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As I write this, I am sitting on my front porch watching the sun set.  What a gorgeous day it has been!  I am so grateful for warmth and sunshine!  Had the doors open and the cats loved being able to run in and out all day.  Since it’s almost mid-March I thought I’d give you a recap of new things for February.  Better late than never, right?  🙂

English: A tape measure. Deutsch: Massband

Image via Wikipedia

The big change, of course, has been restarting my T-Tapp routine.  You can read more about my T-Tapp journey here.  Total inches lost for February was…drumroll please…14 1/2!  I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed in myself though.  I only actually worked out 6 times for the whole month.  😦  Imagine what it could have been…sigh…But this is a new month!  I will do better!

The other major change in Feb. was the decision to not use the microwave anymore.  Most of the time it hasn’t been an issue, but I do miss the convenience of the spur of the moment baked potato!  I really hate heating up my oven to bake one potato.  I am looking at replacing the microwave with a toaster oven/convection oven.  It would be about the same size as my microwave, but much smaller than my oven, so I wouldn’t mind baking just one potato as much.  Of course, I could always bake more than one and then shred or cube them to freeze for other meals liked Loaded Baked Potato Soup or breakfast items like hash browns or fried potatoes.  Hhhhmmmm…definately something to think about.

That just about sums up the month of February.  If I remember anything else, I’ll add them to the March re-cap that will be coming up in about 3 weeks…You know, they say that the older you get the faster time flies by.  While I’m not really sure who “they” are and why I should believe anything “they” tell me, I can’t help but wonder what it’s going to be like in another 20 years…

Blessings

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Resting in Him


Today is Shabbat or Sabbath.  It began at sundown yesterday and ends at sundown today.  A day of resting.  A day of restoring.  A day of reflecting on the goodness and faithfulness of Father.  It is a day that Papa, in His grace, built into the Hebrew calendar.  One day a week to rest the body and reconnect with the important things in life: family, friends, and Him.

The concept of rest has been all but forgotten in our culture.  Americans typically spend their days rushing from one event or activity to another, chronically sleep deprived and stressed out.  So much to do in the short amount of time allotted.

But what if you had permission to take one day a week and rest?  No chores; no “musts”; no “shoulds”.  Just rest.  Read a book.  Take a bath.  Go for a leisurely walk.  Relax.  De-stress.  Reflect on all that’s good in your life.  Rehearse your blessings.  Rekindle your joy.  It’s incredibly freeing you know.  To just say “no” to the world’s expectations of you, to re-claim your time.  To deliberately choose what to do with your day.

Not only do you have permission to do that, but Father earnestly desires it for you.  That’s why He put it on the calendar.  So take some time to rest today.  Don’t make it hard or attach a bunch of rules to it.  Just have some fun.  And as a friend from Texas likes to say, “Shabbat Shalom, y’all”!

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Yummy Baked Manicotti

Preparing healthier meals is one of the journeys I am on in this new year.  This baked manicotti recipe is one that I put together from several different recipes I found.  The cheeses are homemade as well as the spaghetti sauce, and the basil and parsley are from last summer’s garden.  I get my eggs from a friend who has pastured chickens which is a huge blessing!  The only thing in this that’s not so good for you is the white pasta shells.  Since we don’t eat pasta much (maybe once a month or so), and since my tastebuds seem very whole wheat pasta resistant, I am ok with the compromise this early in my journey, although when all the pasta I have is gone I hope to switch to the brown rice pasta.  🙂  You can always use whole wheat, sourdough, or brown rice pasta for yours.

Baked Manicotti Recipe

12 large manicotti-you can also use the shell shaped ones for fun

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

3 cups spaghetti sauce

Prepare pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water.

Put one cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Pretty sauce

Mix egg, ricotta cheese, 1 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, basil, and parsley in a small bowl.

Mix the herbs, egg, and cheeses well

For easy stuffing, put the cheeses in a plastic baggie that seals and snip off a bottom corner.

Cheese mixture in the baggie with the corner snipped off

Insert the cut corner into the manicotti and squeeze the bag to pipe the mixture into the shell.  Be careful you don’t overfill it or it may split.  Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish.

Stuffed shells on their bed of sauce

I actually had some odd sized shells so I just stuffed until I was out of stuffing.  🙂  Now you need to pour the rest of the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the last 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese.

All ready for the oven

Now bake this in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Bubbly and nicely browned

I served this with a simple salad, green beans, and garlic toast made with my Italian Herb & Cheese Bread recipe that I also use for pizza crust.

This is really simple to make.  You can even assemble the dish ahead of time and put in the oven when you get home from work.  Just let it come to room temp while the oven is preheating.  You’ll need to add about 10 minutes or so to the cooking time if you bake it cold.  Give it a try and then come back and let me know what you think!

I linked up at Foodie Friday, Monday Mania, and Simple Lives Thursday.

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I’ve spent the last few weeks periodically drooling over the seed selections in my Baker Creek seed catalogue.  I always dream of having a huge garden when in reality I only have a very small garden spot.  It’s always a little painful to have to eliminate choices I don’t have room for.  Especially from Baker Creek.  They sell heirloom seeds from all over the world.  If you enjoy gardening, I would encourage you to visit their website.  So many seeds, so little room!

I think I have narrowed down my picks for this year.  Pretty sure.  Maybe.  I’m going to give broccoli a try since it’s something we all really like,  And of course salad fixin’s are a must.  There’s nothing quite like picking your lunch 5 minutes before you eat it!  I’ve chosen a salad mix and green onions, and I’m going to try celery this year too.  Carrots don’t seem to like my dirt so I’m giving those a pass.  Green beans will grow up the chain link fence along with sugar snap peas.  I’ll have some tomatoes in pots as well as potted herbs:  basil, oregano, rosemary, chives, cilantro, and parsley.  And although I would love to have potatoes, onions, garlic, and sweet corn there just isn’t enough room.  Same goes for watermelons, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, and so many others.  Sigh.

So for now I will plant what I can in this season and continue to plan for my big garden in a future season when I have more space.  It’s actually kinda fun to plan out the perfect garden.  On paper there are no limitations and I really like that idea.  It’s still a little too early to start planting here but it’s supposed to be around 65 degrees today, so I think I’m going to go outside and play in the dirt!

Do you have a garden?  What are your favorite things to grow?

I linked up with Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

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I know you have all been impatiently waiting to read the continuing adventures of Pantry Girl, Food Avenger.  If you want to find out what happened before, you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

We now re-join our heroine sobbing in the middle of the kitchen floor surrounded by mountains of canned goods and boxes of “stuff” thinly disguised as food.  Battles can be emotional, and having just ninja chopped HFCS to near extinction, and Chuck Norris kicking MSG and artificial sweeteners to the curb, our pantry purging protagonist is portraying her passionate protest at the plight of our national provender.  Holy hyperbole, Batman!  Seriously, I could be a one woman reality show!  Ok, enough with the drama.  I really didn’t break down and cry, but it did kinda make me mad when I began to realize all the junk that is in so much of the foods that we eat.

To continue, the next things that got the boot where my half can of Crisco and my jug of canola oil.  (Repeat after me:  hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil are not my friends!)  I have been using other oils for a while, so it was definitely past time to toss those!  I use butter or olive oil in most of my recipes and I just recently been introduced to organic coconut oil.  It is naturally solid at room temp and makes a great alternative to unnatural shortenings.  It comes in two ways: expeller pressed which has a neutral taste and no smell, and extra virgin which tastes and smells coconutty.  Yes that is too a word.  It’s good for pie crusts and frying things and that makes me happy cause I loves me some homemade french fries!  As an aside, don’t EVER try to fry homemade french fries in olive oil.  It will fill your house with smoke.  Really stinky, thick, black smoke.  And then your smoke detectors will go off because the detect the really stinky, thick, black smoke.  All of them.  Loudly.  At the same time.  And then you’ll need rescue dogs with earplugs to find your children.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.  Because I would never be silly enough to use a low smoke point oil to fry french fries in.  I’m so glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.  🙂

Another change that’s in process is replacing refined, white sugar with raw organic honey and organic dehydrated sugar cane juice.  While I know that is not the least refined kind of sugar,  as I said before it’s a process.  I have quite a bit of white refined sugar in my pantry left over from some very good intentions I had about making goodie baskets for all those near and dear to me for Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately the goodie fairy never showed and now I’m stuck with lots of refined sugar that I don’t want to eat and I feel that it wouldn’t be good stewardship to toss all of it out.  (Now that I know how to make sugar body scrub it won’t go to waste!)  I am also continuing my search for healthier alternatives to some things I use frequently, like the onion soup mix, Italian salad dressing mix, and the ubiquitous cream of something soups.  There are several recipes online and I will keep trying them until I find one I like.

What pantry items have you deep-sixed for homemade, healthier alternatives?  Please share, it may be something someone else is looking for.  🙂

I linked this at Fight Back Friday.

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Interior Design is one of my passions.  I get such joy from being invited into a room, often haphazard and accidental, and being allowed to turn it into something beautiful.  I also enjoy watching design shows on TV.  Among my favorites are the ones where the designers go into people’s attics and basements and storage areas and find things that have been tucked away because they didn’t quite “fit”.  They are dusted off and maybe given a new coat of paint.  The designer then takes all these seemingly unrelated objects and by carefully placing them in the perfect spot, creates a cohesive, intentional, and uniquely beautiful room.  If you watch the shows often enough, you will begin to see that most designers have a signature style; something that is common to all their designs, that puts their “stamp” on it.

In many ways, Father is the Master Designer.  After all, He designed heaven and earth and all the galaxies.  He designed all of nature in its vast, diverse array of shapes and colors and textures.  And He designed each one of us.  What joy it must bring Him when we invite Him into our lives and allow Him to create something beautiful!  We are not called to be a copy of someone else’s life.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made; knit together in our mothers’ wombs to be unique and beautiful!

My prayer for you today is that you will invite Father into your life as Master Designer, however haphazard and accidental it may appear to be.  That you will bring out all the gifts and talents and dreams that He gave you, but that you’ve kept tucked away because they didn’t quite “fit” who or what you thought you should be.  Dust them off.  Maybe give them a fresh coat of paint.  And surrender them to God.  Then watch as He takes all of those seemingly unrelated things and puts them exactly where He created them to be, and turns your life into a cohesive, intentional and uniquely beautiful thing.

And when people meet you, they’ll know God was your designer.  Because He left his stamp on you.

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Today I am thankful for cars.  I know that sounds a little silly.  It’s something that most of us probably take for granted.

At the beginning of last summer, my old white van had to be put out to pasture.  Literally.  (Well, ok, not a pasture exactly, but salvage yard isn’t as poetic.)  She had 263,000+ miles on her and had served the family well for many years.  At the time my father was not doing much driving while recovering from an illness, so my parents blessed me by giving me the use of his car.

Monday morning it was acting kinda funny when I took my daughter to work.  I was concerned it wasn’t going to make it home.  It did, barely, at 20 miles per hour and I heaved a sigh of relief as I closed the garage door.  I went back out to the garage a few minutes later and it was full of smoke!  I ran back in the house, got a big boc of baking soda, ran back to the garage, and popped the hood.  Thankfully there were no flames, but more smoke and that yucky “burning the insulation off of wires” smell.

Our mechanic’s lot was full-some kind of car epidemic-so it didn’t get towed until Tuesday morning.  Got it back late yesterday afternoon.  Thankfully it was a quick, relatively inexpensive (in mechanic dollars) fix.  Ignition coil and module were burned up, and I now fully understand the phrase “not running on all cylinders”, since only 2 were working.  I think that’s happened to me before! 🙂  As an added bonus, now that all 4 cylinders are working, I’m thinking that my mileage will probably improve.

While I have to admit I really enjoyed those few days at home where I didn’t have to take anyone anywhere or go pick anyone up, I’m not sure I want to try it long-term.  Three (semi)adults with one vehicle can get frustrating and even down right annoying at times, but I think I prefer one to zero.  So today, I am deeply thankful and greatly blessed that I have a car to drive.  What are you thankful for today?  If you have a blog post you’d like to share for Thankful Thursday, click below.  If you don’t have a blog, just share with us in the comment box.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

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