Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taco Soup

{Updated: If you're visiting from Smockity Frocks today, welcome! This is an older post but I hope you enjoy it!}

This recipe is super easy and is awesome on a cold day. It's a good thing to make when you're in the mood for chili but you don't feel like cutting up all of the peppers and onions and having to stir it every 20 minutes!

Erin, since you requested this, my request is that you leave a comment and say hi. :)

Taco Soup with Black Beans
Courtesy of Alexa Slonin

1 lb ground beef, browned and rained
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can corn, undrained (I like to use "no salt added" for this recipe)
15 oz can black beans, undrained
15 oz can red kidney beans, undrained
1 envelope dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
1 envelope dry taco seasoning mix (this is 4 T if you have a large taco seasoning container)
1 small onion, chopped

Tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese for topping

Combine all ingredients (except toppings) in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Garnish with toppings (as if someone had to tell me to cover something with cheese and sour cream! lol)

I took a picture of this soup a year ago for the specific purpose of doing a post about it one day. Unfortunately, our other laptop bit the dust and we have to bring it up to the Geek Squad guys at some point. Sorry! I promise you won't be disappointed. I feel like I say that with every recipe, but I wouldn't post something I thought was gross, now would I? ;)


Monday, September 28, 2009

A Fresh Look

First, I want to say that I was really encouraged by those of you who commented on my last post. It is comforting to know that others are going through the same "struggles" that I am - I love that about the body of Christ! Kathy mentioned in her comment that she has been forced work with what she already has, and I have certainly been inspired lately to do the same in our house.

This past weekend, Chris and I spent the ENTIRE DAY working on our living room. When we moved in a year ago, we spent about two months working non-stop on our kitchen and bedroom (the kitchen had to be gutted, basically). The only place to "relax" was our kitchen table, because we hadn't set up the living room yet - no time! When we finally did get around to ripping out the 4 layers of living room floor (you heard me), painting the walls, and re-installing the ceiling, we were so excited to get our furniture back in that we left the trim around the ceiling unpainted. Actually, it was worse than unpainted - it brown trim covered with random primer marks. Classy, I know. We told ourselves we'd just finish it later.

Well! I am here to tell you that "later" turned into a year. (Partially because I turned into a narcoleptic during pregnancy.) I couldn't take looking at that ugly trim anymore! Plus we are having 4 couples over on Saturday night - nothing like house guests to scare the work into you. :)

We spent about 6-7 hours on Saturday painting the trim around the ceiling (2 coats) and painting the heater covers (2 coats). We also painted the heater covers in the kitchen and cleaned out the living room.

Since all of the furniture was already in the center of the room, we decided to go ahead and change the living room layout, too. I just love how switching the furniture you already have can make a room feel brand new! It is almost as fun as shopping. Well okay, not really but it's still fun. :) I've been looking at things more critically and switching around decorations to get a "new-to-me" look.

Here is the new room! Don't you love it?!

Okay totally kidding - this is from Better Homes and Gardens. I WISH my house looked like this!

But if you come back on Thursday for Rhoda's Fall Party, I'll show you some glimpses of my newly-arranged living room.

And tomorrow I'm posting my Taco Soup recipe - per request. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Finding Financial Contentment

Do you struggle with this as much as I do? My husband and I seem to go through ups and downs when it comes to money - we've moved several times since we've been married (due to grad school and other reasons), and with the moves have come different jobs for both of us. Our finances have typically gone up and down and up and down. Money has come in peaks and valleys. Every time we've had good-paying jobs, I always thank God for the blessing that He's provided. I can happily go about my life, without that nagging feeling in my stomach or a raised heartbeat because I'm stressing out about bills. And although we do put money into savings, every time we're in the money "valley" (like now, since I left my job to stay home with Luke) those feelings all come flooding back again.

Why is it so hard for me to trust God?

It doesn't help that since I started reading blogs about two years ago, I've come across tons of women with seriously stunning homes. Most of them have husbands with nice cushy jobs, and they can afford to pop out to any store they want, and anything they desire financially is at their disposal.

Me on the other hand? I always say it's lucky I like yard sales, because everything in our house is from one.

I swear that God brings our money situation "low" again every so often, just so He makes sure that we're "forced" to trust Him. He knows that as soon as things are good and the money is coming in steadily, it is so easy for me to forget all about Him in that area. I trust in the job, not in God. And that's so wrong.

It's been very easy for me to sit over here on my laptop and be very, very envious of the women with perfect houses. Perfect kitchens, perfect bathrooms, all the time and money in the world to go do any craft or home improvement they desire. And that needs to stop. I have been feeling the Holy Spirit's nudging of me lately, prodding me to realize how unhealthy that is.

Fact is, this is my life. We are where we are right now, and I know God is teaching me useful skills. Chris and I have been forced to examine areas that were non-essentials, and think outside the box when it comes to making and spending money. I'm thankful for different friends that have shared some great ideas with us.

Hopefully, Chris will have his business fully running in the next several years. He will be self-employed and money will not be such a constant worry. I know there are so. many. lessons I have learned from trusting God with money that never would have come my way if we'd had nice fat paychecks all along.

I'm still going to keep reading those blogs. Many of those women are so creative and I get wonderful ideas, both for our house now and in the future. But it is a very American notion to equate money with blessing - and it is something I have to keep reminding myself over and over not to do. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), and money is listed nowhere in that verse.

With all my heart I want to be a woman that trusts God with everything she has. I'm learning, but I certainly have a long road ahead of me!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ...
Ephesians 1:3

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Monday...

and that means it's Thrifty Treasures time, baby!

Before I get to my favorite find, here's what I found this past weekend:

These items were all 50 cents at an estate sale - the black spreader is Pampered Chef.


The following pictures were from a church rummage sale - $5 for a bag. You'd better believe my bag was about to rip open. :)

I found some great books and videos for Luke...

some fun house and Christmas finds (no, I'm not actually going to hang up the picture of the camels - I wanted the frame)...

and some great clothes! A red cable-knit sweater and jeans (in perfect condition) from J. Crew, some Abercrombie lounge pants, a cute thermal-style shirt from Old Navy, and some Adidas shorts for Chris (they didn't end up fitting, but that's okay. I still think I scored some deals!).


And now for my favorite find...my genuine leather, hobo-style, Bloomingdale's bag....


I about died when the woman at the flea market told me her price. She said she paid $200 for it, and I totally believe her. I am so in love with this thing. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Baby is 10 Weeks Old Today...

I can't believe how different my life is from July 7th of this year. Or from July 7th of last year for that matter (I was in the Dominican Republic!). My son has impacted my life in a way that is hard to accurately put into words.

So, in honor of his 10 weeks of life, here are 10 ways my life has changed - and some things that I have learned - since his arrival:

1. I have learned how to cook, vacuum, put on makeup, blog, e-mail, eat, brush my teeth, and sleep all while holding Luke.
2. Oxy-Clean and non-chlorine bleach are my new bffs.
3. I sometimes find myself bouncing whatever I have in my hand - or just bouncing, period - if I hear him crying in another room.
4. Babies do not die if they cry for 3 minutes while you pee or shave your legs.
5. I would rather sleep than do almost anything. Well, except yard sales. They are the exception.
6. Twelve and a half pounds starts to get heavy really fast.
7. Twelve and a half pounds of baby does not get you really toned arms, however. Totally depressing.
8. I have slept on puked-on pillows and been waaaay too tired to care much about it.
9. Babies reserve spit-up for outfits fresh from the dryer. It's their special way of showing love and affection.

10. I would do absolutely, positively ANYTHING for that little boy. Including major organs sliced, an emotionally and physically draining four-and-a-half day hospital stay, and potentially permanent numbness on an incision site. Oh wait....

In all seriousness, he really, really, is a joy. :)
I am blessed beyond words.
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Cor. 9:15


I have never won a giveaway before, so this is SUPER exciting! Nicole over at Bugaboos Creations had a giveaway a few days ago (I think - time kinda blurs together for me right now) and I won it! Check out all of the sweet stuff she will be sending me soon! She said I could swap any flavor, so I asked her if I could swap the diffuser scent to Coconut Lime Verbena since I am a big coconut fan. She has lots of cute craft ideas on her website and she's very creative so go check her out!

Thank you again, Nicole! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tasty Tuesday

At the risk of sounding like a 50's housewife, I really enjoy "Tasty Tuesday" on Jen's blog - so many new recipes in one place! I really love to cook and experiment with new ideas, and there are tons of recipes over there in all different categories - if you haven't visited before, check it out!

Today's recipe is:

Ridiculously Amazing Peach Cobbler

I mean, it wasn't actually named that when I found it, but it totally deserves the title.

It. is. soooooo. good.

4 C fresh peaches, sliced
1 C sugar plus some, for taste
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 C unsalted butter {I used salted and it turned out just fine; also, this equals 10 2/3 T of butter}
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375. Place peaches in the bottom of an 8x8 dish and sweeten, to taste, with a little sugar depending on ripeness {I personally also mixed in a little cinnamon at this point}. In med. mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients. Cut in butter and add beaten egg. Mix until crumble and sprinkle over fruit, covering all exposed fruit. Bake for 35-40 min until golden.

Recipe courtesy of Carissa Seward; foodnetwork.com; "Peach Cobbler"

This recipe comes out with an amazing cookie-like crust. Sorry I don't have a picture but you'll just have to trust me on this one! Maybe you have some peaches left to use still, or you froze some to use this winter like me. Oh, and if you go to church with me, I'm totally going to be making this sometime for a potluck, so you'll get to try it then!


Friday, September 11, 2009

I'll take a bowl of Fall, please...

I got this great green bowl with a brown rim the other day at a yard sale (see post below). I knew I had to use it for the fall somehow but I never use plates or bowls for food if there aren't any markings on the bottom - you never know if they were painted with lead paint or not.

I've been taking Luke out on walks with the stroller, and I noticed there were some great pinecones and acorns in the parking lot of a nearby church. *Light bulb!* I grabbed some pinecones, some cool crunched leaves, some acorns, some brown twigs, and I even threw in some purple-tinted corn husks from this day.

I added a cheap plain white candle from Big Lots (*love* that store), and the bowl was complete. I love how "rustic" it looks.

In other news, my poor baby has to get his first round of vaccines today. Thank goodness Chris (my husband) can come along to help because I am not very good at being brave for Luke when he's in pain (basically because I'm crying, too!). My poor sweet boy has no idea what's coming in two hours!

(Here he is, peacefully sleeping in his baby-crack machine - aka his new swing.)

Hope you have a (pain-free) weekend! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Today's Thrifty Treasures

Disclaimer: My blog is undergoing a little face-lift, hence the "unfinished" look - it should look better by the end of this week! Also, please try not to be jealous of the photo quality of my finds from the weekend. National Geographic just called and unfortunately I had to decline their offer because I am just swamped with calls for my incredible photography skills...

Well, hopefully you all had a great Labor Day weekend! We had a wonderful time visiting family and friends, and spent 4 days hearing about how cute Luke is. :) Anytime I go home to CT my mom and I try to fit in time for yard-sales (apparently my love of them is genetic). We went out at 8:00 on Saturday morning with my aunt and her best friend and we had a great time! Here's a picture of the yard sale finds from the morning, and a break-down of the prices, because I'm totally nosy like that and love to know what other people pay for their finds:

---Baby boy outfits (he desperately needs some long-sleeved outfits to get him through this 0-3 month stage; most of his newborn clothes are summery) were 25 cents a piece, easy Christmas piano songbook 25 cents (people always want you to play Christmas songs on the piano!), white platter for my wall of plates 25 cents, green bowl 50 cents (great for the fall!), little round frame 50 cents (I have a project in mind for that!), bread knife 50 cents, $1.00 for the two baskets (one is lined), and 50 cents for that glass jar that was a cute apothecary jar until I smashed the stupid lid on the pavement! Grrrr....

Total: $4.25 (I hope I did the math right!)

I also found this shelf for Luke's room for $4. Normally I hardly ever pay that much at a yard sale, but his room is a jungle-theme with soft greens, blues, and brown, and I've been looking for a nice shelf to hold pictures. I think this will work really well. Notice the ghetto pillow prop in the background - it was the only way I could show the sides!

Today we went to the Goodwill by my parents' house before we got on the highway, because they were having their 50% sale due to the holiday. It was a madhouse in there but oh my gosh so much fun! I found a few more fun items:

---Little picture frame (will probably get spray painted) 35 cents, cake stand $1.50, tiny cream plate (again for the wall of plates!) 25 cents, glass jar w/metal lid $1, lamp stand $2, lamp shade 50 cents, maroon tin (will get spray painted and rubbed) $1, Old Navy onesie 50 cents, and Kenneth Cole Reaction corduroys for 50 cents! How cute!

Total: $7.60

Side note: when you buy a beautiful table for $100 at an estate sale, don't put a hot bowl of soup on it unless you want a gorgeous white spot on your table like I have on mine!

All in all, I was pretty pleased with what I got for $16! I can't wait to click through the rest of the links tomorrow when I have time during Luke's nap!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hitting the road...

...to go to Connecticut today! We'll be spending time with my parents, and bringing Luke to visit his great-grandparents and great-aunts and uncles for the first time! Plus a whole bunch of church friends. I can't wait to go to some yard sales on Saturday and eat some seafood and maybe even a GRINDER! Ahhhh!! :)

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tasty Tuesday

In honor of the "first day" of fall, I'd like to share with you.....

Lemon Poppy-Seed Muffins :)

In reality, these muffins are good any time of year, and I remember my mom making her version in the winter and eating them before school started. They're light-tasting but still comforting like a muffin should be. :)

This recipe is slightly modified from
The Joy of Cooking.
Oven: 400 degrees

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line w/paper liners. I use mini-muffins, because they come out more moist. Plus they're so cute. :)

Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:

2 C white whole-wheat all-purpose flour
1 1/2 T poppy seeds
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together in another bowl:

2 large eggs
1 C milk
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C vegetable oil
2 T grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla

Add to flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix; the batter should not be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. (For mini-muffins, I cook them for about 7 minutes, although my oven tends to be very hot.)

Visit Jen over at
Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for more great recipes today!