Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The HHS Mandate and Christian Outrage

I'm sure that I'm a small minority on my opinion of the HHS Mandate as a conservative Christian. If you don't know, the HHS Mandate will be effective beginning in January 2013 and will require companies with a certain number of full time employees to provide comprehensive health care to all full time employees. Sounds good, right? The Christian outrage part comes in because the comprehensive health care must include birth control and abortion inducing drugs. Many companies have filed to have these requirements waived on religious grounds and some have succeeded while others have not. I feel compelled to address this because there are some very untrue ideas floating around...the one I am most concerned with is the idea that Muslims are all exempt while Christians are required to comply with the law. This has already come up dozens of times, and it is discussed here. The gist of the article is that no one religious group is specifically exempt and the only ones likely to be exempt are the Anabaptists (Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, etc.) because they have a history of declining social security and other benefits the government provides to its citizens.

This specific article and its comments encouraged me to write this post. Hobby Lobby had requested an exemption from the Mandate under the grounds of religious beliefs and his request was denied. I understand that the man who runs Hobby Lobby is pro-life and is willing to provide comprehensive coverage, including birth control, but not aborticants. I see where he's coming from, really I do. I don't agree with abortion outside of very limited (read: maternal death or a fetus that is already deceased) but, in my opinion, it is not the right of one man, acting on behalf of a nationwide company, to refuse health care benefits that its employees may or may not utilize. He will be faced with fines of approximately $1.3 million PER DAY until Hobby Lobby either offers the coverage or closes its doors. While I applaud his stand, I believe that holding out on this law until the doors close and thousands are out of work is not the best solution.

I think the best solution would be for him to offer the comprehensive coverage, but also offer education on the dangers and reality of aborticants, alternatives to termination, and offer assistance to pregnant women who wish to carry their babies to term. After all, he could probably do that for all of his stores for a year for a day or two of the prospective fines. Personally, I feel like this would benefit more people than protesting the mandate until he is bankrupted. He would have more impact by educating employees than by going bankrupt and sending his employees into a) welfare orb) a less moral employer.

God gives us, as his people, free will. Who are we as a government, or a business, or an individual to try to deny others the same option. People are in situations that no one else could understand and we don't know their relationship with the Lord. Its entirely possible that after long prayer and thought, an abortion was the best option and was accepted by God. We don't know either way and we can't go making decisions for others or for God. You don't put words in God's mouth.

I personally would never get an abortion unless the fetus was already deceased, but everyone is different. I HAVE been in a situation where I was nowhere near ready to have a child. I was terrified. I had just started college when I found out I was expecting my first child. My heart sank and, at the same time, it sang. I deliberated, considered adoption, considered keeping the baby...and (even though I find it hard to admit now, I even considered abortion. And even though I decided to have and keep my son, the Lord and Father I love filled me with peace and the knowledge that He would love me regardless  of my decision.

All I can do is pray for those in need, spread the message of the Lord, and do my best to educate others about my experiences and the alternatives to abortion. I am with God that more people will come to truly believe through truth, love, and free will. We as a people shouldn't brovide one, but ALL of those.

Anyway, its late and I broke my toe today, so please excuse my frazzled rambling.

Blessings and best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts, good or bad, so leave me a note if you'd like!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kids and Sharpie...

This has seriously got to be one of the most frustrating things in the world. I was putting away laundry when my 2.5 year old walked up to me with a silver sharpie and said "Sorry mommy...I sorry. " That alone was enough to put me in panic mode. I ran into our living/dining room and saw sharpie all over the floor and all over my new wood chairs. I almost burst into tears. We have no magic erasers so I searched the heck out of google. "How to remove permanent marker"..."getting sharpie off of wood"..."removing sharpie from furniture"...I saw lots of suggestions for magic eraser, hair spray, and alcohol. We don't have magic eraser, the hair spray did nothing, and the alcohol kinda worked but not really. Someone suggested toothpaste because its abrasive, but we only have about 1/2 a tube left and I didn't want to waste it. Then I noticed I had some liquid Comet scrub with bleach, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. And, hey, it worked!

Without further ado...how to get permanent marker off wood furniture and floors WITHOUT a magic eraser:

You'll need a toothbrush, some liquid comet scratch free scrub or other scrubby cleaner, a damp cloth, and a dry cloth.

Here's one chair with my son's handiwork (which is surprisingly good for a 2 year old!):

1. Put the comet onto the sharpied areas.

2. Rub it in with the toothbrush. You'll see the permanent marker coming up almost instantly.

3. Wipe it with the damp cloth and then the dry cloth. (You'll have to rinse/wring your damp cloth after doing a few spots...or just wipe it down and go back over all the chairs with a new cloth after they're all clean like I did.)

4. Go ahead and polish your furniture with Pledge or Liquid Gold so that it gets some moisture back.

Yay! Permanent markers begone! You're welcome. ;)


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The BEST Homemade Bread

This recipe was my great grandmothers and is seriously the best bread I've ever had. There's a lot of sit and wait time for it, but its totally worth it! Plus, I can get lots of other stuff done around the house while I wait for it to be done.

You'll need:

1T yeast (you can just use one packet if you buy it in packets, but the whole tablespoon makes it good in my opinion)
2 C warm water
1 T sugar
2 t salt
6 C white flour
2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C hot water
1/2 C honey
1/4 C oil

1. Dissolve yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water. Basically, just pour they yeast in the measuring cup with the water. I use a spoon to smoosh the yeast against the sides till there are no more clumps in the water.

2. Pour into a bowl with the sugar, salt, 3 cups white flour, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.
3. Beat with a mixer until smooth. Cover and sit in a warm place until bubbly/puffy. This takes about an hour.
4. Stir together and add 1/2 cup hot water, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/4 cup oil. Stir these in.
5. Add the remaining 4 cups of flour. Mix until smooth.
6. Knead for around 10 minutes. I always advocate kneading by hand! There's something about doing it that way that just makes your bread better. My grandma says that's where you put the love in your bread.
7. Place in a greased bowl and be sure to grease the top of your bread too. I use butter for the bowl and the top of the bread. Then cover and set it in a warm place.
8. Let rise until doubled.
9. Punch it down and separate it into 3 loaves. Be sure your loaf pans are greased! Cover and let it double in size again.
10. Bake at 375 degrees for around 45 minutes or until your bread sounds hollow when you knock on the top.
11. Let them cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before setting them out on cooling racks to finish cooling.

Voila, pretty and delicious homemade bread! This freezes very well, so I typically make 2 batches, keep 2 loaves out while freezing the other 4.

If you try this recipe, I'd love to hear about it!


Linking up to: The Gathering SpotTry a New Recipe TuesdayHearth & Soul Blog Hop, and the wonderful blogs in my side bar!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Speedy Whole Chicken and a Leftover Dish

Hello everyone! Today I'll be showing you how to make a whole chicken that is quick and delicious!  It takes about an hour and a half from prep to table, including resting time. We made this last night and it was a hit, as always. It makes 3 adult servings and 2 toddler servings at our house. Plus we had enough to make a leftover dish today.

You'll need:
1 whole chicken (2-3 pounds)
1 12 ounce can of soda or beer (I actually only had diet soda in cans, so I dumped it and filled it up with black cherry soda instead.)
2 T oil
3T melted butter
3T seasoned salt
1 T lemon juice
1t pepper
1t chili powder
1T paprika
1t garlic powder
1t onion powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t cumin

1. Clean out the chicken. Pat dry.

2. Take a can of soda or beer, open the top and and pour out some liquid until 3/4 full. Poke an extra hole in the top with a knife. Put chicken on the beer can, so the can is in the chicken's butt. (She likes it, really!)

3. Mix butter, oil, and lemon juice together. Coat chicken with the liquid.

4. Combine all dry spices and rub the chicken down with the mix, being sure to cover all of the chicken.

5. Cook at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Then turn heat down to 425 for 40-50 minutes. Be sure to let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before cutting so the juices can reabsorb into the meat.

You end up with a crispy outside and a juicy inside. This is my absolute favorite recipe for whole chicken!

And today, we spooned the leftover meat onto crescent rolls, added a spoonful of cream of chicken soup, and pinched the edges to make little chicken pouches. You put these into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then, pour a little more cream of chicken soup over the top. My husband calls them chicken biscuits and they're a great way to use up leftovers!

Hope everyone is having a happy Saturday!


Linking up to the weekend potluck!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Saving Money around the Holidays and Salt Dough Recipe!

Christmas is suddenly the big thing! We haven't even done Thanksgiving yet and Christmas everything is already out in full force. I want my children to grow up thankful for the things they have and with a sense of frugality. So here are some tips from the perspective of a lower enlisted military spouse. If you aren't military, don't worry, these things can apply to you too!

1. Be sure to instill in your children that the greatest gift of all was the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a stable in Bethlehem. No gift can ever measure up to that one and it isn't our job as parents to try!

2. Set a budget ahead of time and let your kids pick items that fall within that price range. Don't ask them to give you a list of everything they want with the expectation that they'll get it all. Otherwise, you'll have a child asking you where their new ipad is!

3. For military members and spouses, check the airman's attic for toys or clothing in good condition. Things don't have to be fresh out of the store to be special. Everyone should also check thrift stores for these things as well. I got a pair of $98 jeans at a thrift store near my house for $3! You won't always find a deal like that, but you'll almost always find something worth the trip.

4. Buy leftover Halloween candy to use as your stocking candy! And be sure to check your local dollar stores and the dollar section at Target to get little knick knacks for the stockings. My mother actually used to buy the toiletries that we would be needing soon to use in our stockings, too.

5. Instead of using layaway for everything, save the money you would be paying on gifts over the course of the year so that when the holidays come, you can just purchase your items outright. Sort of like an at-home layaway program.

6. Make gifts for family and friends. Instead of buying cards last year, we made ornaments out of salt dough, painted them, and wrote a message on each one. Not only is it cheaper, our families were so excited because it is a gift they can display every year!

Salt Dough
1 cup salt
1 cup flour
1 cup water

Combine all the ingredients,adding the water last until it is doughy but not sticky.

Roll out the dough and let your kids use cookie cutters to make shapes.

Poke a hole at the top with a straw so you can thread a ribbon through it later.

Cook on your oven's lowest heat setting for 2-3 hours (until they're totally dried out). Be sure to put these on a baking dish lined with parchment paper so they don't stick.

Let them cool for about 30 minutes.

Paint with acrylic paint. Any paint will work but acrylics produce the best results.

Write your message on one side. For example: We love you! Merry Christmas from the Cross Family!

Finally, thread a ribbon through the hole so it can be hung.

Be sure to mail these wrapped in newspaper or bubble wrap so they don't break in transit.

7. Buy gifts that won't go out of date and that can be shared. It's always good to know that when one child has outgrown a toy, another child will be excited to play with it. Classic toys like train tracks, hot wheels, and doll houses are good in that respect. I have boys, so I honestly don't know what toys little girls like!

8. Stock up on gifts when the prices are good! At the end of summer, lots of toys go on sale. Buy them then instead of paying more in November or December. And always check the discount racks at book stores if you have an avid reader. At Books A Million some books are as low as a dollar!

That's all I can think of! If you have any more tips to add, please comment and let me know!

Blessings, Miranda

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saving Money and Eating Well as a Military Spouse

 I look back on the time before my husband and I had our first child and I am astounded on how much we spent on groceries. Our average was around 550-575 dollars per month plus eating out occasionally. Now with 2 children, a dog, and all diapers and toiletries factored into our budget we spend $350 per month or less. The thing is, I feel like I have a reason to save money and eat better now. My two sweet boys won't be babies forever and we need to save to provide for their wants and needs when they're older. This will be the first of a series in ways to save money as a military spouse. If you aren't military, don't quit reading, lots of this will apply to you too!

1. Quit buying convenience meals! Cook from scratch instead, not only is it cheaper, its also healthier! There are so many things that are easy to make yourself, but that people buy at a huge mark-up to save time. Things like pizza for instance; it costs between 3 and 5 dollars to buy a pizza, but you can make it yourself in very little time and for around 3 dollars for 2 pizzas.

2. Use coupons with judgment. If a coupon is for something you weren't planning to buy and doesn't save you a dramatic amount of money, don't bother! For instance, if I see coupons for frozen dinners, I don't even clip them. I know I can buy and make it for less than the cost of buying it pre-packaged, even with a coupon. I don't buy the paper or anything for coupons, but if I see a tear pad with a coupon I use, I'll grab a few extras for next time. Same with the coupon books at the front of the store. Unless a coupon expires today, it doesn't have to be used today!

3.  Don't assume the commissary is always cheapest! In the beginning, I bought absolutely everything at the commissary because they sell at cost. Since talking to other spouses and doing some investigating of my own, I have found lots of things have better prices elsewhere. We have a winco, so I get all of my baking supplies, pasta, and spices there. Cinnamon is $2 a POUND there instead of $2.19 for a small container at the commissary. Walmart has better prices on milk and diapers. So once a month, I make a trip to Winco and Walmart for those things. I get all my produce and meat at the commissary since the prices haven't been beat elsewhere...at least not that I've found. If you aren't military, just check prices at your usual stores versus their competition to be sure you're getting the best deal.

4. Cut out the junk! Soda is my weakness and I'm still working on cutting it out completely. I know I could save a ton of money right there. This goes for chips, candy, cookies, etc. If your grocery budget needs trimming, look here first and see what items you can cut out.

5. Try generics. This is one people find hard to get accustomed to sometimes, but you can gradually cut in the generics with your regular brand to get used to it. I did this with cereal for my kids when we switched from Lucky Charms to the Malt O' Meal brand. I kept the lucky charms box, mixed the two cereals together and filled the box as it emptied until we had totally switched to the off brand. My kids had no idea so there was no fussing.

6. Cut your packages of meat in half. I've found most packs of meat at my store are 1.5 pounds. Most recipes call for a pound of meat, so instead of having my food extra meaty, we have just a little less meat per meal. My family hasn't seemed to mind a bit.

Hope this has been helpful to someone!


Linking up to: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Adorned From Above

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Failure Fajita Soup, Delicious Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, and a Pantry Clean-up

Hi everyone! It is so hard to believe that fall is in full swing when it's in the high 70s here. So I broke out the slow cooker. I really wanted to make taco soup, but I didn't have taco seasoning or any pinto beans so I figured I'd substitute in other ingredients, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

This is what I got:

My recipe:

1.5 pounds ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 bag stir fry vegetables
2 cans of corn, with juice
2 cans of baked beans, with juice
1 can rotel
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet fajita seasoning
1/2 packet ranch dressing mix

1. Brown the ground beef and onion together in a large skillet. Pour the mix into a colander and cook the stir fry vegetables for 2 minutes in the remaining grease.

2. Put the meat, onions, and vegetables in the slow cooker. Add all the other ingredients finishing with the seasoning mixes. Mix well and cook on low for 8 hours. All done!

My honest opinion:

There are very few times I have disaster in my kitchen and this, unfortunately, was one of them. My advice, don't try it! Stick to my regular taco soup recipe which is the same as above except pinto beans instead of baked beans, taco seasoning instead of fajita, and NO stirfry vegetables. Ugh, one bite and that stuff went straight to the bin!

Instead, we had pumpkin pecan waffles!

The basic recipe comes from Here.

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
2. Mix the two together slowly until just barely combined.
3. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes to thicken before pouring into waffle maker...in batches! Not all at once. Fill bottom side of waffle maker until it is barely full, not heaping, otherwise it'll just leak out when it cooks.
4. Cook until waffle maker isn't steaming a lot and the top is crisp. Then you eat!

Oh, and finally, a before and after of my pantry. Before it was a mess and I had no clue what we had. So after months of just throwing more stuff in there, I finally decided to clean it out and organize it. Surprisingly, it only took about 30 minutes!

After, I found out we had 17 jars of peanut butter, 5 bags/boxes of rice, 20 cans of tuna, and 7 boxes of cereal. But it's clean!

How exactly does one use 17 jars of peanut butter? If you have any recipes, I'd be so grateful!