Friday, August 1, 2014

So Easy Bleu Buffalo Mac and Cheese


I made homemade macaroni and cheese. I used this recipe. It was definitely easy, and it was definitely quick (I skipped the microwaving portion and simply melted everything on the stovetop in the same pan I made the noodles.) However, it was also definitely...plain. We like flavorful food, and while Josie loved it the way it turned out, I decided it needed a little jazzing up. 

   Joel and I have recently discovered that we like bleu cheese. I also love anything involving buffalo sauce. I love Frank's Red Hot (a friend turned me on to the wonder that is buffalo chicken dip), and also I am obsessed with Wishbone's Buffalo Ranch dressing. So, I started poking around the pantry and came up with this easy Bleu Buffalo Mac & Cheese "recipe".

"Bleu Buffalo Mac & Cheese"
You will need:
-seasoned breadcrumbs (I used Garlic and Herb)
-blue cheese crumbles
-Buffalo Tabasco (or your favorite buffalo sauce)
-grated cheddar
-one recipe of your favorite homemade mac & cheese.

The base macaroni and cheese recipe I used is here and is perfect because it isn't too salty. The other ingredients are so salty that you will not want to use any extra salt!

I didn't take exact measurements, but this isn't a recipe that requires perfection. The key is to not go overboard with the bread crumbs. You will also want your mac & cheese to be hot, because you won't be heating it, just browning the top.

      Place about half of the mac & cheese in an oven proof dish. If I had to guess, it was probably about 2 1/2 c. Sprinkle 1/4 c. of grated cheddar over the top. Sprinkle 1-2 tbsp. of breadcrumbs over that. (You literally want to sprinkle, not cover. Start with a small amount and add more if you like). Sprinkle 1-2 tbsp. of blue cheese crumbles over that. Then liberally shake Tabasco over if you like it spicy, it basically looked like I had garnished mine when I was finished. Then place under broiler and broil under bubbly and golden brown. Make sure to get it nicely browned to take the raw flavor out of the breadcrumbs.  Serves two generously.
     I reheated the remainder of the macaroni today and fixed this again, and had it for lunch with a green salad. It was such a nice twist on regular mac. And I didn't even miss the meat! Although you could easily add grilled chicken to it if you don't do vegetarian. You can also up the heat level by adding more buffalo sauce. Halving the recipe is perfect for families, too, since we had plenty of plain mac for the kids. This Bleu Buffalo Mac is definitely a grown-up version!

Linked up:
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less 
"Pinterest Foodie Linky" at A Life in Balance

Monday, July 21, 2014

"You are My Sunshine" Sip & See Baby Shower

            I am betting that you totally forgot that I promised you a full reveal of the "You are My Sunshine" shower I helped plan. But I didn't! And what could be a more perfect theme for these hot summer days? I loved working on this shower (It didn't hurt that I teamed up with my incredibly talented family for this one-my mom is the original "hostess with the mostess" and my aunt has thrown many a fab party herself!).My youngest sister was also invaluable.

     This theme was so fun-I decided on suns for my motif and the color scheme was orange, yellow and gray with liberal doses of white. It was definitely "sunny" and so cheerful! This shower was a little different than a traditional shower. "Sip & See" is a great southern term for a shower that you throw *after* the baby is born. This particular sip & see was for four moms. Definitely four times the fun!

  The lighting in the church basement is less than ideal for photos, but I think you can still appreciate the cuteness. The largest element was one of the cheapest: the giant sun backdrop is white wrapping paper (from the Dollar Tree) and then I traced a giant circle on yellow poster board and made the "rays" from streamers in yellow and orange.

The giant jar full of lemons and tangerines was another great inexpensive element. The church owned most of the glassware that I used which significantly reduced the cost. I whipped up the pom-poms from cheap yarn, and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. In the end I put them around the jar on a white cake plate and it turned out to be one of my favorite things. A sweet church member carefully re-created the fruit stacks from a pin I sent her. She had never made melon balls before-but didn't they turn out great?

My sister, Kelly, made these great Oreo Cloud Cheesecakes. I will try to get her to post the recipe. We liberally sprinkled them with orange sugar and topped them with a Sixlet pearl. The "cake stand" is just a white plate balanced on an overturned orange planting pot. Use what you have, I say! My mom already owned the fantastic chalkboard table signs, they added such a great touch. The table runner was flannel cloth from Joann's- it was a great price, and I thought it was reminiscent of baby blankets. And *chevron*-need I say more?

 One of the biggest challenges was making this enormous institutional space feel homey. I brought in a white book shelf and styled it with a variety of orange and yellow items collected from my mom's and aunt's houses. The vintage blocks are one of my favorite things! My daughter drew the chalkboard sun for a touch of childlike whimsy. My aunt put together the pennant out of scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby. The majority of these things are mostly unimpressive on their own, but when you group them together by color they create a vignette that feels casually intentional. The sun in the frame was created by Kelly.

  I balanced the bookshelf with this little "reading area" on the other side. The Beatles quote was a fun little last minute choice. My mom owns so many fabulous chalkboards, and this window pane one is probably my favorite. And overturned bucket served as a little table for a basket of vintage Little Golden books. The printable is a freebie from here.

   The grouping of pom-poms and lanterns anchored the seating area. They are mostly from Hobby Lobby. I know how to make giant tissue poms, but it was basically the same cost-wise (and a lot easier effort-wise) to buy them. It is a lot harder to make things look "effortless" and not planned than you would think! Basically my strategy is hang a few, re-arrange, hang some more, look for bare spots, leave, come back and continue to re-arrange until the last possible moment...easy, right? ;)

  Balancing the food table on the opposite side of the center seating area was the gift table.  I added balloons (use a marble to get them to stay down). This was where the fabric garland ended up-it added wonderful texture. It was so easy, I would make another in a heart beat.

My mom asked the guests to bring $5 and under small unwrapped gifts for each mom. She arranged the gifts in these great metal baskets she found at Fred Meyer. She tied ribbons on and attached tags with each honoree's name. They were a huge hit. So much more thoughtful than a gift bag!

   Can I just say how much I love this window frame? I used it at my sister's wedding. Go forth and buy an old window frame-you will be shocked at how often you can use it! My mom has such a great eye for this kind of thing. I made the sun on the back side with paper from Hobby Lobby. My aunt added the garland. The adorable print is from here-I added the chevron paper strip to tie it in a little better.

   Each guest received a unique Scripture verse as part of their gift. I typed them up in Word and embellished with various ribbons, papers and jewels that my mom had. Since there were four, each major area of the room had one. I choose verses that focused on the sun or light. Oh, how I love Scripture! It is always so appropriate. I wrapped the tea lights in washi tape.

   This mini candy buffet centered the coffee area. Peach rings, lemon drops and orange slices were too perfect for the color scheme. And anything you put in a glass jar is just going to look cuter. A simple sheet of scrapbook paper and some mini scoops completed the display.
   Another scripture and some more lemons made a cute display with a vase of the most perfect orange Gerbera daisies I've ever seen. Everyone thought they were fake!

  More flowers on the beverage table- along with another chalkboard, more tea lights, another scripture, a cute metal bucket for the straws and cups and a perfectly matched bottles of Martinelli's cider (from Costco). The statement piece here? A handcrafted stained glass piece, my sister's senior art project. Is that not *too* perfect?! You can't pay for that kind of matching. I love how this shows that you can repeat elements but switching them up around the room keeps it from feeling too matchy-matchy. I propped the chalkboard up on an overturned bucket to give it some height. Lemonade filled the glass beverage dispenser.

   I don't advocate procrastination, but I truly make some of my best decisions last minute. My mom purchased these yellow mini legal pads for a game she planned. We quickly ran washi tape across the top and stamped the top page and poof! Instant favor! We filled a bucket of them and they looked so cute. The stamp is from Hobby Lobby.

   I was thrilled with how it turned out! Every time I am asked to plan something like this I completely freak out. What if the inspiration well has run dry? What if I abysmally fail?  What if the guests make fun of it? What if I forget something really important? And then I remember the real reason for these things: to bless someone by showing love.

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people." Ephesians 6:7 NIV

And honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, you can't really go wrong. No one really has expectations, and usually any effort you make is met with gratitude. This one was definitely a success!

Interested in seeing more of my inspiration? Follow me on Pinterest!

Linked up:
"Motivation Monday" at A Life in Balance

Sunday, July 13, 2014

31 Day Bible Reading Guide to Jude

  So, here it is! Finally finished, of course, at the last minute! But did you expect anything else? The beauty of this particular guide is, that if you haven't started it yet, it isn't too late to catch up. You can double up on the days for the remainder of the month, or you can use it for August, which also has 31 days! You would simply switch the dates to match up to the Saturday/Sunday review and reflect days.

    I ended up needing a few "extra" days, so to solve that I added in one Saturday reading day, and also combined two of the Jude verses. I really got carried away at the end of the month with verse selections, but don't be overwhelmed. If you are really crunched for time and can't page through your whole Bible, simply choose one or two of the passages. Or just read the Jude and 2 Peter verses! However you choose to use it, you will be blessed for your commitment to spending any amount of time in the Word.

 Just to make it easier, I am putting both printable pages in this post, but if this is your first visit, be sure to look up the original "Jude in July" post for some great background into the book and more on why I chose it! Finishing this reading plan only increased my love for Jude and the incredible harmony of the Bible. I still can't get over how closely it compares to 2 Peter.

   I am praying that you find this drawing you closer to the Lord and increasing your love for His Word!

Right click on each image (each page is separate) to save. Click print from saved location.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Easy Strawberry Watermelon Slush

It has been *hot* here. Adjusting to our new little apartment has meant figuring out how to make life work without central air. So thankful that we have a little unit in our bedroom-but still it isn't quite as cool as our last house! All I want lately is cold drinks. 

  My need for icy beverages converged delightfully with some leftover watermelon and my lack of ingredients to make any of the recipes for watermelon slushes on Pinterest! I made up my own, and with only three simple ingredients, it will be easy for you to whip one up, too.

Here's all you need:
3 cups frozen watermelon cubes (I chopped mine into inch cubes and spread it on a plate and popped it in the freezer for about an hour)
1 and 1/2 c. frozen strawberries (I freeze mine after roughly quartering them.)
1 chilled can Mountain Dew (the secret ingredient!)

Start by blending the fruit and about 1/2 the soda. If you don't have a very powerful blender you will need to let the fruit work down before you add the remainder of the Dew. Finish blending to desired smoothness and serve immediately. Makes about 4 cup servings.

Not the absolute healthiest thing, but definitely better than drinking a straight can of soda! And so much more refreshing. Especially perfect if you missed out on the free Slurpees at 7-11 like we did-and I don't think those can be considered a serving of fruit! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jude in July

    I don't think you can understand how excited I am about this reading guide. The process has been truly inspired by the Lord (I would have never chosen Jude of my own accord) and His handprints are all over it-but then, of course, they are-it's His Word!

      I have been praying and praying for inspiration for a new study. I had thought about it even in the last few days, but just kept hearing, "Wait". And so, I was completely shocked when I felt the Lord say yesterday, in church service, "Jude". To which I said, "What?" a little afraid I had misunderstood. Then it just all fell into place, because that seems to be how things work in my life: wait, wait, wait, pray, pray, pray, wait....and at the last possible moment I get an amazingly clear answer!

    So, here it is: Jude. This guide has taken me more time and effort than both of my other guides combined. That just seems crazy when you look at it superficially. It is one of the shortest books in the Bible, eclipsed only in brevity by Philemon and 2 & 3 John. (Just in case you were wondering, 3 John is the winner.) It would seem to be a quick read, right?

   Wrong! In my study I discovered that this is a fascinating, confusing, conflict-arousing little bit of Scripture. Short and sweet it is not! It almost didn't make it into the canon because it was debated as being inspired of God. I love a little bit of heated debate, so I was definitely impressed that this slim epistle had to fight for its spot! But, oh, I am so glad it made it in. The fact that it triumphed over the naysayers proves even more to me how truly inspired it is.

    A lot of the conflict took place over the fact that Jude references literature from the apocrypha (Don't know what that is? Don't feel bad, I didn't either. Basically it is Jewish literature written between the period of the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, that isn't believed to be inspired of God, although it is moral and religious in nature.). He is the only NT author to do this. (Curious about those references? They are Jude 9 and 14.)

 Those references make this an even tougher nut to crack. When speech is short, sometimes it causes more assumptions to be made about what wasn't said than what was. Enter the second twist into this crazy journey. Second Peter.

    What? Yes, that's right. You get two books (mostly) for the price of one. Covering the Scripture from Jude quickly made me realize that you almost can't read it without repeatedly being introduced to 2 Peter. My studies revealed that these books are very closely linked. Commonly it is believed that 2 Peter (the longer book) borrowed extensively from Jude. It almost comes across as plagiarism! Of course, it's not, but I have found that when God repeats Himself we better sit up and take notice. He really wants us to catch what He is saying. And when you have two books that say so many things in practically the same way, out of a carefully selected 66, I would say it becomes even more important.

   And what is He saying? Believe the Truth and only the Truth, and be prepared to defend it against wicked teachers who lack knowledge. In Jude and Peter's day that was the Gnostics, but aren't false teachers, liars, and dissension-stirrers just as prevalent today? I say, "yes!". That makes these two books every bit as meaningful today as they were in the decades immediately following Jesus' ascension.

   A little bit of background. Jude 1 says the author is "a brother of James". Yes, if you are calling to mind the book of the Bible immediately preceeding Hebrews, it is one and the same. Guess who James is related to? Jesus! Though it isn't 100% certified it is commonly believed, and cannot be disproved, that the James who wrote James is actually the same one mentioned in Matthew 13:55. And then tracing this back through, Jude=brother of James=brother of Jesus, so Jude=brother of Jesus. I believe it is a testimony to Jude's humility that he didn't start of by proclaiming his biological, familial  connection to the Savior of the World, instead choosing to list himself as His "servant" instead. Definitely a point in Jude's favor!

    I almost couldn't stop reading, studying and searching out all the relating Scriptures, I am so utterly fascinated by this book. Matching up the verses from Jude to 2 Peter gave me chills. I couldn't believe some of the similarities! If you have never kept a study journal before, this is the perfect time. You will definitely find inspiration that you will want to write down.

   I have poured my heart into this, and it is taking me much longer than I anticipated, so in order to get it to you before the first (tomorrow, eek!) I had to break it up. I am giving you the first 15 days and I *promise* I will get the other part done before then! I have totally revamped the format for printing the guides. I am hoping this one will be easier to use. Also, because we are literally taking this book apart verse by verse, I have decided that on Saturday we will review the Jude verses from the week to get a little more context and perspective. Won't you try to review some of your other favorite passages that day, too? If not, it *is* summer time, and a little Bible reading is a whole lot better than none!

   It's easy to use:
1. Read the listed passages Monday-Friday. Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you the connections between the passages and bring to mind other similar Scriptures. Keep a journal if you are inclined.
2. Re-read the Jude verses on Saturday, and any other passage that piqued your interest during the week.
3. Rest, reflect and worship on Sunday. Share what you are learning and seeing with other. Research the Scripture history and wording. Be still and let the Lord lead.
4. Check back with me (join me on Facebook to be the first to know!) for the second part. I'm praying that will be by the end of the week!

   Whew! This is the longest intro ever, so with no further ado:

Right click on the image to save, go to saved location, right click to print. 

I am fervently praying that this will inspire you the way it has me. Will you kindly let me know if you spot any errors? Also, pray for me as I finish this out...I'm excited!

As promised, here is the other half. Enjoy!

Linked up at: 
"Motivation Monday" at A Life in Balance 


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