Guacamole

Guacamole
Since December, we have been using Young Living essential oils for just about everything in our house. Back in January, they released their new Vitality line, which includes some of my very favorite essential oils specifically labeled for culinary and dietary use! You guys know just how much I love cooking, so you can imagine how excited I was to give them all a try!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe using some of these new Vitality oils over on my latest blogging endeavor – Happy Little Oiler. I wanted a place where I could explore our Happy Oily Life, but wanted Soul Munchies to stay true to its mission of Faith. Family. Food. Enter Happy Little Oiler!

We almost always have avocados in our fridge, and whenever we get to their last days I try to whip up a batch of guacamole. Everyone in the house loves it – and it never lasts very long. It’s one of our favorite snacks, and it almost makes us think that we’re at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The last couple of times we made it, we added essential oils, and it was so good we decided to share our recipe with the world!

For the recipe, head on over to Happy Little Oiler!

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Meals Under $15: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I buy broccoli a lot because my girls love it, no matter how I cook it. This soup is one of my favorite meals to put together, because it’s easy, quick, and delicious for days to come. You can make a batch on the weekend and eat it for lunch all week – if it lasts that long – it’s usually gone pretty fast in our house!

My girls LOVE this soup, so I make it often. In fact, even though the weather is getting warmer, I have it on my meal plan for later this week. When I priced it out based on our grocery prices here, it costed us about $11 – $9 if you use homemade broth – and it feeds us for at least two meals, sometimes three! Continue reading

On Thomas … and Doubt

Doubt & Emotions
Sunday was dark and gloomy around here. When I woke up and looked out the window, I discovered the ground – and my car – were covered with a blanket of snow. Because it was Sunday, and because we couldn’t imagine staying inside at home all day long, we got ourselves ready and headed to church. As I sat through the service, I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was that on this gloomy snowy day we were hearing about Thomas. The one who doubted. As I sat there, I realized that I, like Thomas, was in a serious place of doubt.

Doubt that spring will ever arrive.

Doubt that I will be happy here for the long term.

Doubt that the day will come when I no longer long for Atlanta.

Doubt that I will ever find a community that I love as much as the one we had in Grant Park.

Doubt that God is ever going to show me what in the heck She is up to.

It’s only been a week since Easter. And I, like Thomas, have already forgotten the joy of Easter morning. I’ve forgotten the sunshine. Forgotten the promise of friendships. Of community. Of a future so much greater than anything I can even possibly imagine. Continue reading

Meals Under $15: Orecchiette with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Baby Kale

orecchiette with slow roasted tomatoes and baby kaleHappy Monday! Today’s edition of “Meals under $15” is perfect for your Meatless Monday dinner plans. Coming in at just over $5, and full of flavor, you cannot go wrong with this dish. My tiniest one devoured it, and begged for more!

Lately I have done a terrible job of meal planning, so most meals end up being thrown together with whatever I can find in the fridge. It’s my least favorite way to cook, and it’s hardly ever economical. But this piece of work … it was delicious, used up ingredients in my fridge, and still managed to cost us very little money.

I love orecchiette pasta – they look like little hats and they are so fun to eat! They have little ridges on them too, so they soak up whatever sauce you put on them amazingly. You could use any other pasta as well, this just happened to be what was in my pantry.

You can also edit it a little by adding spinach or arugula instead of baby kale, and if you don’t have cherry tomatoes on hand, or you don’t want to slow roast your own, you can substitute sun-dried tomatoes.
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Where Were the Children? [A Good Friday Reflection]

Good Friday

But why are they taking the candles away Mama? she asks, with tears in her eyes. I like the candles. Will they bring them back?

This is the first Maundy Thursday service we’ve been to in several years. The last one I can remember going to, we left early – because A was just a year old and staying out past 7pm just wasn’t in our cards. But this year, I didn’t care how late we were out … I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted to experience the remembrance of those last days. The last meal. The foot washing. The prayers in the garden. That last night with his friends, his disciples, his family.

I wanted my children to experience it. As difficult as it is to watch … as difficult as it is to understand … the majesty of Easter just isn’t as glorious without experiencing the loss. I wanted them to experience that loss …. so that when we walk in to Easter service and we see the flowers, the candles, the white paraments … when we hear the loud bells and trumpets sounding, it truly is majestic and glorious.

But man did it tear me up inside when my 20-month old asked to go up to have her feet washed. And man did it break my heart to watch my 4-year-old begin to comprehend what was going on. Continue reading

Meals Under $15: Healthy Vegetable Soup

Healthy Veggie Soup
I can’t tell you how often I hear people say, “Eating healthy costs a fortune!” It’s true … eating healthy CAN cost a fortune, but it doesn’t HAVE to. Lately, I’ve been discovering that many dinners we make cost us less than $15, and most of those give us leftovers for lunch the next day. To help you in your budget meal planning, I thought I’d work on a new series entitled: “Meals Under $15”. Today’s recipe is one I threw together in an attempt to have a good hearty meal that consisted of nothing but chicken broth and vegetables. We’ve all been fighting a cold, and I knew homemade chicken broth was awesome for that kind of thing. Everyone enjoyed it – and it gave us leftovers for another night this week! Continue reading

God is Here

photo-1431698194201-465e7d003539
Spring is upon us here in Massachusetts, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Good old Mother Nature treated us to a snow storm yesterday, but as I stare out the window now, almost all of the 4-5 inches we got are melted already. We are seeing green sprout up from the ground and the sun is feeling warmer and warmer every single day. I’m so ready to be able to explore the great outdoors – without having to bundle up.

We are really loving living here … and can’t imagine ever moving back to GA – but there are still days when I feel really lonely. I was talking with another older woman on Sunday who moved her family a across few states when she was my age. She said she remembers feeling so isolated, like a trip to the grocery store was so important to her because she actually saw people – real live adults – there. I nodded my head in agreement. Some weeks I’m lucky if I see a real live adult other than my husband. I didn’t realize how connected to people we were in Atlanta, until we moved here and became so disconnected. Continue reading

Our Essential Oils Journey

Kit8
It’s 10:00am and I’ve used ten different essential oils in seven different ways.

I mixed some thieves, oregano, tea tree, and frankincense with a little jojoba oil and put it in a bottle with a roller cap for our feet. I call it the “boost immunity bottle.”

I put cinnamon and nutmeg in my morning coffee.

I used tea tree oil instead of deodorant.

I put Citrus Fresh in my water. I have had 40 ounces already!

I put Northern Lights Black Spruce on my super-dry, chapped-from-the-wind face.

I used Thieves mixed with a little water to clean my kitchen counter. It got up grease stains from the old tenant (gross!)

I put Citrus Fresh in some baking soda and water and scrubbed the bathtub. It had years of someone else’s old dirt caked to the bottom. I wish I had taken a picture before we left that stupid apartment … because that bathtub looked almost new!

When I bought my starter kit two months ago, I had no idea it would really change my life. Continue reading

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites
It’s been a whirlwind around here. Due to bad conditions in our first apartment, we ended up finding a new apartment in the town that we are buying a house in, and moving two days later. Our first scheduled movers showed up with a truck the size of a mini-van, so we ended up cancelling that move and hiring another, much more expensive, mover – who ended up moving us in the middle of the biggest snowstorm we’ve seen all winter. We got unpacked and settled in just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day and A’s 4th birthday … and now here we are – ready to share our weekly favorites with you once more! Continue reading

10 Favorite Picture Books

12650814_953495164738906_1149903594043022961_nWe do a lot of reading in this house. The girls have both inherited my love for books – and already have enough books for their very own library. Because we live in a small space, we’ve started boxing up books and keeping only a select number out to read at any given time. We rotate books in and out of circulation, and if I find a book that isn’t getting much love, I’ll donate it to the Little Free Library down the street.

A has surprised us more than once with asking for a book that I’ve boxed up, so I’ve learned to only give away those that she has never read – or has clearly said she didn’t like. There are a few books that don’t ever go out of circulation, because she loves them so much. They are books that are great for reading over and over and over again – and most of the time even Mom & Dad don’t tire of them either!

There are so many great books out there that it was hard to choose just ten, but here are our top ten right now.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelman is our number one favorite these days. We even have it on cd and listen to it in the car. It routinely gets read before bed, and lately A has been falling asleep to it pretty quickly. D calls it her kryptonite. Made into a movie and a tv show, Madeline is a favorite of kids everywhere.

Knuffle Bunny or just about anything written by Mo Willems. His books are cleverly written, and funny for both kids and adults. Knuffle Bunny is my personal favorite because of just how true the whole thing is. Poor dad takes baby Trixie to do laundry, and they end up losing the beloved Knuffle Bunny.

The Aminal by Lecia Balian. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my own kids. The pictures are simple, yet fascinating, and show the power of imagination. This is also a great story for illustrating what happens when he said she said conversations take place.

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is about a sparkly fish who doesn’t want to share his sparkle with the other fish in the sea. Although a simple story, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this one. I foresee us reading it for many many years to come.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. This one is best when D reads it. He makes the best owl sound, and the girls just love it when he reads it. It’s a favorite at night time, but is really good any time of the day.

Angels Watching Over Me by Julia Durango. This is one of my favorite songs from childhood, so we read parts of it and sing other parts. A likes to sing along. The pictures are especially intriguing and hold their attention for quite some time.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is just so so good. About a little girl who goes blueberry picking with her mom, my girls love to make the sounds the blueberries make when they hit the pail. This is a favorite activity for our pretend play too.

Where Is Curious George?
This one is a Look and Find Book, but every single time we go to the library we end up bringing it home. A finally got her own copy for Christmas last year, and it became well loved in no time.

God Gave Us You by Lisa T. Bergren
This one makes me tear up every single time I read it. It’s the perfect book for any time of day or night. So sweet, and such a beautiful reminder of what it was like to bring home that first baby.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. We are huge fans of Mo Willems. His books are easy to read and are funny for kids and adults alike. This one is our absolute favorite of his, and is definitely one of our “must-read” kids books.

What are your favorite picture books these days?

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites
Man am I glad it’s Friday. It’s been a doozy of a week around here. Our transition to the Boston area has been filled with so many emotions – and we’ve had a difficult time adjusting to life here. Any big move is a big adjustment, especially with kids, but we have found ourselves in an apartment that was not as we anticipated. Although to the casual observer it looks quite cute and charming, we were here just a week before we discovered some things that made us pretty concerned for our health and safety. After consultation with an attorney, we asked the board of health to come do an inspection – mostly so we knew whether our concerns were valid or if we just have incredible high standards. I’ll spare you all of the many details, but it’s enough to say on top of the stress of moving a family a cross country, we have also dealt with living in an apartment that isn’t up to code and a landlord that isn’t very responsive. Today begins a new leg of the journey – we begin packing to move out and find a different apartment for a mere 3-months until we can close on this very cute house that we will be purchasing come May.

So – whew – it’s a good thing to step back and look on my favorites from the week.

Read
I came across this somewhat controversial post this week and was so glad I did. I’m not sure why we are so timid when it comes to talking about Satan, but I thought she really hit the nail on the head when it comes to motherhood. It’s so easy for Satan to get into our hearts in the mundane, every day tasks. I know for me, it’s the day-in, day-out ordinary stuff that seems to wear on me and rub me thin. I have long been a proponent of mindfulness and embracing the prayer opportunity that comes with the day-in day out stuff, but sometimes it’s just so hard to stay in that mindset … especially when you’re feeling under stress. I just love the image of sitting at the feet of Jesus while reading books on the couch.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I put together my top ten favorites from last year. Three stand out as must reads: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

Eat
We aren’t doing anything exciting in the realm of recipes these days. Winter is so hard for me when it comes to creative meal planning … even though there are lots of fresh, local options here, all I’m really craving is a big hearty salad. One night this week I made this Healthy Chicken Corn Chowder that I usually love – but by the time it was done cooking I wanted spaghetti instead. So I made two dinners that night. I was so thankful for the marinara sauce I made this summer out of tomatoes from the farm. We added some ground beef, mushrooms, red wine, and a parmesan rind and it was, by far, my favorite meal of the week!

Do
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My favorite activity this week was our spilt milk paintings. We read the book It Looked Like Spilt Milk, and then we took some white paint and made our own. The girls really loved the painting, the folding, and the attempt at identifying what it looks like. They have quickly become one of our favorite pieces of art around here.

What are you loving this week?

Top Ten Books of 2015

I read 55 books in 2015. Quite an accomplishment for a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers. I get most of my reading done during nursing the littlest, or while trying to get someone to fall asleep. I think it also helped that I gave up social media for Lent last year. It’s amazing how many books you can read if you ditch all your procrastination tools. I know we’re well into 2016, but I wanted to share my favorites with you.

519dIBQX6QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
This was one of the last books I read last year, but was also one of my favorites. I picked it up earlier in the year, but never got around to reading it. When we ended up in a less-than-desirable rental after selling our house that we loved so much, I knew it was time to crack it open and see what she had to say. I was really struggling with making our apartment feel like home and she really gave me great ideas. It’s full of great advice about not second guessing yourself and doing things that will make you happy. As we look forward to purchasing a house here in the Boston area, it’s been great information to keep in mind as well.

three-many-cooks-new-bookThree Many Cooks
This was a book that I heard about through the Atlanta History Center. They bring in various authors throughout the year and one of my favorite things to do is read the books they write. I never make it to the presentations, but it has opened my eyes to several authors I’ve never heard of! This one reminded me of my own family – we lived in the kitchen growing up … and I model that same thing for my own children. I loved the stories, as well as the recipes, and it’s now on my “real books to buy” list (I read the Kindle version).

7120022819_bbeac91ac1The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
This is my absolute favorite cookbook of all time. Even more than Weelicious (did you think that was possible?!) Her recipes require more preparation and work, but they always pay off.

All_the_Light_We_Cannot_See_(Doerr_novel)All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I really struggled with this book at first. It’s slow to start, and is a little bit difficult to read. I’m so glad I kept at it though, because in the end, it totally paid off. It’s such a beautiful story of the goodness of people. It’s one of those “must-read in your lifetime” books.

orphan2Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
I am not sure how I found this book … I discovered it on my Kindle one day, which likely means I got it free years ago and just never read it. This was one of the few books I gave 5 stars last year. It’s a little difficult to keep the characters straight at first, but it doesn’t take long for a good flow to happen. This is such a remarkable story of love & perseverance. The characters are relatable, and although it ends up to be a real “feel good” novel, there’s a lot of depth hidden in it. I loved every word.

The-Storyteller-by-Jodi-PicoultThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
I ended up reading a lot of books about Nazis right after another last year – and it was in no way planned. I’ve always been a “meh” fan of Jodi Picoult. Her stories all tend to be a little more dramatic than I’d prefer, but I thought this one was so creative. The ending completely caught me by surprise – and I love that about a book.

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Yet another book about Nazis, but this one looks at the invasion of France – which I have never read much about. This was another 5-star read, in my opinion. I’ve read a lot of Kristin Hannah’s work – they are usually “feel good, beach read” types – but this one goes to a completely different level. I thought it was beautifully written, and it highlighted so many things about WWII that I never knew before. I loved it.

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I know, not a new book by any stretch of the imagination, but I re-read it and just fell in love all over again. I actually re-read it in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman and I’m so glad I did. I hadn’t read it since high school, and I think it has such different meaning now that I’m an adult. It’s one of those books that deserves to be pulled off the shelf again and again.

mebeforeyouMe Before You by JoJo Moyes
Whenever people ask me for a book recommendation, I always give them this one. It was my favorite book … maybe ever. I loved every single word – I got completely captured in the story, with the characters … I felt like I was falling in love. When I closed the book on it’s final pages, I had what I described as a “book hangover” … I was sure there was never going to be another book I loved as much as that one, and I absolutely did not want to read anything with any other characters in it. Moyes has come out with a sequel, and I cannot wait to read it with my book group in a month or so.

what alice forgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This one is brilliant. I simply adored the characters, and I was so intrigued by the whole idea of what might happen if we woke up one day and couldn’t remember how we got to where we were. It made me appreciate little things in my life, and I vowed to take notice of those good things every single day.

What did you read and love last year?