Love Story

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bold or Timid

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Are you timid in your faith? I think that if most Christians were honest with themselves they would have to answer yes. I know that if I really examine myself I would have to answer yes. My idea of being bold in my faith extends about as far as praying over our food in a restaurant in front of other people. Sad, but true.

Yesterday my dad, who is a missionary in Mexico along with my mom, posted a video from a Youth Evangelism Outreach that he was recently a part of. The video shows him on a bus in Mexico preaching the word of God to the passengers. Talk about bold!

Could you ever imagine yourself doing something like that? I watch this video and while I am filled with awe and pride, it makes me terrified to think of myself in my dad's shoes. Why is that? Psalm 118:6 reminds me that "The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" I know this in my heart yet I don't live like I do. Why? Because I allow lies to creep in and replace those truths. Lies that tell me that being embarrassed and losing respect or losing friends is the worst thing that could happen to me. But if I am living for God, serving his purpose of reaching lost souls, I should be willing to do that at any cost. Look at the price Jesus paid so that we wouldn't be lost. He was stripped down, beaten, jeered, hung to die on a cross and yet he continued to preach the word of God so that each one of us could be saved. I long to have a boldness like my dad, a boldness like Jesus. I want my heart to ache for the those who don't know Him in a way that makes me shout it from the rooftops.  I want to one day kneel before the thrown of my Father and have him say, "You did good my child. You were bold in my name."

Are you bold or are you timid? What will the Father say to you when you meet him in heaven one day?
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6)

---If you want more information on my parent's ministry and non-profit organization Carry The Fire, you can check out their website:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I bought 3 heads of lettuce at the store last week because they were on sale for $.48 each, I knew that I would have to come up with something other then salad to put it all to use. Then it hit me....lettuce wraps! I had never made them before so I checked out a few recipes just to get an idea of what could/should go in them and then ran with what I already had on hand. Let me tell you that I am mighty proud of how these turned out. They are really simple, super cheap, and absolutely delicious. And I was able to stretch one chicken breast to feed our entire family! Not to say that we have a shortage of chicken around here...remember our 40 lbs from Zaycon Chicken? But even when we have plenty I like to stretch what we have as far as possible. This will definitely be a recipe that shows up on our dinner table again.

Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Start with the rice. I used 1 cup dry whole grain brown rice which takes longer to cook (about 45 minutes) but is full of fiber and cheap to buy in bulk. Once that was finished cooking I added about 1/4 cup of sweet Teriyaki sauce and let sit.
Then I cut up the chicken (I only used one breast, two would be good if you were wanting more) into small cubes, sprinkled it with seasoning salt, and cooked over medium high heat in a little bit of olive oil until cooked through and starting brown.
Now for the veggies. I used green onion, shredded carrots, and minced garlic because that is what I had on hand. You can of course use any variation of veggies based on what you prefer or have available. Once the chicken was fully cooked I lowered the heat (med low) and added the veggies for just a minute or two. At this point it was smelling AMAZING!
The last thing I added was roasted red pepper flakes. Because of the kids, I only put in 1/8-1/4 tsp which still gave it a slight kick but nothing they couldn't handle. I think this really made the flavor for me. I enjoy sweet with some spice! Once you have stirred in the flakes and let them cook for a minute, stir in the rice and keep over the heat until the entire mixture is heated through. At this point I just layered a few leaves of lettuce to make a cup and then dished up the rice and chicken mixture.
Doesn't get much easier than that!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meal planning the frugal way

As I was making dinner last night I was talking to my husband about how much my meal planning has changed over the years and especially in the past few months. We love to try new things so I have several food magazine subscriptions and close to 2 dozen cookbooks. If I had to guess I would say on average I used to make 3 or 4 new meals a week. If I saw something that sounded good it went on the list whether it had 5 ingredients or 20 and most of the time I didn't take into consideration what we already had in the kitchen or what ingredients could be rolled over and used in subsequent meals. Because of that, our grocery budget was quite high even when it was just the two of us.

As we have continued to grow our family and go from two incomes to one I had to really rethink the way I planned meals. I used to plan all the meals, write out the grocery list and then quickly glance through the inserts to see if there was a coupon for anything that I was already buying. Boy has that changed! Now I sit down every week and cut out a majority of the coupons I come across (with exceptions for things I absolutely have no need for and don't see myself buying to donate). I also search out coupons online for brands I love and buy often. Then I browse through my grocery store ads to see what is on sale for this particular week. I narrow this down even further by seeing what coupons I have that pair up with what is already on sale. Then I start making my list. As I do this I start brainstorming meal ideas based on what I can buy cheap and what I already have stockpiled from weeks before. My menu is the final part of this whole process. I usually write out a week's worth of meals on my Wipe Off Weekly Menu Board and then the subsequent week we eat off what is in our freezer and cupboards (hence the beauty of building a stockpile - I don't need 10 boxes of spaghetti now but they will come in handy in the weeks to come:).

Let me break down last night's meal which is a perfect example of what I am talking about. This weekend I had bought a 44 pack of Gordon's fish sticks for $4.99, a 10-pack of Mission tortillas for $.99, and iceberg lettuce for $.49/head. This inspired fish soft tacos. Two nights ago I had used 3/4 of a head of lettuce for a salad so I shredded the rest (this is part of rolling over one food item into multiple meals throughout the week) to put on the tortillas. I then cooked half the bag of fish sticks which left half a bag for another meal, and placed 3 of the cooked fish sticks in each taco with the lettuce. Finally I made a simple lime sauce to top it all off using 1/2 cup of mayo (this is always on hand), 1/4 cup of sour cream (I bought 1lb for $1.69 and will use the rest for enchiladas that I am making out of another pack of the Mission Tortillas), 1 Tbsp of lime juice (I always have the bottle kind in my fridge) and garlic salt, pepper and dried dill to taste. And there you have it, simple and cheap fish soft tacos that were actually quite delicious. I paired this with homemade oven fries (4 potatoes sliced and tossed in a little olive oil and then seasoned with black pepper and salt, cooked on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper for 35 minutes at 425 degrees) and some green beans that I got on sale for $.69 a can. A meal doesn't get much cheaper then that!

It takes some time to get used to cooking based on what you can get at a good price versus whatever tickles your fancy on that particular day but it in no way means you have to sacrifice what you like or even what is healthy for you. We work in the things we have cravings for and we use the money we save shopping this way to bulk up on fresh fruits and veggies from the Farmer's Market or through Bountiful Baskets. I am proud to say that on average I save 50% on my grocery list (sometimes as much as 80%!) and that makes me feel good because I know that I am helping make my husband's job easier. He works hard for the money he brings in and the further I can stretch it the less he has to stress about making ends meet.

I would love for you to share the things you do to keep costs low while still feeding your family nutritious and delicious meals. What are your top tips for frugal meal planning?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An unpleasant first

I think I could write for weeks about our trip to Arizona. It is amazing how many things can happen in 5 days when you are out of your regular routine and away from home!

One of the events that occurred while staying at my mom's house is going in Isaiah's baby book although it is not a first we are celebrating over. While trying to watch his brothers take a bath, he slipped in the bathroom and either hit his face on the tub or the tile. After wiping away all the blood it was immediately obvious to me that he had chipped both of his front two teeth, poor baby. He was quite the trooper though. He was done crying by the time the blood was cleaned up and hasn't acted bothered by it since. In fact, I think big brother had a harder time of it. Nathan witnessed the whole thing and kept saying how horrible he felt that that had happened to Isaiah. Amazingly enough, even with three rambunctious boys in the house, Isaiah was the first to chip any teeth.

Jeremy took him to the dentist yesterday just to make sure everything was okay. It turns out it was a blessing that the teeth chipped because if they hadn't, the dentist says it is likely the nerves would have taken the brunt of the force. They didn't even bother filing the chips, they just instructed us to use an emery board if it seemed to be catching on his tongue.

We also found out that his molars are about to come in. I have been so fixated on his front teeth I didn't even realize his gums where as swollen as could be in the back. Explains why he hasn't been sleeping well! The adventures of toddlerhood have begun it looks like. At least he takes most of it in stride.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes - God made me...

As we were sitting around the lunch table Jordan (3 1/2) was being his usual goofy self so I said to him, "Jordan, you sure are strange!"

He responded with the ever famous little kid question, "Why?"

"I suppose that's how God made you," I told him.

Jordan thought for a minute before exclaiming excitedly, "And Jesus made me crazy!" Nathan (almost 5) decided to join in the conversation at this point telling Jordan that "Jesus made me crazy too!" Jordan couldn't leave it at that. Always having to out do each other he came back with, "Well, he made me crazy FIRST!"

They are both equally crazy if you ask me:)

Air travel and kids

As you may have read in my last post, we just got back from a trip to Arizona. As if air travel isn't stressful enough, we added our 3 kids under the age of 5 to the mix. I thought I would share with you some of the ways we made our trip a little smoother.

I think one of the best things I did in preparing to fly with kids, was to make a trip to the Dollar Store in the weeks leading up to our departure. I wanted to pack a bag full of new things the kids had never played with to keep them busy at the airport and on the plane and I wanted to do this without breaking the budget. By going to the Dollar Store I was able to spend $8.00 and get all of this which was easily carried by one of the boys in a small backpack:
2 Kung Fu Panda coloring books, 3 3D books that included glasses, 1 sheet of airplane stickers and 2 Wooly Willy Magnetic Cards
 I did have to make a slight adjustment when it came to the magnetic board. The wand it came with was free floating and I knew that would be an easy thing to lose so I attached it to the card by hot gluing one end of a string into the hollow part of the wand and then tying the other end of the string onto the card itself.
I put a dozen or so crayons into a Ziploc bag to go with the coloring books. I was worried about them losing the crayons on the plane so we just got the coloring books out at the airport. They could find a space on the floor and color away which worked out perfectly. I think it also gave a good first impression to our fellow travelers who may have otherwise been concerned about flying with all of these small kids. Another thing the coloring books were good for were mornings at Grandma's house. There aren't a lot of toys for them to play with so they could get up and entertain themselves by coloring while waiting for the days activities to start.

The airplane stickers are great for making a picture after you've arrived at your destination. The kids can tell a story about their experience on the plane and have stickers to decorate it with. My kids used the stickers to add to the handmade birthday cards they had already made for Grandma:)

Another important part of traveling with kids is keeping them fed. I know that our crazy flight schedules did not allow us to feed the kids at our regular meal times so I packed snack bags to tide them over. I prepared a Ziploc bag full of goodies for each kid for each leg of the trip. It had their name on it so they knew it was theirs and it was up to them to make the food last throughout that days traveling. The suckers were specifically for take off to help ease the plugged ears that you sometimes experience and that really worked wonders. I took the advice of my sister-in-law and gave the sucker to our 13 month old as well. It kept him busy for sometime and he didn't fuss at all during take-off.
These are just a few of the ways I was able to make air travel with my little ones a bit more bearable. What are your top tips for traveling with the kids?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Arizona here we come!

Okay, more accurately the title should say Arizona there we were, but you get the picture. It has been quiet around here lately because I packed up the family and surprised my mom for her 50th birthday. This was not the only surprise she received as my dad coordinated a week long birthday bash full of many unexpected events for my mom.

It all started on her birthday when my brother and his family showed up at the restaurant her and dad were getting ready to eat dinner at. Mind you while my parents live in Arizona, the rest of us live in Washington. Needless to say she was quite surprised and enjoyed 4 days the Phillips clan:
Mom's face when they walked in, PRICELESS!
Grandma and her favorite granddaughters
The day after my brother left my parents best friends, also from Washington, showed up to surprise her:
Mom and Sharon, they've been friends for 20 years
The next day we arrived just in time to be apart of her big surprise party that my dad planned along with some of their friends from Mexico (this video is being shot right after mom walked into her party and experienced the initial shock. We then came around the corner. It's dark but you can hear everything that went on):

The Grim Reaper cake made by one of the ladies
We had quite the fun and crazy adventure as we battled unexpected travel issues that extended our stay from 3 to 5 days but all in all it was an amazing time. Be on the lookout for more posts about our time traveling as I am planning to share some of the tips I have for traveling with kids (3 kids under the age of 5 on the plane was not easy but we made it work) as well as some of the fun and crazy stories we walked away with. Happy Birthday mom, it sure was a good one!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rhubarb Fool

I talked a few posts back about how much I love roasted vegetables. So when I came across a recipe that included roasted rhubarb in one of my old issues of Everyday with Rachael Ray, I knew I had to try it. This makes a great dessert or you can do like we did and enjoy it as an afternoon snack on a hot day. Either way, you are in for a real treat!
Rhubarb Fool
Preheat the broiler. Using a mixer, beat together 3/4 cup room-temperature cream cheese,
1/2 cup sugar, the grated peel of 1 orange and a pinch salt until smooth.
Beat in 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute; refrigerate.
Slice 1 pound rhubarb crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. On a large rimmed baking sheet,
toss the rhubarb with 1 tablespoon orange juice, then sprinkle with 1/2-cup sugar 
and spread in an even layer. Broil about 2 inches from the heat, shaking the pan
once or twice, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature,
about 15 minutes. Layer in juice classes with the orange cream. 

*Helpful Hint: Use foil on your baking sheet. Cleaning up orange juice and sugar that has been roasted onto your pan is no fun!

I have to say that even my picky eater ate this up so it is something to try feeding your kids!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Love Dare Challenge: Days 11-15

Here we go...entering the third week of participating in the Love Dare Challenge along with Moogie Mama. Have you missed out on the journey so far? You can catch up here:
- Joining the Challenge
- Days 1-5
- Days 6-10

All caught up? Okay, then I am ready to get started on the next week if you are!

Monday (day 11) - Love cherishes. Wow, you NEED to read this day (click on day 11 and it will take you to the page from the book). What an amazing comparison that puts into perspective how we should choose to view marriage. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to hurt myself yet when I hurt my husband that is exactly what I am doing. Today's dare: What need does your spouse have that you could meet today? My husband is working a 12 hour shift, stopping home long enough to change clothes and then is heading off to a meeting that will last 2 hours. I think that when he gets home he could probably use (and will greatly appreciate!) a warm meal and a chance to relax. Simple but something that sometimes doesn't happen when he isn't here at dinnertime. This really reminds me to look at his day and think about what I would want from him if it was me in his place.

Tuesday (day 12) - Love lets the other win. Today's topic really hits on the fact that often we are so bent on being right or getting things our way that we totally plow over our spouse and cause unnecessary arguments to continue on much longer than needed. I know that I am guilty of standing firm on something just because it is what I want without even stopping for a moment to consider what my husband wants. I love the line from this day that says, " are choosing to give strong consideration to their preferences as a way of valuing them." The dare: Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your spouse. Now I could not think of anything off the top of my head that was a continued disagreement. I spent a day praying that God would reveal that area to me. I even asked my husband...who also couldn't think of a specific area. So my dare to myself is to be aware of this during future disagreements and to choose to give in.

Wednesday (day 13) - Love fights fair. I strongly recommend that you read this day and get some great ideas on "we" and "me" boundaries to set before arguments break out between you and your spouse. I know that we have established some from that very list - divorce is not even allowed in our vocabulary because it isn't an option for either of us and using it during a disagreement is both hurtful and destructive. Today's dare is to talk with your spouse about establishing healthy rules of engagement. While we have done this before, I definitely think a refresher doesn't hurt. Things are always changing and growing within our relationship and it is good to reevaluate areas that may be in need of tuning up.

Thursday (day 14) - Love takes delight. Today I am supposed to purposefully neglect an activity I would normally do to spend quality time with my spouse. I am actually going to apply this to tomorrow. I would normally go yard-selling (I don't even know if that is a word!) with some of my friends for most of the morning but I am going to skip it to take advantage of my husband's day off. He is working a lot of overtime right now and I know it is important to make the most of the time we do have together. I am also choosing not telling him that I would have liked to have gone because he would feel bad that I was missing it and insist I go. In the past I would have been a martyr as I sacrificed my own desires for his...I am learning that that kind of defeats the purpose! See, I am learning:)

Friday (day 15) - Love is honorable. The challenge is to choose a way to show my husband honor and respect that is above my normal routine. Tomorrow he is working 10 hours of overtime and so I decided to make his lunch for him. I usually try to have leftovers from dinner to make it easy for him to through together a lunch but that doesn't always happen. I know that it would give him one less thing to worry about if I got his lunch together for work so that is something I did for him tonight and he was very grateful.

Want to join us in The Love Dare Challenge? It's not too late, there are still 25 more days to go. Come over and link up at me at Moogie Mama:
 Also linking up over at Heart and Soul Pursuits:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Singing

I am a singer. Not in the traditional won't hear me on the radio, or find me on a stage, or even see me participating in the choir. But I do love to sing and spend about 1/3 of my day singing along to the radio or making up my own songs with the kids. So needless to say, they have followed in those footsteps. My boys like to sing with me and often make up their own words as they go. I wanted to catch some of this on video to share with you all so I sat them down the other day and asked them each to sing what ever they wanted. Surprise, surprise, they both came up with their own unique song. Enjoy:)

Jordan (3 1/2) who loves to sing at the top of his lungs with a huge grin on his face:

Nathan (almost 5) who is not only long-winded but he also can't sit still for one single second:
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