time you may ask? I'd like to segway from my little quail baby long shot to the #dontletmeeatcake series I started recently. I want you to be encouraged and to not be afraid to break out of your shell even if it means standing alone. Like Holly, I want you to feel brave enought to come out of your safe place chirping (singing). Be bold! Accept the challenge this lifestyle change presents. Buck up plucky duck (quail)! You can do this! You are worth it. And if you have trouble really, truly believing it, change the way you see yourself.
My little Holly will soon have to face 'leaving the nest' (rubbermaid tub) and moving into the quail condo outside. She will be younger and smaller and will smell different and will be different. Will she be accepted? Who knows. She's meant for more than settling on a baby birdie tub existance. She may face obsticles. There's gonna be a pecking order, but she's gonna get in there and do battle to get what she needs. You can do it too. Fight the fight. Make the change. Join me on the journey.
"Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us." Romans 8:37 (NLT)
Lord, give us courage to face the challenges that we will be presented with on this journey.
I'm Jennifer and I am so glad to meet you! I am a working mother of 4 children, surrogate mother of 2 children's boyfriends, a few children's best friends, a god-son, a prayer pal and a very special boy who smelled his way into my heart. Our home is open and all are welcome here.