Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kentucky State Fair!

This past weekend we headed up to Louisville, KY for the Kentucky State Fair.  It was our first time ever going and we had a blast!  We saw some shows and looked at the booths and ate some good fair food.  Olivia was especially happy to watch the dog show.  (She LOVES dogs!)  We also saw some fair food that didn't sound so good...fried Kool-Aid? Hamburgers made with Krispy Kreme donuts for buns?  Um, no thanks but if you're that brave, good for you!  : )

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Generosity in the Real World

Part One
I just finished reading, One Simple Act by Debbie MacComber and I highly recommend it!  It was just what I have been looking for lately!  I stumbled upon it at the library and I am so thankful I did!  She has so many wonderful ideas on how to be a generous person.  That’s not a word you hear every day but as Christians it is vital to grasp the importance of generosity.  We should set the example for our children by showing them often how to be a cheerful giver.  Giving generously blesses not only the recipients but the giver!  It’s not only about giving money.  That’s certainly an aspect of it but there are many other ways to be a giver without having the money to hand out. 
We can do good deeds for others.  My granny is 80 years old and a widow so I recently doubled a lasagna recipe that I made and gave her one of the pans.  This was enough for her and my uncle that lives with her to eat on for a few meals and she didn’t have to worry about fixing anything for dinner that evening.  And I didn’t have to worry about her getting a nutritious meal.  It cost a little more money but it wasn’t noticeable.  It blessed her but it blessed me even more to know that I made her life a little easier.  I included my daughter in the preparation so that she would feel apart of this as well. 
Another idea would be to mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn or pull their trash can in after garbage day.  If you are at church and you see something out of place, be attentive and fix it.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it!  Even if nobody notices, you know that you helped out in a small way.
 In One Simple Act, Mrs. MacComber writes about forgiveness as an act of generosity.  Boy, this can be a hard one!  I have a struggle going on in my spirit right now in this area!  But, with God’s help, I know that I will overcome!  Forgiveness frees you even more that the person that you must forgive!  Bitterness and hatred will eat at your spirit until you have nothing left to give!
 Being a good listener is another way in which to be generous.  How often do you talk to someone with half your mind while the other half is thinking about the errands or bills?  If someone trusts you with their thoughts and feelings, you can bless them by simply keeping your focus and letting them talk to someone who is completely there.  Don’t interrupt them or be judgmental.  They may simply need to get something off their chest.  They may not be looking for a solution so just be a good listener.
Hospitality…this is something near and dear to my heart.  I love to open my home to others.  Trust me, my home is nothing to…write home about. : ) I enjoy decorating and keeping my home tidy but I live in a very small duplex right now.  But, for instance, I am planning a fall gathering in September to invite a few couples from church to.  2 of the couples we are very good friends with and 2 of the couples we like very much but haven’t spent time with outside of church.  I’m very excited about it and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that too!  But, it doesn’t have to be a big shindig, just a simple invitation to someone who could use fellowship.  I once heard of a couple who invited another family over after church and they had chips, salsa, and smoothies and the invited couple loved it and had a blast.  It’s about the fellowship, not the presentation! 
Part 2 Coming Soon!  : )

Blog Hopping at Homemaker By Choice 

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Husband's Favorite Hot Dog Sauce

Until I met my husband, the only "hot dog sauce" I had ever heard of was in a can.  But when I tasted this homemade hot dog sauce, I was hooked!  It's super easy and super good!  It has a little bit of a sweet taste...really reminds a little of Sloppy Joe meat. To make the meat very fine, I cook it over medium-low heat and add about 1/2 cup water.  Most of my recipes on my blog will be very simple because that's what I like to cook and that's what my husband likes to eat!  I am definitely no gourmet cook but if this stuff works for us, then maybe it'll work for someone else!  : )

Hot Dog Sauce

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I'm not a food photographer...obviously!  Sorry!  : )
Cook green pepper with ground beef in medium saucepan. Drain.  Add remainder of ingredients to pot and cook about 20 mins over medium-low heat, stir occasionally.  Serve over hot dogs. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reading With Our Kids

Time Well Spent
I love to read!  I have loved it since I was a small child and I attribute it to my dad faithfully reading to me before bed each night.  I have done the same for my daughter since she was very little.  I began reading to her when she was about 6 months old but began a nightly reading ritual when she was around 18 months old.  I can’t say that we never miss a night but overall, I’ve done my best to create a love for reading in her heart.  Olivia has owned so many books over the years.  I’ve given away the books that she outgrew, except for a few that are near and dear to my heart.  There are those that have stood the test of time and age.  We have a select few that we have read since she was one!  Here are a few that we really enjoy and that we have read repeatedly.
Olivia’s Nana bought us this book when I pregnant with Olivia “Grace”.  It’s book of short prayers and it was always one of my favorites when she was small.
We discovered this book about a year ago from the library and Olivia liked it so much, I bought it.  I found a copy at Joseph-Beth Booksellers for $5.50! 
This is such a cute book.  It’s very short and simple but it is a great book for the nightly story time.
Everyone loves Olivia the Pig!  She’s adorable, spunky and she has my daughter’s name!  ; )
All of these books have sweet stories for you to read to your little one.  I would recommend them for ages 6 and under.  The Preschooler’s Bible is a great resource for small children but now that Olivia’s getting a little older, I am planning to look for something more advanced.  But for preschoolers, it tells Bible stories in a short and simple way which is what children that age need. 
Reading with our kids is definitely time well spent!  It creates a love for reading in them which will help them in so many ways through life and it gives us a specific time to sit down and focus on them for at least a few minutes.  I love cuddling up in the bed and reading to Olivia and she loves the time as well because she has Mommy all to herself!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brittany's Awesome Salsa

This is our favorite salsa!  We are a little addicted to it around here.  Thanks to my cousin, Brittany, for giving me the recipe!  It's delicious with chips, topping tacos, or anywhere else you would use jarred salsa.  But, you probably won't ever use jarred salsa again!  ; )

2 cans Rotel (1 mild, 1 original)
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
About 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (use more or less depending on your taste)

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor.  Enjoy!

This post is linked to Homemaker By Choice .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Day at Berheim Forest

Recently we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Berheim Forest in Bardstown, KY.  It took about an hour to get there but it was definitely worth the little drive.  We love getting outdoors and we were pleasantly surprised by how nice this place was!  I had only heard of it in the last couple of months and I don’t know how I had never heard of it before!  It really is beautiful!

Berheim Arboretum and Research Forest was started in 1929 by I.W. Berheim and it covers a whopping 14,000 acres!  (Very impressive to my husband who is a wilderness fanatic)They offer various programs and events, fishing, picnicking, hiking, biking and refreshments.  There’s a really impressive visitors center that we all enjoyed.  They have areas for kids to play and explore hands on.  We had a delicious (and huge!) piece of pie from the little cafĂ© out on the patio.  

One of the things that I thought was cute and whimsical were the faerie houses.  They are little structures that have been created out of things lying around in nature.  They’ve been placed along a concrete path and we all enjoyed looking at those and imagining little fairies living there. 
There are numerous little ponds and the arboretum area is very beautiful.  Everything was so lush and green in the forest and I would imagine that if you were there at the right time you could view plenty of wildlife.   It would also be a gorgeous backdrop for family pictures…which is another thing that we need to do asap!  

One of the most important aspects of education, in my opinion, is getting hands on experience.  If you’re having fun, your mind is open to learning about what you see!  Although I am not homeschooling my daughter this year, I still realize that I am the most influential person in her life right now and her learning experiences begin with me and her daddy.  So, we take every opportunity to take her to exciting places and activities and teach along the way.  We teach her about plants, animals, weather, history or just anything we come across.  Of course, we do it on a child’s level and we don’t push her.  We just have fun and the info will sink in!

Getting outdoors and exploring is one of our favorite activities to do as a family and Berheim Forest was an awesome place to do that!

Monday, August 1, 2011

July at the Russell House

This has been a hot month in Kentucky!  It’s also been a good month for the Russell’s.  We began the month with an exciting company picnic and front row seats to an awesome fireworks display.  Olivia enjoyed the colorful fireworks and wasn’t too afraid of them, which was great.  

Keith won the tickets to the dinner train and so we got a long anticipated weekend away together.  It was so refreshing and I am so thankful that we were able to do that!  Olivia had a wonderful time with her grandparents, building sweet memories. 
Our library offered a free activity for kids called “Bouncing Ballerinas” and Olivia got to watch that presentation.  It was so much fun!  She got to see real ballerinas in their beautiful costumes and was chosen to practice with them in front of everyone.  She did a wonderful job and listened very well to the instructions.  J 
We finally went to the local elementary school and enrolled Olivia in kindergarten.  She is so excited and we met 3 of the 4 kindergarten teachers.  They were all extremely nice so I think any of them would be great teachers for her.  I pray that this school year goes well and that she thrives in that environment.  It’s hard on this mommy’s heart to see my little one growing up so quickly.  It’s really sinking in that she is entering a new phase of life and thus, I’m entering a new phase of parenting.  But, this a really fun age and I am enjoying the teaching that is involved at this stage and seeing her understand things in a new way.
This past weekend, we made the journey up to the Ashland area to spend a couple of nights with family.  My sister in law and her husband were in from Orlando so Olivia got to see her aunt and uncle.  It was a good visit and we were blessed to see many other family members.  I’m thankful that some of my best friends are also my husband’s cousins.  It makes for fun family reunions.  ;)
My little cousin, Will turned 5 this month so we attended his birthday party.  The local firefighters were so kind to visit and let the kids climb on the truck.  That was lots of fun for them!  I love Olivia's face in this pic!  

I am in the process of memorizing Proverbs 31:10-31.  I have started memorizing scriptures and passages that are very important to me.  I was a Bible quizzer when I was a young teen and although I obviously can’t quote everything or locate every verse I memorized, it has truly been a blessing to recall those scriptures when I needed them the most.  The word of God is certainly “quick and powerful” and the Lord is so faithful to speak to our hearts through it.  “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11
I’m a little apprehensive about beginning August.  My baby starts school and I am going to have some time on my hands!  What to do with the new-found time is the question! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maple Teriyaki Grilled Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp onion, chopped

Mix together maple syrup, apple juice, soy sauce, garlic and onion.  Pour over chicken and marinate in refrigerator 2-3 hours.  (I only marinated mine for about 30 mins. and it was good but I'm sure the longer the better!)  Grill chicken over med-hi heat.  Serve over rice.

I took my marinade and poured it into a saucepan and boiled it for about 5-10 mins and added a little cornstarch to thicken slightly.  Then I topped the rice with the chicken and poured the sauce over the top.  Yum! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photo Walk

Currently, we only have one car.  My husband works minimum 10 hour days Monday through Thursday so there's a lot of hours in the week when Olivia and I are at home.  It is quite a challenge to keep her busy and entertained!  Being an only child, she depends on me to be her playmate.  So, I try to come up with fun activities that are also educational.

Recently I had the idea to go on a "photo walk".  Olivia loves to take pictures, especially of animals, so I thought it would be a nice way to get outside, move around and learn a little while having fun.  I allowed her to hang the camera around her neck and take all the photos on her own.  Very exciting.  :)

She really enjoyed pointing out the pretty flowers and trees.  It gave me lots of teaching opportunities when she would see birds nests, rocks, and other little pieces of nature.  I even warned her of the dangers of smoking when we came across some cigarette butts.  :)

What a fun age she is at right now.  So inquisitive and still full of wonder at God's creation.  I love my girl. <3

How Does It Go Sooo Fast?

My baby starts kindergarten in 2 weeks!  Oh my heart, how in the world did the time go so quickly?  I remember just dreaming about holding a precious baby girl and here she is, about to go to school!  The first night I brought her little sleepless self home from the hospital, I held her and cried because I knew she would grow up!

I feel like its crunch time…teaching her this and that.  I'm scurrying to make sure she's academically ready.  Not too worried about that...more worried about her heart!  She's just got the sweetest spirit and doesn't quite understand that not everyone is going to treat her like their best friend.  I'm trying to give her pointers, don’t play with the mean kids!  lol  Find a friend that is kind and BE the kind friend to others!  Tell your teacher if someone hurts you and even more importantly, tell MOMMY if someone hurts you!  How do I go from being full time mommy, 24/7, to sending her off to the care of another for 35 hours a week?  Maybe this is just the natural progression of life, mommy has to learn to let go a little here and there.  Whatever it is…I don’t like it!  ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

This is my Calling...

I wanted to share this link because I really enjoyed it and thought someone else might as well. 
You know, I am far from being a perfect parent.  I get frustrated, I desire time away, I even lose my temper with my little girl from time to time.  But, at the end of the day...I would not take anything for this life of parenthood.  Living for God is not that we are perfect in flesh and never make mistakes!  We are only human!  Serving Him is that we strive to do well and please Him.  And when we fall (because we most definitely will) we get down on our knees and repent to God and our children and then we try harder.  I am so thankful for the gift that God has given me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home

This past weekend my husband and I were blessed to have the opportunity to get out of town for a night.  My parents offered to babysit and since Olivia adores spending the night with them, we jumped at the chance for some “couple time”.  

 At my husband’s company picnic on July 4th, he and another co-worker won the cornhole tournament and the prize for each was a gift certificate to My Old Kentucky Dinner Train for 2!  I had wanted to do this for years but due to the costs, we never made it.  So, that was a wonderful surprise!  The dinner train is in Bardstown, KY which is about an hour from where we live.  Also in Bardstown is The Stephen Foster Story, an outdoor drama which I had also been interested in attending.  The two together would make a perfect little getaway!  

Everything was so beautiful!  The drama was amazing and being outdoors under the stars made it that much more magical.  The dinner train was gorgeous and the food and service was outstanding.  It was certainly a time of refreshing for us as a couple to be able to enjoy each other’s company and our activities.  At the end of our time, I was excited to get back to our daughter but I was also a little sad that it ended so quickly. 
I believe it is so important for couples to spend “alone” time together, without our children.  Children are blessings and I love being a mommy but we must take time to nourish our relationship with our spouse.  It can be difficult on an everyday basis so I would encourage everyone that can, to find a way to take time out for your husband.  Whether it’s a regular date night (oh, how I long for that!) or the occasional weekend getaway or even a nice extended vacation.  I am so thankful for my husband and when we take time out for each other, it only strengthens our feelings for one another.  I am also thankful for my parents for being our babysitters and giving us the chance to get away on our own!  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Will I Ever Learn?

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

This is a scripture passage that I have memorized and replayed in my head many times over the years…yet HOW do I so often forget to apply it to my life?  It’s ridiculous, really.  I can so quickly go from being calm and collected and proclaiming God’s hand on my life to being overcome with fret and worry about a situation that arises.  Only last night, I felt like all was lost, my situation was too impossible.  Impossible for who?  Impossible for me?  Yeah, maybe.  Impossible for God?  Not at all!  Yet I had to go through a total onslaught of desperate emotions instead of trusting in the Lord from the get-go.  It’s not as if He’s never answered a prayer, it isn’t like He doesn’t see us in our need and know this mom’s heart.  He is ever-present and He loves His children!  And He loves “our” children even more than we love them!  If He lays a heavy burden on our heart for our kids in a particular area, He didn’t do it to tease us!  It’s time to say, “yes” to God and allow peace and trust to overtake our hearts.  I’m praising Him in advance for how He WILL work out this situation and I’ll be testifying on here about it later!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Blog Post

My Heart…
Everything has a beginning and this is it for Looking Well to the Ways.   I will start with the basics about myself and what my hope is for my blog.  My name is Melissa and at 28 years old, I have been married over 11 years.  Yep, I married my first “real” boyfriend when I was 17!  Despite ups and downs, we’re still crazy about each other and I can’t imagine life without him!  I’m convinced that it wouldn’t be nearly as fun!  Our daughter is five and a half and is our pride and joy.  Truly a blessing and truly trying at times!  J  I am currently a stay at home mama but I have been a home-based child care provider during most of the years since I gave birth to Olivia.  A few years ago I stumbled upon a wonderful blog, Passionate Homemaking and then realized what a high calling it is to be a homemaker.  I had always had an intense desire to be that woman but I didn’t realize how many others felt the same way!  The blog really opened up a new world to me where I could get advice, become inspired and be encouraged.  At the time I discovered Passionate Homemaking I was providing child care, my daughter was only three and there were days that I just wanted to sit down and cry.  But these blogs kept me going on those days when I felt completely inadequate to do this job that the Lord had blessed me with.  My hope and prayer is that my blog can do that for someone else.  I want to encourage and lift up other wives and mothers.  I will journal my thoughts and feelings about my life and interests, loving my family, living for God, and serving others.  I plan to include thoughts on mothering, cooking, frugal living, educating through experience, hospitality, ministry, intentional living, crafts, holidays and celebrations and general homemaking tips and tricks that I’ve learned as a young wife and mama.  The name of the blog, Looking Well to the Ways is a reference to Proverbs 31:27, “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”  This esteemed woman sets the standard high but I desire to be as much like her as possible.  It’s a daily struggle but it’s what I strive for.  Join me on this journey and we shall where it takes us!