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 5 Reasons Your Family Should Plant a Vegetable Garden 

More and more people are getting back into growing at least some of their food – and for good reason! Here are a few reasons I think this bandwagon is one worth jumping on.

1. You’ll appreciate your food more. When you’ve planted, weeded, pruned, watered, and generally been a caretaker for your plants, you appreciate the fruits of your labor so much more. You might start understanding why produce can be expensive but is much better for you when you’ve taken a part in growing some.img_1558

2. It fosters responsibility. When a family has a garden, there’s a job for everyone. It’s good to teach kids to get their hands in the dirt, and take responsibility for the work it takes to make a garden grow. It’s also a chore to put on their chore chart, or keep them occupied for a few more minutes each day once school is out.img_8339

3. Learning about it is fun! Getting outside with your family is always a good thing! Even if your garden is in a few pots on the front porch, it’s fun to see how they grow each day, what color the flowers are, and how long it takes for each different plant to grow. My kids have enjoyed learning to identify the plants we’re growing by leaf shape, smell, and what they look like once they’re producing the veggies.img_1766

4. It’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, if you have a hundred plants to take care of, it can seem quite daunting. But if you start small, it’s not too hard to keep a tomato plant or two and some rosemary alive. Even if you forget to water or don’t pull all the weeds, they’re likely to still be fine. Choose something easy to begin with, even if it means you won’t have much fruit the first time. Tomatoes and peppers are some of the easiest things to grow, and often bear the most fruit.IMG_1888

5. It’s nice to know what you’re eating. You know what went into the work, whether or not you used fertilizer or weed/pest killer. You know exactly what what did or didn’t touch the plant. It’s reassuring to know where it came from, how freshly it was picked, and how well it was tended.img_0898

There really aren’t down sides to having a garden. You’re going on vacation for a week? Just have someone come and water a couple of times while you’re gone. You don’t know anything about gardening? Just take the first step of buying seedlings instead of seeds; they’re more durable, and the hardest part is over. It’s already June and you think you’ve missed the window? The plants might not get as big, but I say it’s not too late to start! Try it out! What have you got to lose?

Currently – May

Hi friends! It’s that time again… that time that seems to come more quickly every month. Time for a new currently! I probably say this every month, but I can’t believe May is here! Already, our garden is flourishing, the kids have only a few weeks of school left, and I am already trying to make sure our summer isn’t boring!

Thanks to Anne in Residence and Nancy of NY Foodie Family, we’ve got another currently link-up. Here’s a little bit about what’s going on currently…

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Baking || some Healthy Oatmeal Muffins. During my fitness challenge, I was looking for ways I could feed everyone healthily and easily. These muffins are a win with me, the hubs, and all three of the kids. I’ve made them three times in the last six weeks! Now I just need to start doubling the recipe so I don’t have to make them as often. I should also add that this same gal, Bren, has a deadly delicious chocolate peanut butter muffin recipe that’s healthy, also! I made them on Monday. Some pics are on my Instagram!

Listening || to First Aid Kit. They’re a couple of Scandinavian gals who sing Americana. It’s actually really cool, with some lush harmonies and some interesting (and also not clean) lyrics. Check them out! I’ve enjoyed several of their albums.

Loving || some of the things we have planned for our days Charleston this week! We have some friends getting married there, and so we will fill our free time with the beach, the aquarium, sweet friends, and good eats!

Planting || all of the things! That torrential rain we got here in NC last week was actually good for us, as far as our garden goes. I can tell things have been growing, despite getting beaten by the rain. We’ve planted seedlings and seeds of all sorts, including several types of lettuce, yellow and green squash, eggplants, carrots, broccoli, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, lots of herbs, and a few blueberry bushes. I can’t wait until things start bearing fruit and we get to eat all our hard work!

Lovely lettuces.
My little helpers!
Soon you will be tomatoes!

Remembering || to keep on eating healthy and getting my rest. I transferred my registration from the half-marathon this past weekend to one on May 13th. I had been feeling so poorly for several days before that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to actually race well. It was really disappointing, to be totally honest. It was a hard couple of days knowing I should have been up to it but I wasn’t. But now I’m back at it to make sure I am healthy, fit, and can race well on the 13th! I even bought a fresh pair of runners to start breaking in since my current pair is beginning to wear out. 

The new girls.

Training in my glasses because eye infections are the WORST.

That’s about it in our world. What have you been up to currently? Feel free to join our link up, or comment and let me know!

Currently

It’s that time again… the beginning of yet another month. How is it possible that March is here already? I can’t believe how unseasonably warm it’s been here in NC, and the fact that my allergies are already acting up. But at least I’ve been wearing my Chacos and enjoying some much-needed sunshine! (Well, except for right this second, as it’s beginning to cloud over and look like that rain they’ve forecasted for the evening.)

Anyway, it’s another Currently link-up with Anne in Residence, and this month we’re joined by Carrie at A Stylish Fit as our co-host! Thanks, ladies! Here’s what I’m currently up to…

Watching || This Is Us. I was late to the party, and am still not caught up to the most recent episode, but I’m REALLY enjoying it. It’s fun to see Mandy Moore back around, and I’m loving the dynamics of the triplets as “grown ups”. I still won’t say this is the best show I’ve ever seen, but I truly do enjoy it.


Eating || VERY healthy. As I mentioned last week, I’m doing a fitness challenge and training for a half marathon. This means food as fuel as not as an indulgence, so I’m overhauling my diet to accommodate. For instance, our group is doing “meatless Monday” and so I didn’t have meat at all on Monday! Good thing Hubby is also on board. 

Saying || prayers over my half-marathon training, and my knee. Last night I did something stupid, and got my knee bashed from the side. Naturally, I immediately freaked out thinking I’d torn my meniscus or something crazy, iced it, and took ibuprofen and rested for the rest of the night. This morning, I woke up feeling MUCH better, with a bruise in the place of impact, but there is some residual tightness and soreness I’m trying to rest and ice and anti-inflame again today.

Wearing || work-out attire pretty much all day, every day. I’ve never really been one who likes to do this, but it does help me get the workouts in, motivation-wise. AND there’s no point in showering early, drying my hair, putting on mascara, and dressing nicely when I know I’m going on a run in two hours. It’s going to be easier for me to try to knock out the workouts as early in the day as possible so that I can feel like I “got ready” afterwards. I feel a little more like myself when I’m not dressed like a bum all day.

Posting || a little more very soon, hopefully. My Big Jesus (the site I had been writing for weekly) is relaunching as Everyday Exiles soon, and then I’ll be back to writing a lot more and posting about it. I’ve also been featured on Perfection Pending, and will have another post up on her site this week!

Well, what’s going on with you currently? Leave a comment, or link up with us and share!

The Best Ever Pancake Recipe for Moms Who Aren’t Chefs

 I make hot breakfast for my kids almost every single morning. There are very few exceptions – mostly because I set a particular precedent and now they won’t eat cold cereal. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Anyway, because of this fact, I’ve gotten really creative with the breakfasts I make, specifically in the pancake department. I found that I could hide almost anything in a pancake, in a good way. I make a new-fangled pancake batter with some crazy ingredients, I scramble a couple of eggs to go with them, and serve a side of fruit. BOOM! Healthy breakfast, please and thank you.

If you want to know my pancake secrets, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Start with Bisquick (or whatever type pancake mix you prefer). I like Bisquick because it doesn’t have a ton of sugar in it to begin with, but it’s a good base so you don’t have to add things like baking powder or salt. I typically include the ingredients it suggests for pancake-making (a couple of eggs and some milk), then I flavor it with whatever mood I’m in that day.
  2. Add in vanilla extract. I ALWAYS dribble in some vanilla extract to the batter. No excuses not to. I make my own (well, my mom makes it, but I help!) so it’s extra special, but if you’re not a creative guru like my mama, regular vanilla will do.
  3. Get some fruit. Usually, I opt for whatever is overripe/soft/abounding/neglected in our kitchen. Banana works well, but we also like blueberry and strawberry, or a combination of those. Mash it or puree it, and stir it in. Do it before the milk, because it often means you need less milk, because it’s juicy.
  4. Grab some flaxseed. Or chia seed. Or almond flour. Or whatever power powder you have around. Even ginger or turmeric could hide if you have a careful hand. You can likely sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of the powders (or a teaspoon or two of the spices) without it getting noticed by kids or husbands.
  5. If you’re feeling generous, dump in some chocolate chips. Or if you’re like my family, Craisins. Sprinkles could also be fun if you’re celebrating something! Finely-chopped nuts are good, too, if your family is okay with nuts and likes a little crunch (Banana walnut pancakes, I’m looking at you.)
  6. Mix in some peanut butter or cocoa powder for a new spin on flavored pancakes. Peanut butter adds protein, of course, and makes them wonderfully thick and fluffy. Cocoa powder gives them a chocolatey tone without a ton of sugar… although I find that you need to add a little sugar (if you’re using Bisquick especially), honey, or other sweetener to combat the slight bitterness. I typically go for coconut sugar.
  7. Shape them like Mickey Mouse, snowmen, or caterpillars if you’re feeling fancy, and top them with some pure maple syrup. More flavor than “pancake syrup” (sorry, Aunt Jemima) and no artificial ingredients!

Pancakes please kids almost every time you make them, so I hide all sorts of goodies in there and call them healthy. I’ve stopped measuring things entirely and just go by looks. If the batter’s consistency looks like it’ll cook up on a pan, your breakfast won’t fall flat. BA-DUM, TSSS! (My husband told me that would be funny. If you didn’t laugh, it’s his fault.)

In case you’re wondering, this is just another post about my love affair with breakfast food.

4 Simple and Inexpensive Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be a tough time to get good dinner reservations, and it can be an expensive flowers-and-chocolates gift day. If you’re looking for something non-traditional, or something that won’t break the bank, try these ideas for a fun date night!

1. Breakfast for Dinner. Whip up some heart-shaped pancakes, and top them with whipped cream and strawberries (if you core them, then slice them, those can be heart-shaped too), make some hot cocoa (maybe with a little raspberry liqueur if you’re feeling fancy) and enjoy it by candlelight. It’s basically a meal and dessert at the same time!

2. Backyard Star-Gazing. What could be more romantic than snuggling on a blanket in the back yard, looking at the stars? If you like to know what you’re looking at, Sky View is a neat app where you can hold it up and actually read the labels for the stars you’re seeing.

3. Have a Game Night. Whether you like playing cards, or you prefer board games, it can be fun to just chat and play games together. Fun and easy games that can be played by just two include Rummy, Speed, or Crazy Eights (card games), Phase 10 (a card game of its own), Dominos (we like the Mexican Train version!), Quiddler or Perquacky (word games) or the game of Set (this can be a solitaire game, too). Most of these can be found at Wal-Mart, Target, or on Amazon.com!

4. Reimagine a favorite date you’ve been on before. Have you had a history of wonderful dates together with your sweetie? Take an old idea, and revamp it! Cook the meal you shared at home instead of going out for it. Watch the first movie you went out to see together on DVD on your own couch. Make those fancy cocktails at home. Even if the location isn’t the same, the revisiting of a treasured memory can still be fun. If you have kids now, make it a kid-friendly experience, while sharing a little of your history with them!

What are some inexpensive dates that you’ve enjoyed with your love?

How to Go Gluten Free (Without Hating It)

This post also appeared on the Grit and Grace Project. I’m a contributor there – go check it out!

I’ve gone gluten free for several periods of time in the past few years, and even now, I’m a little gluten-less-than-usual. And guess what?! It’s not as hard – or as miserable – as you might think. Yes, you make concessions. Yes, there are foods that you will probably miss. But depending on the reason you’re going gluten free (allergens, weight loss, or to support a family member who has to make that choice), you might be surprised at how successful and even happy you can be while you’re off gluten. Here are a few suggestions to help you along in the process.

  1. Don’t feel like you can’t eat bread. Or pasta. Or whatever your glutenous pleasure is. There are plenty of gluten free breads, pastas, and even beers out there. Of course they don’t taste the same as your favorite sourdough, but they can be great substitutes.
  2. Make the effort to search for gluten-free recipes. The main reason I suggest this is because it’s much more successful than trying to leave out or substitute the gluten in your normal recipes. There are many substitutes; for instance, flour can be substituted by brown rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour, and others. But those don’t always measure cup for cup, and they don’t always substitute well, especially when you’re baking. There are many recipe bloggers that have already figured out the best substitutions, so why not just use their methods? Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  3. Stick it out. If it’s not an absolute requirement to go gluten free (ie: allergy-related) and it’s just an experiment, then it’s tempting to add gluten back in sooner, rather than later. But my advice? Stick it out for a couple of months (yes, whole months!) before you start adding it back in. Whatever your desired results are, it might take a couple of months to start seeing them.
  4. Be creative with how you eat your vegetables. Lots of types of food (Asian food, for instance) don’t have much gluten in them in most cases. Gluten free doesn’t mean salads only, or that you can’t be full after your meal. But it might mean you’ve got to be a little more creative with what your meals look like. If you usually eat a pasta of some sort with your vegetables, try eating rice instead. If you typically eat a bagel or toast for breakfast, try oatmeal. There are other grains that are just as filling as wheat.

It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! Here are three blogs that I like to check out for delicious meals, practical ideas, and even baked goods!

Against All Grain – Danielle isn’t just gluten free, but all of her recipes are! She also has a cookbook, if you’d like it on paper.

Elana’s Pantry – Elana has some great recipes I use often (specifically for sweets/baked goods).

Delightfully Gluten Free – Cassandra is helpful with knowing what products to buy to help out your kitchen’s ingredient stock.

*Also helpful for gluten-free eating are blogs that focus on recipes for those with celiac disease.

Don’t believe all the bad things you’ve heard about going gluten-free. It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! You’ll never know until you give it a shot, though. What do you have to lose?

Currently: Loving the Psalms

Hey Monday! It’s time to get back in the swing of things, without the snow this time. I’m happy to have a regular currently, and a little Psalms update as well.


Watching || the LOTR trilogy! Extended versions, of course. Now that I’ve read the series, I am excited to watch them again from a more educated point of view. And Hubby’s a huge nerd (and that’s why I love you, babe!) so he was all in when I presented the idea. We’re almost done with the Fellowship of the Ring, hopefully finishing tonight.

Enjoying || Hubby’s presence at home at night. He was SO BUSY the month of December that I got accustomed to him being gone in the evenings more than he was home. We’ve had a blessed two weeks of him being home at night, and are now gearing up for him to get busy again. Busy means work, so that’s a plus!

Thankful || for our community group. There are six couples (and several children) that have been meeting together for over a year, and we’ve added a seventh, and these people are so fun and wonderful. We took a break for Christmas and New Year’s, so last night was our first meeting in a while. We’re starting a study on Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage” and I’m totally stoked. It was great to be with each other, to break bread together, to fellowship, and to get our study started. I have missed those people!

Excited || that Grimm has started back! It’s a spring season show, and so we’ve been waiting since last May for its return. I think it’s the last season (BOOHOO) but maybe that means it’ll hit Netflix when it’s done and we can watch it all the time! It started out a little rocky, but we were hooked, and it’s gotten SO much better!

And also, here’s a Psalms update. Because I feel like the blogosphere is my accountability.

That isn’t actually true.

But what IS true is that I’ve studied a Psalm every day, at least for a few minutes. I’ve used my Verses app every day at least once. I now know Psalm 23 (which I decided was an easy place to start) completely by heart. Stop me and ask me! (And actually, I’d love it if you joined me in studying the psalms; I need some people to talk it through with! Let me know if you’re interested!)

I don’t often set “goals” but I do try to point my heart in a certain direction. And though it’s been less than a week since I feel like I truly felt led to begin a journey in the psalms, I’ve been doing it.

And no, I haven’t given up on my “reading for pleasure” resolution, either.

One cannot replace the other. They satisfy, in themselves, two separate parts of me. While they both could be considered “disciplines”, one is more of a spiritual discipline, and the other is no longer a discipline because I enjoy it. I’m not reading for anyone’s else’s satisfaction but my own. I don’t need to learn the characters’ motives or be able to write about the author’s purpose. I just get to enjoy the story. I finished up my Tolkien books (in case somehow you missed it, I had been slowly plugging away at the LOTR series) and have begun The Golden Compass. I probably should’ve read a “fluffy” book in between these two series, but, too late! I’m in too deep to jump out now. I might stop for a rom-com breather after the first book.

Well, there’s a January update for ya, and I can’t believe we’re over halfway through with this month. What are you up to currently?